I was once seated in a public speaking class where each student was to deliver a three minute speech. Of all the speeches, only one caught my attention and stuck. The speech was about a particular boy, whom I would name Tade, as I cannot recall his real name.
According to the speaker, Tade’s parents died when he was just a toddler, leaving him and his little sister to face the harsh realities of life. Some family members came and took away his sister, saying Tade would look after himself, since he was a man. All they needed to do was check on him once a while. With little or no care, Tade took to the streets of Lagos, doing what he could and eating what he found. Soon he contracted cholera and died from it.
The speaker then proceeded to jolt us into awareness of the sad realities of the male gender, just because the society refers to them as ‘men who should never cry’. Undisputedly, the speech was applauded as the best. While for many, the speech ended there, for me, it made me ask questions about the patriarchal society we find ourselves. Many would say Tade died of Cholera but I would say he died a victim of patriarchy.
There is a huge imbalance in the society. This imbalance is caused largely by the system of patriarchy the society has created, causing men to believe they superior and should act such, thereby allowing the dominance of men in socio-cultural systems.
Undisputedly, this imbalance affects everyone in the society, with the subjugating of women as well as the struggle for freedom through the feministic ideology being at the forefront of the fight against patriarchy. And its not just the genders that are at war here. The society itself is in a critical state. Every now and then, we find ourselves discussing issues arising from gender based violence and the likes. The adverse effect of patriarchy is unfortunately not experienced by women alone, but also by the men the system deceives into believing are being ‘favoured’.
A rather unfortunate thing about this system is that it is not even being questioned by men. Not just men, some women and the society as a whole do not see it as problem. Patriarchy has been embraced a norm. Instead of letting out emotions and admitting vulnerability, men are told to man up or stop being a woman. Unfortunately, these men seem to have found a way to weave this ideology into their lives and it has cost them a lot.
As much as this system seems to ’empower’ men and put them in charge, the system has found a way to make them ‘weaker’. ‘Men should not cry’ is a very common maxim in our society. Overtime, this belief system has brought men to the mercy of the society, without even realizing it. Men have been taught to build a “solid front”, put their fears behind them and tread their paths flawlessly, showing no emotion, forgetting that they are humans too.
A major evil of patriarchy, which perhaps births the other effects is toxic masculinity. What is toxic masculinity? Toxic masculinity according to Wikipedia simply refers to the “traditional stereotypes of men as socially dominant, along with related traits such as misogyny and homophobia’. Toxic masculinity is however not an attempt to demonise the male gender, rather, it is an attempt to show how the society makes them conform to a particular pattern, which may not only be dangerous to them but to the society at large. It is also worthy to note that masculinity in itself is not toxic. Rather, the socio-cultural stereotype where masculinity can be taken to the extreme is toxic. It begins when you ask a male child who is apparently experiencing pain or grief not to cry or ‘man up’ and stop being a ‘woman’. When boys display certain kinds of unacceptable behavior, rather than chastise as they would the girl child, you hear people make comments such as boys will always be boys.
Toxic masculinity gives room for violence, as it encourages boys to misbehave and in most cases, become violent towards women, which is evident in many societies today. Far from its effect on the opposite gender is its resulting effects on men themselves. Toxic masculinity makes men become extremely self-reliant. They therefore find it difficult or even appalling to get help when they have problems with finance, health, and the likes.
Competition is just another. Patriarchy allows for men to be defined by what they can do, rather than who they are. This is why you would find a teenager, trying to ‘prove himself’ to his father. A man is considered less than a man if he has not met some ridiculous societal stands. The notion that a man must be the provider, rather than a provider wears men out. Now, this is not to say men should not provide for their families but why should a man provide everything? Wives can also work and contribute to the home. Thankfully, a lot of people are getting this already, while some are yet to.
Studies have shown over time that depressive symptoms in men is on the high side, compared to women. Men bottle up a lot of emotions, many of which cause them worry, sleepless nights and trouble. In Dan Benson’s The Total man, Benson highlighted how men have become victims of their society. He opines that many men die before their wives, while many others have an ailment, if not dead. This is largely because the strong front they put up is gradually making them weak, stretching them to a breaking point.
All of these get men frustrated. Their frustrations in turn affect their lives, their family, relationships, while they struggle to keep up with the society’s standards of what makes them a man. Many fathers today have failed relationships with their family. This is not because they want to be irresponsible, they have just lost their love, while trying to be a man.
Manhood needs to be liberated from the false standard of Patriarchy. Men feel trapped in their bodies. They want to express themselves but just cannot. It is quite pathetic. Gender equality will go a long way in fighting against patriarchy and its effects. Renewing our mind and reminding ourselves that men are not super humans would do everyone a lot of good. So we do not find it weird when we see a man showing emotions.
A human society, where we are not just worried about the wellbeing of the girl child but the boy child as well will help us realise that men are humans and a part of our lives. A society where it is okay to be a man and cry. Therefore, teach your girls to love but teach your boys to love harder.
Why is it not ok for a man to make mistakes? Why should he condemned to the dictates of the society? Why should he kill himself daily, trying to be a ‘man’. It is insane and the society does not even know it. It is really time the society understood that men are humans too and they need help. Eliminating patriarchy from our society would help, not just men but women and the society at large. They say men should not cry, but I say all men should cry.