This week, Lee looks into what effect formed gender roles have on men in particular.
It’s well known that patriarchal society makes life tougher on women. But there’s plenty of reasons for men to rile against it too.
Men’s Interests Are Predetermined
Look in the men’s section of a supermarket magazine rack and you can guess what the salient subjects will be; sport, fitness, cars or lad mags. From our earliest years the architecture of a boy’s hobbies and interests begins to take shape. His toys will be cars, soldiers, or footballs. Even if he gets animals, they’ll be fierce and aggressive predators. His clothes will be darker colours, with a sporty or faux rugged edge.
Just a young girls are given kitchen sets and baby dolls to enable them to more easily slot into the role of home maker and mother, boys are brought up with a predetermined and approved set of gender roles drummed into them. Any deviation if first dismissed as ‘a phase’ he’ll grow out of. If the phrase doesn’t end it’s a source of embarrassment for the parents, and is likely to turn into a source of ridicule or bullying both in school and adult life.
We’ve thankfully started to reach a stage where it’s acceptable for women to enjoy computer games and football, but we’re an awful long way off men being allowed to enjoy ballet or dress making with the same levels of societal acceptance.
Men Have To Be Strong
Growing up with He-Man and Action Man as the benchmark of what a man should look like is bound to warp our view of manhood. Even in the 21st century it’s uncomfortable to see a man cry, despite it almost being expected from a woman. Men are expected to wait until limbs start falling off before its socially acceptable to visit a doctor about a pain. There are estimated to be far more men with undiagnosed mental health problems than women because we’re meant to somehow shrug off depression or panic attacks. For a man in a patriarchal culture, asking for help, in anything, is tantamount to defeat and failure. Here are some unpleasent statistics
-Men suffer more from substance abuse and antisocial disorders (“externalising disorders”)
– 80% of those dependent on alcohol are men., and men are three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent.
– 73% of adults who “go missing” are men and 90% of people who sleep rough are men
– Men are more than twice as likely to use Class A drugs; 78% of drug-related deaths occur in men
– Men are more likely to suffer functional difficulties in daily living than women with the same level of psychiatric symptoms
-Men receive less time than women in consultations with doctors and explanations given are fewer in number and briefer than those given to women. Female physicians spend longer with patients than male physicians and spend more time talking about health-related lifestyle and social issues
-Men are three times more likely than women to die from suicide. Around 75% of all suicides in the UK are male. The highest number is men aged 35-49, the highest rates are in those aged over 75. Suicide is the second most common cause of death in men aged under 35.
A young woman experiments with her sexuality at university. This is nothing unusual, in fact it’s seen as a normal and healthy dabble, making her a more well rounded person, even if she decides she is in fact heterosexual. Now imagine a young man sleeps with a male friend out of curiosity. Patriarchy has decided that he is now gay. Any subsequent relationships with women, up to and including wives and children, are simply a cover for his suppressed homosexuality. For men in a patriarchal society, sexuality is binary, and there can be no flexibility or ambiguity.
And being gay is to be less of a man, almost a woman. Describing something as gay implies it’s somehow less good, or a poor effort. We’re almost annoyed when gay men don’t act like flamboyant drag acts because that makes them harder to spot and categorise.
Even for heterosexual men, patriarchy demands a gruelling set of standards that you dare not slip from, lest your heterosexuality be questioned. You need to be a lad, obsessed with sex and immediately be able to summon up a list of who you would ‘do’ and in what order. If a man doesn’t fancy having sex on a given evening, patriarchy has us convinced that there’s either something wrong with him or the woman. This is very disconcerting for women brought up with the idea that men only ever want one thing, and that as women alone control when sex happens, they wield huge power in a relationship.
Traditional Men’s Jobs Are Dangerous
As discussed above, gender roles have long skewed the paths people take in life. Women find additional hurdles placed in their way, but jobs earmarked for men are just outright hazardous to health. Despite advanced in technology largely eliminating the need for brute strength, men are overwhelmingly more likely to work in iron foundries, mines, oil rigs, chemical plants or anything involving heavy machinery. Add to that the disproportionate number of men in the police, fire brigade, life boat teams, mountain rescue and the military, and it quickly becomes apparent that patriarchy is great at putting in harm’s way.
We’re Getting Screwed By The Law
Despite having a longer life expectancy and less chance of workplace injury, women receive a pension before men because apparently women are made of china and must be kept out of nasty nasty work.
As Fathers 4 Justice has shown, courts are far more likely to award custody of children to mothers. The root cause of this isn’t a conspiracy against men, but rather that patriarchy has determined that women should be the primary care givers and home makers because that’s what they’ve always done.
Conviction rates for sexual assaults by women on children is even worse than conviction rates for female on male violence (another link here) because, again, we live in a society than has trouble comprehending women being strong and men being weak because it doesn’t fit our comfortable assumptions.
This is not to say that women have it easy, or that feminists are wrong, far from it. This is meant to get men angry at a system that we’ve just come to accept as normal