Posted by antiintellect
We are socialized to devalue male and female influence unless it comes from our biological parents. Anything else, we’re told, is deficient. It’s not that kids lack male and female influences, but rather society only values this influence in the context of two parent heterosexual homes.
Many children don’t realize they are lacking a male or female influence until someone else points it out by labeling them deficient. I am reminded of a recent episode of the reality show Basketball Wives wherein Evelyn Lazado suggests that her poor life choices were a result of her not growing up with a father, lacking male influence. I had to ask myself where does this narrative arise? I would suggest that at some point children are taught to feel less than because they lack a parent in the home, and we don’t give them the space to appreciate that influence in other forms such as grand parents or aunts and uncles. A kid can stay with a grandparent, male or female, and society labels them as lacking male and female influence. Where is the father or mother? We write kids off when one or both parents aren’t present in their lives, implying that they can not know masculine or feminine influence. Oftentimes children fulfill the narratives expected of them, and many children act our precisely because we have told them that they lack male or female influence in their lives.
Extended families, biological or self assembled, should be the sites of male and female influence in children’s lives, not just parents. As Toni Morrison wisely stated, “Two parents can’t raise a child any more than one. You need a community — everybody — to raise a child.” My own sister is a single mother raising two children. Society would have you to believe that my niece and nephew lack male influence in their lives because their fathers do not live with their mother, but that is not the case. My father and I both provide my niece and nephew with male influence in their lives on a day-to-day basis. While their fathers aren’t as present as they could be, my niece and nephew do not lack male influence in their lives.
As we move towards including gay people into the privileged institution of marriage let us be mindful that male and female influence are not only found in parents. We must also analyze the role heterosexism plays in suggesting that male and female influence can only come from two parent hetero homes. We have a wealth of kinship and family ties that we can draw upon as we go about providing influences in our children’s lives. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and family friends can all be called upon to ensure that children know male and female influence in their lives. It is time that we do away with the myth that male and female influence can only be rendered unto children by parents in two parent heterosexual homes. An even loftier idea will be to envision a future like Melissa Devlin, “when society is focused on providing kids with a positive and supportive influence not based on gender.
Posted by antiintellect
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.