The word patriarchy is derived from Greek Patriakhēs which means ‘the ruling father’ – used in order to explain a society made of families where the father is the head and the decision maker of the family and where children and the women have little or no say in these decisions. In this structure, power is held by men in different personal, professional and social relationships. It is hierarchical in nature. Often we forget that that patriarchy favours a ‘masculine’ man and as a result men are also required to act a certain way and do definitive things. They are also constrained in this system but it is not immediately apparent to us as these chains are masked by the privilege that he has over ‘her’. This stratification is not only limited to man and woman but also from man to man; where a masculine man is more ‘powerful’ and favoured over the less masculine.
On a deeper level, it judges a person on the amount of masculine or feminine character they portray. The society has reserved and categorised this masculinity to be only associated to men and the femininity to only women. This is a very problematic approach as this assumes that the people in the society necessarily identify with and conform to these categories.
In this problematic situation we see the rise in the movements on women’s liberation and as a result, we have seen a huge change in the world; the idea of feminism. More often than not the negatives this system has on women are conspicuous and hence discussed openly. However, we tend to ignore or overlook the other side of this story, the relationship of the male to male in this system. This can be very dangerous, especially to the mental health of men. In this rapid increase of feminism, we take it for granted that it is only for/about women but it is not. Feminism is often misunderstood, it is as simple as breathing. If you believe that men and women are equals, then you are a feminist. The problems faced by men in this system may certainly not be greater than the problems faced by women and children. But if the more passive and subtle strains in the dynamics of the relationships between men and other men are ignored or not addressed, to be done with patriarchy is not possible.
Men are not able to sustain this system by only oppressing women, they do this by suppressing other men as well based on the traits of masculinity, like job, muscle, age and in today’s capitalist society, money more than ever. Often homosexuals and the ‘effeminate’ men have to face problems and are looked down upon by other heterosexual men. This, however, does not mean that only men participate in this discrimination, women equally participate in belittling men who portray feminine characteristics and are engaged in professions such as fashion designing, dancing etc. What is ironical is that when we are fighting for women’s liberation and highly criticise the objectification of women, we tend to objectify men as well. As women we tend to gravitate towards men who are “masculine”- tall, muscular, with a good job. We put undue pressure on men to get a good job and be the breadwinners of the family.
Given below is a pie chart representing a sample population of males as well as females who I interviewed in order to understand the way in which patriarchy works.
We can see the difference in the frequencies of when men and women vent out their emotions.Women have the freedom to cry and not be judged by the society while when a man cries, he is seen as weak, as a result men and boys do not cry as often. When he does cry we believe that the situations are extremely grave and when he cries often, that he is (ironically) ‘gay’.
Patriarchy labels men as violent in nature and hence they are linked with sexually aggressive actions and domestic violence. By doing so we fail to see that even men can be victims of these acts, often caused to them by other men and sometimes also by women.
Hence, it is important to study all the dynamics of the harmful effects patriarchy has on men as well. All the words we heard in our childhood about the need for boys to be strong, to not cry, have ingrained the seeds of patriarchy in our minds so deep that we need conscious efforts to better this toxic system. A system that not only looks down upon a particular gender- females, transgenders etc. but also with-holds men from showing their emotions in the fear of coming off as ‘weak’. Without understanding this we cannot get rid of the biggest social stratification that exists and harms virtually everyone who isn’t masculine. This is a message to all the men and women out there:
It is virtually impossible to let go off our stereotypes over a night, but let us try. Let us not make fun of the ‘effeminate’ guy in our school, or label the really fashionable one as ‘gay’. Let us not discriminate others on the basis of their sexual orientation. Let us not pressurize men to be strong. Let us not objectify women or men. Let us strive towards a healthier and more communicative and open society. Let us try to break free.