About the show: Dave Pickering takes us on a personal journey through gender as he tries to explain masculinity both to you and to himself. Part true storytelling, part TED talk and part apology, the show looks at how the patriarchy hurts men too; how the patriarchy has hurt him, and how he has hurt people because of patriarchy. Drawing on an anonymous survey of 1000 men, feminist theory, internet memes and his life experience, Dave will explain the conclusions he Read More ...
Does patriarchy exist?
How would you define patriarchy?
A society where both men and “male values” tend to dominate. For me, it doesn’t feel quite as simple as claiming that it’s just about men holding power – it’s about the culture that’s developed around that system. I’ve actually heard women say “We need someone to grow a pair of balls and take this on” in the workplace. That says something about how certain people of either gender respect those particular values.
How has patriarchy hurt you?
Not very much compared to most of the women I know. I really can’t compete, and I would usually feel petty whining openly about it. However� Growing up, it was very clear to me that stereotypical male behaviour wasn’t something that I could align myself with easily. As a boy growing up it was clear that competitive one-upmanship and aggression weren’t traits I could easily relate to, and at the age of 10 a significant number of the other children in school decided I must be gay. Interestingly, I’m not, but that rumour persisted until my mid-twenties back in my hometown (I’m actually married to a woman now). So I managed to get myself beaten up quite a few times and on the received end of abuse for being something I actually wasn’t, which as an adult when I’d finally got to grips with the idea of what homosexuality even *was* felt more absurd than hurtful, like someone screaming at you for having a beard when you’ve just shaved that morning. I was partly brought up on a council estate in Essex, and in particular, I find that an almost exaggerated representation of maleness is woven right into the expectations of the male working class. If you’re from that background, you’re expected to demonstrate it through bullishness, and if you don’t that’s almost seen as a betrayal of those values. It’s often assumed you’re from a privileged background in some way and might have been blown off-course. Digging deeper than that, I suspect a lot of my friends might have failed in education because they didn’t want to be seen as wet, bookish or middle class. So those class-based ideas of maleness are incredibly damaging and counter-productive in a way that seldom seems to be discussed. I got past that and rebelled (or stayed true to myself, however you want to perceive it) but large numbers of people don’t. The statistics around the performance of working class boys in school are horrifying, and it angers me. It’s utterly self-defeating. On a side-note, my mother’s first husband did used to beat her around, which damaged her psychologically and I think did have an effect on both my upbringing and the upbringing of my brothers and sister. Again, the complaint is almost entirely hers, but the problem does still get passed down, especially as some of my siblings never saw their father again after the divorce.
How have you hurt people in a way influenced by patriachy?
When I first started going out with women I was, in retrospect, overly pushy and needy. A nightmare, which meant that no relationship lasted for very long and I was generally regarded to be a colossal pain in the arse at best, even pursuing women I had a crush on past the point where it should have been obvious they weren’t interested. I was aware enough to know that women did often feel very uncomfortable and threatened by men in those situations, but not self-aware enough to realise I was also doing it. I thought I was just being “nice”. At that time, sex education was fine in schools, but advice for men and women on relationships and communication in general was utterly non-existent (probably still is). I hadn’t a clue what I was doing, and I inwardly cringe now (as well as wanting to apologise for my behaviour to women who would probably dread getting a random email from me, and rightly so). If I have any excuse at all, it’s probably that I grew up seeing the parallel opposite approach – men *aggressively* pursuing women – and in my mind I justified the weird, needy approach as being the acceptable alternative, when really it was just a different shade of the same persistent nonsense. Besides that, to this day I sometimes notice myself talking over women in conversations, or not paying them enough attention in a group dynamic where they’re the only woman present. It’s not a conscious thing, it may be partly influenced by the atmosphere around me, and I’m happy to be pulled up on it. In fact, I think men should be pulled up on this when it occurs. If you want to improve, you shouldn’t be afraid to be told when you’re failing.
How would you define masculinity?
It’s difficult to put in words simply, but assertion, bullishness, physical strength, and a competitive spirit are the first things I think of when I hear the word.
Does misandry exist?
Of course, but I don’t feel offended or threatened by it. There are women out there who hate all men, but the fact they exist has, to the best of my knowledge, had little effect on the direction of my life or the life of any man I know.
Have you experienced gender and/or sex related prejudice?
Really minor stuff. Women in the workplace assuming there are certain things I won’t be able to do “because it’s not men’s work”. Interestingly, it’s always menial cleaning tasks or low-rung work, so its effect on my career has been zero. I’m always amazed when women fall into that trap. I’ve never heard a female colleague say “Really, I think this management role would only be suitable for a woman with the appropriate communication skills”. It’s always about catering in meetings or typing. This puts my earlier comments about men on council estates into some perspective, I suppose.
What best describes you?
An ally to feminism