There’s a storyteller called Dave Pickering who’s preparing a show for the Edinburgh arts festival in August. He’s collecting views on masculinity for his research, so presumably the show is going to be about how to lay a carpet or something like that. You can answer his short survey here.
I found answering these questions to be really tough. I’ve included some of my answers below—what do you think?
Dave’s question: How would you define patriarchy?
My answer: The disproportionate dominance of men and so-called masculine traits like aggression over other people. A political and economic system that is built on this dominance.
Q: How has patriarchy hurt you?
A: It hurts me to see other people suffering because of it. It hurts me to see men accumulating power and authority and then whacking people over the head. I’m a gay man with a gay sister. Our parents are homophobic and have said abusive things to us and treated us poorly. Homophobia stems from patriarchy: it is the fear and dislike of men and women who don’t conform to the gender norms that patriarchy relies on.
Q: How have you hurt people in a way influenced by patriarchy?
A: I’ve interrupted people, probably women more frequently than men. I’ve judged women more harshly than men on things like professional competence, eg instinctively thinking that a certain woman might not be competent when I wouldn’t think that about a man. I’ve benefited from exploited workers, enjoying the fruits of their labours—from actual fruit to clothes and TVs.
5. How would you define masculinity?
A: Masculinity is a set of intersecting ideas and ideals that many people want men to live up to. They include aggression, strength, assertiveness, emotional silence, and rationality.
Masculinity is being told you’re not good enough, and realising that the only way you’ll get good enough is if you hurt somebody—and then doing that.
Masculinity is ‘fake it till you make it’.
Masculinity is never once being seen to touch a man in any way that could ever be seen as sexual.
Masculinity is only being allowed certain emotions at certain times. Joy when your football team wins, not when your son take up ballet.
Masculinity is silence.
Masculinity is hesitating before you ask for directions. Masculinity is getting lost for hours in a foreign city because you were sure you could work it out from the map.
Masculinity is being prepared to kill the man who raped your sister.
Masculinity is being prepared to hurt somebody.