Feminism is the radical notion that women are people said someone famous. That sums up feminism better than any long winded definitio...

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Patriarchy Hurts Men Too

Patriarchy is a social system in which males hold primary powered predominate in roles of political leadership, social privilege and control of property. In the domain of family, fathers or father figures hold power over women and children. 

Patriarchy and patriarchal thinking have deemed it necessary to divide up all of humanity into two neat blocks; the feminine and the masculine. It is ordained that you must belong to one group or the other, playing by the rules set out by the system. 

This implies that women are closely policed for conformity with femininity,while men are policed for masculinity. For a man, masculinity is essential to his place in the world. However, as patriarchy grants men privilege, we tend to ignore the harm it does them. The omertà of silence around it only compounds the problem. "Mard ko hard nahin hota" isn't just a cheesy cliche, its a credo for men and most believe in it wholeheartedly.

Masculinity is the model most men grow up with and it is natural they emulate it, mostly unquestioningly. Sexism is the practical manifestation of patriarchy. Men get better treatment, than women, in most spheres of life. Male domination, a consequence of sexism and patriarchy is accepted in our world as normal. These attitudes have been normalized over centuries of building up patriarchy.

Given this conditioning, it's hardly surprising that when men find themselves accused of sexism they are taken unawares and most may consider it an unfair charge. After all, in the set-piece world they are used to, this is the way things are arranged. 

 Granted, that  these structures have been around for centuries, but each man who plays his part, helps the patriarchy project along. 
Let's look at the unique characteristics of hyper masculinity and how it affects men.

1. Suppression of Emotion
No soon is a baby boy born and the grooming to be a macho male begins. Being a man means keeping a stiff upper lip, not letting your emotions show. 
 The reprimand of "boys don't cry" and "man up", are repeatedly made to little boys, enforcing this socialization. The only legitimate emotion men are allowed to express is anger and aggression.    

2. Men and the Outdoors
Men are expected to step out of the home and go into the wide world to earn a living, to play sport, to be adventurous. Women are expected to stay home and do the nurturing and caregiving work.  

3. The Provider

 Men are expected to be the main providers to the family, to earn enough to keep the home fires burning. Any wonder men with wives who work in paying jobs are ridiculed as "not wearing the pants". And the ultimate horror, a woman who earns more than her partner; the man is emasculated beyond repair.

4. Men are Strong

"Women are weak, men are strong." Male domination would have us believe that the powerful and strong have precedence over the weak. As a consequence, not only do men dominate women, but also weaker, less powerful men, or men of lower class. In the Indian context this means lower castes are beholden to higher castes.  
This thinking is justified by patriarchy.

5. Men Are Violent 
Masculinity implies strength and power, with violence or the threat of violence underpinning the power exerted by dominant men. 
We think it acceptable that men express almost all emotion and respond to any and every event with a violent response, if not in actions then certainly in words. The outcries of "hang the rapist' or the calls to castrate men who commit sexual assault are only a reflection of the acceptance of violence as a means to solve all problems.

Violence in personal relationships is often accepted and normalized. A recent court order stated that "minor incident of beatings on small issues  can take place in any household" in a case in which a woman had committed suicide.

Sexism and its accompanying violence leads to women being beaten, murdered, raped inside their own homes, by people known to them, be it family or neighbors or co-workers. As NCRB data for 2015 shows, in over 95% cases of rape the offender is known to the victim

Yet, much as it harms women, the double edged sword of patriarchy hurts men too. It may help men gain power over women but it also keeps men tied to roles they may not always like or be comfortable with. 

6. Men are Sexually Aggressive 

Masculinity demands of men the performance of more than violent gender roles; it demands that men be unemotional, and sexually aggressive. The violence we demand of men often spills over into every sphere, from the public to the private. The dominant male often carries this violence into the bedroom, into the realm of the sexual, the intimate, too. 

Sex and an aggressive performance of sexual desire are intrinsic to the macho man.The stereotypical male is expected to be interested in sex almost at all times. 

Emotional and psychological intimacy are often part of the bond formation when two people have sex. Yet patriarchal masculinity portrays the decoupling of emotion from sex as the norm, and present it to us as a basic male trait. The detachment of all emotion from the sex act is a basic premise of hyper masculinity. 

7. Fear of Emasculation
Masculinity is all about being the tough guy but at its heart lies a deep seated fear of the feminine. Any appearance of the traits seen as feminine, such as being emotionally expressive or vulnerable, and a man is termed "weak".  

It follows that emasculation is the idea that regardless of what other "manly" pursuits he may indulge in, certain  feminine acts will render a man unmanly or girly. 

The horror of appearing weak is well imprinted in our lexicon- wimp, sissy, pansy all refer to men not deemed manly enough. Our language itself is replete with the idea that emotional stability is linked to gender, whereas we know this  is not true.

8. Decreased Life Span

Toxic masculinity leads to the gap in life expectancy between men and women. Men live 10 years less than women do. The difference which we are lead to believe is due to size and structure, is probably an inability to accept stress or to seek out relief for it. Masculinity and male dominance kills men through over work, celebrated as workaholism. Alcoholism, substance abuse, and stress are the other major contributors to shortened life spans.

Masculinity is killing men. According to NCRB data, the number of men who commit suicide is far more than the number of women. Men suffering mental illness may not know how to assess themselves, or won't express it. Worse still, masculinity prevents them from seeking help.

9. Stunted Relationships.
Forced gender binaries also mean that men and women cannot have shared interests. How do you build partnerships and relationships with no shared passions?

10. Caste and Patriarchy

Being the result of a power differential, male dominance normalizes violence not only against women but also against other weaker men. In India, this is how the caste system works. The "inferior" men with no economic or social power are kept subservient to the upper, dominant castes. Patriarchy and caste are bosom buddies.

11. Patriarchy and Heteronormativity

It is no secret that all sex and romance in our culture is expected to be heteronormative. Macho men are supposed to fall in love with only girly women and a cis straight manhood is normalized. The fear of emasculation leads to violence against queer men. 

12. Imperialist Nationalism
Imperialist militarism can be seen as an extension of this model of male domination on the world at large. When extended to relations between nation states it can lead to war and military contests. In the age of nuclear weapons the perils of such brinkmanship cannot be stressed enough.

The Exception: The Male Nurturer 
Sure, there are men who are exceptions to this model of toxic masculinity. There may be the odd male family member or friend or partner who is a nurturer. This guy is fluent in basic human skills. He fetches you a cup of tea when you're in distress, or just listens to you when you're ranting. He knows how to comfort one by physical touch, or with loving, accepting looks.  

Male nurturers are a threat to the ideal of the masculine man. These guys escaped the strictly enforced codes of masculine behavior. These are the men we must idolize, hold up as examples and celebrate.The walls between the genders, the strictly enforced codes of behavior must go. Once men become aware of how stunted their growth as humans is we will begin to dismantle patriarchy. Only by abandoning the model of masculinity can men be restored to their full humanity. 

Dismantle the Patriarchy!
For betterment of interpersonal relationships, and for better international relations, patriarchy must be dismantled. Feminist thought is the only redeemer. Dear men, give this giant structure of patriarchy a heave-ho, and embrace feminism. Welcome to the vision of a more equitable, egalitarian and a just society!

A version version of this article appeared on the website of Feminism In India  earlier.

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