Pants Pockets and the Patriarchy

My ego has often informed me that I am very sensitive toward women, that I uphold and uplift them in as many ways possible. Therefore there is no way that I could remotely be steeped in the patriarchal construct.

Apparently this is not the case.

I was in an arts education meeting one day with two women, and we happened to get off topic and talk about how we organize our personal lives. I said that I wear pants with deep pockets to keep most of my personal belongings in them. Both women in the meeting said that they would never wear pants with pockets because it makes the silhouette of their hips bigger.

My reaction was, huh?

One of the women said because I was a man that was something I never had to think about, which is another example of patriarchy.

My ego was up. I defended. Just because I didn’t have to think about stuff like that, doesn’t mean I am a part of the patriarchy.

Her point was not that I was being patriarchal, it was that I have male privilege because of patriarchy, and therefore I did not have to think about such things as body image.

So I had to settle my ego down and absorb and reflect upon their point.

My only concern when I step out of the door is that I am washed and groomed, dressed for business, casual or recreation, and that I have everything I need – money, keys, phone. I never think about what certain items of clothing make me look like to others, or what they may do to my figure.

I do know that as a man I am not looked upon the same fashion that a woman is gazed, but I never contemplated to what, in my estimation, small degree.

What is interesting for me is that I am surrounded by women, both in my professional and personal life, and yet these things have completely escaped me. I blame part of that on being an asteroid – head in the cloud – my top three strengths being Connectedness, Ideation and Intellection (based on StrengthsQuest.com).

Still, being man does have tremendous privileges. Obviously we dominate all aspects of public life including government and private industry. Thus we control the images projected, which always tilts in our favor, to the extent to which our presence is ubiquitous and accepted.

As we age, we are called distinguished with our grey hair. Women are called old, which prompts them to dye theirs.  Women are admonished for having wrinkles and age spots like men, some of whom possess craters and fault lines on their faces. Women are bombarded by commercials that tell them to buy this cream and that regimen to stay young and attractive.

Single older men have a wide selection of women across the age spectrum, while single older women pray for a date. Then there are those older husbands who repulsively react to their mid-life stage by leaving their wives for younger women.

Aging is a beautiful process. The changes to your face and body means you lived a life. It should be embraced. But in this youth-oriented culture it is ridiculed, and for women it is brutal.

So I am sitting in the office working to remove my bruised ego and my shock and awe from the conversation about pants pockets being such a huge factor in how women are perceived in public.

Intellectually and artistically I talk about how we are all living under the patriarchal construct, that the majority of policies enacted that govern our lives are dictated by such.

Emotionally it does not feel good that I am an unwitting participant, not because of my actions, just because of my status.

As in race, most of us do not want to believe we are privileged above others. We like to think we are equal, and it is solely our merits that brings us our rewards.

But as I tell my Ethics students, there is a vast difference between what is, and what we like things to be.

So perhaps my task now is to amplify my role as a dispassionate observer to how women comport themselves in public, to become attuned to those things like what was brought to my attention, and in the process become less defensive and more empathetic.

 

Ron Kipling Williams