This International Men's Day, Let Us Smash These Five Stigmas That Men Have To Deal With

There are taboos, different from the ones women face, exclusive only to men that hold them back in certain areas. When better than International Men's Day to shed the stigma?

Tanvi Akhauri
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That men are the most privileged gender of the lot is indisputable. Centuries of patriarchal practices have put them at advantage in issues that generally disenfranchise women, transgenders, and queer people even today. That said, does it connote that men have immunity against all social adversity? That patriarchy hasn't exploited them in ways that they do not even understand? Or that their privilege doesn't come at a cost? Not by a long shot. There are taboos, different from the ones women face, exclusive only to men that hold them back in certain areas. When better occasion than International Men's Day to shed the stigma?


This International Men's Day, let us try to normalise conversations around the issues that disempower men, and then every day after that. Empower men in the areas they need to be empowered. Because it is only by uplifting each other that the fight for equality can be won.

1. Men don't cry? No, they do and should 

Growing up, the idea that "boys don't cry" is hammered into the consciousness of children. It immediately creates an emotional imbalance, wherein boys are expected to suppress their tears while girls are encouraged to let theirs flow freely. Around these societal expectations revolve their respective adulthoods. So whose fault is it when complaints arise of men not exhibiting enough emotion or sensitivity - in relationships or towards their children or to events? Is there a chemical flaw in men that prevents them from crying? No, the flaw lies in the social definition of what masculinity means. For generations men have been told that it's unbecoming of their stature to cry, be it in public or private. Remember the internet's negative reaction to the teary ISRO chief when space mission Chandrayaan 2 suffered a setback? This is what needs to change.

Also Read: Dear Society, Secret To A Happy Marriage Cannot Only Be In The Height Difference

2. Yes, men are sexually assaulted too 

Sexual assault crimes and rapes are rampant and frequently common with women and queer people as targets. But that does not mean that men are immune to sexual crimes. Perhaps not equal in measure to the data available for women and other oppressed people, but the fact that even men suffer sexual abuse is true. Only recently, an influencer named Yajat Dhingra took to Instagram to share the ordeal of being molested on his way back home from gym. So while one can often find comments like "even men are raped" under a female survivor's narration, we must realise that such comments aren't indicative of a solution. They're indicative of a rape problem that affects all genders. We need to join hands to fight it together. And the first step to that end would be to listen to each other with empathy.


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3. Toxic masculinity promotes gender inequality 

The idea that men are expected to behave a certain way or act a certain way - usually with hyper-masculine temperaments - is how toxic masculinity is promoted. And that it adversely affects women - by way of power structures and dominance - is only one half of the matter. Toxic masculinity sets, as the name suggests, toxic standards that men are expected to adhere to, failing which they are ridiculed. They are considered "not man enough." Haven't we all heard how guy friends, with a friendly slap and a punch, say "man up" to each other when under duress? Toxic masculinity instructs men every step of the way - how to "power" dress, which manly drink to order, how a woman's honour is their responsibility. In the fight for liberation, these ideas are dated and aren't doing anyone good. It's time they were flung out the window.

4. Talking about mental health isn't weak 

India is yet to make progress in shedding the stigma around mental health to discuss it freely as it does physical health. And the road seems even longer when it comes to men talking about these issues. Given the discouragement, they face when it to expressing themselves emotionally it's naturally harder for men to open up about mental illness or their state of mind. But should the fear of false labels of "emasculation" deter men from ensuring their physical and emotional well-being? The stresses and anxieties that trouble our minds won't go away by pretending they don't exist. If anything, bottling it up inside may worsen the situation further. Unreal expectations of mental tenacity in men must be discarded.


Also Read: Why Young Women Shy Away From Talking Sex And Sexuality

5. It's okay to seek time off for parenthood  

Every parent cherishes the birth of their child, but once the high of the actual birth fades and it comes to the day-to-day care of the offspring, one finds that the mother takes on much of the workload. While a big part of it is to do with exaggerated notions of parenthood being the mother's domain, the issue is exacerbated by society reiterating this idea to fathers. Changing diapers? Let your wife do it. Feeding the baby? Obviously the mother knows best. Paternal leave from office? No need, your wife will take care of the baby. This is how sexism in parenthood has been retained all these years. But doesn't a father have an equal claim and share of responsibility over the child as their mother? Parenthood is a shared responsibility, and thus, should the enjoyment also be shared.

Image Credit: Unsplash

Views expressed are the author's own. 

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