Men, Emotions & Stereotypes

If I was ever on a debate team, I’d be worried for being picked on a topic like this. It is woke and all but also an overused one.

Decades ago, there was a crazy guy who was obsessed with his dog.
He tried to teach the dog some humanistic behaviour. The most popular one being scheduling its meal times. While he couldn’t teach the dog to read the clock, he did manage to teach it something else. He taught the dog to salivate at his instruction. He taught the dog to expect food when a bell was rung.
He made it a habit to ring a bell and then serve the dog its food. Soon, as soon as the bell was rung, the dog knew it was time to be fed and food sure was served.
This association of a stimuli to another to generate a desired response is called Classical Conditioning.
And then this experiment and theory of Classical Conditioning began to be used on humans and has been widely studied by students of Behavioural Studies.

Wonder what that has to do with our topic at hand?
Here’s the thing…
If you look at how boys are raised across most cultures you’ll realise there is a lot of Classical Conditioning that happens without even realising it.
What are some of the most common things, statements and behavioural traits that are associated with boys and men?

“Be a man.”
“Boys don’t cry.”
“Talk like a man.”
“Boys are strong and dependable.”
“Men are bread winners.”
“Take charge.”
“Man up.”

I mean, hello!
The list can go on and on and on. What’s funny is , half the statements and comments don’t make any sense all by themselves. They are make sense based on the environmental cues and generations of learned behaviour that are available to absorb around us.
And worse, there is alway a hint of competition that is applied (not so subtly too). It is expected that boys and men are going to be worldly people who are strong- physically and financially, fierce, protective, controlling, blah, blah, blah.

The role assigned to boys and men-by parents, educators and society at large is self-contradicting. A brother that protects his sister/s, but is macho enough to keep his girl/ woman in check. Be the monkey of the house unafraid to jump off cliffs and bruise his knees, but don’t cry like a girl- because pain is only for the other sex. Everyone’s wellbeing is his responsibility, while his is only address to the extent of physical wellness and job security.

Be it the movies that we watch and idealise, and the male role models that are present in our homes they all have one thing in common. Masculinity!
Masculinity that is grossly portrayed through some character traits that seem to define a man- successful, well built (preferably larger in comparison to the women in and around his life), egocentric, hot headed, decision maker, always a rock solid heart (even if of gold), money maker.

It is seldom, if ever, that we see them as emotional being who have dreams and continue to wander. The word petite is always negatively attributed. And being calm, patient and vocal is almost unheard of. A tear rolling down a man’s face is either a sign of an earth shattering event or just him being a sissy. A man taking a break to realign his peace and priorities is a man on his menstural week (PMS, remember?).

Then there is the nagging about their turn out:
‘men are emotionless’, ‘they don’t understand things’, ‘they don’t know how to communicate’, ‘men can be so insensitive sometimes’,’he is such a workaholic’, ‘he is always angry’, ‘he is unreliable’

But if he is all the right things and more, there is eternal fear of:
‘he is such a mamma’s boy’, ‘he is henpecked’, ‘he doesn’t have what it takes to be xyz’, ‘he is probably gay’*, ‘he’s got his marbles in a twist’, ‘why are you such a pussy?’

While the last decade has been all about women’s rights and feminism, I find it a bit half empty- half full approach towards humanity.
I wish we were talking about uniform and same standards to raise men and women of tomorrow. It should be all about raising humans and responsible citizens.

There are some things which, when it comes to boys and men, saddens me. It makes me think of patriarchy and longing for male child as such a lie. I believe that if I love something or someone then I’d wish for it/them to be the best version of themselves. And if there is such a rave for male off-springs, then why do parents families and the society work together to make them the most dependent and volatile versions of themselves?

As caregivers, mentors, partners and members of the society, we should work towards making each one an independent unit, who when put into the larger jig-saw of the world population should be pieces that help in making the larger picture a reality by supporting the pieces around them rather than pushing their weight on their surrounding pieces just because they do a handful things.

  1. Cooking Is A Life Skill
    With no bearing to gender, every human needs food to survive. So why isn’t it taught to girls and boys, women and men equally? It is a basic survival necessity. To treat as a gender based chore in a household is like asking the boys and men to starve if not taken care of by a woman. It is truly unfair to the men.
  2. Tidying Your Surroundings
    To live in neat, organised and hygienic environment is a matter of health and well-being. So, the habit of cleaning up behind themselves is a bare necessity, no matter the gender. It also is a show of discipline and respect in an individual.
  3. Emotional Intelligence
    It is the awareness of ones own emotions and the ability to understand and control them, as well as being aware of others’ emotions and the ability to influence them. In simpler terms, it is about being in touch with oneself.
    This is a skill set that everyone should have. So no more “boys don’t cry” because that is denying them to feel their emotions and also telling them that their emotions don’t matter. And hence, emotionally frustrated men being romanticised as angry brooding men- the ones all of us like to read about but not to live with.
  4. A Home Has No Gender
    Do you think your home is a he or she? Or is your home just it?
    If your home has no gender then why do home chores come with gender assignees? All home chores are equal responsibility of all home members. Let it not be a place to show power and dominance. Make it a co-working space where co-existing is a happy journey.
  5. Patience Is A Virtue
    Patience is a virtue irrespective of any basis of differentiation or discriminations. Let’s show this virtue in our lives towards our loved ones, colleagues, the person on the street and cabbie. Don’t let patience become a burden in the form of ‘adjustment’ and ‘compromise’ on one set of the society, when it actually has the potential to create a safe haven, a space of joy and harmony if inculcated in each one of us.

Why do we always live in a box? While compartmentalisation and being organised is good, these concepts were not created to limit our growth and potential.

If you are a parent and reading this, please give your children the space to be independent. And like all good things, this takes learning and practice.
If you are a care-giver or mentor and reading this, tell your pupil that everybody has a masculine and feminine side and that’s okay. All tasks and goals that exist around us are gender neutral.
If you are a young adult and reading this, know that you are a whole person. You don’t have to grow into a dependent person who needs someone else (loosely a better half) to create completeness in your life. Paying bill and doing the dishes- that’s all on you, and not his and her tasks respectively.
If you are just a reader browsing through, share it with anyone and everyone who you think needs to hear this.

*”he is probably gay”* is not a representation of how and what I think or an indication of someone’s sexual orientation. It is just an example of what is loosely said by. and large in the society ever so often.

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