By Aishwarya Bhargava Chakraborty
In a world that often measures masculinity by strength and resilience, it is time to peel back the layers and reveal the tender heart that beats within every man. Gender equality is a multifaceted goal that should address the challenges faced by both men and women. In the quest for gender equality, it is essential to acknowledge that both men and women face unique sets of challenges. While much attention has been devoted to women’s rights and empowerment, it is essential not to overlook the silent struggles endured by men. From societal expectations to harmful stereotypes, men encounter various forms of discrimination and mistreatment that can profoundly impact their well-being. Beyond the strong exterior, there exists a realm of heart-touching, emotional depths that seldom find expression. Let us take a moment to recognise that men, just like anyone else, experience a wide array of emotions – from joy and love to fear and pain.
In many societies, including developed nations, men are conditioned to suppress their emotions and remain calm, composed or unshaken by the challenges they face in life. From a young age we have often heard that “mard ko dard nahi hota,” but is this actually correct? Don’t men have any emotions? Can’t men have the freedom to cry their heart out? Can’t men express their feelings openly? This emotional repression can have severe consequences on mental health, leading to increased rates of anxiety, depression, and even suicide. As per a report prepared by the health ministry on the National Suicide Prevention Strategy, India has a concerning suicide rate, with approximately 71% of male and 29% of female individuals accounting for the total number of suicide deaths in the country during the year 2020. The societal expectation that men should be strong and unyielding often discourages them from seeking help or expressing their vulnerabilities, leaving them isolated and struggling in silence. Men have been conditioned to believe that tears are a sign of fragility, but in truth, tears are a testament to their strength. Shedding tears is an expression of the courage it takes to confront their own vulnerabilities and embrace their humanity. Behind closed doors, they weep not only for themselves but also for the world around them. They weep for their loved ones who suffer, for the pain they cannot erase, and for the burden they carry within their hearts.
While domestic violence against women is widely recognised, abuse against men remains largely hidden. As per a survey conducted, 52.4% of men reported experiencing gender-based violence. Out of 1000 males surveyed, 51.5% revealed they had experienced violence at the hands of their wives or intimate partners at least once in their lifetime, while 10.5% reported experiencing such violence within the last 12 months. The most prevalent form of spousal violence was emotional, accounting for 51.6%, followed by physical violence, which constituted 6% of reported cases. Male victims of domestic abuse face a double stigma – they not only endure the physical and emotional trauma but also the shame of being perceived as weak for not being able to protect themselves. Society’s failure to acknowledge and support male victims perpetuates the cycle of abuse and prevents them from seeking help. In some instances, the misuse of gender-based laws, such as dowry harassment, domestic violence laws or sexual offences, is a troubling issue affecting men. While these laws were enacted with good intentions, they are sometimes exploited to settle personal scores or gain undue advantage. Innocent men may find themselves unfairly implicated in false cases, facing social stigma and legal battles that disrupt their lives. Domestic abuse against men is a distressing reality that often goes unreported due to societal perceptions of masculinity. Men who experience abuse from their partners find it challenging to come forward and seek help. The lack of dedicated support systems for male victims further compounds the issue, leaving them trapped in toxic relationships. Amidst the challenges they face, men often struggle to articulate their emotions, which can leave them feeling isolated and alone. They need understanding and compassion, just as much as anyone else. When a man opens up and shares his feelings, it is an act of profound trust and courage, inviting others to meet him with compassion and kindness.
Men, too, face workplace discrimination based on their gender. Stereotypes that expect men to be aggressive, unemotional, or solely career-focused can negatively impact their professional growth and well-being. Men may face challenges in breaking free from traditional gender roles, leading to limited opportunities in certain industries or work environments. In today’s evolving society, the absence of equal paternity leave poses a critical question: Why have men not been granted the same leave opportunities as women when they become fathers? Distributing these leaves evenly between both parents would challenge traditional stereotypes and promote gender equality. Men’s desire to actively participate in their children’s lives is undeniable, and research highlights the transformative potential of paternal bonding. By embracing equal parental leave as a societal norm, we create an inclusive environment where fathers can embrace their role as caregivers, paving the way for a brighter future where parents bond with their children and families thrive together.
Men can be loving partners, devoted fathers and loyal friends. They offer their unwavering support, even in the face of adversity, standing beside their loved ones like steadfast pillars. They may not always express their love through grand gestures, but their actions speak volumes, revealing the depth of their affection and care. The world often measures a man’s worth by his achievements and success but let us remember that his true value lies in his ability to love, to care, and to empathise. Men are not just providers or protectors; they are emotional beings with hearts that can break and heal, just like anyone else. Men experience heartbreak too, although they might not cry out their pain for the world to see. They quietly grieve the loss of loved ones, the end of relationships, and the dreams they had once held dear. Yet, they find a way to heal, to rebuild, and to seek new hope amidst the shattered fragments of their hearts. Behind their laughter, there lie the moments of profound joy that often go unseen. The happiness they derive from simple pleasures and the pride they feel in their accomplishments are treasured emotions that add meaning to their lives. In cherishing these moments, they find strength to face the trials that life throws their way. Heart-touching stories of men abound throughout history, showcasing their compassion, sacrifice, and tenderness. Fathers who lovingly guide their children through life’s challenges, brothers who offer unwavering support, and partners who share the deepest bond of love with their significant others.
The struggles faced by men deserve recognition, empathy, and support in the ongoing quest for gender equality and a more compassionate society. To create an inclusive environment, we must challenge harmful stereotypes and notions of masculinity that restrict emotional expression and hinder mental well-being. Additionally, fostering open dialogue about mental health and promoting gender-neutral support systems will help break the barriers that men encounter. In the end, we are all human, and our emotions connect us in profound ways. So, let us walk hand in hand, acknowledging and cherishing the heart-touching emotions that make us who we are—men and women, bonded together by our shared experiences of love, joy, sorrow, and hope.