The majority of men in society have been trying to live up to the expectations of their culture and to meet social standards set particularly for them. Conventionally, a man was told to take part in sports, to control emotions, to undergo tough activities and to not wear pink colour as stereotypically viewed that was only meant for women and more to mention.
Men, for no reason, are rigidly expected to be tough, independent, competitive and unemotional, etc. whilst these characteristics are hardly ascribed to women because of the social belief that men are superior to women in general which I believe should immediately be halted.
A Story of a Boy
There was a boy who grew up in a rural area of Myanmar where people have traditional expectations of how a man should behave. Men are therefore quite tough and live in accord to the deep social status to prove their manliness.
But the boy does not involve in sports activities and hence his friends and people around think that he is quite feminine. When he cries from small injuries, people usually say “Men don’t cry”.
He sometimes was asked for not being tough as a boy “Are you a pervert or fag?” This was how people were influenced by cultural norms that a man would be a pervert otherwise must be a fag. This kind of toxicity still can be seen in some parts of the country.
After years, he believes that masculinity should be redefined in a socially acceptable way and address how strict masculine standards of our society could hurt men and those associated with, so he wrote this article to call for inclusive change for betterment in manhood.
The Ideology of Fragile Masculinity
There are fraught natures of cultural expectations on manhood and researchers also came up with demonstrations that masculinity itself is precarious – which is males tend to maintain their manliness by behaving in stereotypical ways.
In fact, both men and women find the pressure of abiding by their culture’s prescribed gender stereotypes. To take this example, the failure of a man to meet social expectations could perceive as a loss of esteem in the eyes of his peers and family or even ostracism at worse.
Males basically behave to fit in the high-status ‘man’ category of the society and therefore they are attempted to follow cultural norms to claim their membership in the privileged male group and loss of status as ‘real man’ is another concern by failing to do so. A prevailing finding of research shows that fragile masculinity is correlative to the precarious structure of manhood that causes pressure, anxiety and encourages the statement of what we are not instead of what we are – ‘We are not women, we don’t do things that women do.’
Impact of Rigid Masculine Standards
The nature of traditional masculinity is mostly about proving that which is not feminine and usually undermines the area of human experience. Those masculine norms cause the justification of less support for gender equality, homophobic attitudes and enjoyment of sexist humour and such.
“Fragile masculinity is really deep-rooted in the society and we were told how men and women should behave since childhood. Even though people understand its pain, they might unconsciously judge if a man behaves against rigid expectations,” said Olly, LGBT rights activist. “Masculinity to me is the personal value rather than the exterior or physical attributes,” she added.
These restricted masculine goals create a condition called Gender Role Conflict which is the anxiety resulting from the pressure to meet social expectations which are not the good ideals for the person who know themselves how to live with their version.
This is why men would unintentionally create a state of depression and loneliness for themselves just because of the fact that they are expected to be tough and unemotional.
A New Frame of Masculinity
There seems to be progress on how people perceive manliness over time, yet it is still a long way to educate and bring people together for the ultimate change.
Kyaw Zin, web developer said, “I think masculinity should be totally redefined and I also noticed that certain young people my age are still sticking to the conventional masculine standards. We should anyway try to help them to be able to see it in the right way.”
Men ought to embrace human experiences which are not restricted by any gender roles over specific cultural norms. In the meantime, they should be comfortable with the sense of diversity – understanding that being different is a beautiful thing to be cherished.
“People in our society tend to under-appreciate the value of diversity and perhaps they may be judgmental if someone is behaving out of the traditional status quo,” said Nyi Thu, founder of an online teaching school.
“Being different from the crowd should not make you feel that you are wrong, it is just a nature of diversity,” he commented.
It is therefore quite imperative that men to involve in the conversation of redefining masculinity which is healthy, comprehensive and importantly a will to break the rigid rules that are the roots of most internalized conflicts men are undergoing.
In my culture, men have the right to craft a lifestyle they prefer, not the precarious masculine goals they are expected to meet.