Why You Should Never Confuse Masculinity and Patriarchy
Patriarchy is a systemic power structure that infiltrates governments, societies, schools, industries, and families. It exploits a long existing framework of economic power, laws, social norms, and traditions that exist to ensure that men—largely white, straight, and CIS—remain in control to the exclusion of women.
When patriarchy is threatened, those in power often exploit fear, violence, and bigotry to maintain the status quo. In many cases, this includes developing and then exploiting a sense of toxic masculinity in order to garner support for patriarchal concepts and resentment towards those opposing those concepts.
Unfortunately, because the patriarchy has existed so long, and those in power have worked so hard to exploit toxic masculinity, many now equate toxic masculinity with general masculinity. The patriarchy has been largely successful at pushing the following erroneous concepts as truth:
- Real men must dominate interactions
- Masculinity is intertwined with a willingness or ability to be violent
- Vulnerability or sensitivity is a sign of weakness
- Only straight CIS men can exhibit true masculinity
- Compassion and compromise are weak and effeminate
- Women are weaker and lesser
- Those who oppose toxic masculinity or the patriarchy are violating the rights of members of the patriarchy
- The dissent must be crushed
How The Patriarchy Exploits Toxic Masculinity
For a recent look at the exploitation of toxic masculinity, one only has to look a few months back at the Neo-Nazi and white supremacist march on Charlottesville, VA. This was a march of men that can easily be placed into two categories. The first is those who wish to preserve patriarchy at its purest by preserving the power of privileged white men and the angry and easily manipulated who are eager to act as violent henchmen.
In a sense, both groups have been impacted by toxic masculinity. The first believes they are entitled to certain privileges as men, and that they possess an inherent superiority. They are often well off and educated. The latter have been raised with unhealthy expectations and ideals of masculinity, are often underprivileged and uneducated lacking access to resources to ensure success in college, and are easily convinced that certain groups and ideals are a threat to their way of life.
The Friend Zone Patriarchy and Toxic Masculinity
Of course, what we saw in Charlottesville was the result of more than a year’s worth of patriarchal manipulation and exploitation that had been going on since prior to the 2016 elections. With the exception of some disappointingly loud and powerful voices of approval, the violence in Charlottesville was seen by many as extremism.
That may seem like a good thing. In reality, that isn’t the case. It’s a sign that while people can recognize dangerous patriarchy and toxic masculinity in extreme situations, they still deny its existence in daily life. One example of this is the concept of the friend zone.
The idea of the friend zone is that if a male behaves in a friendly or helpful manner towards a woman in his social group that he is somehow entitled to sexual or romantic reciprocation. When he doesn’t receive that, he’s been a friend zoned. The term is meant to paint the man as the victim and the woman as the “bitch” who hasn’t shown the appreciation for his kindness that she should have.
While some men certainly can and have become violent after being rejected by women, the real danger with the concept of the friend zone is that it’s so casually accepted in spite of angry, toxic masculinity often bubbling beneath the surface. Because this behavior is so unlikely to be called out as wrong, those exhibiting it receive validation. The result is that patriarchy and toxic masculinity are further empowered.
Conclusion: Restoring Healthy Concepts of Masculinity to Fight The Patriarchy
Because those in power have claimed ownership of masculinity, they have warped people’s perception of it. There are those who exploit or are exploited by the distorted idea of masculinity. Then there are those who mistakenly believe that masculinity is dangerous in and of itself.
The battle against the patriarchy is going to occur on many fronts. One of these is going to be the restoration of the ideals of healthy masculinity. To do this, the following must be accomplished:
- Reducing the glorification of violence on all fronts.
- Making healthy expressions of masculine desireable.
- Recognizing that men and boys are also the victims of toxic masculinity.
- Uplifting both rural and urban communities that are often exploited by the patriarchy.
- Promoting the idea of healthy masculinity as being helpful and supportive
- Moving away from promoting masculinity along strict gender or sex lines
- Supporting politicians who are willing to work against the patriarchy
- Working towards gender and racial equality
- Providing opportunities for men and boys to develop emotionally healthy coping skills
Harnessing the power of true, healthy masculinity won’t happen overnight. However, doing so is
an absolutely necessary step in defeating the patriarchy.
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