Men don’t cry, women feel pain

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  • Published 10.11.14


New Delhi, Nov. 10: When Amitabh Bachchan said “men feel no pain” in the 1985 Bollywood movie Mard, he was expressing an attitude that still dominates Indian society, a survey has found.

Toughness is the essence of manliness to 93 per cent of Indian men and, perhaps more astonishingly, 85 per cent of the women, reveals the study by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the America-based International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW).

The study’s aim was to explore how the average Indian male’s understanding of the idea of “masculinity” shapes his interactions with women, leads to the beating of wives and girlfriends, and increases his desire for sons rather than daughters.

Touring seven states and interviewing about 9,000 men and 3,000 women, the researchers found that some 50 to 60 per cent women faced physical violence in their relationships. (See chart)

One long-held notion whose prevalence the study confirmed was straight out of the Mard dialogue: manly men don’t cry.

Some 77 per cent of the women interviewed agreed with “When my partner wants sex he expects me to agree” and 54 per cent with “If I asked my partner to use a condom he would be angry”.

Gopa Bharadwaj, who taught the psychology of gender at Delhi University, asserted that there was nothing “natural” about the myth around masculinity that she said was linked to son preference.

“These data confirm a deep-rooted myth, a social construct that is now being perpetuated by popular culture — television, films and even children’s fairytales,” she said.

“This is imprinted in the minds of males as children, and women too accept this myth as unquestionable fact.”

The study links childhood environment to partner violence: men raised by parents who shared the decision-making are 1.4 times likelier to be less rigid and more equitable than those from families where men made the decisions.

“It’s high time we began thinking seriously about how we wanted to bring up our boys and how we presented ourselves as adults before the younger ones in our families,” said Ravi Verma, regional director, ICRW-Asia.

Frederika Meijer, UNFPA India representative, agreed that “childhood experiences” were key to upholding or rejecting the myth about masculinity.

“Childhood experiences are significant contributing factors behind men using violence. This research identifies triggers that could enable them to become change agents in addressing gender discrimination,” she said.