Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too

…here is Part 2.

You saw in my last post that, “Women Hurt Women, Too.”

Patriarchy hurts men, too. It hurts men because it self-perpetuates. Even women become willing participants in patriarchy. Even women ignore other women’s struggles; even women use #notallmen on their tweets. And a self-perpetuating patriarchy does not give men much room to be their true selves; it punishes men for opposing it.

This is going to be a rather dense post, so here are the bullet points you can discuss on your Facebook walls in lieu of actually reading the whole thing:

  • Patriarchy is a system that, by its own (sloppy yet powerful*) “design,” holds itself together and pops up everywhere
  • Men are hurt by patriarchy, too
  • Patriarchy punishes men who want to be “different”
  • The fact that Patriarchy exists means that women have (valid) reasons to be distrustful of men, for their own safety. For a well written, male perspective on this, I recommend the “Women are Defensive (With Good Reason)” section of Pepper’s larger essay (which, though it is about nonmonogamy, is useful in general)
  • This distrust hurts men (especially those who are sexually interested in women), too. Men have a crisis of identity, because they are told they could be “accidental rapists” and, like, no one wants to be that
  • The Patriarchy protects subtle, hurtful behaviors such that they are supposedly invisible even to the men that do the hurtful behaviors. This hurts men, because men can begin to believe that they can’t trust themselves.
  • Part of the solution is to banish these hurtful behaviors from the shadows. One of the ways to do that is to, as men, call out other men you see doing hurtful, Patriarchy-supporting behaviors.
  • If it is not obvious to you what these behaviors are, spend more time listening to women and to feminists who have spent a lot of time experiencing / thinking about these behaviors

*Sloppy Yet Powerful is my new band name.

Liberal media is talked about like it’s a monolith, a fucking machine or a conspiracy meant to control our brains. Regardless if that is true (and I have my suspicions — a little cog named Jenji Kohan got me fantasizing about conjugal visits with particular jumpsuit-wearing actresses), there’s another monolith that controls our interactions as if by invisible gears — actually, it mostly uses social scripts — and that is Patriarchy. For the benefit of my readers that might not throw around the word “scripts” like I do, they’re not just the things Laura Prepon memorizes for her job. Social scripts are those little memorized stories that tell us what to do when we have to interact with other human beings.

Social scripts tell us that when we love someone, we kiss them, and that when we really love someone, we marry them. They tell us that when someone is being a nerd, and it makes you uncomfortable, you laugh at them. They get rewritten so that nerds can be geeks, and some geeks are cool, and if you aren’t a big enough geek, maybe you’re not cool.  Social scripts are passed down to us from our parents and grandparents and/or other guardians. They play out in our favorite TV shows, and movies, and the movies we hate but we watch anyway because they’re on TV and the remote is too far away.

“Alternative” scripts are shot down, demeaned, framed as a waste of time, and, worst and most frequently of all, not imagined in the first place. Ordinary men are Patriarchy’s unconscious deliverers, because without help, ordinary people cannot imagine their own scripts. Ordinary men aren’t told any other way to be, and are seduced by the charm of stories whose outcomes they know. Any impulse to be otherwise, to be “different,” is squashed, leaving men the apparent choice of a hyper-masculine bravado (and its spoils) or an empty valley (some people call this the “friendzone”). This personality crisis hurts, too.

This is how men do not realize that #yesallwomen experience discomfort at the hands of men. The monolith of patriarchy makes a smokescreen for men like Pan to exist in the “benefit of the doubt” arena where their behaviors are seen as “normal” and not “fucking creepy.” Because it’s “normal” for guys to “sweep women off their feet,” or “seize women in a passionate kiss” — I saw it in all the movies, ever. And it’s “normal” for women to want these things, because princesses.

(Update: when a friend told Pan that “Blotted” was too fucked up and should be left alone, Pan said we are adults and she could make her own decisions. Either he has no idea about “too intoxicated to consent” or he’s using a facade of ignorance to do whatever he wants.)

Patriarchy hurts men too in that it allows these subtle aggressions to live unchallenged. That is: any man can expect that sometimes (or often) his transgressions will be invisible. Predators abuse this system; average men bumble into predatory territory because these walls are kept hidden from them. I have male friends who tell me they worry so much that they could be like the man in the “I Need a Man” story — that someday women could earnestly tell these stories about them.

Part of me is baffled, because my friends are good men, and how could they see themselves that way? Part of me knows that even my most consent-obsessed friends have moments of blindness, where they make other people uncomfortable because they take their sexual agency for granted. The world tells them it is thus, and how can they escape it?

I have a friend that was falsely accused of rape. First, the criminal justice system intervened and found him not guilty. Then, quite some time later, administrators in his college found out about the case and decided to conduct their own investigation and protective measures. This is how his entire campus found out. The administrators’ actions make sense in a lot of ways – they know how ineffective the so-called justice system can be and need to protect their students.

What is most painful for my friend is not the repeat “trial,” though it is stressful and hard and depressing, but the reactions of people he thought knew him better than to mistrust him. That his “friends” are quite capable of seeing him as “the enemy” now, when they happily fell asleep next to him on couches or walked arm-in-arm with him before. Now they are swatting his hands away not just from themselves but from others. I am sure he has even had moments where he asked himself what has he done, no truly, what has he done to deserve this?

Guys, the impulse to fear that you could accidentally be a predator is the right one. The system protects predators, makes excuses for their transgressions. The system will make excuses for your transgressions. It will tell you that you were too drunk, too overcome with testosterone, just trying to be friendly, just trying to have fun, just teasing a little, that girls like bad boys, or strong boys, or confident ones, that nice guys finish last. This same system means there is no easy distinction between rapists and men like you. As long as predators are allowed to lurk in the shadows, the women who have lived in fear of the shadows will see you in them. It is their right to be afraid, lest the shadows devour them.

Proclaiming “Not All Men” is not the answer. Women know not all men are like this, in fact a lot of heterosexual women look forward to the fact that not all men are like this and they might fall in love with one (or more) of them. Yet, for her own safety a woman has to assume the potential for any man to hurt her. She knows that other men and even other women will count her the most responsible for her own safety, rather than protect her from or blame the predators. She should carry mace. She should stand up for herself. She should know better, shouldn’t expect better. The world shows her it is thus, and how can she escape it?

This is how patriarchy hurts men. It assumes everyone is a participant. It tears the ground right out from under them when they resist it. It creates shadows around all of us. The solution is to shine a big blaring spotlight into those shadows. To stop protecting the transgressions of others. I know (some of) you see yourselves in those shadows, are afraid of being called to stand trial for your bumblings. But when the excuses stop, the dark mirror will break, and you will see which pieces of yourself you need to throw away with the shards. I really hope you will.

If you are not sure how to shine this spotlight, stop and listen. There are people out there who can help direct this light. There are people who see the shadows when they close their eyes in fright. It is not their job to tell you, because they have a hard time knowing if you are made of shadows, too. It is merely your job to listen.

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5 thoughts on “Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too

  1. Two things.
    First you missed the way that men today are breaking the social script. It’s not by being hyper-masculine or by lamenting “The Friend Zone”. It is by going our own way, MGTOW. There are a great many more MGTOW than people stuck in the friend zone or attempting to be hypermasculine. People like You just don’t see any MGTOW because we are “failures” that no women want and do nothing to draw the spotlight. We are simply staying out of the way. We are not trying to get women with hyper-masculinity or getting friend zoned. We are out fishing or building a new Tiny house or playing video games or painting little army men. MGTOW is how you break the script, and all that needs to be done is don’t be “there” when the spot light turns on.
    Second by saying that it is reasonable for women to fear men you are advocating sexism against men. Fearing or hating a group based on their sex is sexism. Arguing for this sexism against men also perpetuates the weaponized isolationism we see in much of gender relations today. Building the great wall of gender will solve all gender issues, not because the issues get resolved, but because the human species would die out in a single generation.

    • 1. Being hyper-masculine or lamenting “the Friend Zone” is not *breaking* “the social script.” (Those are part of the more mainstream social scripts.) I will acknowledge that, via a cursory internet search, MGTOW seems to be an attempt at creating an alternative social script for men. Alternative e.g. not mainstream e.g. not approved by the patriarchy. So, the patriarchy is your enemy, too. So, we have the same enemy and should be friends!
      2. Women *do* fear men. That is a fact. A fact which I am not “advocating” but merely pointing out as a sad side affect of misogyny. Unfortunately, women cannot turn off their fear until it is reasonable to do so. The environment must become safer. The way to make that environment safer is to call out behavior which perpetuates violence and aggression against women. Or, as you say, don’t do the behaviors (good!)
      P.S. I’m a gay woman. So People like Me don’t “see” MGTOW because I’m not trying to hook up with men. I only notice that some men disrespect me and my friends and make us feel unsafe, and the point of this article was to elucidate how that in fact is bad for men (who are sexually/romantically interested in women) too.

      • 1)There is no “The Patriarchy”. Men (you know, The Patriarchy) are not the problem. The problem is outdated gender roles for both men and women, gender roles that are both interconnected and interdependent. So long as you insist on blaming “The Patriarchy” (you know, men) I don’t think we can be friends.
        2)Women do fear men. Justifying excusing and legitimizing this behavior is sexism. Also The western world is dramatically safer than it was 50 years ago. If women’s fear of men was at all connected to the actual threat men pose then that fear would be nearly non-existant.
        I understand the point of your post. The point was to reinforce and enforce the outdated dogmatic and regressive gender role of men by saying it’s our job to insure YOUR safety, not yours.
        I am a person. I protect myself. You are a person. I expect you to do the same.
        Also on MGTOW you don’t see MGTOW because we are not at the bars or the clubs or the social hang outs where we can be seen. We are at home with video games or on the lake fishing. At work we are nameless faceless sexless worker drone in cubical #42. MGTOW are sexually/romantically interested in women, the dating game is just rigged heads you win tails I loose. I won’t play that game.

    • I’m too tired to properly point out how misguided this analysis is.

      So just pretend that I highlighted all the good parts of Sami’s comments and asked you to read them twice.

      Asked nicely.

  2. *Psst*
    1.) The Patriarchy, as i understand it, is more complicated that just men. To fight against the patriarchy isn’t to fight against men. It’s to fight against the old rules of men that put themselves in a place of control by holding back those that were not like them. Its not individuals, its an idea, a concept. A system of thinking and standard of acting that holds the world at the imbalance that it is in. The outdated gender roles IS the Patriarchy, as is the idea that one should have to protect themselves rather than the idea that one shouldn’t have to feel the need to protect themselves in modern society. Which brings me to…
    2.) Women do fear men. Shaming, demeaning, and ridiculing them for this behavior merely amplifies the problem. If something in the world threatens ones health and safety, they have to find a way to cope. Caution is usually a good first step. Why would it be ok to tell them that having a fear is wrong when there is no clear method to actually removing the threat available to them? If you are given a bowl of skittles and told that a few of them, but you don’t know which ones, are deadly poisonous, wouldn’t you hesitate a bit before reaching in? Is that hesitation justified? It doesn’t really matter that most are safe, if you pick the wrong one there IS NO GOING BACK. Yes one could argue that things are safer than 50 years ago, but if i told you that there were fewer poisonous skittles in this new bowl… does that really mean you can just jump in? The fear is an absolute until the threat is removed. And the threat of all the bad things the wrong man is capable of doing to a girl that takes the risk of merely living in this world is many MANY steps above “nearly non-existent.” The job of protecting people isn’t the job of just men, its of everyone. Many men though, don’t realize that works still needs to be done, and as such don’t do their parts.
    3.) I suppose I can respect the MGTOW position. Staying away from the battlefield and not helping the enemy (all the bad men still out there) is one way to be helpful here and to handle the issues between men and women. But I feel I’d rather stand in the middle of the field and rally with the women I care about. Not because I expect them to be grateful and lift me from the supposed “friend zone”, but because I don’t want them to live in a world where they feel they have to protect themselves at all.

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