Honor and Masculinity: How Patriarchy Warps Your Thinking

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, sir?

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.

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24 thoughts on “Honor and Masculinity: How Patriarchy Warps Your Thinking

  1. Going against conditioning is pretty hard work. Good job on asking directions. 😉 Though growing up, I never knew why men don’t ask directions. My dad would seriously ask every second person for the correct address. They would all give different instructions, and then we would just pick one at random to follow, usually based on our perception of the direction giver’s reliability. 😀

  2. Good to read.
    Agree.
    Shail had written something very similar in her blog about a couple of months ago.
    (shailsnest.com)
    I have faced this problem too.
    When I bought a lady’s cycle for my daughter and rode it, when I bought a Reva Car, and also when I bought a scooter after selling my motorcycle, I had to face a few barbs from male friends hinting at doubts about my masculinity.
    Some of my colour preferences have also been dismissed with contempt as they were supposed to be “Mahila colours”.
    I have learned to shrug them off.
    Regards
    GV

    (Am I first? There is no chance at IHM”s blog. Too much competition there)

  3. I really like the point raised here. At the end of the day, its getting the job done. Look outside the box. We’re not made to please others, society to be more specific. Each one for his own. If we please ourselves, I think that is sufficient! Whether others approve of your personality, character or your actions is not important because we are only content if we do what we wish, and society should not be a reason to suppress who we truly are!

    • Yep.

      I also think society isn’t REALLY as rigid and unchanging a thing as it seems. It depends on your situation, really. If you’re materially free to make your own choices anyway, I think it’s important to take everyone else’s opinions with a pinch of salt. Hear them out, consider them, but don’t be too bothered by them if they happen to be overly negative, in your opinion.

  4. Glad you took this issue up, men are often completely disregarded when one discusses about patriarchy and its implications. men suffer too. forced to swallow their emotions in order to appear “manly”. according to simone de beauvoir women are not born but made into one. same can be applied to men as well. characteristics like aggressiveness, aloofness, stronger etc are supposed to be the stronghold of masculinity. any transgression results in men being ridiculed. thats where the term “joru ka ghulam” also comes into play. what i find the saddest part is that the role of father is completely degenerated. ofcourse the fact that a woman nurtures a baby for 9 months inside her womb, results in the bond between a mother and a child. but i feel fathers too are extremely important, they play a key role as well in the development of a child. when the child sees the father just going to work and coming back and not indulging in conversations etc. the child grows up thinking that and that also impacts their grown up life. i have always strongly believed in the concept of yin and yang, its high time people become more conscious about this reality or so to say “fact”.

    p.s. congrats on your blog award. did the chiggy wiggy huh??..:D

    • Yes. There’s pressure to be a man’s man, to fit in with the conventional male identity. The media does a lot to propogate those ideas. K-serials, for example are just as sexist when it comes to men as they are towards women.

      The DIFFERENCE is that if men DO fit in with the stereotype, there are plenty of perks to go with, such as a wife who waits on them 24×7, not having to take responsiblity for their own actions, grovelling in-laws, preferential treatment over the females in the family, yadda yadda. At least, people brainwashed by patriarchal ideas would consider them perks.
      Women don’t get any of that even if they devote their lives to fitting in. Fitting in makes life appreciably worse for most women, whereas for men, it depends on your point of view. Some would consider having a slave-wife a great thing. Others, like me, would consider it an unmitigated horror. The first category weakens the voices which speak out against the sexism.

  5. HP reference?? Internet high five!

    Btw this year for Diwali I was at my boyfriend’s parents house where the two of us created this kick-ass rangoli. He actually got super-duper involved and was basking in the glow of ‘his’ artistic abilities till his clan descended and gave him SUCH a hard time about being ‘girly’ for the rest of the evening. And for being a ‘joru ka ghulam ‘ type. Needless to say , he was majorly irritated.But then I won a lotta cash from said relatives in the taash that followed so there!

    • LOL.

      Do you know, some people have even told me that PAINTING is a feminine hobby!

      This, when nearly all of the greatest painters in the world have been male.

      I frankly wouldn’t be insulted at all by the “joru ka gulaam” title. When the trads in India say that, what they mean is “wow, you actually give a shit about your SO”. That’s considered gulaami in India.

  6. When I had never been outside South Asia, I would think that in our part of the world men are unfair to women. I used to think that women in the West have as much freedom and education as men and are not much different from men. Then I moved to the West, and what I saw was completely opposite. Men have to be tall, muscular, have a lot of money, nice paying job, should be able to fulfill every demands of his women, should be expert with the techniques in bed. Women on the other hand should pretty, do a lot of shopping, care about fashion, know how to take care of the men and satisfy them.

    Moral of the story: South Asian people, do not underestimate your culture. You are very rich culturally and there is a lot of respect towards women in your culture. Education or freedom (or being more modern) doesn’t necessarily make it better.

  7. Pingback: Emotions, Masculinity and Hierarchies in Relationships. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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