Feminism is frequently criticized for being the alleged cloak and dagger of female superiority, or perhaps for harboring a furtive disdain toward the male species. While I personally have dismissed this claim several times, I'll admit my dismissals were often tangential and done in passing. To remedy such a failing on my part, I'll dedicate this column to a far more compelling claim: Feminism tethers the liberation of all women with the liberation of all men.
Feminists are rather famous for coining slogans decrying patriarchy, some noteworthy examples being “Smash the Patriarchy” or “She Wants the D(estruction of the Patriarchy).” However, amid the impassioned cries of liberation and unanimity, it's unclear what the patriarchy actually is and any implications therein are left unspoken, which unfortunately leaves people to come to their own, often incorrect, conclusions.
Patriarchy translates as “the rule of the father,” and in this definition most people assume that it's the rule of men over women. However, this isn't true. It's the systemic devaluation of both men and women by another group of men. Often, the men at the top of the hegemony are referred to as “Alpha,” and the requirements for being an “Alpha Male” involve exaggerated demonstrations of physical strength, a complete and total lack of fear, detachment from emotion and the notion that human intellect pales in comparison to brute force.
Naturally, some of these Alpha qualities might seem appealing to some — what's to say the absence of anguish and fear isn't ideal? The answer lies in our humanity, as all the listed prerequisites of being an Alpha Male are decidedly inhuman attributes. To be emotional, to be afraid, to express ourselves intellectually in our chosen capacity — these are characteristics of being human, and to reject or personally deny them is both difficult and painful.
As such, being legitimately happy at the top of this social structure isn't possible for the functional human being, and in turn, all individuals under this structure suffer. The women at the bottom, the men at the bottom and the men at the top are all equally subject to unnecessary oppression, either as the inability to be accepted for one's expression or the inability to express oneself in the first place.
Admittedly, I've been discussing patriarchy in rather abstract terms up until this point. It would do the discussion well to offer some more tangible effects of the patriarchal influence on men. Examples include the idea that all men are far more likely to engage in criminal behavior, that men cannot be suitable parental figures in cases of child custody, or that non-alpha, androgynous males cannot be successful in sexual or romantic environments. After all, men aren't the only ones told to cater to Alpha-idealism, as some women too are told men should be robust, irrationally courageous breadwinners.
Another example involves the surprisingly popular notion that men can't be raped, sexually assaulted or sexually abused. Indeed, the idea that men are physically dominant sends a virulent sentiment throughout the public professing that men can simply “overpower” their oppressor with their “natural aggression.”
Of course, this is untrue on multiple levels. How does one physically overpower being threatened economically, psychologically or emotionally? How does one physically overpower someone they trusted and possibly cared for? How does one physically overpower someone with superior physical power?
This popular misconception illustrates a common misunderstanding of what rape is: a lack of explicit consent, not a lack of “compliance.” Empirically speaking, 10 percent of all survivors of sexual violence in the United States are men.
Of course, this isn't all to serve as an apologetic approach to being a feminist. Rather, the intent is to illustrate the inherent equality associated with feminism. Does feminism emphasize the liberation of women? Absolutely. For all the suffering that men experience at the hands of patriarchy, women experience it more.
However, this is a moot point if there ever was one. Who's to say we can't liberate both sexes at the same time? The enemy is a singular entity — patriarchy — and to obliterate it is to liberate men and women, so the only obvious solution is to work together, as cliché as it may sound.
Conclusively, as human beings who are born under patriarchy that inhibits expression and progress for many, we should naturally find ourselves lending a hand in the fight toward dismantling this structure. For better or for worse, that fight is called feminism — and it's fought by feminists.
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