Recognizing Toxic Masculinity in India


Growing up in an Indian community, I noticed certain traits in the men or boys in my society that just made no sense. Moreover, these traits were propagated from birth; to reiterate, the society- inclusive of all genders- sets certain norms for men and shoves it into their brains from childhood to make them perceive these absurd concepts as a guide to become a perfect man. Not only does society perpetuate these vehemently toxic behaviors, but also praises the people who abide them. These preposterous characteristics have been taught and bred for generations and only creates problems for the people living in the community; these characteristics can be referred to as "toxic masculinity".

Toxic masculinity is when the archetypal image of what it means to be masculine becomes harmful. It thrives by penalizing behaviour which does not conform to its standard and celebrating behaviour which does.

Unlike what might people think, the concept of toxic masculinity is not intended to demonize men or male attributes, but rather to emphasize the harmful effects of conformity to certain traditional ideal behaviors.

Keeping in mind that "not every Indian male portrays these traits", what are some red flags to notice in an Indian man displaying toxic masculinity?

1. Criteria for dating and marriage

He will certainly have opinions on their partner's work, which will probably be not allowing the woman to work after marriage. Even if he is "modern" enough to think that his spouse can work, he will believe that she would have to leave her job when they have kids, or that she cannot earn more than him. As for dating, he would never date a woman who is either not a virgin or has something to break his fragile male ego; for instance, being too tall, or being opinionated, the list goes on.

2. Expressing no emotions

emotionless aamir from talaash The cult classic saying "मर्द को कभी दर्द नहीं होता" (real men don’t feel pain)-from the 1985 movie "Mard"-is overused by aunties, uncles and even youngsters. These men strongly suggest that masculinity means not showing emotions, and shedding a tear is too feminine. Bottling up their feelings is a niche and will only result in unhealthy anger; hence why, anger issues is a major contribution to their deteriorating mental health.

3. Aggressiveness to assert dominance and glorification of violence

ranveer from ramleela Bollywood has not only quintessentially glorified abuse and truculency from men but also impressively checked all the boxes of toxic masculinity by showcasing men to have a high libido, little emotion, and aggressively dominant attitudes; characters like Chulbul Pandey in Dabaang and Kabir in Kabir Singh are "perfect" role models for these men. Furthermore, these men give excuses for rape by emphasizing on the rape victim's clothing, they also consider marital rape to be non-existent, and justify violence towards anyone as second nature instead of politely debating. Also, they will profusely rebuff the idea of contraceptives (specifically condoms) as it suggestively targets their fragile "masculinity". This can be seen in the Hindi cinematic excellence, "Lipstick under my burkha", where Shireen Aslam's husband unstintingly rejects wearing a condom even though they already have three kids who they are not being able to cater.

4. Animosity towards feminism and the LGBT+ community

anti feminism image These men have an irrational loath towards feminism and the LGBT+ community. They ironically insinuate feminism to be toxic to the society without even comprehending its meaning. Feminism targets these ideologies which makes these men uncomfortable, which leads to these men thinking Feminism as a gender war rather than a fight for gender equality. Likewise, they often say that they are okay with bisexual women and lesbians but fervidly dehumanize gays, Trans, and bisexual men. This just shows that their masculinity is extremely frail as their heteronormative thoughts not only fetishize lesbians and bisexual women but also believe that liking a man makes them "less masculine" as a big part of "masculinity" is being heterosexual.

5. Hard opinions on gender roles

Along with sexual prejudice, he fervently endorses gender norms. This is yet again outstandingly portrayed in Bollywood. Remember when Rahul from "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" fell for Tina instead of Anjali because Tina was "more feminine" despite knowing Tina for only a few days, but this idea changes when Anjali starts wearing a Saree, suggesting ingrained gender stereotypes in our society which ultimately breeds toxic masculinity. Similarly, showing their hatred for women in powerful roles, women being confident in their skin, or even women raising an opinion, evinces toxic masculinity. This is also beautifully portrayed in the movie "Bombay Talkies", where Vicky- a 12-year-old child- who aspires to be a Bollywood dancer but is slapped by his father when he was caught dancing while wearing feminine clothes. He is also forced into playing soccer (which is shown as a tough sport to make oneself "masculine") instead of picking up dance classes.

Masculinity, whether toxic or not, affects everybody. It tells boys what is expected and it tells the people attracted to them what to expect. Toxic masculinity deprives humans of their rights and specifically deteriorates men's mental health, as they have to abide by these witless norms. It is learned culturally and is not a subject taught in one day but is ingrained since birth by mere instances, such as children observing their fathers. Therefore, we can only tackle this evil by raising awareness and eradicating the endorsement of the "macho" theme that most Bollywood movies run on.

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Sahma Kundu

She is competent at throwing frivolous puns in inappropriate situations. Some might see the fire in the puns, whereas some might be inflamed.

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