top of page

Patriarchy Hurts Men Too: The Poisoned Chalice of Patriarchy

* Warning: This blog uses heteronormative gender language.

The title of this blog usually leads to two different results. One on hand naysayers (usually women) who find it ridiculous that men are disadvantaged by the very thing that gives them power. And on the other hand, those who agree (usually men) but are too afraid to say it out loud because very few would want to lose power by speaking truth to this. Which has led me to write about this issue calling for a more nuanced understanding of our gender politics with a hope that maybe the next generation of us will take steps into the next phase of a feminist world.

One of my favourite topics at any social gathering that I know will rile up emotions is bringing up the idea men do actually suffer from patriarchy. As mentioned, it’s an oxymoron to a large swathe of society because patriarchy by its very nature has benefitted and continues to benefit men in so many ways, be it in the home, workplace, religion, society or at a very personal level. The numerous benefits trump and unfortunately have created this cost-benefit analysis which is that the benefits outweigh the costs of being a man.

Although this statement is seemingly correct, it is, however, is misleading. The mistake that comes with providing a cost-benefit analysis is that it fails to actually understand that this patriarchal power works like a ‘poisoned chalice’. The term poisoned chalice comes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth where the writer basically outlines how a poisoned chalice is an honour/award/privilege that simultaneously functions as a source of problems for the recipient. Patriarchy functions like a drug from which certain perceived advantages are accrued but at its core, it is detrimental. We see this in heterosexual men. As they grow older and continuously drink from the poisoned chalice of patriarchy, they correspondingly increasingly suffer from patriarchy.

As patriarchy, like any form of oppressive power, eats away at the humanity in men, the key question becomes what is to be done? Fundamentally, the process of ending patriarchy will come from men actively playing a part in ending patriarchy. So far, the most powerful aspect of feminism has been the ability of women to be able to speak and act truth to power by opposing patriarchy and actively challenging it. However, patriarchy has continued to rear its ugly head even in the most progressive societies of the world because the bastion of male power continues to be upheld by men who see this power as inherent to who they are.

It is these ideas of what to be a man is that need to be halted and it is my recommendation it is essential that men rather than being seen as allies of the feminist movement be identified as critical conduits in the struggle for equality. I am not the first person to say this. We can thank certain sections of feminist women for coming up with this revolutionary idea. All I can do is harp on about it.

Men being identified as being part of the feminist mass introduces the powerful action of providing men with a sense of belonging, language, and identity that every human needs. Currently, men who consider themselves as feminist, or progressive or practising positive masculinity are either seen by traditional men as ‘weak’ or by feminists as being ‘allies’. Allyship in this battle is not enough because allyship creates an idea that progressive men are primarily there to support women when in actual fact, being a progressive man not only changes women’s circumstances but also mens’.

The changes a man goes through when they adopt better gender relations are numerous and it is also very difficult to navigate. Progressive men have to challenge, ignore, and fight socialized ideals of being a man on a daily basis. The work that has been done in feminism importantly provides the language and understanding to go through this transition. This includes understanding consent, understanding why it is ok when your partner does not take your surname, understanding how to perceive and interact with women in a respectful manner in the workplace, having the words to express emotion and other things. Outside of feminism, there is no home for progressive men to grow and develop. For progressive men, feminism provides them with the freedom, tools, and safety to fight patriarchy.

Once we can reach a point where men’s attitudes, beliefs are changing towards women, we will break through the current wall that has women still suffering massively from patriarchy more than a hundred years after the movement began. It is not enough for women’s attitudes to change, there is a need for a corresponding change in men too. Men becoming part of the feminist movement as subjects and just not allies will include championing, acknowledging, and celebrating progressive men.

This will lead to actions that some feminists do not agree to which is celebrating men for being human by not following patriarchal norms. Some would say, “Why should men be patted on the back for being decent human beings?” My answer to that is that being humane, kind, loving and embracing equality is not naturally human. History is a long story of humans being inhumane to each other in one form or the other as different sects have constantly dominated and abused others based on gender, race, culture, language, or class or a combination of all. As much as we inhibit good qualities in us humans, the negative qualities are also very prevalent, and patriarchy is one of those. For those positive qualities such as feminism to become widespread, there is a need to socialize, teach and champion men who do those things. Acknowledging those men who are practising progressive gender relations from both women and men is a key part of bringing patriarchy to an end. This is conversely important because the lack of championing, supporting the growth of women is implicitly a patriarchal characteristic. Therefore, feminism cannot uphold a characteristic of patriarchy. It is a contradictory position to hold.

The ultimate reality of the issue is that the journey that progressive men undertake by taking up feminist principles and lifestyles on one level is them consciously disempowering themselves from the advantages that come with patriarchy and substituting it with the power that comes with equality. It is a process of not drinking from the poisoned chalice and drinking from the fountain spring of feminism. It is vital to accept their identity as feminists in themselves because as we are growing to realise, feminism comes in different shades and colours, and there is no justifiable reason why men cannot be part of this umbrella. Chimamanda Adichie was right, we should all be feminists.

62 views0 comments


bottom of page