Feminist Friday: A Man’s War Too

Last week I wrote about 10 things feminists are sick of hearing. Item 10 was, “Men can’t be feminists”. I’ve heard this phrase quite a few times in addition to comments like, “Why would a man want to be a feminist? Don’t feminists hate men? Won’t that emasculate him?”  What if I told you that the patriarchy hurts men too? Intrigued? Go ahead, keep reading.

First of all, what is “the Patriarchy”? Merriam-Webster defines the word “patriarchy” as:

1:  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; broadly :  control by men of a disproportionately large share of power
2:  a society or institution organized according to the principles or practices of patriarchy
At first glance, it seems to make sense that any man would want to be a part of a society where he is in control. How could a society run by men, be bad for men? In an excellent article for Every Day Feminism entitled “5 Lies that Distort Male Sexuality and Hurt Men“, Jamie Utt describes five ways in which men are hurt by the messages they receive about sex and sexuality. He explains that men and women are not taught the same things about sex and their roles in relationships. Men are taught to be strong and tough while women are taught to be submissive and accommodating. Being strong and tough aren’t bad things to strive for in either sex. I know plenty of strong men and women. However, the idea that all men must be strong, powerful, and tough hurts men because it invariably pushes them to have qualities and characteristics they don’t necessarily identify with.
The five lies he expounds on are:
1. ‘Sow Your Wild Oats’
2. ‘Always Be In Control’
3. ‘Value Hotness (Traditional Measures of Physical Attractiveness) Above Everything.’
4. ‘If She Doesn’t Stop You, You’re Good to Go!’
5. This All Culminates in One Thing: Male Entitlement to Sex
Jamie’s last point is the one I want to expand on. It’s unfortunately not uncommon to hear a woman say, “Well, I didn’t want to have sex/ make out/ be physical with him, but he bought me dinner so I felt like I needed to pay him back.” I’ve heard this phrase used by friends and family, teens and young adults. It breaks my heart every time. Physical intimacy should never be seen as a form of payment for a date. This entitlement can eventually lead to violence. Jamie puts it so perfectly.
“Of course, #notallmen end up overtly expressing this learned entitlement through violence, but we all get the same messaging, and there are countless ways for us to act on our sexual entitlement by hurting others.

So how does this entitlement show up in the form of violence?

The most extreme form of this violence shows up when men murder out of this entitlement, as we saw in a sensationalized way with the Isla Vista killings and as we see every single day when at least three men kill their intimate partners.

This violence appears in the form of relationship violence, most recently in the public eye because of Ray Rice’s violence against Janay Palmer, and with at least two million men per year beating their intimate partners.

This violence shows up in sexual violence, where, though it is hard to truly study perpetrators of sexual violence, the vast majority of perpetrators of sexual violence are men (yes really, MRAs).

This violence shows up in street harassment, where the vast majority of street harassment is committed by men.

Sadly, I could go on and on with this list, but the common denominator is entitlement that is intimately woven into patriarchal masculinity.”

So what can we do? We can teach our sons, friends, brothers, and partners to be kind and gentle. We can use resources like A Call To Men, “a leading national violence prevention organization providing training and education for men, boys and communities. Our aim is to shift social norms that negatively impact our culture and promote a more healthy and respectful definition of manhood.”
We can push for public policy that defends victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. California recently passed legislature that would require colleges that receive state funding to redefine the definition of consent in their sexual assault policies.
We can watch how we use our language. “The Good Men Project” has a great article about how the language we use can hurt others. Last year students at Duke University started a campaign called #youdon’tsay. “The initiative highlights several commonly used derogatory phrases, such as “That’s So Gay” and “No Homo,” along with an explanation of why these sayings are problematic.” – “5 Reasons I don’t say ‘Man Up'”
I like this initiative because it encourages me to watch what I say and focus on using language that isn’t derogatory. It is a positive and active thing everyone can do every day, and it benefits us and those around us. Sounds like a win-win to me!
Are you convinced that the patriarchy is bad for women and men? Read this quote by bell hooks and join me next week for “Feminist Friday: A Man’s War Two” (get it, get it?) where I’ll talk about the “bumbling, useless, clueless husband” trope, that women hate just as much as men do.
“To create loving men, we must love males. Loving maleness is different from praising and rewarding males for living up to sexist-defined notions of male identity. Caring about men because of what they do for us is not the same as loving males for simply being. When we love maleness, we extend our love whether males are performing or not. Performance is different from simply being. In patriarchal culture males are not allowed simply to be who they are and to glory in their unique identity. Their value is always determined by what they do. In an anti-patriarchal culture males do not have to prove their value and worth. They know from birth that simply being gives them value, the right to be cherished and loved.”
― Bell Hooks, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love
Feeling the love yet, gentlemen?

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