Patriarchy Hurts Not Just Women

March 5, 2012 § 1 Comment

Michael Kimmel, in his essay, “Masculinity as Homophobia”, gave me a new understanding as homophobia in men that I had not considered before.  This perceived irrational fear is more than men being afraid of gay men, but essentially of being afraid of each other. Judith Lorber’s essay on gender socialization describes gender as a process that defines what it means to be a man and a woman. In society, men are expected to be strong, rugged, independent, powerful and fearless, to name a few.  These expectations along with gender roles confine both sexes and lead to this homophobia in men. Men fear they are inadequate and constantly being judged by other men.

Allan Johnson describes patriarchy as a male-dominated system in which men hold the power in society. However, we fail to recognize that not all men have this power. Men’s fear comes from the feelings of being powerless. While in a patriarchal society men have the power, not all men perceive themselves that way. Anyone who does not fit into the narrow role society has decided are pushed aside. This helps to explain why men, in general, are homophobic. The expectation of the norm being heterosexual is at the core of our society.  Men monitor everything they do in order to fall into the norm of being what society deems as a “true man”. Homophobia then can partly explain the persistence of traditional gender roles, especially for men. They fear what other men think of them and wish to be in the group with the power.

Kimmel says “homophobia and sexism go hand in hand”. From this essay and the points he makes, I believe him. Men are confined to gender as a process just as women are. These expected roles and characteristics are the root of the fear men have of each other. They want to be “true men” and any quality having to do with homosexuality threatens that image.  So instead of looking at homophobic men as purely ignorant and hateful, we need to delve deeper into the underlying problems. Men, in a patriarchal society, live daily in a power struggle against each other and society’s norm. These gender processes, that dictate how men and women are supposed to be, create men’s fear of each other and cause this widespread homophobia.


§ One Response to Patriarchy Hurts Not Just Women

  • boilerbballfan says:

    You did a good job incorporating ideas from other essays we have read this year. Much of what Kimmel draws on are ideas that have been presented before, but he adds a new conception of homophobia that I had not thought of before. His view expands our ideas of what we typically think of as homophobia being only the fear of gay individuals. With gender roles that construct men as all of the qualities you list above, it makes sense that men are more likely to be victims of violence, suicide, and lower life expectancy. The social construction of gender is clearly also damaging to men for those reasons.
    Also, Kimmel’s idea that “homophobia and sexism go hand in hand” is a logical connection between male dominance and female subordination. His definition of homophobia hinges on men’s fears of being perceived as essentially feminine. Patriarchy sets up a value system in which powerful men are the most valued, and anyone who falls below those standards is either a woman or an emasculated man. It is interesting that feminine ideals are worth so little that men are constantly fearful that they will posses too many of those traits, and thus, be considered less than a man.

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