In order to understand how Patriarchy functions, it is important to understand what Patriarchy actually is? We need to delve deeper and understand it’s components like ‘Patrilineal’ society and ‘Patrilocal’ society. It is important to understand how men themselves become the victims in a society dominated by them.
Patriarchy And Patriarchal Society
The term ‘Patriarchy’ originates from the Greek Word “Patriarkhēs” which literally means “father or chief”. The words “patria” meaning “lineage” and “arkhē” meaning “domination”, “authority” and “sovereignty” are the respective components of patriarchy. Patriarchy is a system or an ideology that gives men the privilege to be the ‘Head of the family’.
It refers to the entitlement bestowed on men to dominate and have power over women. Therefore, patriarchy emphasizes male domination as natural and virtuous. It gives men the right to rule whereas forces women to serve men and procreate.
“The male is by nature superior and the female inferior, the male the ruler and the female the subjectAristotle, Politics
Patrilineal refers to the male lineage system. In this system, an individual derives his/her rights to property, surname and wealth from the father. Most of the societies and cultures in the world follow this system of Patrilineal society. Men are natural inheritors of these benefits, from their birth. Lineage is easily accessible to them. Thus, the patrilineal society gives unequal rights based on gender, specially to women.
Patrilocal society or patrilocality is a sociological term that refers to the social system where a married couple resides with or near the husband’s parents. It also refers to “virilocal residence” or “virilocality”. In such a system, the male is the permanent resident of his family. Whereas, the female is a temporary resident in her family. Women are mere commodities or objects transferred from one family to the other.
How Are Men Victims Of Patriarchy?
1. Forced Stereotypes of Men
We live in a society where everyone expects us to behave in a certain way. Or to say it more precisely, the society has fixed what is normal and abnormal. The way we speak, act, walk or even sit decides our identity. It is a generalized belief and concept that applies to all genders. A person who behaves in an abnormal manner is a victim of constant judgement and criticism.
Expectations of how a male child should behave?
From an early age, young boys believe that they have to be assertive, dominant and aggressive. Whereas women have to be submissive, docile, nurturing and obedient. Boys need behave more competently and be independent from their childhood. For instance, most of the times we have seen boys play with balls/ toy cars/robots/machine guns rather than with dolls/teddy bears. This is because, the society decides how a male child should behave in a way so that, people treat them as normal.
Therefore, even the toys that we play with are gender specific. It is because of this gender specificity, men believe that they ought to behave in a ‘normal’ manner. Hence, from a young age, the society forces men to hide their true self. As, their behavior and the objects they deal with decides their identity and sexuality.
Role of Color in Gender Specifications
Even the concept of color is gender specific. The blue color always represents the masculine entity. Whereas, the color pink represents the feminine aspects. For instance, a man who wears a pink shirt goes through a lot of criticism because it is feminine and hence unacceptable. Such beliefs stigmatizes men and burdens them to act in a ‘normal’ manner. This further leads them to behave more aggressively and be dominant.
2. Toxic Masculinity And Misogyny
Toxic masculinity is an exaggerated concept of how men should behave. It perpetuates domination, toughness, homophobia, misogyny and aggression. This idea forces men to act tough in a way that devours them of all emotions. It involves the idea that men should reject everything that is feminine. It glorifies unhealthy habits. For instance, a man forces himself to spent hours in a gym to get the perfect body. As, it gives the impression that they are not weak rather they are strong.
Toxic masculinity also causes severe depression and anxiety in men. It also engages them to indulge in dangerous habits such as heavy drinking, smoking or using drugs. As these habits emphasize “manliness”. However, it also prevents them from getting medical help . Moreover psychological problems like depression, anxiety and mental health problems represent feminine aspects. As they deal with our emotions, the mind and feelings. Hence, men believe that being physically strong is more important than being mentally well.
What is Misogyny?
Misogyny is another toxic trait of exaggerated masculinity. It refers to the hatred for women. Since men have to be more manly and powerful, toxic masculinity forces men to have contempt for women. It forces them to treat women as inferior beings and at the same time entitles them to be superior. Moreover, male privilege and entitlement also come into play.
3. Suppressed Emotions
Phrases like “Boys don’t cry” or “Man up” can be harmful. As, young boys believe that crying or being empathetic is a sign of weakness. Even our emotions are gender specific. Aggression and dominance is a sign of masculinity. Whereas empathy, sympathy, kindness and gentleness are signs of femininity. Since the society expects men to behave in a certain manner, they tend to hide their basic human emotions. This is another way that encourages toxic masculinity and male chauvinism. Therefore, men believe that being aggressive and dominant is the only way to assert their masculinity.
4. Role of the ‘Bread-Earner’
The society not only burdens men with societal expectations but also with familial expectations. They have to be independent, logical and analytical. Men need to have a highly paid job and be the sole earner of his family. Men have to look after the financial needs of the family. Whereas women belong in the kitchen. Men should avoid taking “traditional” feminine roles such as housekeeping and child-rearing. They should go out and work whereas women should stay inside and look after the family.
Taking care of the family, kids and even cooking are tasks and huge responsibilities beneath masculinity. Such simple notions force men to feel superior. Also, a male who decides to embrace these “traditional feminine” roles ‘henpecked husbands’. Therefore, the society makes them believe that certain activities and roles are beneath them.
5. Male Exploitation and Sexual Abuse
- Researchers have found that at least 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual abuse and assault, whether in childhood or as adults.
- A 1998 research concluded that male sexual abuse is “common, under-reported, under-recognized and under-treated.”
- Only 16% of men reported histories of sexual abuse as compared to 64% of women who reported about the same.
- An online survey of 160 Indian men showed that 71% of men were sexually abused as children.
Since, men have to suppress their emotions and be physically strong, such crimes often go unnoticed. They believe the misconception that a “Man cannot be raped.” Moreover, they never report these crimes because of the fear of judgement. They feel ashamed or embarrassed to report the same. Men who have gone through such situations are often less likely to disclose than females. The society has put such pressures on men, that their own violation goes unrecognized.
“Various factors come into play. But the most important factor is Patriarchy, which forces a boy into believing that his abuse was something that he can get over, without any support. This mentality also forces the child to accept his abuse as a rite of passage in him become a man.”– Insia Dariwala
Masculinity v/s Femininity
The society puts such pressures on men that they feel it is better to suppress their emotions. They believe that they have to be physically strong. The society portrays the idea that men being ‘strong’ can never undergo sexual harassment and exploitation. Also, men who have had such experiences are at much greater risks of depression and suicidal attempts. Toxic masculinity paints the picture of violation, exploitation and abuse as feminine. Being a ‘victim of sexual abuse’ is demeaning. The idea of toxic masculinity portrays feminine aspects as weak. It’s because of this ‘threatening femininity’ most of the crimes against men goes unreported. It is a sign of weakness rather than “manning up”. Being a ‘victim’ is feminine but an ‘accused’ or a ‘perpetrator’ is much more masculine and hence powerful.
For long, men have forced themselves to fit into certain standards of masculinity that are unreal and inhumane. Boys have to behave in a certain way from an early age. We rob them of basic human emotions and make them believe that certain activities are beneath them. We burden them with expectations and at the same time, build a world for them where they feel superior. It is high time that we address these forces of Patriarchy that makes them toxic. We need to lift up men in the right ways. It is time to let them explore for who they really are. It is important for them to realize and acknowledge their feelings.