‘Are men still allowed to be men?’

Milou Klein is The Clandestine’s Column Editor. She is a third year Politics student, originally from the Netherlands.

Welcome to the Clandestine’s column, Children of the Patriarchy! Here we will be posting columns on anything and everything patriarchy related. Whilst most of us are already painfully aware of the patriarchal structure surrounding us, we often do not realise how deeply rooted its effects are. That’s why we are here! We will be calling out the patriarchy left and right, whether that is at KCL, in the UK or in the wider world. Children of the Patriarchy is a unique space for womxn to tell their stories, discuss the patriarchy and how their everyday lives are affected by gender roles. Because whether we want to or not, we are all Children of the Patriarchy and the responsibility of cleaning this mess up, falls upon us.

Trigger warning: mention of spiking and needles.

Are men still allowed to be men? As strange and counter-intuitive as this question may seem, when I opened one of the daily newspapers of my home country of the Netherlands, this question was being widely discussed in one of the column articles. A confusing article, likely meant as satire, it discussed the anti-vax protests turned riots in Rotterdam, and how men cannot help but riot, because there is no room in society for strong men anymore. While the article made me feel both confused and angry, it did get me thinking: ‘Are men still allowed to be men?’.

This question remains absurd, and my first thought was: ‘even attempting to answer it would be futile’. However, the mere fact that the question does still get asked, is interesting in and of itself. Whilst our confirmation bias might have us believe that most people would find this question ridiculous, I am sure there are also plenty of people who would not find it quite as bizarre. On the contrary, the current state of gender affairs would suggest plenty of people would answer the question with a very resolute and angry ‘No’. So, for the purpose of this column, and to understand why this question is still being asked, let’s dissect the question at hand.

The first roadblock in answering this question is that it immediately raises more questions. What does it mean to be a man? Is there one universal truth to this? Does this imply that some men are more ‘man’ than others? The type of man that was being described in the article that inspired this week’s column was one of strength, brute force, an ‘alpha male’. This type of man is being suppressed by ‘woke’ culture, the rise of feminism and the very fact that womxn now are also allowed to go to school, work, rent and so on (I will refrain from using the words ‘have the same rights’ for obvious reasons).

I will not attempt to use the rest of this article to convince those who believe that men are being suppressed by feminism that this is not the case. Firstly, because I do not think many of them would read a column called Children of the Patriarchy, and secondly, because the very fact that the question remains asked is not just due to individual minds that can be changed, but due to the larger structural and institutional issue of misogyny.

Whilst this might not be a new point of view, articles like the one I mentioned do remind me of this and often fill me with a sense of dread. It can easily feel like the task of gender equality is one that is so great, it is difficult to know where to start. We have been aware for quite some time now of the fact that in order to achieve gender equality, things must change on an institutional, structural level. It seems recently though, that even though we are aware of this, the war on womxn is growing and instead of making progress, we are going backwards.

We are going backwards in the sense that articles like the one I read can be published, and there are people actually agreeing with the arguments made in them. Not only are we then oppressing womxn, but we are also blaming them. Womxn are ‘suppressing’ these, apparently completely normal ‘urges’ that ‘real men’ have to be violent and to be alpha males, which subsequently cause men to lash out and become more violent. In the case of this article, it caused them to riot against vaccination policy in the Netherlands (a policy, ironically, set by an overwhelmingly white, male government but it appears we simply cannot help ourselves but to blame womxn regardless). To those who hold these beliefs I would like to ask how they honestly can believe that womxn are to blame for male violence. I am afraid I would not like the answer they would give me.

As with most womxn, my feminism is fueled by my own experiences and those of the womxn around me. Lately, I have been feeling more unsafe going out as a woman. We all know the feeling, not being able to go out without being terrified of getting spiked through a needle. Not being able to get on the tube without letting someone know where you are at. Syncing up your phones with your female friends so they know where you are, and you are able to track them as well. I envy men who are ignorant of these things, who can go out and about even after dark, without feeling afraid and having to take so many precautionary measures. It is even more frustrating then, to read articles like the one I read. The feeling of dread grows, because the size of the issue at hand becomes so painfully clear. How do we ensure safe streets for womxn and how do we acquire gender equality?

This question is far too large and far too complicated to be answered simply in this article. I hope this column can be one of discussion, dialogue, and a place to talk about gender issues and inequality in order to offer some hope for the future. Because whether we want to or not, the task of gender equality falls upon us all.

If you wish to write one or more articles for Children of the Patriarchy, please send an e-mail with your idea (if you already have an idea of what to write) to wpsoc.blog@gmail.com and the Column Editor will get in touch with you shortly.

[This image was taken from The New York Times website. Originally by Angie Wang.]

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