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  • Anima Singh

“I am called a Normal Man”

-Breaking the baggage of binary

“ A man is a man , man , man."

With repetition as the rhetorical weapon, I would like to assert that it is fallacious to abhor and disregard all men based on generalized perceptions, baggage of historical wrongs and myriad factors to such an extent that we forget to acknowledge a whopping number of those men who by choice are normal and different. Normal because they have no intention to propagate patriarchy, mansplaining, machismo, virulent masculinity and misogyny. Different because they by virtue of their choice are benefactors of their family and the people around them, irrespective of gender. This simply implies that these men counter the stereotypical socialisation by acting in a way which not only breaks the fetters of patriarchal behaviour but also carves a new path worth emulating for the so-called typical men.

A perilous bigotry

In contemporary times, appreciation for socially underrated men is a valuable reciprocation. While it is pertinent to disclose and have a discourse on gender-specific atrocities, it is equally important to appreciate the fact that since time immemorial many men have been phenomenal in breaking the shackles of societal stereotypes not just for themselves, but for the opposite sex as well. The women empowerment movement is taking rapid strides. Amidst this, the unveiling of the unsaid stories of men will only add impetus to the reforms by means of inspiring a considerable number of other boys and men. For this to materialize, the talks on gender equality should refrain from the default vilification of men and admit that the life of many men today are fraught with issues which tantamount to that afflicting a woman and the most common ones are sexual and domestic abuse. In fact, a Cross-Sectional Study of Gender-Based Violence against Men in Rural India of Haryana projected that out of the 1000 males, 51.5% were subjected to domestic violence at the hands of their wives or intimate partners at least once in a lifetime. A similar trend is perhaps also prevalent in various parts of not only India but also the world.

The discussion on the subject of men or women is like a quagmire of comparisons which are almost inexorable. Even the Indian Penal Code (IPC) doesn't recognize gender-based offences against men. Section 498A deals exclusively with domestic violence against women. It is a disclosed fact that the acquittals in the aforementioned case are at an all-time high. When the above section is read along with Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act it presumes abetment of suicide by the husband of married women. Further, there are stringent rape laws in India , but paradoxically you need to be a women in order to be considered raped or sexually assaulted. Most often the offences are non - bailable, non - compoundable and cognizable. Now, is it justified that a man is forever considered guilty until proven innocent just because their gender has been the most frequent perpetrators of social servitude in the past and present?

A misplaced narrative

The consciousness of gender - related discussions has brought in disguise with itself the Manichaean theology into our subconsciousness which often makes us view things only under the light of good and evil or black and white . In this scenario there is hardly any scope of comprehending the complex nuances of the ever variegated gender roles. A basic realization which is absent is that all men are not culpable for the discrimination against women and it is not holistically because of women empowerment movements that men are being wronged. The societal paradigm comprises a combined contribution of men and women for each other's agonies and the perpetrators are not exclusively drawn from the opposite sex.

With the exception of social reformers, it is not at all surprising to find negligible recognition of the stereotypes faced by men or an appreciation for their efforts in the social milieu by means of media and literature. This is because, by all statistical studies, the proportional deprivation of women has undeniably been more than that of the men. While this trend is digestible for the literary and multimedia works produced during the past three centuries, its prevalence till date is the sheer ignorance towards some grave issues up -and- coming. David Benator in his work, “The Second Sexism - Discrimination Against Men and Boys " presents many plausible arguments, some of which can be refuted. Notwithstanding the counterarguments, a striking argument by David is that bigotry against men and boys also subvert the cause of female equality. The lacuna of balanced attention to both sides of gendered demeanour has to be filled and the garb of Manichaeism has to be kept aside in order to become more perceptive and tolerant to social realities.

The Man's Way

When society says, “Be a Man”, it presumes a hoard of clichéd statements. Men don't cry. They are fearless and can handle any gruesome situation. They have to shoulder all financial responsibilities. They cannot be vulnerable. In short, mirror the image of man from feature films ,advertisements and daily soaps to be a real man. Well, I am glad that many men today are brave enough to avert the display of their masculinity , but to own their mental and physical challenges. It is even reassuring that some men are able to admit their susceptibilities and sexual orientation and this doesn't make them less manly. In fact the labels like a ‘real man ' are in all sense claustrophobic. In all probability, gender roles are the fetters of men and women alike. The most appalling exhibition of binding gender roles is during obsequies, where by default men have to set aside their emotional trauma and fulfil the immediate actions expected from them and this is anything but easy for a number of men.

The unavowed instances of pathbreaking men often seem like an anomaly, but they have the potential of driving the stereotyped socialization of men into the right direction. It would not be an over-exaggeration to state that today there are a greater number of men like the husband of Sailabala Ghosh Jaya, who protected his 20th-century novelist wife so that she could continue writing or as non - conformist father - in - law of Ahilyabai Holkar or as Nani Palkhivala, the eminent jurist who lost his dream lecturer job to a woman, still treated her every year to a slap-up meal.

Nani Palkhivala, the eminent jurist. (Photo- HT Times)

Indubitably, there is a lot that men can do in a way to create a more sensitized and inclusive society. This calls for a valid reciprocation of men's contribution in addition to one more thing and that is a progressive adaptation in the psyche of males. The latter can possibly be achieved by what Swiss psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, Carl Jung terms as “anima ". Anima is described as the unconscious feminine aspects of a man's psyche which if not allowed to repress by traditional stereotypes can give positive and harmonious outcomes in the way men behave. However, the food for thought is how much room can the multifarious societal questions accord to the cause of a normal man?

By Anima Singh


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