What started with the women’s march across every major city in the United States at the beginning of the year ended with a culmination of a new theme for 2017: #MAGA — Men Are Getting Arrested. Collectively, we couldn’t stop the country from electing a misogynistic sexist, but we sure as heck took it out on males that created professional environments where sexism and abuse were excused and promptly dismissed.
But what’s happening is way more complex than just that. While the feminist movement started long ago, with the works of feminists like Gloria Steinem and the bravery of Anita Hill and various waves and beyond, it feels like a new narrative is emerging.
The media, largely influenced by our societal and cultural norms, has argued that this moment is just a symptom of the greater gender problem where power and privilege have traditionally been in the hands of males. But perhaps we need to rip apart our Western patriarchal definition of masculinity and femininity altogether as masculinity has been synonymously intertwined with the characteristics of dominance, power and control, and femininity with characteristics like frailty, docile, and timidness.
While western society has created a destructive definition of gender with the belief that the masculine and the feminine are in opposition and one gender must emerge victorious, I believe that we each possess elements of the masculine and the feminine and any differences that we have actually complement each other. We need each other but the existing destructive narrative of patriarchy and subsequent behaviors make us believe that this is a winner takes all game, with one gender needing to feel victorious over the other.
Patriarchy punishes men for being vulnerable, sharing emotion, and failing to be dominant the way society expects them to be. We pick and choose the parts of “masculinity” that are desirable in relationships. Patriarchy teaches men and women to objectify each other; men are taught to objectify women based on their physical beauty and pick and choose the parts of a woman they desire and women are taught to objectify men based on dominance, financial success, power or lack there of. It is no surprise then, that some men perpetuate existing patriarchal cultural norms by belittling women in order to preserve their place of dominance.
Of course, the spectrum of behaviors needs to be qualified by the targets of sexual harassment and assault rather than bucketed into extreme and binary polarities. Groping someone’s genitals at work is very different from making a few inappropriate jokes or remarks with a close colleague. Of course, there are sexual assault lines that absolutely can’t be crossed. Whatever the intention, it’s the impact on the target that matters. But here’s where I digress from popular opinion. In addition to having an urgently needed and important conversation about what constitutes sexual harassment and assault, I would also like to focus our attention on another matter.
In my opinion, this so called “witch hunt” of male perpetrators (or whatever you’d like to call it) is a clear sexist backlash to this moment. The #MAGA movement and the response towards men like Trump in my opinion are just a reaction to the post-gender revolution which is starting to seep into mainstream culture — and everyone is paying for it, whether they’ve played a part in the game or were bystanders or victims.
This moment defies what has been traditionally accepted and has left many of us changed. I believe we are moving towards a new society that is post-gender, one that doesn’t categorize behavior based on existing patriarchal gender definitions.
Wherever we end up; this much I believe is true: the existing patriarchal definition of gender as dominating — both masculine and feminine, and what it represents no longer works.
I’m seeing a younger male population recognize that it is no longer important to be dominant or controlling in the same way that I’m seeing women recognize that they don’t have to be invisible and submissive in order to succeed. Instead, we can show up as minds and hearts as opposed to projected dominant stereotypes when conversing with each other in this post-gender paradigm shift. This can help us move forward and have an authentic and honest conversation.
This takes practice for many of us.
Everyone is suffering to some degree as patriarchy is playing out not just professionally, but personally as well, from the romantic to the platonic. We are iterating to a new normal. Relationships in more patriarchal cultures will be tested in this new era. This movement marks the beginning of ripping apart what no longer serves society at large and there will be casualties on both sides. But in the end, my hope, is that we’ll be better off collectively because of it.
In a post-gender defined world, patriarchal culture will be stripped apart, and a new culture, yet to be created, will emerge victorious. Merit rather than sexist power and privilege will be the dominant characteristic in the professional world and beyond.
But maybe I am dreaming. Perhaps this is a utopian concept that we can only imagine. Can we really have a truly egalitarian post-gender society?
I don’t know. Maybe not.
But with enough time and effort on both sides, and compassion for this moment, we can at least make progress towards this new post-gender western view, one that provides a space for everyone — men & women to communicate and share the commonalities of our joys, pain, happiness and suffering in the universal aspect of being human.
We have no other option.