Almost 20 years into the 21st century, we have an utterly mad century behind us. Workers’ rights were vastly expanded and then contracted, women’s rights improved and were then embattled, gay people became seen as people, religion faded but then wouldn’t stay dead, and technology evolutions got faster and faster and more expansive with every step. You can bet that this confused, alienated and rattled a lot of people. And I’m only talking about the West here. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to be an up-and-coming, smart Indian who is technology-savvy but sees people dying in the street every day.
Shilling for patriarchy - why?
When we narrow down our focus to the topic of gender equality, a lot remains to be desired. In most Western nations, women’s right to vote or own property isn’t questioned. Even conservative parties pay lip service to the idea that women can be leaders or intellectuals. But problems remain – the reactionary push against sexual freedom, the persistent idea that women are responsible for being harassed or raped, or the media’s lurid focus on female leaders’ style while they never call into question, say, a male politician’s penchant to wear the same suit every time. That, too, is patriarchy.
Some men – too many men – have taken up patriarchy's battle cry because they feel lost, alienated and relegated to the sideways. They feel confused and wronged by the rise of women. “Why am I not being empowered? What about the idea that men are still expected to make the first move?” Well, first off, many women are just as confused. They are human beings, after all, and human beings tend to hold contradictory notions. Second, it betrays a longing back to full instead of light patriarchy.
What empowers you is your downfall
Many (heterosexual) men might deny it. The idea of a woman as secondary, as a being who just exist to please you and make your life easier, isn’t that grand? The idea that women are available, not for anyone but for you in particular, isn’t that comforting? That despite whatever failures you stack up in life, your masculinity still offers you the respect to claim a woman as your own (or, preferably, multiple women)? Of course that’s an alluring idea. Having power just for being ‘the One’, as so frequently put forth in popular culture.
Thinking of women as second-class people or underlings eases the mind of some heterosexual men. “At least I’m not some weak woman. At least I’m not gay. At least I’m not some transgender freak.” But it’s also their downfall. The West’s current reality is that most heterosexual women know well enough that they get swamped with dumb messages on dating apps, that they know street harassment is depressingly common and not a compliment, and that, simply put, the cat’s out of the bag.
The poison sits deep
Of course, there are many women who are still mired in patriarchal notions themselves. The proverbial women who “want it all”: some athletic mute who fulfills a reverse-Stepford Wives fantasy and enjoys being dominated while doing all the most difficult chores and providing an income. But that’s just an ugly mirror of patriarchy.
And it is patriarchy – a social order created by empowered men thousands of years ago – that has truly poisoned your soul. It is patriarchy that had informed you to be jealous when other men have more sex partners than you do. It is patriarchy that tells you you are weak if you can’t lift a 150kg. It is patriarchy that smirks when you can’t afford to pay a woman a drink. It is patriarchy that says you are a sissy if you cry. Some women are part of this patriarchy. It is them, not feminists you need to avoid. It is patriarchy that will make you smash your ship onto the cliffs.
Feminists believe that gender equality can be achieved. Of course they are flawed individuals, just like you. Some wear its cloak while drowning in privilege of money or beauty. Just like some have been hardened by a lifetime of harassment and unsolicited dick pics to be skeptical of men. But that doesn’t excuse clinging to notions of female servility. You, as a man duped by patriarchy, are essentially fighting the same battle to be free. You’ve only been told to direct your anger at the wrong people.
I wasn’t born a feminist and to this day I have trouble calling myself one. Not because I don’t believe in equality, but because I think it’s weird. Like, would it be acceptable if a white person were to spearhead an initiative against racism on black people? I try to be an ally, with ups and downs. But I try to listen. And I realise patriarchy has also poisoned me in a lot of ways. Its Utopia, where men own women and can get all the lovely, nasty sex they want with complete disregard for anyone else, is enticing, but it is not something that can ever be reality. It was thought up by empowered men with lots of money to keep other men from thinking critically.
So, let go. Let go of this impossible idea. Avoid pissing contests with guys who are so insecure they need to practically tattoo their sexual conquests on their chests. Avoid women that want a breadwinner but want you to pay for their dinner. Avoid friends who never want to discuss feelings. You don’t want those people in your life. And you are not owed anything by any woman. Patriarchy is your enemy, too. And your help in destroying it is vital. It will not make you a “sissy”. You can still enjoy sports and drinking beer. You can still be dominant in the bedroom. But it will require you to see women as people, as individuals, just like you see yourself. Is that so much to ask?