Profession or compromise?
W hile gender stereotypes can get taxing for both men and women (we are not even getting into the struggles of the transgenders), profession and financial status are some spheres of life where men often have to follow laid-down norms to avoid backlash and ‘fit into’ the so-called masculine roles assigned to them. We speak to a couple of men who decided to fight societal pressure and chose their professions solely on their calling and liking.
‘We do what works for us’
Although I started freelance writing in 2007, it wasn’t until mid-2009 that writing became my full-time profession. For me, being a home-maker-cum-writer in a patriarchal society is not so much about what the society thinks, but more about what pressures we put on ourselves subconsciously. For example, my wife is the bread-winner in our family and not once has she asked me what my financial contribution to our home is, but sometimes you do get caught up in the whirlpool of notions like ‘as a man I should be the one providing for her’ and ‘what do my friends think of me?’
These aren’t water-tight roles though. Just because my wife is the bread-winner does not mean that she does not play a role in the house or that because I am the working-from-home parent/spouse, I do not contribute to the financial situation of our home. We do what works for us —it is a partnership based on a clear understanding of roles and we are both comfortable in what we do and what the other does to make our home function smoothly. My wife has always encouraged me to do what I want to do and I have always supported her so that she is able to succeed in her corporate job.
‘Wasn’t easy choosing a financially unstable profession’
I belong to a middle-class Mangalorean family which has raised IT engineers, doctors and of course ‘hoteliers’. I always hated the concept of working in a 9-to-5 desk job. A job should be something that thrills you, and gives you that feeling — ‘Oh yes, I’m going to work and I’m going to do something incredible’. By the time I figured my ‘area of interest’, I had completed Class XI in Science because my Dubai-based physician uncle said so. But I had also realised that I’m a stage person, a people’s person. I had been mimicking, throwing ideas for college festivals. Art was my sweet spot. With some research and strong support from friends, I decided to pursue a degree in media.
It had all the possible opportunities for a clueless head to figure out which area of advertising/media/entertainment sector I wanted to be in. Ultimately, an advertising agency became my place. My parents were very unsure about my decision, given the financial instability of the profession etc. It was pretty difficult for me to convince that you need not just be an engineer or a doctor to support a family. Questions were raised about my future and I was labelled a black sheep. But with time, they witnessed my dedication to work and my achievements, gradually increasing their confidence in me. I am happy now, having chosen this profession. It wasn’t easy. As a man, your profession is linked with your financial security, society pressure and more.
digital advertising professional
Why are we considered weak and made fun of, if we cry? I am a very sensitive person and have often been ridiculed because of it. The saddest part is those mocking at me have mostly been women. I have also been in a relationship where, the person I thought of sharing my life with, found me to be very sensitive and rather than accepting and acknowledging my attributes, made fun of me.
As an individual, I am quite happy the way I am. I feel proud that I have a heart that knows how to express love and feels hurt. That’s the way it should be for everyone, I believe.
But emotional men are not accepted. Even at workplaces, I have seen superiors being biased towards women who show their emotional side, but not towards the men when they do that. I wholeheartedly support equality of genders, however I also want people to understand that even men are at the receiving end at times.
— Abhishek Sinha, banking official
I deeply care for people in my life and want them to be safe at all times. I care for everyone irrespective of their gender, however, I tend to be a little extra caring towards the women in my life —my mum, cousins (sisters), girlfriend and female colleagues.
But I guess today’s women hate it when men try to be protective. They feel we are either trying to suppress them or do not think they are capable enough to be on their own. Every time my girlfriend comes to meet me from one part of Delhi to another, I insist that I drop her back to her place because by the time she leaves, it is already dark. But she gets irritated and says that I’m like a woman, or trying to act like her mom who is on a mission to save her daughter’s dignity. We argue and there comes a point when I run after her and board the metro train that she takes. During the entire ride, she either sulks or scolds me for being too protective. On one such occasion, the moment I boarded the train, she shouted at me loudly, ‘Bola na mujhe follow mat karo.’ The co-passengers thought I was some stalker and started beating me up. Despite her telling them that I was not harassing her, they didn’t stop. I had to free myself and jump from the metro at the next station. My girlfriend didn’t follow me and instead went home. I called up a friend who took me to a hospital. When she finally called me, she said, “I keep telling you not to act like my mom. I can take care of myself. Hope you have learnt your lesson and won’t repeat this in future.”
It has been two years since this incident but I still run after her whenever she is leaving. I’m not sissy nor do I lack self-respect. All I want is that she’s safe.
— Manish Kant, Electrical engineer
It’s so surprising that ‘emotions’ is what defines a human being, yet, they are categorically ‘reserved’ for women. We men are always standing at a crossroad — if we show feelings, we are seen as weak, if we don’t, then we’re tagged as ‘insensitive.’
I’ve been a victim of this stereotyping all my life. While watching a love story, a typical SRK movie or a Gone with the Wind/Fault in our Stars type of senti film or even listening to the lyrics of songs on separation, I can’t hold my tears back. And that’s the reason girls don’t want to date me. I’m notorious as rotlu (crybaby).
On one of my dates, after a hearty lunch, the lady insisted that we went for a film. The film happened to be Rockstar featuring Ranbir. The lady was looking forward to having some intimate moments in the corner seat of the multiplex but I was sobbing since the beginning. She realised it only when my sobbing grew louder. She immediately asked me to come out of the theatre. We went out and she told me that she hated men who cried, especially over trivial things like films. She asked me to delete her number and stormed out of the cinema hall. I kept standing there, sobbing while onlookers smirked at me.
— Roshan Raj, dentist
Look like a man
Androgyny started on the ramps a few seasons ago, and has gradually made its way to the streets. While it’s a common sight to find women dressed in ‘boyfriend’ shirts, tees, jackets or jeans, conservatives raise eyebrows when they spot a man wearing pink, or figure hugging outfit or just about anything similar to ‘what women wear’.
“Earlier, a man was expected to always look classy, dress like a gentleman. But now, fashion has become more about comfort. People — men and women both — wear whatever they are comfortable in, colours and fit are personal preferences,” says Osman Watali pointing out the wave of androgyny that has taken over. He claims that he doesn’t remember being teased about wearing something not ‘manly enough’ because he has never paid heed to such things. He shares that pink hasn’t always been out of style for men, slim fit jeans have become a fad just like the bootleg was a few decades ago, and people have been desensitised to the concept of the metrosexual man.
Visiting the salon, shaping eyebrows, flaunting hair-less limbs, indulging in a proper hair-care routine, pampering their skin with scrubs and facials have become regular ‘things to do’ on a man’s list, though not necessarily on the ‘things I absolutely must do’ column.
Taha Hazrat, a model-turned-fitness expert, says, “It doesn’t really matter if you’re a girl or a guy, if people have to impose their thoughts on you, they will. If a girl cuts her hair short, or a guy grows his hair long, they are treated the same way. But nowadays, people have become progressive, and the gender gap is reducing. The mantra for the day is — to each his own, or her own, for that matter.”
A lanky fellow during his school days, Hazrat grew up to sculpt his body for the profession he wanted to take up, but he claims that he was not pressured into looking a certain way just because he was a boy. “If you’re too fat, or too thin, it doesn’t matter what gender you are, your peers, elders and even younger brats are going to have a go at teasing or commenting on the way you look. But it didn’t bother me, in fact, I never really thought of it as derogatory. I started working out and building my body because I wanted to start modelling, then I got into fitness. But of course, when a woman is too muscular, people do point out that she’s looking too manly, or when a man has a delicate gait, there are some snickers. But the best way to deal with this kind of unwanted attention is to ignore it, or if it bothers you, confront it. You are who you are, your preferences should be determined by you, and if they don’t fit into the limited comprehension of others, it shouldn’t bother you,” he concludes.
Men need help too!
From domestic violence to abuse and killing competition at workplace to conspiracies, men face various problems, but not all of them report such cases, probably out of fear of backlash or embarrassment.
Chetan Verma, secretary, Men’s Rights Association (MRA), an organisation working for men’s cause, says, “We often hear of cases wherein the men are accused of crimes they never committed. The sole reason behind this is that not all men are aware of their rights.”
Verma says men often approach them when the police is threatening their family members in cases of domestic violence where they have been framed. Many a times, these men are barred at workplaces too. “Cases of divorce are on the rise because of which not only the family goes through an emotional turmoil but the children too face the brunt. Men do not get any support in such cases,” he says.
Santosh Patil, co-founder of Purush Adhikar Sangh, an NGO based in Karnataka that promotes men’s welfare and works to prevent abuse of men’s rights, says, “Men are facing a lot of problems nowadays, however crying is not going to change anything. You have to speak up and fight against what is wrong.”
He is of the opinion that because a few men commit crimes, the entire male community should not be blamed. “Men have contributed a lot to society and their existence should be celebrated too. They should be able to celebrate the person they are, without feeling the pressure and negativity of the society,” Patil feels.
The process of social change should be free of gender discrimination. In fact, men and women striving together is an indicator of a sound healthy society, believes Miloon Saryajani, a Marathi magazine. Its editor Geetali Vinayak Mandakini says that because of a few women misusing the laws, a lot many men have to suffer and vice versa.
“Men are always considered to be the moneymakers, bread earners of the family. They are taught to suppress their emotions by constantly reminding them that men do not cry and that they are way stronger mentally and physically than their female counterparts,” says Mandakini, who is also an activist associated with Purush Uvach group. She mentions that with women empowerment gaining momentum, there has been a lot of competition even at workplaces and many a times, this leads to stress among individuals. “In some cases, men are alienated from their family and their children and for this sole purpose, they start turning to options of alcoholism and other toxic matters. They see it as an escape window of relaxation,” she adds.
Men are humans too and it is absolutely okay for them to be scared, she believes. If both the genders show empathy towards each other, they will definitely be able to establish equality, freedom and friendship, she sums up.
(With inputs by Vinaya Patil, Anjali Jhangiani, Amrita Prasad and Alisha Shinde)