5 Ways Christian Patriarchy Harms Men

It is easy to understand how Christian patriarchy harms women, but it might not be so clear how patriarchy harms men. Patriarchy is a religious belief in which women must submit to their husbands, who are heads of their homes, earn the money, and make all the decisions—while their wives support and submit to them. In effect the husband is boss.

Patriarchy believes God created men and women with rigid gender roles and that the Bible describes those specific roles (see arguments against patriarchy in the links at the bottom of this page).

Patriarchy puts men in charge at home and church. Men are empowered while women are disempowered. So, with such privilege, how can patriarchy HARM MEN? There are at least 5 ways, and I am sure there are more. During this series, a number of both men and women readers addressed this issue. Some of their anonymous contributions are reflected throughout today’s article.

patriarchy04

1. Some Men Don’t Want to be ‘Boss’

When I first married I was the boss. This was not specifically a religious thing; I was raised in the 1950s and 60s when the idea that ‘the husband is the head of the home’ was generally accepted. Think of Ward and June Cleaver who represented the ideal family structure on Leave it to Beaver.

I made big decisions without consulting my wife at all and simply informed her what we were going to do. It took me years to realize I did not want to be the boss; my wife was very capable and she often chafed under my strong ‘leadership’.

Over time I learned how to include her in decisions until we were finally making all important decisions together. Of course, I was free to make some decisions for myself; but then so was she. I did NOT miss the power of being ‘boss’, and I enjoyed our relationship much better—as did she.

I am not the only one; there are many men who don’t want to be ‘boss’ over their wives; patriarchy is a harmful burden for these men.

2. Many Men’s Personalities, Strengths, and Inclinations Do Not Fit Patriarchal Expectations

It was not difficult for me when I became ‘boss’ in my family; it was consistent with my culture and personality. But while some men enjoy patriarchal gender roles, other men do not. Many men have personalities, strengths, and inclinations that do not fit the patriarchal mold, so being forced into gender roles is uncomfortable, painful, and distressing. And when their headship doesn’t achieve the expected results, men can feel weak, powerless, emasculated—and furious.

Can you believe it? Some men enjoy cooking, caring for children, and doing the dishes and laundry! I had a church friend whose wife did very well financially. She was the provider and he was the house-husband—and he loved it. But he was doing ‘woman’s work’, which turns patriarchal gender roles upside down!

Was my friend a sissy? Was he a failure for not providing for his family? Did my friend disobey and dishonor God by rejecting required gender-roles? Not at all! He had different strengths and inclinations, and God didn’t care! All men are not the same, and being forced into artificial gender roles is terribly harmful to them.

3. Many Men are Uncomfortable Speaking for God

In Christian patriarchy men are in authority. Husbands, pastors, and other men are spiritual leaders for women; they speak for God. In more extreme cases, such as Umbrella of Protection patriarchy this is specifically emphasized—husbands are the ‘voice of God’ to their wives. The idea that women have access to God through their husbands is tragically misguided and, of course, very harmful to women.

But it is harmful to men as well. In my blog I object to harmful religious beliefs and show why they are misguided. I have strong opinions, but I make sure my readers realize that they are ONLY my opinions. I think my conclusions are based on ‘sound’ arguments but I never claim to speak for God. Nobody should do that; who is qualified to speak for God?

Yet this is a practical characteristic in much of Christian patriarchy. Men are thought to be a conduit between God and their wives. Are you comfortable with that? If you are you shouldn’t be, and I would say most men are not. Being forced to speak for God is tremendously harmful to men.

4. Patriarchy Provides a Strong Temptation for Domination, Power, and Abuse

I am not saying that patriarchy generally leads to domination, power, and abuse, but it does create an environment where these behaviors can thrive; and when problems come to light the victims are often blamed. Patriarchy also attracts men who are already drawn to these behaviors. It sets up seriously harmful situations for both men and women.

5. The Loss of a Potential Lifetime Partnership

This might be patriarchy’s saddest harm to men; and most men probably don’t even realize it. Patriarchy approaches wives like some slave owners approached slaves; they appreciate their wives and even genuinely care for them, but they do not recognize their full humanity. And their relationships to their wives are patronizing.

I married a wonderful woman, and for far too many years I was unable to experience the joy of a genuine, fulfilling partnership because I was ‘boss’. Fortunately, I changed so that I have experienced many years enjoying this fulfilling partnership.

Men continuing to live by patriarchal standards will never see the benefits of equal partnership with their wives. They will never experience the benefits of iron sharpening iron—all because of a misguided, unbiblical understanding of rigid gender roles. How sad; what a loss to both as the wife’s potential is never realized.

Can you think of other ways patriarchy harms men? Patriarchy is unhealthy, and if you participate in patriarchy I suggest you get out.

Articles from this series: Harmful Christian Patriarchy
See also:

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This entry was posted in authority, behavior, suffering and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to 5 Ways Christian Patriarchy Harms Men

  1. Laura says:

    Great post! I have a similar (but different) post: “Christian men – are you bearing a burden that God never intended? Egalitarianism is good news for men, not just women!” – which you’ve read because I see you have “liked” it. I will add a link to your post after mine.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Pingback: Christian men – are you bearing a burden that God never intended? Egalitarianism is good news for men, not just women! | Enough Light

  3. Chas says:

    Those who think that husbands ought to be the ‘voice of God’ to their wives are very mistaken. The Son of God was born so that everyone might enjoy a direct and individual relationship with God, so everyone is responsible to God for their own actions and thus no-one should presume to interpose themselves between anybody else and God. However, for various reasons, usually associated with a Spiritual weakness, many people are unable to ‘hear’ God directly, so He has makes provision for this by using others to give them a message that He wishes them to receive. Often, those who give such a message do not do so consciously, and therefore are not aware of having done so. In other cases, e.g.when somebody speaks in tongues and prophecy (prophecy authenticated by tongues), they might be aware that they are giving a message, but would usually be unaware who it is for, or what it might mean to the person it is for.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. tonycutty says:

    I think this is a great article and I wish I’d read it 30 years ago. I started by being authoritarian, and my late wife – who was the most competent lady I ever knew – also chafed under it. But I did realise my error – blunder more like – and rejected that teaching I’d been given about gender roles and so on. The only excuse I will give my ‘leaders’ of the time, to be fair, is that we all thought this was the *right thing*. We were wrong.

    Oh, and you may be interested to know that the bloke in your header picture is the English actor and comedian Johnny Vegas. A capital fellow, and very popular over here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Tony, I think there are a lot of men like us who started in marriage with patriarchal understanding but later became more enlightened. I wish there were even more patriarchal men than there already are who give up patriarchy.

      Someone informed me a few hours ago that my photo is Johnny Vegas. I was searching for a typical man who seemed unhappy and this seemed to work well. I didn’t know who he was and had not heard of him before; but I did do some Google searches after I was informed. Thanks for the confirmation.

      Like

      • Chas says:

        Tim, Johnny Vegas is a comedian and his glum look is part of his act, although he might well be somewhat depressive, many comedians are.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Chas, I am embarrassed by using a photo from a celebrity that I thought was a stock photo, but it is difficult to change the photo in the middle of an active post. I didn’t see that he was identified in the photo, though I guess I could have simply missed it.

          Like

    • Chas says:

      Tony, I noticed it was Johnny Vegas too, and agree that he is funny.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. fiddlrts says:

    Numbers 1, 2, 3, and 5 apply to me in some way. Basically, my wife and I decided before we got married that we were going to consciously reject patriarchal ideas (indeed, she had no intention of marrying if she had to be subservient in any way), and instead be partners. I believe that decision was the best possible thing we could have done for our marriage. Alas, I have seen #4 in play professionally, as I have had to deal with the aftermath of some marriages wrecked by patriarchy. If only more people understood the true joy of a mutually loving and respectful partnership.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Fiddlrts, I wish my fiancé and I had agreed to this before we were married, but we didn’t even discuss it. So my ignorance was in play for many years. Congrats to you and your fiancé for finding a better way.

      Like

  6. jesuswithoutbaggage says:

    Pamela Emerson, a reader in another venue, made this very significant observation:

    “I can tell you one very real and practical way patriarchy can hurt men. Patriarchy often causes women to feel unloved and disrespected causing much resentment and dissatisfaction in the marriage. This inequality is not conducive to emotional intimacy and a mutually giving and satisfying sexual relationship. There..I said it.”

    Thanks Pam!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. jesuswithoutbaggage says:

    Another female reader from different venue shared this comment: “One more harm is that some men may be forced to pretend to be tough, hiding their gentler kinder side, suppressing who they really are. That can cause a lifetime of psychological harm.”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. omisarah says:

    Thanks, Tim. Some good points I had not considered. I liked your last point best.
    My own thoughts on this situation is that: God’s definition of love does not include self-sacrifice (Jesus did NOT die to erase our seeds of sin); does not include mandated actions to be loved by God (that’s a barter contract not unconditional love); does not include anyone being subservient to anyone ( though we do this to our children as a parenting approach); and the feeling of entitlement is breaking God’s loving laws and doing so degrades the soul resulting in sometime in our eternal career each event will have to be repented for.
    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thanks, Omisarah. I also think point 5 is so very important. Relationships can be so rewarding, but they can be greatly diminished by patriarchy.

      Like

  9. Perry says:

    It’s interesting how many religiously conservative women defend patriarchy, refuse to defend even women who are victims of acts of male domination that go far beyond the pale, and even champion victimizers. All I can figure is it’s something akin to a “spiritual” version of Stockholm Syndrome.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Perry, this is an interesting situation–yet it happens a lot. I think you suggestion of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ is at play in many cases. But I also think other women are inerrantists and accept the misguided package of biblical passages that have been collected and interpreted to require certain gender roles based on ‘God’s word’.

      People accept and defend what they believe to be true until they begin the question it for themselves.

      Like

  10. Jane Feast says:

    What does Johnny Vegas haveto do with this article?
    If he isn’t the author, the use of his image suggests he is part of the patriarchy. Is this something we know to be true?

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Jane, my apologies. For this article, I searched for a photo of a man who seemed a bit unhappy. I was unaware that the one I chose was a well known entertainers in the UK; I thought it was a routine stock photo. I plan to change it soon but have not yet had the opportunity to do so.

      Like

  11. luckyotter says:

    Reblogged this on Lucky Otters Haven and commented:
    One of my favorite Christian bloggers talks about the ways patriarchal Christianity actually harms men.

    Like

  12. Other ways patriarchy harms men: 1. He has little or no protection from making bad decisions. The voice of a partner who could say, “Don’t do that, that’s a dumb move,” is effectively silenced. 2. It’s a huge burden to have all the leadership responsibility on just one pair of shoulders. 3. God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Patriarchy takes away his “face-to-face strong aid” (actual meaning of the Hebrew word translated “help meet”) and effectively renders the man alone again. 4. Always getting your own way is bad for any human being.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. adamjasonp says:

    Relationships are not one-size-fits-all. And the proof is in some of the examples you list here, including your own.

    There may have been times in the past where individual interests or professional passions were overshadowed by the suffering of practical life — without the modern conveniences of electricity, mass distribution of food, etc. But now, it is more apparent than ever that it is beneficial to be able to explore our strengths without being forced into artificial roles. I would argue that it has always been a struggle — that we naturally have strengths outside of the norms of society in any century. (And there are many historical examples, including people managing to get around the “norms.”)

    With life being “easier” today, it seems to me that some people are more judgmental than before, which may include misinterpreting scripture or overlooking history. But I may be overlooking history, myself. 😉 I’m not exactly one to speak for religion, of course, considering I’m not religious. But I do know that no one can really speak for God, but for ourselves.

    Anyway, you wrote an excellent post, one that got me talking. Thank you for this. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Adam, thanks for the kind words and I am glad you liked the post. You have some really good thoughts here, and I think your statement is key: “Relationships are not one-size-fits-all.” I believe one of the big problems of patriarchy is that they do not consider this reality.

      Thanks for your contribution. I hope we hear more from you.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Ross Jarvis says:

    Another thoughtful and well thought out post Tim. I am very, very aware of having the “softer” side of myself battered out of me as I grew up. It has taken many years to partially regain the simple pure joy in all things that I had as a child. (Regarding this I thoroughly recommend St. Exupery’s “Little Prince” as a critical example.)

    Here in the UK there are pockets of extreme patriarchy in various indigenous and “immigrant” “communities”, not least the Evangelical ones which are disturbingly over-influenced by American Evangelicalism, plus the more established Christian congregations still wrestle with male “headship”, but in general this seems to have a more egalitarian trajectory.

    Currently I think the bigger issue is differentiation along economic lines. Within the Christian Community I see many couples confronted by the massive problem of trying to have input into family life versus the immense pressure to have both parents working as much as possible. In this instance decisions are made for the female to stay at home whilst the male works. This is not always or purely down to the male being able to earn the most but generally this is true, as for whatever reason the role of care-giver seems to “fit” or be accepted by the female more than the male. I know several families where the male “stays at home” or where both parents try to get part time work to share as equally as possible.

    The main problem though is “careerism” and the way that society has evolved into one where all individuals must work long hours in a highly monetarised society. These pressures are all but overwhelming. I can see all around me that most decisions, whether or not they are to do with changing historical “patterns” of gender specific behaviour are totally subservient to “working for the man”. There is little if any freedom to choose lifestyle decisions whilst the intense economic pressure bears down so much.

    From early childhood we are taught and learn so much without question, historically this had much to do with “gender specific” behaviour and traits, but since the late seventies we have been taught to “perform, compete and achieve” regardless of sex, this can’t have anything but a harmful effect on how we treat each other and in my view is much more dangerous than gender stereotyping.

    Historically the pressure was on males to take control and push females into subservient roles, today there is a push toward both sexes taking control and not caring about those who can’t compete. The nightmare future I see is not one where “men have it all” but where people of any gender are programmed to “have it all” and everyone who can’t “compete” are consigned to the wast-bin of society. In this instance everyone loses. Those who are “winners” having no heart and all the “losers” having no hope. The big irony is, that outside the gender specific “Evangelical” model of America, egalitarianism has shifted the balance from men oppressing women to anyone of any sex trying to oppress everyone else, not because they’re aggressively power hungry but because they’re terrified of being the “have-nots”

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Ross, thanks for the kind words.

      I think you have identified a real problem of this era. Just to make ends meet and have a reasonably good home economy, both parents have to work in many families. The day where the father could bring home all the resources for a comfortable life seems to be over for most families in the United States. And I agree with you that this is quite tragic and takes away from other important aspects of family life.

      I almost said that I like your statement that: “Those who are “winners” having no heart and all the “losers” having no hope.” But I don’t like it–I don’t like it at all, but it is nevertheless true. The constant fear of being left behind financially in today’s economy is often difficult to bear. What if I lose my job? What if I become sick or disabled? What if I lose my house. There is a lot of stress and a need to preserve whatever security we have, and that often means both parents working.

      Even for those of us who do not want to ‘have it all’ there is tremendous pressure to keep up. And Christian patriarchy certainly does not help in my opinion; it is just one more way we must conform and perform according to a misguided understanding of gender roles.

      Sorry to be so gloomy, but in the light of today’s pressures we need even more to be ourselves instead of who someone else thinks we ought to be. Thanks for your excellent thoughts.

      Like

      • Paz says:

        I think this has also a lot to do with how and what we have in the past and continue to, (in the present world by using different ways of interpreting it) define as “normal” and “successful” which continues to add to the pressures of trying to figure out what is “happiness” all about and how do we aim to become more self-aware and in the process even more mindfull of others.

        Liked by 1 person

    • newtonfinn says:

      Your comments, Ross Jarvis, are on the money, to use a phrase that demonstrates the heart of the problem you identify. The only way out of wage slavery and ecocide is to overturn what Jesus assumed and Edward Bellamy named as “the rule of the rich,” under which human beings have lived, in one form or another, since “civilization” began. In its current neoliberal form, this rule has become so deeply internalized that TINA (there is no alternative) seems grafted into our DNA. In diametrical opposition to “the rule of the rich” is Jesus’ radical vision of the kingdom of God/heaven–in this world but not of it, condeming excessive wealth accumulation as sinful and soul-destroying, and inverting the perks of power and privilege into responsibilities to serve the least of these. Bellamy, in “Looking Backward” and “Equality,” fleshed out what one version of a society based upon Jesus’ kingdom values might look like. His late 19th Century vision is in need of 21st Century revision, especially in environmental emphasis, but as a whole it weathers well. Bellamy opened my TINA-ed eyes, as Jesus opened the eyes of the blind in his day, so that I could visualize concretely how the kingdom might come on earth. Another piece of continuing revelation, for me, was Albert Schweitzer’s expansion of kingdom values to include all lifeforms, not just human beings, in his elementary and universal mysticism of “reverence for life.” The first step in overturning what we used to call “the system” and “the Man” and today call global neoliberal capitalism, is to be able to imagine a viable alternative social order that places people and planet above profit, where life itself is the bottom line instead of money. Until the majority of people, or at least a substantial minority, catch a glimpse of this kingdom and actually believe that it can come on earth (however partially and imperfectly), and not merely remain waiting for us in heaven, we will be locked into the hopeless trajectory of wage slavery and ecocide. If the church were really the church, the gospel of the kingdom coming on earth would be front and center in its message and action, and there would again be conflict between Christianity and the world–the only unmistakable sign that Jesus is risen and his kingdom is still in our midst.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ross Jarvis says:

        Good points Newtonfinn. I can’t but hear Jesus words about the rich and wealth when I look around me. I try to live an ethical life, where accumulation of wealth is not a high priority, but it does come at some personal cost…..what’s a holiday? I find it very strange that the noise you hear from much of the religious establishment seems to be about “sexual” sin, but hardly ever about money. Which I believe is a complete reversal of the quotes attested to Jesus.This is a message more heard from the Catholics or Anglicans than much of the other protestant denominations. I thought part of the Christian message was about serving others not ourselves? I’m sure self sacrifice is actually great amongst many Christian brothers and sisters, but under-reported, however it should be the norm, not exceptional. Tim, it makes me gloomy too, but somehow we need to see the light of the kingdom against the darkness of the World, maybe we often look in the wrong place? The efforts of yourself to challenge a wrong understanding of Jesus’ words and mission are like headlights on a dark country road.

        Regarding the patriarchy thing, one of the more pernicious parts of that, is that not satisfied with just excluding females and youth, it seems to go hand in hand with getting to the top of the pile over the other patriarchists too. I really dislike the vast majority of the “competitive” society, precisely because it assumes it is good for some minority to be in charge, making a virtue out of sin. Really, the pulpits (if such things should exist?) should be telling us all the time to build everyone else up and be satisfied with less and less till we have enough. Unfortunately I think this gets you labelled a communist in some circles!

        Liked by 2 people

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