It’s easy to assume that the patriarchy would only have beneficial impacts for men. How could a system that provides more power, more wealth, and more freedom to men negatively affect them?
Note: In this post, I will be discussing the effects of the patriarchy on male identifying individuals. Keep in mind that ALL genders are affected by the patriarchy!
What Is the Patriarchy?
Before we dive into how the patriarchy affects male individuals, let’s familiarize ourselves with what the patriarchy is. As defined by Merriam-Webster, the patriarchy is a “social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line”. Put simply, a patriarchy is a system that favours male individuals over individuals of any other gender.
The Confines of Masculinity
Picture what the word “masculine” means to you. Maybe you picture a male relative, a tradesperson, or a successful CEO. These strict boundaries about what is and is not masculine have been deeply ingrained into our minds by the patriarchy. Because we have been conditioned to expect a man to appear masculine, when one crosses these boundaries, he may experience backlash. For example, a Vogue photoshoot of Harry Styles wearing a dress caused an uproar!
Hypermasculinity is idolized everywhere we turn: in the media, by our peers, in our jobs. Look at the popular reality show “The Bachelor”. The men selected to be the bachelor generally exhibit hypermasculine traits. This reinforces the idea of what the “ideal man” looks like. This pressures men to meet society’s standards of this “ideal man”. This strain is reinforced by machismo – an exaggerated masculine pride. The patriarchy crudely teaches men that vulnerability is associated with femininity, and machismo works to shame men for feeling human emotions such as sadness or anxiety. Instead, these feelings should be channeled into anger or rage, which are considered to be more masculine. As a consequence of these gender norms, if a man does not align with these masculinity standards, he may be ostracized by his peers. “You throw like a girl!” is a common phrase used to reject a boy who does not meet the gender norm that boys should excel at sports. When a man is kind and loving to his partner, he may be ridiculed and called a “simp”.
In the same way that drinking too much caffeine can be toxic, too much masculinity can be toxic as well. The gender stereotypes that display men as constantly being tough and strong may help explain why men participate in more risky behaviours. Additionally, the false idea that “real men don’t cry” builds a stigma around the topic of men’s mental health. This glorified masculinity may be linked to why men are less likely to seek mental health services, which could contribute to the shocking difference in men and women’s suicide rates.
Here are some simple ways to help detoxify your masculinity:
Be open about your feelings and encourage the men in your life to do the same
One reason men may not seek help is that they don’t think any other men are experiencing the same feelings as them. An easy way to learn how to express your emotions is by using a feelings wheel.
Call out jokes or comments that use femininity as an insult
Gender related insults or jokes reinforce false ideas about gender norms. Instead of going along with the comment, consider reminding the person of the harms that gender stereotypes create for everyone.