Gender equality – as soon as we usually hear those words, two major concepts come to our mind – women and feminism. And then the questions usually go into how something can be about equality, when we haven’t talked about the other side of the coin – men!
Men – that epitome of MANkind, the torch bearer and the leader. Everywhere we look, we are bombarded with the different roles and forms that men take in our societies. Historical figures, newspapers, sports channels, movies and comics – there is an endless number of male characters that help to define what it means to be a man. Or is that what we would like to think?
If we actually try to break down these people, whether fictional or real, I think what truly stands out is that fact that most of these men are usually revered for some of the same basic things – looks, strength, brilliance, and mostly for being winners. Whether in sports, business or politics, men are respected and celebrated solely based on their prowess at being a leader.
Starting from the kindergarten playground, through advanced levels of education systems into the workplace – the one clear message about what it means to be a man, is simply that they are successful. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying this makes life easier for women, but maybe we have missed out on noticing what this constant pressure on men in needing to be the best has done.
Coming back to gender roles, the black and white designation of manliness or masculinity has remained unchallenged for a long time. Men are still seen as the household head, the bread earner, the stable problem solver. Feminism and gender rights projects have been pushing to break down the barriers of femininity and womanhood, encouraging girls and women to be just as independent, competitive, and worldly as their male counterparts, while also being able to love their feminine sides. The same encouragement has not been provided to men, who are still only being acknowledged and noticed for those same masculine traits and “manly” roles as before.
We celebrate the woman who can do it all, we celebrate mothers for their ability to give everything up and we even celebrate women who have the courage to maneuver societal pressures by being happily single. Do note that by “we”, I mean the liberal, feminist circles and mindsets that have been evolving even within the social constraints of Dhaka.
But we have not yet embraced the notion of stay-at-home fathers, or husbands being less successful than their wives, or even male nurses or caregivers. And that is where we have failed to push for gender equality from the other side.
Equality is when we are not holding anyone back or judging them for making a choice that suits them on an individual basis, but does not fit into our preconceived notions of gender roles. That can only be possible once we acknowledge that our socially constructed gender norms are not benefiting either males or females, and agree to create the space for anyone to become who they want to be.
Keeping this is mind, the upcoming production “Men don’t TALK” will delve into the issues that boys and men face while growing up in a society like Dhaka’s, where there is a strong pressure to uphold gender norms and fit into the roles set up by society. The shows will be held on 4th and 5th November in Khamarbari and Gulshan-1 respectively. Further information can be found on the facebook page: Men don’t TALK 2016.
Tasaffy Hossain is the founder of Bonhishikha-unlearn gender. Bonhishikha believes that who you look like, how you are treated and what role you play should not be determined by the sex organ that you are born with.