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What About the Men? Why Our Gender System Sucks for Men, Too

The tools of feminism can also be applied to the damage and deformation that men suffer in our sexist society.

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Everyone is a little bit privileged and a little bit not privileged. Think about a wealthy black man: he’s privileged because of his class, but marginalized because of his race. In some ways, his wealth shields him from racism: however, he is still more likely to be called a racial slur than a white person is, even if the white person is poor and therefore more likely to work a crummy, low-paying, injury-prone job. In fact, that wealthy black man might perpetrate harmful stereotypes about poor people at the same time that he is a victim of harmful stereotypes about black people. The complex interaction of privilege and marginalization is called the kyriarchy, which some have defined as “everyone oppressing everyone else.”

The thing about the kyriarchy is that there aren’t a bunch of people in a shadowy headquarters, twirling their mustaches as they plot how to best use their Oppression Beams and Discrimination Rays to cause misery and suffering on earth. It would be easier if there were, because we could blow up their headquarters, make a wry quip and roll the closing credits on social injustice. Instead, the kyriarchy is made up of real people, some of whom are saints and some of whom are bastards and most of whom are just muddling through as best they can. The kind of people who love their families and give to charity and foster kittens and sometimes get angry at drivers who don’t know how to use turn signals. Ordinary people. And it’s those people who are perpetuating the kyriarchy, the sick system that oppresses all of us.

Unlearning your kyriarchal conditioning is a process. Nobody is as good as we deep down know we ought to be: you, us, Mother Teresa, famous people who write about feminism for big-name print magazines, everyone messes up. The point is to learn to do it less. As Samuel Beckett once said, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

That in mind, we two fallible, privileged, well-intentioned authors have some ideas about gender, about oppression, about the men.

This article is from a book in progress by Noah Brand and Ozy Frantz.

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