Patriarchy is a socio-political structure in which males hold primary power and predominate in roles of leadership, moral authority, and social privilege. In layman’s terms, it puts men in charge while actively suppressing everyone else. We’ve all read about how it negatively affects women and other genders, but a lesser discussed topic is how it affects men. Yes, you heard me right. Cishet men, who appear to benefit the most from patriarchy, are also brought down by it.
Patriarchal society’s effect on men is astounding and is one of the reasons why feminism is needed for men just as much as women. To start with, one of patriarchy’s worst problems is that it puts men in a box; it interprets and enforces upon our collective conscience the idea of how men must be masculine and women feminine. In other words, it sets definitions of masculinity and femininity, which unjustly affect both men and women.
In essence, because the patriarchy defines what men should be – physically strong, sex-driven, emotionless, etc.- it puts an excessive amount of pressure on men to conform to this flawed stereotype, which correlates with increased anguish, poor mental health, and a reluctance to reach out for support as men feel like they cannot talk about their emotions.
This means that the stereotypical norms of masculinity and manliness are both dangerous and outdated; they negatively affect men, women, and society. Patriarchal society encourages toxic masculinity, which promotes sexual assault, sexual aggression, substance abuse, adverse mental health, domestic violence, and negative parenting techniques and expectations. It’s a closed-loop that results in many of the social issues faced by many of us today.
Another problem caused by the patriarchy is that it downplays male sexual assault. Because we’ve been schooled by the patriarchy – via literature, the media, and public discourse- to believe in the macho man stereotype of masculinity, it’s hard to believe that men can be rape victims too, and the topic itself is seldom discussed. Notions of masculinity have made it difficult to view men as victims of sexual abuse as they are often expected to welcome sexual advances, not view them as unwanted. According to RAINN, 1 in every ten rape victims is male, yet we seldom hear about a male sexual assault victim coming out.
One more issue with the patriarchy is that it excludes LGBTQ+ men. The very foundation of patriarchy rejects men acting in any way other than what is perceived as “normal” or “manly”. Consequently, those who dare deviate from the norms are less favoured and daresay punished by the system for not conforming to more traditional forms of masculinity.
So, in a nutshell, while the patriarchy affects women more directly, it still hits us all in different ways. The patriarchal society is a common enemy for all of us as it tries to define who we are and where we stand while also negating the notion that there should be equality amongst all genders.
That is why it’s time to change the standards men are held to. Instead of teaching young boys to shun their emotions, we must show them that being an “alpha-male” is not something to aspire to, that violence and aggression should not be accepted traits and that displays of emotion are
acceptable and encouraged. If we do this, we have a shot at restructuring society and bringing patriarchy to its long-overdue demise.