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the national Association of Black Counselors

Black Men and the Patriarchy: Reimagining Masculinity for Liberation

11 Apr 2024 4:50 PM | Dr. Nick Battle (Administrator)

The societal construct of masculinity, particularly for Black men, has been deeply influenced by historical injustices and systemic racism. Rooted in a western definition of masculinity that emphasizes virility, aggression, protection, and provision, this construct has created unrealistic expectations and a sense of competition among men. However, this definition fails to account for the unique challenges and experiences faced by Black men.

Systemic racism has disproportionately affected Black men, leading to lower rates of employment, earnings, and educational attainment. Black men have had to contend with incarceration, lynching, and social isolation, which have hindered their ability to fulfill traditional masculine roles. The pursuit of this form of masculinity has damaging effects on Black men's mental health and ripples throughout the Black community.

As Black men are denied their positions as "men" according to hegemonic standards, based in Western ideas of masculinity, they often seek out other avenues to affirm their masculinity. One of the ways in which Black men may seek to assert their masculinity is through relationships within the Black community. However, the impact of the patriarchy on Black men's sense of self-worth and identity can lead to strained relationships and a lack of trust within the community. As Black men are denied their positions as "men" according to hegemonic standards, they may seek validation and affirmation in unhealthy ways.

The pursuit of this form of masculinity can have damaging effects on the mental health of Black men. The constant pressure to prove oneself as a man, coupled with the societal barriers that limit opportunities for success, can lead to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, the emphasis on Western traditional masculine traits can contribute to unhealthy behaviors and practices, as Black men seek out alternative avenues to affirm their masculinity.

However, traditionally African American men defined their maleness through their sense of self, family, and community. They also drew on spirituality and humanism as defining aspects of their masculinity. For African Americans, masculinity is defined by maturity, responsibility, being a provider, and being self-aware. This definition challenges the narrow constraints of hegemonic masculinity and offers a more holistic and empowering understanding of what it means to be a man.

By reimagining masculinity in this way, Black men can reclaim their sense of self-worth and identity, and cultivate healthier relationships within their community.

It is essential for Black men to continue to challenge the societal construct of masculinity and define it in a way that is affirming and empowering. By embracing a definition of masculinity that is rooted in self-awareness, responsibility, and community, Black men can break free from the damaging effects of the patriarchy and work towards true liberation and empowerment.

By acknowledging the intersectionality of race and gender and recognizing the impact of systemic racism on their lives, Black men can begin to cultivate a more inclusive and compassionate understanding of masculinity. This, in turn, can lead to healthier relationships, both within the Black community and beyond, and a greater sense of self-acceptance and resilience.

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