So we’ve always heard that women must ‘smash the patriarchy’ but according to this one social entrepreneur it’s not just the women who suffer because of patriarchy. Men also suffer from the negative aspects of patriarchal society in Pakistan.
There is a rigid notion of what a man is supposed to be, in Pakistan.
As a man you aren’t conditioned to do certain things, it’s harder to cry or talk about your emotions with anyone because you are supposed to be strong and independent. Crying, showing emotion or weakness are perceived as things that are ‘feminine’, you know auraton ka kaam!
Meet Aurélie Salvaire
She is an avid storyteller and social entrepreneur. Aurélie Salvaire has been working for the past 10 years in the social innovation field, collaborating with Oxfam, Ashoka, Unreasonable Institute and Impact Hub. She founded and curated different TEDx events including TEDxBarcelonaWomen, TEDxBarcelonaED and TEDxBarcelona Change.
Aurélie came to Pakistan to study the dynamics of masculinity and how the average Pakistani man is affected by the patriarchal set up and the pressure to “act like a man”.
In her discussion with Pakistani men, she said they told her that they are affected in their emotional well being and, subsequently, their personal “freedom” because of the patriarchal setup of our society. She quotes famous feminist scholar Bel Hooks who defines it best when she calls this phenomenon as “patriarchal masculinity”:
‘Patriarchal masculinity teaches males to be pathologically narcissistic, infantile and psychologically dependent on privileges. There is a constant need to reaffirm your manhood.’
While talking to MangoBaaz, Aurélie found out that men here aren’t always aware that the rules of mardaangi affect them adversely.
She added that even if they do know, peer pressure and the fear of how people would react keeps men from addressing these issues.
You must be thinking that being a man is easier than being a woman here in Pakistan, so what’s the fuss about. Well, the privileges are met with equal and greater harm. So while there are benefits you’re also forced to be someone you’re not, and you’re encouraged to bottle up your emotions so that messes you up.
According to the Pakistani men that were interviewed, the struggle to ‘fit in’ and be a MAN has an effect on their relationships and their ability to trust each other.
Basically men grow up to be less in touch with their emotions, and less able to connect on an empathetic level with others, they have always been taught to bottle their emotions up, be independent and not let their vulnerable side show to anyone.
The most powerful Aurélie said to us was that the advantage of being a man in Pakistan is FAKE and that the ‘real deal’ lies in the liberation of being who you really want to be.
Aurélie also highlights how women also contribute to this patriarchal struggle of creating the perfect man.
As mothers and sisters, women teach boys to fit into what she calls the ‘Man Box’. This is basically a space that encourages heterosexuality, strength, aggression, dominance and most importantly to NOT talk about emotions.
She was told by the men in their interviews that women often make sure that their sons and brothers adhere to these rules, because they know that the boys will be ridiculed and hurt in society if they don’t “act manly enough”.
By not having these type of restrictions, the men of Pakistan could form healthier bonds and relationships and, she says, your sex life could also improve VASTLY.
So you can see, there are many benefits to be had.
Aurélie says that as a society, we tend to put masculinity over humanity and we’re paying a terrible cost by doing so. If we choose to reverse the equation, according to her, we can be a much happier nation.
Aurélie is working on a more comprehensive project on what it means to be a man in Pakistan in 2017. For details on her project you can head on over to shiftbalance.org
Update: The piece has been edited to clarify that Aurélie Salvaire is a social entrepreneur and not a social scientist.
Cover image via: TEDxTalks / YouTube