A word quite familiar and even uncanny to the eye.
I’ve studied and written about patriarchy in college until practically my fingers bled, delved my mind in its definition, culture, and system, buried myself in its interconnection with our behaviors, decisions, and attitudes, discovered the definite affect it has in both sexual and romantic relationships.
Patriarchy, in my own definition, is a social system and culture we live in that suggests and reiterates that men are superior, and women are not. It’s a system that thrives on a male dominant society with power and control being the main aspects of it, oppressing women and the idea that women are equals. Patriarchy isn’t just about men, however, it’s about all of us, affecting everything we do and everything we say, every decision we make, every reaction we have.
Now, I’m not saying that women do not have power because they absolutely do (rest in peace, Ruth Bader Ginsberg). But society says that women do not have as much power as men, that they are not seen as superior compared to men. Unfortunately, in reality, whether we like it or not, we still deem men being the dominant one, and not women.
This is why feminism was created, becoming a continuous and thriving fight to redefine society, rewrite the societal rules and perceptions, and ensure that we as women are seen as equal to men.
I’m also, of course, not saying that all men are patriarchs because most of them are not. I met many men who weren’t patriarchal, and I have met one that was. For those that are not, patriarchy definitely affects them in some kind of way, whether they are conscious about it or not. And if I have to be honest, I kind of feel for them.
It’s interesting because as a feminist myself, and having several experiences and hearing many, many stories of men treating women like complete and utter crap, I wouldn’t expect to feel for them in a way that I do now. I’ve studied how patriarchy connects with sexual assault and psychological/emotional abuse in relationships. I’ve interviewed several young women who have been through these experiences with men and were able to share their stories with me on how this system affects a lot of the domestic issues happening today.
But for the past year, I feel for some men, and I mostly feel for them because of the way they were raised.
Patriarchy reinforces masculine characteristics and suggests that if a man does not identify with these sort of attributes, then essentially, he will not be accepted within society. Because of this unfortunate standard, men were taught to solely be dominant, independent, strong, poised, knowledgeable, decisive, and lack vulnerability. They were taught to suppress all that pain, anguish, anger, sadness, and not call it depression or anxiety. They were not taught to express their feelings, and convince themselves that they “got it all together” when others know they don’t.
I didn’t understand it at first. I struggle to understand why some men are itching for control, why they always have to express how tough they are when there are no reasons to do so. Why the high ego? What is wrong with liking the Backstreet Boys? What is with all this extreme sarcasm? Why can’t you “do emotional?” Why are you embarrassed and ashamed to cry? And what is so wrong with liking the Backstreet Boys?
A man shouldn’t be deemed less of a man because he doesn’t have these specific masculine characteristics, because he’s not what society calls a real “man.” It’s okay to not have it all together. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to be depressed and reveal own anxieties. It’s okay to not like American football, and honestly, it’s okay to love the Backstreet Boys.
Someone once told me that I have to look at the way that men were taught, to look at their childhood. Patriarchy is so embedded within our society that it’s quite unconscious, and if we want to eradicate this system (although, it will definitely take a while), we have to start from the beginning, from how we teach children.
Men shouldn’t feel like they are weak for expressing their vulnerability. Men shouldn’t feel like they are weak for crying. Men shouldn’t feel like they are weak for showing their pain. Men shouldn’t feel like they are weak for admitting that they are depressed. Their feelings are valid, and they should be taught that from the beginning. But I have to say, the whole “I’m a man, I’m wise, and I got it all together even though my ego and sarcasm says otherwise because they are all really defense mechanisms to suppress the deep pain I have” has got to go.
Boys should be taught that it is acceptable to feel whatever they feel, and to be able to express it in a safe and loving way. The more acceptable we make it, the more gentlemen there will hopefully be. And speaking as a woman, we need many.