Conventional Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too!December 9th, 2023
by Monica Islam
Patriarchy is defined as “a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.” Much to the dismay of radical feminists, I do not have a problem with this. It is fine for men to lead. Not everyone can be the leader if there are not multiple spaces for leadership. I do not think patriarchy is the problem. The problem is conventional patriarchy or how patriarchy is interpreted and played out in the society today. Conventional patriarchy hurts and alienates men, too!
Conventional patriarchy teaches us that men cannot be natural caregivers or that they are not adept at household chores which are actually life skills, such as cooking. As a result, we see a dearth of men in the professions of chef, nurse, teacher, etc. On the other hand, we see an abundance of men as drivers. It would be nice for a change if men take the back seat and are relaxed and driven around by women.
Conventional patriarchy teaches us that men cannot display a range of emotions, such as weakness, fear, sadness, sensitivity, etc. Men cannot cry, for instance. As a result, men are required to put on a stiff, strict appearance.
Conventional patriarchy teaches us that men are the sole breadwinners and that the onus of financial responsibility falls on men or that they are the protectors of women. This is unfair. Women can help, however nominally, to manage the finances of the household. Many men struggle to get married because they cannot provide adequately for the family or they do not have a large home to accommodate the wife. The first question we ask potential bachelors in Bangladesh is whether they have a job and/or a home or not.
Conventional patriarchy teaches us that men cannot be sexually abused or face domestic violence. This is a grave concern. Owing to twisted notions of masculinity, many young boys and men never reveal if they have been sexually abused or not. They feel emasculated. Men, too, can be sexually abused or even sexually objectified by both men and women. We often tend to profile a man based on his looks, body or overall sexuality rather than his intelligence or emotional quotient.
Conventional patriarchy teaches us that it is holy or scientifically hygienic to practice infant male circumcision, even though a growing number of men are opposed to it. In case of female genital mutilation, a large proportion of women are united in the fight against it and they have found a fertile ground in dismantling the practice. However, we cannot say the same for our male counterparts. They are still struggling with this traditional act.
How many of us know about and celebrate International Men’s Day which falls on 19th November every year? I will attest to the fact that I did not know! We need to create more awareness about this day and its spirit which is to cherish the contributions and sacrifices made by men for the family and society. This year, the theme was “Zero Male Suicide”. Due to financial burden and other societal pressures, men are unable to express themselves fully and thus, they end up taking their own lives! This needs to end.
This year, let us – as gender rights activists or human rights defenders – pledge to overturn conventional patriarchy and root out misogyny that hurts men equally!