- Feminism is misunderstood, and
- Feminism is not the problem. Patriarchy is.
3. Feminism has not achieved its aims, and
4. Men are also oppressed by patriarchy and stand to benefit by understanding and supporting feminism.
Feminism Has Not Achieved Its Aims
If feminism sought liberation from the patriarchal system, then it has not yet achieved that goal. In many ways, the patriarchal system has become even more entrenched, with some women participating in it enthusiastically. The (masculine) values of patriarchy are alive and well:
- Aggression is still, all too often, seen as the way to achieve what we want.
- Right and wrong, black and white, good and bad; polarities are still the way the world is portrayed.
- Adversarial techniques are still the method of choice in our legal system, politics, the media, and our educational system.
- Self-worth is measured (possibly increasingly so) by economic success, popularity, identification with idols (sports stars and pop idols for instance), strength, power, and influence.
The women's’ (and men's’) liberation movement have much to do.
Men Are Oppressed By Patriarchy
When I stated that women sought liberation from the patriarchal system, it is my contention that men could also benefit. Why do I say that? Consider these:
- Under patriarchy, men’s feelings and emotions are stifled. Most men grew up hearing phrases such as “big boys don’t cry.” A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend whose father had been in the Australian navy during the war. His father died young. A friend of his father’s told him one day that he and the father came back from the war traumatised, yet were told to “go have a beer and get over it.” Sadly, such sentiments remain today.
- Stifling of emotion can lead many men to unhealthy coping mechanisms: alcoholism, chronic gambling, and depression to name but three.
- Afraid to show (or even acknowledge) anything that suggests “weakness” can result in over-compensating by resorting to violence. This is displayed in everything from schoolyard bullying, to a pub punch-up, through to domestic violence and all the way to the war in Syria.
- Stifling of emotion is implicated in the high rate of suicide amongst men. In may parts of the world, men kill themselves at a rate three times that of women. In Australia, suicide and self-inflicted injury is the third highest cause of death amongst men, behind coronary heart disease and lung cancer, It ranks higher than such causes as stroke and prostate cancer.
- Patriarchy coerces men to disconnect from their children, families and community. The song Cats In The Cradle by Harry Chapin, poignantly notes the sadness of a man trying to connect with his son late in life, only to find that “my boy had grown up just like me,” and did not have the time, nor the energy, to connect with his father.
- Patriarchy especially discriminates against gay men, black men, young men and boys, and “weak” men.
- Patriarchy is implicated in the phenomenon known as “toxic masculinity.” Toxic masculinity aspires towards toughness, but is based in fear: fear of seeming or looking – soft, weak, tender, less “manly.” It is characterised by domineering behaviour, the devaluation of women (including misogyny), and extreme self-reliance.
- NO! Women are not the problem.
- NO! Feminism/Women's’ Liberation is not the problem.
- YES! Men and women can be partners and allies.
- YES! Women and men stand to benefit by a liberation from what oppresses each gender – patriarchy.