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There’s masculinity, and then there’s patriarchal masculinity. In my opinion, the former views femininity as complementary to it, while the latter views femininity as something that is degrading. In a patriarchal society like the United States, boys are raised to see femininity in themselves as something that must be shunned, despised, and loathed. The patriarchal masculinity taught to young boys finds no redeeming qualities in femininity when it is expressed boys or men, and thus boys are taught to avoid femininity at all costs, and also that they must stamp it out when it manifests itself in other boys and men.
I got the idea to write about “shedding patriarchy” last night while I was in my bathroom thinking about the Chris Brown and Raz B situation that took place on twitter. The situation got me thinking about growing up as a young boy who was being shaped and molded for patriarchal masculinity and what that meant for me as well as other boys around me. I was being groomed by the boys and men around me to view the feminine, not as a complement, but as something capable of degrading my masculinity entirely. Insults like “faggot,” “sissy,” and “punk” were routinely used by the boys and men around me, either as a way of insulting a man for doing something considered feminine, or for policing the mannerisms of other boys and men. I can remember an older cousin who seemed obsessed with my masculinity, it was as if his goal in life was to remind me that my femininity was a grave wrong, and that it was his job to remind me of this by taunting and teasing me. I’d have hoped that my experience is unique, but it is the reality for thousands, if not millions, of young boys in this nation who are taught through patriarchy that femininity is not a complement, but a threat.
As an adult man I have been able to immerse myself in feminist theory, and the writings of feminists like bell hooks and Eve Ensler. It is through hooks that I found the strength within me to shed patriarchal masculinity, and to embrace a masculinity that does not view femininity as a threat to masculinity, but rather a complement. In the past I had always straddled the line between embracing and rejecting the feminine within me, but through the feminist theory of hooks, Ensler, and others I learned to embrace the masculine and feminine in me, seeing them as complements to my being. I see myself as a snake who has finally shed the old skin, revealing a beautiful new layer of skin below. The patriarchal masculinity I was groomed to exhibit has been replaced with a new masculinity that does not view femininity as something to be despised in myself or other men, something that men must distance themselves from. If someone says I talk like a girl or walk like a girl this does not phase me. If someone says I am feminine this does not phase me. If someone says that I am soft or “pussy” this does not phase me. While the patriarchal masculinity may have been upset or hurt by those statements, the new masculinity is not and sees those as complements rather than something that degrades. Just as it may take days for a snake to shed it’s skin, it is not an easy task for a man to shed patriarchal masculinity. There are many forces in society working to keep men imprisoned inside of patriarchal masculinity. The media, church, family, sports, and many others keep men wedded to patriarchal masculinity, but feminist theory, and especially the work of bell hooks is one way for men to envision an alternative masculinity.
I truly feel, that my life is better now that I have shed patriarchal masculinity, and it is my hope that many other men undertake this process of shedding patriarchal masculinity in favor of a masculinity that does not view the feminine as degrading.
Recommended Reading: The Will to Change by bell hooks
I’m sure everyone is looking for clever analysis of the “Chris Brown & Raz B Presents: Patriarchal Masculinity and Homophobia,” but I honestly having nothing. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for men to resort to patriarchal masculinity, homophobia, effemiphobia, and misogyny when arguing with each other.
I tried my best to translate the tweets transpiring from “Battle of the Patriarchal Males,” and this is what I came up with:
“blal blah patriarchal masculinity blah blah homophobia blah blah patriarchal masculinity blah blah homophobia.”
Also we learned an important little nugget today,
“I’m not homophobic” is the new “I’m not racist.” I’m sure Chris Brown even has a gay friend, but the homophobia is just too hard to resist.
Note to Men: Step away from the patriarchal masculinity.
The headline read like all chilling headlines usually read, “Long Island Man Kills Baby Boy for Acting Like a Little Girl” but this time I wasn’t surprised. You see over the months as I have educated myself about the role that patriarchal masculinity plays in our society, I have become less and less surprised by the insanity that it produces. Reading the headline should have been something that shocked me to core, something that made me stop in my tracks, but alas all I could muster was “typical.”
You see patriarchal masculinity places an emphasis on gender rigidity. A boy has to act this way and a girl has to act that way. Boys are to be tough and hard and girls are to be soft and weak. This is an organization of life that most of us are guilty of embracing and enforcing. We try with all our might to protect our little boys from being sissies and punks, that which we see as improper for a model little boy.
So am I surprised when a 17 month old baby boy is killed for “acting like a little girl?” Absolutely not. It’s not as if we as a community haven’t pledged our full support to patriarchy and its perverted sense of masculinity. We teach our children that manhood and womanhood is an act. A series of performances and a show that is always being played. We don’t demand for manhood and womanhood to be seen as a state of being. That a person need not do or say anything in order to be a man or a woman, that they simply are. That’s not what we teach our kids.
One of the things people don’t realize about patriarchal masculinity is that it has consequences. It might appear as a mother spanking her son for playing with his sisters dolls, it might appear as a group of boys picking on another little boy for holding his books a certain way, and sometimes it appears as someone extracting violence on a little boy for not portraying some idealized version of maleness. Our infatuation with patriarchy always has consequences.
In expected fashion the masses will raise their hands in confusion and despair at the specter of a young life being ended over something as frivolous as gender expression. People will give their usual “That’s sick,” “That’s awful,” That’s horrible,” “He needs to rot in jail,” etc. But when it comes to admitting their responsibility in the matter most will balk at the opportunity for that self reflection. They’ll continue to laugh at the so called sissy in their family, they’ll continue to feign disgust at the so called punk who walks in to their classroom, they’ll raise their own sons and brothers and male cousins to portray some imagined form of maleness that cannot be measured. This is what we will continue to do.
My thoughts are with the family of the little boy who lost his life at the expense of patriarchal masculinity. It truly pains me to see another victim of our dedication to such a destructive ideology.
If you aren’t watching VH1′s new show “Dad Camp” I highly recommend tuning in. So often in our society when it comes to pregnancy and child rearing only the stories of young women are told. Shows like MTV’s Teen Mom and other shows have always focused on the young woman, and never demanded or showcased the role of the father to be in the pregnancy.
VH1′s new show features couples expecting a child going through different tasks that encourage them to be better men, better boyfriends/husbands, and hopefully better fathers.
One of the most powerful aspects of the show is the way that it goes about challenging and changing patriarchal masculinity. Dr. Jeffs Garderes does an amazing job of having these young men tap into their emotional selves as well as their feelings, allowing them to be open and honest with themselves as well as the women in their lives. The men on the show display a lot of rage which is typical of patriarchal masculinity, but they also through self reflection and honest dialog come to display vulnerability, reflection, and even self criticism, all traits that aren’t expected of a typical male in society.
Seeing these men be vulnerable and dig deep inside themselves and explore their whole selves is something rarely seen by men on national television. Vulnerability is one of our greatest strengths and its encouraging to a feminist like myself to see these men traversing patriarchal masculinity in order to become better men.
It’s truly refreshing to see a show on National TV tackling fatherhood and patriarchal masculinity. Most wouldn’t expect this kind of programming on station like VH1, but I must say VH1 has done a good job with this show. I recommend it for all especially young men who plan on being fathers one day.
The show airs Mondays at 10pm.
“Anytime a single male dares to transgress patriarchal boundaries in order to love, the lives of women, men, and children are fundamentally changed for the better.” – bell hooks
A lot of people get bent out of shape when I challenge perverted patriarchal masculinity. They in their own ignorance take this to mean that I am against masculinity and that I am against manhood. Some of the most ardent of this crowd will even go so far as to label me a misadrist.
So let me clear up what I mean when I articulate my disdain of perverted patriarchal masculinity.
At the core of perverted patriarchal masculinity is the belief that one has to act a certain way in order to be a man. I am of the belief that manhood is not an act, not a performance, and not a show. One is a man because they are a man. Essentially manhood is a state of being. You don’t have to jump through any hoops in order to prove your manhood.
Today I read a blog post by a guy who calls himself “The Sexual Intellectual” and his blog was a lesson in perverted patriarchal masculinity.
It’s almost common knowledge these days that men are the new bitches. Some of them have even started to accept the title, by buying loofas, wearing pastel toned colors, getting mani-pedis and numerous, other metro sexual infractions against manhood.
This is a perfect example of what I mean when I say perverted patriarchal masculinity. The notion that a man is being a woman and or lacking in his manhood if he wears pastel colors or gets a manicure/pedicure is a prime example of the perverted patriarchal masculinity that I loathe with every fiber of my being. The notion that ones manhood is somehow tarnished or devalued because one wears pastel colors is just sad.
Perverted patriarchal masculinity is a poison that sours all. Those who perpetuate it and those who are affected by its promotion.
The notion that a man cannot wear make up.
The notion that a man cannot wear skinny jeans.
The notion that a man can only take a shower, no sitting in tubs. (Yes I have heard this)
The notion that a man cannot like ballet, jazz, or lyrical.
The notion that a man cannot carry a handbag.
The notion that a man cannot get his eyebrows groomed.
The notion that a man cannot get his tongue pierced.
The notion that a man cannot get his navel pierced.
The notion that a man cannot consider something cute.
The notion that a man cannot cook, bake, or wash dishes.
The notion that a man cannot be a cosmetologist.
The notion that a man cannot be a cheerleader.
The notion that a man cannot cry.
The notion that a man cannot be vulnerable.
The notion that a man shouldn’t be a virgin or celibate.
The notion that a man shouldn’t have exclusively female friends.
The notion that a man shouldn’t do certain dances.
The notion that a man can’t wear certain shoes.
The notion that a man cannot enjoy certain movies.
The notion that a man cannot go certain places.
The notion that a man can’t do household chores.
These are all notions of perverted patriarchal masculinity that I loathe, that I detest, that I reject.
I have no issues with masculinity and men being masculine but I passionately reject any notion that perverted patriarchal masculinity is anything other than perverted and should not be looked to or considered some kind of acceptable masculine ideal. Its rooted in ignorance, misogyny, and rigidity and I can’t get behind that.
If your manhood depends on you constantly jumping through hoops to prove it pure and legitimate then you might need to reevaluate your views on manhood.
“Patriarchal boys, like their adult counterparts know the rules: they know they must not express feeling with the exception of anger, that they must not do anything considered feminine or womanly.”
Prince has never subscribed to that notion and that’s why I love him.
He is a walking, talking, living, breathing, rejection and repudiation of all “some” of the things it means to be a patriarchal male in this society.
And that’s why he’s a cool dude!
Shout out to Ebony for spotlighting a black man who isn’t afraid to reject some notions of masculinity!
Chris Brown is a black man and like many black men before him he pledged his allegiance to the system of patriarchy.
You see patriarchy with its reliance on the will to dominate others, its promotion of the will to do violence no matter how violating, and its love affair with rage as the only acceptable male behavior seemed like a good idea at the time for Chris Brown. A perfectly “masculine” outlet for his emotional state at the time.
So on one night following the Grammy awards after he and his girlfriend got into an argument he relied on that patriarchy he had told was the refuge of black men and he was violent, he raged, and he was dominant.
He went insane which is what patriarchy is built upon. The insanity of men.
But no one told Chris Brown that patriarchy is a poisonous system. A system that has poisonous affects not only on the male patriarch but to those around him who he loves.
It was reported today that the singer was denied a VISA to perform in the United Kingdom, the official statement read as follows:
“We reserve the right to refuse entry to the UK to anyone guilty of a serious criminal offence. Public safety is one of our primary concerns … Each application to enter the UK is considered on its individual merits.”
Chris Browns life continues to be ruined by his allegiance to patriarchy. If only he had known that embracing patriarchal masculinity would poison his life so severely. Note To Black Men: GIVE THE SHIT UP! It does nothing but destroy.
As a man I hear so much about what it means to be so called masculine or so called feminine. As a gay man this is heightened to even crazier levels. Therefore I want to conduct a survey to get a better understanding of what my peers think it means to be so called masculine or so called feminine.
I’m conducting this survey on Black Gay Chat a website with a diverse group of gay men.
Once I get enough responses I will hopefully be able to compile the data and share it with other men so we can get a better understanding about our beliefs of masculinity and femininity.
The “brown paper bag test” was a ritual once practiced by certain African-American and Creole fraternities and sororities who discriminated against people who were “too dark.” That is, these groups would not let anyone into the sorority or fraternity whose skin tone was darker than a paper lunch bag, in order to maintain a perception of standards.
In many ways the masculinity test extends into all aspects of our community. So called masculine men and many so called feminine men as well discriminate, belittle, and ridicule against men who are “too feminine.” Many closeted gay men cite so called feminine men as their reason for remaining in the closet. They consider so called feminine men to not be decent or up to the standards of what a proper homosexual man should be like.
The message being: “The closer to straight the better”
The name pigmentocracy is given to a group-based social hierarchy based largely on colorism.
This can be seen in the gay community where in which so called masculine men rank at the top of the hierarchy and so called feminine men are at the bottom.
The term “No fems” can be seen on the profiles of many sites catering to gay men. If a man does not pass the “masculinity” test he is seen as being not fit to hook up with, get to know, or be seen with in public.
While I understand that some people simply prefer “light skinned Blacks” and that some gay men just prefer so called masculine gay men.
I think the fact that the masculinity test is such a prevalent aspect of the gay community is something that we need to work through and examine.
It’s one thing to have preferences it’s another thing to create hierarchies.