Gender Inequality: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Ever since the beginning, society has been riddled with prejudice and discrimination, of which the most spoken-about is that concerning gender. The last few centuries have seen massive shifts in society’s perception of gender hierarchies and roles, from women securing the right to vote to support their education. Today, feminism is explored deeper than ever through global movements. Although this article is restricted to a gender binary, the ideas discussed can encompass the entire spectrum. 

Something we must understand, however, is that if one suffers “less” than another, their suffering isn’t evaporated altogether. Gender discrimination goes both ways, if in varying ways and degrees. Movements advocating gender equality generally only tackle women’s side of the issue, and men’s issues are ignored. The stereotypes faced by one gender are not the fault of another, but neither are they independent of each other – gender-related suffering is rooted in the same stereotypes: different ends of the same prejudice.

We’ve all heard harmful stereotypes about women being inferior to men but often neglect the damage of their inverse: the idea that men are “superior”. Besides putting women down, this places men on an unfair pedestal, bestowing an impossible image upon them. Traditional family roles dictate that in a relationship involving a man and a woman, the man is the breadwinner and the head of the house. This places undue pressure on him; should he fail to reach this standard, he is considered weak. 

The constant expectation of living up to their “superiority”, combined with chauvinism and homophobia, also restricts a man’s dreams and job opportunities. For instance, a woman entering a field with predominantly male figures, such as engineering or maths, is called strong and smart. On the other hand, a man entering a field with predominantly female figures, like ballet or nursing, is called effeminate and gay. If women are expected to be nothing but child-bearers, the responsibility of everything else is given to men. If women are presented as weak and dependent, the unfair expectation of always being strong and independent falls onto men. Furthermore, since there is no biological justification for women being less smart or capable than men, it’s crucial to acknowledge that men are not inherently all-powerful.

Another overarching stereotype is that women are sensitive and emotional while men are stoic, tough, and impassive. While this inhibits a woman’s ability to be taken seriously or considered logical, it also indicates that a man with feelings mustn’t be a man at all. This is perpetuated through phrases like “boys don’t cry”, embedded in male minds throughout their childhoods. Unable to convey their emotions, many repress their feelings till they emerge in the form of deteriorating self-esteem, severe anxiety, or depression – and often, violence against women, validating the stereotype of men’s aggressiveness and leaving the issue unresolved. Very few boys feel safe enough to confide in others about their feelings, afraid of being labelled “unmanly”. This creates a vicious cycle of suppressing emotions and lashing out.

People, companies, and even body positivity campaigns often leave out its impact on men in conversations about body shaming. Perhaps the most overlooked and underplayed aspect of body shaming is that of male genitalia. According to a study by Bruce M. King of Clemson University, the average size of a penis is between 5.1 and 5.5 inches, not the six it’s often expected to be. This assumption, along with the narrative of women liking “big dicks”, constantly reiterated on Instagram, on TikTok, and in the banter between friends, leads to immense insecurity and societal mockery. We’re entrenched in the idea that a strong, “masculine” body is tall and pumped with muscles, and nothing else is “manly” enough. The media, through mainstream movies like ‘He’s All That’, adds fuel to the proverbial fire by adopting trends of boys’ “glow ups”, going from short and lanky to tall and brawny figures, coming closer to the “ideal” and suddenly becoming the centres of attraction. The media’s influence permeates our perceptions of attractiveness to the point where our desires can’t be differentiated from society’s expectations. 

The idea that women are weak and passive while men are violent is another deleterious stereotype. Male aggression is so normalised by society that it’s practically encouraged. A prime example is the idea that “boys will be boys,” arguing that physical violence is an inherent part of the male identity. A report by Sonja Starr of the University of Michigan Law School shows that in most countries, men are 63% more likely to get persecuted than women after committing the same crimes. After all, people generally stereotyped as prone to violence will be labelled guilty faster than those seen as weak and helpless.

The dismissal of men’s aggression also means that physical violence against men is dismissed. According to a survey conducted in Haryana by Dr Pankaj Bhardwaj, 52% of all married men suffer from gender-based violence inflicted by their spouses. This statistic is never discussed, nor does the law protect men from their abusers. Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code has a clause on domestic violence, defined as when “the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman subjects [her] to cruelty,” with no mention of a man being a possible victim. Fearful of hurting their masculinity by admitting they were exploited, a tiny proportion of men report their abuse. When not taken seriously, that number falls further. Similarly, although men who have been sexually harassed or assaulted experience the same emotional consequences as women, their recovery is impeded by society’s refusal to recognise their trauma in the first place, expecting them to “man up” and be tough. A 2005 study conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control shows that one in six men has been a victim of sexual abuse at some point in his life. If this statistic sounds absurd, it only points out the internalised sexism we’ve overlooked – the establishment of women as the weaker counterparts means that violence on their part is disregarded. Establishing men as stronger makes us forget that they can be victims too.

The situation is dire, but it can be improved. The most efficient way to combat stereotypes is through awareness, exposure, and intervention. The media plays a critical role in how we perceive ourselves, and if it can add to the problem, it can also fix it by representing men outside the stereotypes ascribed to them. 

Young children need to be taught that stereotypes, gendered or otherwise, must be questioned. Since stereotypes are generally enforced at home, educating parents and older relatives targets the problem at its core.

By understanding that all genders are victims of the same stereotypes, we can acknowledge that the issue doesn’t end with one part of the spectrum. In doing so, we can pave the way for a better society in a better future, free of discrimination in all the ways it isn’t today and all the ways it could be tomorrow.

Article by Gia Arora from the REDefine Team

Featured Artwork by Prathna Anand and Sia Aggarwal

“The 1 in 6 Statistic – Sexual Abuse and Assault of Boys and Men.” 1in6, 19 July 2018,  

Berlatsky, Noah. “When Men Experience Sexism.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 29 May 2013,

Indian Kanoon – Search Engine for Indian Law. 26 December 1983,

Pandey, Aditya. “9 Eye-Opening Facts & Statistics about Domestic Violence Cases against Indian Men.”, 2 June 2022,  

Rios, Hugo, and Nollyanne Delacruz. “Stop Body Shaming Size of Male Genitalia.” Daily Titan, 15 Feb. 2022,  

King, Bruce M. “Average-Size Erect Penis: Fiction, Fact, and the Need for Counseling.” Taylor & Francis, 15 July 2020, Starr, Sonja. “Estimating Gender Disparities in Federal Criminal Cases.” University of Michigan Law School Scholarship Repository, August 2012,

Author: The REDefine Campaign

A group of students trying to spread the message and bring out of the shell the taboo topics of Menstrual and Sexual Health. The REDefine Campaign is a campaign devoted to helping the population of India understand the key parts of female's life that is known as puberty. This blog is designed to show our progress, reports as well as learnings and new experiences along our journey. We hope that one day this world that we live in will willingly and openly not only talk, but give advice and spread awareness of the bodily cycle that is puberty. We do hope that you learn something along with us, and please spread the word. For any questions please do not be afraid to comment and/or email us. Come along with us on our journey!

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