GENDER norms assign certain roles and attributes to each gender, deviating which can cause severe repercussions to the individual.
Women are expected and appreciated to embrace feminine attributes such as frailty, nurturance, emotional and financial dependence, and modesty etc.
Whereas men are expected to acquire masculine traits such as assertiveness, independence, dominance, decision-maker, breadwinner etc.,
and appreciated to be as masculine as they can possibly be. According to R W Connell, there are multiple masculinities; the most powerful and manipulative among them is hegemonic masculinity, also called Machismo, which guarantees the dominant position of men and the subordination of women.
Hegemonic masculinity ideal may or may not correspond to the characteristics of majority of actual men, but it sets standards to which majority of men aspire to.
It is normalized and exalted in Pakistan, which not only threatens the existence of women, but also causes severe repercussions to men.
Masculinity, in Pakistan, is traditionally less discussed, therefore it is significant to explore the existing forms of masculinities to resolve the issues pertinent to male identity and its prevalent consequences on our society.
Gender ideology is internalized through socialization and social institutions such as media, family, education institutes, etc are very influential agents of socialization that can impress, construct, and evolve gender norms in a society.
In Pakistan, media, especially Pakistani Drama, plays a significant role not only in construction and furtherance of gender norms, but also in dandification of gender identity to promote consumer culture.
Media artefacts play a significant role in portraying manhood into hyper-sexualized, heteronormative, and homogenized ideal of masculinity.
Pakistani Dramas such as Khani, Ishq Hai, Dour, Naqab Zan, etc. where the main male protagonists display coercive behaviour against their female counterparts and treat them as object of their sexual or emotional gratification. Scenes of sexual assault, battering, and kidnapping women are common in these dramas.
This portrayal of violence against women especially by the “hero” reinforces the ideology of hegemonic masculinity.
Pakistani men learn these hegemonic and sexist attitudes through cultural discourse delineated via Pakistani media that conditions them to manifest hegemonic masculinity in their lives and perceive women as worthless and subordinate.
Hegemonic masculinity manifests itself in Pakistan in the form of honour killing, son preference, domestic violence, sexual molestation, and workplace harassment which has severe repercussions on women due to social acceptance of men’s violent behaviour despite the security of women rights ensured in Article 11 of the constitution.
According to The Sustainable Social Development Organization (SSDO) 1,422 cases of domestic violence and 9,401 cases of femicide have been reported during the last six months of 2020 alone.
The victim blaming response of public over recent femicide cases of Quratulain Baloach and Noor Mukdam, and mob sexual assault against Tiktok star Aisha Akram signify the social acceptance of men’s violent and hyper-sexual behaviour among Pakistani populace.
Surging incidents of domestic violence, rapes and femicide indicate that there is a need of paradigm shift in portrayal of gender identity through media discourse as Media has the power to reframe the ideology of larger audience via linguistics/visual/semiotic content and to facilitate social change.
This social standardization of hegemonic masculinity also has severe repercussions for men.
It is interesting to note that there are other forms of masculinities exist in Pakistan alongside hegemonic ideals which, however, are marginalized and deprived of fundamental right.
Societal pressure compels man to conform to stereotypical models of hegemonic masculinity. Emotionally expressive men are stereotyped as effeminate and weak.
Hegemonic masculinity manifests itself in the form of sons’ preference; sons are considered as old-age financial security which burdened male as the sole breadwinner of the family.
Masculinity is also associated with having financial compatibility and due to high rate of unemployment, most of the men strive hard to fulfil societal expectation of what it means to be a “man”.
The ones who deviate from the standards of institutionalized masculinity are vulnerable to social stereotyping and marginalization, hence, suffer from mental health issues, identity crisis, low self-esteem, and subsequently commit suicide due to their social unacceptability.
According to World Bank, suicide rate among male populace is 13.30 % in 2019 which is higher than that of female i.e., 4.30% in the same year.
Mental health issues among men are yet less discussed and less researched domain in Pakistan. Keeping in view the severity of the consequences of portraying and practicing hegemonic masculinity, it is needed to de-construct hegemonic masculinity.
The portrayal of masculinity as binary and in opposition to femininity should be set aside to understand the lived realities of men.
Scenes of violence against women and display of hegemonic behaviour of men should be discouraged.
PEMRA should play a pivotal role in influencing media discourse to deconstruct the hegemonic model of masculinity by regulation media content.
—The writer is faculty member, Bahria University, Karachi.