Patriarchy: A societal system in which men hold most of the power. You’d think it would benefit men, right? But, according to the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention, men died by suicide nearly four times more than women did in 2020.At first, this doesn’t add up. But I urge you to consider the pressures that men face every day. We are made to adhere to a twisted stoicism of sorts, hiding most of our emotions. Maybe we do it to act tough, or to avoid burdening our loved ones. Perhaps it’s a bit of both. It is for me. Even though I know it’s healthier to express my feelings, it can be difficult to be vulnerable.
I think that’s partially because of what I’ve internalized as a man. The Cure is one of my favorite bands, and one of their most popular songs is titled “Boys Don’t Cry.” One of the lines in the chorus goes, “I try to laugh about it, hiding the tears in my eyes.” If we don’t hide the tears in our eyes, we catch flack, mostly from other men. That’s a song from the 1980s, so its lingering relevance illustrates how little society has changed in the past few decades.
Another antiquated norm is that in a family unit, the man has to be the breadwinner. A 2019 study published in the American Sociological Review states that men who are not breadwinners are at a higher risk of separation or divorce.
In an article she wrote for Medium, sociologist Alexandra Tsuneta remarks, “It’s no stretch to say that the patriarchy is killing men.“
Solving the problem of patriarchy starts at the bottom with ordinary people like you and me. It starts with letting go of antiquated social norms. We’re human, so let’s look out for each other. In the short term, it will make the pressure of living in a patriarchal society easier to take. In the long term, it will shift our entire social sphere in the right direction.
I am fortunate enough to know guys who get it: Dontaye Albert, Dante Stanton, my boss Jason Samuel, and my own father, to name a few. I can talk to them whenever I’m struggling. But I’ve also encountered men who attack other men because they fail to live up to their notions of what masculinity should be.
A couple of weeks ago, I was promoting my Saturday night music show on The Globe on Facebook. It’s mostly 80s alternative and new wave, so I was wearing heavy black eyeliner, Goth style.
I also wear gender-nonconforming clothes sometimes, and this was one of those days. One of our listeners messaged us and ripped into me, saying, “Just because you’re a beta doesn’t mean that you have to become a woman. Wake up. Testosterone is calling your name. Your body is begging for it.”
I took it like a paintball shot: It stung in the moment, but I shrugged it off. What hurt more than anything was that this man believed that femininity was something to belittle.
For my fellow men reading this article, you may be wondering, “Does this mean that we have to let go of our power?” First, I’d ask you this: Should we even have this power in the first place? Some think that the patriarchy is synonymous with men, and therefore, men are the problem. That couldn’t be further from the truth! We aren’t the problem. Inequity is.
Change is long overdue. Let’s hold one another accountable, whether that’s between peers, coworkers, our superiors in the classroom and at work, or even people in power. Let’s let go of outdated norms of male and female — after all, the gender binary is false — and acknowledge the fact that we are all human. Most importantly, we have to stop pretending that the patriarchy is not a problem for men — because it is. Only then can we hope to build a more just, peaceful and equitable world.