SDS Womyn's Caucus Blog

“It’s not me…it’s patriarchy” How men hide behind patriarchy (A Series)

Posted on: February 16, 2009

“It’s not me…it’s patriarchy” How men hide behind patriarchy (A Series)
by Tyneisha Bowens


Part 1: How men deny the effects of patriarchy on their emotional intelligence

“I’m just not as emotional as you are”. Many of us have heard the men in our lives utter these words. And to some extent it’s true.

I mean, we all know what it’s like to want and need more emotional disclosure from the men in our lives. We feel this way because we as women and female bodied folks are encouraged by society and fucked up gender roles to be more in touch with the emotional needs and wants of others, to provide emotional support for all those around us. This training has lead many of us to be emotional slaves of our fathers, lovers, children and friends.

While it has lead many women to a horrible emotional enslavement the rest of us use this emotional training to connect with each other, ourselves and our own needs, and to cultivate a community based on love and open communication. So, it’s no wonder men find themselves almost constantly being asked to and expected to be more emotionally aware, open….intelligent. We want them to be a part of this new emotionally charged community and we want them to do so actively!

It seems the biggest mystery is why they always revert to the same explanation or excuse for their disappointing emotional display. But this is no mystery at all, according to them it’s just this simple… they just aren’t as emotional as we are. WOW, now I understand! Thanks guys. At first I thought it was that you all have been crippled into a perpetual state of emotional immaturity from your patriarchal socialization and the many ways it has manifested for you all personally. BUT NO! It’s just that you all happen to be less emotional than us….and furthermore since it’s “how you are” there is no need to hold yourself accountable to actively change it.

Bullshit! If any of you reading this (men, women and trans/gender queer folks alike) believe that shit you are sadly mistaken. Men are not “just not as emotional” as women and female bodied folks. They are emotionally crippled…yes. But less See, it’s not that men have an inability to feel and have emotions, the problem is usually that they have a much harder time recognizing,respecting, owning and expressing their emotions. But they do have them.

So, let’s talk about how they can’t talk about their emotions! Most of us have also heard this excuse before “Some people just don’t talk about their emotions”. Well, they are right about that too. It just so happens that almost half of the population doesn’t talk about their emotions…what a coincidence!

In reality, where many of us women and female bodied folks live, it’s not that the men in our lives “just” don’t talk about their emotions….it’s that they are taught not to and they haven’t gotten off of their patriarchal asses to change that.

We all know that patriarchy enforces gender roles for all of us and a part of that for men is the myth that emotions and talking about them is not a masculine thing to do….it’s only for the women folk. The problem, at least for us in the movement, isn’t that the men in our lives don’t know this…they do. I mean, they have read The Will to Change like 100 times.

The problem is that they don’t think of themselves as affected individually and more importantly as responsible for changing. So they can read and write about how patriarchy as an overall system affects men as an overall group. But that is usually where it stops. They can’t really get to the part where they realize that patriarchy manifesting in their own lives affects them…individual men.

They don’t see that it’s not just “some people” that don’t express emotions…’s patriarchs. Now, don’t get me wrong…there are women that don’t openly express emotions either but it’s not a coincidence that those women are often following the model of success and power that patriarchy teaches us all. You know, having to “run with the big boys”….but that is another entry waiting to happen. Back to the men folk!

For me this kind of behavior, men’s refusal to admit and challenge how patriarchy cripples their emotional intelligence, is a refusal of true collective liberation itself. I mean collective liberation in a very small nutshell is just the understanding, and most importantly manifestations of this understanding, that the liberation of any of us lies in the liberation of all of us. What a great idea…and the men in our lives will often be the first to tell you that. However for many of them it seems to stop at being an idea. If all of our liberation depends on the liberation of everyone else….if we are all in this together and all have a whole hell of a lot to gain….isn’t it possible that we are all…..idk….oppressed and repressed. And if we all are oppressed and repressed isn’t also possible that we all have a lot of socialization to combat before we can begin to break down the pillars of oppression that hold up this system? I’ll go ahead and answer that one….it’s not possible….it is a fact!

What I’m trying to say is that men who claim to aspire to the idea and action of collective liberation should know that a part of what they must do in that struggle is reflect on how patriarchy cripples and oppresses them and then DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

The issue is not that the men in our lives, many of whom are activists and organizers, are incapable of analyzing oppression and privilege dynamics and even trying to act on that analysis. But they are often too busy reading and blogging and even trying to “help” us to actually help themselves. And when they realize that they do need to work on their own shit the have no idea how to do it (a starter kit for them is outlined bellow).

It’s crucial for the movement and for us to build a better world that men start owning their privilege and oppression and a huge part of that is owning their emotions.

How else can they expect us to work with and love them? How else can we trust them? I mean, I don’t know about you but I can’t truly trust a person that doesn’t know themselves and men who don’t tap into and express their emotions don’t really know who they are.

So let’s get to the practical part because unfortunately they won’t really be able to do this unless we hold their hands a little (of course, if you don’t want to do that for them more power to you….fuck it).

Now, (for those of you who want to help them) it’s time that men stop using these excuses and begin to realize a few things about themselves- cut and paste this for the men in your lives (this is in list formation because I know how men love their lists).

Hey men:
You are not the exception to socialization and patriarchy (I know it’s hard to accept).

You are responsible for actively challenging the patriarchy that you enact and perpetuate (and yes you do perpetuate and enact it….even if you read bell hooks): listen to the women and female bodied folks in your life; do not get defensive (criticism is a gift…treat it as such); create a restorative justice model of recovery with the women and female bodied folks in your life; create a restorative justice model of recovery with the queer folks in your life; work with other men to hold each other accountable; put your theory into practice!

You are sexist….all of you…realize this. you have been socialized to be and you are….and you will be until the day you die….but you have to fight that as much as you can every day! of course you are not all sexist in the same way….but that does not mean that you can take a break or you should got prizes just b/c you are not as sexist as other men. it just means that you have more work to do with those other men!

You are oppressed by patriarchy…therefore you should be fighting it….not defending, ignoring, or hiding behind it.

YOU DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT TO IGNORE YOUR PRIVILEGE! this includes how it affects/effects you and others in your life.

Those things should help the men in our lives a little and help us too. We all need to be actively challenging the patriarchy in our lives. For many of us this means becoming more assertive with the men in our lives about how their excuses are outdated and unwanted. We want them to change and so they have to.

I mean, what kind of revolutionary can’t say ” I love you” or “I’m afraid” or articulate what they feel and need emotionally? No revolutionary at all.

So, next time your father, lover, partner, friend tells you that they aren’t as emotional as you are let them know the truth. In case you don’t know what I mean, here’s a recap: They (men) have just as many emotions as we do…they just aren’t currently able to communicate them…and yes it is their responsibility to actively change this and if we decide to help them they should be super fucking grateful!

Coming Soon…. How Men’s Emotional Infancy Hurts Us!


4 Responses to "“It’s not me…it’s patriarchy” How men hide behind patriarchy (A Series)"

Tyneisha, you rock. I just read this for the third time and it still made me think of new things AND laugh out loud. I think my favorite part is “this is in list formation because I know how men love their lists).” HAHahahahaahaa

I also love that you demand that men be grateful when we give them criticism. Amen sister! 🙂

As a man, I certainly agree. Patriarchy certainly made it hard for me to communicate emotions and be expressive of my emotional self. I was taught that if a man had feelings it was a sign that he was “weak.” It’s the bullshit that comes with this society. It’s hard to break out of, but I hopefully am learning more everyday.

Great Article! I plan on reading the rest of the series!

It’s all a big conspiracy to keep women down….not! Men are taught not to be emotional because emotions cloud judgement and generally end up resulting in actions that don’t bring about the end result that was desired. Given two people in the same situation, I’d go with the person that’s emotionally distanced and making a rational decision based on facts rather than the person wiping their nose and crying about why it isn’t fair.

Who says I ignore my privilege? I embrace it. I love my privilege, just as I love being emotionally crippled. It lets me take what I want from the world without regret, apology, or concern for mere humans.

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