How Does Patriarchy Cripple Men’s Mental Health?

December 23, 2021

When I was a child, my grandfather advised my uncle that he was responsible for caring for the family. As years passed by, I heard my uncle say the same to my cousin – to man up and face challenges. I wonder if my cousin will continue the same spiel with my nephews. 

But this is essentially what happens across homes. The roles changed, age and generations differed, and the tone of advice switched, but patriarchy remained intact. Right from occupational segregation, the toys handed over to each gender, to the exactness of which gender could feel which emotion, patriarchy is rooted in society and in all our psyches. But, what exactly is Patriarchy?

“Patriarchy is a system of relationships, beliefs, and values embedded in political, social, and economic systems that structure gender inequality between men and women”. ~ Science Direct

Read that again. It’s a system that structures inequality between men and women. It structures it. 

Patriarchy has its effects on cultures differently. Kids in Indian society learn that mothers belong in the kitchen and fathers work outside the home. Also, it was a given that male members of the family never cried (not even when emo movies were going on) or loved flowers. I understand that that’s a rather reductive version, but in essence, it starts from that. 

While patriarchy affects men and women, men are more prone to the ill effects of it – that manifest in their emotional and mental space. Let’s look deeper.

How does patriarchy affect men? 

1. Disconnects them from their emotions 

When was the last time you heard your husband, father, boyfriend, or brother speak about their emotions? The answer is probably never. The societal norms have molded men to disconnect from their emotions and become inexpressive. They’re supposed to be biologically aggressive, superior, and dominant. What was meant to be emotional endurance has morphed into emotional suppression. 

More so, it builds the thought that showing emotions implies weakness. And that weakness is not masculine. This belief, rather a value system with men, often makes men extremely uncomfortable with the display of emotions. 

2. Changes their views on seeking help

Men too, experience sadness, worthlessness, and guilt. But, instead of seeking help, they take to other forms of expression such as irritability, anger, and abuse. An interesting article talks about the conventional methods of how men mask their fear and vulnerability with anger. To top it off, a Harvard study points out that 10 million adult men face anger issues that turn into Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED). That’s a topic for another day!

Reasons like holding accountability, coming off as burdensome, and emotional stigma stop a man from speaking about his feelings. And other times, most of them are unaware that they need help. 

Research by Warren states that (1983) – “ Men may find it difficult to recognize and seek help for depressive symptoms since depression is ‘incompatible’ with masculinity’’.

Patriarchy not only changes the way men look at issues, but it negates the basic instinct of humanity: Hope. 

3. Toxic masculinity

Boys and Men are expected to behave in certain ways – not showing emotions, acting tough, and being the breadwinner. These societal pressures of ‘being a man’ create serious consequences for society and their mental health.

Some men feel that having a regular health check-up is contrary to the beliefs of being a man. Additionally, it pushes them into thinking that getting mental health support is a sign of dependency. Hence, substance abuse, depression, and other disorders become a normal part of their life. 

What does Patriarchy mean for men’s mental health? 

1. Normalizes Risk-taking behavior

The patriarchal norms mean only one thing – it encourages masculinity and risk-taking behavior. Probably that’s why the life expectancy of men is three-four years lower than women. In the effort to stay masculine, some men tend to lose sight of their mental health issues. Some even hesitate to get anti-depressant pills and hide behind their anger and dominance.

2. Increased suicidal behavior

Indian movies are a great example of how patriarchy can hurt men. Whether it’s a father failing to fulfil his daughter’s wishes or a singer failing to keep his place in the industry, patriarchy has killed men. 

A study reveals that in 2019, the suicide rate of men was more than 97 thousand as opposed to 41 thousand for women. “It supports and confirms research done in the last 60 years that people who conform to masculinity have poor mental health,” ~ Dr. Joel Wong.

Giving in to toxic gender norms, men have to deal with a lot of pressure which puts their mental health at high risk. But, according to mainstream media, only women succumb to mental health issues, right? And that’s why men are taught to deal with depression and anxiety disorders by themselves.

3. Harms the formation of healthy relationships 

The rigid pattern of masculinity and patriarchy discourages men from being in a normalised relationship. That means, for a man to let go of his ego, control, and take share in household responsibilities becomes almost impossible. And even so, all this happening without domestic violence has a lower probability overall. Patriarchy and toxic masculinity go hand in hand eliminating the possibilities of an equal and loving relationship. 

While society’s picture of patriarchy is against men’s mental health framework, not all men are unwilling to get support. The growing sense of feminism has eased the process of acceptance and reversal of gender roles in many parts of the world. Now, we see more and more men regularising health checkups, therapies, and sharing feelings with their partners.

 

Resources:

“Patriarchy – an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics.” ScienceDirect.Com | Science, Health and Medical Journals, Full-Text Articles and Books., https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/social-sciences/patriarchy. 

Castile, Eliza. “6 Ways The Patriarchy Is Harmful To Men Because Feminism Isn’t Just For Women.” Bustle, Bustle, 19 Nov. 2015, https://www.bustle.com/articles/124983-6-ways-the-patriarchy-is-harmful-to-men-because-feminism-isnt-just-for-women.

failnaut. “Men Are Dying Because They Can’t Talk | by Failnaut | Medium.” Medium, Medium, 11 Sept. 2015, https://medium.com/@failnaut/men-are-dying-because-they-can-t-talk

Next-Gen Men. “How Patriarchy Hurts Men Too — Next Gen Men.” Next-Gen Men, Next Gen Men, 13 Jan. 2021, https://www.nextgenmen.ca/blog/why-patriarchy-hurts-men-too

Caprino, Kathy. “Renowned Therapist Explains The Crushing Effects Of Patriarchy On Men And Women Today.” Forbes, Forbes, 25 Jan. 2018, https://www.forbes.com/renowned-therapist-explains-the-crushing-effects-of-patriarchy-on-men-and-women-today

Coles, Terri. “How The Patriarchy Harms Men And Boys, Too | HuffPost Null.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 10 Nov. 2017, https://www.huffpost.com/archive/ca/entry/patriarchy-men-boys_a_2327325

https://www.apa.org/research/action/men

 

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