Okay, I know this sounds like a silly question but bare with me. I talk a lot about women's issues, how society needs to change to provide equal opportunities and support, violence against women and how feminism is intersectional. When I can't find a fellow female to chat to, my boyfriend gets the earful. We deep dive into really complex issues and I tell him about my experiences as a women; he's great at responding with thoughtful questions to expand his understanding and become a better ally. But he stumped me the other day. I had recently bought some amazing earrings from an independent shop in London called Topple & Burn. They are big hoops with the phrase 'Fuck The Patriarchy' in the middle. PERFECT. YES. I WANT IT. I GOT IT. As I was sporting my fresh new bitch hoops, my partner said 'I don't even know what that is'. And I laughed because of course he wouldn't, I've never bought from them before so I introduced the brand to him. He stopped me mid sentence and corrected my direction 'no no, not the brand, the patriarchy. I don't know what that is'. HOLD THE FUCK UP! WHAT? How does he not know what the patriarchy is? Instead of retreating into my occasional state of angry feminist and yelling at him for being so ignorant, I thought about how he probably never had the opportunity to ask this question before and how the education system has failed him and, well basically all of us. Let's fix that. So we started right from the start, as basic as it gets. And I thought this would be a great way to kick of my first article for my blog. So what is the patriarchy? It's a system that has been developed by men for men. It ensures men are always at the forefront of power and privilege, they dominate over politics, social structure, property ownership, financial remuneration and even medical accessibility. It's a superior/inferior type thing, where women are viewed as lesser, weaker and dumber, and that our only true role in society is that of mother, maiden or whore. Basic. Now it makes sense. When I'm asked these 'silly' questions in future, there's no need for it to become a debate on why people do not hold this knowledge, but a safe conversation that seeks to educate and round up as many allies as possible! Because you can't fight for something when you don't know what it is. These questions must be asked, and they must be respected. I was never taught about the history of oppressed women in school, I wasn't even taught about the history of racism. Without my own independent research and willing to learn, I wouldn't be writing this blog or painting what I do. And with my journey and enlightenment, I've taken on the responsibility to educate others, speak up and demand change. It's so easy sitting down with your gal pal and have conversations about gender inequality, but without extending this conversation onto men, change won't happen and men won't feel that same responsibility to educate others, speak up and demand change, because it doesn't feel like their problem. Well let's make it their problem. So how can you start a conversation with a man, specifically a white, cis gendered, heterosexual man about feminism? Play to their ego. And no, you're not giving them what they want by stroking their manhood and making them feel special, you're presenting feminism in a way that helps them as well. Because it does. Men suffer from the patriarchy in astronomical ways as well as women. The patriarchy has constructed the ideal masculinity, it's now referred to as 'toxic masculinity', where men are expected to conform to norms that directly harm women, society and themselves. It involves men hiding emotions and mental illness, perpetuating violence and sexual behaviour towards women (and sometimes other men) as a way to appear dominant, powerful and superior. It's the 'boys will be boys' attitude, the 'tough-guy' persona, Mr Macho or Bob from the fucking building site. It's time for men to abandon this taught behaviour and become accountable for the misogyny that stills holds society captive. In an article written by Philippe Leonard Fraddet for the platform The Body Is Not An Apology, seven different points are presented that explain why the patriarchy is harmful to men and how feminism is here to save them as well. I'd like to share them here with my brief elaboration.
One of the most dehumanising ways the patriarchy oppresses men is the expectation for them to hide emotions and bottle everything deep down because it seems weak and feminine if they don't. By allowing them opportunity to reflect and question why this norm is no longer acceptable it can conjure vulnerability and grant space for introspection. Men can demolish the wall of masculinity built around them that sought to protect their manhood and begin to feel comfortable with being called out for bad behaviour and learn to move forward with new perspectives that no longer pose a threat to women.
In a man vs. The world complex, it's become common for men to be in constant competition with one other. From building their physiques in the gym, to exercising their intellect where it's not always needed, the drive for superiority has led men to become alienated and intimidating. Although women are often blamed to be the ones in competition with each other, the community that feminism as created has become more inclusive and encouraging of self love and care. Women have only ever competed with each other because of looks and status, which when you think about it, is probably a result of the patriarchy working its magic. Feminism has allowed so much space for support and the main focus is on ensuring as many people feel as comfortable and accepted as possible. Sounds a lot nicer than a pissing contest doesn't it?
3. Status Quo
Comfort within society is one of the luxuries the patriarchy has afforded men, one where they don't need to step out of their little bubble and be confronted with the hard truths of their actions and behaviours and how it's damaging the lives of people around them, including themselves. Why would you? A life of uninterrupted privilege, no one bashing on your door asking you to help change the world. The worlds fine, I'm fine. WRONG. The notion of what it is to be a 'real man' lies in this comfortability. So what is presented as a safe space is actually still insanely restrictive when it comes to men being able to explore their identity and position in society. This sense of disrupting the status quo by deviating from your role as the bread winner, the ladies man and Superman has prevented men from a journey of self-cultivation.
Similar to the point above, men don't realise how the patriarchy has helped build a chain of command and demand. Whilst the archetype for perfect masculinity is a sure fire way to success up this ladder, departing from this identity will also come under scrutiny from the patriarchy. So men who don't exhibit common traits of masculinity are automatically 'othered'. Who rests on top of this pedestal untouched and unscathed? The cis gendered, white, heterosexual male. So the questions is how can we close this gap and dismantle the hierarchy? By levelling the playing field. Not to say men deserve to feel the same disadvantages and oppression as women have felt (although it would be fair), it's about creating an understanding of gender inequality and compassion for other peoples different situations and experiences. Also equal pay, but let's begin with behavioural change first.
The patriarchy is a mastermind for sweeping the sheet over your eyes and painting the perfect picture of society, one where all men benefit. But this simply isn't the case. Whilst there is a clear advantage for certain men (we all know who) what about the minorities within this gender? Black men, disabled men, trans men, poor men and uneducated men are excluded from the rewards of the patriarchal system. Enter, intersectional feminism. Instead of just looking at a woman as a woman, we recognise her as a multi-faceted female who has had different experiences, backgrounds and histories and thus, will require different things from feminism. The same should exist for men. Feminism is viewed as the fight for equality amongst genders, but by shifting the emphasis onto intersectionality we understand that people's negative experiences go beyond gender. Here we can finally eradicate these oppressive systems and normalise the problems faced by every individual.
6. Rape Culture
This is a hard one, because not many men blame themselves or feel accountable for the sexual violence experienced by women. It's womens fault after all because we are so sexy, we were drunk, we didn't fight back, we were alone blah blah blah. This is a huge topic and one I will explore in multiple future articles, so let's keep it short for now. Ridding society of rape culture and violence against women has been at the forefront of feminism for a long time. The patriarchy has normalised this violent behaviour and treated it as a god given right to most men as women have been perceived as sexual objects for the taking. There's been decades of victim blaming and a routine of shifting the responsibility onto women to dress better, act right and stay safe instead of holding men accountable and changing their behaviour. A perception like this where women exist to be owned and dominated is the responsibility of men, and it changes with them.
So what this all boils down to is that the inherent tendencies of 'perfect' masculinity are in fact toxic, and not only a danger and threat to society, women, non binary people, trans people, black people, disabled people I could go on, but to men themselves. By adhering to this strict manual of how to be a man they are restricting their ability to have deep exploration into themselves, learn who they are, contribute to a growing society and depart from centuries of oppressive behaviour. Now doesn't that sound nice? There we have it. Seven really important points on why feminism is not only for women but men too. The patriarchy will remain attractive to some men who refuse to leave their safe comfortable space of privilege and power, but for the rest of you, the grass is so much greener over here. The patriarchy must die, so we can all rise up and be a better society. So next time when you're chatting to your male friend, boyfriend, co worker whoever and they pose a question to you that stumps you, just like it stumped me, think about these points. It's a great way to introduce feminism to men who have carried the false perception it's a group of angry women who hate shaving and want to kill the male race. Feminism is for everyone. The patriarchy is not.