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Opinion: Patriarchy vs. Feminism

In the background there is a gray cityscape with a group of five men (only outlines, all in black) standing in front of the buildings. In the foreground, two faceless women (illustrated in color) hold up their fists. The background is red.
Graphic by Olivia Slack

Trigger warning: mentions of rape, sexual assault, prejudice

Patriarchy pervades practically every area of our lives. It is the conception of how men, particularly cisgender men, and masculinity are perceived as better and more respected than women, nonbinary individuals or femininity. Male dominance can be powerful and oppressive in the various parts of our country's culture and current events, no matter where you look.

What many men don't want to accept, or perhaps don't realize, is that much of what feminism represents has the potential to directly alter the pain that patriarchal standards produce for men. Men frequently don't put much effort into questioning or reflecting on patriarchal norms. Men are advised to "man up" or told to stop being weak—and of course, the word “weak” is replaced with a derogatory term for women’s anatomy—rather than acknowledging their flaws or embracing vulnerability in order to safeguard their manhood.

Many feminist leaders encourage for all individuals, especially men, to be more analytical and introspective, and to be more comfortable being called out for things that others may disagree with. Understanding how one's actions and views affect others is an important component of feminism, which patriarchal masculinity intentionally avoids by promoting a more individualistic world view.

One of the most damaging aspects of patriarchal masculinity standards is the ever-present urge for men to compete with one another. Almost every element of many men's lives is clouded by the need to consider themselves as superior to others, and especially other men.

Despite many perceptions of women being extremely competitive with one another, feminism has evolved around the idea of community and solidarity as important parts of self-love and self-care. It is far more vital for feminists to build a solid community of like-minded and compassionate people than it is to instantly reject or compete with others.

Although the patriarchy helps all men in some manner, it does not benefit all men in the same way. One of the delusions propagated by patriarchy is that if you're a man, you're better than women, and you're surely better than nonbinary individuals. But what if you're a Black man rather than a white man? Or a poor man versus a rich man? A trans guy, a disabled man, an immigrant man, a male citizen or an educated man?

Feminism, particularly in recent years, has emphasized the need for viewing people's experiences through an intersectional perspective. Intersectional feminism provides for a multifaceted examination of a person's varied experiences, histories and prejudices.

There is no rational or fair way to deny that we live in a society that promotes and encourages rape culture. American culture has traditionally been structured in a way that rape, sexual assault or romantic manipulation are not only feasible but often expected of many individuals.

When men are confronted with the issue, they frequently dismiss it with sayings such as "boys will be boys," "they have uncontrollable sexual desires" or "it’s nothing that severe." For the victim, however, they are often treated cruelly, with others labeling them "sluts," stating "they deserved it" or "asked for it." For one reason or another, when addressing these experiences, the person who performed the crime in the first place is absolved of culpability.

Much of feminism's recent focus has been on ridding our society of rape and rape culture. Feminism is concerned with shifting the dialogue from "no means no" to "yes means yes," offering resources for women and other people harmed by rape or sexual assault, and investigating the mechanisms that exist to promote the impression that rape is an anticipated and virtually normal occurrence.

All of this boils down to the incredibly toxic masculinity that the patriarchy has fostered and enabled. It exacerbates issues not just for those who are exposed to all of its negativity, hatred, subjugation and oppression, but also for the men who gain from it. The people performing these actions don't have to question what they have done.

One of the aims of feminism is to empower men to be less toxic and more compassionate and helpful, to share and to establish safe places. Feminism, is essential for men to attain a degree of profound self-love that patriarchy does not permit.

By Evelyn Summers, Staff Writer

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