Toxic Machismo

Graphic by Himanshu Vaidya

WE ARE IN THE FUTURE. It’s 2022 already.We had visioned most of the prevalent societal stigmas would be made to go away. I mean, we had to crack open all boundaries, break free of Barriers. But it doesn’t quite feel so. At least we were supposed to, right? How does one judge the incremental change society has undergone? The answer is simple; we look at the societal elements, its people. Now this pulls up another question, have the elements of society AKA the people progressed as fast and marvelously as technological advancements? The answer, sadly, is “NO”.

Today, our society isn’t safe for women. The cases where women are allegedly put at the tip of the knife are on the rise and have been for quite some time now. It is almost as if technology and societal development are antagonistically working. A string of social violence cases swarm the Internet, Media and as if things weren’t scary enough, another major issue has come to the surface. In most of such cases, the main perpetrators are often men. Undoubtedly culture that stokes such violent smacks of machismo. Even though it will not be right to blame toxic masculinity solely, but this noxious culture plays a central role in its recurrence, justification, and glorification.

The central idea is that masculinity is less tied to the body but more to the socio-ideological values and parameters defined by our Society. A ‘man’ is expected to live up to certain standards, to prove that he is a ‘real’ man. What if someone cannot perform such acts or to live up to them, he’s believed to have slipped out of manhood and become effeminate? What is this model? A model of manhood? It states that men have to be aggressive, so aggressive that they intimidate their wives? Or should he always be seeking one or another reason to pick a fight? Men should be tough, muscular. They are asked to wear bangles if he grieves or cries. What is this? Women wear bangles. Is this another sick trick that society has rolled up its sleeves to undermine women? It’s considered undistinguishable of men if they show empathy, understanding, or compassion. If they reek even a bit of these values, they are vulnerable. Then men always have to come up as the winner, be ruthless. They can be second to no-one. They have to cross the finish line, no matter what the consequences. It is just not acceptable that they settle for anything less than they want.

Toxic Masculinity implies there’s only one way to be a man – being agitated, strong, aggressive, impulsive, unsympathetic. In their race to be the ‘perfect man’, they leave innocent lives destroyed. Virtuous people fall victim to their path. When we tell a boy to ‘grow a pair’ or ‘be a man’ we encourage them on this path. It creates a hollow space within them that instigates their conscience to follow violent, often self-immolating ways. Solution? We need to work from the roots up. We need to teach boys, they need not be pigeonholed by the socio-cultural norms. There’s so much more to life than proving themselves worth empty titles. There are so many more ways ‘to be a man’ than the violent one. We need to change our focus from sex and biology to gender and culture. We need to teach them in schools that caring and empathizing is not equivalent to being weak. We need to tell them that teasing someone, calling them ‘wimpy’ or a ‘pussy’ does not at all prove them strong and that it is okay to feel scared, to be emotional. We need to change their textbooks, glorifying certain cases where toxic machismo is moral. We need to make them understand that there’s an entire world out there and that they need not feel trapped in a cage or to feel inferior to anyone. There are beautiful ways to manhood. Where there’s spiritual growth all in all. Now that’s a society to see in the FUTURE. Oh! Wait, we were in the future right?

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