Disclaimer: If there is rude, unproductive, hurtful/harmful, combative or disruptive activity in the comments I will report the comment and block you. Period. This is not a debate, this is not an invitation to debate me, it is an explanation, in good faith, for those who want to understand a very complicated thing a little bit better.
I see a lot of questions on this site about the patriarchy, whether directly or indirectly. I think I've talked about the patriarchy on at least three answers in the past two weeks and that prompted me to write this, so lets dig in.
Type, write or think to yourself what you believe the definition of patriarchy to be.
It's probably something along these lines right:
Or maybe this:
Or perhaps you picture the patriarchy like this:
Or maybe you see it as lies and fake news.
All of these are popular and prevalent ways to view the patriarchy but I'd like to provide a narrative that's actually helpful in defining the patriarchy and clarifying why the fight against it, is a fight all of us should care about.
The Patriarchy is different than the ideas presented here. Patriarchy, in our society, isn't so much that men have control over everything - it's that there is a standard of measurement of people's value that is based off of a particular, sex-related ideal.
What I mean to say is that - there is a scale of "Best" to "Worst" and the closer you are to the ideal the better you are, the more value you have, and the closer you are to the bottom, the worse you are and the less value you have. This scale exists broadly through out our society, but there are also, smaller scales within certain situations.
So what does that mean overall?
It means that the closer you are to the masculine ideal, the better you are. But that doesn't mean that men are inherently better in the eyes of society - it means that particular kinds of men are better.
Men who are tough, strong, emotionless, have a lot of sex, are charming, physically fit, have a good job, make a lot of money... We all know the type. The further you are from that perfect ideal, the worse off you are. Men who are sensitive, men who are overweight, men who are poor, or who can't get good work... All these men are seen as lesser and are treated as such.
The same goes for women, generally being a woman is ranked on the bottom half to begin with, but there are certain qualities that can make a woman extremely valuable- sensitivity, innocent, sweet, gentle, kind, caring... You'll notice right away that these values are the opposites of what is expected from men. It's no coincidence that men who exhibit these traits are considered lesser, it's because they're considered feminine traits. Thus, if a man behaves this way, he's acting like a woman so he's lesser.
This stereotype doesn't just women and keep women down - it's also the reason for most of the gender-based problems that men face. Men, on average, get higher prison sentences - because of these stereotypes. Men don't often get custody of their children, and hardly ever as much as the mother (even if she's seen as possibly unfit) - because of these stereotypes. Men are ridiculed and mocked when they report abuse, rape, molestation or pedophilia from a woman against them - because of these stereotypes. They're not two independent things. It's not that women have more power over men, it's that our society has set up an ideal of manhood and punishes all who don't conform.
And that demand for conformity is deadly. Literally. The majority of suicides each year are from young men.
Toxic masculinity is the peak of masculinity. It is the definition of what it means to be a man. Doesn't that say something to you? That 'toxic' is in the very name? Is that really what you want to strive for, men? Or is what you want to be able to relax, to be able to express yourself, to be able to do what you want and not be judged because you wore make up, or thought that skirts are nice and breezy, or because you weren't strong enough, or because you didn't sleep with someone, or because you cried at a sad movie. Wouldn't that be amazing? Wouldn't it be amazing not to have to think about if doing something would lose you your 'man card'.
Another example are computers. When you think of a IT employee, or a software engineer or a computer programmer - who is it you picture? Probably a man, right? Which is bizarre because women were the original 'computer people'. Secretaries and other similar professions were first, and mostly/only, held by women. Then men started getting interested in the field in a big way and now it's seen as cool and advanced and a worthy, masculine job.
Why does it have to be that way? Why would anyone want it to be that way? Both women and men are overly sexualized. Both men and women are held to standards that are unrealistic and, more importantly, unhealthy. Both men and women suffer because of the expectations of patriarchy.
My goal here isn't to say that one gender suffers more than the other under patriarchy, my point here is to say that kind of thinking got us in this mess to begin with. Until we can stop saying "Men are evil" or "Women are evil" we'll never escape this trap. We're so close to seeing it, but those in power, who benefit from this patriarchy, have ensured that when men start to realize they are being hurt by society - those men turn their hatred towards women, not towards the horrible standards and expectations of them that lead to their suffering.
That's what patriarchy is. That's why it hurts everyone and that's why feminist or womanist movements, despite their name, aren't just about women - they're about all of us. So women, it's time to stop taking our anger at injustice out on individual men, and start directing it towards the system of patriarchy, and towards those individuals and companies (magazines, movies, media) that perpetuate that standard of masculinity that we hate. And men, it's time to stop blaming women for the injustices you face. It's not women, it's individuals, of course, it's systems and companies, just like with men.
We need to work towards seeing each other as fully real and complex individuals, not as monoliths which owe us something. Men do not owe women dates, money or worship. Women do not owe men sex or subservience. What we do owe each other is mutual respect, compassion and kindness. The sooner we can stop seeing each other as the enemy, the sooner we can find liberation.