Emotions, Masculinity and Hierarchies in Relationships: Or making men walk alone in the journey of life.

Traditionally men have been discouraged from communicating their feelings (except with anger which was not seen as losing control), not just with their wives, but also their own children. For Indian men showing emotions to their mother was seen as acceptable.

Hierarchy creates distances and loneliness.

Imagine a father who can’t give his son a hug? Should it be so difficult to tell his son he loves him?
In this video, if the son had not taken the picture with him, would it mean he didn’t love his father? In the last part, the man is embarrassed to be ’emotional’.

Notice the ‘ahem’ (cough) to silence all protests. Would you like to have such a relationship with someone you cared so much for?

Tagline in the ad is apt : ‘Why walk alone in the journey of life?

Do keep the men is this ad in mind when you read tomorrow’s post from an anonymous Indian husband whose wife has just got a promotion.


Related Posts: 

Cynically Engineered: Honor and Masculinity: How Patriarchy Warps Your Thinking

What do men need liberation from.

Boys don’t cry. – Starry Eyed


51 thoughts on “Emotions, Masculinity and Hierarchies in Relationships: Or making men walk alone in the journey of life.

  1. “Traditionally men have been discouraged from communicating their feelings”
    Unfortunately that has led men to take pride in being so and ruining chances of warm relationships with spouse and children. All soppy emotional dialogues are encouraged and accepted when delivered to the mother. I think that sucks big time. It fosters an “unnatural” connection between adult sons and mothers too which if looked at objectively gives you the creeps. In this regard I remember DG’s blog on why men are not encouraged to get close to their children.
    No I would not like to have such a relationship where one has to keep feelings of affection all bottled up. To what end? What’s the purpose? Who is it benefiting?


    • Men who are strong and silent, who do not communicate emotions have been romanticized in literature and movies. So even men who are not so inclined tend to emulate such “heroes”. “Boys don’t cry” and such stupid statements reinforce this. It is a reflex action for most to say, “You are a boy, don’t cry!” I have had to work hard to make the L & M unlearn this automatic response. Twenty seven years back that in itself was revolutionary. He just could not comprehend what was wrong in saying it. Nor could anyone around me. But when you can’t make people understand you fight for it and insist that such things will not be said in your home. That is what I did. 🙂 But whatever you do as an individual, peers and society, literature, movies, ALL influence the ‘men don’t show emotions’ factor on your growing kids.


        • Read this comment by Ananya instead Scribblehappy: It’s posted here.

          //Even I do not like some traits in my husband, he does not like a few traits in me, we argue a lot…. but we don’t dump each other…… We try to accommodate each other as they are.
          I am being cruelly honest, your act was selfish and immature. Full Stop. If a husband treats his wife like a child, it reflects his love and protectiveness towards her. If the wife had issues, she could talk and let him know there are other ways to show his love and concern. And even if he goes on, that’s his way of showing his love. Not all men are born to be feminists’ puppets.
          But that’s what you feminists want. You won’t adjust one bit, but will expect the world to adjust. you won’t move an inch but expect others to buckle down. your feelings and wants are the most important things and you will use and throw others.
          If this leaves you incensed, so be it. That’s the truth.//


      • Something does not add up at all here. What ananya projected till now is that she was a very loving , adjusting person …someone who could do it all for a long time and earn the respect of her in laws(and i know that’s a biiiiiig thing).

        Then how is this lady so vehement in her replies? There is a serious character discrepancy. One that is Projected and and one that is revealed in the way she replies. I know submissive adjusting and loving women. They are always submissive in any situation. My own excellent mother is an example. She can never behave badly how much ever she is provoked. (but then she was originally a paavam. Didnot pretend unlike you know who.)

        And how dare this lady call my husband a ‘feminist puppet’. Just because his masculinity is not dependent on me thinking he is my leader and I am his follower, Just because he believes in EQUALITY OF HUMAN BEINGS. As far as I am concerned that makes him a true man. NO ONE , NO ONE insults my husband and gets away with it without getting a piece of my mind. This lady is crossing the line.

        And I don’t think this lady even knows what a feminist means.

        There is a constructive discussion and a destructive discussion. This lady says No just because she enjoys saying NO.
        I saw so many unlikes in this lady’s replies. I think she enjoys the unlikes. Why feed her and encourage her more. Ignore maro bhai.
        Please tell me why if you disagree with what I said.


      • Rahmath, my analysis of Ananya’s behavior is that she has learnt it early on in life that “manipulation works”. She is not a submissive person at all. She is competitive in nature and can do whatever it takes to have a upper hand, even if it means “acting” like a slave.She is enraged when someone (like a feminist) doesn’t give her the credit for her trophy that she won in the competition and says “The competition itself is unfair, so the trophy doesn’t count.”


      • The FULL STOP in that comment is a dead giveaway. Ananya, I’m offended that you think I’m THAT stupid. First you know how many people are on GV’s mailing list (4000+), then you know the age of Sravan Kumar’s nephew (9 years, not mentioned anywhere except in your comments), and now you WRITE LIKE HIM TOO?!

        Decide, woman! Submissive cow or creepy BIL?


  2. Pretty heartwarming.
    I have often been through these situations.
    It’s so real.
    My son unhesitatingly expresses his affection for his mom in public but is embarrassed about it when dealing with me.
    The “lump in one’s throat” feeling is something I have experienced so many times.
    Each time I go to the airport to see him off when he goes abroad I go through this experience.
    Wth the daughter it is so different.
    She hugs me and I stay hugged for quite some time till she unwillingly lets go to wipe her tears.

    Nice ad.


      • I would prefer it of course.

        But I would hesitate to force my methods of showing affection on him.
        I have tried putting my arms around him and giving him a pat on his back instead.
        The last time I did that he didn’t try to wriggle out.
        May be that was because none of his friends were around.
        He doesn’t like my writing about his achievements.
        When I blogged about him he came to know from his friends and was rather upset with me for giving them a chance to pull his leg.
        Now I do it without telling him.


    • @vishvanaathjee

      Is your daughter the older child? Sometimes I’ve seen older kids being a little more warmer to their parents perhaps because from a young age they felt a tad insecure with the younger kid coming into the picture. Just curious.


      • Nish,

        My daughter is 34, married and settled in California.
        She holds a post graduate degree in Environmental Engineering from San Jose University in California and now works as a transportation engineer and is married to a Software Engineer and they are settled in California for the past 10 years.

        My son is 25 and is doing is DPhil at Oxford university. He obtained his BA and MA degrees too at Oxford. He was elected one of India’s five Rhode’s scholars in Dec 2006. His subject is Philosophy.

        The bond between them is very strong. She literally “mothers” him and he enjoys being pampered by her.

        Thanks for your interest.


  3. I honestly think it’s a sweet commercial, despite the “he’s emotional like his mother” comment. I guess that means, men still aren’t encouraged to express their emotions. Even though the ad showed the son does seem to have a close relationship with his parents.

    The downside of teaching boys to suppress their emotions not only creates a sense of loneliness, but also suppressing emotions can cause them to come out in very destructive ways. I don’t know much about India, but I know in the United States it’s been theorized one of the reason why violence is so gendered (boys committing acts of aggression the most) is because our culture doesn’t encourage boys to really express their emotions. They are taught to bottle them up, unless it’s anger. Not to mention the fact that being aggressive for boys is more socially acceptable, and that right there is just a recipe for disaster.


  4. Its weird na that we bring up our sons and daughters differently….women are allowed to ‘express’ their emotions while ‘men’ are not…..you know IHM, in our building when the kids play games, if a boy falls, I know he is hurt..but he just gets up, bites his lips, and controls his tears though they are threatening to fall, but when a girl falls, she is howling…

    I feel bad for the boy..he is only 6 and already controlling his emotions 😦


  5. Cute commercial! 🙂 Since moving to Nepal, I’ve felt like men are more able to express their affection here than in the part of the US I grew up in. (or maybe it’s just a difference between my family and my husband’s family). But my father-in-law still kisses my husband on the cheek sometimes before we go off to bed. it’s really sweet.


  6. Notice the ‘ahem’ (cough) to silence all protests. Would you like to have such a relationship with someone you cared so much for?
    No, I won’t like it. Moreover, an ‘ahem’ can’t shut me up. 😀


  7. It starts early – this stereotype of men not showing emotions.. I once heard a three year old telling his mother of his friend, another three year old, ‘Ladkiyon jaisa ro raha hai’! How early can you put this into a child’s head? For someone conditioned so early, it is going to take a lot of ‘unconditioning’ to think that it is alright to show emotions… Just like the lady in the previous post – she is so conditioned by her environment, that she cannot fathom women standing up for themselves.. I have seen that with my own husband – he has now learned to leave behind his conditioning, to accept that being a man does not mean hiding his emotions, and showing emotions is not a sign of being weak.

    Waiting for your next post, IHM 🙂


    • How early can you put this into a child’s head? For someone conditioned so early, it is going to take a lot of ‘unconditioning’ to think that it is alright to show emotions.

      Socialization can happen as soon as the child is born. I’m not surprised a three year old child would already know what they’re “proper” roles are.


  8. cute commercial and you have not met me . i end up showing my emotions all the time .. but in my case with the experiences and all i feel its wrong of me to be like that .. people generally walk over you 🙂

    I have been lucky i must say in this part also I have got family and friends who dont stop in showing their love and emotion and I do think there is no wrong in that side of it all …

    oh man this is going to make me cry now 🙂


  9. Yup..they say na ki- mard ko dard nahi hota…how wrong they are!

    Men displaying emotions are considered weak and that’s the reason a majority of men do not cry and have higher risk to heart attacks and all.


      • // Anger is seen as okay – so is violence, both are seen as masculine.//

        I have always been taught in schools that violence is bad, and anger is the main cause for it. I will agree that anger is the cause for any form of violence, but this is the first time I see it termed as “masculine”. Are you seeing violence, as just in wars, as most warriors are men? Sorry to go away from the topic of the post, but I just wanted to understand why violence is attributed only to men.


        • Actually even I find it difficult to understand. Violence, anger or even aggression should not be associated with masculinity. Emotions have no gender. Such gender stereo typecasting has done a lot of harm to the society, as can be seen in the video. I hope you were able to see it?


      • It was required SO THAT women could be called the weaker sex. The whole idea is to artificially provide a great contrast. Look, men are SO STRONG! Look, women cry at the drop of a hat!

        Before you know it, both men and women think that’s desirable behavior for their gender and grow up BECOMING those stereotypes. And then these women actually need men to be the strong person around.

        All this, to artificially create the need for men in a country where a woman gets nothing and loses everything when she marries a man.


  10. I disagree. Men are not discouraged from expressing emotions like happiness, admiration, anger and even lust. Where as fear,sadness and love are generally unacceptable.

    The above is reversed in the case of a women. Expression of happiness by a woman is acceptable in the form of shy smile, tears of joy etc. Shouting at the top of her voice is a no no. Admiration in the form of devotion is acceptable.

    No one of the above matters when you realize the worthlessness of social acceptance.


      • Absolutely. Anger is one emotion that is simply ‘not allowed’ when it comes to women. A lot of women of the older generation would be simperingly sweet before their husbands and sons, but vitriolic with the younger women of the family. That’s why many men find it hard to believe that their wives are even capable of feeling anger, and, horror of horrors, showing it!! (Their mothers never did get angry, after all.)


  11. I don’t remember the last time my dad kissed me or hugged me. five years back, due to some mis-communication(between the college and my parents), my parents thought they lost me. The relief( read : concern, love, tension) I heard in my father’s tone when I called him up is something that means more to me than PDA. They have their own ways of expressing emotions I guess 🙂


    • While I understand – and agree with – the rest of your comment, I wish you hadn’t used the term PDA here. All physical expression of affection isn’t the same as public display of affection. Just because someone else can see it doesn’t make it a display. Most people I know hug or kiss their children/parents/spouses/loved ones because they want to, because it gives them happiness, because it’s an expression of the affection they feel. It’s not for display.

      (The rest of my comment is more in response to IHM’s post.)

      My own dad hugs and kisses me (when I visit them) at least once a day. It’s just a very convenient thing to do to kiss my forehead 🙂 since it just about reaches his lips when we hug! If it’s first thing in the morning, he usually kisses me on the cheek while wishing me a good morning. I’m 30 years old. And I know what it “looks” like. I don’t care. I would be heartbroken if he stopped doing it out of self-consciousness. For what it’s worth, he does the same with my brother too (and I know THAT doesn’t get any raised eyebrows). Yes, I know he loves me and will continue to do so. But I could also do with the physical expression of it.

      So much of raising kids is about being physically there for them – from carrying them as infants in your lap to rocking them to sleep to feeding them to bathing them. So much of loving your spouse is about having a physical relationship. So much of caring for the elderly is about being physically there for them. Then why the stigma around being physically expressive of love esp. when it comes to fathers? I wish Indian people were more expressive. I wish they got more of the good touch, so they’d just KNOW instinctively what bad touch is, instead of being given the talk in classrooms.

      There’s a difference between the kiss you get from your dad, and the one you get from your boyfriend. I wish people were kissed enough by their dads to know that. And sometimes, even boyfriends are capable of that nothing-sexual-about-it-it’s-just-affection kind of kiss on the cheek. You SEE?!! 😀 There’s a whole world out there!

      I now work in an environment where it’s completely okay for my male colleagues to hug and sometimes kiss me on the cheek. It’s not an everyday occurrence, just something that happens once in a while, say when I see someone after a long time. And I LIKE that. I like knowing that someone’s so happy to see me. And I’m glad I’ve been the recipient of enough (non-sexual) kisses that I can appreciate the gesture for what it is instead of feeling awkward or having the alarm bells go off.


  12. I think traditionally, because men have assumed the role of “protectors”, masculinity is often equated with being strong. And strength, somehow does not include things like emotions, tears, showing of attachment 😐 . Just like Femininity if often equated with being gentle and poised and emotional. The more we continue seeing men and women in particular “roles” and definitions, either gender will find it hard to show their actual feelings. I wish this would change!
    I think it has a lot to do with peer pressure as well. I know most of my cousins would not like their parents dropping to school because their friends would make fun of them saying they are still pampered by their parents. And how do kids learn these things? They must have seen their parents talk, or do stereotyped things or stick to particular roles. I mean, how often do you see your dad crying and shedding tears?!! Does it mean he does not “feel”? It is just that sometimes we care too much about “what people will say” to show our true emotions.


  13. Am reading a book called The Minds of Boys. It breaks a lot of the equal parenting myths with PET scans that actually show how the brains of boys and girls are different. For men to actually liberate themselves of this ‘strong, silent hero’ prison, it will take a good understanding of the ‘whys’. Aggression, competition and anger are associated more with men because of higher testosterone…not an excuse to use/abuse but there is biological evidence. Women’s brains at rest are more interconnected than men’s brains awake. Communication comes much more naturally to women.

    I don’t believe that our traditional systems even really see men (except as earners and providers) most of the time. They are there as family scaffolding, needed but not always included. This seems to be changing slightly as fathers get more into routine parenting.

    No, I would hate to be in a relationship where things have to be inferred most of the time. But it is also up to me to initiate change because it just might be that the men/boys in my life see no other possible pattern to human relationships.


    • Good points Sangitha. Many pre-schools in the US take different approaches to boys and girls. At a young age girls show significantly advanced maturity and ability to learn than same age boys. I also recently read about a proposal suggesting that parents of boys wait an extra year before putting them into school. These differences in maturity and temperament even out by the age of 17-18 in most kids although some kids take longer.

      Kinda ironic that Indian society tries to bring boys up as the superior gender when fact is that during toddler, pre-adolescent and teen years, girls are emotionally and cerebrally superior to boys.


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