“Women are oppressed”; this is not a statement but a fact. We live in a patriarchal world where women are treated as second class citizens and society prioritize men and gives them so much privilege over women.
Although these are facts yet we can likewise argue that men are also oppressed in a way, and what oppresses them is the very patriarchy that oppresses women.
How did patriarchy oppress women and why?
Until a few decades back, women were obliged to domestic servitude. Patriarchy limited their role to sex, pregnancy, motherhood and housewifing. Why? Because that is what biology suggested back then.
Probably the primitive circumstances of the human gatherings necessitated a specific role for each gender in the first village. Men used their physical strength to hunt and fight for protection or expansion, while women stayed indoors for housewifing, especially with multiple pregnancies as a result of the biological necessities.
Of course, these gender-defined roles put women in a very vulnerable position susceptible to violence and abuse. Men’s social role on the other hand gave them the privilege to be the abuser.
Back then these roles might have made sense, but today, in the era of knowledge capitalism, physical strength is no longer in use. Survival and superiority are determined by intelligence and creativity.
That shift in human gathering circumstances opened a new horizon where social-gender roles are of very little importance, and hanging on to them is radical, obsolete and pulls our civilization back.
Yet men are still haunted by the ancient male model of a physically strong and superior male. A model that does not fit anymore and clashes with our modern image of society. We call this obsolete vision of the male “toxic masculinity”.
The creation of toxic masculinity today
“Toxic masculinity” or the obsolete vision of manhood is still being passed on to men through movies, media, and culture in general. Men are being taught that manhood means strength, endurance, violence, insensitivity, lack of empathy and of course, superiority over women.
Growing up as a male trying to fit in human society, every man absorbs this toxic vision from the dominating surrounding culture. Eventually, that clashes with the reality of the modern era where feminists are fighting fiercely for their rights and against the consequences of the personality that society built up for men.
While feminists are fighting against toxic masculinity, men fall confused and hence angry and even more toxic. This toxicity harms them as much as it harms others. It is like an acid that eats them from inside out.
A man today might see most depictions of men either in media or everyday conversation, as a villain, a rapist, a harasser and an abuser. Overall as the enemy.
I remember walking down the street one night and a woman in front of me took a glance behind before increasing her pace and finally walking to the other side of the street. I understand why a woman would do this, men sometimes do weird and creepy things, yet the feeling of being received as a public threat does sting.
Men today see themselves being received as a public threat and might feel that in a very soon future all of them are going to be crossifeid. From there comes the idea of defending gender. They start to think it’s a war.
The myth of male power
In his book “The Myth Of Male Power” Warren Ferrel has an insightful idea where he says that the second wave of feminism has rightly fought against the traditional gender role that confined women to domestic servitude but argues that the feminist idea that men have all the power in society is an illusion because the traditional gender role for men is as oppressive”.
The traditional male-gender role confined him to structure a vision of his gender that goes against his emotional vulnerability and natural empathy. It also puts him in a position of continuous struggle to prove a superiority that is no longer valid yet is being injected into his mind either directly or indirectly.
The concept of “men have all the power” is a patriarchal illusion being sold every day to men and women. If men on higher authorities have so much power, the average man has pretty much nothing. When the average man buys this patriarchal illusion it clashes with reality and causes frustration that takes only a spark to turn into violence.
Norwegian Sociologist, Øystein Gullvåg Holter presents the idea of “male expendability” where he argues that society can better cope with the loss of a typical man than with the loss of a typical woman.
Modern society has a tendency to value female lives more than male lives. It shows very clearly in the way females receive more attention on social media when talking about psychological issues, for example, while men tend to be overshadowed.
Male dispensability might show in the higher suicide rates among men. In 2019, men died by suicide 3.63x as often as women.
On dating apps, women get a lot of attention either in the form of matches, messages, comments or acknowledgements. Most of this attention adds more to a woman’s anxiety than it adds to her confidence but another fact is that men on dating apps get overshadowed and feel invisible.
Which is worse, tons of unwanted attention or dealing with a lot of rejection and radio silence?
Men have a genuine identity crisis
While women are so busy fighting for what is theirs, men find themselves lost; they are not sure who they are anymore, or what does it mean to be a man, and where does that put them?
Although it is not rocket science to be a good person who respects others and understand your boundaries, yet figuring out a whole new identity evolving around a specific gender can sound like rocket science to someone who might feel confused and trapped.
We need to tackle toxic masculinity as a social disease that is not only caught up by men but also women. We need to structure new concepts of manhood. Concepts that can contain the male as a defined gender while fixing the previously-made misconceptions of the radical vision of manhood. That means when we tackle toxic masculinity we do not put all the effort into one side and ignore the other. We can show understanding with less attacking mechanisms and generalization that can cause a lot of damage.