A while back I wrote a post about how patriarchy hurts everybody. See, it seems like every now and then, we feminists are made to feel like we have to trot out proof that we’re not man-hating harpies, but that feminism is really a movement that will benefit everyone.
Of course, it’s ridiculous that a movement based on equality and justice for women and girls would have to justify itself, and kind of ironic – I always see it as total proof that we still need feminism if we feel that we need to pander to men if we want to be seen as a legitimate movement.
However, since the aim of feminism is, indeed, equality, it does seek to address the ways in which patriarchal structures are harmful to men as well as to women. And I thought it’d be worth discussing some of those ways in that particular post.
But recently I’ve been getting negative feedback on that post, which I find kind of baffling. I guess that even when we’re saying ‘men have it hard too’, some people just can’t accept ANY discussion being had under the auspices of ‘feminism’.
Here is a recent comment that was left on that post. I was going to just respond to it, but decided that if I was going to put in significant effort to my reply, I’d make it its own post.
‘I’m still at a loss as to what any of this has to do with “patriarchy”. Gender roles, certainly, but discussions of gender roles are not limited to feminists and don’t need to be examined through the lens of “patriarchy”.
If I’m understanding patriarchy theory correctly, it’s the idea that we live in a society that explicitly favors men and boys over women and girls, the masculine over the feminine. How is it, then, that we can live in such a society and still see men and boys suffer not because they’re acting like women or girls but because they’re acting like men and boys? Rough-and-tumble play is discouraged on the playground, inter-student competition is discouraged in the classroom, and boys apparently “need to be taught not to rape” as if their sexuality was threatening by its very nature. We’re treating masculinity as if its dangerous, and yet somehow you want to claim that we live in a society that values masculine traits over feminine ones? Please.
Instead, lets ditch the “patriarchy” altogether, and recognize that gender issues are complicated and can’t all be lumped under one tidy, neat little umbrella.’
This person would like to make sure I’m aware that ‘discussions of gender roles are not limited to feminists’. Well, yeah. You can examine gender roles through many different lenses. Feminism is one of them. My blog is about feminism. If you want to read about Marxist or Freudian analyses of gender, go somewhere else.
My big pet peeve about this and other comments like it is the claim that men and boys ‘suffer’ because they’re ‘acting like men and boys’. First of all, to say ‘acting like men and boys’ carries so many cultural assumptions that it would take all day just to unpack it.
Second, eliminating ‘rough-and-tumble’ play because it’s potentially dangerous is hardly punitive. While most studies find that roughhousing is beneficial to kids, as a former teacher, I know that the first time a kid gets accidentally hurt during this kind of play there’s the likelihood of the school being sued for allowing it. With this in mind, I’d argue that the elimination of horseplay might have more to do with fear of a lawsuit than it does with some kind of attack on masculinity.
Furthermore, I have a hard time imagining that banning physical play causes any kind of actual ‘suffering’ to boys.
I’m also not sure how this person has come to define inter-student competition as a masculine pursuit, or on what he’s basing the idea that competition is discouraged in the classroom (in my 7 years as a high school teacher I can tell you that students, male and female, are plenty competitive). And trust me, boys (at least white ones) are doing just fine in the classroom.
- Studies show that in the classroom, white males are called on more often, asked more challenging questions, and given more chances to get the answer correct. Studies show that in the classroom,
- Female students ‘are getting a significantly poorer science education than males, even when in the same classroom‘.
- ‘The harmful effects of gender bias and differential treatment on girls’ self-esteem, self-confidence, and achievement have been the focus of numerous articles‘.
And you know what? If boys currently have an advantage in situations like classroom discussions, then yeah. Feminism will ‘hurt’ them. By putting them on the same level as girls. Think about that.
And, well, yes. In a culture where men will admit that they would force or coerce women into having sex, as long as the interviewer doesn’t use the word ‘rape’, boys and men need to be taught not to rape. When 1 in 6 American women will experience rape or attempted rape in her lifetime, when this is the response (warning – graphic and violent content) that Anita Sarkeesian gets when she talks about feminism in public, then yeah. Boys and men need to be taught not to rape. Or threaten rape. Or condone rape.
While I do firmly believe that feminism can be beneficial to people of all genders, I will not prioritize a few men’s hurt feelings at being presumed dangerous over most women’s fear of sexual assault. #sorrynotsorry.
And, since this commenter so nicely said ‘please’, I do want to claim that we value masculine traits over female ones. If you think about traits that are valued in venues that are valued (by which I mean places like a corporate meeting room as opposed to a preschool), you will find more often that traits commonly associated with masculinity are traits associated with success and value. Strength is valued over weakness, assertiveness is valued over passivity, and logic is valued over emotion.
And as far as telling me to ‘ditch the patriarchy’? Trust me, if I could, I would.