In the year 2014, a short film released by Vinil Matthew featuring popular Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit tackled one of the most sensitive and yet controversial topics- “LADKEY ROTE NEHI” (Boys don’t cry).
The short film takes the audience through a journey where right from their childhood young boys are told” not to cry” and that by crying, it is insinuated that they were “acting like girls” and that “boys don’t cry” by their parents, teachers and even their peers until they have internalized it and make it a part of their reality. This in turn inevitably has its own consequences. The advertisement ends with the child who was told that “boys don’t cry” one too many times, has grown into an adult who abuses his wife, thus ending as a parable. While this particular outcome is just one of the many possibilities that can arise from what many parents and caretakers had ignorantly practised as a seemingly harmless behaviour, it also subtly depicts the other side of gender stereotyping that in most instances goes un-noticed. This also leads to emotional suppression which if unchecked can prove detrimental to mental health.
SO WHAT HAPPENS WHEN ONE CONTINUALLY BOTTLES UP ONE’S EMOTIONS?
It goes without saying that if you are a human being, you are going to have emotions, be it the positive emotions which empower us or negative emotions which show our vulnerable side and needless to say, It is nothing to be ashamed of. Emotions like grief, shame, sadness, anger, feelings of insecurities are emotions which no one may enjoy experiencing but we inevitably do at various points in our lives with no one being an exception. Not allowing oneself or training others not to express these emotions will not magically make them go away but in turn, only repress these emotions. If an individual makes a habit of repressing emotions which is due to a lack of a safe outlet of expression, then it can lead to serious issues of mental health.
Taking instances from a survey taken which focused on perceptions of gender stereotypes, it was revealed that when participant 17 was asked what he considers a drawback associated with being male, he had answered that he couldn’t find it “safe to cry in public.” He further explained as quoted- “Even when my grandmother died, I couldn’t cry in the middle of the procession and waited until I was alone in my room to cry and free myself because as boys we are trained not to cry or else we are not strong.”
This instance shows that While not all men may resort to violent behaviour, it can lead to cognitive distortions of various types. The above scenario depicted the situation of a young man who was no more than 17-18 at the time, having a fear of being judged by his own family and distant family for merely expressing himself at his grandmother’s funeral.
Other possible consequences include developing aggressive behaviour as defence mechanisms, an overwhelming feeling of anxiety and even depression.
The media today covers various instances of suicides which is often unfortunately associated with shaming victims by the public. There exists a social stigma that if one takes the extreme step of taking his/her own life then he/she had a weak will. This only creates further stigma among the general consensus that one is supposed to be in control of one’s heavier emotions no matter what at every point to be a strong person. This, in turn, raises the question- How is that possible and who has managed to do it?
While taking one’s life seems like a far- fetched outcome to this one particular action, it can cause a ripple effect that can cause long-lasting psychological damage that can affect one’s mental health and even one’s sanity.
So, it becomes crucial to ask, in the present day and age- is it sensible to question an act of healthy expression of emotions be equal to a sign of weakness? Irrespective of the gender, age or other criteria.