Most men never think about patriarchy—what it means, how it is created and sustained. Many men in our nation would not be able to spell the word or pronounce it correctly. The word “patriarchy” just is not a part of their normal everyday thought or speech. Men who have heard and know the word usually associate it with women’s liberation, with feminism, and therefore dismiss it as irrelevant to their own experiences. I have been standing at podiums talking about patriarchy for more than thirty years. It is a word I use daily, and men who hear me use it often ask me what I mean by it.
Nothing discounts the old antifeminist projection of men as all-powerful more than their basic ignorance of a major facet of the political system that shapes and informs male identity and sense of self from birth until death.
How to change the world one shrug at a time.
This is, by far, the best response to inquiries about male cross-dressing that I have ever heard. If you don’t already love Eddie Izzard, you might now. His response in a nutshell? “I’m not wearing women’s dresses. I’m wearing my dresses. I bought them. They are mine and I’m a man. They are very clearly a man’s dresses.”
Johnny Depp does a similarly good job of refusing to take the bait in this clip from the Late Show with David Letterman. Letterman queries his rationale for wearing a women’s engagement ring. Depp just plays dumb and ultimately says that it didn’t fit his fiancée, but it did fit him. So… shrug.
The phenomenon of being questioned about one’s performance of gender is called “gender policing.” Generally there are three ways to respond to gender policing: (1) apologize and follow the gender rules, (2) make an excuse for why you’re breaking the rules (which allows you to break them, but still affirms the rules), or (3) do something that suggests that the rules are stupid or wrong. Only the last one is effective in changing or eradicating norms delimiting how men and women are expected to behave.
In these examples, both Izzard and Depp made the choice to disregard the rules, even when being policed. It seems like a simple thing, but it’s very significant. It’s the best strategy for getting rid of these rules altogether.
Thanks to Dmitriy T.C. for the links!