Toxic masculinity: Culture of violence towards women
Perpetrators aren't made overnight. They are the output of the traditional gender stereotypes that highlight men as sexually dominant, aggressive, and unemotional. Different studies have referred toxic masculinity to men who subscribe to inequitable gender norms (e.g. believing that women are exclusively in charge of household chores and child rearing) and endorse dominant and hostile forms of masculinities (e.g. believing women are sexual conquests) which results in devaluation of women and wanton violence.
Patriarchal societies often normalizes violence towards women with the expression 'boys will be boys' which advocates for careless, aggressive, and damaging behaviour in young males rather than teaching them about responsibility and owing up to their mistakes. The culture of sexual violence is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language and objectification of women in the name of 'guy talk', thereby creating a society that disregards women's right and safety.
Rape culture and verbal abuse of female body features in gossips are normalized in our society by affirming the idea that males have high sex derives than females. In our families, daughters are asked to get back home early, but sons are rarely asked about where they are going during late night. Girls are instructed about the importance of staying safe, carrying pepper spray, learning self-defence, and covering up to avoid unexpected attention but boys are not being educated about consent.
In our society, girls internalize values that train them to remain silent. Their voices are suppressed by saying that voicing out against violence can bring more danger and threat from opposite sex as revenge. Toxic masculinity overpowers men with illimitable authority over women. Hence, when a woman vocalizes in fight for equal rights to end discrimination based maliciously on gender she is ridiculed by making sarcastic remarks on feminism.
Toxic masculinity dictates men to prove them constantly as tough and a 'never accepting defeat' figure in the society. A data shared by UN shows, at least one in every three women faces either physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. The 'real man' concept in the society utters that it is acceptable to use violence to get respect if necessary.
Toxic masculinity leads to victim blaming, hence, whenever there is a rape incident it is noticeable that the victim is blamed by publicly scrutinizing her dress, mental state and history. Such tradition of blaming the victim preaches that the victim is equally to blame for the abuse, when in reality, abuse is a conscious choice made by the abuser. Thus, toxic masculinity says aloud women to avoid rape instead of teaching men to behave accordingly.
The outlook of toxic masculinity has generated media towards objectification of women and portraying men to be hyper sexualized seeking out an opportunity for sexual activity at every turn. The role of a man in films and dramas is often showed as the source of power. Most of the daily soaps do not have any fun factor or message to society, or do not support any social cause. Even the song lyrics glorify physical features of women. The lyrics do not even mention a female's mentality or interest which states, that's all women are, a pretty face for sexual pleasure.
Our laws also tend to be influenced by toxic masculinity. Section 155(4) of Evidence Act 1872 provides that it may be shown that the prosecutrix was of generally immoral character when a man is prosecuted for rape or an attempt to ravish. It refers that indecent behaviour towards a woman is justified if she is of immoral character. Our constitutional commitment in ensuring fair trial focuses on procedural safeguards to the offender and not the victim. As a result, the victims feel powerless and vulnerable. Unfortunately, our country still couldn't enact witness protection law to safeguard witnesses from vulnerable threats.
To overcome the situation, preventive measures have to begin with the family. Because how a man treats women depends, to a large extent on his family values and environment. Families should stop preferential treatment towards sons and teach them from an early age to recognize and avoid the harmful attitudes of power, control, and coercion.
Religious preachers should preach and emphasis on role of men to behave accordingly instead of blaming the outfit of victim for sexual harassment. The concerned authority and teachers in educational institutions should be vigilant to prevent incidents of sexual harassments in the campus by raising awareness. The films, dramas, and different other form of entertainments need to promote women's right and put an end to the culture of objectifying women.
Our laws need massive construction and implementation to dismantle the harmful projection of toxic masculinity. There is a combine role of family, educational institutions, religious institutions, laws and the state to diminish the normalized and long practiced damaging roles dictated by toxic masculinity and in building a generation which understands the concept of gender equality.
Fatima Zahra Ahasan Raisa is a student, Department of Law, University of Chittagong