Today I did something I’ve never done before. I shoveled snow. No, I didn’t grow up in the south. I grew up with snow. I just never shoveled it. My brothers did. Yes, I’ve been grown and gone and married for years now, but my husband and I live in an apartment where the handy men shovel the walks. And so, somehow, I’ve made it to my mid-twenties without shoveling snow.
It is often said that patriarchy hurts men too, but I don’t think this is emphasized nearly enough. My brothers were expected to do all of the outdoor chores while we girls were assigned the indoor chores, which was especially handy in the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter. My brothers didn’t want to shovel the snow, and they thought it most unfair that we girls didn’t have to. Similarly, my brothers were pushed to choose careers that they could support a family on, and discouraged from pursuing the arts or humanities.
There are lots of other examples too, when you zoom out to the societal level. Women aren’t required to sign up for the draft, for instance, a relic of the patriarchal idea that men are to protect women. Pointing out that patriarchy has often bad for men is of course not to negate that patriarchy has always harmed women more drastically than it has harmed men. After all, patriarchy has always been a system in which women are expected to remain under men’s authority – kept safe and protected, perhaps (at least in rhetoric), but without the ability to make their own decisions. Still, though, the harm patriarchy has always dealt boys and men should not be ignored or minimized.
Feminism is not and must not be simply a women’s movement. Instead, it’s a movement dedicated to destroying patriarchy, including both the aspects of patriarchy that benefit men and the aspects that benefit women. And so this afternoon, as I shoveled a driveway alongside my husband’s relatives, I told myself that the work and the cold were just one more step toward truly dismantling patriarchy in all of its forms.