The past two weeks have reminded us of the extent to which women suffer at the hands of the patriarchy. As women share their stories and many nod along, what about us men?
Any man who has read a woman’s account of harassment or assault and thought “that doesn’t apply to me”: what you’re experiencing in that moment is the exact privilege, power and entitlement that women are finding space to battle against. We have subconsciously benefitted since we were born from patriarchal privilege – in many ways it’s invisible to us. I’ve been outspoken in my support for women’s rights, but I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve fallen foul of the patriarchy’s malicious hardwiring. But in confronting it, rather than continuing to abuse my power, I’ve found more inner peace, understanding, love and truth then I ever could have done had I continued as I was.
The abuse of power is a plaster for sadness and prevents self compassion
I’ve been fortunate to experience most financial brackets, and I promise you that nothing material brings happiness. No house, watch, car, phone, television, necklace brings peace. Those tangible things just allow you to feel more comfortable. I’m not saying don’t slob in front of the television or don’t go out and take drugs – I won’t condemn anyone who makes those choices. What I’m saying is that we often partake in these activities when we’d rather not confront our emotions. And it’s not OK when the desire for these things comes at the expense of other people’s safety or freedom. The abuse of power is a plaster for sadness and prevents self-compassion.
I was raised predominantly by a strong mother, and I’d like to think that I journey into the world with good intent. I want to love, spread joy, help people and inspire. But I’ve still found myself in pockets of self-destruction. Extended periods of time taking cocaine, excessive drinking, excessive working habits, starting numerous projects at once, reading so many books that I feel self-righteous and, most painfully, finding that whenever I entered into intimate relationships I would end up selfishly self-destructing. That self-destruction led to a breakdown of trust in people I cared for and in myself. I had been wounded by the patriarchy in thinking even for one second that this behaviour was acceptable.
If you’re one of these guys who takes pride in jumping from girl to girl or brags about breaking hearts, you have no idea what it feels like to truly love and trust yourself. And, knowing how I feel now, I am sad that structural abuse might prevent acceptance and understanding. I’ve recently confronted and processed my own childhood trauma to understand what it was inside me that would unconsciously destroy a desire for trust and intimacy. I’ve come to realise that it’s because I’m more terrified of rejection and having my trust broken than I ever could have previously imagined.
I desire trust and intimacy just as much and perhaps even more intensely than those I’ve shared love with. It’s been an incredibly painful realisation. I believe that the false power gifted to me as a man in our society didn’t allow me the space to understand, cry, and work through the pain of my past and duality of my present. This idea that male vulnerability is undesirable – it covers up the pain of so many troubled boys who wanted more hugs from their mum or have missed the company of their dad, or were victims of abuse or loneliness or just generally felt as though they had no time, space, company or even the words to describe how they felt.
It’s our responsibility as we become adults to acknowledge this pain and gain compassion for ourselves and acceptance of others. But for men in particular, when the patriarchy says that it’s OK to grab a woman’s ass, or tell her what to do, or watch too much porn or deny her space – and you accept this as a way of treating another human being – you deny yourself the opportunity to understand why you desired that comfort of power in the first place. The ego wants dominance and control. And the male ego is currently everywhere.
As far as I can see, this toxic notion of masculinity is being championed by men who are so terrified of confronting any trauma experienced as children that they choose to project that torture on to the lives of others rather than themselves.
What’s even more upsetting is that often when men allow themselves to feel this pain, it’s so new to them that they kill themselves. We live in a society where men feel safer killing themselves than acknowledging pain. Accepting the patriarchy from a place of false benefit will prevent you from ever truly loving yourself or understanding others. It’s OK to feel sad. It’s OK to cry. It’s OK to have loved your mum and dad growing up. It’s OK to have missed them or wanted more affection. It’s OK to take a moment when you’re reminded of these truths. When you allow your brain to access these emotions, it knows exactly what to do. So nurture yourself. Talk honestly to the people around you, and welcome the notion of understanding them more than you have ever done before.
• Jordan Stephens is a writer/performer best known as one half of British duo Rizzle Kicks