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How Gender Stereotypes Affect Men’s Mental Health

  • timeline Aravind Gosh
  • 4 Min Read
  • Fact Checked

Men are expected to be “manly”, for a myriad of reasons, but have you actually had a conversation with a man? It may be hard to believe, but we too have to experience the weight of societal expectations of what a man is defined to be.

Contrary to popular belief, we’re not all into sports, we do have a skincare routine that includes more than shampoo, we believe women should have equal rights, we aren’t all “gym bros,” not all of us support “the patriarchy” and we do wear pink.

What’s the problem with that, you ask?
There isn’t one, nor should there be. 

Men, in most societies, are put on a pedestal at a very young age. The unrealistic expectations placed on us have a long-lasting effect. We tend to become a shell of responsibilities and macho personalities, burying ourselves in a life that others want us to live. There is no set way of how a man is supposed to look like, how he’s supposed to behave, what he’s supposed to like, or how he’s supposed to live his life. 

We’re not all emotionless, we’re just taught to be. 

Here are some confessions from men that should be taken into consideration the next time you tell a man to be “manly.”

Societal pressure

Men experience a lot of pressure when it comes to the society they are part of. This includes pressure to be the “man of the house,” earn enough to sustain a family, and the expectation to find solutions for all the problems they encounter without seeking help. These irrational expectations affect a man’s mental health in the long-run resulting in them coping in ways to make sure others are satisfied in their actions. We end up not catering to ourselves, but our expectations.

  • “I had to hide my salary from my family, I was told a man earning less than a woman isn’t a man at all.”
  • “I don’t want to have kids, but the pressure of “pushing my generation ahead” with the family name weighs on me everyday.”
  • “I am in a loveless arranged marriage and both of us are unhappy, but we can’t get a divorce because it’s a taboo for a man to divorce his wife.”
  • “I wish it was as easy for a man to say ‘I want to quit my job & look after the house while taking a break.’”
  • “My wife is unable to get pregnant, but the doctor said it was because of my sperm. We can’t tell my family, my parents will be shamed.”
  • “I like to watch movies alone because I get emotional often and others make fun of me if I cry or react.”
  • “My wife and daughter both scream and call me when they spot a cockroach, expecting me to man-up and scare it away. But I am really, really afraid of them too.”
  • “I lost my job a few months ago and my mom continuously taunts me as I’m currently financially dependent on my wife’s earnings. I feel like ending this embarrassing life.”

Beauty standards

When one thinks of beauty standards, women are usually put on a pedestal. Men on the other hand are expected to not focus so much on how they look. We are bullied when we have a skincare routine, or think twice about a new haircare routine. Beauty standards aren’t often synonymous with men, leaving us feeling as though taking care of ourselves shouldn’t be a priority. 

  • “I love to shop and also have a great fashion sense, but my friends and family have attributed shopping to one gender.”
  • “I felt insecure about my looks when in my late thirties, I started balding.”
  • “I indulge in skincare more than my wife does. Just no one knows about it.”
  • “My secret is that I enjoy makeup. I think of it as art, but my parents didn’t allow me to pursue my passion in beauty as they say “ye ladkiyon wale kaam mat karo!”

Peer pressure

Besides relatives and societies, we as men are also expected to compete with our male counterparts. We’re expected to be interested in the same things that “the boys” are interested in. We’re forced into exploring the world of sports and video games, while in reality there are many of us that are bookworms or even love art. These hobbies are looked down upon by our own male counterparts, making it hard for us to be ourselves around them. This brings in feelings of insecurity that can be easily avoided if a man’s interests and hobbies can just be his, rather than be associated with his gender.

  • “I don’t have any interest in sports and I am judged and bullied by my so-called male friends.”
  • “I absolutely love drinking wine, but when I go for social hangouts with my boys, they call it a “woman’s drink’’ and order whiskey for me instead!”
  • “I used to go for therapy sometime back. But my apartment society used to name-call me as if I’m a mad person. I stopped going.”

We know you’ve heard confessions like these before, or maybe you read some new ones here. We as men would appreciate it if the “manly man” stigma is broken, and that seems eons away in Eastern societies.

But, you’d be surprised how one small gesture of simply NOT negatively commenting on a man’s strength, hobbies, life, etc. could go a long way.

Break the chain of toxic gender expectations – it’s time that we hear men out too.

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  • Written by

    Aravind Gosh

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