Men Victims Of Patriarchy: Patriarchy is a social system which places men above women. This very definition of patriarchy and its very nature makes it likely for us to think that patriarchy favours men and works out just fine for them. Therefore, challenging patriarchy is usually seen as an attempt for the emancipation of women only. Little do people know how men are the veiled victims of patriarchy in numerous obscure ways. The reality is far more complex and nuanced. Men themselves are the sufferers of male privilege. Here’s how.
Have you also heard the men in your life being told “don’t cry like a girl” or “man up, don’t be a pussy”? Yes that’s exactly what patriarchy does to men. It doesn’t let them be sentimental or open about their emotions. The society we live in draws clear-cut distinctions between what it is to be a man and what it is to be a woman. From childhood itself, girls are conditioned to smile more and talk softly, be submissive and terrifically tolerant. On the contrary, boys are taught to dominate, direct and dictate. They’re told to be loud and that aggression is the solution to all their problems.
Needless to say, women are considered to be weak and therefore naturally emotional whereas men are expected to be so-called strong and emotionally unexpressive. In reality, these are just gendered stereotypes which are clearly cultural constructs internalised and normalised through years of socialisation in a patriarchal society rather than some pre-existing natural order. However, society sells these distorted ideas to men as “natural” which pushes them put up masks and pretend to be unrealistically unemotional.
“Real” men don’t cry and so boys are taught to bottle up their feelings rather than talking about them. Men who show even the slightest of softness and sensitivity are ridiculed by their male peers and even by women because they’re brought up in a society which condemns male emotion.
The consequence being men not being able to feel freely and express their sentiments safely, and having a hard time handling their emotions. Therefore, it’s not surprising that men are twice as likely to become alcoholics as women, trying to find ways to suppress what they feel.
The societal standards of masculinity also force men into being emotionally unavailable for their partners and even exacerbate issues like domestic violence against women. Some men who are emasculated at workplace come home and take out this exasperation on the women in their lives, reaffirming their masculinity and reinforcing patriarchy within households. Much male violence is a result of socialised anger because society compels men to channel a wide range of emotional responses into anger.
In the name of culture and customs, girls are coerced to live by society’s sexist code. But this not only prevents women from having free will and making independent decisions but also severely limits men and their choices in life, be it career, hobbies or interests. For example, it is believed that “domestic is the domain of females” and therefore it’s a woman’s duty to cook and care. But if a man does this, he’s not “man enough”. Husbands who help their wives in household chores are often looked down upon and mocked for being a “joru ka gulam” (wife’s servant).
This transcends to all aspects of life and leaves men with very less options in almost every sphere. You can’t be your own person and chase your dreams which are deemed to be feminine as per the cultural code of conduct because then society would shame you into being “unmanly”. The situation is so sick that men can’t afford to not conform to these traditional gender roles. In order to get social acceptance, they almost always end up trying to match the normative standards of masculinity. And this is how men are trapped in the vicious cycle of toxic masculinity.
The popular belief about rape in society is that only women get raped. However, this is not true. According to the recently released NCRB data, 204 cases out of the total 21,605 reported cases of child rape in 2018 were that of male child. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POSCO ACT) was passed in 2012 to ensure the safety and security of girls and boys under the age of 18 years against sexual assault. However, till date there is no such law in place to protect adult men.
So men get raped too, they just don’t talk about it. They also face sexual abuse and feel just as much traumatised and torn apart as females.
But we never hear about it because majority cases of male rape don’t even get reported owing to the social shame associated with it. Male victims mostly fear coming out about their violation mainly because they would be mocked, called weak and even accused of being a homosexual who enjoyed the act.
The society starts questioning their so-called masculinity because being a man, they couldn’t save themselves from such shameful acts. And thus to avoid judgement and character assassination, men don’t even speak up about the sexual harassment they are subjected to and suffer in silence. All thanks to patriarchy for facilitating all this.
Hence, men are very much the victims of patriarchy, not as much as women are, but victims nonetheless. Even men who seem to be oppressive and chauvinistic may be victims of patriarchal pressures. And therefore, this needs our immediate attention and adequate action. This is the 21st century and we shouldn’t even be having this discussion. It’s unfortunate but it’s true. It’s the harsh reality of today. And hence, it’s high time now. Men should also actively participate in movements challenging patriarchal practices and processes, structures and institutions.
Views expressed are author’s own. Have an opinion or story and want to share? Write to [email protected]