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4 ways in which Patriarchy harms Men’s Well-Being

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Feminism is about fighthing patriarchy not fighting men! Patriarchy is harmful to men as well. Toxic masculine beliefs from patriarchy eats away men’s well-being at all four levels.


These are 12 common beliefs society makes men imbibe through patriarchy.

  1. You need to earn more (esp. than your wife) to feel respected
  2. You are stronger than woman so you need to protect them 
  3. You need to have successful career, car, house, business etc. to be of value
  4. You need to be strong and not display emotions. Feelings except anger are weakness
  5. (Only) You are responsible for the financial stability of your family 
  6. You are highly violent (even a bigger bias if you are from a minority – black, muslim etc.)
  7. If you are empathic, you are feminine and weak 
  8. Seeking support and asking for help is weakness
  9. It is not good for a man to be taught how to cook, sew, clean the house and take care of younger children. A husband should not have to do household chores. 
  10. A real man should have as many sexual partners as he can. A real man would never say no to sex
  11. A man should always have a final say about all decisions in his relationships or marriage 
  12. If a guy has a girlfriend or wife, he deserves to know where she is all the time

All of them are rubbish and limit’s a man’s full expression of their identity

Violating the code of idealized masculinity can be such a point of stress for men that it strains their overall health.

For all the benefits it bestows on men as a group, patriarchy harms individual men deeply

As we have discussed here, wellbeing/work-life balance spans across Physical, Mental. Emotional and Spiritual realm. A fully functioning person is able to live across the spectrum in all the four areas. 

A very high predisposition to above beliefs limit’s a man to live across emotional and spiritual areas. In extreme forms this can also sometimes result in violence or self-sabotage.

Emotional health

a picture of a person displaying despair surrounded with smoke
Bottling Emotions

There is a silent pandemic of bottling up emotions amoung men

There is very limited biology about emotions. Emotions comes from a latin term which literally means Energy in Motion. Emotions (and feelings) are nothing but energies. A complex set of data that comes together to inform us something. Emotions and feelings are common to all, their expression is a cultural and gendered phenomenon. 

Read here in depth an interesting sociological research on why society taught men to not express emotions (and why it is no longer relevant)

Also, men bottle up more emotions and thus are more prone to have psychosomatic diseases. 

Why men suffer in silence?

‘It’s slowly changing, but right now, all research shows that men still have a lower EQ than women,’ says Cary Cooper, psychology professor at Lancaster University and an expert in masculinity

Other components of masculinity—like aggressiveness, dominance, competitiveness—have some biological roots in boys. (However there is no such link with bottling up emotions.) Even before birth, males have far higher testosterone levels than females, and this contributes to different temperaments seen very early in life, independent of socialization. On average, young boys are more impulsive, physically active, and have more intense emotional highs than young girls.

How do men hide their emotions?

Men talk about sports, cars, stock market, women etc. but emotions. To succeed in hiding your feelings from others also requires hiding them from yourself. This is done by ignoring or denying their existence. As a result, toxic masculinity means not being comfortable with your emotions and having less self-awareness about your own mental functioning.

Mental health

man in black long sleeve shirt lying on gray couch
Mental Health for men

The male suicide rate is up to four times higher than that of women

‘Men internalize so much, they are experts at hiding their emotions and notoriously good at compartmentalizing things,’ says Gael Lindenfield. 

‘Doctors are telling them they’ll have a heart attack if they don’t “let it all out”, employers are suddenly looking for “emotional intelligence”, and women want them to be more open.

Men’s reluctance to ignore themselves is especially perturbing when it comes to mental health. The more a man associates with traditional and rigid ideas about masculinity, the more likely are they to get suicidal thoughts, exhibit signs of depression and less likely he is to seek counseling (A double whammy)

For men in America who suffer from mental health issues, it’s easier to get a gun than a therapist!

Intrestingly, research shows that societies with lower levels of gender equality are the ones with the highest rates of male suicide.

And the gender gap in suicide is smaller in nations with higher gender equality.

Why? All because they have imbibed toxic masculine beliefs! 


Physical health 

Men have an average of 3-4 years of lower life expectancy because of what scientists literally call man-made diseases. 

These are imbibed from toxic masculine patriarchal beliefs: Men are more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol, engage in high-risk behavior and have accidents at work. A report from the World Health Organization points to three reasons men don’t live as long: 

  1. the way men work (they endure greater “exposure to physical and chemical hazards”), 
  2. their willingness to take ‘reckless’ risks without due importance to safety (thanks to “male norms of risk-taking and adventure”) (Adventure is madness but madness is not adventure) and 
  3. their discomfort with doctors (they’re “less likely to visit a doctor when they are ill and, when they see a doctor, are less likely to report on the symptoms of disease or illness”)

There is a lack of personal regard for physical health and safety – 80% drowning is among men and because they do not wear life-jackets! 


Spiritual health

Patriarchy also promotes hierarchy over women, justifying and encouraging dehumanization of women, leading to male entitlement and violence.

Women are still being defined as property, objectified, and commodified. When men do this, they fail to see women’s talents and skills. 

Result? Men stay in a self-absorb entitled bubble. Not able to experience connection and joy


How does this translate into work-place?

Because of the above beliefs, men not only tended to view position and salary as more important than women do, they were more likely to judge themselves (and others) based on these measures.

This form of comparison can lead successful men to underinvest in key relationships, such as family, friends, and community, even though these relationships have consistently been shown to be essential components of human happiness and satisfaction.

Many men keep competing and slogging off even when they do not enjoy their work or find happiness in it. 


Conclusion

Only if men could come out of the rigid and toxic masculine beliefs, They’d have a wider set of roles they could fall back on, like being a caregiver or contributing to their family outside of the narrow scope of material or financial resources

Just like women learn from their mothers, men learn from their fathers. ‘We learn it from our fathers. They go out there, earn money, they don’t cry, they cope.’

Also, ‘The problem for men is pride’ said a participant from another research

What is the way forward?

Men are more solution oriented. It is found that ‘coaches’ can be very effective. They focus on solutions and practical ways forward, unlike counseling, which is associated with ‘needing help’.

For more than a decade Iceland has been rated consistently for being the most gender equal country. This has not been good just for women in Iceland but also men!

It helps show that changing men’s ideas about what it means to be a man, and lifting up women in the process, doesn’t make men worse off — it has far-reaching benefits to their lives. 

In short, patriarchy upholds norms and behaviors that are neither attainable, nor desirable.

In the process we all suffer.

To break this we need more compassion towards men. We need more women to understand men. To stand up to them.

Feminism is about fighthing patriarchy not fighting men! 

Read more on: How to get your man to talk

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