Gender stereotyping, as I infer from my personal experiences, has certainly stained the society so deeply, that the offshoots of the same manifest itself even in the most progressive circles. I have been brought up among a conservative Christian community which looks down upon gender equality and homosexuality a lot. As I joined college, it felt like I was being teleported to a whole new world, since my circles had open-minded people who expanded my perspective and made me realise that the logical questions I had against gender discrimination, homophobia and gender stereotyping weren’t unwarranted. The new, progressive, affable and inclusive circle I was fortunate to get, certainly made me feel at home. I took my perspectives further, inspired by the confidence fostered by my open-minded circles.
Nonetheless, it did not take too long to realise that the residues of gender stereotypes still existed even in this relatively progressive atmosphere. I am a naturally dramatic, emotional, happy-go-lucky person who loves cooking. In an appropriate and funny coincidence, my name sounds quite similar to a pretty common women’s name among Malayali Christians, “Jessie”. These qualities of mine were a bit off the grid as regards to classic male gender role concepts, commonly accepted even among my circles; this, essentially, made a lot of people among my circles to brand me as ‘feminine’ or even ‘gay’. Gender stereotypes of this kind do manifest itself this way, which almost always has ramifications on a man’s behavioural choices, the way I see it, essentially forcing them to ‘try and be more masculine’.
Gender norms and stereotypes are so ingrained in our society that adults are often surprised to realize how early children internalize these ideas. In this article, I would like to share my thoughts on how these gender stereotypes on men, no matter how subtle they might be or no matter how jokingly are they communicated, are essentially fostering sexism to some extent.
Arjun Reddy, Kabir Singh and the ‘Masculine’ Men
The stories of these movies were quite amusing; tough macho men with submissive women on whom they have complete authority and commanding power. They beat up juniors who attempt to hit on ‘their’ woman to establish their authority over them.
I would never blame the movie crew for their movies since depictions of different sections of the society through drama is the ultimate objective of this form of art. Having said that, I am not sure if our largely misogynistic society is ready for seeing these movies as entertainment, and the sheer apprehension of a possibility where the viewers might as well idealise these characters never fails to get me anxious.
The idea of male gender stereotypes, where men are depicted as an angry, rude incarnation of brute strength is pretty disturbing if the same happens to seep into the fabric of the society since that would essentially push the dream of achieving gender equality farther away from humanity.
What are Gender Stereotypes?
Gender stereotypes, when viewed from a working principle perspective, involves the portrayal of men as people possessing agency characteristics such as competence, achievement-orientation, inclination to take charge, autonomy and rationality. On the flip side of this gender stereotype paradigm, women are generally viewed as people with communal characteristics such as concern for others, affiliation tendencies, deference and emotional sensitivity. General connotation even attributes ‘he’ to things which are of stronger characteristics, while branding ‘gentle’ things, such as a Yacht or a Ship as ‘she’.
These characteristics are not only different, but they also tend to be oppositional: laymen on average believe that men should not be excessively warm (communal) and that women should not be excessively dominant (agency). Research on these generalizations has been extensive and shows they are consistent across culture, time and context.
As regards to the gender stereotypes in the context, I am referring to, is the aspect of gender stereotypes on men, where emotional men or relatively submissive men are seen as less masculine or not masculine.
‘The Man who cooks is sexy’
I was quite intrigued and amused to come across the movie ‘Ki and Ka’, which as per reviews, depicts an off-the-grid couple, where the breadwinner is the woman, whereas the man is a house-husband. I am happy about depictions of that sort which encourage the society to stop seeing man as the perpetual assertive force, who always takes the lead and provides for the family. I am happy to see that this stressed on the fact that men who might as well not conform to the settled norms imposed by gender stereotypes are no less masculine.
I had all my hairs standstill when one of my female friends told me that “The man who cooks is sexy”; this was partly because I love cooking but, the sheer pleasure of viewing the stereotype seeming to go away, indeed got me cheered up. One of my friends appreciated me for being openly emotional since she thought many men are not open to admitting that they get emotional at times, out of concerns that they might be branded as feminine.
Human Rights Law against Gender Stereotypes
The International Human Rights Law framework goes against gender stereotyping which cripple and even infringes the essential human rights and fundamental freedoms. States are obliged to eliminate discrimination against women and men in all areas of their lives. This implies that the States have to take steps to address and mitigate gender stereotypes.
Harmful stereotypes can be both hostile/negative (e.g., women are irrational) or seemingly benign (e.g., women are nurturing). Here, it is pertinent to note the predicament of men who are forced to conform to standards which mandate that they should have a vibe of brute strength, owing to the apprehension that their identities might as well get questioned if they seem gentle or emotional. When a man is pushed into the whirlwind of the stereotype on males, most of them concede to the same, owing to the fear of being called less masculine and owing to the fact that these stereotypes place men on the higher social rung. This has to be prevented through constructive measures.
The one where the guy who cries is not being called ‘Gay’
The subtitle is certainly a ‘FRIENDS’ rip-off, to indicate a whole new episode I hope for. I was outraged when my grandma asked my male cousin not to cry because ‘men don’t cry’. These cursory remarks, no matter whether they are intentional or not, fosters sexism in the long run. These kids, who become men, with these ridiculous concepts instilled among them, might as well be the ones who eventually think of emotional, dramatic men as ‘gay’; they are indeed being stereotypical, homophobic and sexist, all at once. Here is the relevance of constructive measures on different dimensions, including educational and legal measures which could eventually foster equality and eradicate sexism and gender discrimination. The International Human Right Law as well as reason and rationality, prove to be the clarion call for these long overdue measures.
Gender stereotypes on men being depicted as unemotional incarnations of brute strength is certainly another side of blatant sexism we need to address. Emotional, relatively less assertive men being accepted as ‘no less masculine’, could be a constructive step towards Gender Equality.
 Teaching Tolerance, https://www.tolerance.org/classroom-resources/tolerance-lessons/what-are-gender-stereotypes (Last visited 30th September, 2019).
Ina Toegel and Maude Lavanchy, How to beat gender stereotypes: learn, speak up and react, WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM (07 Mar 2019),https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/03/beat-gender-stereotypes-learn-speak-up-and-react/
 United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/WRGS/Pages/GenderStereotypes.aspx (Last visited September 30, 2019).
This piece has been contributed by Jesse Jacob.