Gender inequality is often perceived as a problem that affects women. And it’s only understandable, given that the child sex ratio in the country as per the previous census records stands at 914 girls for every 1000 boys. This statistic, while true, does not present the complete picture. Why, you ask? The answer lies in the fact that despite being an issue that predominantly affects women, gender discrimination and inequality also claim several men as its victims.
How do men face sexism?
Sexism, defined succinctly as prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination based on gender, is just as harmful to men as it is to women. While sexism requires women to be reserved and adaptable, it pushes men to be macho and masculine. Right from an impressionable young age, boys are expected to put up a brave front and be fearless. Natural human emotions with a softer shade, like doubt or sorrow, are often dismissed as weaker sentiments.
Boys who display these attitudes are reproached for “acting like girls.” This one phrase can as a trigger to kickstart a lifetime of discrimination based on gender. Not only does this idea condition men to believe that women are the weaker sex, but it also leads them to think that as men, they are expected to always be macho and strong. Weaknesses, whether at a physical or at a mental level, are frowned upon.
This bias transcends into adulthood, where men who choose to stay at home and raise their kids while their spouse acts as the primary breadwinner are often judged as being incapable of supporting their families. Clearly, the sexism faced by men is another side of the same coin by which women are judged unfairly for getting ahead in their careers.
There’s also collegiate and career-oriented sexism. A case in point is the imbalance in the number of grants and scholarships created specifically for people of a certain gender. In an attempt to quell male domination in fields like engineering and mathematics, many universities abroad have introduced grants and scholarships exclusively for women. Curiously, the reverse does not happen in areas dominated by women. In the nursing industry, for instance, around 90% of the graduates are women. Unfortunately, there has been no attempt to equalize the playing field for both genders in sectors like this.
How does gender inequality affect men adversely?
Many theories may argue that reverse sexism is not really an issue. However, it’s clear that while a majority of the victims of gender inequality are women, men, too, suffer adversely owing to gender discrimination practices. A study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) on men’s health and well-being revealed that conservative gender stereotypes that relegate the role of the primary breadwinner to men coupled with discrimination that prevents women from contributing equally increases the stress suffered by men. This undue pressure paves the way for a slew of physical and mental health issues.
Gender stereotypes also reflect badly on the life spans of men who are victim to this bias. The same study by the WHO found that the differences between the life spans of men and women were larger in countries greater gender inequality. In addition to these alarming outcomes, gender stereotyping also leads men to refrain from seeking the help they need.
How can gender equality benefit men?
Encouraging gender equality and fighting gender stereotypes benefits men just as much as it helps women. It allows men to be themselves instead of constantly attempting to fit into the mould that society has prepared for their gender. Furthermore, gender equality also gives men a safe space to seek medical help for the physical or the mental effects of gender discrimination, so they can bolster their overall well-being.
In fact, the WHO’s report summary stated it best when it said, “Living in a country with gender equality benefits men’s health, producing, for example, lower mortality rates, higher well-being, half the chance of being depressed, a higher likelihood of having protected sex, lower suicide rates, and a 40% reduced risk of violent death.”
Equality among genders also benefits women, because when the stigma associated with men choosing to help with the domestic aspect of a household reduces, it also simultaneously dispels the judgement surrounding women who are invested in their careers. Ultimately, gender equality encourages each individual to function according to the dynamics they find most convenient, irrespective of their gender.