Meet Dave Pickering. If you don’t already follow him on Twitter (and you should – he’s @goosefat101), you may not have heard of the #ManSurvey yet. A while ago he posted a few tweets with a link to a list of questions on surveymonkey designed to find out what men think about patriarchy. Questions like ‘does patriarchy exist?’ ‘does misandry exist?’ and ‘how has patriarchy hurt you?’ yielded a whole range of answers: some sarcastic, some touching, some sad, some insightful.
In total, over 1000 people filled out the survey, and I invited Dave to write a guest blog to give you an overview of the results. So, ever wondered what men think about patriarchy? Let’s have a look…
Like many men, I have a complicated relationship with being a man and with the concept of masculinity. In the last 5 years or so, I’ve started to revaluate myself and my past through talking to people I know on my podcast and getting involved with true storytelling. I’ve started to see childhood very differently. Those 5 years coincided with me joining Twitter and starting to read more feminist and marginalised voices, which offered me new ways to understand what I was learning about myself. I decided to put them all together in a show called What About the Men? Mansplaining Masculinity.
While writing it, I got stuck on how to define masculinity. It isn’t really something I feel able to define, more something that’s existence seems to define me. I wondered how other men would define masculinity, so I decided to ask them. And I thought the best way to get honest answers would be to ask in the form of an anonymous online survey.
“Patriarchy is the single most life-threatening social disease assaulting the male body and spirit in our nation. Yet most men do not use the word ‘patriarchy’ in everyday life. Most men never think about patriarchy – what it means, how it is created and sustained.”
Once I started sharing the survey and its responses via social media, it took on a life of its own. It grew into something much more important to me and my show than I’d anticipated. It captured the interest and imagination of people of all genders, and developed into a survey of 1000 men.
What do men think about patriarchy?
There really is a lot of variety to the responses. 10 trans men filled it in and those 10 men have had very different experiences and views of patriarchy to each other. Race, class, sexuality and other oppressive systems come up frequently. There were even three surveys filled in by women. Some men express hatred for men. Some men express hatred for women.
Even when the men skip questions, it tells us things. For example, the most frequently skipped question was “How have you hurt people in a way influenced by patriarchy?” Many responses deny being hurt or hurting people through patriarchy and then go on to undermine these claims within the rest of their answers. Many talk candidly and honesty about experiences of bullying, abuse and shame. At one point a man confesses to raping his girlfriend “because [he] did not know what rape was.”
A lot of men weren’t keen on the survey; specifically they weren’t keen on the man they imagined made it. One man answered the question, “How would you define masculinity?” with, “The opposite of whoever made this survey, you male apologist beta cuckold.” Another said, “This survey was clearly written by a cuckolded beta liberal [homophobic slur] who needs to start lifting and stop being a disgrace to his gender, you pussy.” One man decided to tweet this interesting assessment of my motivation: “Enjoy being an emasculated lapdog. Does that get you much feminist pussy? LOL”.
Who filled out the man survey?
Most of the less personal criticisms of the survey boil down to it being biased. The survey was not designed to be rational or scientific. The survey was designed to be experiential and discursive. It was designed to make my own positions clear, but also to give people room to challenge them. I don’t really believe things can be unbiased; the best we can hope for is transparency about our bias.
I didn’t ask for demographics, although many responses reveal demographic details. The other big thing missing is a question asking if patriarchy is good or bad. Some respondents think the problem is there’s not enough patriarchy!
For example, there were a few hundred in a row where the survey was mostly being filled in by Men’s Rights Activists. I guess the link had found its way to a strange sub-reddit somewhere and a backlash was launched. That was when reading and sharing the responses became gruelling: wading through page after page of hate and fear. But even those responses told us something about men and patriarchy. After a while, the attack died down.
I don’t think the responses are representative of all men. To a certain extent, it’s a survey of feminist-leaning men: they’re the majority. The initial respondents came generally from that POV, and as the survey grew, it was mostly shared by feminists. That said, it does represent many other viewpoints. If the survey isn’t representative, I don’t really think that’s a bad thing. I feel like we hear a lot from men who don’t believe in patriarchy. I was interested in hearing from the men whose point of view we hear less frequently and I feel like the survey achieved that.
The man survey is a thing in its own right and has a lot more applications than as the research for my show. I’ve shared all the responses on a website as an open source resource. If you have any interest in reading or analysing 1000 anonymous men’s thoughts on patriarchy, it’s the site for you!
When I made the survey, I thought it would just give me a couple of quotes for an already finished show, but it’s changed the show completely. For me personally, it has been quite the emotional rollercoaster ride. At first it was incredibly heartening. Hearing about men who, like me, have been harmed by patriarchy and men who, like me, have harmed others through patriarchy and are trying to change their behaviour was really liberating. Hearing about men grappling with manhood, worrying about their impact in the world, questioning and hating their privilege made me feel less alone. It was also heartbreaking to read the pain many of the men had experienced and inflicted.
I want to develop the discussions and respond to these responses. If 1000 men talking about patriarchy might be useful to you, please make use of the website. I don’t have a statistical or analytical background, but people who do are welcome to apply theirs to these results. I’ve been approached by someone who wanted to use it as a teaching resource, and I’d really encourage this. I’ve set up a blog on the site; I welcome guest posts and will link from there to any developments people do elsewhere.
I’ll leave the last word to a man who commented over on the site about his experience with the #ManSurvey:
“ManSurvey came at a critical point in my thinking about gender. I was going through a tough time emotionally after my mother died after ten years of dementia. The grief reaction was much more dramatic than I expected and triggered a flood of feelings about my dad who died more than thirty years ago and most significantly his relationship with my mum. Patriarchy has never been a word I have used to navigate my relationship with my parents but the ManSurvey questions really created a eureka moment. The idea that patriarchy can hurt everyone, including boys and men, was a huge relief. My own struggle makes more sense and though I cannot go back and undo all the damage and pain I have caused, I do at least have a handle on the dynamics at work. I hope this website can flourish as a beacon to help other troubled souls!”