When someone wants to tear apart my writing, they often bring up my presumed gender to do so. My presumed femaleness is never mentioned with respect. They say, “Stop being so easily offended, b*tch.” Femaleness is used to discredit me in a way that maleness is not. When I’m presumed male, my maleness never comes up at all. Because maleness is our societal default setting, it’s never mentioned.
In my work, I’m regularly asked, “What can I do? I know that injustice exists, but I feel so powerless. I want to help!” Many folks of privilege struggle to figure out how to act for justice. More often than not, those who are denied access, voice, privilege, and justice in dominant culture know exactly what they need to do. So to that point, my answer to their question is always the same: “Listen.”
The search for an identity and one’s own definition of what it means to be a man is an important part of maturity for young men. It’s not surprising that many men look to popular culture for what male behavior is supposed to be and how we’re supposed to display it. But male-oriented advertising too often uses hyper-masculine images to sell products. So let’s take a look at just what they’re selling.
Construction jobs allow for upward mobility, making it a desirable career choice for many. However, while sex discrimination is illegal, many construction sites have anti-women attitudes, making construction jobs less desirable and/or torturous for women. I know first hand because I was one female out of a total of about 10 women in a site with hundreds of men.
High heels, short skirts, and bold lipstick might look amazing on some women, but those things make me feel vulnerable. Like I’m seeking attention. And for whatever reason, the idea of strangers acknowledging me in a sexual way when I feel like it seems like that’s what I want makes me genuinely uncomfortable. I just happen to feel sexiest in a pair of jeans and a plaid shirt.
I have gone from being a big, strong looking Black woman to being a young, lanky Black man. I have always carried with me both masculine and feminine energies, but I have often been forced to choose one over the other depending upon the space around me. The gender binary affects us all in detrimental ways. And while masculinity may seem to offer more room, it also has its limitations. We must make room for all genders to grow and move freely.
Our social movements have failed to reach a transformational level of change. In part, this is due to how we don’t address our own privilege or prioritize supporting and lifting up marginalized voices to the social change table. And until we do, our work will not achieve lasting structural changes – where those being impacted are leading the fight for their own communities, supported by allies.
I am a 28-year-old Latina feminist who lives with her formerly abusive dad. I can afford to move out but I don’t because I feel an obligation to look after my father. Everything I do is with the hope of making him proud, making him feel loved, and trying to repair whatever is broken inside of him that causes him to be abusive. I want to break so many chains and unlearn so many generations of abuse.
Some believe that since gay men do not want to be sexually intimate with women, our uninvited touching and groping is benign. In a culture that doesn’t see gay men as “men”, our sexist acts are instead read as “diva worship” or “celebrating women” even when they are acts of objectification, assault, and dehumanization. We must question these assumptions in ourselves and in our communities.
By the time I reached early adolescence, I wanted to be one of the boys. I prided myself, more than anything, on being nothing at all like a girl. When I look back, rather than being progressive, it was actually quite anti-feminist. It wasn’t as if I had liberated myself from caring what the boys thought of me. On the contrary, my entire life centered on proving myself and gaining their approval.