“Act like a man!” Most guys have heard this at some point during their growing years. Whether it’s being discouraged for playing with dolls or wearing the color pink, or growing long hair, or crying, you get repeatedly reminded by society that you aren’t supposed to do that as a man.
It’s as if being born with an appendage between your legs was a crime. Masculinity is treated as if it comes with a set of clear instructions etched in stone from time immemorial.
Masculinity: past and present
A closer look, however, at the cultures that have existed throughout history tells otherwise. A burly guy adorned with a jacket, jeans, and leather shoes might be the image of masculinity now, but it wasn’t always this way. Back in the day, the kings, who were ‘the men’ of their time, dressed up in silk clothes, wore jewelry, and put on makeup. In fact, if you were to compare, a king would look more like a drag queen than a firefighter or a corporate lawyer.
Nothing is absolute in this world
If anything, this example tells us that masculinity is an ever-evolving construct. It changes with respect to culture and time, and trying to make it rigid wouldn’t do us any good. The same goes for femininity too. Society assigns us a role from the moment we’re born and expects us to play along. That doesn’t mean we have to.
The obsession with labels
If there’s one thing the human race loves dearly, it’s putting labels on things. Someone who exhibits specific physical attributes is labeled a man, and we expect that person to react in a certain way. All the while, we never bother to ask what that person wants in the first place. We see masculine and feminine as black and white, divided by a thin line. Those who aren’t dead in the middle of it, fall to either side eventually, courtesy of push and pull from both sides – but the tide is beginning to shift.
Gender is a spectrum
Humanity has finally come to realize that gender isn’t binary; it’s a spectrum. There are degrees of masculinity and femininity – and your biological sex has nothing to do with it. Identifying as a man only says that one is sexually attracted to ‘women’ if even that. The line we talked about earlier isn’t a line, it’s a platform, and you’re free to stand wherever you want.
- Author is a Delhi based freelance journalist.