This blog has been up for a while now, and I’ve been getting a bit reactionary, so I think it’s time I started posting some more original commentary of my own. It’s time for some hardcore, man-on-woman feminism. (Apologies to any readers who I deliberately strung along there for half a second for my own amusement. I assure you it was worth it ;) )
The Patriarchy is a critical concept in Feminist theory, and it’s actually a concept that is really worthwhile for men to understand if they’re interested in their own rights- even if casual references to it in feminist writings make it sound like it’s a conspiracy theory. (hint: it’s not, they’re just using jargon you don’t understand, which in any other field has exactly the same effect: you make stupid comments to it if the reference looks dumb out of context)
The Patriarchy is intended as an abstract reference to systemic discrimination against women- or, in less wanky language, bitches talkin’ about The Man gettin’ them down. ;) It includes attitudes that men haven’t thrown off yet that we don’t necessarily support or believe in particularly strongly- eg. “pink is a women’s colour“, “women are useless at sports”, (or alternatively, “sports women are hot, but they don’t achieve anything”) “men work harder”, and so on. It doesn’t imply, like it might sound, that there is some wicked cabal of conservative men sitting in a dark room plotting the oppression of women. It can refer to men who support this kind of action, but it doesn’t necessarily imply they fully understand that in doing so they’re oppressing women. They may genuinely believe that women are better off as barefoot, pregnant housewives. We can still judge the motherfuckers for being stupid, of course, and this is why men who venture into feminist circles unprepared get taken aback by the acidic comments directed at the Patriarchy, and think it has something to do with them.
Okay, so that explained- why do I say that understanding the Patriarchy is worthwhile for any man interested in their own rights? Well, because a lot of the stuff that men do because of Patriarchal attitudes blows back in our own faces. Again- the best example here is the family courts. While we (ie. society in general) were beginning to recognise that feminists had a point, we started conceding them some policy in very anti-feminist fashion. We (re)designed divorce law and custody battles so that they were highly protective of and advantageous to women, who beforehand were in big trouble if they had crossed their husbands and tried to leave, especially if they did so without the protection of a new potential partner who would protect them. Many similarly protective laws, in the spirit of the Patriarchy, have also been put in place around rape and child sexual abuse.
This has blown back up in our faces spectacularly in modern times now that we’ve taken on a little more feminist baggage, and women are in a position to actually have some cash of their own, and possibly even an equal say in divorce or custody matters without the advantages our Patriarchal attitudes have afforded them. We now see men forced to wage legal battles that bankrupt them just for privilege of spending quality time with their kids. Some women regard alleged rapists as guilty until proven innocent. The rape case of Louise Nicholls really suffered from this, even though maybe it’s a bad example given the way the past convinctions of the offenders were suppressed. Men who are even accused of child abuse in some countries go on paedophilia watchlists. This doesn’t sound so bad at first, but consider what happens when you’re a teacher or caregiver for children- not only do you lose your job, but all future employers will look you up and refuse to hire you. You have to find a completely new career, and in most cases, there is no way to get off the list.
When feminists say that the Patriarchy hurts men too, they’re not mincing around. Most of the needs for men’s rights come from Patriarchal attitudes and their failures, not from feminists. In short, it’s own own bloody fault we’re in this mess, because in all the oppression of women, our ancestors never stopped to think about what it really means to be a man. How valuable fatherhood is and how it deserves to be protected and nurtured. How it might just be okay if a dude wears a pink shirt. How a man graciously accepting he earns less than his wife, and doing the dishes and cooking dinner really isn’t that bad.
The Patriarchy is the sum of our attitudes that lead us to ignore those kinds of thoughts. It opines that a man is only really a father if he has complete dominance and veto over the entire household. How there is no such thing as rape in marriage. How we don’t need to care about our wives. And I see it as some abstract destructive monster that will eat us men from the inside out if we don’t stop being afraid of it. If we don’t accept that we can construct who we are ourselves, and that we can be okay with women doing the same right with us, as equals. And to me, that’s all that feminism ought to imply- it’s only all the legal discrimination, poisonous attitudes, and cold indifference of society that has turned it into the loud and radical machine it sometimes has to be to get things done.