Is Patriarchy Bad for Men?
Updated: Jul 4, 2021
In today’s era of globalization, as we march towards a more equal society, there are many systems that no longer serve us. For e.g., There was a time, not so long ago, when slavery was normalized. But today, it is an unimaginable injustice. It is imperative that existing systems be challenged, critically analyzed and if need be, radically replaced.
What is patriarchy?
Patriarchy signifies the authority of a man over women. In simple words “It is a man's world". However, beyond gender, Hindu society has watertight social compartments. The Chaturvarna system divides people into four main groups (Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra) which are in a hierarchy to one another. Brahmins are at the top and Shudras are at the bottom of this hierarchy. Indian patriarchy encompasses this hierarchy and is called Brahmanical patriarchy. Brahmanical patriarchy thus signifies the authority of not only a man over a woman but also of the higher castes over the lower castes. Lower caste women thus, experience double discrimination; one of the patriarchy and one of their position in the caste system. This system, which is biased and unfair, is glorified and justified by the Dharmashastras of Hinduism. So much so, that punishments are sanctioned in the Dharmashastras for women and lower castes who try to break the norm.
That was a brief history of patriarchy. But you might argue that things are not the same anymore. You might say that today, patriarchy does not exist. If you think that,
ask yourself these questions:
● Who is expected to do the reproductive labor around the house? (the cooking, cleaning, tiffin packing, grocery shopping, etc.).
● Who is usually the descendant of the family property (the inheritor)?
● Who is expected to balance "home" and "work"?
● Which sex faces the wage gap/infanticide?
Okay, so we live in a patriarchy. I'm a man- why should I care?
So, one would assume that since patriarchy is a system that is meant for men, all men would benefit from it, correct? However, that is not the case. Patriarchy has been defined and redefined with the changing historical context. At every point in history, it was only a few men that benefited from the patriarchy.
Men have unrealistic expectations that are associated with carrying the burden of the next of kin; of being the indestructible inheritor. They are expected to be the primary earners. Here, their choice is not taken into consideration. They have to be "strong and stable" even when they want to express vulnerability. This hyper-macho ideal is genuinely frustrating to adhere to.
Even if men identify with the hyper-macho ideal, their benefits from the patriarchal system are restricted by their caste. For e.g, the men from the Valmiki communities are rarely seen outside their caste prescribed roles, i.e. manual scavenging, manually cleaning human excreta using buckets, brooms, and bare hands. Their caste limits them. The caste is seen to be “emasculated” because of the labor they perform for those above them in the hierarchy. The Brahmanical patriarchy limits them.
Patriarchy also propagates heteronormativity. This means that gay men are marginalized and discriminated against because of their sexuality. Femininity is considered degrading because of its inherent limitations. So, men who want to wear make-up, dresses and play with Barbie dolls, etc. will not be encouraged to do that because of the inherent bias and stigma around being feminine.
As men are considered to be "protectors'' of women against other men, they have expectations of always paying the bill, earning for a family, not caring about their looks, being hyper sexually occupied, being attracted to only women, being reasonable and naturally smart and resourceful. This is immense pressure and can be detrimental to their mental health. The only ones who may benefit from this equation are straight upper caste and class men that are closest to the “standard” of masculinity. Some disadvantaged men of lower class and caste express their frustration through antisocial behaviors like robbing and violence as they feel constantly threatened. Some engage in more subtle forms of harassment like "catcalls''.
What is the solution?
Lately, the word feminism has become ubiquitous. It aims to restructure society from the traditional one that has rigid roles of caste, class, and gender for men and women. Put simply, it stands for equal rights for men and women. It entails breaking free from traditional normative structures and being who you truly feel you are- both for men and women. Feminism is vastly integrative, accommodative, and accepting of change. Ideals of feminism ensure representation, equity, and structural updating. One must consider the gospels of feminism while looking at society and realize thus the benefit. By inculcating feminism, it would not be considered degrading to be viewed as feminine anymore and hence there will be more room for self-exploration and expression.
Men who support feminism, stand against the system which largely oppresses the will of an individual to practice autonomy in their lives. As a society, patriarchy "keeps everyone in line" and makes a rigid system for everyone to adhere to. The fact is that everyone is different and they should be allowed to express themselves as they are.
Patriarchy as a system no longer serves us, neither women nor men.
About the Author
Aditi Dharmadhikari is a graduate of Psychology with honors and holds a diploma in women's studies and French. She is extremely passionate about the social sciences. Her hobbies include playing the guitar and ukulele, traveling solo, and reading.