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The Patriarchy Trap

Updated: May 21, 2023

silos talking about life

The patriarchy trap, getting caught in traditional male gender roles, being the stoic provider, protector, fixer, advisor, manager, father, lover etc. How this type of modelling traps a lot of men into an idealistic role they don't always meet, leading to feelings of inadequacy or worse, fear of failure. Not living up to the stereotype, manifests with frustration and even anger. Throw in all the conversations around changing gender roles, pronouns and identity, creates more confusion and discord on where the average bloke fits in the world. (I think the proper term now is the cisgender man, I’ll just use bloke/male/men).

Society still seems to expect men, or perhaps its men themselves modelling their significant older males in their lives, to be like silo’s, strong, protective, silent, stoic, able to cope and weather whatever comes their way. Men respect a man's ability to be his own man, fix his own problems. To be otherwise is perceived as a weakness.

One may ask another how they are doing, replying sympathetically if the other is having a problem , "Jeez that's harsh mate", then move onto another subject.. "Did you see the footy last night mate, cracker of a game" They'll talk to one another but never really open up to the meaty stuff because to admit one has a problem or problems is to admit they're not living the way of the silo. They may confide in their partners but will prefer to fix their problems in silence and avoid seeking real help from their peers or professionals.

When men feel they fall short in these roles, it creates a harmful cycle for men, where the pressure to meet those societal and/or family expectations can lead to negative coping mechanisms such as self-medicating with alcohol and/or drugs. The patriarchy trap creates unrealistic expectations, and if men feel they are lacking, it can lead to them feeling overwhelmed and struggling with work, family responsibilities, and their own needs. The internal dialogue and anxiety that men experience when trying to fulfil these expectations causes so much stress and an innate inability to seek help. Because men often feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness, they turn to alcohol to cope with their struggles, which in turn compounds their stress.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a significant issue for men, with a higher prevalence than women. Studies have shown that men who experience high levels of stress or anxiety are more likely to self-medicate with alcohol to cope. The pressure to be the "strong" provider and the "fixer" of problems, achiever of positive results can create a sense of isolation, leading to increased alcohol consumption as a way to cope with their feelings of stress and anxiety.

The consequences of AUD can be devastating, affecting not only the individual but also their loved ones. Men who struggle with AUD are more likely to have relationship problems, experience job loss or financial difficulties, and suffer from physical and mental health problems. The higher AUD death and suicide rates for men reflect the difficulties men face.

In the US, nearly 70% of the 140,000 alcohol related deaths from 2015 to 2019 were men. In Australia out of 1559 alcohol related deaths recorded in 2020, 74% were men.

Sobering. It makes me wonder if the higher death rates are result of men being unwilling or unable (the patriarchy trap) to seek help with AUD?

The cycle of self-medication and the patriarchy trap can be challenging to break, but it's not impossible. Men need to be encouraged to seek help and to know that it's okay to ask for support. It's essential to provide safe spaces for men to learn express themselves without fear of judgment, whether that be through therapy, support groups, or other forms of help.

Additionally, it's crucial to recognize that alcohol is not a solution to problems and can, in fact, worsen them. Seeking professional help and treatment for AUD can help men break the cycle of self-medication and lead to a better quality of life.

In conclusion, the patriarchy trap has created harmful expectations for men, leading to negative coping mechanisms such as self-medication with alcohol. Breaking the cycle of self-medication and unrealistic societal expectations requires a shift in the way society and men themselves view masculinity and the need to create safe spaces for men to express themselves and be vulnerable without fear of judgment and shame. Encouraging men to seek help and providing support can break the cycle and help men lead happier, healthier lives.


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