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- How are male gender and sexual roles imposed on men?

- The role of the media

- Peer Pressure

"(social) Gender is a regime that has been imposed upon all of us by cultures" ~ LeeAnne Marie M.

Society creates an artificial atmosphere where males from an early age start believing that the social roles of masculinity are natural. So they use all their energy to try to fit into these social models.

During childhood, boys see how other men around them behave. They absorb these primary lessons about social male roles from observing their fathers, uncles, elder brothers and other male family members. Both male and female family members convey to them what they consider is appropriate male behaviour and what is not. For example, mothers may ask their sons to keep out of the kitchen because that is not an appropriate place for men to be in. Boys are ridiculed when they cry, so they learn that men do not cry --- at least not in front of others.



Case study

When Suresh was in Class 10, he was scolded and humiliated by his father in front of their relatives when his family was visiting them. Suresh could not bear this insult. Inadvertently tears came into his eyes while his aunt was consoling him. Upon this his aunt exclaimed, “Don't cry like a girl. You're a man, learn to behave like a man.”

This was the first time Suresh had heard such a statement. It had a deep impact on him. From then on he became like steel. As an adult, today he has difficulty crying in the presence of another person even if he wants to. He has become guarded about showing his emotions in front of others. Thus he leads a very stressful life.



The media and peer pressure are two major instruments through which artificial masculinity roles are imposed upon men. We will talk about them in greater detail.

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The role of the media

"All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values"  Marshall McLuhan

 In today's world the media plays a crucial role in imposing social masculinity roles on men, especially in their youth. Before globalisation, most of this came through Hindi films. Men in these films were shown as indulging in violence, chasing girls and smoking, which moulded the behaviour of men in those times accordingly. However, these roles were milder compared to what is being dished out by the media today. What is more disturbing is that the media has the power to change the social masculinity roles (as well other social values that can affect men's lives negatively), as per the whims and fancies of those who control it.

In the post-globalisation world, the media is overly eager to impose alien culture and values upon India without taking the responsibility of discussing them first or justifying them. This includes values and roles of masculinity from heterosexual societies. The role of Hindi movies has become less important, while that of TV has become extremely decisive.

Today's boys grow up watching programmes that show them a completely different set of male behaviour from those that exist around them --- And this includes the indigenously made programmes. Gradually, they start relating to the 'unreal' images. This eventually results in a culture shift.

Cartoon films made outside India that Indian youth is growing up on, show very young boys -- as young as 9 or 10 -- pursuing girls, falling in love and dating.



Case study

A children's serial shows a 9-year-old boy falling for a girl in his class and following her around, at the same time competing with his male friend over the girl.



TV channels influenced by globalisation encourage, rather force young boys into behaviour that was previously unacceptable in Indian society. Such behaviour at such an early age is also not in keeping with boys' nature.

When the media shows a strong macho figure indulging in a particular act, young boys take it as real. They try their best to make themselves conform to that media image to 'prove' their masculinity. In a world racing for social manhood, where values are changing fast, the boy who can do this first would secure his position in the lead. The media can play a responsible role in shaping men's lives. But unfortunately it does not.

The media, while irresponsibly attempting to shift male behaviour, is also simultaneously affecting female mores by glorifying sexual aggression and indulgence of boys in girls.



Case study

In an advertisement, a pretty and attractive girl enters a setting that looks like a bar or a party, wondering who could be her man today. She uses a particular brand of hair conditioner, which gives her confidence and makes every boy look at her.

An attempt is being made to make pre-marital dating an acceptable practice for girls. This was something unacceptable a few years ago.





Case study

A family comedy serial in Hindi shows an ordinary office girl telling her boss casually that her 'boyfriend' has phoned her. The impression is created that it is a 'normal' and acceptable practice in India for unmarried girls to have boyfriends.

The media is also attempting to showcase men as 'sex objects' for women. While to be a sex object for women is being glorified as being a 'masculine' thing.





Case study

A programme on a foreign owned Indian channel features half-naked male models with a large female-only audience. The audience is supposed to cheer and ogle at the bodies of the hunks. But inspite of the exhortations of the presenter they sit there uncomfortably, not looking like they are having a good time. The models too are uncomfortable in front of the all-female audience.

The men are made to say utterly degrading remarks about men vis-à-vis women --- that would surely be considered unmanly in the good old days. Ironically the programme is titled “He-men”.

The male models are made to do 'intimate' dance items with the scantily clad female presenter. Both the models and the viewers feel uncomfortable. Finally the boys are made to stand in a line in just their boxers, while the female presenter rubs her hands on their hairy chests, pushing all but the 'He-man' into a pond behind.

Interestingly, the programme includes a role-play where the male presenter asks a model to put down an imaginary 'gay on the bus' who is making advances (assumed to be 'unwanted'). More interestingly, the model doesn't seem too eager to do this. When forced, he does this as sensitively as he could.




This in short, is the forced heterosexualisation of the Indian society by the media. It is an attempt to manipulate the social masculinity pressures of the Indian male towards heterosexuality.

Constant display of young men and women being physically close -- men and women having sex, extremely suggestive poses, poses that are ambiguously friendly -- makes such proximity acceptable and required amongst the youth --- adding to their pressures. This may also give rise to problems in society, which the media does not seem to care about. It projects male-female sex as 'casual', and the reproduction or 'marriage' value of such relationships takes a back seat. It promotes the false belief that all 'normal' boys and girls need to date each other as a natural way of life. Virtually every programme shown on Indian TV today --- including family serials and children's programmes --- promotes heterosexual ethos and values.



Case study

The youth talent hunt programme on music, Indian idol (copied from the US programme, American Idol), which featured amateur youth artistes from small towns in India, asked its participants to hold hands and hug each other irrespective of gender. The boys and girls were uneasy doing this and it looked pretty artificial.




Case study

The Indian film awards ceremonies tend to be exact replicas of the US Oscar award ceremonies. Not only are the girls scantily dressed (and men heavily covered), but also male and female actors kiss each other on stage: a bizarre practice for Indians.



There is hardly a programme on TV where a normal young man does not fall in love with a girl. All that young men seem to do is to fall in love with girls and try to deal with relationship issues, especially the heroes, the most prominent male figures whom young men consider their ideals.

At the same time the media is enforcing a masculinity image which breaks boys from other boys, takes away their capacity to relate with other men, and forces them to relate with girls, rather too early in their lives. Being too close with other boys or relating with them is now considered unmanly behaviour.

In the US, the media has created such negative hype that even two brothers would feel scared to hold each other's hand in public for fear of being labelled 'homo'. In fact, in many parts of the West, men are extremely cautious when in the company of other males and keep a physical distance from each other. There is a clear attempt to force such a mentality on Indians, where traditionally social physical proximity between men is uninhibited.



Case study

The cartoon character Johnny bravo on Cartoon network is shown enjoying female company and kissing young girls. But when asked if he has ever kissed a guy, he makes a terrible face.




Case study

An oft-repeated advertisement for a serial on Cartoon network shows a 'macho' cat character announcing proudly: “I treat women softly, but am rude with the guys.”



It should be noted that traditional Indian values encourage men to be polite even to their adversaries.



Case study

An advertisement shows a male-female couple sitting alone in front of the TV. While the man wants to see a programme showing girls, the girl would rather watch a bodybuilding show.



The man makes a bored face at the half-naked guys flexing muscles, signifying that men are not supposed to enjoy such things. This is the opposite of traditional Indian gender roles as well as natural male tendencies.

Incidentally, the only males that the media does not show as pursuing or chasing women are the feminine, limp-wristed fashion designer, 'gay' types. Such subtle associations impact the minds of the young strongly.

When the macho guy rides cars at breakneck speed, fights with other men, treats other men with contempt, puts down 'weaker' males, has sex with girls, smokes marijuana, the youth gets swayed by these images and tries to shape life on them. Sometimes, what is propagated as masculine has nothing to do with masculinity. At other times, these images are those of 'negative' masculinity, or even of negative femininity.

The media fails to highlight the positive aspects of masculinity, like character, courage, bravery, protecting the weak, social commitment, living on principles, male bonding, honour and so on. As a result, most macho guys today who would promptly join in beating up a vulnerable person, would rather not save a weak person who is being beaten up. They would safely consider it none of their business.



Case study

An advertisement on TV proudly teaches children: “Don't be sidha-sada!” (A sidha-sada person is one who is not sly, cunning and manipulative. He lives a simple life based on principles and especially keeps away from casual sex.)



It is an apt acknowledgement of change of values from the past, when the sidha-sada man was glorified as the ideal man. Today, he is made fun of and called a simpleton.

Next: Peer Pressure

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