We often see misogynist oppression in our daily lives and don’t even recognise it. It may be something as subtle as a “Go make me a sandwich” joke to a legitimate threat to life. It manifests in everyday life and sometimes we don’t see it or if we do, we don’t stop it. A majority of it is perpetuated by men, either in the vicinity of the woman they victimise so they can make her feel intimidated and threatened, or around other men they might bond with in the form of ‘locker room talk’ or just ‘men being men’.
Misogyny then is a practice – one that is collectively done because of the social conditioning that multiple individuals have been exposed to throughout the span of their lives. It is a practice perpetuated largely by men since they’re the ones who profit from it most. They harness it in the form of social and economic capital to maintain and perpetuate their places in society. However, this does not exist in isolation. This sort of social functioning is enabled when misogyny functions in an ecosystem, where men are supported and protected at each level by one another.
It becomes pertinent then to understand how misogyny is structured within patriarchy. We often mistake it to be more of a spectrum of sorts or perhaps even a scale when it really is more of a pyramid, where the foundations enable the rest of the structure to stand securely. This sort of structure works on a sort of co-dependence, in a manner that a machine would. It is an oppression which is all encompassing and a very important part of patriarchy.
This sort of performativity aspect of toxic masculinity rests on the idea of showcasing gender expression through the oppression of women.
At the very foundation of the pyramid are those that are silent spectator to things like jokes, derogatory language, casual gender stereotyping and other things that are passed off as ‘light humour’. These people may not be actually taking part in making these jokes or perhaps concretising gender stereotypes but by being silent spectators who choose to not engage or say anything they become complicit as well. Such acts are perpetuated because no one raises a contradiction against them, or objects to them.
It then becomes pertinent to know that these acts happen in the vicinity of spaces where these men feel most comfortable expressing these thing – in male dominated conference rooms, male groups and other groups where men know that they will be lauded for such things by their peers. This gives rise then to those who laugh along or join in on perpetuating such stereotypes – collectively they create a ‘pack’. Such a collectivisation gives them strength, it is a male bonding that deems closer analysis.
To understand how the dynamics of such a thing manifests, it is important to understand how misogyny is seen as a platform for men to bond and share camaraderie over. A very jarring example of this is Whatsapp jokes that further stereotypes about women within marriages – how they are dumb, how they are negatively temperamental and the like – men bond with each other over such seemingly harmless perpetuation. This is how men band together and this ends up creating a platform other men who see it as one from where they can choose to actually act upon certain things that they mentioned as jokes.
Men who choose to act upon these – men who exploit and oppress women, work on the steady foundation built by those lower than them at different levels of complicity. Their degrees of intent and perpetuation may vary but the consequence is the same. These men see a foundation that will protect them and give them stability enough to go ahead and yield their oppression into powerful tools. They rest on the idea that this ecosystem of men will shield them – and act as apologists for their behaviour.
However we must also delve into how this entire idea of toxic masculinity creates itself into a pyramid. This sort of performativity aspect of toxic masculinity rests on the idea of showcasing gender expression through the oppression of women – how a group of men cheer on their mate when he goes ahead and cat calls a woman – or how a group of schoolboys derive fun put of trying to inappropriately touch a female peer within their school environment. The only reason why this sort of structure is able to stand is simply because it is an ecosystem where every supports the other at different levels.
This sort of ecosystem thrives simply because of the pressure that toxic masculinity creates about its expression. Its expression and pressure is one that makes sure that toxic masculinity keeps being held upon and keeps being perpetuated in a manner where the ecosystem is shielded from any harms or challenging. Since no men question it, it just keeps getting stronger as a system.
These superstructures of toxic masculinity masquerading with misogyny as ‘manhood’ are very destructive for women and men.
But let’s also analyse what happens if a woman tries to challenge this ecosystem in the smallest manner – rejecting a man’s advances or trying to just say no. Then the backlash that happens is very aggressive – calling women names, things like harassment and coercion and scaring her into manufacturing a scared-for-her-life yes.
These superstructures of toxic masculinity masquerading with misogyny as ‘manhood’ are very destructive for women and men. At best, they make women extremely uncomfortable, at worst it’s a complete negation of physical and emotional autonomy. For men, it deprives them of humanity and their ability for functioning as healthy humans.
Tackling such superstructures which are deep rooted and conditioned for centuries requires self-reflection and cognisance – the ability to recognise problematic behaviour and engage with it constructively. This is something that we as a society must be willing to strive towards, and breaking this culture requires men to take active steps towards breaking the ecosystem that patriarchy and misandry thrive on.
Featured Image Source: Muslim Institute