English definition of MAN-
noun: An adult human male.
“a small man with mischievous eyes”
Societal definition of MAN-
noun: A person who is smart, strong, tall, gentlemanly, breadwinner, considerate, dignified, selfless, chivalrous and distinctly unladylike.
The first definition of Man is what it should be. A male member of the human species. Nothing more, nothing less. Unfortunately, centuries of stigmas and stereotypes have led to the word man giving way to manly, a label for the above mentioned ‘qualities’. The notion of an ‘ideal man’ is just as debilitating as the notion of an ‘ideal woman’. It is often believed, rather erroneously, that it is only women who suffer from stigmas. This could not be further from the truth. Men are victims of unfounded pressures and stigmas too. It is tough to conclude whether male stereotypes arise out of stereotypes against women or vice versa. But one thing is for certain, both males and females in India suffer from unjust restrictions and classifications.
Don’t agree? Well then, riddle me this. What are phrases like- Boys don’t cry, Men should honour women, Men should be chivalrous, Men should be ‘well groomed’ and ‘well dressed’ etc supposed to mean then? Aren’t these the criteria for being an ideal man? Aren’t these restrictions on men to be the kind of men they want to be? Why should men be chivalrous and offer up their seats in buses to women who are equally capable of standing on their own feet? Why can’t men wear skirts when women can wear trousers? Why can’t men put on makeup?
Thankfully, these questions are finally being raised by the men. And just like all other stereotypes, these too are crumbling when faced with sound reasoning and strong logic. There is lesser and lesser gender stereotyping and more and more gender fluidity with each passing day. And there are several outstanding examples to illustrate these sweeping changes which are occurring in society.
Let’s talk about the colours of clothing. Colours like Maroon, Pink, Purple, Burgundy etc. have become all-time favourites among men and adorn the mannequins of all major men’s apparel stores. There was a time when skirts were only for girls and trousers were for boys. With time (actually, with the Industrial revolution) this notion changed and girls began wearing trousers and pants too. And now, we have full grown men wearing skirts! Now, the Scottish have been rocking their kilts for a long time. Skirt-like kurtas are also seen during fashion shows, where designers go for the quirky and bohemian in order to attract attention to themselves. Quite recently, actors too have jumped on the bandwagon. We have Ranveer Singh, who wore a kilt aka man skirt to an award show! More specifically, it was GQ Magazine’s red carpet to celebrate the 50 most Influential Young Indians.
This was not the first instance. He has donned similar clothing while promoting his movies like Bajirao Mastani. He clearly doesn’t care what the society and media think, does he?!
He was not alone. Aamir Khan too wore a ghaghra in his movie PK. All this shows that Men in our country, led by influential actors, are slowly shedding their inhibitions about gendered clothing and moving towards a new, egalitarian society.
Shopping has traditionally been considered a hallowed dominion for women. Indeed, all of us have come across countless jokes on WhatsApp about prodigal women and their exasperated husbands. However, this landscape has changed dramatically, especially in the e-commerce segment. The market size for both men and women on sites like Flipkart is neck and neck, according to Rishi Vasudev, VP (Fashion, Home and Furniture) Flipkart (as stated to IANS). This goes to show that men too are becoming more and more conscious of their appearance.
Have you ever seen or heard of a man using make-up? Besides for theatrical displays and annual functions in schools and colleges, the idea seems quite bizarre to us, doesn’t it? I dare say that is because of deeply entrenched social inequalities and biases in our minds. Thankfully, we have people who are trying to change that. Today, we have several male beauty bloggers and vloggers who are providing a new definition of beauty. One amongst the many is Makeup.
Artist and stylist Jason Arland or the “proud brown boy”, as he likes to call himself. He is one of many who embraces their sense of expression using cosmetics, fashion and style.
It is often said that behind every successful man is a woman. It is never said the other way around. Rather, it is always assumed that a man would be an impediment to the development and aspirations of a woman. This is an unfounded, spurious and erroneous notion. A famous real-life example to refute this is the life of MC Mary Kom, wonderfully illustrated in the movie ‘Mary Kom’ wherein the character of Mary Kom was portrayed by Priyanka Chopra. Three male characters contributed in the making of the real Mary Kom- her father, her coach and her husband. Of this, the husband’s role is the most important one. She herself has admitted that her husband, Onler Kom, left his full-fledged football career to look after their children while she was busy training for her boxing matches.
There can be no better example than this to illustrate how men can be equally supportive and instrumental in the success of their female counterparts.
In conclusion, we would like to say that our society is constantly evolving and soon we might not have the kind of gender biases that we do today. But attaining that sort of gender fluidity will require a concerted effort from every single member of society, whether male or female. Till then, we must appreciate and emulate the examples set by these crusaders.