One of the more delicious ironies of traditional male society, is that inspite all of its talk about chivalry and respect for women, possibly the easiest way to incite a brawl is to compare one of its members to a woman.
I have known countless chauvinists who make tall claims about thinking of woman as goddesses
but bristle at carrying out any action that might have the slightest risk of being perceived as feminine.
In a world of increasingly blurred gender boundaries, one can legitimately ask – why?
Why be ashamed of being yourself?
Why be so petrified of being seen as doing “feminine” stuff?
The answer lies in patriarchal conditioning. Contrary to what some people think, men are conditioned by patriarchy too. Just like women, they are brought up to “fit in” with their preconceived gender role. And this conditioning certainly affects the way we look at the world.
One of the biggest expectations from a man is financial success. What image do you see when you picture a man who would be traditionally considered “successful” in society? No doubt, he has a great job, a big house, expensive gadgets, a fancy car and depending on your point of view, either a wonderful, loving wife or an ensemble of good-looking women hankering for his attention.
Notice how patriarchy plays into this. The more you earn, the more manly you are. Money makes you attractive to women. Money gives you power over women. Money gives you the power to dictate terms.
Money makes you stronger and more intimidating.
Of course, success is great in general, but for men afflicted by such a thought process, failure is NOT an option. This, I believe, is the reason why men take financial and professional setbacks more seriously than most women, even when it does not result in any immediate financial crisis. A smaller wallet makes them lesser males, apparently, and to a traditionally brought up male, there can be few things worse than that.
Linked to this, is the expectation that men should be aloof, unemotional and fiercely independent. Money gives you economic independence. Aloofness gives you emotional independence. And a lot of things stem from that. Men do not cry. Men do not commit. Men do not compliment. Men do not cuddle. Men do not baby-talk to babies.
Instead, you have the confident Man.
The aggressive Man.
The Man who overcomes all obstacles through sheer grit and an iron well.
The Man who, to his dying breath, defends his personal honor and masculinity with a zeal matched only by his own hungry ambition.
The Perfect Man who does not, and will never, exist.
By no means am I saying that it is a bad thing to have an iron will. It’s a great thing. It’s a wonderful blessing.
But not everybody has it. And no one should be expected to.
I tend to think of myself as a bit more aware of patriarchy than many of my peers. I am aware of how damaging it can be. I am aware of how much heartburn it can cause.
And yet, I have not escaped its effects in totality. At random points in time, I catch my thoughts wandering into the same old zone, and I have to actively stop them. I have to MAKE myself swallow my fake arrogance, and roll down the window and ask for directions.
But as Dumbeldore says to Harry Potter, it is the choices we make, far more than our abilities that tell us who we truly are.
Trying to maintain a perception of fitting into one’s “role” in life is a losing proposition. It is one of the worst things a person can do to themselves. It is the easiest way to kill your own individuality. It is the the quickest road to murdering what makes you uniquely YOU.
You are yourself, in all your glory and form, with all your strengths and weaknesses and issues. YOU CANNOT POSSIBLY BE ANYONE ELSE!
Maybe I can’t quite shake off the shackles of patriarchy completely, but I have made my choice. I choose to be free. I choose to be, who I really am.