One of the most palpable elements of the patriarchy is the rigid gender role impositions on men and women. Society prescribes what passes as acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and scorns and punishes anyone who fails to fall neatly behind the line.
This rigidity stifles expressiveness and individuality and prevents people from being their true, authentic selves. This is the primary way the patriarchy (a system that ultimately benefits men at the expense of women) punishes men.
Feminism is the advocacy for the right to self-determination of individuals and for people to be able to decide who they are separate from the oppressive influences of repressive systems.
This advocacy is for all marginalised people and, while we do not think of men when we think of marginalisation, there is nuance involved when it comes to men who also happen to be members of oppressed groups.
Black men, gay men, trans men, effeminate men and men who generally do not fit the mould of cis-hetero normativity are beneficiaries of the feminist struggle. The black female suffragists fought for the liberation of black people in totality and their emancipation from colonial systems and racist practices.
Intersectionality is necessary in the feminist struggle. We must realise that all systems of oppression are intertwined and for feminists, misogynists and the patriarchy are not the “final boss” in our fight.
For men like Bade who are just different enough that they displease society, the demand for heteronormativity is stifling.
“I was at the mall with my sisters in 2016 when two men started catcalling me and spewing insults at me and they threatened to beat me if I didn’t “behave myself”.
My sisters defended me so I thought all was well until we got back to my uncle’s place and they told my mum and uncle what had happened at the mall. My uncle got angry at me and threatened to take me to rehab or a psychic ward, basically, conversion therapy to get myself reoriented and that same day, he told my sisters to give him all my jeans and to throw away the clothes that made me look feminine.
That day was the worst day of my life; I cried in front of him, telling him I didn’t want to go to rehab and I prayed that the ground would swallow me whole.”
When asked how he copes with instances of dehumanisation like this, he said;
“I think I’ve come to terms with my femininity and I’m done caring what people think. I have great friends who are a great support system that I can rely on. What I do is I don’t mind what people say to me and I don’t let it get to me. Yes, there are times when it gets to me and I get sad and depressed, especially when it comes from family and people I think are my friends. Sometimes they apologise but it’s an endless cycle because they do it again. It has really affected me and there are times when I get anxious when walking amongst people, especially other men. I don’t want them to catcall me or insult me, so I start counting in my head or walk very fast.”
Feminism, as an ideology opposes the unfair or degrading treatment of people because their identity does not align with the cut-out image patriarchy, seeks to impose. These unrealistic and rigid expectations only benefit a select few while reducing the quality of life of many others.