By Charlie Hotchkiss
As a cisgender male of almost 30 years, I look back at my views and thought processes concerning women and I feel ashamed. Although becoming a (intersectional) feminist has helped me unlearn problematic behaviors I’m still living in a patriarchal society surrounded by peers who see nothing wrong with the gender inequality or how we view and treat women. I once read someone use the comparison of how we view cats and dogs as binary creatures that we have projected our own social constructionism and gender roles onto and I wanted to expound on that further as it was a relevant concept.
For example, we view cats and dogs as gender bound, dogs are man’s best friend; meanwhile cats are widely considered difficult animals and we attribute dogs with masculinity and cats the opposite, the definition of feminine. Dogs are blindly loyal and are protectors, fairly adaptable to change and considerably easy to train. Cats are seen as moody, unwavering, picky, anti-social and as living life on their own terms. Living in a patriarchal world has put men in a position to where we want control over everything, and if something or someone is noncompliant they become ostracized, and this is why it’s quite reasonable to be a “dog person” yet it’s equally reasonable to hate cats. To show the objectification within this framework, let’s look at words like Bitch and Pussy. Expecting loyalty from a dog either as “man’s best friend” or a female dog as “my bitch” already enforces sexism with the belief that this creature exists to serve me, follow me, and give me all their attention.
The moment your “pet” doesn’t follow your lead or live up to your expectations it becomes, “These bitches ain’t loyal”. Here’s where you can tie in abuse as well, because it’s commonplace to reprimand your pet for disobeying, and when a woman agrees to fall into the expected gender roles she gets treated the same as said female dog or “Bitch”, and will possibly blame herself for the abuse she endures. When a woman respects herself and opposes the patriarchal ideals set in place by today’s society, she is seen as wild, untamed, and ‘catty’. By coincidence a cat isn’t necessarily known to compromise and is very cautious. We are talking about the only animal to domesticate themselves and were treated like royalty in ancient times. That kind of independence and power intimidates a man because all he knows is being in control in a society that supports gender inequality.
When you take a look at how men objectify women in many facets you will find that it is in fact a scary world for women. Imagine having the fear of being raped becoming a daily fear, having to cover up your body because society believes it is solely your responsibility not to be raped instead of addressing the men who are committing the evil act. A woman came into my job recently and I tried to assist her but got the cold shoulder and at first I thought well here’s this older White woman and myself, an unapologetically Black man, perhaps statistically I’m not her favorite shade of people, but after she left a co-worker told me she had been sexually assaulted by a man almost losing her life so ever since she has been understandably timorous around men. It hurt my soul that she has to live with a heightened sense of fear for the rest of her life. We men go around traumatizing women not that just in this regard, there are a multitude of other forms including slut-shaming.
An incredibly misogynistic practice perpetuated by not just men but internalized by women as well. Men can sexually explore without repercussion yet label women hoes and sluts for exploring the same exact freedoms. This all falls back into the uncontrollable creature trope discussed earlier, the common reaction of degrading what can’t be controlled. Masculinity is toxic as it is fragile. Same man will take a women’s virginity then proceed to label her a “Hoe” and she becomes branded in the community because she did something he couldn’t control perhaps moving onto another guy or just simply not being a pushover. He then loses faith in the idea that women can be loyal and becomes unattached, emotionless and damaging to anyone interested in a relationship with him. This adds fuel to the fire of distrust within the community. Slowly you see that the idea of finding true love has become a joke in men’s eyes because we have this expected dynamic of finding “a loyal bitch” yet remaining a “dog” in the meantime treating women as tangible goods to be transferred amongst the homies. Vis-à-vis, women lose faith in finding a man who sees women as more than objects, I mean, given the programming we are presented since birth men usually run the chance of being highly misogynistic and sexist. From the music we listen to, shows and movies we watch, seeing our parents being products of patriarchy with Mom expected to cook and clean same as her mother before her, all we usually see is in line with patriarchy.
Men thrive off of sexism, chauvinism and misogyny because in order for some women who want a place amongst men they compromise who they are or want to be just to fit in. Which leads to having sex for acceptance or internalizing misogyny and perpetuation of oppression of women through slut-shaming or displaying lack of faith in the loyalty of friends of the same gender, or worse, finding themselves in a mentally and/or physically damaging relationship.
Men having created these ideas of what defines a “good girl” and a “bad girl” and we have control of what defines the two which is harmful considering it changes how women believe they should act lest she be shunned and deemed unacceptable. A sort of scare tactic honestly, because god forbid someone gets labeled a “hoe” or “slut”; it’s treated as a negative thing and because masculinity is so fragile all it takes is for a man to hear the word “no” for us to become violently angry. We have become so used to being in control due to male privilege, that it angers us that women aren’t more willing to do or give us want we want. We, as men (especially Black men), need to take more initiative to challenge this patriarchy and kill the toxic masculinity. Challenge one another to redefine what it means to be a real man because if you don’t believe in true equality between genders you are part of the problem and why women have absolutely every right not to trust.
**Editor’s note: For more information and insight on patriarchal culture, read The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by author, activist, feminist and scholar, bell hooks
Charlie Hotchkiss is a Louisiana Born, Hartford raised pro-Black activist, writer, Blogger, optician, and chef. His aim is to fight social injustice, while educating and empowering others to do the same in hopes of creating the change people need.