Preliminary Observations on the Analysis of the Movement

What is the Analysis of the Movement?

In building my curriculum to both explain the M4BL to the uninitiated and help build a more complex analysis within the movement, I realized that many of the articles I wanted to include had not be written yet. This is a excerpt of a larger piece I’d like to include in the curriculum. It is the part that I am most uncertain about. The larger piece lays out the analysis in a more complex way. This part seeks to situate the emerging analysis of the movement in the context of prominent left ideologies. Any constructive thoughtful feedback is most welcomed.

The Movement has several analyses that are in process of coalescing and synthesizing. We reject the dogmatic and deterministic tendencies in many ideologies of the past while also realizing that the past has much to teach us about the present. Our analysis is based on the principle [to paraphrase Erika Totten] that we should study the past and learn from our elders while leaving that which no longer serves us behind. Our analysis is also not academic even if parts of it were created in various formal and informal academies.

The movements contains adherents of identity politics, queer theory, Marxism, and anarchism. The overriding and unifying analysis of the movement is Anti-Authoritarian Black Queer Feminism. Briefly, Black Queer Feminism is a school of feminist thought centered on the intersectionality of oppressions. To paraphrase prominent Black Queer Feminist Audre Lourde, we cannot have single issue movements because we do not live single issue lives.

It is based on the understanding that race, class and gender are inextricably linked and must be approached as such. It is in contrast to main stream feminism which too often focuses on the experiences and needs of middle class white women.

According to David Halperin “Queer is by definition whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant. There is nothing in particular to which it necessarily refers. It is an identity without an essence. ‘Queer’ then, demarcates not a positivity but a positionality vis-à-vis the normative.”

Black Queer Feminism is as diverse as its adherents and defies neat and tidy definitions.

Our Black Queer Feminism then is, among other things, an understanding of oppression through an intersectional lens that focuses the critique of the current social order from the margins of that order that face the brunt of its brutality. It gives us a tool to have a praxis of collective liberation wherein the leadership of the multiply marginalized communities are centered in a way that ensures no one is left behind. Black Queer Feminism asserts a need for non-normative or highly individualized world views and a cultural relativism that understand both finite objective material realities and infinite subjective experiences of them.

While we take much from all these theories and whole hardly accept the many brilliant iterations of Black Queer Feminism, we reject dogma and any form of determinism. Dogma are sets of principles laid out by an authority figure which are taken to be true and unchanging. Determinism is the belief that demographic information like race, sex, class, gender etc inherently determines our worth, revolutionary potential or place in the movement or society. We believe both of these tendencies are hypocritical and self-limiting.

As proponents of identity politics we readily admit that often times identity politics adherents dismiss individuals based on the groups they are perceived to be a part of. We see this as a counterproductive strategy that is often the result of unprocessed trauma or immature political awareness. We do not believe that identities determine the inherent worth of people nor the validity of their ideas. Likewise, we reject the identity determinism present in much of current Marxism that has a pre-occupation with the proletariat as the only “legitimate” revolutionary class.

Black Queer Women may lead the movement, but the movement is under no naïve assumption that the representation of marginalized groups is all that is needed. Nor is the movement so narrow minded and single focused as the off handedly dismiss the contributions from men, non-Black people of color and white people. Rather, we are merely aware of the historical reality of oppression and the need to address and correct certain trends of domination or submission that are counterproductive to movement building and liberation. Such corrections often seem overly discriminatory to those who are used to relying on systemic inequality to function.

In centering the narratives of the most marginalized we are imagining an expansive politics with multiple focal points where our manifold viewpoints shed more light on issues. This expansive politics wellspring for our call for collective liberation. We believe that Black liberation should work hand in hand in solidarity with indigenous liberation, trans* liberation, women’s liberation, the overthrowing of class society and the liberation of non-Black people of color and poor white people. We believe that none of us are free until all of us are free.

We believe that queer theory and anarchist theory provide some potential fillers of the gaps in thought and practice of both identity politics and the marxist-socialist political spectrum. Queer theory, in our understanding, deals with [among other things] the tension of the unclassifiable individual and social groups divided by systems of oppression and power. It always us to consider both the individual who exist outside of ultimately arbitrary groups and the individual who is profoundly affected by their forced assignment into said groups. Anarchism, in our understanding, provides models and values for how the individual might relate to groups in empowering and effective ways. It helps us understand the processes and dynamics that pull individuals out of relationship with their power and cede it over to external institutions and agents of society.

We believe that despite the sectarian way in which we often discuss these different ideologies, we have witnessed [in the Occupy, Dreamer, and ending sexual assault on campus movements] these ideologies being tested and blended in real time. The same is true for the Black Lives Matter movement. At their best, an understanding of all four allows for the decentralized movement building and centering of marginalized voices in the fights for $15 and housing justice that expand our understandings of these issues in such a way that everyone has skin in the game and can envision pieces of their liberation in the outcome. At their worse, folks go the extreme in one direction and either ending up with post-racialism, racial determinism or with vapid statements like anarchy means I can do whatever I want etc.

The core of our analysis is that systems of oppression like White Supremacy and Patriarchy alienate us from our needs, desires and power. We have become so alienated from these things that our true selves often feel foreign and we find ourselves cast adrift and tormented by the whims and projections of those with more power in our society. We see this alienation as near total. The only place in our lives in which we can be unalienated from ourselves is in what Audre Lorde calls the non-European Consciousness and others might call our sub consciousness or dreams.

We believe in both the power and political necessity of the erotic that Audre Lorde describes. The sensual feeling and desire for excellence is not merely base sentimentality. It is us at our most human. It is a power that drives our analysis. For, without this erotic need to live more human, sensual and fulfilling lives liberation would be middle class, emotional stagnant cis white men’s existence. It is not enough to be materially well cared for and without oppression. We must revolutionize our relationship with the material world.

Yet we are not idealist. We believe that dreams, like our waking thoughts, have a basis in the material world. In fact, we world argue, that our dreams are our hypothetical solutions to contradictions of our society that our bodies urge us to play out through political theater in order to be made real. Political theater is the use of weaponized narratives and perceived power to create real actionable cultural power in society. It is using existing narratives of identity, merit, history, fulfillment etc to propel a specific political agenda.
In essence, we yearn for freedom and therefore assert our right to it and exercise examples of it in ways that dramatize the failure of our present system to give it to us; thereby delegitimizing it.

We yearn for self-determination and therefore assert it through civil disobedience highlighting that our desires and the desire of society writ large are not the same. Chipping away at the perceived power of the status quo opens up the possibility for mass open disagreement and non-compliance and eventually crisis.

In moments of crisis, societies are more likely to choose radical alternatives.
As a non-violent social movement, we aim to use targeted narratives [cultural power] to create a crisis of conscious that results in a massive shift to unalienating alternatives. This is why pre-figurative work and a communally embodied praxis is so crucial.

Cultural power must be parred with the creation of these alternative structures while both are simultaneously utilized to weaken the status quo. This will ensure that they are not only the likely choice in times of crisis but able to handle the crisis effectively and sustainably. This is, essentially, and elaboration of what the Gramscian Marxist might call building counter hegemony. We have to build this counter hegemony, this an alternative to the status quo, while we disrupt and agitate.

 

On Leadership and Storytelling in Building Counter Hegemony

 

Because we are not only organized around class, our counter hegemony must be more than cooperatives and unions. Because we are not organizing merely along race and ethnicity our counter hegemony cannot be separatist or purely cultural. Because we are organizing against state violence our counter hegemony cannot be statist. Because we are organizing against cultural genocide and our use of the erotic powers within ourselves push us for excellence, our counter hegemony must be sustainable and total.

In any mass movement to build counter hegemony, leadership is crucial. When Ella Baker taught us that “strong people don’t need strong leaders” she did not mean that movements don’t need leaders. Rather, she was asserting an essential truth, leadership need not be messianic. Leaders can wield their power together with their followers who are also leaders.

For history tell us that the embodiment of stories is what makes effective visionary leaders. Malcom X preached that the story of Blackness we were told was a lie and he embodied that truth in his clean cut, fiery persona. Martin preached about the Promised Land as the new American dream and the New Negro as a militant solider for justice. He embodied this spiritual militancy in his defiance on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Yet these two men also embodied the messianic Black male leadership that silenced crucial female voices and made it possible for their movements to be nearly destroyed with a few bullets.

From this history we learn that intentional, accountable leadership is crucial for any mass human endeavor and when that leadership is placed in an external institution or embodied in a few spokespeople it is soon alienated from its base and becomes self-limiting. Eventually, “strong leaders” either die, are co-opted or become oppressive themselves.

In order for us to create our counter hegemony with this intersectional analysis, we have to craft a radically new story of who were are, how we came to be and where we are heading. This story must emerge from networks of shared communal praxis and be embodied. This is why the revolutionary political theater of the movement for Black Lives is so crucial.

Unapologetic Blackness is a tool that is both liberatory in the erotic sense and forces [as Ta-Nehisi Coates might say] people who imagine themselves to be white and the system that creates them to enter into political dialogue with us on our own equal terms. As Amiri Baraka taught us, we must destroy their logic of professionalism [which is merely code for white middle class male standards] with the illogic of #BlackGirlMagic [which is a complex syntax of the dark transformative power that our veil gives those who survive a system that was meant to kill them.]

Unapologetic Blackness is but one piece of what might otherwise be called conscious militancy. The same addiction to standing in our own power that Black Brunchers feel in Brooklyn is felt by the Black women leading the labor movement into a new era in the $15 battles across the country. This revolutionary theater is not mere radical posturing [though it must be noted that some of its most photographed practitioners may make it appear so] it’s a class [or perhaps subaltern] consciousness that has reached a new level of maturity. To truly stand in your power is a deeply erotic exercise, to merely posture for the new era of social media activism is merely movement porn.

This class conscious militancy is being created in trauma informed healing spaces like Emotional Emancipation Circle and Black Joy Sunday that give the movement its emotional vitality and sustainability. In national gatherings like the Movement for Black Lives in Cleveland, these different aspects of Black militancy are mixing and a revolutionary praxis is emerging.

As this nascent praxis of trauma informed unapologetic Black Feminist militancy is developed through larger and larger actions and informed by more fully articulated ideologies like generative somatics, emergent strategies and the aforementioned Marxism, anarchism and idenitarianism a more complicated story of not only Blackness but humanity writ large is being articulated and embodied, though admittedly haphazardly.

The Movement for Black Lives is the raising the bar for America as a nation and a community of individuals. It is telling a story not of unfinished pyramids of exceptionalism but resistance in the face of multiple genocides. It is story of diverse characters whose wants and desires are beyond our ability to articulate but deeply and viscerally felt.

Characters who realize that they can write their own stories. Characterize who realize they are the subjects of their own histories. Characters who will no longer stand for politicians that don’t speak to their issues. Characters who will no longer tolerate unions that refuse to represent them or bosses who refuse to let them be represented. Heroines with bodies in infinite permutations who want Paid Family Leave, an end to rape culture and for their children to be safe walking home from schools that love and support them as well as educate.

Most importantly, the movement is learning and forever on its growing edge. It exists, in its totality, in that uncomfortable realm between what we know to be true and what we believe to be true. It exists in the fertile space that explorers enter when they attempt something that has never been done before. Our counter hegemony is being crafted to support and sustain this communal unappogetically Black performance. It’s the communal dinners, cooperative housing, vibrant communities and solidarity unions we create to allow us to better engage in this dance.

Our new more livable world will be birthed by the vestiges of this movement. We will tell our children the story of this movement just like we tell our parents and our neighbors. Once they understand this story and own it and become active participants in its creation, they will help lead us further on the path towards liberation.

Call Me in Until You Need to Call Me Out

Reflections On Being A Leader in a Leaderful Movement

 

Rape Culture is real. It is omnipresent. It is destroying all of our movements.

I don’t know how to start this essay. I don’t really know what to say or how to say it so I’m going to be real and raw and honest. I am a local leader in the Black Lives Matter movement here in DC, which is a movement for the liberation of ALL Black People and a necessary but insufficient piece of a larger movement for collective liberation. I am leader whose followers are also leaders. I am leader who often has no clue what he is doing but decides to put himself out there because he knows that the work needs doing. I organize within a social network that is a web of mutual support, Black excellence, gorgeous righteousness and, let’s be real, shared trauma.

I organize for the liberation of my people all while suffering from the post-traumatic stress of having existed for 26 years as a sensitive human being in an insensitive world. I have been Black in society that can’t recognize the humanity of Black people. I have been struggling with mental illness in a world that would rather profit of my suffering than talk about it. I have come to terms with my attraction to all genders, including my own, in a world in which that means I cannot be seen as fully Black, really a man or completely human. All of this trauma infuses every decision I make as an organizer, as a follower and as a leader whose followers are also bomb ass, revolutionary leaders.

I say that, because it needs to be said. In the next few days I imagine a lot a of conversations will be happening about who will work with who and how people should have handled beef. I imagine a lot of people will have opinions about who did and didn’t say what where. We need to remember that we all are working through our trauma in real time. We need to realize that it is unacceptable to be traumatizing people through patriarchy in liberation struggles. We need to remember that there is a time to call people in and there is a time to call people out.

To many women have spoken to me about a desperate need to hold men in leadership in DC accountable for me to remain silent.

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I don’t remember where I was when Mike Brown was lying on the ground for 4 and half hours. I don’t remember when I first realized that I was watching the public lynching of a Black boy on television every time I watched cable news talk about the “thug” “Big Mike.” I don’t remember when I realized that the Black Lives Matter Movement was giving birth to my generation’s Black Liberation Movement.

I do remember the feeling of needing to do something, anything, after Darrin Wilson was not indicted for the execution of Michael Brown. I remember the feeling of anguish that led me to start writing nearly daily on race, racism and white supremacy after seeing how white allies showed up in spaces. I also remember when Black women leaders inspired me to get off my blog and hit the streets

I remember when my now good friend Lydia and I met at an action she planned. I remember being grateful that she brought the movement to my city. I remember talking a long lunch to interview Erika Totten and Dominique Hazzard at a day of action in November. I remember hearing Erika say that she couldn’t not get into this fight. I remember them inspiring me to get off this blog and into the streets.

Once I was in the streets I remember a shared sense of organizers not really knowing what they were doing. This is not to say that people didn’t have skills, or talents or expertise. This meant that people were angry, and traumatized and were making plans as we were executing them. I remember showing up to actions and people asking me to pitch in. I remember when I decided to be an organizer in the Black Lives Matter movement because there was shit I wanted to be happening that just wasn’t.

There were a couple of months that I was organizing around Black Lives Matter but I didn’t consider myself a leader. I would read about the next shooting, the next beating, the next sex trafficking police officer in 7D and spend hours on Facebook looking for the event that addressed it. When it didn’t happen, I would send out e-mails to all the “real leaders” and wait for a response, wait for someone to step up and let me follow them. As the other organizers got busier, and replies started to be, yeah, you should do that! That’s when I started to think about leadership.

There was point at which it became clear that other people already saw me as a leader. It took a while for me to take the mantle as my own though. Leadership comes with a number of benefits, mainly that I get the unique pleasure of actualizing my plans and thoughts. I get to see my own plans for liberation come into being bit by bit. I get to see people move. Not just bodies on the street but minds and souls be moved by my action and writing. It is an amazing feeling. Yet leadership, true leadership like the kind this movement needs, comes with responsibility and accountability.

The weight of that responsibility grew steadily as it became more and more apparent that people expected things of me. People looked to me plan actions. People looked to me to say those hard truths that needed saying. People started saying things like, I came out because you asked me. I felt proud but also scared, unworthy and incapable of seeing in myself what others saw in me.

I remember the point at which the responsibility of leadership felt the most visceral. I had called a meeting to plan an anti-misogyny training at my house and invited my people. The people who I’m in the movement for, the people’s whose welfare makes me work to end patriarchy. Most importantly, the people I grown been accustomed to schooling me on what’s what.

I remember opening the conversation with my vision for the training and having multiple dynamite, power houses of local organizing gently push back by saying “I’m here because this work needs to get done, and I trust Aaron to hold this space.” That level of trust hit me hard. It was both an unexpected honor and, to be honest, terrifying. It was frightening because I had little faith in my ability to hold a space that honored the humanity, dignity and brilliance of the women in the room when facilitating a conversation about patriarchy.

The truth is, sexism is real and embedded in the very fabric of our society. It is foundational to how we think about leadership, self-worth, and movement building. In my mind, I too was too influenced by our sexist culture to rid the spaces I was creating of its taint.

In talking with those women, I realized that every time I hold a space the attendees have to make a decision. The women I invite have to make a decision about whether or not they trust me and the men I choose to surround myself with to create a space where they feel safe.

As a leader I cannot forget about that choice. I cannot take the easy way out and operate my meetings, my marches, my healing spaces within the oppressive atmosphere of a demented status quo. I cannot choose personal loyalty over liberation. I cannot duck out of the responsibility of leadership because silence is easier than speaking out. I cannot betray the trust of the women who continually teach me how to recognize my own humanity. That trust is important and not given lightly. That trust must be earned and re-earned constantly. Most importantly, it is not to be abused.

Sadly, far too often it is.

Far too often whole sections and scenes within movements are physically, emotionally and spiritual dangerous to women. Too often women have navigate those same uncontainable impulses to do something, anything to end their current oppression with the added burden of deciding, not whether, but how much abuse and misogyny they will endure to do so. That is sickening.

That simple fact outlines the limit of how far any movement for liberation can go without naming, addressing and ending patriarchy within the movement. Black liberation can’t move an inch past the bonds that men force on women.

Men must do more. Black men must do more. The male leadership of the leaderful Black Lives Matter Movement must do more. I must do more. We must do more.

We must transform our spaces to be the reflections of the liberation we are seeking. We must hold the men we surround ourselves accountable to our shared vision of world in which our neighbors, co-workers, sisters, mothers and daughters can be their full, beautiful, Black, female and gender non-conforming authentic selves without fear of violence. We must hold men accountable to holding spaces that do not enable, praise, or excuse rape.
Those of us who have decided that this moment is our time; those of us who have chosen to be leaders in the movement for Black liberation; those of us who strive for a world in which the overwhelming brilliance of Black people is allowed to thrive and flourish, must hold ourselves accountable to ending patriarchy.

Rape culture is too acidic to liberation to be tolerated. Sexual predation is too counter-revolutionary to be tolerated. Our collective silence, my own reservations about ruffling feathers and stepping on toes, is too violent to be tolerated. We must call each other in, until we need to start calling each other out.

I am not writing this as a model for how to be a man in the movement. I am writing this as someone who fucks up. I am writing this as someone who was silent for too long. I am writing this as someone who has to constantly apologize for how I show up in spaces. I am writing this as someone who wants all the amazing women I often follow and who sometimes follow me, to call me in until you need to call me out.

To all the men that are reading this we have to do better. We have to stop allowing men to prey on women in our spaces. We have to stop interrupting women on the mic. We have to stop defending rapist because they once were a role model to us. We have to stop shaming women for speaking their truth. We have to stop refusing to put in work for the women’s liberation movement. We have to re-imagine our conceptions of masculinity, sexuality and gender. We have to check our internal transmisogynoir.We have to step way back and remember to come forward when our support is needed.

If you have questions, concerns or push back please reach out to me. We need to come together to end rape culture. We need to leverage our power to create beloved communities and liberated spaces. We need to start crafting and implementing solutions. There have been a few conversations and events on ending patriarchy and redefining masculinity so far and hopefully there will be many more to come. Please find me on Facebook or e-mail me at wellexaminedlife@gmail.com if you are interested in joining me and other men to end rape culture.

The Truth About Gender Based Violence

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Elliot Rodger terrifies me.

It’s not that I’m afraid that some kid like him will attack me or, worse, someone I love. I don’t think Men’s Rights advocates are going to join with the NRA to declare open season on women. What scares me about Elliot Rodgers — what makes my whole body clinch into a coil when women I respect and care about talk about him — is that he doesn’t seem all that extreme to me. I understand where he is coming from.

He is every teenage boy I played football with. He is my brother. He is my father and, to a very sickening degree, he is me. More to the point, Elliot Rodger reminds me that society has already declared open season on female bodies.

A few weeks ago, a woman with whom I’ve been fortunate enough to have organized with on progressive causes sent me a letter written by another organizer in my city. It’s a plea to consider the epidemic of horny, angry young men who haven’t had sex for extended periods of time as a public health crisis. The writer goes on to say, that while he thinks murder is wrong, Elliot Rodgers’ rampage could have been prevented if only someone had set him up with women to have sex with. He cites other spree killers who “snapped” after extended periods of time without sex, as well as several unnamed studies that show sex reduces stress and leads to a more balanced mental state. The author writes, at length, about how women just need to stop thinking emotionally about this issue and start thinking logically.

As I talked to my friend and fellow organizer about this letter and saw her reaction, her visceral fear that a man like this could be working alongside her, I was filled with another kind of visceral discomfort entirely: I didn’t think anything he said was that extreme. Even if I disagree, I can understand where he is coming from. Some of the logic of the rant rang “true” to me. There’s normalcy to this seemingly extreme behavior.

This is not to say that the normalcy of these beliefs make them any less dangerous. Nor that every man is a powder keg of misogyny waiting to explode. My point is that these moments of mass gender-based violence are merely a symptom of much more widespread and virulent problem: the formation of masculinity.

Why Masculinity Is The Problem

There’s a distinction between an individual man and the larger social idea of masculinity. Masculinity is way of being: it is all of the things we mean when we say “that guy is so manly.” Being a man means you, either innately or through social pressure, identity with your culture’s construction of maleness — you call yourself a man, you think of yourself as a man, and when you decide how you should act in social situations, you observe other men. You’re part of the group of humans who seek to be masculine, consciously or subconsciously.

Being born with a penis, a Y chromosome, and the ability to grow a beard is not the problem. Testosterone (though a possible factor) is not really the problem. The way we teach men to behave is the problem. Masculinity is the problem.

It is the logic of masculinity that blinds most men to their privilege; it is this logic that causes some men to rape; and it is this logic that causes some men to kill. It is a logic that is ingrained into the psyche of all men, a logic so embedded as to become almost invisible. I believe that as long as we view this logic as the exception and not the rule, society will continue to tacitly endorse violence on women.
It must also be said that masculinity is as much as an identity as it is a socially constructed justification for allowing men to have privilege. This seems like a radical claim but it is actually rather obvious. Masculinity is not inherent to everyone born with the biological markers our society decided to call male. If this was the case, it would be unnecessary for fathers to teach sons how to be men. We would not tell boys to “man up” if boys naturally grew into men. Nor does it make sense that masculinity is a cultural idea created organically over time. Organic cultural ideas are not defended by their adherents, only carefully constructed ideas are. For example, human bodies are meant to walk or run from place to place. This idea has a biological basis in the natural world. Yet, you don’t see threats of violence every time a pilot decides to fly. Yet, in America, if a man were to wear a dress he would be met with credible threats of violence.

Yet, men who commit violence against women assert their inherent, “natural”, and biological determinism as men as the justification for their heinous acts. It would be easy to dismiss this pathological denial of simple truths if it were merely the actions of a few misguided men. Unfortunately, the construction of masculinity is a social project undertaken by all men, myself included. Every time I tell a boy to “act like a man,” or remain silent while someone else does, I am taking part in this social project. In order for this fatal masculinity to function, it requires both the visceral hatred of women by a select few and the near ubiquitous silence of the majority.

Audre Lorde eloquently stated that, as a woman facing the brutal oppression of life under male supremacy, “your silence will not protect you.” As men, we must come to realize that our silent acquiescence to the logic of masculinity enables the rape, coercion and murder of women. For men, silence in the face of culture of violence is not merely unproductive; it is downright destructive.

I’m not interested in validating the arguments that support misogyny. However, I do think it’s important to illustrate how the logic of masculinity twists mundane facts into apologies for rape and murder. Without making those connections, men like myself will perhaps see no need to question our own internal logic and beliefs. Without some serious introspection by men, we will raise yet another generation of spree killers, rapist, abusers, and enablers.

Weeding Out Emotional Understanding

I would argue that the most strongly held sexist belief in America is the idea that men are less emotional than women, and therefore more logical. That belief is often perpetuated by well-meaning men taught , as all men are taught, to suppress their emotions. This may seem like a small thing, almost like an example in a magazine article entitled “10 ways men are different than women,” but it illustrates a much larger problem in our society: We raise 49% of the population under a gender identity that systematically weeds out emotional understanding.

When men have emotions that our society has determined are not masculine, they are uniformly told to suppress them through masculine activities. I remember talking to my High School coach about a girl who didn’t return my affection. He told me, in the smug voice of the patriarchy, that’s why god gave us football and to “work it out on the field.” This mantra, work it out on the field, becomes the way men are always told to deal with emotion. Ignore the pain, act manly, and you’ll feel better.

This systematically teaches boys that all emotional vulnerability stems from not being “man enough.” So, when faced with emotions, boys seek to perform their gender through feats of strength and control rather than processing their feelings fully. They also often attempt to invalidate the emotional responses that other people (usually womyn) may feel. Eventually, this flawed logic of emotion replaces actual emotional reasoning — with dangerous results.

Men systemically deny emotional responses until they respond with anger and aggression. This anger and aggression is often either denied or reframed to be the fault of the more emotive person (often, though not always, a womyn.) This is blatantly clear on reddits and blog post about gender. Men speak to the emotional insecurity feminism forces them to come to terms with the only way they know how: through rape threats and other forms of victim blaming.

This denial of emotion is clearly essential to the constructing of maleness though I, for the life of me, could not tell you why. It is possible masculinity seeks to control emotion as a way to limit empathy because it is hard to set yourself above someone if you have to consider their feelings while you do. This explanation seems likely, given that most forms of oppression tend to cause the oppressed to be seen as more emotionally vulgar. Whether it is the primness of aristocracy, the respectability of whiteness or the stoicism of maleness: dominance is always carefully constructed to cull empathy within the dominant class.

For men, this lack of emotional awareness causes several problems. Chief among them is the fact that men have emotions, regardless of whether they acknowledge them or not, and these emotions have to get expressed. When men have emotions that our society has determined are not masculine they are uniformly told to work them out through masculine activities. I remember talking to my High School coach about a girl not returning my affection. He told me, in the smug voice of the patriarchy, that’s why god gave us football and to “work it out on the field.” This mantra, work it out on the field, becomes the way men deal with emotion.

A young boy hurts his knee and he is told to walk it off. If he limps and shuffles it would not be unheard of for an older man to tell him walk like a man. The implicit message here being, ignore the pain, act manly and you’ll feel better. The same goes for all manner of emotional pain.

Sexual Frustration and Gender Based Violence

By tying the cure to all emotional vulnerability to acting “manly” we systematically teach boys that all emotional vulnerability stems from not being “man enough.” Boys seek to perform their gender through feats of strength and control when faced with emotions rather than process them fully. Eventually, this flawed logic of emotion replaces actual emotional reasoning, again to dangerous results.

Another belief central to misogyny is the notion that sexual frustration is the root of gender based violence. I believe that regular, consensual and safe sex between adults who share a sense of mutual respect is a decent way to manage many different types of stress. Yet it is absurd to say that men kill women out of sexual frustration.

The real culprits are not prudish women refusing to satisfy the needs of horny Neanderthals. Blaming women for this frustration isn’t just blaming the victim; it is wholly misunderstanding the problem. The problem is not that some men feel entitled to sex, or, as many feminist writers have posited, that most men feel entitled to sex. The problem is not even that some men think they are superior to women (though far too many do).

In reality, the problem is that nearly every derivation of modern American masculinity is fundamentally based on a specific, limiting, oppressive, and mutually fatal logic of maleness in which emotional insecurity and vulnerability can only be addressed through feats of violence and control.

We live in a male oriented society that tells men that they are only as important as they are manly, and that they are only as manly as their sexual and physical prowess. The more women they sleep with, or the more capable they are in perpetrating actual violence — or simulated violence through sports – the more fulfilled they are. In such a society, sex becomes a major avenue for external validation of men as social beings; validation without which no person, of any gender, can have stable and healthy emotional lives.

So when our social and sexual expectations are not met, instead of processing those emotions, far too often, men find convenient scapegoats and lash out.

Within this fatal perverted logic — and only within this logic — it makes sense that sexually frustrated men would kill. They have internalized their need for social validation as their masculinity not being accepted by society. They then perform their gender through feats of violence and control, such as rape and murder, to gain that social “proof” of maleness.

Masculinity and Scapegoating

Not all men deal with this dynamic by raping or killing, but that doesn’t mean they don’t find some way to exhibit violence and control. When our social and sexual expectations are not met, instead of processing those emotions, far too often, men lash out, and find convenient scapegoats. Few men are taught to effectively process and resolve emotional problems and all men have been taught the idea that emotional problems are a result of not being manly enough. Even for men who have grown past that idea intellectually feelings of failure often coincide with feelings of not being man enough. This means that regardless of what expectations are messaged to us, we are unable to process the feeling of vulnerability when those expectations are not met.

This is why we see a rise of domestic violence and racism after downturns in the economy. When people’s financial expectations are not met, they lash out and focus on a convenient scapegoat. Too often this leads to men hitting their wives as a way to compensate for not being able to provide for their families. In a sense, these men are substituting emotional or physical control for financial control. Similarly, white men have, historically, been prone to blame economic downturns on the “animalistic masculinity” of Black and Brown men. To paraphrase a former Klansman, hating America is too hard: it’s big and amorphous and you’re a part of it; it’s easier to blame to Black men for taking your jobs.

Unfortunately, domestic violence and racism are not the only places where male frustration and feelings of inadequacy lead to scapegoating and violence. In fact, perhaps one of the most common ways men lash out their feelings of inadequacy is through street harassment. Few men who ask strange women to suck their manhood actually expect the women to respond positively. Street harassment isn’t actually about getting sex; it is about asserting masculinity. The impulse that makes a group of men call out to women on the street is the same impulse that led me to run faster and hit harder in football. It’s all just “working it out on the field,” showing the world your sexual and physical prowess.

It is commonly believed that street harassment is a cultural problem of low income or minority communities given that street harassment is more likely to occur in communities where men hang out on the streets. Yet in reality, street harassment is simply another symptom of the logic of masculinity as men with more money exhibit the same behaviors in bars, by water coolers or on the internet. How often have you or a friend hit on a women in a bar after staring at her breast? How often has a male co-worker dismissed the irritation of a female colleague by saying “she just needs to get laid?”

Why That Sexist Joke Matters

The same form of thinking that leads to street harassment is present in all manners of male conversations. How often have you overheard male friends talk about how upset they are that someone won’t sleep with them? How often do your married friends complain that their wife always has a headache when they bring up the subject? How often have you been upset that your girlfriend didn’t want to have sex with you when you were horny? How often has this anger been expressed by calling the woman a bitch, slut, whore, prude or a tease?

It may seem like innocuous venting, but it is anything but. Words matter. More importantly, the words we use to categorize people matters, as it tells us how people deserve to be treated. If you to write an article on a bill and refer to the President as a politician, most readers would automatically start to be skeptical of their motives. If you refer to the President as “the last adult in Washington,” you have already helped frame how readers will react to the bill. If you refer to woman as a bitch, what, then, does she deserve? How about a whore? A Slut? A Prude? Or a tease?

To make this point another way, consider how most men feel when their best friend doesn’t want to hang out with them. For instance, if your friend tells you he has to work, you’re unlikely to be upset. If a friend says he has to have dinner with his girlfriend, some men might be a little more inclined to be irritated. If a friend says he can’t hang out because he would rather stare at a wall, most men would be upset. You can understand your friend’s need to work as being more important than your need to hang out. You might, given your personal feelings about committed relationships, easily understand the need for romance over “bromance.” However, few people would take kindly to their need for companionship take a second seat to staring at a wall. Then, we feel we are not giving us the time we deserve.

In that context, it becomes clear what we actually are thinking when we are upset with women for not sleeping with us: How dare they put their physical comfort, their desire to spend the night with their friends or their lack of sexual arousal, above our own needs? How dare they put their human need for self-fulfillment above our sexual ones? For this transgression, they are put into categories that justify our violence against them. Bitches need to be taught a lesson. Sluts are to be fucked and discarded. Whores to be fucked and bought off. Prudes just need to be coaxed. Teases just need a taste of their own medicine. The logic of these jokes is the same as the logic of street harassment. Before you know it, locker room talk leads to “she was asking for it”.

I remember a moment in high school when my friend was telling me about the latest girl he was pursuing. He said, “Sometimes, I think that I should just rape her…I know, it sounds crazy, but after a minute I think she’d learn to enjoy it.” My friend was clearly joking — but he was joking in the uncomfortable way that made Dave Chappelle stop his show, the kind of joking that so deeply blurs the line between humorous exaggerations and “funny because it’s true” statements that reinforce stereotypes. I called him out on it, disgusted, and immediately another guy told me to “quit being such a faggot.” Again, clearly joking…

Men who think misogyny doesn’t exist, or is vastly over stated by “femi-nazis,” often dismiss humor as existing outside of the things we actually believe in. They claim the jokes are funny because they are not true. Yet, if you think about how we actually develop our worldview, you can see that humor is the way we test out ideas and see if they are socially acceptable. If you want to know if you new glasses are cool or nerdy, it is often less emotionally risky to make a joke about them being nerdy, and gauge your friends’ reactions. The same is true for rape and domestic violence jokes we are told, still tell, or have been shamed into silence when we hear.

This worldview gets reinforced in our minds with real world consequences, even if we wouldn’t agree with it intellectually. So when a girl doesn’t like us back, we look for faults in her, call her names, or otherwise react aggressively. Eventually it gets so ingrained, and men are so incapable of handling rejection and criticism positively, that we find ourselves labeling women in aggressive manners for minor things like correcting us in a staff meeting. In this way, locker room humor becomes board room bigotry.

Where Men Can Go From Here

I am not arguing that every man is a rapist or mass murderer in waiting. I am arguing that all of this – aggression, street harassment, misogynist jokes, rape, and killing sprees — are all symptoms of same fatal logic of masculinity. The construction of modern masculinity causes men to perpetrate all manner of violence, due to our inability to understand and process emotion. When I say this is a problem with #yesallmen, I mean that as long as we live under the chains of modern masculinity, we will all continue to invalidate the emotional experience of other people, threaten or perpetuate violence when someone forces us to come to terms with our emotions, and fail to overcome our feelings of vulnerability.

Elliot Rodger is not a lone, crazy gunman, nor is he a poster boy for the danger of the radical men’s rights movement. Elliot Rodger is the generic archetype for modern masculinity, and a case study for what happens when you mix alienation, masculinity, and easy access to guns. If he were less alienated, he would have probably still been abusive to his partner. Had he not had access to guns, he still would have reacted violently. The only thing that stops Elliot Rodger from perpetrating gender-based violence is deconstructing masculinity.

It should be the endeavor of all men to do just that. Deconstructing our social concept of masculinity involves exploring our emotions and not fearing that will make us effeminate. We must understand that ignoring emotions is not some stoic expression of control; instead, it is the most profound cowardliness. It is a sick and often fatal cowardliness that put the women we profess to love in danger. The logic of our masculinity, the logic that tells us not to feel, that tells us that sex is the means to social validation, a logic that teaches us to fear the unknown inside of us, is literally destroying the fabric of our society.

Because until we as a society recognize that masculinity is the problem — and force men to deal with it — rape, harassment and murder will continue to typify the daily experiences of our wives, daughters, sisters, neighbors – as well as ourselves.

Life Before The Revolution

Image For Life Before The Revolution

 

Booing Up When All Your Friends Are Lesbians…& You’re Not

 

 

Here it is…the moment [a few of] you have been waiting for. The debut of my play writing prowess…a comedy of queer proportions…the story my dating life as read by my friends…the hilarity that might could be the DC Queer DIY Punk Scene… one my favorite things I’ve ever created.

This play is a compilation of pieces of my life with the boring taken out, names changed and background slightly rewritten. Most of the dialogue is real. Some of the events happened. All of them could happen…at group house near you. I’m really proud of this play as it represents a lot of personal and artistic growth. Not only is is better writing but it is more honest writing. Some of the truths contained within might surprise people who haven’t talked to me in a while…if that is the case, I encourage you to ask about anything that surprised you.  I will probably write more about this play later and will post the script soon but for now…here is my first ever radio theater comedy podcast!

If you like the music [and really how could you not?] check of Spoonboy and Hot Hyms for more!

 

Strip

This latest poem is less a poem and more a audio art experience? The Poem is called strip or remover of difficulties or the things they ask you to strip away. It’s new, its different, it complex. Listen to it twice and let me know what you think!

Strip away the paint and the decorations and a house is a just a shelter.
A physical space for us to be protected from the elements.
Pieces of wood and steel and brick that allow us to live our lives.
That is the purpose it serves and it can only be judged by how well it serves that purpose.
You remember the first time they asked you to strip. They didn’t know what they were asking but your mother had taught you when to know. Your slave like hands slowly began to undo the braids on your head. You undid your history with each row you took out; rows of fertile hair where your identity grew unraveled. You reached your ash black hands towards your mouth and stripped away the taste of mother’s cooking. You used your degree to strip the pigment from your skin and hoped that it bruised white. The act of bleaching stung at first but you would get used to the feeling, you would tell your son that it’s what it feels like to successful. You knew what purpose you needed to serve and you had learned to serve it well.

Strip away the paint and ornaments and a car is just a vehicle.
An instrument to carry us from one place to another.
Pieces of steel and leather and rubber that allow us to live our lives.
That is the purpose it serves and it can only be judged by how well it serves that purpose.

You remember the first time you asked her to strip for you. Neither of you knew what you were asking but she did it anyway. She stripped herself of her ideas first, letting them fall seductively to the floor. She removed her desires slowly, concealing enough of her wants to be mysterious. Her delicate and child-like fingers unlaced the rope that held her self-esteem together just like her mother taught her. Her movements were easy and provocative but unnatural. She stood in front of you, naked, left with only her tentative will to clothe her, ready to shrug it off if you asked. You wouldn’t learn to ask until college though. On the surface it felt right and you repressed the part of you that knew it was wrong. The act of repression stung at first like shaving the skin off your soul so that it could harden when it heals. Soon you would get used to that feeling; you would tell your son that it’s what it feels like to be a man. Her eyes ask you if she served her purpose well and you are unsure how to answer.

Strip away the flavor and the spices and food is just energy.
An organic fuel to give us sustenance.
Pieces of the vegetables and animals and minerals that allow us to live our lives.
That is the purpose it serves and it can only be judged by how well it serves that purpose.

You remember the first time she asked you to strip for her. She didn’t know how much it would hurt. You pulled back the emotional curtain as she sat across from you. She watched in silence as you used the knife to strip off the mask, the temporary fix that, over the years, had been permanent. You ignored the bleeding and locked eyes with her, studying her reaction. She didn’t realize it hurt until you started crying. She rushed over to tell you that you could stop but you kept carving. Once the mask was off and the tears had washed away the blood she said you were beautiful. The act of accepting her love stung at first like your pulling off the scrabs of your scarred soul. Soon you would get used to feeling, you would tell your son that this is what is should feel like to be a man. You ask her if you served your purpose well and she answers:

Strip away the clothes and the history and a person is not just an animal.
We are more than the gold and cotton and paint that covers our flesh.
Pieces of the earth we use to enhance our beauty.
Our purpose is not to serve and so we cannot be judged by how well we do.

The myth of “Fast Black Girls” [TW: Rape]

The myth of “Fast Black Girls” [TW: Rape].

 

Here is an interesting article about the sexualization of young Black girls. It is a good, if mildly disturbing, read about how young Black girls are sexualized to in such a way as to essentially make them inherently rape-able. It is another reminded that words form thoughts that guide actions. It does matter what you call people, it does matter how you describe behavior. This does far beyond semantics.

Under-appreciated Steps To Understanding Your Role In “Women’s Issues”

War on womenWar on men

 

We’ve heard a lot about the War on Women and the War on Men in the news the past few months. Every conversation I hear about it seems to be missing a crucial point of view or idea. I am also amazed at how often important voices are left out of each of the conversations. This is my attempt to highlight a few [and by no means all, or even the most important] steps we can take to improve our conversations about issues of sex and gender. As always, I seek increase my own awareness through dialogue, so whether you agree or disagree with this list, please leave a comment on below.

O. Watch this video by Jackson Katz which inspired me to write this.

I think he effectively gives the argument for why I have a problem with somethings being a women’s issue and not a human or a man’s issue. I’m not talking about or advocating for “Men’s Rights” [a topic I will write about soon], I’m talking about how making something a woman’s issues means that it is something that women have to deal with and I can just tune out. This is why you hear the complaint from some men saying “well, we never talk about men’s issues I don’t see why I have to hear about women’s issues all the time.” First of all, we do talk about men’s issues some times but they are just called issues. Here is a great post about how Men are People, Women are Women from a friend of mine. Second, we should definitely talk about Men’s issues more but men need to be prepared to have real conversations about masculinity. Its not going to be easy.

Just like Women’s Issues are not just shopping,  reproductive rights and parenting, Men’s Issues are not just sports, sex and fatherhood. In fact, the issues are basically they same. Some men like shopping and some women like sports. All men should be concerned about domestic violence and reproductive rights and all women should be concerned with fatherhood and men’s health. We all may care about different aspects of these issues. Men may understandably be more concerned with their part in stopping domestic violence and women may be more concerned with how they can support or improve their children’s, niece’s or student’s relationship with their fathers. Yet these are issues that affect us all. Also, I am not calling for the end labeling things as women’s issues, merely advocating that we find a way for insure that everyone hears and is heard.

I think Lindy West put it best when she wrote:

Think of it like this. Imagine you’re reading a Dr. Seuss book about a bunch of beasts living on an island. There are two kinds of beasts: Fleetches and Flootches. (Stick with me here! I love you!) Though the two are functionally identical in terms of intellect and general competence, Fleetches are in charge of pretty much everything. They hold the majority of political positions, they make the most money (beast-bucks!), they dominate the beast media, they enact all kinds of laws infringing on the bodily autonomy of Flootches. Individually, most of them are perfectly nice beasts, but collectively they benefit comfortably from inequalities that are historically entrenched in the power structure of Beast Island. So, from birth, even the most unfortunate Fleetches encounter fewer institutional roadblocks and greater opportunity than almost all Flootches, regardless of individual merit. One day, a group of Flootches (the ones who have not internalized their inferiority) get together and decide to agitate to change that system. They call their movement “Flootchism,” because it is specifically intended to address problems that disproportionately disadvantage Flootches while benefiting Fleetches. That makes sense, right?

Now imagine that, in response, a bunch of Fleetches begin complaining that Flootchism doesn’t address their needs, and they have problems too, and therefore the movement should really be renamed Beastism. To be fair. The problem with that name change is that it that undermines the basic mission of the movement, because it obscures (deliberately, I’d warrant) that beast society is inherently weighted against Flootches. It implies that all problems are just beast problems, and that all beasts suffer comparably, which cripples the very necessary effort to prioritize and repair problems that are Flootch-specific. Those problems are a priority because they harm all Flootches, systematically, whereas Fleetch problems merely harm individual Fleetches. To argue that all problems are just “beast problems” is to discredit the idea of inequality altogether. It is, in fact, insulting.

1. Embrace Complexity:

Understand that none of these issues are black and white. I even disagree with one or two points on all the articles I link to because ultimately these are complex issues and all of us have several lenses and paradigms we see them through. What’s important is that just because you disagree with one part of someone’s argument shouldn’t mean you disregard it completely. You might be a pro-choice man and find a women’s right to choose appalling given that the fetus has no say. You have a right to that opinion but that doesn’t men you should disregard the uproar when people talk about “legitimate rape” just because you like their stance on abortion. Similarly, you might identify as sex positive or sexually liberated but don’t forget that everyone’s sexual experience may not have been as positive as yours.

Bottom line: not all women who are pro-choice have internalized oppression or men who have guilt connected to their masculine identities made effeminate by feminism. These issues and our reactions to them are as complex as we are.

2. Understand that there is a problem:

I get it, maybe you think that women have gone to far. That whatever wave of feminism we are up to now has upset the natural order of things. Maybe you are woman who likes the role which women have been traditionally expected to fill. Maybe you believe that men should be the head of household because God said so. Maybe you are man who is tired of being portrayed as the dumb, overweight husband on T.V. Maybe you are Black man who is tired of young, college educated white women telling you how privileged you are to be a man. Great, you have a right to those opinions. What you shouldn’t do is forget that gender inequality exist because you either think you aren’t directly hurt by it or dislike the people talking about it.

We all have different takes on what the problem is, it severity, urgency and its causes but we should all agree that there is a problem of gender inequality in human society. There are numerous examples of human civilization having some problem with gender. From the examples the severe oppression of women world wide to accusations of reverse sexism, it is clear that it is out there. Recognizing that there is a problem is the first [er second? Third?] step in dealing with it.

3. Learn the power of active listening and intentional speech:

Words matter and how we talk to each other matters. Part of understanding the complexity of these issues is understanding that the are often very personal. This not only means that open dialogue is required to hear different sides of these personal issues but that this open dialogue needs to happen in a safe place. We will learn nothing from each other if we keep on the same accepted scripts and refuse to be vulnerable to each other. I found this article by Ana Mardoll to be helpful for that. It is talking specifically to men about being a feminist ally but I think it is helpful for how to talk about gender in a safe place and how to stand up for justice when surrounded by people who don’t think there is a gender problem. Therefore, I think it is also useful to women. Since society tells women that they are emotional thinkers I’ve noticed that some women assume that they are more emotionally aware than all men because they are women. The sad truth is that we are just not that introspective of species. Emotional awareness takes hard work and all genders have to do it. While different genders may have different emotional work to do, we all, as humans, have to do some.

 

4. Learn what other people think Patriarchy is and then come up with your own definition:

Perhaps you disagree with me about what the problem is? Perhaps you think that feminism went to far. Perhaps you think even radical feminist aren’t advocating that we go far enough? Either way, patriarchy is central to issues of “the gender problem” and questions of if it exists are in many ways secondary to what does it look like. I firmly believe that you have to have your own definition of the systemic problem {patriarchy} [or lack their of] before you can argue about the daily iterations of it {misogyny}.

The OED defines Patriarchy as “a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.” It is pretty difficult to argue that we don’t live in Patriarchy given that definition. [If you would like to argue that we don’t, please, post a respectful comment to that effect.] Yet, ultimately this is an overly simplified definition of the term. For a more in-depth look at the term I’d suggest going here or here.

Hopefully, understanding different ways that patriarchy is defined will convince you that Patriarchy does exist in some form. It doesn’t mean that every man has some societal power over every women. There are many women with more power in the world than me.  It also doesn’t even mean that the men who do have power are openly bigoted or sexist. It is possible to have a patriarchal system in which CEO’s all have programs designed to bring more women into underrepresented fields. Unfortunately, Patriarchy doesn’t need bigotry to sustain itself, undiagnosed and unprocessed bias is more than enough.

In my personal understanding  of the term, Patriarchy exists on two fronts: Power and Privilege. There is the real power that some people [male, female and intersex] have to exert their will [conscious or subconscious] on society and there is the privilege that is afforded to individuals based on their existence within a group which is believed to have power.

Power, in my definition of patriarchy, is the ability to exert your will [conscious or subconscious] over other people. It is important to realize is that power doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There are layers of power interacting with each other. Just like having a Black President doesn’t mean that racism is gone, having a female Speaker of the house didn’t mean that women achieved true equality. Nancy Pelosi is powerful by just about any definition and her position as the de facto leader of Democrats in Congress [Harry who?] is a testament to how far women have come in society. Yet, one look at the Republican convened panel on women’s health, shows us that sometimes the dominance of one group’s subconsciously biased view on the world can constrain even the most powerful people in a society. In this case, congress [a body  comprised overwhelmingly of men] decided to have a panel on women’s health and invited people who they perceived as qualified to brief them. The panel ended up being all men talking about women. These congressmen chose men to talk to them about women’s health for a variety of reasons. One of the those reasons is because people tend to like to hear themselves talk. Humans have a natural tendency to want to hear facts from people who act, think and look like us and most of the members of congress on the panel were men. Another, more destructive reason, is the notion of “qualifications,” as in what makes someone qualified to talk about an issue, is biased towards men. We as society are used to men being authority figures and explaining things to us. This means that the voices of women as a group, whose health as group was in question, are left out of the conversation. Not to mention the fact that there are a number of women who are actual trained experts in women’s health and can speak articulately beyond their own personal experience.

When the dominance of the most powerful group in a societies point of view becomes termed “normal,”  members of that group are granted privileges just for perceived as being part of that group. For instance, it is considered “normal” for a boy to be good at math. Science and finance are seen as traditionally male careers. If I were to pursue a career in science or finance I would not have to deal with the problems associated with stepping out a my gender caste. A woman might have to deal with people suggesting she try nursing, teaching or being a mother instead. For many women these suggestions are merely an annoyance, for others there are a barrier to success and advancement.

Privilege is complex but well discussed check out some interesting takes on the complexity of privilege in terms of gender: black women and slut shamming and benevolent sexism.

5. Learn what your role in Patriarchy is:

We all have a role to play in Patriarchy [beyond dismantling or perhaps convincing every one that it doesn’t exist]. I personable believe that the role isn’t as simple as victim and perpetrator or oppressor and oppressed. I, as a man, benefit from Patriarchy. I stand a good chance of getting paid more for the same job than my sister will. I can expect to be listened to in many circles because I am a man and it is seen as normal for me to deferred to [granted, age, race and class sometimes makes this male privilege somewhat null and void.] Yet, at the same time, as a non-hetero-normative man, a man who doesn’t fit naturally into what society expects a man to be, I am also oppressed by Patriarchy. I find the idea of a “real man” in all his well muscled, anti-intellectual, emotionally stunted, alpha male grandiosity to be stifling. It is not an ideal that I can or want to live up to. It curtails my human potential by telling me that I’m not really a man. I personally believe that in internalizing patriarchy I have in effect oppressed my self and other men as well as women. I’ve had to come to terms with this fact in order to start the process of slowly deprogramming myself from patriarchy thinking, which is an on going process.

Similarly, women have complex roles in Patriarchy as well. What arethe moral implications of women who knowingly support patriarchal images of submissive women for their own profit? How does race and white privilege effect your role in patriarchy? What about women in Latino or Asian cultures with their diverse gender roles and stereotypes? How does class change our role?

6. Grow!

In my opinion, the purpose of understanding your role in issues of gender is for both personal and collective growth. I think that conversations about gender roles is essential not because we convince bigots to not be bigots but because we can examine our own biases and hang-ups which impede change more than bigotry. I know, as a man with an over active conscience, that it is easy to get bogged down in guilt or despair. Yet we should not let shame, guilt, anger or pain stop us from striving to understand ourselves and those around us. We need to be introspective to understand why we do what we do and how what do effects those around us. The better we understand that, the easier it will be to tackle and solve gender issues.

I’m interested in hearing what other under-appreciated steps people think there are.

My Problem With Equality

Defend Equality [face]                                                                                                                                         Defend_Equality [fist]

Sometimes I forget what equality actually means. By that I mean I sometimes forget that equality is a two way street. If I treat others as I would want to be treated then I have to treat myself how I would like to be treated. I have to cut myself the slack I cut others and have to hold people to the same standards I live my life by. If I recognize that this human being in front of me is a worthwhile being with a narrow but valuable slice of the human experience then I must recognize that I too am a worthwhile human being. Equality means that while my sister is a wise, responsible pillar of support for me, she is also needs help from time to time. It means that even my father who seems almost static in his resiliency needs a break every now and then.

I am amazed at how little time I actually spend thinking about people as fully functional entities outside of the role they play in my life and how often certain people in my life are put on pedestals and seem divorced from petty concerns. As my uncle might say, I have slowly come to learn that “everybody’s shit stinks.”  Everybody worries, gets scarred, and everybody has flaws. It is as limiting and bothersome to interact with people as if “their shit doesn’t smell” as it is to assume that they are inferior. By putting people on a pedestal we refuse them room to run, exercise and grow strong. Pedestals are as limiting as chains.

I’m reminded of this more and more as I enter the dating world of new city. This means meeting and interacting not only with different women but different kinds of women. I have learned to appreciate this diversity and try to not go into each date assuming I know more than I’ve been told about them. This is complicated with a personal tendency, a waning tendency but a tendency none the less, to try and place people in some hierarchy in relationship to myself. In terms of dating this usually means that a girl is put so high on a pedestal as to be labeled unattainable or I spend an inordinate and honestly disturbing amount of time finding enough flaws for her to be brought down to a “manageable level”. I used to think that this “manageable level” was the same as equality, that in a sense I was reassuring myself that they were as flawed as me. Yet, over time I’ve come to realize that this is not the case. A manageable level is comfortably below me in some way because, as stated earlier, I have a problem with equality.

In trying to figure out exactly what problem was I was aided, ironically, by a particularly bigoted blog post. A female friend of mine, with whom I would often talk about gender with, recently sent me a blog post called “The Case Against Female Self Esteem.” I won’t post a link to it, as I normally would, because I don’t feel a need to give it more traffic but you can Google it if you feel the need.  The blog post, written by a man with a different problem with equality, makes a few main if illogical points. Most notable are that most girls have done nothing to deserve self-esteem and that vulnerability is inherent to femininity. I will look far beyond the factual inaccuracies of the post, the readily apparent projections of an emasculated psyche and out right bigotry.

The first thing that pique my interest in the post was the claim that most “girls” have done nothing to earn to self-esteem. The author goes on to explain unlike the supposedly lazy female self, a man who is “jacked” has dedicated time to his physique and that dedication is admirable. The author proves this fact by saying that no one would respects a man who sits down and plays video games all day. Women, in his mind, tend to spend their times getting college degrees in puppetry or other soft [i.e. non-STEM] degrees, working in human resources, teaching, nursing and other non-essential industries.  Thus, having done nothing of note, women have no right to self-esteem, which is earned and not inherent (a claim, if not outright dubious, at least begs proof).

What is thought provoking about this to me is how the author clearly gendered his world and proclaimed all things worthwhile are Male and all things supportive or extra are Feminine. Not to mention that my mother was in Human Resources, as was my father, and their dedication to craft far out stripped any body builder I have ever met but is an argument for another time.

Upon reading this piece I began to wonder how this author’s problem with equality compared with my own. Like the author, my world is inherently gendered. I still think of speaking about my emotions as a feminine activity. Even this blog feels slightly feminine to me. I realized in exploring that idea, that of my gendered world, that I have come to think of the world as split between Male and Female as two cooperating forces that seek balance. I don’t intellectual think this feeling has a ton of merit or truth yet it a sense of how I view the world that I have come to realize subconsciously informs my actions. The author of this blog post on the other hand seems to think of Male and Female as complementary forces, each with a specific duty and place within a specific hierarchy.

[I’m still trying to flesh out this idea of a gendered world and would love to hear any thoughts about it]

Like the author against female self-esteem, I do find vulnerability attractive. Yet, I have the sense that what I find attractive about vulnerability defers from his. There was I time when I could sympathize with the desire to be a “real man,” the type of man whom protected women, sheltered women and provided for women. I think that idea, that women have an inherent need to be protected by men, speaks to a great deal of insecurity within men. For me at least, it speaks to a need of mine to be needed. A need which itself arises from feelings of uselessness and a profound lack of self-worth. In this mind set, women become something to give me meaning and value. This either chains women into a role as tools or sets them on pedestals as tokens of self-worth and personal prowess. As I grew up and found my own feelings of self-worth in other endeavors, the need to be needed did not go away but lost a significant facet of it urgency. I eventually found that I wanted to be needed and, honestly, who doesn’t want to be needed every now and again? [Again, commitment phobia is yet another topic for another time]

As I became less insecure I became more open. I developed very strong and sustaining friendships with several women who taught me a valuable lesson: vulnerability allows for intimacy and when someone is allowing themselves to be vulnerable with you, that is as much a sign of strength and security as it is trust. While, problems with intimacy is literally a blog post for another time, I will say that it took be a while to learn the difference between when vulnerability speaks to an inherent weakness and when allowing yourself to be vulnerable in order to increase intimacy is a show of strength. I think this is so fundamental that it is a lesson that men who have learned it need to discuss more often and teach their sons.

It was not an easy lesson to learn and was not learned over night. There were a lot of times when every vulnerable statement had to be stated in the most masculine terms [droping my voice an octave, cracking my knuckles etc]  and qualified a million times over. This posturing before allowing yourself to be vulnerable not only lessens the intimacy between two people but again, speaks to insecurities that should be worked out.

Now my more mature, almost emotionally adult, self views intentional vulnerability as attractive because I have learned to value of intimacy no matter how fleeting. Intimacy allows us to see each other with our walls and guards down and I believe that we have a lot to learn from each other when we do. This intimacy is valuable far beyond the romantic endeavors that many men think off. Intimacy between two human beings is useful not only outside of the bed room but devoid of any sexual or romantic context.

For example, while in Chicago I grew very close with one of my cousins. I talked to him about every aspect of my life in an open and honest way. As I sat and listened him talk about his marriage, trouble and triumph at work and heard stories of fatherhood I learned the value of family as well as the burdens and rewards of being responsible.  The intimate conversations I’ve had with the few men I trust enough to have them have taught me a lot about what if really means to be a man; what it means to be a responsible adult for that matter with all the burdens, chains, freedom and strengths it brings.

Yet speaking to people with your guards down is inherently dangerous. The more you open yourself the more you risk. What if they don’t like what they see? In thinking about this fact, I realized that I solved this problem in a very juvenile way at first. I examined the other person for all of their flaws and gathered enough ammunition to destroy my respect for them if they wounded me. It allowed for an awkward mix of vulnerability and security. It is if instead of building a wall around my self esteem I established a nuclear deterrent. Over time I have consciously tried to build my own confidence and feeling of self-worth up enough to be open to the world without the nuclear option. I believe that that is yet another difference between my problems with equality and the problems of the aforementioned author.

I have trouble seeing anyone as an equal because it means that it would not be fair to stock up ammunition on them. This stems from the fact that if someone doesn’t like me that doesn’t make them a bad person and part of interacting with people as equals is recognizing that. The flip side is that if I show them my vulnerability as my equal I am forced to take their response to heart because I value their opinion. Again, I have to understand that, like me, they have a narrow sliver of the human experience than informs their world view. So like mine, their opinion is just that, and opinion not a statement of fact. This new world view and understanding of equality is tiresome but incredibly rewarding. I have learned so much from conversations among equals in the past few months. Even the phrase “narrow sliver of the human experience” is one paraphrased from statement a friend made during an intimate conversation.

I suspect the author of “The Case Against Female Self Esteem” would disagree with the benefits of intimacy and the basic idea that we have anything to learn from each other’s human experience. That is why spitting fact after fact about equality means nothing to people who hold fast to bigoted ideas. At the end of the day, they fundamentally deny that a women’s narrow slice of the human experience has any value.  I think this is true of most, if not all, prejudice. It stems from a refusal to accept the validity of each other’s human experience. No amount of facts and figures can change someone’s opinion of a group if they refuse to acknowledge that simple fact.

So, with no further ado, I bring you my thoughts on how to treat people:

  1. Treat people as equals.
    1. There are a lot of arguments to be made for the inherent equality of people but I’m not actually sure I agree with them. I treat everyone as an equal because it is the easiest way to learn from the human experience and the most sure way to ensure that the people in your life add real tangible value to your life.
  2. Equality is not only about raising everyone to your level, it is also about raising yourself to theirs.
    1. By refusing to deny the nobility of the least among us we cannot help but affirm our own nobility. If you can value the poise of the women asking for money to feed her family than it should be easier to stay poised when facing your own triumphs.
  3.  Our worldview is determined by our sliver of the human experience and given the vast multitude of lives that are being lived it is important to recognize that that sliver is inherently narrow. We cannot know what it is like to be an orphan because we read Oliver Twist. The most we can seek to do is gain access to the equally narrow human experience of others through honest dialog and expand our world view.
  4. Help other people.
    1. Like equality, there are a lot of arguments for helping people. Some with more merit than others. The only argument I will give is that from my experience compassion and generosity are as much muscles and tools as they are virtues. The more we utilize them, the stronger they get and the more useful they are. We will all be faced with moments where a little more patience would help get us what we want or need. Whether it is teaching a child a lesson or dealing with a difficult boss. The more exercise you have treating being with generosity and compassion the easier it will be to tap into them when it is to your advantage.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from people about their own thoughts for how to treat people or thoughts on mine. Do you also have another problem with equality?

Justice As An Imaginative Act

I was recently reading a counterstorytelling post about “sex-positivity” as only being positive for white, middle class, heterosexual women.

 

http://counterstorytelling.tumblr.com/post/41102914582/sex-positivity-isnt-so-positive

 

It makes the familiar argument that sex positivity is only liberating for a small group of women for whom the idea of virginal purity was oppressive and limiting. For women and queer people from minority communities who have a history of sexual fetishism and exotic sexual exploitation sex positivity reinforces extremely harmful and limiting stereotypes. While I had heard this argument before, the author mentioned an idea that I had not remembered ever hearing before: justice as an imaginative activity.

This seems to mean that justice in regards to issues of identity and oppression is essentially about reimagining our identities and rethinking the social templates for interaction. I think this is an interesting lens to look at justice in identity politics. The implicit idea seems to be that seeking justice through changing laws and systems of oppression is not sufficient if we still operate on racist, sexist, homophobic, classist etc frameworks. It is the idea that in order for a man to no longer be sexist we would have to do more than treat women as equals he would have to start thinking of women as equals.

This resonates with me on a very personal level as I have been rethinking my essay on the American Male. While I still agree with much of what I said, I still wonder how much of it was simply me projecting my own hang ups onto a larger social problem. I was never really able to find many men to talk about the essay with so some amount of projection was unavoidable in a sense. Yet most of the women I talked to said that they didn’t think the men in their lives had all the emotional stunting and sexual hang-ups that I was talking about. Though, to be fair, they were also women who actively avoided stereotypical men and bro culture.

Since publishing that article on my website I’ve done a lot of what in retrospect I can call the imaginative work of justice. I have explored my inability to talk to women outside of a sexual or romantic context and I have become more focused on learning about other people and that has inadvertently made me less self-centered. I am slightly embarrassed by how some of my issues seem to have been a result of being self-centered but mostly happy that I have at least grown as person in the last couple of months.

I realized the extent of that growth as I was sitting with a female friend of mine the other day and was able to talk to her without the barriers that our multiple identities sometimes create. I was aware that she was an attractive, middle class, college educated, young, white, woman yet that was very much in the background. I was able to talk to her as just another person in a way that I am rarely able to talk to anyone, male or female. It was a way that was just in the imaginative sense. She was not a character in my Socratic dialogue, a model on a pedestal to impress or a supporting manic pixie dream girl character in my romantic comedy.

I’m not sure how or why I developed the habit of making people supporting characters in my life story instead of fully realized beautiful individuals. I could probably blame my obsession with characters on writing or movies but in ultimately it is an odd form of self-centeredness. I am now going to commit myself to increasing my engagement with the imaginative aspect of justice. I am going to seek to rethink how I conceptualize my fellow human beings and recreate my template for interacting everyone: male, female or zir.

The American Male

Before we begin I should identify myself. I am middle class American Male with an elite private education. I am an African American who was raised by two college educated and loving parents who are still married and were never abusive to me, my siblings or each other. I am a privileged American Male and I have been oppressed by the American patriarchy1 and have been essentialized, dirtied and discarded by it’s rape culture. I cannot escape who am I nor would I want to if I could. Yet it is important that background, that baggage of oppression and privilege colors my lens, gives me a certain language to formulate thoughts and thus influences how I express myself on the page.
After reading Tucker Reed’s harrowing account of a rape that was, in her words, “fairly typical” I found many emotions and thoughts I just mentioned which I had been struggling with for a while come to a head. For those of you reading this article that have not heard of Tucker Reed I suggest, at the very least, that you read this essay http://www.xojane.com/issues/tucker-reed-outs-rapist-at-usc . I don’t feel comfortable paraphrasing her ordeal so I will not attempt to now. I will say that even though in her account of her case there is no rational gray area of moral responsibility and reprehensibility it did bother me how many men I knew and respected might think there was. It bothered me that there was a time, not so long ago, before late night conversations with my feminist friends about rape culture that I might have been among them. I distinctly remember my teenage self thinking that girls shouldn’t be able to say no after a certain point.
I am both ashamed of being that teenager and worried that perhaps more of him than I care to admit might still exist inside, misogynistic2 ideas going unchallenged. I have for many years wondered at the extent to which I have banished the chauvinism that my female friends had shown me was so disgustingly ubiquitous. To what extent had my misogyny turned from the undigested male supremacy of boy hood, to the patronizing chivalry in my youth to something I can only think to call nice guy patriarchy? Nice guy patriarchy is when you expect people to give you credit no longer actively and overtly oppressing them. Nice guy patriarchy is like saying “hey, I’m a nice guy. I won’t ever hit you, I understand how me and my fellow men have oppressed you, I’ll march with you at Dike-March and hold your hand when your boy-friend [who is not as enlightened as me] breaks you’re heart…and then you’ll be obligated to have sex with me…but don’t worry…we’ll make love not fuck.”
I have been thinking about that for quite sometime before the idea hit me…Tucker Reed’s rapist probably thought he was a nice guy too. That thought hit me hard. It reminded me of all the times I have done or said something off hand that really hurt a woman I cared about. It brought up emotions that I didn’t want to acknowledge and so I didn’t, for a while. I held it together until one day I had a conversation about masculinity in America and I found that as soon as I began to voice my feelings on the subject I found a deep well of anger and aggression. Anger and aggression that I couldn’t place but had nothing to do with the topic at hand. The following essay is a personal and intellectual exploration of that anger and how I’ve come to understand it. I hope that maybe by explaining how I came to be where I’m at, I can start a conversation or two about moving through male-supremacy, patronizing chivalry, nice guy patriarchy to actual equality.
First of all let me say anger, like all emotion, is powerful. Anger is a universal facet of the human experience but in America, and in many other cultures, it is too often distinctly gendered3. We are socialized to view anger as a masculine emotion that, like farting or burping, is not something women have to deal with unless there male-counterpart is invading their personal space with it. There is probably a very depressing anthropological reason for this but it is unknown to me. This essay is concerned with the here and now. This essay is concerned with my personal journey of understanding The American Male as an unattainable idea that all American males, regardless of  race, religion, class and sexual orientation are socialized4 [in varying degrees] to strive for.
This is not to say that all American men are trying, consciously or sub consciously, to be The American Male. In fact many of the younger generation of men, the author included, are actively trying to fight against. The point is that we have to do it actively because we are still be measured by society, men and women alike, by the standard of The American Male. I have come to see that The American Male is an oppressive force in our society and that all Americans are oppressed by it. American men, through The American Male, created and maintain both the structure of patriarchy and its enforcer: rape culture5 and the act of maintaining this structure and enforcing our place at the top is so oppressive and oppressing that men are either forced to further stunt their emotional growth or, in their refusal to do so, develop a Du Bosian double-consciousness6.
Let’s take a minute to unpack that statement. The American Male is a concept of masculinity that I am constructing in this essay. It is one concept of masculinity, I am well aware that there are others. My argument is that The American Male is an amalgam of the more universal (though not completely universal) qualities of various other masculinities. The ideal white, middle class protestant man is different than the  ideal man in working class Irish Catholic culture which in turn is different than the ideal middle class black baptist man. A man is one of many and is, in American, one of a diverse set. The Male in America, and probably the world, is much less diversified. I am making the argument that their are actually too few ways to be male in America.
This complicated thesis is the stuff of books, literally. It would be silly of me to assume I am the first one to think of this, or that I am even capable of fully distilling the nuisances of my own beliefs. Instead I will try to walk a fine line between my limited intellectual understanding of critical race, gender and sexuality  theory and a few choice moments of my lived experience. I often find that most people, let alone men, have not read the sort of works that deal with gender theory and that this often leads to misunderstandings when people start to use academic jargon colloquially. I hope by telling my story and by introducing some simple academic concepts we can have conversation about how we all act as oppressors in some way because we are all privileged in some way. That privilege might be as Americans, Middle or Upper Class, college educated, Christians, men etc and the act of oppressing others in this way limits our own human potential. It is my hope that all of us, especially white, heterosexual men, can come to the table of humans disabling the patriarchy on more equal ground even if the sum total of our oppression is not the same or even similar.
Let’s talk now about this idea of privilege. I realize that many of my readers have not had the hours of workshops on privilege that me and my friends have. For many Americans privileged is something they get called by liberal activists. What is privilege really? Privilege is basically social, economic and other capital advantages, specifically when those advantages are a result of being part of a demographic. All Americans are privileged abroad because as Americans our nation was able to secure treaties in many (though not all) countries that detail how we should be treated. We also have powerful embassies in most global cities that will help you get home. Not to mention that the U.S. Tends to send in the marines to get their tourist and students out of countries before wars and genocides erupt.
Anyone who discounts this as privilege should study the outbreak of any major modern conflict. Any foreign nationals are generally escorted out when things get tense yet people tend to be a bit more selective when bombs start being dropped. Americans can usually be evacuated by the personnel of any western power while citizens of Ghana might be stuck in Rwanda because they Dutch weren’t willing to risk their soldiers for an African. That is one, very obvious form of privilege.
It is important to note that being privileged in one way does not make you immune to oppression. African Americans soldiers fighting in Europe during WWI often had to come to terms with being privileged abroad and oppressed at home. The important thing about privilege is to recognize it and understand when it works in your favor in order to not like your privilege oppress those around you.
This brings us to oppression and how it will be thought of in this essay. Oppression is a heavy word. German Jews were oppressed, Blacks in the Jim Crow south were oppressed and women are oppressed basically every where. In light of this, are men really oppressed? In short, yes. There are clearly levels of oppression. If blacks are oppressed and women are oppressed by separate though interrelated systems then black women are more oppressed in general than the black men of their class, era and region. I am not making the argument that men are as oppressed as women by the patriarchy or by any other force. I am not even making the argument that they are even remotely the same level, the similarity is qualitative and not quantitative. Oppression is the systematic limiting of the human potential, political and social engagement, OR the accumulation of capital of a group by a society or cultural institutions.
Men are not generally excluded from political or social life and are certainly not hampered in their accumulation of capital. The oppression of men by the patriarchy is focused on the systematic limiting of human potential. Human potential, as used in this essay, is our cognitive, intellectual, physical and emotional capacity to experience life, process life and express ourselves. Men are socialized to be emotionally stunted and hampered in making to real human connections. That limiting of human potential is what this essay is all about.
So, let us start first with our definition of The American Male. The American Male seems, at least conceptually [and possibly anthropologically], a perversion of both stoicism and the red headed step child of consumerism. It is an amalgam in which control of emotion is perverted into emotional repression and you are judged by your unmitigated or challenged possession of objects, especially non-human persons. The American Male is the emotionless father whose wife and child obey him unquestioningly. He is the quintessential Patriarch: a man because he is King and a King because he is a man.
Why The American Male is emotionless and why he feels he must posses his family is unknown to me. It could be a natural, if destructive reaction, to basic human uneasiness with life’s uncertainty [control what is in your control]. Or it could be some base animalistic instinct that we have let go unchecked in civilization merely because we have viewed it as convenient since it places us men on the top of the social hierarchy when we have no legitimate right to be there. Regardless, he is emotionless and he does posses his whole family as objects or non-human persons.
This act of possession varies from family to family. In my family it is best observed by the manner in which my Grandfather and Uncle create rules in their households. I distinctly remember not wanting to have to a curfew as an adult staying with my great uncle. I distinctly remember my great uncle telling me that he bought his house with his own money and as long as I stayed with him I would have to follow his rules. What my great uncle was saying was that he owned this house and everything in it or, perhaps more directly, he owned this house and so he owned me. This idea of property, or that a man’s home is his castle, is based on this idea of The American Male as a consummate owner.
An episode of Mad Men can illustrate how the idea of ownership and masculinity were sold to the American public yet is older than the dawn of mass media. The term  “a man’s home is his castle” is an old saying. It comes from the English common law and the idea that “an Englishman’s home is his castle.”8 The idea of a man having sovereignty over his house is therefore an old and well documented one.
It is important to note that The American Man necessarily objectifies9 his wife and children because, if slavery taught us anything, it is near impossible for one human to feel that he rightfully owns his equal. Thus slavery and other forms of human ownership are always accompanied by systematic dehumanization10 and othering11 of owned people. For The American Male women must become docile damsels in distress in need of a strong man in order to justify this system of ownership. Therefore women are still socialized to be barbies. Even though modern barbie may have gone to college and is now a lawyer she is still a object to be valued by Ken for her high heeled shoes, make-up, inhumane figure and “perfect” blonde hair.
This reality has several immediate implications. One is that the equality of women is anti-thetical to the ideal of The American Male [you cannot own your equal]. Men are supposed to bread winners and deciders. The American Man doesn’t ask for directions or take orders from his wife. Even the idea of a man being whipped or a wife as “the old ball in chain” is sometimes (though not always) an expression of men struggling with equality in relationships. Often when a man is accused of “being whipped” it is when he can’t do something he might want to do because his partner objects. Unless his partner is truly controlling it usually no more than his partner asking for an equal say in decisions.
I can barely recount how many times I have heard a married man talk about his wife criticizing how he spends “his money” as if making more money makes all of it his. Some men, especially older men, often talk about management of household funds as their domain. The area in which they should, as if by a decree of natural law, have the final say.
Another implication of the Patriarch as king idea is that the Patriarch as father all too easily creates the cycle of men trying to become their father’s power without their father’s emotional repression. This desire exists in the son without realizing that that emotional repression is a result of that power and actions needed to maintain it. I have often said that I don’t want to be the kind of father my father was when I was younger. I think most people, of all genders, say this at some point in their life. My father was a wonderful parent but he was, at least in comparison to my mother, not particularly emotionally expressive.
I would later come to realize that my father was much more communicative than my friends’ fathers but as a child I was hurt with the way that my father showed love. I never questioned whether he loved me but it was a rough and tough love. My father showed his love mostly through providing for me materially and by devoting large amounts of energy and time towards me as well as showing interest in my ideas and my safety. My father worked a lot but also spent a great deal of time teaching me basketball, how to use a hammer, how to fish and other traditional father son activities. I think all of those things are phenomenal and were fundamental to me becoming the man I am today. What my father didn’t do was talk about how he felt about me however, and I think that is problematic.
My mother by comparison was very verbally and physically affectionate. We were constantly hugged and told how much she loved us. My mother was quiet without being submissive and tactful without always being subtle. When my mother asked me to do something I usually did it and if not I generally got a look. My mother has way of looking of looking at you with one eye-brow raised as if to say “really?…you wanna go there?” As an adult I realize that all the adults in my mother’s family had this look but as a child it was distinctly my mother’s.
My father on the other hand had a much more violent look. Before I explain my father’s look I think I would be remiss not to talk about violence. The World Report On Violence and Health (WRVH) defines violence as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.” My father’s look then could be understood as a threat of use of his power for the purposes of deprivation or physical injury. Growing up my father never beat me nor can I remember a spanking that actually physically hurt. I vaguely remember being having memories of childhood spankings that made my bottom hurt but even by my teenage years these were already hazy memories.
Yet my father, 6’4 240 lbs, had mastered what I only half jokingly refer to as “the credible threat of violence.”  My father could put the fear of god into me as a child. I was reasonable sure that my father would never strike me out of anger (which he never did) yet I was physically afraid of him.  For the record, as unhealthy as I think this is, I realize now that I have internalized that as my ideal.
I remember my father once had to confront one my older sister’s principals. I realize now as an adult that this memory is actually an amalgam of my favorite/most embarrassing Tony Goggans moments. My father had been working out in our pasture either rebuilding our barn or unloading a bail of alfalfa. Upon hearing that yet another racist act had been directed at my sister my father says “are you serious?” in his voice that is powerful despite being half an octave higher than you might expect. The extent to which my sister was actually the victim of a some lingering institutional racism was always questionable but my father responded to this report in the only way he knew how. He took a quick shower, brushed his jet black hair and his salt and pepper beard and put on a dark 90’s style suit. Instantly my father went from pioneer to businessman and stopped walking and started striding. My father drove to the school and parked the car and hurried my mother from the car impatiently. My mother probably paused, slowly straitened her colorful scarf and smoothed out invisible wrinkles in her pant suit. This was how my mother let my father know not to rush her.
My mother would caution my father that we didn’t know what had happened and my father needed to calm down. My father would say “I got it Toni, I’m fine” in the way that let you know that he was anything but fine. Me and my siblings would pile out of the car, one of two black families for miles, six deep. My father strode with disproportionately long legs through the parking lot with my mother and I trailing behind and siblings between. There was a specific look that staff members would give my father when he walked into a room in a suit. He commanded respect from teachers in a way that made everyone uncomfortable but I would later imitate as a teacher. His chest was full of indignation and his eyes were clear and focused. His voice dropped closer to what you might expect a man of his size. He spoke clearly but excitedly. Early in childhood he would outright call my siblings’ teachers racist and threaten to go to the superintendent. There was a fear in the administrators eyes the first few times they had to deal with my father. My father’s righteous indignation was often embarrassing but as I realized that they listened to my father and started treated me differently I internalized my father’s anger as means of getting respect.
Now that I am older and find my self fighting to be heard I find my self channeling that memory of my father more and more. I want to be respected unquestioningly in the way that my father is in my glossed over amalgam memories. I want my kids to listen because I told them to and not because I gave them a good reason. In fact, I have internalized this overwrought image of my father so much that the first thought that crosses my mind when I see a disrespectful child is “someone needs to slap some sense into him.” Basically I subconsciously believe, as my a friend of mine once said,  “a boy should fear his father.”
Unfortunately for me and my hypothetical kids, The American Male’s inability to express non aggressive emotion is at odds with a child’s need for emotional support. Thus patriarch as king mentality also means that women must then become the emotion care givers of the family in order for civilization to have even a meager chance at survival.  The damage that this forced emotional labor does to women is beyond both my intellect and the scope of this essay. It is important to note though that this fact, this de facto role of the mother, becomes viewed as the only relationship in which The American Male can express non violent emotion. It is the only relationship in which The American Male does not seek to set himself above [until his father dies or is otherwise out of the picture].
I have always found it interesting how having a father leave or die changes many young boys relationship with their mother. While it certainly changes with culture, family structure and cohesion and class, the young boy often tries to fill his father’s shoe’s in whatever way he feels most important. I once had a close friend whose father had left his mother when he was fairly young. Once his older brother left home my friend started working to help out around the house. His relationship with his mother seemed, at least by this disinterested observer, to be almost like equals. He contributed financially to the household and felt that meant she should have less say over his life for that reason.
Perhaps a clearer more universal example is adult sons taking care of their elderly mothers. Often these sons have very healthy relationships with their mothers when their fathers are alive. Yet as soon as they assume responsibility for their mother’s care either through their father’s death or incapacitation their relationship to their mother changes. Some of this change is due, quite simply, to the added stress of being a care giver. Some of the changes though are the son taking the Patriarchal role or enveloping their mother into their existing mini-patriarchy. They become controlling and possessive of their mothers even if their mothers are still mentally sharp. When they bring their mother’s into their home they no longer feel obligated to allow their mother’s to have any say in their life. We often think of this a natural part of growing up yet upon closer examination something else is happening. We envelope our mothers into the sovereign law of “A Man’s Home Is His Castle” and instead of our mother’s being equals or guest in our house they become subordinates. Men tend to be more controlling and domineering of their mothers when their fathers have left the picture. This doesn’t mean that they are suddenly abusive only that the relationship is fundamentally changed.
Continuing on with aspects of The American Male, The American Male is inherently heterosexual. His heterosexuality is due to his need to control women as the other and to have no equal within his little kingdom. The reason that The American Male is so uncomfortable with homosexuality is manifold and will not be discussed here thoroughly admittedly more due to the author’s personal ignorance than space or time. Suffice it to say that homosexuality as men think of it intellectually reminds The American Male of the absurdity, oppression and limiting nature of maleness. Americans are notoriously uncomfortable with things that lay outside the realm of the boxed and categorized. Homosexuality as a cultural idea or stereotype is a different and more nuisanced issue because Gay culture is a reaction to the oppression of maleness in much the same way that the blackness of the sixties is a reaction to the oppression of whiteness of the sixties. Homosexuality in theory, that of two men sharing some deep romantic emotion, is an offense to the very idea of how men show emotion. The idea of expanding the limits of non-violent emotional reactions beyond the familial mother-son relation is hard enough, expanding into romantic relationships is actually rather new but to other men is truly paradigm shattering to American Maleness. It also shatters The American Male’s conception of sex.
Sex is not about emotional connection for The American Male as that would a be form of emotional expression. Sex is about power and therefore possession. I am hesitant to say sex is rape, if only because it conjures up misquoted images of Andrea Dworkin12, an intellectual powerhouse to whom this essay should not be compared.
I use the word rape to mean the use of violence to invalidate, disregard or otherwise eliminate consent for sexual acts. Violence again is, briefly, the use or threat of power or force to harm or deprive someone of something. If you objectify someone in order to allow yourself to not have to deal with them as an equal you are raping them regardless of if they say yes. You are raping them of their humanity by depriving them of their humanity in your eyes. More importantly, because men have a greater amount of social control by depriving their partners of humanity in their eyes men are contributing to the overall dehumanization of female non-persons. In this construction sex for The American Male is rape and the sexualization of the public sphere is the rape culture that enforces the will of the patriarchy.
In short, having a one-night stand with a girl you just met but recognizing that she is human with human needs and desire is not rape. Sleeping with your wife of twenty years who you feel exists to fulfill your sexual needs or perhaps with total disregard to her sexual needs is rape. Again, I am not arguing that all American men are rapist but that the way in which The American Male conceptualizes sex is rape. Rape culture, defined as such, will be further discussed later in the essay.
It is also important to note that many men do not divorce emotion from sex yet it is important that most American men have, at some point in their life [consciously or subconsciously], felt that they were expected to. The trope of men leaving right after sex and debates over how long are men required to cuddle and the “hit it and quit it” mentality are well known. The extent to which men who orchestrate these tropes in the public sphere [writers, actors, directors etc]  are aware that they are divorcing emotion from sex specifically as a way to reinforce maleness, patriarchy and their role in both is open to debate.
The last of the qualities of American Maleness I will discuss is perhaps the most bizarre, The American Male is incapable of non aggressive non-sexual physical affection. The reason for this phenomena, like many others, escapes me. Perhaps it is has simple as affection equals emotion and therefore weakness. Perhaps in some way, the act very act of removing emotion from sex causes us to view human relationships and actions in black and white.  This black and white thinking is then transferred to all forms of physical intimacy in such a way that all touch becomes sexual and personal non-emotional connection is always only verbal. In this way, human connection is factual and verbal “you are a good guy” and not a hug.
This is a bold statement I know but I think that while all men in America may not be incapable of separating sex and touch The American Male makes many have difficulty separating the two. Outside of their family members men tend to not touch people in non aggressive non-sexual ways. What this looks like in real life is that men stop hugging children after children reach a certain age. After that age men tend to touch people aggressively. We pat children on the head and ruffle their hair (a lighter form of the nuggies we would give to bully them) or we might toss them into the air playfully. I would argue that we feel comfortable rough housing with children because it subtly shows our power over them.
In many families fathers and sons rarely hug and in general men tend to not hug each other often. How times at a family event have you seen men, likely the older men in the family, hug all the women and shake hands with the men? It has become fashionable for younger men to do the “black hug” or the shake hands and then transition into a one armed aggressive back slapping hug that African-Americans have been doing for sometime. Men tend to feel awkward when they are too close to each other. This awkward feeling is usually diffused either by either man making a community about something being “gay” or by over-sexualizing a brief touch for comedic effect. It is almost as if all touch operates on a spectrum between sexual and violent and men feel uncomfortable with any touch and is not clearly either or both.
This is an opinion I formed long ago during my first forays into understanding The American Male’s relationship to emotion in men. I would be apt to write it off as some Freud-like projection of my own insecurities if I had not witnessed it first hand as a teacher. I think that any one who has observed an older man in a mentor role with a younger man has witnessed this. The moment when the two males look at each other and the younger man is unsure of whether he wants to hug or punch the older man. In some cases the older man realizes that a hug is necessary and often finds a female staff member to provide the physical non-sexual affection. Most men, like most humans, crave non-sexual physical affection but maleness sexualizes everything.  I often wonder if by making all affection sexual and by making sex by definition emotionless The Male has allowed itself to not have to deal with any emotion other than anger and still be a sexual if repressed being.
Now that we have, to a small extent, detailed the features of The American Male it is necessary to asses how men are oppressed by striving to live up to it. In order to understand this oppression it is first necessary to know that this standard is unattainable both for an individual and unsustainable in a society. Humans cannot become emotionless nor does not communicating emotion allow for productive communities to form. The heart of this oppression of The American Male to American males is that the idea that emotion is weakness leads to a lack of emotional maturity. American men tend to be unable to express the emotions they spend their whole childhoods repressing in non-violent ways. Men who swear to be better father’s than their own find themselves swearing out their kids because of this inability to process emotion without violence.
This is not to say that when any man feels sad he will punch his wife, though they sometimes do. Violence, understood as the threat or use of force or power, is the language through which men express emotion.  Basically I have found that many men cannot express emotion without a threat of force or a show of power that is equal to the weakness i.e vulnerability emotion makes them feel. This may take the form of outright abuse but most often this takes the form of an increase in aggressive behavior when explaining how they feel. Perhaps the man says something to a friend about how he really appreciates a birthday gift the conversation will often be either initiated or punctuating with a disarming punch in the chest or an aggressive slap on the back. Even the hand shakes men give each after emotional statements are firmer and more competitive.
Some less emotionally stunted men avoid much of the vulnerability of emotion by phrasing emotions as objective facts. A man might say “when my mother died it was hard” as opposed to “I was really hurt when my mother died.” Yet even these statements are usually said with oddly puffed out chests as if to say “I trust you but know that if you challenge my masculinity after I say this it’ll be a fight.”
The inability to speak about emotion contributes to our inability to process it as well. Unprocessed emotion builds and builds until we need emotional release. It is this emotion release of unprocessed emotion that makes the America man operating within the paradigms of The American Male his most destructive. When forced with the conflict of wanting to express emotion but not wanting to seem weak the flight or fight response kicks in and men either lash out violently or escape the emotion through drugs or empty sex [both of which often lead to different forms of violence].
These emotional outbursts are often done in sanctioned social events like sports, exercise or sexually aggressive dancing. This leads us to often associate violent tendency with typical male behavior and thereby sanction it.  Sometime these outbursts are less sanctioned but still common like  instigating physical or emotional fights. The escapism of The American Male is equally disruptive. Many men turn to alcohol, drugs or sex to escape their emotions and often end up being more violent as a result.
Other men deal with The American Male by simply trying to ignore the pressure to become him. Yet many of these men struggle to find a standard of manhood that is unrelated to The American Male thus described. Most still deal with the stress and self doubt that comes either from having no standard or not living up to the one they have. This too is oppression. Just because it is something these men shrug off or transfer the stress to other areas of there will does not mean it doesn’t limit their human potential.
Even the most well adjusted men who decide to become lawyers instead of teachers, play football just to not be called effeminate and avoid the opera so as not to be called gay. This subtle limiting of available options may not seem like much oppression and when compared to the trauma rape culture inflicts on women it certainly does not, yet it does mean that even men would be better off without the Patriarchy.
I know that many readers might say “I know a lot of guys who can express themselves emotionally.” This is true, many can, but I personally think that most of them are probably not as comfortable with it is as you might think. I cannot speak for how this uncomfortableness will play out in all men though I can say how I experience it.
Lets say someone says something that hurts my feelings. A coworker insinuates that I’m lazy and I feel sad. Eventually one of two things happens to me. I either wallow in sadness for a few seconds before I say “fuck them!” I don’t care what they think of me. Or, more likely, I realize that I do care what they think and I know that I will have to be an adult and talk to them about it. I then know intellectually that I have to process my emotion so that I can communicate it. As I began to stew on my pain I start to imagine expressing my emotion and immediately feel weak. This fear of weakness almost immediately creates a defensive chain reaction.
I start to worry that if I say I’m hurt that someone will confuse kindness and vulnerability for weakness. I start to fear vulnerability so much that I begin to think of the conversation as a conflict and eventually as a fight. Within a few seconds my feelings can go from sadness, to fear to anger. Once it reaches anger am I usually more comfortable because I know how to deal with this form of intellectualized anger. I began to envision fights, brawls and arguments that allow to spend my of intellectual anxiety. By thinking about fighting I am able to remind myself that I can fight and I am being non-violent  by choice and not being weak.
I think it is important that I have convince myself that I could beat the other person in some sort of violent altercation [usually physical with men and verbal with women] before I even think about dealing with the situation non-violently. I have deal with my emotional vulnerability and shallow feelings of being sad making me weak before I can express my emotion as anything but anger. This process isn’t always conscious, in fact I’m usually unaware that it is what I’m doing, but through years of introspection I’ve realized that is how I process pain. I don’t imagine that this is how all men process it but I do think that at some point most men who express their emotion have to come to terms, even momentarily, with a feelings of weakness or effeminacy. I think that in doing so men end up being more aggressive and violent than they would like to be.
Coming from this, for the vast majority of men the most oppressive facet of The American Male is simply the inability to connect with people on a human level. The more outwardly aggressive men may cause the most trauma to other people but even less aggressive men are still limited my the perversely Stoic American Male. Since The American Male sexualizes everything and avoids emotion it becomes difficult for him to form healthy relationships, especially with women. In fact we have skewed of vision of what a healthy relationship is. In a study done by Glamour magazine in partnership with National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV) and other organizations nearly 30% of girls said they had never been in an abusive relationship but then reported that they have experienced abusive behavior like yelling, slapping or choking at the hands of a partner. Other studies say that as many as 1/3 of all women in America will be in an abusive relationship at some point in their lives. Intimate partner abuse is a very complicated subject with a variety of contributing factors so it would be overly simplistic and unsupported to say that all of this abuse is a result of The American Male. That being said, I think that it would naïve to not consider it a significant contributing factor.
For most men, The American Male prevents them from connecting with people on a more human level because it teaches them to be aggressive which automatically keeps people at a distance. No one wants to open up to someone and get close to them only to have them hurt you. It also teaches men to objectify women either as sexual objects to be owned or as fragile little idols that should be worshiped and protected. Either form of objectifying simplifies and essentializes women in a way that would make it impossible for men to see they whole woman and thus limit how he can connect with her.
By now I know that many readers are probably thinking, well okay, that’s some men but I still know men who are able to be completely comfortable with expressing non violent aggressive emotion. I even know men who don’t have to deal with emotional insecurities every time their feelings are hurt. What about them?
For those men who were either raised to ignore the trope of The American Male or have come as adults to free themselves of it are forced to have a Du Bosian double-consciousness. Yet unlike the negroes of Du Bois’ era, the two irreconcilable strivings are the man they want to be and the male their society expects them to be and assumes they are. Just like African-Americans around the turn of the previous century, modern men see negative images of themselves all over: rapist, philandering politicians or movie characters who treat the women like garbage. Yet they also see mass media images of these macho men being successful, getting promotions, being the hero and getting the girl. By adulthood many of these men realize that this images are false but they also know that men in their family or co-worker often call them pussy or bitch simply for suggesting that they shouldn’t go to strip clubs or they should treat women with more respect.
For me, the only man for whose perspective I can speak from authority, this double-consciousness is still limiting. Whenever I interact with a woman I am interested in romantically I am often torn between being the macho manly man I think she expects (and who I semi-consciously respect) and being wary to not be perpetuating the patriarchy. Do I pay for diner, go dutch or let her pay? Do I open the door for her? I was taught that was just common courtesy but I know now that it stems from objectifying women as fragile idols. God forbid someone makes a comment or some drunk idiot grabs her butt. Do I have to say something or do I risk putting her in more danger by starting a fight? If it my responsibility to keep her out of danger? What about my pride?
Even more perilous are navigating physical intimacy. As a child I was taught two very important lesson about sexual consent. One was that no always meant no but another was that sometimes guilt or societal pressure could turn a yes before and during sex into a no the next day. My parents came from age in which it was much more common for Black men to be arrested or violently injured because there was an allegation of sexual misconduct between him and a white woman. Often that white woman wouldn’t even need to say she was raped, her father could just easily say she was even when she said she was in love.
My parents were raising two African-American sons in an all white town, rural and sexually repressed, with this knowledge and history. They were hyper-conscious that their sons would always lose in a he said she said situation. As a result I was warned to avoid situations in which misunderstandings might arise. Keep in mind my parents were well aware that very few false claims of rape are ever reported but they also knew that sometimes perception and innuendo mattered just as much as police charges. I remember very clearly a time when my brother threw a paper plane in the classroom that landed in a girls hair. She was very upset and later said that my brother raped her hair. My brother was suspended and the school contacted my parents letting them know that due to their zero tolerance policy on sexual assault they would be seeking to expel my brother.
My father, needless to say, didn’t allow that to stand. He put on a suit and strolled and my brother was allowed to return to school. Later it would still be unclear why the girl said what she said. My father thinks that she didn’t come up with the word rape on her own. My brother would letter tell me that she didn’t expect it to go as far as it did. Regardless of why she said rape, from this experience I internalized the idea that the world sees me as The American Male but worse, The Black American Male whose maleness means he is sexual and aggressive and whose blackness means he is dangerous and craves white women.
This double-consciousness, of knowing what my Maleness might mean to others is always present. Even when I am speaking to black women I am aware that even if they don’t fear my blackness  my Maleness speaks volumes to them. They have expectations of me and fears too that are both fabricated and justified. Fears and expectations that I must combat non-violently, overcome, avoid or ultimately decide to live up to.
While I can’t speak from the same authority about other men as I can for myself, I do think that my white, Asian and Latino friends who have attempted to come to terms with being both oppressor and oppressed have a similar experience. Working in shelter with many women are coming from domestic abuse shows me that other men are also aware of this. The white men who live with me are all too aware of how the women we live with tense up when we walk by them. They can sense the need to be as non threatening and non-aggressive as possible. They have to deal with anger and know that their expression of it is amplified by their maleness.
Just like Du Bois’ second-sight this double-consciousness is both a gift and curse. It is gift because it allows those men who sees how their maleness effects those around them and, armed with that knowledge, prevent them from using that maleness to maintain the patriarchy. Yet it is a curse because it causes these men to either second guess whether or not their actions add or subtract to some abstract moral mathematics or to just suppress the guilt of trying to act without societal context.
So, we have gone through how living up to The American Male as an ideal or being expected to is oppressive, now it time to illustrate how Rape Culture, or enforcing the patriarchy, oppresses women and men alike. First let me say that nothing I say here should be taken to mean that women are not primarily the ones who are harmed by rape culture nor should the fact that most men participate in Rape Culture without realizing it absolve them of their moral culpability. I am, as stated earlier, speaking merely from my lived experience and from very limited understanding of the intellectualized lived experience of others. I will not speak very much to the oppression of women through Rape Culture because I feel very strongly that it is not my place. It is my place, and my obligation as a man of conscious, to speak to my role in it.
Again, Rape Culture is the inevitable result of a Patriarchy in which men sexualize everything. Let me further clarify my use of term since it is a loaded term used by people more scholarly and educated than myself. The term Rape Culture as used in this essay is the systematic way in which women and girls are objectified into non-human persons in order to thought of and treated as the property or potential property of men. This is a broader definition than that of a culture that condones rape. Rape, in this construct is a tool as much as it is an act. Rape is the way in which women are deconstructed to be purely sexual creatures whose sexuality only serves men. If these objects like sex it is because men  pleasure them, essentially they are totally passive objects devoid of will thought not necessarily intellect.
I know this seems extreme given that I am making the argument that all men participate in Rape Culture. It would appear if I am saying that all men are rapist or dehumanizing women in their mind just in case they ever say no and need to be raped. That is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that all American men participate [actively, passively or tacitly through inaction] in the sexualization of women as a means of robing them of power for the specific purpose of removing them from competition for power and perpetuating the Patriarchy. Men do this most often subconsciously but benefiting from it and not actively trying to stop it makes you partly morally responsible.
What does this sexualization look like then? One clear example is when a female colleague at an accountant firm assertively asks men to use double sided printing to save paper and one of them makes a comment about her breasts after she leaves. Her opinion, though valid, is automatically undercut by reducing her to a sexual object. Another common comment might be that she is a bitch who “just need a good dickin” as if she was not just being assertive like a man would be but, as a sexual object, is robbed of the penis-in-vagina effect that would make a complete non-bitch. Remember, that for The American Male sex is about power and therefore to many American men sex has an inherent power dynamic. Every man in the room when the comment is made who doesn’t challenge that statement is complicit in that woman’s objectification and directly benefits financially from his co-workers assuming she is anything less than a consummate professional and therefore not a viable candidate for advancement.
This might not seem like a big deal but multiplied over a life time these moments of sexualization rob women of equal standing in the exchange of ideas. Repeated objectification of women also makes it hard for many men to see women as people. This is not a rehashing of “When Harry Met Sally” but it is saying that sexual objectification means that women lose some of their autonomy and become ideas that men project themselves into. You cannot truly know someone if you are pre-occupied with them as a sexual object. We see this often with opinions teenagers have about women. If they only know of female sexuality through porn or t.v.  They might think that all women want to be dominated. These ideas often go unchallenged into adulthood despite all evidence to the contrary.
One of the ways we see these unchallenged ideas is through comedy. Any causal reader of Jezebel has not doubt read some comment about men in comedy and more specifically “rape jokes.” A common underlining argument against censoring rape jokes is that Comedy is inherently abstract in its subject matter and therefore not about real people and that a joke about rape is not an endorsement of it. There implicit argument is that female non-persons have no place in comedy. It is my opinion that this belief that comedy is a male endeavor is the male holding on to what can be seen as the last emotional outlet for the non-physical male.
Comedy has long been a way for people to work out their own insecurities and to turn ones insecurities into strength. Black comedians have mastered this technique by transforming what used to be seen as the stability, security and practicality of whiteness into absurd rigidity and non-nonsensical close mindedness. In turn, black comedy has become a way for white men to deal with their white guilt  in a non-threatening way. I would argue that the same has happened with Male Comedy [not to be confused with men in comedy]. Male Comedy allows for men who understand some of their role as oppressor and oppressed to turn it into a joke therefore translate it into a language that we are familiar with.  Male Comedy allows for men to express emotion beyond anger but only in sort spurts and still only violently. The Male Comic might be self-deprecating and poke fun at his powerlessness but the use of words like pussy and f@%t is just verbal violence that conjures up images of rape and homophobic violence which is why their emotionality on stage does not make the male uncomfortable.
Rape Culture is so prevalent that has become the way standard way that we seek romantic relationships. Have you ever wondered why the standard line at a bar is “can I buy you a drink?” This  action is about two things 1. having the financial means to provide for a her as a female non-person/wife and 2. getting her drunk enough to negate consent. The bar and club dating scene is the ultimate example of The American Male’s use of Rape Culture. The cycle is supposed to be man shows women he can afford to take care of her, he gets her drunk enough as to where she is actually not able to think autonomously and they have sex without emotion. In the morning the girl is supposed to mean nothing to him she is an empty vessel for him to project upon and attempt to fulfill a basic human need for intimacy. The fact that she often does mean something to him just causes the man to go out drinking again to forget or obscure that fact. This cycle is very destructive but so ubiquitous that it just becomes what young men do.
In recognizing how truly destructive this whole idea of The American Male I have to come to realize that we need to end patriarchy. Yet how to do that? I think that what is a needed is a national conversation about what it means to be a man. This national conversation doesn’t need to be on Oprah, or series of nationally televised events. I think this national conversation can be an on going one where men reach out and start challenging all of those little things we’ve known are not okay. It is when men acknowledge that commenting on your co-workers breast after she says something you dislike is not appropriate. It is when you stop telling our sons that they need to play sports to be men. Instead we tell them that sports have intrinsic value is team work, hard work, physical exercise etc but aren’t something they need to do to prove themselves to their father figures.
We need to start having those awkward conversations when we people accuse us of being misogynistic or patriarchal. We need to listen and explain our actions while acknowledging any destructive assumptions or agendas. Lastly, and perhaps more importantly, we need to be reflective. We need to start being intentional on the words we use and the ways we interact with people.
These are the person to person things that we need to do to end the part of the patriarchy that is most insidious and the hardest to route out. The patriarchy that we cling to, that we replicate and that we impose on ourselves.