A friend had recently asked what keeps me awake at night, and I said I think about various things- the universe, literature, movies, completely hypothetical situations, you name it! She suggested I should write about them, so… A recurrent topic on my mind of late has been Mr. Darcy (Alright! Mr. Firth is a huge, huge reason for that; might do a post on him one of these days) and how the most celebrated romantic hero of the past 200 odd years is, in fact, an emotionally repressed soul.
The craze around this brooding, arrogant hero is so huge that BBC has put its 1996 Pride and Prejudice mini-series up on iPlayer for free-viewing (yayy!). But why do we, as a society, cherish such men? How is it manly to bottle up all your emotions? Why is it suppressing all your feelings and just going about your business a virtue? We hear a lot about the oppression of women, and that is one of the most serious problems humankind faces. Sorry to be the pessimist, it won’t go away any time soon. But do we hear or talk enough about the repression of men? I keep wondering if the latter isn’t a core cause of the former.
Does it all begin with us telling young boys:
- Don’t cry like a girl
- Man up
- Grow a pair of balls
- Don’t be a pussy
Seriously, what’s with the male and female genitalia as a measure of strength? My kind pops a whole baby out of it and they can’t take a kick on theirs without being hospitalised?! Why then do we want to be the ‘damsels in distress’ and want the men to be ’knights in shining armours’ – and why does the society assign these roles to us? Why is it okay for me to cry and share my grief with everyone around (I don’t actually do it) and a man is expected to be this whole, emotionally healthy, held-up-together person, who can bat all of his life’s googlies, and mine, out of the park?
I have seldom seen or read about a Hero who cries or has a weak moment, or if he does, he isn’t celebrated for it. Somehow, a show of emotions, of weakness by a man is stigmatised, laughed at and frowned upon in both the society and the entertainment industry.Why build up a notion of Mr. Right to be this jacket-lending, gift-bearing, shoulder-offering, always stoic, always strong, always caring man? What a tremendous amount of pressure to put on a regular guy, Mr. Darcy! No wonder, too many men are afraid of commitment as are too many women!
The ideal man in literature is a 200 year old figment of fiction, after all! And where does it leave these men?
What happens when you keep all your feelings, your emotions cooped up inside of you? Historically, men used to go out and hunt, or even better, form a troop and wage a war for no reason and release all the pent up frustration… but we have moved on somewhat and sadly (?!), these recreations aren’t as easily at hand for our men. From the little I have seen, they end up addicted (to substance /work / porn), stressed, depressed, abusive or violent. The chances of one or more of this leading to divorce/domestic violence/infidelity or worse, death has been found to be quite high in various research studies. I’m not trying to justify the acts of violence, but I feel it’s a cry for help – and we, as family, as friends, companions, need to pick this up – the sooner, the better.
Think about that little boy who was bullied by his parents to be strong, to be upright, and to be responsible; who was scorned by friends when he wanted to play music instead of football; the one that was disciplined by teachers and mentors to act like a man and hold it all in.
Here’s a newsflash, ladies and gentlemen: boys and men feel emotions and are as vulnerable (or not) as girls and women are!
Who decided these gender-assigned ideals? Look at what this has caused – half of the world’s population has been taught to and is expected to not feel – pain, hurt, emotions. They aren’t supposed to shed tears. AND, they are not expected to ask for help, especially professional – that’s the ultimate show of weakness, isn’t it?
Pray, tell me, where’s the strength in hiding? I hide in the toilet when I’m upset and I stay awake at night worrying over seemingly inconsequential things – does that make me strong or am I too afraid to show my less self-assured side? According to me, a human being does feel, irrespective of the sex, and should emote her/his feelings; or so I expect her/him to.
By asking someone to be bereft of feelings, aren’t we taking away the privilege of being a human from them?
My man cries when he is super happy or sad, he practically weeps… he has bursts of emotions more than me; he tells me when he is afraid or tired or when he can’t hold it together anymore. It pains me to no end to see him distressed like that, but do I not think him to be strong? Au contraire, I feel he is one of the strongest humans I have encountered; to have endured so much and resurfaced every single time and keep that smile on. And to not for once think that his expressions of doubts and dubiosity would make him any less of a man. He sets his own ideals, and he lives up to them.
And as a parent, I am glad our daughter is exposed to a humane father, not a patriarch. As with her tribe, she will hopefully learn to be supportive of the men in her lives, when they need a shoulder to cry on. Hopefully, she, like me, won’t expect them to ALWAYS hold it together. Hopefully, she will be part of a culture that moves away from such toxic masculinity, where parents/teachers/friends don’t tell their boys to man up, just as they don’t expect girls to be a girl and hopefully, in our lifetime, we will see a better, more equal world for women.
Am no expert, these are my personal thoughts and I would love to know yours – so let’s open up and discuss. I would love to know your take on this, so do let me know.