The quote above is true for far more than just race, it is also valid for gender, sex, orientation, ability, and many more. For me, my profound moment when I discovered the reality of my gender was within the first moments of true consciousness for me. You see, I have two older sisters, and within the Patriarchal Societies we call home, a difference is made instantaneously. At first, I believed this was because of my Middle Eastern family, but as I traveled the world I have found that no matter how far West or East I travel, it is the same. A proclamation of difference is made, the moment a Male is born, globally.
The proclamation states that I, as a male, will have certain rights over women. It's nothing overt, except in the fact that it says that I am more important than any woman in my life, even the one that gave birth to me a couple of years earlier, and the females I will learn to call sisters. This proclamation states that I must take care of them, and protect them from all harm. It proclaims that my being male will help me in my education, my job search, and to ultimately take care of a family. This proclamation also states that I must cease crying immediately, and that I have overgrown my emotions and it is time to 'man up' and to let them go.
But this proclamation does not tell me that for years I will be hearing the phrase 'boys will be boys' repeated for any type of discretion, and even though I never got into any fights, I knew that I'd actually benefit from fighting, rather than ever truly suffer because of violence.
As I grew older, I took on the role of protector for my sisters. At the age of six I'd try to herd them around Walmart so their kidneys don't end up on the Chinese Black market, as Mama had put it. I failed miserably of course, which frustrated me and made me believe that they were ungrateful for my love. As I grew older, the task of protecting my sisters did not become any easier, and not only continually frustrated me but caused me to withdraw from the World as I knew it. If I was not around, did not try, then I could not fail. This feeling, and knowing that I can not express any kind of feeling to anyone to protect my manliness caused me to question my own masculinity and if there was something seriously wrong with me.
I struggled with this, just like I struggled with every other identity I carried. I am not a conventional person in any sense of the world, and the struggle to live up to societies expectations took a toll on me.
Why am I bringing all this up? Because it's the very end of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and what the proclamation did not tell me immediately is that my likelihood of being an abusive partner or parent is far more likely because I am male.
When we bring up DV, some will say "well it's not all men"; we even have a hashtag for it #NotAllMen. This is true, but the reality is that every single one of us, to varying degrees, has benefited from Patriarchy, and are capable of Patriarchal Violence. This does not mean that all men will be violent, just like it won't guarantee all women will not be violent as they can also buy into Patriarchy, this just means that we have a lot of uncovering to do before proclaiming how safe we are. There are many forms of abuse: emotional, psychological, spiritual, physical, and economic, and Men are capable of every single one of them. Instead of proclaiming how safe we are we need to be having dialogues about how to reverse the effects of Patriarchal conditioning, and discuss ways to end Patriarchy so that we may end Patriarchal violence once and for all.
I don't have all the answers to end Patriarchal Violence, but here are a few tips that I believe have helped me out and have potential to help us end Patriarchy once and for all:
- Acknowledge Patriarchy and Patriarchal Violence Exists.
- Learn about Patriarchy. A book I highly recommend is 'The Will to Change' by Bell Hooks.
- Speak out about your own Privilege
- Discuss Patriarchy with others, especially other Men.
- Ask women how you can be an ally to them
- Set the example for boys and younger men
- Call out Patriarchy as the root cause to violence
There are many other tips, but the final tip l give is to take care of yourself during this entire process. Changing your views of the world is never easy, and as you learn more about Patriarchy you will get push back from those that have yet to learn to see systems of oppression. But know that there is support out there, and there are others out there doing everything they can to uproot this system and end this violence once and for all, and when you're ready we'll hopefully be there for you.
Ahmad Abojaradeh is the Co-Founder of Muslim Community Link, An Engineer, a world traveler, a Peer Support Specialist, a Novelist and the founder and editor of Life in My Days. He hopes to spread awareness of living a life of wellness through his writing, workshops and speaker events. Follow Ahmad on twitter, instagram or facebook.