The First Myth of Patriarchy: The Acorn on the Pillow

Tad Hargrave explains how patriarchy and masculinity are not the same thing, and privilege is not good for anyone.

I want you to imagine an acorn.

We will come back to it soon.

Because we are talking about patriarchy. Or, perhaps, we are talking about power and privilege. Or, maybe we’re talking about happiness.

Regardless . . . This is a conversation that’s important to have.

Important because I think so much of the discourse on patriarchy is rooted in a myth so pervasive that it’s invisible. A myth so potent that it colours the conversation in a way that does not liberate men to their fullest.

I just read an article that basically stated that men are increasingly finding themselves in a lower social position as women ‘climb the ladder’. And so that men are disempowered and need to get there act together to avoid this catastrophe.

And it lifts up the thorny topic of patriarchy and male privilege, which isn’t so simple as it might seem.

I mean, clearly, the majority of major political posts are still held by white men. Every president of the United States (except one!) has been a wealthy white male. Men still, somehow, make more money per hour than women for the same work. The work of staying home to raise a child is still not economically counted. While men experience abuse (sexual and physical) it’s far less than women. Even in an activist scene that is full of women–many of the positions of power are held by men.

This balance of power is shifting as more women come into “positions of economic and political influence”. But there are so many ways, big and little, that men still hold onto the reins of power.

I think it’s good to step back and remember the bigger picture. The past thousands of years have seen women being oppressed–witch burnings, no right to vote– women seen as chattel. It’s easy to forget that, in the USA–women only won the right to vote in 1929.

But despite all this–I rarely hear feminists (even the most hardcore) saying men should now be oppressed. Just that we should stop oppressing and devaluing women. That everyone deserves to be heard. And that seeing those who’ve been ignored in positions of power–those who’ve been most impacted by oppression–is a good thing. If you want to help the people who are most affected by environmental and social injustice–why not put them in charge? Why not let them set the direction. They probably know what they need better than we ever will.

And men ARE becoming less ‘dominant’. Which is a wonderful thing. As a feminist I know said recently, I’m working for the liberation of men AND women.”

We’re coming out of a time of tremendous power imbalances. Men and women being stuck into traditional gender roles that don’t always work for them. People not feeling free to express themselves for who they are.

The coming out of these roles is not simple, easy or straightforward. There’s a lot of learning and healing for everyone involved. There’s a lot of, ‘who am I now? what’s my role? what does it mean to be a man–if not this?’

As a man, I can attest to there being a tremendous amount of confusion about “how to be a man.” The mixed messages we receive about “be more sensitive” but “don’t be so sensitive.” or “don’t be so passive” and then in the next moment, “don’t be so aggressive,” an encouragement to “make good things happen” and yet, “why are men always in charge.” None of these are mutually exclusive–but the balance isn’t easy.

♦◊♦

At a summer music festival, I find myself talking to a young woman of colour for whom feminism matters deeply. She tells me she noticed this hard edge she had where she would look at men who were clearly interested in her and think, ‘if he doesn’t have the balls to approach me then he’s too weak for me.

That struck me. Not because I think she shouldn’t think that. It’s likely an accurate assessment of the situation.

What struck me is the seemingly conflicting message progressive men receive of, “Don’t hit on women. I’m tired of being hit on. Don’t objectify us.” with, “If you don’t approach me and you want to, you’re too weak for me.”

There’s no actual contradiction here. You can approach people in a way that uplifts or in a way that has them feel terrible. There are ways that are fun and authentic and ways that feel creepy and slimy. But for some men today, it’s hard to know the difference.

♦◊♦

Another friend of mine (a man) dates a woman (a feminist) and when he goes to share his feelings with her she accuses him of being “a woman” for being so sensitive. On one hand he’s getting academic and political messages about not essentializing gender or participating in a heteronormanitive discourse, he’s getting messages from the queer community about letting people be who they are and identify how they identify–and here’s this woman accusing him of “being a woman” (in a shaming and condescending tone).

This isn’t simple.

♦◊♦

I’m in Vancouver talking to an old friend. She’s young but been an environmental activist since high school. She tells me she doesn’t want to date activist guys anymore. “They’re too passive. If we go to rent a movie, they’re all, “no, you choose”. Have a fucking opinion. And when we get back to my place–they’ll sit on the other end of the couch and if I want to make out I will have to initiate every single step of it. Ugh.”

Imagine a progressive male having learned the importance of respect and consent and not objectifying–but not having also learned the power of honesty and forthrightness.

♦◊♦

Case in point: I have a friend who’s a model. Let’s call her Jane. I’ve been shameless in expressing my attraction to her ever since I met her and she appreciates it. I know she’s seeing someone but I know she feels more relaxed around me knowing I’m not smuggling an agenda. And I feel more relaxed too. Recently, she confided in about a huge project she’d been working on that had come to an end. Why had it ended? Her business partner had been in love with her. She’d been expecting to make the project go and he’d, secretly, been hoping she’d been his girlfriend despite her seven year history with her partner. She didn’t appreciate his lack of forthrightness about what he was really wanting from the relationship with her. He used (consciously or not) the project as a way to get close to her.

We all do this with each other. We smuggle in agendas. We don’t really see people–we see them through the haze of our hopes. A friend of mine called it “hopium.” And it’s addictive. He might actually have been giving her clear signs of his interest that she couldn’t see because she wanted so badly to make this project happen. And he might not have been able to see her lack of signals because of his hopes.

As I typed those words, I was aware of the ever present part of me that wanted so badly to position myself as better than this fellow. To use that example to say, “I get it and he doesn’t.” And I want that so that I will be more attractive to women. And I want to be more attractive to women because . . . well that’s a whole rabbit hole to go into. Because I genuinely enjoy the company of women and feminine energy in my life. Because I’m scared. Because I’ve been attacked by feminists before and I’m scared of that happening again–so if I show that I “get it” enough–maybe they won’t attack me. And if I demonize another man–then I get to show that I’m an ally. I win and he loses. Self-protection.

♦◊♦

Another story: I’m at a fundraiser for the Otesha Project in Toronto. A youth run bicycle tour of parts of Canada. Amazing. One of the lead members went up to share his words. I was sitting at a table full of women. All of whom I would characterize as politically progressive or radical. And I listened to them objectify this man and talk about him like a piece of meat. It was kind of funny and I totally noticed myself start comparing myself to him, “Was I that hot? If I were up there would they be talking about me in the same way?” (I hoped so, but doubted it).

What struck me most was if it had been a table full of men and there was only one politically radical woman where I sat–she might have been enraged at the kind of objectification.

♦◊♦

The other day I was hanging out with two women I would consider incredibly empowered. They were talking about their new favourite TV show and how it kept finding a way to get the main character (a male) topless every single show. “I think they’ve finally figured out that women’s libido is just as high as men’s and if you show a topless hottie like that–we WILL watch it.”

♦◊♦

A shocking story: I ask a feminist activist what advice she would give a young progressive man who’s scared to approach girls. She ends up giving a great gem, “he should create an interesting life that he loves so he’s not devastated if she isn’t into him” (brilliant). And, on the way to this, she says, “maybe he should go to a sex worker to build up his confidence first.”

I was struck, not so much at the suggestion, though it caught me off guard, but at how I know so many feminists who consider prostitution the worst thing in the world–and yet here is one suggesting a practical use for it. It reminded me of an article I read where two feminists were debating the practice of creating feminist porn. One was for it and the other hated anything to do with the porn industry.

Some women I know are deeply anti-pornography. They find it objectifying, dehumanizing and just a terrible thing. Other women I know are huge fans of it and declare themselves to be proudly “pro porn”.

Some women love the kinds of sex they see in porn–others don’t (as is beautifully illustrated on the website Make Love Not Porn).

Who’s analysis is a man supposed to follow?

 ♦◊♦

Story: I’m in Cape Cod, Massacheusetts hanging out with one of the most beautiful women I know. She’s deeply steeped in tantra and the spirituality of masculine and feminine energies.

“I’ll tell you something,” she says. “Many of us women talk about in these circles for conscious change. We’re surrounded by sensitive new age men and what we really want sometimes is a man who could just bend us over the couch. Yes, we want men to be more sensitive. But sensitive to US as women. Sensitive to our needs and desires and body language. Not overly sensitive and taking everything personally. I need a man who’s solid in himself enough to notice what’s happening over here–not someone who’s obsessed with himself and what other people think of him.”

It’s clear, of course that women want to be respected and honoured. What’s also clear is that they are wanting something else. Something that progressive men, for the most part, are not able to bring them.

The point is that, for many men–these messages feel confusing. It’s not always clear how to be a man. How to relate with women. How to be a brother to other men.

We’re all unlearning the old and relearning something new together–creating it together even.

On one hand progressive men are told that, “There is no binary gender. It’s all cultural construction. Every single person is unique. You can’t fit everyone into some heteronorminative idea of who they should be based on their sex.” And so we nod and say, “Yes, that sounds wise.” But the next moment we hear these same women identifying as a gender. They preface their statements with, “as a woman I’d like to say” or “I stand by her as a sister”. What happened to no heteronorminative sense of gender?

♦◊♦

Another friend of mine who teaches women’s studies is a hardcore feminist–but not a hippie. She dresses like a 50′s movie star with an apartment to match. She’s a wonder. But because she dresses as she does the “activist” crowd was less than accepting. When she tried to join a campus activist group she was called “princess” by the male activists. Here she was expressing herself in the way that felt best for herself as a woman–but still not being accepted by men who professed to be feminist themselves.

♦◊♦

A painful story: A friend of mine starts to study the art of “pick up”. As in “how to pick up women”. He gets visciously attacked by a feminist friend of his, who says that she knows many men who are attractive to women because of their deep integrity and respect of women. And he feels devastated. He’d spent years being respectful and careful–and was never considered sexually attractive by women. He was always ‘the friend’. So, he tried to learn how to shift that the only way he knew how –and got slammed for not being as amazing as the other men she knew. Not only were her words not helpful or useful in any way–they were shaming, comparing and devastating to him. It took him years to recover.

Many women criticize the “pick up” movement (as if it were a uniform, homogenous movement any more than feminism is). But what if they had a younger male cousin who was a great guy but felt too terrified to every approach a girl? What would they say? What advice would they give?

In fact, to make things more confusing–while one half of the feminist scene is his town attacked him visciously (often privately and behind his back) others secretly admitted to him, “tell me if you’re doing another one. I know of some guys who could use this.”

 ♦◊♦

I remember myself going through a time of almost deifying feminists. And people of colour. And queer, woman of colour led to a distinct feeling of needing to impress them. There was nothing more I wanted than for her to pull me aside and say, ‘Tad, all of these other white men are crazy . . . but you? . . . You’re different.’

Whatever they said was infallible. Same went for their ‘allies’. If a white male positioned himself as an ‘ally’ to them then his word was gospel as well.

It took me years to notice the ways that certain activists and feminists would position their perspective on reality, gender and politics and the only one. The true one. And if you disagreed? You were a stupid, oppressive douche. You were dismissed. You were attacked and villified. You were made an example of. And i really believed it. I believed that they knew the truth and I didn’t. I believed that my own experiences, feelings and needs weren’t valid. And sometimes this was encouraged.

Now, a lot of the time, the politics were on point. Really solid and important points were being made. Good learning was happening for all involved.

And it took me years to notice the ways that I had my own self worth wrapped up in having their approval of me. It took me years to begin to see that they weren’t always in integrity. That some of them (like all of us) had deep anger issues, or lived in a worldview of punitive justice where they believed themselves to be the judge, jury and executioner of the value of other people. “He’s a good guy.” or “He’s a douche.” It took me years to see that some of them (like all of us) could be deeply manipulative.

It took me years to see that not all women agreed with each other. Or with the feminists. And that not all feminists agreed with each other. It took me years to see that not everyone in the anti-oppression scene viewed training the same way. Some trainings would have participants leave feeling uplifted, inspired and more connected to the world and their place in it–and some of them would leave having people feel shut down, ashamed and small.

It took me years to see how very, very complicated all of these conversations about gender can be.

It took me years to see that I could honour myself and honour others at the same time. That I didn’t need to leave myself– or anyone else–behind.

♦◊♦

Another story: A dear friend of mine became a part of a network of high level change makers who would meet once a year to discuss how to create more change more quickly in the world. It was a diverse group of people with a commitment to growing in diversity.

But the leader was a white man. A white, upper class, privileged male.

The group began to explore the dynamics of race, class and power in the group and the leader announced to the group he was going to step back from leadership so that more women and people of colour could step in.

But something felt off.

So my friend spoke up. She said, “I hear what you’re saying. And I’m concerned about where it’s coming from. I get that it’s the politically correct thing to say but I don’t want you to be left behind in all this.”

Within minutes the leaders’ repressed anger at the situation showed up. “Why can’t white people have a role in leadership? Where am I supposed to contribute?” He was so deeply hurting. But he’d shut that part of him down to do the right thing.

The conversation continued and a transition did indeed happen. But one that didn’t leave him feeling like he was a worthless, privileged roadblock to be removed.

♦◊♦

But to step back a bit . . .

Perhaps the most damaging myth of patriarchy is that it, ultimately, works for men.

I recall a friend of mine saying, “Well, every day is men’s day.” In the big picture (economically and politically) this is true.

But emotionally it is not.

Imagine an acorn.

It lives in a castle, on a hill.

Each day it is put onto a pillow where it is washed, cleaned and dried.

And the people who walk by admire it.

On one level this acorn is privileged. But in a far more profound way–its growth is being held back by that privilege. In its separation from nature–it is not allowed to root itself and to grow into a oak tree and give back thousands of acorns to the world. As this acorn on the pillow all it can do is demand and consume resources and care. This is not good for the world. It’s not good for them. It’s not natural.

Being in a privileged class does not just hurt those being exploited–it hurts those in the privileged class.

Being pampered and told you are special and better than others is not medicine for the soul–it’s poison. It leads to the acorn, eventually, being spoiled and rotting to death on its pillow, dying alone–having given nothing to the world. And this is its last thought. “I have died of old age, and given it back no youth. I have taken, without returning. I had the seeds of a thousand forests in me–and they are dying with me today.” It’s tiny acorn body dies. And is tossed into a plastic trash bag and put in a landfill.

Not that the oak tree doesn’t die.

It does. Eventually, the sap no longer runs up its body and it dies. Its trunk begins to rot until one day a strong wind cracks it–or a fire consumes it. But its last thoughts are different. As it dies it knows it is going back into the Earth. It is returning to its source of life. That, in its life it has given and given and given. And now, even in death, it gives its body back to the creatures of the woods as food.

It dies as a part of the world, not apart from it.

♦◊♦

We are made wise by the number and depth and diversity of our relationships. And to live in a system that has us living in monocultures we becoming myopic. Less wise. And I’m not just talking about the monoculture of only hanging out with other rich, white privileged males in positions of power. Not just the loss of meaningful relationships with people of colour, indigenous people and women. I’m talking about the loss of intimacy with nature, with animals, with the stars, with the elements.

The world becomes reduced to resources to consume rather than relatives to learn from.

To quote Thomas Berry, ‘the universe is not a collection of objects–it is a communion of subjects.’

Men are less mature, less deep and less real for these privileges. We don’t fight for justice and equality for women alone–we do it for ourselves, our own hearts. Unconscious hierarchy hurts us all. Believing that we are better than others hurts us.

So, this is the myth: That patriarchy ultimately benefits men.

That because men are economically and politically privileged that this system is a good thing for them. Of course, when we step back and look at the big picture–this comes into question.

We see before us a generation of men who are disconnected from their hearts and bodies. Men who were never initiated into their manhood –but feel trapped in a permanent adolescence. Men who have never learned of what a woman’s world is. Men who feel ashamed for all the things that make them a man. Men who have no real sense of brotherhood with other men. Men without direction. Men who are afraid of women. Men who are afraid of other men. Men without purpose. Men not initiated into their greater purpose of making a difference in the world. Men so obsessed with the penetration of sex that they never learn the ways they can penetrate each moment with love.

We see one of the first generation of men raised without fathers or positive male role models. As their old role of dominators and heads of the house hold fall away–they are left with no clear sense of what to replace it with.

So many mixed messages from the world saying, “this is what it means to be a man.”

If you were to sit down the average progressive male and ask them, “What are the gifts that women and the feminine bring to the world? What are the gifts that sexism, patriarchy and oppression have blocked the world from receiving?” The list would be long. Of course, there are dangers of conflating women and the feminine together directly–these lines are often not so clear. One can be in a woman’s body and deeply masculine and vice versa. But still, the list would be long. The gift of birth. The gift of their cycle. The gift of nurturing. Deep intuition and sensitivity. An amazing capacity for depth of feeling. The way that women are often the ones to carry a community–often the invisible giants on whose shoulders a community rides.

But if you were to ask the same man, “What are the gifts that the men and the masculine energy brings?” You would often see silence. And shame. Answers come but . . . not as readily. There’s a deep sense, in this culture, that men are a bad animal. A sense that “we don’t need men’s protection–we need protection from the men.”

“Look at all the wars in the world.” we are told. “The pollution. The devastation. And look who’s in charge! This would never happen if women were in charge.”

And many men have drunk this down. Swallowed it. And it comes out in small jokes about how stupid men are or how women are better. But sometimes those jokes have an edge.

Another friend of mine is attacked for his “masculine, direct style of communication” (by another male activist). And it makes me wonder-when did the term “masculine” become a bad thing?

We have come to believe that patriarchy and masculinity are the same things.

I was reading a blog post by Christine Agro, The Metaphysical Feminist. She wrote:

When I look back at the Women’s Revolution, I see a necessary fight; one in which the internal fire sparked revolution, sparked change, sparked an awakening. But I also see a continuation of fighting within the Masculine Principle, an energy in which I believe no one will ever have true equality because it is an energy that forces us to constantly choose “fight or flight”. So I propose a new equality, one that is based in the Feminine Principles. The Masculine Principle is the energy that has influenced our way of being since at least the Caveman era. It is an energy dynamic that is linear, outward focused, power-over, controlling and fight or flight based. It has influenced everything from religious doctrine to the laws of the land and in its influence has arisen a world in which we have and have-not, in which divide and conquer is the status quo. There is no room for the truths of many, there is only room for the truth of the most mighty, the most powerful . . . we should not accept law or doctrine that has been created within an energy structure that supports the few and views us as somehow less than.

And so masculinity has become synonymous with hierarchy, oppression and patriarchy.

Imagine how that might feel to the men in your life to read that.

To grow up scared of yourself. To think that the only answer is to become more feminine. That our masculinity is something to be scrubbed clean from us.

This is the point that must be challenged.

 ♦◊♦

Patriarchy is not authentic masculinity. It is the shadow side of it. It is the toxic mimic we have come to accept. That there are ways to be a man that don’t require being dominant over women–but in partnership with. We are re-learning how to be powerful as men–but a power with–not power over.

But when the two get conflated–and men are challenged on their privilege–bad things can happen. This is a core challenge in the anti-oppression scene. How to address men’s privilege?

I asked a friend of mine in Vancouver who did a lot of men’s work about this. He said, “You know what? I totally get you on the male privilege piece and that’s been a lot of my journey. And my experience is that the best way to address that is not to hit it directly on the head but to build community, build up men’s worth and inner strength. To build community and safety.”

When they have that they tend to be so much more open to hearing these things and absorbing them. They can actually integrate it all. They’re less defensive. I find that the best way to open them to issues of justice is to honour their lived struggles and experiences.

If we jump right into anti-oppression work that can be experienced by many men as saying that their struggles are totally invalid in the face of what women experience daily. It can seem dismissive and shaming to them like they shouldn’t ever complain. and to ask men to give up power with nothing to replace it usually puts them in a place of fear. They’re scared.

I want an activist community where there can be really deep listening and deep honesty on both sides. Sometimes men act in hurtful ways and sometimes women do too. I see my role as helping to grow into a place where the way they engage with work for change is uplifting and inspiring for everyone involved. Where they can be powerful and creative allies to women AND to other men.

A movement where no one is left behind–regardless of level of privilege. a movement where everyone has a place and belongs–a movement where everyone’s struggles are honoured instead of compared. I think that’s the foundation for a movement where genuine power imbalances can be questioned–where hard conversations can happen.

We absolutely live in a world of imbalances of privilege–and that’s often along lines of race, class and gender. And I think a strong men’s movement is a part of healing that.

This culture’s media denigrates the authentic feminine and trivializes the authentic masculine.

The old ways are unraveling and something new is being born. In all of us. Every day. I predict it will be clumsy and awkward–but beautiful.

As men’s roles are shifting–more men are getting involved in men’s work, joining men’s circles and learning how to relate with more honesty to other men and women in ways that uplift everyone.

Here’s to a future of genuine partnership between genders–and space for those who think the whole binary gender thing is bullshit. A future where people are free to be who they are. A future where everyone’s voice is valued.

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About Tad Hargrave

In 1999, Tad founded Youth Jams. These week-long community building events continue to connect and support young, committed change-makers from all around the world. That project continues on without him – and a core group of facilitators from that project have joined together in a new project called The Global Collaborative. Between Sept 2004 – Feb 2006, Tad dedicated himself to learning his ancestral language, Scottish Gaelic, in both Nova Scotia and Scotland. He can speak Gaelic pretty good now. He also has a blog called “Healing Whiteness: An Exploration of the European Indigenous Soul.”

Comments

  1. Helen Gallagher says:

    I really enjoyed this article. The anecdote about your friend who dresses like a 50′s film star – my style is also very femme and I have been taken less seriously as a result, by male and female activists, as though being femme was automatically not feminist.

    I also liked your comment “That our masculinity is something to be scrubbed clean from us.”
    I have also experienced that. Despite femme style, my personality and ambitions are often described as ‘masculine’ and throughout my life i’ve been put down because of it; made to feel lesser, by colleagues and schoolmates for not being feminine enough.

  2. I really enjoyed the care in your words and your articulation of this many-sided beast. Thanks.
    I have, at different times in my life, been a participant in radical communities and discussions (feminist, anarchist, queer, etc.). I found these very interesting and relevant to my life then, but often very problematic.
    Specifically, it troubled me how attached everyone was to being ‘victims’ and the status that came with that self-identifier. I know that that identity, for many of us, is the only thing that gives us a voice when first we break away from one toxic perspective or another. I respect its place in a person’s life and am in awe of the strength required to wear that title. But as I often found in these communities, we fall easily back into our oppressive hierarchies even as the underprivileged.
    The rest of the world won’t have us because we deviate (be it in our sexual orientation, skin colour, spiritual practices, gender, etc.). So, we create and join communities of like people for support and end up largely excluding or undermining those who wish to contribute but whose deviation from us, ironically, is found to be threatening.
    I think this is why I have entered and then exited so many of these communities. As unhealthy and unproductive as it is to live a life of constant unchallenged privilege, so too is it detrimental to never evolve out of being a victim, which is in many ways the unspoken prerequisite to be a part of these communities. It is the title we truly wear more so even than feminist, anarchist, person of colour. Prove your pain, show your scars.
    Self-victimizing is something I have found at the root of my own struggles to grow and seen it in many others. Like most staunch identities, it can save you one moment and imprison you the next, privilege you and oppress you both.
    I think that is why, after identifying with so many different communities/ideologies, I am now more in favour of dropping these divisions all together. We have all been wronged by our societies, our upbringings, our schooling, our communities. We could all claim victimhood and be justified. But so too are we all privileged, though some more than others, and some less evident than others. It is a privilege, for example, that we may even openly discuss this now.
    In my opinion, we are all different and special in millions of tiny ways that can never fit neatly into any identity except that of a unique individual. We are all human, animals just trying to live with dignity and curiosity and kindness (hopefully). Life is too ever-changing and flexible to pretend that an ideology or dogma, be it radical or conservative, will set us free. I think that is really up to the individual, to cultivate love and respect and compassion for themselves and those around them. In the end, that is our true power and one that cannot be taken away no matter our level of privilege.
    I say, make communities out of those commonalities, those actions and few will be turned away wanting, few will stunt their own growth from behind gated communities.
    But, hey, that’s just one humans opinion, on one day in a billion, and like everything in this wild world, I, like everyone else have to be ready to change.

  3. Boondock Saint says:

    Major typo nine lines in! It’s okay though, I’m going to keep reading. :)

    “…And so that men are disempowered and need to get there act together to avoid this catastrophe.”

  4. White women should be mentioned in the same breath as white men when it comes to “privilege.” White women are certainly far more privileged than men of color. They are more privileged than even white men in many ways, and equally privileged in other ways.

    • Eric, while I can appreciate what you’re trying to say about white women’s privilege, I think that you might be tripping into dangerous territory. Most white women do get advantages in society, this is undeniable, especially attractive white women, but that in of itself should show you the ways in which we are objectified and marginalized. The scrutiny heaped upon and the value placed upon our bodies and looks is absolutely insane, to the point where many of us internalize that our only worth or our “best” worth is our looks. White men simply do not have to deal with that same scrutiny.
      As a white woman, I had to discover my privilege, and that was a process for me- proof and case in point that it existed, and I’d never try to pretend like my place in society is more difficult than another, I’m not here for the marginalized olympics, and I don’t wish to create a pornography of suffering, but it is disturbing to see somebody write that a white woman is equally or more privileged than a white man. We are differently privileged and differently marginalized and depending on our attractiveness (because like it or not, this is generally how we as white women are valued in society) or sexual preference we have all felt different kinds of societal pressure and rejection.
      What is our privilege? That we see ourselves represented as incredibly valuable commodities? We are not objects, but more often than not, we are seen as such, and that, at least to me, is principally how our experience is different. I don’t wish to say better, I don’t wish to say worse, I wish to say that you should not, perhaps “mention us in the same breath” or paint us with the same brush. Even within like-groups, no experience is homogenous.

      • Janet Dell says:

        Olivia, you just stated the very thing that most of my male friends HATE ABOUT MODERN Feminism.

        That is that no matter how much a women has, how much she is given, how much privilege she has , it just isn’t enough. Modern feminists are always looking to play the victim.

        I heard someone say a long time ago that a feminist who was given a 1000 gold bars , would claim she was a victim because she had to carry them to the bank by herself.

        When we take about the patriarchy and privilege, we unfort talk about men in power, or say things like men have all the power etc. The problem is those statements are half true. To be more accurate “Some men have a lot of power” but “Most men have very little power”. People when looking at modern equality only look upwards , men are also the majority at the bottom of society, i.e. Prison , homeless, alcoholics , drug abuse etc. They die 7 years earlier but have far less men spent by private and gov than women. And btw, white women are not only valued for their beauty, yes it is a factor but it isn’t the only factor.

    • Weird. I was going to react similarly to Eric, here, as I’m tired of reading about “male privilege.” Then, I read Olivia’s response, and I thought, OK, not so bad, a reasonable statement of half-capitulation, acknowledging that there is female privilege–pretty good. But then JANET, WOW! I wish I could read something as wise as this (from a woman) in response to some of the ridiculous radical feminist garbage I see. That would be great. (Although, it’s strange that you say it here, because I didn’t think Olivia was even close to unreasonable in her response). That’s why this is weird to me: otherwise, I agree. I may have to write more.

  5. (r)Evoluzione says:

    Tad,

    Your article is well-crafted, and the stories are interesting. As in life, the stories are often contradictory. There are, as others have pointed out, some factual errors in the piece. Leaving those aside, exploring the key tenets of the piece:

    If patriarchy is the shadow of authentic masculinity, can you define what the light side of it is? I’m sure it’s worthy of its own volumes, but a short synopsis would do. You’ve made claims about an issue, but what of the

    For my part, as a biology & evolutionary nerd, two truths seem self-evident: one, patriarchy is a natural result of sexual dimorphism and the evolutionary nature of the division of labor. We are fighting human nature here, which is Quixotic tilting at windmills.

    Secondly, as corollary, both light and shadow are needed. The shadow side of human nature–the raw sexuality, the darker emotions, the fight-or-flight response–these are all evolutionary adaptations that ensured our survival as a species for millions of years. We literally would not be here without them. While these powerful biological drives need to be harnessed appropriately, demonizing them only creates repression and resentment, as evinced by your white male friend who leads a group.

    Ultimately, it makes sense, as J’aiToday alluded to above, to abolish ideas about groups. Forget what white men are doing, or jewish women, or whatever. Relate to people as INDIVIDUALS.

  6. Best article I’ve read on GMP so far, it’s all about striking the right balance among all of these factors (which is obviously tremendously difficult!).

    Here is an article that I thought took a good look at ‘patriarchy’:

    http://www.psy.fsu.edu/~baumeistertice/goodaboutmen.htm

  7. I don’t think I could add a thing to this beautiful article. I just wanted to comment to say thank you. This is the spirit that moves us all forward.

  8. Typo: “And so that men are disempowered and need to get there act together ”

    “there” should be “their”

    Just telling you so that the editors can sweep in here and make that little adjustment.

  9. It’s a beautiful article but it was wrong on almost every fact it mentioned. Didn’t even get the date women got the vote in the USA correct. He shows an understanding that people he trusted essentially manipulated and lied to him but he doesn’t seem able to question if that is still going on right now. He’s not skeptical. His understanding is informed by any propagandist he happened to run across. He doesn’t have the ability to stop and say, “Is that so?”

    I guess that’s pretty normal human behaviour but it’s something I’ve never really been able to do myself so I’ve never been in that situation where I’m basically swallowing any rubbish because I want some girls to like me. I never wanted to fit in like that so I never had the attraction to that tribalist sort of ideology, and I don’t really understand the forces that lock people into that way of thinking. Not as a personal experience anyway.

    How do people ever extracate themselves from these situations? Is it possible for a feminist to ever question their ideology and ask themselves, “Is that so?” What would it take for a feminist to ever really look at the facts on even a single one of the many myths that they are taught to beleive? To do so they would have to reject the tribe and be prepaired to be attacked and ridiculed by former comrades. Agreement and loyalty is just too important to people to be able to do this.

  10. cat inthe hat says:

    I’ve been waiting for the second myth of patriarchy to come out. There is more than one isn’t there?

  11. Christina says:

    Beautiful article, Tad! What struck me the most is how spiritually attuned you are…to yourself and to others. Healing and wholeness- this is the ground on which we must build any discussion about gender, identity, patriarchy, matriarchy…everything, really. It is about connecting with people and loving whoever we find on our path, even if they don’t fit inside our categories and boxes. I think you hit it spot on.

    I just wanted to post an excerpt from Thomas Merton’s letter to a young activist because I think he speaks eloquently to this issue (Merton was a Trappist monk, spiritual writer, and activist): Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. And there too a great deal has to be gone through as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything…

    I also have a question for you. It’s probably evident from my love for Thomas Merton, but I am a student of religion and a practicing Catholic with feminist leanings. In my own prayer life, I have sought to love myself and others as whole people. Christian doctrine teaches that the human being is a union of body and soul. I have always liked that part of my faith- my body is part of my identity just as much as my soul. They are tied together. Physical touch has often been a healing experience for me and I am inspired by the idea that my body can give life to a child and that this is part of me, even though I don’t have a family and don’t want one right now. The problem is that my Church, as much as I love it, uses the unity of body and soul to argue for biological determinism. In bald terms: Only men can imitate Christ in both body and soul (because they have penises), so women are excluded from Church leadership. Men are the ones who spread the seed in sexual intercourse, so they are seen as the evangelizers who spread the seed of faith amid their congregation- women essentially have no place on the pulpit because of a biological difference. The argument isn’t a good one and it often leaves me confused and frustrated. I hate biological determinism, but I find meaning in the idea that my body is part of who I am. I guess my question is the following: Is it possible to somehow honor our physical differences without falling into the trap of biological determinism or the gender binary problem?

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to reading more of your articles!

  12. HidingFromtheDinosaurs says:

    Thank you, I needed to read that.

    If I knew how to cry, I would be doing it now.

  13. Leroy Joseph says:

    Beautifully written! You have expressed many of my own feelings exactly.

    When I was younger I was a macho a-hole and objectified woman sexually and treated them accordingly. Life kicked me in the teeth a few times and by 27, I realized that I needed to change. Now at 57, I am a strong supporter of feminist rights, female empowerment and the total liberation of female sexuality from patriarchal monogamy where the woman must be be strictly monogamous while the husband has affairs, mistresses or visits prostitutes. And I am not saying that all men cheat on their wife; most don’t, but that is not the point, relationships should be based on honesty and realistic expectations. No matter how committed we are to a relationship, stuff happens and we can all wander. I would rather my wife be honest with me than lie and do something behind my back and she feels the same way about me. That would just be sneaky and disrespectful. We have both agreed that if one of us becomes interested in someone else, we will tell each other about it and not be possessive or jealous about it even if it leads to safe sex outside of our relationship. And because things sometimes happen unexpectedly, spontaneously, and just happen; to be honest about it as soon as possible after. To us, that is a much healthier basis for a relationship than worrying about each others fidelity or constantly being suspicious because of possessiveness and jealousy. I have been in the kind of relationship with a woman where I couldn’t go to the store without 20 questions and who thought I was having an affair with every woman other I even talked to. Never again, life is too short.

    And on the subject of masculinity, I don’t need to prove I am a man to anyone; therefore I am not the least bit threatened by women gaining more power and status withing our society. Equality means everyone regardless of gender, race, class or sexual orientation. I have worked for a major corporation and have had woman managers. And I noticed how they always had to work harder to prove themselves than men in similar positions did. And I am sure that they probably didn’t get paid as much as a man in a similar position either.

    So in my utopia world, we’d get rid of our patriarchal system of values and judgements and let everyone just be who they are. There would no longer be a need for Gay Pride parades, women wouldn’t be called sluts if they choose to have multiple sexual partners, and men could freely express their softer, more feminine side without being demeaned by macho guys with big trucks and little dicks that match their brains.

  14. Tad… you got everything wrong. Not only you, pretty much everybody who calls themselves “progressive”. You all oversimplied your worldview into one where inequality = patriarchy = privilege= hierarchy = dominance = oppression = violence and aggression = injustice = objectification = people as chattel = who knows what. In reality all these things are different. This is only useful for setting up a narrow and primitive Gnostic narrative of of history, where, like in Star Wars, a small team of the enlightened and pure-hearted fight against a huge empire of evil and ignorance, and winning only one small step a time. The world is plain simply more richer, complexer and more exciting that that and things you currently think to be evil are often not. I cannot explain it in a blog comment as it takes at least a book to change a whole worldview, but you can begin with reading f.e. G.K. Chesterton’s What’s Wrong With The World, f.e. this relevant set of chapters: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1717/1717-h/1717-h.htm#2H_PART3 Chesterton was pretty much the wisest reactionary ever born, so if he cannot shake the progressive worldview no one can.

  15. Tad, 
    I don’t want to turn this into an echo chamber of “Yay Tad!” or a mutual admiration society, but I must say I deeply enjoyed your thoughtful article- some of your experiences and perspectives resonated deeply with me on a very personal, political or a philosophical level; while some other parts did not. But what I thought made the article so brilliant was the tone in which you were able to cast your message. Hear me out on this- I think that in most discourses the tone often obscures, rather than accentuates the message. As I said, whether I could relate to the parts of your message or not, the tone in which you conveyed it was never, never condescending, obnoxious, berating or ridiculing. Like some have already said, the exchange of comments shows that you can stand by your own convictions without being judgmental, overzealous or crass to those who don’t happen to share them. Because of this, people can be open to you with their ideas, and in so doing, more open to yours as well. This is good. Please keep doing what you are doing. If a person’s idea of “validation” is ‘always agree with everything I say, the EXACT way I say it, the EXACT way I want it, when I want it, without contradiction’ then no, you can’t always validate everyone. Cognitive dissonance aside, we can’t be everything to everyone, every day, all the time. But if validation means being honest and open with our differences, as well as being open to the perspectives of others, without compromising our core; without submerging the integrity of our conscience and convictions, then you have achieved this remarkably well. In a crass and cynical world that sometimes seems to revel so much more in discord than in harmony, this kind of gentle, un-posturing introspection is needed so much more than self-righteous outrage. Sometimes I think the tone of the messenger is just as crucial as the message itself. A person could have the most angelic or pertinent message in the world; but if they’re screaming it in your face at the top of their lungs, or looking down their nose at you, what does it matter? As a Canadian Liberal (‘I am now a member of an endangered species’) I was poles apart from Ronald Reagan in terms of politics and perspective. But nevertheless, I often found myself kinda liking him on a certain level- as one biographer said tellingly “You could disagree with him, but he was never disagreeable.” And though I often disagreed with the message, vehemently sometimes, I was amenable to the tone of that message. Tone is not more important than the message itself, but it certainly adds or detracts from the ability to disseminate it. “The values we care about deepest, and the movements that support those values, command our love. When those things we care about so deeply become endangered, we become enraged. And what a healthy thing that is! Without it we would never stand up and speak out for what we believe… Love and trust, in the space between what’s said and what’s heard in our life can make all the difference in the world.” A very good quote from Fred Rogers. This applies not just a male-female dynamics, but to all facets of human dynamics- in my opinion. Sincerity wins hearts and minds much more so than vitriol. No one gender, race, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, or demographic group has cornered the market on sincerity; because it’s not a zero-sum game. Sincerity of conviction may not reconcile honest differences, but at least it won’t obscure honest points of consensus and introspection. In short, I always prefer butter to guns. Didn’t really get into the areas where we differ- but I think if more PEOPLE are receptive of the spirit of your message and evocative of your tone, then they will not have to defeat the patriarchy; they will have transcended it.

  16. Real people cry- it’s not masculine, it’s not feminine- it’s only human. I was pouring through some stuff, and thought this was a fitting example of what a 3-dimensional man can look like.  

    “Pearl Harbor survivor remembers day of infamy
    By David Martin –all rights returned 

    [Upon learning that World War II was about to end, and that he and his shipmates were going to survive] “No one yelled, screamed or anything. We just sit there and cried like babies, and I mean we bawled.” –Pearl Harbor survivor & World War II veteran, Tom Mahoney

    (CBS News)  UNION CITY, N.J. – It was 70 years ago today that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The anniversary was observed near the memorial to the USS Arizona, one of 12 ships sunk on that day of infamy. About 120 survivors attended.

    CBS News national security correspondent David Martin caught up with one survivor, sailor Tom Mahoney, who’s a retired stagehand from New Jersey. Now 89, Mahoney remembers the day that changed the nation.

    “I still see the planes,” Manoney said. “I still see everything, and to see those bodies, that’s, that’s no good.”

    Mahoney was just a 19-year-old sailor on Dec. 7, 1941. He’s now a week shy of his 90th birthday, and is one of an estimated 2,000 survivors still able to tell the story.

    “My ship was an inferno. Four decks all the way up to the boat deck were on fire,” he said.

    In a faded photo, a Japanese bomber is seen diving into Mahoney’s ship, the USS Curtis. “He plunged right into our boat deck from 10,000 feet,” Mahoney said. Then came a 500 pound bomb.

    “They said all hands stand by to abandon ship, but us sailors, kids we were, we ignored them and we stayed at our fire stations,” Mahoney said. On the USS Curtis that day, 29 were killed, 59 were wounded and two missing.

    That was just the first day of a war which Tom Mahoney — except for one ten day leave — fought every day of — and recorded in his diaries. He was all over the South Pacific: Fiji, Pango Pango, Christmas Island, Wake Island, Midway Island and Corrigador.

    He transferred to the Destroyer O’Bannon, which fought its way north toward the Japanese home islands. Of the 15 ships in his squadron, only the O’Bannon and two others were still in action when the atom bomb fell on Hiroshima.

    Mahoney said that for the first time the crew felt they might actually survive the war. “No one yelled, screamed or anything. We just sit there and cried like babies and I mean we bawled,” he said

    With Mahoney still aboard, the O’Bannon escorted the Battleship Missouri into Tokyo Bay for the surrender ceremony. There are only a few more diary entries after that. One read, “Sept. 14, 1945 – the war is over.”

    After arriving back in the United States after the war, Mahoney married Claire, and they’ve been together for 65 years.

    But every December the nightmares come back. “If you saw what I saw at Pearl Harbor, your friends mutilated and nothing but ashes, it stays with you.”

    Pearl Harbor will always stay in the history books but with the passing of Tom Mahoney’s generation it will no longer be part of our living history.”

  17. “Perhaps the most damaging myth of patriarchy is that it, ultimately, works for men.”

    I’m not sure this is so much the myth of patriarchy, but the myth of the myth of patriarchy. I’m beginning to recognize that my position as an academic feminist actually differentiates me a great deal from other modes of knowing, but for as long as I’ve been talking about and understanding patriarchy as a concept, I’ve understood it as something that is harmful to both males and females alike. That is why I call it a myth of a myth – because somehow at the cultural level the term patriarchy has been assumed to mean that men somehow have it great and that they’re all just oppressing the ladies. Patriarchy is a structure, not an individual.

    What patriarchy is associated with is privilege for males (and for females, in different ways) – things that you’ve mentioned such as overrepresentation in government, the wage disparity, etc. are artifacts of patriarchal structure. Privilege is another term that many balk at, thinking that to identify privilege in their lives is to somehow give up their oppression. This is a misconception. I have privilege, but I have also experienced oppression. My privilege includes being heterosexual, cisgender, (seemingly) White, able-bodied, highly educated. Acknowledging my privilege does not negate the oppression I have experienced. It simply means that I can be cognizant of these sites of privilege so as not to perpetuate oppression for others. So I agree that the work of activists is not to get into some sort of divisive argument about who has more privilege, but to recognize our own privilege where it exists and attempt to mitigate it, while listening to one another about their experiences with oppression and finding ways to arrive at a common ground. Equality.

    • Mostly123 says:

      “I can be cognizant of these sites of privilege so as not to perpetuate oppression for others.”

      Jasmine, I agree with your sentiments there very much. It seems to come down to a matter of framing (in my mind, anyway): A person does not want to be asked (or brow-beaten) to up that which they do not believe they have. Moreover, the relative value or worth of privilege can very greatly depending on one’s perspective (I think). There is something to be said for the positive over the divisive. There’s something deeply embedded in human nature (I like to believe, anyway) the realization that it can be very, very gratifying to share- it appeals to our better nature. And we can empathize and ‘quantify’ (I’m not sure ‘quantify’ is the right term) this feeling because we’ve all (hopefully) experienced moments when someone has been sharing with us- even when they didn’t *have* to share. Despite the intense materialism and competitiveness of modern capitalist society, the increasingly finite resources, there is (I hope) still a lingering lesson from childhood about the value of sharing. When a person (through there own logic) sees that they do indeed have MORE of something than someone else; when they feel that they have a surplus of something (whatever it is- love, ice cream cones, or power) it’s easier for them to want to share; to make the effort to share. No one ever likes being told “gimme!” – even if the person telling then that is absolutely right.

      It’s also easier to share when you empathize with who you’re going to be sharing with. Divisiveness begets mistrust, and it poisons empathy [ e.g. 'Even if I believed you -which I do NOT- why would I even ever WANT to help you? You seem to be looking out for just yourself- I'm just doing the same, and you hate me for it!'] People can go around in circles like that for years, and it doesn’t get anyone anywhere. How much of my own power and comfort do I want sacrifice to ensure someone has justice? I don’t know- but I do know that it is MORE when I have faith in both the logic of the sacrifice, and compassion of those I am being asked to sacrifice it for.              

      So, can society retain the inherent benefits (for some) of a given privilege, while at the same time extending the inherent benefits to all others? On some issues in the past it was very clear. The suffragette movement comes quickly to mind – the fight was to extend vote to women- not to re-distribute the vote TO women FROM men.         

      If a privilege is extended to encompass all, and so becomes a universal norm, is it still, by definition, a privilege? 

      Can privilege be extended, or only re-distributed? (To coin a phrase; ‘Is privilege a zero-sum game?’)  

      If the later is true (that is, if disparities in privilege can only be redressed by the redistribution of privilege) then, (I might speculate) that it is all the more incumbent on those who seek change to persuade the powerful to cede power. But to persuade any group or collection  with a message, that message must first disseminated to the right group. If “masculinity” and “patriarchy” are not interchangeable, then there is (at the very least) the possibility the message is being misdirected. So, by that logic, attacking masculinity is an ineffective (or, at least, not the optimal) way to get at the patriarchy.

      Provocatively, I might ask- does the right to claim aggrieved status (to call oneself ‘oppressed’) in itself constitute a certain form of privilege? Not the oppression itself constituting a privilege;  but the societal connotations of being recognized as having been (or currently being) oppressed. It is NOT a privilege to be oppressed – but is there any societal privilege (or detriment) in being perceived as oppressed, in having one’s oppression recognized? Same thing for being perceived as an ‘oppressor’ – do the perceptions themselves constitute a form of privilege/ anti-privilege? 

      Regardless, I liked reading your insights to the article and I agree with your sentiments – hoping for more to come.       

    • Precisely! A patriarchy does not really mean “men are the ones responsible”, but more like “those responsible are men”.

      For instance, you can say a patriarchy is to the benefit of men when you look at fortune 200 CEOs nearly all being men. But when you realize that most of the homeless are ALSO men, you realize men aren’t the ones advantaged. Those who are advantaged are men.

      Not to sound like a broken record, but it’s hard to accurately iterate the logic. It’s sort of “A square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not necessarily a square.”

      Men in power, like Kings, have done things just as oppressive to men as women. When Kings disputed, who did they send to die on their behalf? And we’ve seen women in power become quite oppressive as well.

      By labeling this as “Patriarchy”, and not actually defining patriarchy in this way, the blame has been more often pointed to men’s society, masculinity, or men as a whole, rather than the individuals of great influence, who represent the vast minority of men.

      • By the way: “Being pampered and told you are special and better than others is not medicine for the soul–it’s poison.”

        There has been no point in my life in which I have been told or considered better simply for my gender. Even more so, a lot of what I grew up being taught about being a man has been based on pampering the women in our lives, making sure they are always comfortable, feel loved, and are treated as princesses. If you can’t do this, you aren’t a real man. So this definition of privilege really does not work with what you are trying to say about men.

        It gets old hearing a coal miner be told he is more privileged and pampered than his stay-at-home wife. I’m not denying the existence of privilege. I’m saying that we need to stop acting like it doesn’t go both ways. We act like privilege is something only men have, and when people discuss ways in which women are privileged, it’s treated as marginal, an afterthought, or a complete fabrication because a man’s blindness of his own privilege.

        Take the wage gap, for example. The Independent Women’s Forum did an entire video on the wage gap, and Warren Farrell wrote a book on the topic. A lot of the wage gap comes from women making choices that have a better work/home ratio. We say they are pressured into this because of the gender role of having to be a mother. We say nothing of the expectation of the father to provide for whatever the wife doesn’t make. That is, she is free to choose, and he must make up the difference. So men are more likely to move, work overtime, work more dangerous jobs (also because more guys have a preference for dangerous things), etc. Women make less because they make more balanced choices, but we say THEY are the disadvantaged ones, and MEN are the ones who are magically free of gender expectations, completely ignoring the expectation that men should risk their lives for the comfort of their families.

        I think that’s another reason I don’t use the word “Feminist” to describe myself. I don’t think of the world as simply the privileged and the oppressed. I see men and women, and us transcending gender roles which developed not from tyrannical male power, but from necessity after the advent of agriculture. I see gender roles we must overcome, not “privileges” that one side must unilaterally apologize for.

  18. Mackenzie says:

    “Another friend of mine (a man) dates a woman (a feminist) and when he goes to share his feelings with her she accuses him of being “a woman” for being so sensitive. ”

    If she’s such a feminist, why does she consider “woman” an insult? As they say, you know misogyny exists because “the worst thing you can call a man is a woman.”

  19. “We see one of the first generation of men raised without fathers or positive male role models. As their old role of dominators and heads of the house hold fall away–they are left with no clear sense of what to replace it with.”
    You say this like it’s a bad thing, this is a good thing, it means men can define it themselves!

    • i’m actually dealing with this problem regularly and NO it’s not a good thing because in our youth we DON’T define ourselves, without a positive male role model a young man of 15 or 16 can only look to society for a guide… usually the media… this is NOT good, the overwhelming role of men in the media are stupid, incompetent mentally 12 man children who can’t take care of themselves, or misogynistic thugs, who are only out for the conquest. Now a lot of young men by 16 or so recognize this is BS but with no other option in their lives that start to fall into shame, or worse start trying to “be” these types of guys, only to look in the mirror at night and not recognize themselves… Often they are reinforced by their mother, or the school, ( no i’m not saying all women do this, but one of the young men i am working with right now has to fight for every scrap of dignity he can because when he goes home he’s attacked over and over again by his mother… unfortunately i have gotten used to this pattern from other young men i work with). We NEED good strong role models who can support women’s issues without neglecting men’s issues, who can be sensitive to the needs of others as well as sensitive to their own needs but strong enough to act on them. it is up to us as the men in peoples lives to be a person they can say “ok i can be a bit more like that guy, i can follow that lead as a road map of being who i want to be”.

      Sorry a bit of a trigger for me, i fight so hard for these kids and if we had some more positive role models for them it would be A LOT easier.

  20. Patriacrhy itself is a myth… I am a male but I am not part of any privileged power elite. Most of the business and political leaders in western society *are* male, but they are also typically straight and married to women. These women wield power in their spheres just as their husbands do – Hilary was a powerhouse even before Bill was impeached. Women have been co-actors and co-creators of our civilization for as long as men have been. While men were out protecting and providing, women were raising children and instilling within them the values and mores that were carried into the next generation – for both boys and girls, who became men and women. Why is this not seen as a position of power??

    Today, the vast majority of consumption – goods as well as media – is done by women. They have spending power, whether they are earning the dollars or not. Why not use that spending power to make the world more female friendly? Because it already is pretty damned female friendly. There is no real pressure on women to change things as they are, because things as they are serve their interests. They can have their alpha males as well as their caring sensitive males. With any luck, both in the same package.

    I hear feminists wanting a better world for women and complaining that the male hegemony is just not providing it for them. Well stop expecting males to provide anything and everything and go take it! I don’t see the so-called male hegemony doing squat about the fact that men have a shorter life span than women, or that 93% of workplace deaths outside the military are men, or that >80% of front line soldiers are men. Why won’t feminism please come to our protection and save us from all this risk and exposure to violence? Because it’s not in the best interests of feminists to do so.

  21. Peter Houlihan says:

    Now imagine instead that that acorn is one of a hundred, the other hundred were mashed into pieces, split in half, grown to be cut down for firewood or fed to animals. Then imagine someone saying we live in a system that privileges acorns.

    • Bingo.

      If I WAS to call that oppression by privilege, it would be the fact that putting that one acorn in power makes it apathetic to the sufferings of the other acorns, particularly when the others are not seen as “fellow acorns”, but as “the competition”. And then you realize it’s not men in power that causes those problems, it’s the power that the powerful possess.

  22. (R)Evoluzione says:

    The parable in this story belies the author’s lack of biological understanding, from what acorns do, to what human males and females do.

    If you wash an acorn every day, it’s going to sprout. It will put roots down into that pretty pillow it was riding on, and pretty soon, you’ll have an oak tree in the throne.

    Put males together with females in a resource-rich environment, and you get patriarchy. It’s inevitable. Now patriarchy can be benevolent, or it can be malevolent. But however it operates, it is to a large degree inevitable.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Inevitability_of_Patriarchy

  23. Mark Neil says:

    “Men still, somehow, make more money per hour than women for the same work.”

    You lost me right here. Clearly this is nothing more than a propaganda piece. Men make more money in aggregate than women, but as soon as you add the term “for the same work”, as so many people do, it becomes a lie. To further add “per hour” makes it even moreso and clearly demonstrates a bias and ideological conditioning, and this piece is far to long to be worth reading with that kind of ideological conditioning being promoted right from the start.

  24. Exactly how long did it acquire you to post “The First Myth
    of Patriarchy: The Acorn on the Pillow — The Good
    Men Project”? It seems to have a good deal of great knowledge.
    Thank you -Sam

  25. FlyingKal says:

    I think it’s good to step back and remember the bigger picture. The past thousands of years have seen women being oppressed–witch burnings, no right to vote– women seen as chattel. It’s easy to forget that, in the USA–women only won the right to vote in 1929.

    Yes, most western democratic countries achieved the the right for the public to vote during the first couple of decades of the 1900′s. And it’s also easy to forget that usually, average men didn’t have the right to vote prior to this, either. It’s true that in a lot of countries, women often achieved the public right to vote a decade or two later than the men. But when it happened, for women it truly was a public right, while for the men it was usually conditioned on him being a “useful” man, the right to vote had to be earned, i.e. it could, and would, be revoked for med that for instance were unemployed or sent to prison.

  26. FlyingKal says:

    At a summer music festival, I find myself talking to a young woman of colour for whom feminism matters deeply. She tells me she noticed this hard edge she had where she would look at men who were clearly interested in her and think, ‘if he doesn’t have the balls to approach me then he’s too weak for me.

    What about herself? Doesn’t she have an agenda of her own? If she’s so feminist, why does she expect and accept to be a passive vessel for a man’s interest and approach?
    What about “If she’s interested in a man and doesn’t have the guts to approach, she’s too weak for him. And why should she wait aroound for an approach from a man that doesn’t interest her in the forst place??”

    • I was wondering when someone would point this out, my thoughts exactly.

      • Because men can’t handle it. If a woman approaches a guy, she will never know FOR SURE if he responds to her positively because he likes her and wants to get to know her and not because she is easy p***y.

        Men are scared of sexually aggressive women. I have done my share of pouncing on hot guys in my day and they turned out to be very insecure. A guy who doesn’t have the balls to go after what he wants is usually (if not always) not someone who can stick around. He doesn’t trust himself. He doesn’t feel successful in life (I don’t mean just monetarily but that too) and he doesn’t know WHO HE IS. That is very unattractive to a woman.

  27. Quote : “As a feminist I know said recently, I’m working for the liberation of men AND women.”

    I totally agree… I think men have realized a beneficial awakening in modern society as perhaps unintended side effect of feminism… It has helped us become more independent, better at taking care of ourselves, better at expressing our needs / wants / emotions openly – which perhaps is something men have lacked throughout the ages; perhaps something the male brain may have been unnecessarily afraid of ? Through independence and liberation we have found ourselves in a new situation to which we may navigate honestly and in earnest; one in which affords us incredible opportunities our male predecessors ( and feminists alike ) might not have fully appreciated was possible !

    Feminism is good for everyone :)

    • The first ones to really question their gender roles were women, because of how idiotic and childish it all became. Then, women started discussing their issues from a standpoint of “We are best when we are ourselves” rather than “Are you strong enough for make the sacrifices to be a woman? Don’t be selfish, society needs it.”

      Men are still being told “Are you strong enough to make the sacrifices of being a man? Don’t be selfish, society needs strong men.” And with women discussing the topic as though they are the only ones in the room, men are starting to say “Hey, wait a minute, we’re in the same boat, here’s what we are going through.” And voila, a mutual discussion about treating gender roles as old survivalist baggage we can do away with.

      But then feminism has a tendency of calling the male perspective “marginalization by the privileged class” saying “See, we told you they would marginalize us to uphold the status quo. This only proves their oppressive nature! Don’t listen to them.”

      In other words, feminism started a revolution greater than itself that it isn’t necessarily capable of leading, but still continues to declare itself as leader. We need a new way of discussing gender: One that doesn’t look at a coal miner who is losing his lungs,and his housewife who aspires to a career, and say “The man has it hard because he is privileged and powerful. The woman has it hard because she is victimized and oppressed.”

      Instead it would say “Their lives are rough because of gender roles. Their potential isn’t maximized unless they can be their truest selves.” If the woman gets the career she dreams of, the man doesn’t have to kill himself in the coal mine. No debate on who is “privileged” or who should have to form and alter their lives to accommodate the other.

      • If the woman gets the career she dreams of, the man doesn’t have to kill himself in the coal mine.
        More to the point those two are tied together and you really can’t say that one is the cause of the other or that we must focus on one first and foremost and eventually the other will come to pass. But that is exactly what we see from feminism. According to some of them the man is killing himself in the coal mine solely because the woman is unable to get the career she dreams of.

        Actually both are tied together meaning that both are happening because of limiting and oppressive roles. Trying to prop one up as the root cause of the other causes one to lose of the way the gender roles are hurting both.

        • Exactly!

          As Glen Poole said in TEDx, “It shouldn’t be ‘them vs us’ or ‘us vs them’ it should be ‘us. ALL of us, vs gender equality.”

          Turning one perspective into the academically “correct” perspective doesn’t help anyone. Highlighting one statistic without the whole perspective throws things out of context.

          For instance, by telling women ALL THE TIME that they will only make 77c to a man’s dollar for the same work and same hours, you don’t help your cause with the distortion and lack of context. What you do, instead, is discourage women from entering the work force in the first place. Instead tell them how their choices in career and hours affect their income.

          Talk about how women more often choose a better work-life balance, so making less money isn’t something to be ashamed of, or something to feel inferior about. (Heck, teach guys that at LEAST as much.) Teach them, still, to speak out if they DO think they are actively being paid unfairly. But don’t go telling them that the job outlook for women is a pessimistic, wasteland of unpaid slave labor beneath the shoes of tyrannical men. Women are less likely to be unemployed out of college, out-earn men in several fields, and are apparently the majority of small business owners. That’s GOOD NEWS. Motivate women with THAT.

          If I get time, I want to start actually grabbing statistics from various sources and comparing them in what I call the “gender matrix” method. That is, you don’t just look at how men treat women. You don’t look at how men treat women and how women treat men. You look at how men treat men, men treat women, women treat women, and women treat men. Then you put it in a matrix to better understand the root causes.

          • Turning one perspective into the academically “correct” perspective doesn’t help anyone. Highlighting one statistic without the whole perspective throws things out of context.
            Funny you bring up context. At this point it seems that context only matters to people when it suits them.

            For instance, by telling women ALL THE TIME that they will only make 77c to a man’s dollar for the same work and same hours, you don’t help your cause with the distortion and lack of context. What you do, instead, is discourage women from entering the work force in the first place. Instead tell them how their choices in career and hours affect their income.
            Well it would help first if we could actually nail down exactly what size that gap is (and before anyone says “It doesnt matter how big the gap is just that there is one.” then why not just say “women don’t make as much money as men for the same work” if the size of the gap doesnt matter than why constantly reach for the largest gap possible) and how much of it is actually attributed to gender.

            But I don’t think it so much discourages women from enter the work place (although I can image that that does happen with a lot of women) as it does create a false sense of the issues. Instead of acknowledging any progress that might be made on this front was are still trapped in the distant past where the gap is presented in such a way that it looks like no progress in closing the gap has ever been made.

            But don’t go telling them that the job outlook for women is a pessimistic, wasteland of unpaid slave labor beneath the shoes of tyrannical men. Women are less likely to be unemployed out of college, out-earn men in several fields, and are apparently the majority of small business owners. That’s GOOD NEWS. Motivate women with THAT.
            This I can agree with. The things you say here are mentioned nowhere near as often “Women only make up a tiny portion of CEOs and Capital Hill politicians!”

            If I get time, I want to start actually grabbing statistics from various sources and comparing them in what I call the “gender matrix” method. That is, you don’t just look at how men treat women. You don’t look at how men treat women and how women treat men. You look at how men treat men, men treat women, women treat women, and women treat men. Then you put it in a matrix to better understand the root causes.
            You’re already ahead of that World Wide Gender Gap Report that comes out every year where quite literally as long as women aren’t on the short end of the stick everything is okay.

  28. I’ve come to the realisation that the androphobia that needs challenging most is not out there, but resides in me.

    I talked openly about domestic violence to my family mediator a couple of weeks ago with the courage of honesty and was surprised to find that she didn’t automatically assume that I was the instigator, or perputrator or if I wasn’t the perputrator I must have done something to deserve it. I’m not saying no one ever reacts that way when they hear there was domestic violence in a heterosexual relationship, but that was the reaction I had anticipated and found that it didn’t happen. Oh wow, okay you’re not a misandryist. Wow!

    It’s been my feelings of guilt, and the notion that I am morally inferior to women, and my expectation that I will be seen as threatening or dangerous or disgusting or revolting that has done me more harm and oppressed me more than the minority of people who would make that assumption based purely on my gender.

    I know where that inner misandryism came from; I know I grew up in a household where “men!” was used as a swear word (or if that didn’t cover it “Kids! Cats! Men!” – it didn’t really have to be relevant to the latest cause of frustration, it was just a litany of what my mother saw as the chief cause of stress in the world). That, coupled with Catholic guilt, made me very susceptible to disapproval. I was socialized into the wrong, I think. And like the author I was always working for the approval of feminist friends by proving what a good ally I was. Some of the most liberating moments of my life came about because something one feminist had once told me was “sexist” was suddenly dispelled by another telling me that it was all right, and explaining why the previous feminist was wrong.

    And although I do challenge androphobic comments when I hear them being said – “Men start wars”, “Oh what about Thatcher?”, “She’s not a woman, she’s a man with a vagina” (Genuine exchange this!) “So can I now argue that Marie Curie is also a man with a vagina and thus prove that all scientific discoveries are made by men, or will you concede that the reason more women don’t do both, make scientific discoveries or start wars, is lack of opportunity and not moral superiority?”; the reason I make these challenges is not to change other people’s minds but to assert to myself that my reasoned view, in which I shouldn’t be ashamed of my maleness or seek to suppress it, is worthy of being upheld. That I don’t have to swallow it.

    So there was a lot in this article that spoke to me.

    Apart from the bit about the acorn on the pillow; the one paragraph, in a massive treatise, that bore a relation to the title. I also don’t recall ever being pampered and told I was special by society, ever, but then nor do I want to be – I want to be told I’m “all right” and acceptable. I’ll settle for that.

  29. Tad, what a great article! So timely! So needed!

    For women reading this, I have come across an AMAZING resource to transform patriarchy within them. It changed my life!

    “The Shadow King: The Invisible Force that Holds Women Back”, by Sidra Stone, PhD.

    We need to transform the inner patriarch in us as women in order for the change to be complete. If not us, then who??

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