"I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves." – A quote popularly attributed to Harriet Tubman, but has been proven to be false.
I would however be guilty of the same crime of the people I criticize if I did not use the opportunity to discuss the effect of patriarchy and how we all need to come together to overcome it.
There is no debate on the effect of patriarchy on the female gender. It is pronounced and well documented. Their thematic treatment as second class human beings manifesting in things such as the dearth of girl education, gender pay gap, female genital mutilation, child marriage, sexual assault and a lot more. For many countries all over the world, major progress has been made on abolishing these inhuman traditions.
When it comes to undoing the damages of patriarchy, however, the focus of the casualties has often only been women. The balance of patriarchy’s benefits being swung towards men has made the question of its negative effects on men a secondary conversation.
Negative effects such as mental illness where, according to a report by the World Health Organization, 29.3% of men suffer from it compared to 41.9% in women. Although that figure pales in comparison to women, some believe it is because men have been socialized not to express their emotions, a trait of patriarchal masculinity. A report in 2009 by suggests when some of the contributing factors are controlled, both genders exhibited full range of mental illness at equal rates, with women having lower rates in some cases.
When it comes to domestic violence, the attention is primarily directed towards women as its sole victims, despite statistics proving otherwise. Statistically 40% of men are victims of domestic violence according to a report between 2004-2009. In Kenya, 460,000 men in a survey claimed to be victims of domestic violence. With a social stigma that sees domestic violence as denigration of masculinity, combined with the treatment of men as second class victims when it comes to violence and the fact domestic violence is one of the most underreported crimes worldwide, men are also casualties of the patriarchal structure.
It is also worth noting that despite the statistics putting the bulk of the blame on men for domestic violence, the collective acceptance of the patriarchal structure show that 50-90% of women from the Middle East through Africa (65% in Nigeria) see domestic violence as a necessity in a relationship, according to a report by UNICEF.
Three to four men are more likely to die from suicide when compared to 1 woman, especially in the Western world. Out of 6233 suicides in the UK in 2013, 78% of them were men, and some of the factors responsible lead back to the patriarchal structure on which we have built our society.
Recently, I got in an argument with my mother. We had just bought one of those modern gas cylinders with the removable head and I was tasked with setting it up. After I did, the burner wasn’t burning optimally. Before I was given a chance to troubleshoot for what might be wrong, I was met with a handful of comments aimed at my failure as a man for my inability to correctly set it up. In a matter of seconds, I was being compared to a man who accurately set one of those up back at her place of work. The statement ‘are you not a man’ made an appearance. This is not a unique experience to me.
Every day, men have to deal with the mental pressure that comes with the expectation of living up to patriarchal definition of masculinity.
As an ideology that seeks to achieve political, economic and social equality of sexes, the feminist movement has made great strides in areas such as women’s right to vote, hold public office, own property and education. Despite these remarkable advances however, the feminist victory is still a long way to go.
Deficiency in girl education is still prominent among developing nations. In Northern Nigeria, the percentage of girls out of school ranges from 46-81% in each state (EPDC Extraction/2011 MICS Dataset). Two of the leading causes of this are identified as culture/tradition and colonial ‘housewification’, two major patriarchal institutions.
In child marriages, according to a UNFPA report in 2011, as much as 67 million women in the world are victims of child marriage with Africa leading the percentage of victims at 70%. In Northern Nigeria, as much as 50% of the girls marry before the age of 19.
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When it comes to sexual assault and rape, a disease identified to be rooted in the patriarchal mentality that sees sex as something to be taken from a woman and a determinant of a man’s masculinity, a study by UNICEF found at least 6 out of 10 women are abused before the age of 18, with a recorded 250,000 cases of rape reported annually in a study conducted in over 65 countries where 91.6% of incidents are considered unreported.
In Nigeria, a 4-year review of sexual assault cases in the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) found 88% of 287 cases were of victims below age 19, a similar study in Enugu was recorded at 70%.
Needless to say, patriarchy is a monster whose negative effects cut both ways and for many people, including twitter feminists who have exhibited a limited understanding of the workings of patriarchy, it is highly important that the feminist ideologue is practiced intelligently because its success or failure will be felt by both genders.
One of the things we always have to remember is patriarchy is an abstract philosophy that manifests itself in the physical realm. Our work has to be directed at overhauling the home of this abstraction, the mind. To do that, we should consider a few weapons in our arsenal.
One of the many downsides of Twitter feminism is the wrong education of new audiences on Feminism. A large number of those who are familiar with the ideologue have a false impression of it and an even greater number still do not know what it is. We need to seize control of the narrative from those who intend on using feminism as a means of living their matriarchal fantasies and there is no better place to start than the smallest unit of society, the family.
The doctrine of lashing out at every patriarchal incident needs to be reinvented by understanding that those who still exhibit patriarchal ideology are unwitting victims of a culture that has been passed down from thousands of generations and it will take decades of conscious action to be rid of its effects and as such we must take each incident as an opportunity to lovingly teach the gospel of feminism.
We must remember that human beings are selfish creatures whose priority is individual survival. This, combined with the deep rooted effects of patriarchal conditioning, means an abrupt request for change will be seen as a threat to their existence and would be met with fierce opposition.
As we march on in the war against patriarchy and sexism, we must avoid the pitfalls that Twitter Feminism is prone to - the erosion of choice and prioritization of roles. Feminists must note the fight isn’t about making women live like men but removing the patriarchal definitions of belonging to either gender. The goal is to create a world where gendered responsibilities are limited to biological differences.
We must focus our fight against patriarchal oppression on issues that are legally and institutionally sanctioned such as in Nigeria, where it is a legal requirement for a woman to get permission from her husband or father to leave the country with her child instead of frivolous battles like this. While the effects of social practices are established, they aren’t legally binding and only exist as long as people keep practicing them.
Written by Seun Adelowokan.
Seun Adelowokan.Humanist. Big believer in Common sense. Arsenal lover.