The Anti-Intellect Blog

The inspired writing of a Black Gay Rights Activist, Feminist, and Atheist!


Posted by antiintellect on May 8, 2011

As a black man living in the United States, I know all too well the prison that Black Patriarchal Masculinity can be. Growing up the cell that I was placed in was small and rigid, a place for conformity rather than creativity. My masculinity was policed at almost every turn. My wrists were too limp I was told, my walk not boyish enough I was told, and my interesting in all the wrong places: dolls and balls as opposed to just dolls.

What brings me to the topic of black patriarchal masculinity is a chance encounter I had the opportunity to witness. A black male was walking by and I overheard a young Hispanic girl, no more than 12 years old, remark that he “walked like a girl.” As I heard the young girl utter that the black man “walked like a girl,” something in my mind went off. I began to think about what black masculinity was in the society I live in. What about the black man walking by made the young girl feel he was crossing some threshold of masculine acceptability. What had made a young girl, a Hispanic one at that, recognize something in that black man that went against whatever she had been taught in her own community and society.

The prevailing narrative of black masculinity in this society seems to be predicated on a few things. Black men are to be full of rage and always apt to commit violent crimes, we’re supposed to be hyper masculine and hyper sexual willing to fuck anything and be the carrier of superhuman sexual abilities. Also, due to our race it seems, we are supposed to embody an idealized version of masculinity. Both the dominant culture, and many blacks themselves have internalized this false notion of black men embodying a “true” definition of masculinity.

There seems to be an endless barrage of black men depicted in the media to fit into the narrow narratives constructed around black masculinity. Incidents of crime are reported on frequently, remarking on the latest black man to kill, maim, or rape someone. Sports and music provide the perfect backdrop for introducing the narrative that black males are hyper masculine and hyper sexual. Videos by popular artist populate mass media where in black men brag about their sexual prowess and their heightened masculinity. The black man is thought to, and conditioned to believed that he embodies the very best of patriarchal masculinity, and that this is a virtue.

That an eleven year old girl could recognize in a random black man that he embodied something that she had been taught to pinpoint, to see as anomaly was striking to me. It is a testament to the fact that our children are being conditioned from a very early age to police the gender of themselves and others. What business does an eleven year old need with policing gender? Adolescence is, and should be, a time of much experimentation and exploration, not the sight of rigidity and policing. And that this young girl was a member of a different racial group, indicates that patriarchal black masculinity is being communicated to other communities. It’s not unusual to meet someone of another group who is surprised or disappointed that a particular black man does not embody a particular masculine ideal. When I tell people that I don’t play football or basketball, and that I don’t have a bad chick by my side they seem let down. I’ve destroyed some illusion of black masculinity and manhood that they had harbored.

Masculinity, in my opinion, should be a site for creativity and diversity. No black man should be forced into a prison of rigidity by a society expecting his masculinity to be one dimensional and one note. As a black man who is an advocate of feminism, I know that I have a responsibility to make my masculinity a site of resistance. I make sure that my thoughts and actions promote a view of black masculinity that is rooted in a respect for femininity, and anchored in a multifaceted harbor.

It is imperative for black men to fight for our right to be free of the prison of black patriarchal masculinity. We are more than rage, anger, violence, and sexual conquest. Our masculinity, much like we are, is and has always been diverse. We must make room for in our cell for a diverse black masculinity.

The future of black masculinity lies in its ability to break free of the prison cell it has been forced to reside in. Black masculinity must seek out a wide open field where diversity and creativity is celebrated and fostered. We must resist those who insist on our singularity as black men. The prison cell that is patriarchal masculinity must no longer be the site where black masculinity resides.

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  1. Bradley said

    Lovely and true blog post. I to have been a victim of the Patriarchal Prison of Black Masculinity, however, I live my life and realize just because I’m into music and not much into sports I’m still a man and I am still who I am.

  2. alexandra said

    wow! i wish i could read this more, i wish i could see this growth in more people. but the fact that i found one, it makes me believe that can be more. great job working with yourself to build yourself up as who you are.

  3. Naima Cabelle said

    Thanks so much for speaking out on this topic! A brother who spent many years working in the anti-rape trenches with other men often uses the expression: “Manhood is killing us!” This self-destructive prison as you call it is a killer. Years ago, another man in the anti-rape movement wrote a book entitle, “Refusing to be a Man.” Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a copy but the “man” which he refused to be is the imprisoned man you describe in your essay. There’s a saying which claims that when a man goes to prison his family does time with him. The rage, anger, hyper-sexuality, etc. which imprisons men also imprisons our entire community. The “narrow narratives constructed around black masculinity,” as you put it also means that our community is imprisoned in these narrow narratives as well. There is much to be done in our community. There is much to be done in a society which imprisons human beings by denying them communities where they can be nurtured, educated, etc., in humane ways. We need to get busy.

  4. Sara said

    Great post!
    Have you seen this?

  5. Agnes Furey said

    Great essay! So very true. And when we cll little boys little men and expect them to feel responsibility for younger siblings, Rage builds up and doesnt erupt for years. Let’s let our little boys be little boys. 6-7 year olds are not little men.

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