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Most men don't realise that they are actually victims of the patriarchal mindset, and that instead of blaming feminism, they should actively work to demolish patriarchy.
Every few months, some female celebrity or social media influencer will come out with a sound byte on how hard men are forced to work and how “lazy women” do not appreciate them enough, only to set off men who dutifully proceed to blame feminists and feminism for every conceivable real and imaginal woe.
These are the men who feel threatened when feminists speak about the political, economic, social and personal equality of the sexes. Secure in the privilege that their gender confers on them, they see their power slipping away when we speak of gender equity. It is precisely this fear that manosphere influencers like Andrew Tate capitalise upon to encourage radicalisation of men. Sadly, most men do not realise that they are actually victims of the patriarchal mindset, and that instead of blaming feminism, they should actively work to demolish patriarchy.
Yes, Patriarchy does benefit men. It confers the title of “superior” gender on men. It empowers them to dictate how women behave. Their bodies aren’t policed, and they are certainly not in as much danger of sexual, physical or emotional abuse as are women. However, even though Patriarchy favours men over women, it does extract a price from men (and boys). Here are some of the ways in which men become victims of patriarchy.
[I shouldn’t need to say it, but to avoid being accused of drawing false equivalence, I will specify that the price is not comparable to what it extracts from women.]
Patriarchy confers the title of “protector” on men, which restricts their professional choices, and often requires them to give undue weightage to financial considerations while making decisions. While nobody comments when a woman scales back her professional commitments to achieve work- life balance (in fact, society often pressurises a woman to do so), men are subject to intense scrutiny when they try to so. This puts severe pressure on them, affects their sense of self-worth, and leaves them exposed to societal expectations.
Sujay* is a copywriter who wanted to step back professionally and be the primary parent, so his more successful partner could concentrate on her career as a management consultant. He was not only subject to derision because he chose to go against societal norms, he found it extremely difficult to navigate the all-female world of “parent’s groups”. Sujay persisted because it was what he (and his partner) wanted from their relationship, but it was patriarchal norms that made it extremely difficult for him.
[Again, women suffer far more by being forced to be the “homemaker” despite having a career, but feminism would help both genders.]
From a very young age, boys are told that “boys don’t cry”, and they are discouraged from showing emotion. When boys show emotion, they are told by parents, teachers and even random strangers to “stop behaving like a girl”. By the time young boys grow up, they are conditioned into believing that they should not give vent to their emotions.
This, however, is not healthy. Forcing men to be stoic at all times, often drives them to seek solace in substance abuse or to start overcompensating by acting aggressively towards women/ non-binary men/ children. Men would be better off if they were permitted to display their feelings.
The cult of masculinity, which abhors any sign of weakness, also ensures that men are less likely to seek help for emotional problems. This not only affects the men, but also their family, friends and co-workers.
[Though the strict gender norms imposed by patriarchy affect women much more, they affect men too.]
While Patriarchy excessively glorifies motherhood (to the detriment of women), fatherhood is not considered on par with it. The patriarchal stereotype expects fathers to be slightly distant figures who provide for families and enforce discipline. This actively discourages fathers from forming emotional bonds with their children, which causes fathers to lose out on many of the joys of parenthood. This also reinforces the patriarchal narrative and carries it forward to the next generation, which ultimately works against both genders.
Statistics show that both male and female children are victims of sexual assault and that this assault is nearly always perpetrated by a family member or close friend. Unfortunately, the family considers the girl child to be more vulnerable than the boy child and is more likely to take steps to protect her. Boys who are sexually abused do not even realise what is happening, lack the vocabulary to articulate what is happening to them, and do not know who to complain to; they are therefore left to process the trauma on their own. While the girl child too, often lacks the vocabulary to articulate what is being done to her and is often disbelieved, it is much worse for male victims of child sexual abuse.
Adolescent girls are sexually violated much more than adolescent boys. However, while the girl can potentially tap into the moral support of her female friends, no such support system exists for the boys, and those that are abused are compelled to suffer in silence.
Adult men, particularly homosexual, transgender or non-binary men do not even have an adequate legal structure to protect them from rape or sexual assault. Male sexual assault is almost always subject to derision or dismissed outright, and this is largely because of the patriarchal mindset.
[Women, in general, are more vulnerable to sexual assault than men, and I am not trying to draw an equivalence with what women go through. I am merely pointing out that despite being the so called ‘superior’ gender, even men are not spared.]
Despite being regarded the “weaker sex”, there are instances where women have perpetrated physical, emotional and sexual violence on their male partners. Though these numbers are low compared to the violence inflicted on women by the male partners, such relationships do exist.
However, the patriarchal mindset barely acknowledges female-on-male domestic violence, and the victims struggle to even admit to themselves that it is possible, much less seek redressal. This is yet another way in which Patriarchy lets men down.
Women are traditionally vulnerable to sexual harassment in the workplace, and sexual, emotional and physical violence at home. A number of laws (anti dowry laws, POSH, etc) have been enacted in order to protect the women from harassment at home and in the workplace. Sometimes, women misuse these laws to file false complaints against their co-workers or partners, and when that happens, the men are subject to scrutiny and legal harassment. It is easy to blame women for filing false complaints, but if you really think about it, the reason the laws exist is because Patriarchal systems inherently leave women vulnerable to attacks. Men who want to apportion blame for false cases should therefore blame patriarchy and not feminism.
By definition, Patriarchy is stacked against women. However, by placing financial expectations on the men, denying them the right to express their emotions and leaving them open to abuse, men too can become victims of patriarchy.
Instead of blaming feminism for their woes, it is in the interest of men to dismantle Patriarchy and replace it with a system that ensures and enables everybody to reach their full potential in an equitable manner. That system is called Feminism.
Image source: a still from the film Kapoor & Sons.
Natasha works in the development sector, where most of her experience has been in Education and Livelihoods. She is passionate about working towards gender equity, sustainability and positive climate action. And avid reader and occasional read more...
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