How does the Patriarchy Negatively Affect Men?

Article by Tabitha Floyd

Artwork by Netty Holwill (Staff)

An argument I’m sure you’ve heard time and time again, if you consider yourself a feminist: “But what about men’s issues?” While this is simply an attempt to shed light on valid issues facing men, it often seems a far more sinister attempt to bring down the woman talking as a man-hater and swing the conversation back round to men. However, the issues facing men that are brought up are often caused by the same system oppressing the rights of women. The dreaded patriarchy. Much of our western culture stems from Christianity which is an Abrahamic and intrinsically patriarchal religion.

The first, and arguably most severe negative affect men face, is the rapid decline of mental health. The male suicide rate is at its highest in 20 years, an issue particularly prominent in middle-aged men between 45 and 49. One of the most obvious reasons for this is the stigma around men, particularly middle-aged men, talking about their feelings and mental health. This stigma is created by the belief that men need to be strong and stoic and to discuss emotions and struggles is somehow emasculating and feminine. While this view is upheld by many today it was first conceived out of a patriarchal hatred of women and ‘weakness’. The higher rates of suicide among middle-aged men may be increasingly because of economic hardship, isolation and alcoholism, and men in this category may be less likely to seek help. This crisis facing the group has been anticipated to rise as a result of lockdown; especially without being able to see family or friends. The idea that men must be in control financially and be the ‘breadwinner’ of their household directly contributes to the stigma surrounding these men seeking help.

Another issue is many men who face harassment, assault, or violence are shamed into not speaking up and reporting it. This is another reflection of the enforcement of gender stereotypes and the idea that men have to remain ‘strong’. Particularly in cases of domestic violence men don’t speak out for fear of shame, and worse, the fear that they won’t be believed. While this seems a prime example of misandrism at first glance, to believe a woman over a man, moreover, it seems to be another way of enforcing gender stereotypes, as women are viewed to be more caring and docile. To see these women as cruel, and capable of the same violence used to oppress women for centuries, would be to accept that these gender stereotypes don’t hold the same value they’re given in modern society.

In addition to this, male incarceration rate is far higher than their female counterparts and, in most cases, they are not awarded custody of their children during divorces. This is often unjust and is a further reflection of the view of men as violent as well as strong. This is particularly enforced onto men of colour and specifically black men. The incrimination of these men as violent and cruel also promotes white supremacy by labelling these men as a danger to society and, more specifically, white women. Furthermore, male shelters are often underfunded and more likely to be shut down than women’s or unisex shelters. While women are at a greater risk on the streets, often the reason being, as aforementioned, is that men should be self-sufficient and successful. This is not only an enforcement of toxic masculinity but also a way to keep the class divide and to dismiss the struggles of poorer men.

Lastly, many cases of sexual assault against men are dismissed and the conversations diminished just because the victims are men. Whilst it may seem, and many identify it as, a feminist failing, most of the people traditionally undermining these men, labelling them as weak and shaming them into silence, are other men and often people close to them. This is another manifestation of toxic masculinity and the way the patriarchy has forced these men into a tight concept of gender that declares them strong shaming them into silence. In the past few years several male celebrities, most notably Terry Crews,
have shared their stories with sexual assault in Hollywood in light of the MeToo movement. While they have received backlash, they have opened the way for other men to see them as strong survivors speaking out and sharing their own stories.

These issues are all extremely important and deserve much discussion and awareness alongside all other feminist issues. Not only this but they deserve a conversation in their own right rather than to serve only as a tag-on to dismiss equally valid conversations about women’s issues. These issues all seem to stem from the main objective of feminism: to enable men to be less toxic and be more compassionate, to be able to share and create safe spaces. Feminism is also the most important movement for men to achieve a level of radical self-love that the patriarchy doesn’t allow and profits off repressing. I believe we need to incorporate feminism into society without corrupting its ideals to become extreme. Men can often view feminism as a system attempting to shift the power balance to supress men and can only see the minefield that it has created of “wokeness” and the need to be politically correct. This often leads to a negative pushback against these ideals which pits men against a movement that is solely campaigning for gender equity. I believe that change can be brought about by the feminist movements we see today and the social changes that would be implemented would directly improve men’s lives in a patriarchal society.