Men need to relearn being male

Published: Jun 01, 2019, 06:21 IST | Lindsay Pereira

It is time the scenario changed. Yes, Indian men need help, and the sooner we ask for it, the better it will be for this nation's women

Men need to relearn being male
Indian men continue to occupy a position of authority that has existed for thousands of years and doesn't seem as if it will be challenged any time soon. This privilege also encompasses feelings, professions and personality traits, which is why millions of Indian women shy away from, refuse to engage with, or simply drop out of the workplace every year. Pic/Getty Images

Lindsay PereiraIndian men need help. I mean this in the best possible way, aware of the fact that this makes me sound like a pseudo-feminist woke boy. I'm told it's fashionable now, the idea of an aware, sensitive man in touch with his anima, who isn't afraid to mention this on his Tinder profile. I say this, however, because it has taken me years to even begin to have a conversation about how we are conditioned. We behave in ways that ought to be questioned more but never are.

There were a number of triggers for why I now feel this way, and they all came via my Twitter feed in the aftermath of India's tentative #MeToo movement.

A whole lot of columns have already been committed to print, on whether the movement has changed things, whether it is a movement at all, or whether the noise will die down soon and allow predators to come out of the long shadows they have taken temporary respite in. I have nothing to say about it because, in all honesty, I am not equipped to understand it. How can I, in my privileged position as a man working in a media business that props up other men? I have never had to deal with suggestive comments, lewd gestures, hints and nods, or the odd caress by someone wanting me to yield in return for a promotion. I have simply accepted a climb up these slippery ladders, too blind to recognise what ought to have stared me in the face a long time ago.

So, no, this isn't about the movement. It is about why so many men reacted on Twitter by saying they felt wronged. They didn't get it. Raging against feminism is now a sport, and the idea that masculinity can be extremely toxic is still a discussion far too few people have been having.

When we refer to masculinity as toxic, what we probably refer to is a culture that creates, nurtures and justifies notions of what it means to be male. I can't speak for men outside India, of course, but from where I'm standing, Indian men continue to occupy a position of authority that has existed for thousands of years and doesn't seem as if it will be challenged any time soon.

This privilege also encompasses feelings, professions and personality traits, which is why millions of Indian women shy away from, refuse to engage with, or simply drop out of the workplace every year.

It doesn't take a lot of research to figure out why Indian women don't feel comfortable in the workplace, or any public space for that matter. We encourage and function like Boys Clubs in most industries, fostering generations of young men who grow into leadership positions armed with the belief that it is perfectly okay to be sexist, misogynist or dismissive of what female colleagues think.

We carry this attitude home, which is why so many Indian men dismiss therapy as reserved for those not tough enough to cope. The women in our lives, unfortunately, are burdened with the task of dealing with these unresolved issues. They must offer emotional support unconditionally, and no one's looking at what this costs them. Much has been said about the benefits of therapy and how it can help us with everything from anger to long-term depression. We don't list these benefits because we like to treat therapy as taboo, as a sign that something isn't going right in our lives.

This stigma causes real damage, preventing people from seeking help when they need it most. The healing effects of therapy have been documented for decades, but I prefer to look at it as a process of unlearning, which is what Indian men need more than ever before. Our vulnerabilities have no outlet because we aren't allowed to cry. We have to relearn what it means to be male, because what we were taught no longer works.

Things aren't getting easier for young men, who spend more time in bubbles of their own making, locked in rooms with Netflix and smartphones, deprived of the companionship so many of us once took for granted. Adding loneliness to a potent cocktail of repression, self-doubt and social awkwardness creates a scenario where the need for better mental health is paramount, and we simply aren't talking about it. It's time that scenario changed.

So, yes, men need help. And the sooner we ask for it, the better it will be for Indian women.

When he isn't ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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