international men’s day


A nation that thoroughly attributes its identity to the quest for “Roti, Kapda, aur Makaan ( food, clothing, and shelter)” has certainly done its bit to captivate, and relish the food and housing culture to a very large extent, but that of the clothing and fashion seems a bit sceptical?

From “wardrobe dilemma” to “fast fashion”, the entire fashion terminology seems to be utterly registering about the feminine station, and for a prolonged part of the historical and social context has been negligent to the existence of the male counterpart. It is not a matter of astonishment that most of the men’s clothing praxis has been dominated by dark cotton pants, or paired with a full or half shirt or t-shirt. To extend the compartment we can have a pair of shorts and polos complimented by a flip flop for a casual weekend and traditional kurta pajama and dhoti with gladiator sandals for the cultural extravaganza. All this can veritably fit to summarise the men’s wardrobe.

But the generation that has been perplexed with the internet sensation seeding into our lives and styles, saw a global breakthrough with the #menswear trend that went around on Tumblr in mid-2010’s, flaunting well-draped men on the internet. Indian men were no different to respond to this global phenomenon and became receptive of the fashion avant-garde promulgated by others, and later some among them. Soon, workplaces broke the code for formals, and decided to formulate the business casuals over formals with someone like Vishal Sikka pulling off a t-shirt with various types of denim, and a blazer in cracker overboard meetings and conferences. Most of the corporates and start-ups followed the ideas and styles of their icons, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, where the former wore grey t-shirts and denim all his life, while the latter paired his turtleneck jumpers with pants, and hence avoided any kind of dilemma for their wardrobe.

The Indian man is mostly promonochromatic with shades like black, white, grey, blue, and olive getting a hand above other colours, solids are generally preferred over patterns, bright colours like neon and pink are bashed as feminine, dungarees become a matter of mockery, and bell bottoms and cargos are called obsolete. “They mostly go casual, which includes denim wear and t-shirts or shirts, they don’t really look at any brand from a sustainable point of view or how well the brand is working on bringing up old textile art forms which are getting lost in today’s era,” says Prama Mazumdar, a student of National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi.

But in recent years, men, especially the younger generation, have started experimenting with their clothing style and have become more conscious about their style statements; pairing types of denim with kurta is no longer a feminine choice, or journalist’s outfit, and khadi tote bags have become a favourite with the new generation; shirts with mundus are extensively classic. The admiration is no longer confined to the Bollywood actors’ fashion styles but people have rather started fantasising their favourite sports stars, musicians, and politicians as well; Virat Kohli and Sunil Chhetri, apart from being inspirational sports icons, have also played the role of fashion icons for millions. Shashi Tharoor and Milind Deora, Congress Members of Parliament, and Omar Abdullah, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, have also garnered significant followers for their wardrobe and styling that infuses traditional look in an unconventional manner.

Corporates have also started recognising men’s fashion needs, and have devised brands that cater to their requirements. The long-lost idea of customisation seems to regain its position as well with brands like Levis entailing endeavours for tailored jeans and outfits. Fandom and gaming franchises also seem to be really popular, specially among the college students with exemplar ones like The Avengers, Game of Thrones, and PUBG series. The scene has a lot to evolve from the common parlance, but, the process of breaking through the conventional categories of clothing has already begun, and begun with style.

Feature Image Credits: Janesh Sahni for DU Beat

Faizan Salik

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Three men walk into a bar and I’m the bartender. With my inherent humanity, I’m bound to judge these three specimens of so-called “masculinity”.

The first male was your typical “dude” (if I may stereotype that word for the purposes of this article). He is not homophobic, but he is still not comfortable with any gay men around him. He wants them to do their “hanky panky business” in private, but not in front of him. He is not talking about gay public display of affection, but just the stereotypical gay notions of people beyond heteronormative ideals of love in his head. He does not want to see any men dressed in flashy colours, talking about Pride parades, organised by privileged city kids, and other matters of those sorts. And yet, he says he is not homophobic. He loves his “bros”, but whenever he hugs them, or says that he loves them, he feels it is his moral obligation to say “no homo”. As if every same-sex physical contact implies gayness, or that he would be something “impure” if people even go to the extent of thinking he is gay. The smoggy air levels outside in Delhi are toxic, and so is this man’s masculinity. I’m pretty sure he would be an avid aficionado of lesbian porn though.

The second man is gay and proud. He has fought judgemental looks and judgemental judgements from everyone around all his life, and I have major respect for him in that sense. My only problem, however, is how he is turning into a victim of reverse stereotyping. This is the 21st century where we are acknowledging, or at least trying to acknowledge every human on the sexuality and gender spectrum. Everyone is equal and deserves equal treatment at a bar and, by extension, in this world. But the purpose of this equality is defeated when people like him start judging each other’s queerness, and stereotype matters themselves. As I serve him a pint, he examines my hands. “Such soft hands. You must be queer,” he says, as I laugh it off. A female friend approaches and he tells her that her bosom looks very appetising. The female friend knows that the second man would not approach her with any sexual intentions, but she is still clearly disturbed by his remarks. Her face says it all. But the second man does not realise this. He thinks that it is fine for him to comment on women like this, or sexually objectify them because to him, they are not objects of his own desire, and to them, he is not a “threat”. The third descendant of Adam is the worst probably, as he is more of a chameleon than a man. To win brownie points in the “woke” world, he continuously posts Instagram stories of protests at Jantar Mantar, the Pride flag, and other stuff of that sort. But who knows how he feels deep inside? For I heard him talking to another male friend who was dressed in a fine pink shirt. “Arey meethe,” (where meethe is slang for a man who seems conventionally non-masculine and is perceived to be gay) he said while hugging him, and I just squinted with cringe. Such people are the epitome of the word “pseudo”.

I was about to continue my character study on the third man but I got interrupted by many more men walking into the bar. You see, today is International Men’s Day, and so the bar has offered a special discount for all male customers. I laugh at the irony, for almost every day is International Men’s Day if you think about it (okay, maybe the second man hasn’t enjoyed privileges all the time). From the times of God in religious texts to figures of “his’story” to present day, it has been a man’s world. What kind of man do you want to be – someone in the joke or someone who learns to improve his ideas of masculinity in the evolving world – is a question you must try answering for yourself.

Shaurya Singh Thapa

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It is time that the problematic and hyper-aggressive portrayal of what it means to be a man is effectively fought against. This narrative alienates and hurts people and society at large, irrespective of their gender and sexual orientation.

International Men’s Day is an occasion meant to raise awareness regarding the health of men and boys, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting male role models. A lot of us would wonder why we need one day to talk about the issues of men when every day of the year feels like Men’s Day. In 1966, James Brown recorded the song “This is a man’s world”, which talked about the contribution of men to modern society. The narrative in this song, one which reiterated the importance of men is still strong, more than 50 years after.

When we look at gender dynamics, men are applauded for their role in the development of modern society and the fact that women were never allowed to pursue similar activities is conveniently ignored. Sexism is a very real problem, with men at a ridiculous advantage over women, transgender and, non-binary people in terms of acceptance, freedom, and opportunities offered. The question that comes to mind is- why should a day be devoted to celebrating men when they are at an obvious advantage already? Here is why- because, as much as this planet is man’s world, the definition of what makes a man is very narrow. Heteronormative boundaries and a problematic glorification of “manliness” have hurt males just as much as it has hurt members of other genders. The likes of Don Draper and James Bond have across decades created a rigid definition of what it means to be a man. Popular culture glorifies and promotes toxic masculinity, and has increased conformity in behaviours such as misogyny, homophobia, and violence. One look at your television screen is enough to tell you how little boys from a young age are taught to objectify, disrespect, and mock anyone and everyone who isn’t a “manly man”.  Words and language like “sissy” and “no homo” promote the ideology that there is just one right way of being a man- by being a caveman-like, hyper-masculine, violent, emotionally unavailable individual with ridiculous sexual prowess who is at the top of the social hierarchy.  Take one look at the popular men on television and in films- characters like Barney Stinson, who for all his charm is a misogynistic womanizer who lies, cheats and plays by every possible trick for the sake of sexual activity. Charlie Sheen is another beloved television character who devoted his life to alcohol and objectifying women. These characters, these little jokes propagated in the name of comedy contribute to the formation of a social structure where the only men who are respected are the ones who engage in the aforementioned behaviour. Donald Trump cited his crass and vulgar interview of grabbing women by the genitalia as “locker-room” talk and a ridiculous number of his followers bought that lie, simply because his language fit into what their idea of locker room talk is.

Toxic masculinity is a deep problem that is never addressed enough. I have an acquaintance added on Facebook who responds to every joke his friends make on him on social media with a line that starts or ends with “your mom”. This is a classic case of toxic masculinity, where the only appropriate, “manly” way to respond to an insult is to bring down a woman. “Hyper-masculinity” means exaggeration of stereotypical male behaviour, such as the emphasis on physical strength, aggression, etc.  Glorification of hyper-masculinity undermines ever male who does not fit into its narrow definition.

This November 19th, we need to talk about such issues. I have seen innumerable body-positivity and well-being pages aimed at women and not one-tenth of such pages aimed at men. Toxic masculinity is so deep-rooted and powerful, that the idea that men need positive reminders, hope and encouragement is largely forgotten by most of us.  Transgender men, gay men, or men who do not fit into the narrow definition of masculinity are unfortunately marginalised. Their problems and issues aren’t talked about, their existence often ridiculed and mocked. Most of the posts that I have seen regarding men facing sexual assault too, or being victims in domestic relationships, are in response to women talking about their hardships and subjugation. The “men get harassed, stalked, raped too” statement is all too common, meant to undermine a woman, transgender or non-binary individual talking about a form of violence they have faced. It is time we remove the “too” from this statement. Instead of saying “men get assaulted too” when women talk about harassment; let’s start saying things like “men get harassed”, “men are stalked”, “men can be victims”, period. The problematic “too” at the end of these sentences, aimed to silence the voices of those trying to talk about their struggles needs to be discarded.  Conversations regarding male subjugation should not be treated as a method to silence the voices of those trying to talk about their problems. If male-rights activists wish to gain authenticity and respect, they need to move from their narrative of “XYZ happens to men too” and need to start talking about issues that affect men. This International Men’s Day and on all subsequent days to follow, may we be able to identify, target, and effectively dismantle toxic masculinity, all the while creating a wider definition of masculinity that is accepting of all men irrespective of their height, physical appearance, the amount of sexual activity they engage in, or how they choose to identify themselves amongst all the sexual orientations out there.


Feature Image Credits: Time For An Awakening

Kinjal Pandey

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