Men are hurting themselves by adhering to irrational gender norms

Mehnaaz Pervin Tuli:

Image Source: The Quint

Due to the absurd gender disparities in our society, there are many instances when men suffer badly and silently yet they themselves are not aware of turning over a new leaf. Among many Bangladeshi middle class and higher class educated families, there is that rule where men should be the breadwinners whatever it takes and women are not allowed to enter the workforce but are at home and manage the house or children. It might sound gibberish that even in this century there are people who have remonstrance on women of their own families about working full time out. This is vastly applicable for married women having kids at home or women taking care of in-laws family members. Now, if the financial stability is well enough in the family, the problem does not arise for the elder son /brother otherwise there comes immense pressure on the male member while balancing between the family members. When the elder son or brother of the family gets married and births his child, it becomes out of his way for him to meet the ends by cohering to the demands of parents, wives, and children altogether. The absolute virtuous rule in many traditional conservative families still stays: no matter what befalls upon us, we are not going to divide the monetary responsibilities amongst both genders. 

Living a decent life in the capital city of Bangladesh and renting an apartment for a living can cost an arm and a leg. The educated well-off families is hanging between the desire of living embellished lives and earning a handsome salary by giving off every strength of the body and mind. Corporate and private jobs can surely suck the energy out of everyone at different levels that only a person working in this country can understand. Even the teaching profession has become nothing more than just sweating off your blood and sparing no time for study or research work. The private universities pay off the teachers with the intention of turning them into every other thing except a teacher and researcher. There are teachers in private universities who can share experiences of doing thousands and thousands of desk jobs and complying with marketing strategic tasks leaving little space for real learning and teaching. Every other corporate and private jobs here can be counted as the same except some good multinational and international organizations where there are concerns for human productivity and family time. There are some local private organizations that literally recommend the employees to invest their 24 hours in the office work against a salary of fewer than 40 thousand rupees. The big bosses or employers do not hesitate to declare how insignificant family is in the face of the organizational work promises and the employees are expected to exterminate the thoughts of family time needed. 

With this scenario and social structure, it is vicious for the people in the family and the society to expect monetary success and establishment only from the sons. I have known many young men at their 30s crying off their hearts not knowing how to pay for father’s medicines, sister’s wedding, and wife’s necessities yet not talking out loud lest it should hurt the pride of the masculine entity. These gender norms are the ones to teach men not to cry publicly or break down in front of the family no matter how hurt the heart is! In the family, the vibe of togetherness means sharing grief and troubles equally whereas these rules of gender performativity make everything uneven. In this era, everyone can find work and start earning decently by working online or offline and the only needed thing is some hard work and smartness. The families should come out of the rigid mindset and teach both the sons and daughters to earn and provide for the family in an equal manner. This can prevent rifts from happening within the family between the parents and their son even after marriage. After marriage, the responsibility of the parents can never be designated only for the son as it becomes harder for him to balance between the blood relation and his conjugal life. The idea of marrying off the daughters forever and not expecting anything from them even though they have got good educational opportunities from the parents as well seem absolutely illogical. When a parent is sick or in need of monetary support, the expectation of help and service should be from both the daughter and the son. As a result, the male members in the family do not have to be always in a bad and rough mood by realizing the burden of maintaining family at any cost alone. The husband should also understand the wife whenever she has to balance between her married life and her parents in dire need. This is called the sense of equality and equity which can be ensured by abandoning some rotten superannuated gender performativity customs.

The well-established coarse rules for productive masculinity include:

  • Do not cry or break down in front of people
  • Be harsh/insensitive/ less emotional
  • Be violent and then a man!
  • Control women who are living or associated with you
  • Be the perfect and successful breadwinner
  • Toil hard from a young age to provide for the family
  • Do not submit yourself to household errands even if needed
  • Never think of cooking for your partner unless she is extremely sick at bed
  • Be verbally loud and coarse with your subordinate gender: women.

Even in this era, in some parts of our country, it is disgraceful for an educated man to take up a job of cooking, weaving, sewing as a profession, or establishing an identity. I have known men who are best in the works of sewing clothes, baking cakes, ironing clothes, cooking food in hotels and restaurants. If this is the case, men can easily do all these at home helping the female family members in need. Why is it shameful when the boy tries to wash the dishes for his sister? Why is it absurd when the husband makes tea in the morning before office for his wife? Why is it unsightly and unneeded for a woman to go out and help with the financial needs in the time of the financial loss of her partner? 

Strangely enough, a large group of adult males is seen to suffer from gastroenteritis for not accepting the cooking skill as a basic one. They depend on oily and stale food, curry, pakoras (fritters) bought from hotels and restaurants in order to avoid cooking on their own. It is not intelligible to many people living abroad about the reason behind the strict unwillingness of male grownups here to enter the kitchen room and save their own stomachs. I do recognize the fact that day by day, many of the men have started looking on the negative side of this absurd gender performativity role and are doing their best to help out their sisters or wives or girlfriends. It actually does not fall in the category of help because, in order to maintain a house, fill the stomach, bring food at the table, all the members in the family are supposed to contribute at different times. This is high time we unwrap ourselves from silly, outdated, ineffective gender rules or customs and work for the greater good. 

Mehnaaz is a philanthropist and humanist by nature talking about the endless agony of human beings and discuss the broken and biased gender norms. She endeavors on revealing and pointing out the taboo issues that need reformation especially in the case of women. She has taught as a university lecturer for the last four years and is currently working as a freelancer. She has a particular interest in English and Bengali literature too. 

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