I recently stopped following Laurie Penny on Twitter because in the aftermath of Trollmageddon no amount of political agreement on broader topics was worth putting up with the disagreement on ‘feminist’ issues (scare quotes used with reason). Laurie is normally on the more reasonable side of things but in the context of the stupidity going on (which you can see me discuss in earlier posts) it was simply too much and not worth the anger and frustration.
Still, lots of people I follow have time for her and retweet a lot.
Today she’s asking:
Eager to hear from men about ways in which they feel patriarchy/traditional gender male stereotypes hurt them. It’s needful discussion.
— Laurie Penny (@PennyRed) August 16, 2013
Which on the face of it is a good question to ask, but betrays a certain bias in the use of the term ‘Patriarchy’.
In feminism, Patriarchy is defined as:
All forms of feminism define patriarchy as an unjust social system that is oppressive to women. As feminist and political theorist Carole Pateman writes, “The patriarchal construction of the difference between masculinity and femininity is the political difference between freedom and subjection.”In feminist theory the concept of patriarchy often includes all the social mechanisms that reproduce and exert male dominance over women. Feminist theory typically characterizes patriarchy as a social construction, which can be overcome by revealing and critically analyzing its manifestations.
To ask, then, how ‘Patriarchy’, a system that is supposed to exalt men and oppress women, hurts men, disarms its own point. ‘Patriarchy’ wouldn’t harm men, so if you’re claiming it does you’ve eliminated the idea of Patriarchy from the discussion from the get go. It is an inherently ridiculous question most often encountered as a statement instead: ‘Patriarchy hurts men too’ and if you change it slightly that inherent ridiculousness becomes even more apparent:
Plutocracy hurts rich people too.
White supremacism hurt Caucasians too.
The idea that there is some global conspiracy of men doing things purely to benefit men has about as much cachet as David Icke’s theories about the world being run by ‘invisible space lizards’.
The idea, the concept, the promulgation of this idea of ‘patriarchy’ is harmful in and of itself. It places blame on a gender, others men, justifies poor treatment of them that leaks back up into academia and judicial decisions. It puts a sort of ‘original sin’ upon men simply for their chromosomes and having a penis.
It’s all a matter of perspective anyway, anything you can characterise as a male advantage can be seen as an imposition. Military service is a great example with women seeing themselves as restricted from entering or performing certain duties and men seeing themselves as imposed upon to serve or be drafted. It’s all in how you see it.
Kyriarchy is a much better term for the interlocking set of roles and expectations that we find ourselves in. One that doesn’t damn or blame men. Unfortunately its not a particularly well known term. How about we stick to ‘How do gender roles hurt men?’ rather than placing the blame as is inherent in the term Patriarchy? That would be a great start.
There’s plenty to talk about it, but phrasing it as ‘How does Patriarchy hurt men?’ is like a Christian asking an atheist ‘Why do you hate Jesus?’. The questioner is assuming certain things about the person answering.