When a discussion about patriarchy pops up, the focus is usually on how it affects women adversely. But patriarchy is not as gender-biased as you may think it is; it seeks to keep men in line too. Don’t take me wrong, I don’t mean to draw comparisons or measure which gender has to bear a more significant burden. I merely seek to point out how patriarchy affects men.
So how does patriarchy affect men?
Men are not supposed to show emotions, especially sorrow. To show any form of emotion, apart from anger maybe, is considered non-masculine. This societal expectation causes many men to bottle up their emotions and often leads to unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol and drug abuse.
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The ‘masculine appearance’ extends to the actual appearance too. Men are supposed to “look” a certain way. If you do not conform to the usual standard of what being a man is, you are looked at as an abomination. This can be anything from growing your hair to colouring your nails or not having facial hair. And may the Lord help you if you’re not 6 feet tall because, for some reason, many believe that we still live in an age where physical dominance is essential for the security of yourself and your loved ones (and that’s why height is such a huge factor in the arranged marriage space).
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A man is supposed to be the breadwinner of the family. In an attempt to live up to this expectation, many men end up in “stable” jobs with fat paychecks but fail to achieve true satisfaction in their careers. The few that follow their passion or decide to be stay-at-home dads become subjects of ridicule and mockery, often talked of as “less than male”.
While all genders find it hard to raise their voice about sexual assault, men find it hard because society sees them as somehow emasculated for being a victim of sexual abuse. Male rape is often a subject of jokes in pop culture, where the assault is not portrayed with seriousness or is used to highlight how the man was not male enough. Pop culture is not really the culprit though, it is merely a reflection of what society considers “male”.
Like sexual assault, a male victim of domestic violence is ridiculed for not having enough “aanatham” to stand up to “his woman”. Again, this leads to men not speaking out about abuse and that leads to more problems for them down the line.
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Behavioural expectation from men is not restricted to not showing sorrow, but also the display of aggression. A “man” displaying aggression in a fight is considered normal while a person avoiding escalation is considered less masculine. Aggression in terms of sexual appetite is also something that is considered normal. In this drive to appear ‘masculine’, some people may even try to overcompensate by being aggressive to other genders.
While our understanding of the effects that patriarchy has on men has improved in recent years, and we have started to acknowledge the consequences, we have quite a lot of ground to cover before we achieve gender equality.