Tonight was the first night, in a long time, that I hung out with hetero cis-men. After 30 minutes of hanging, I remembered why I choose not to interact with hetero cis-men. I do believe these guys are decent people, but under a system of white supremacy hetero patriarchy they are under-cover agents infused with rape, violence, and misogyny. The conversations evolved around women, music, and food which served to create a form of regulation that benefited white supremacy and hetero patriarchy. The rapport being built served to validate certain oppressive viewpoints and forced people who may not have agreed to partake for the shake of “brotherhood.”
After sometime, I interjected myself into the conversation by questioning a person’s authority of give or take away someone’s identity as a “feminist.” I explained that as a cis-man it shouldn’t be a concern whether someone labels themselves as a feminist. The reply I received from the storyteller was that the women in question did things he felt contradicted what a feminist is in his view. In what was a 10 second exchange, my interjection broke the flow of the conversation and everyone in the circle went silent focusing on me. It wasn’t til I laughed, a very awkward laugh, that the story resumed laced with oppression. What I learned through this interaction was that the normativity within the space was validated through a silent consensus that was synonymous with people’s laughter. It was difficult to tell if people were upset by what was being said. I had to negotiate my blackness, queerness, and ability to challenge false assumptions.
The emotional and physical labor I used to negotiate pieces of myself in the space made it difficult to challenge the oppression being reproduced through the story telling and “brotherhood” among the other men. When I interjected and all eyes were on me, I found myself searching for words to address the topic but in a way that didn’t alienate the people around me. Not wanting to destroy the conversation, I held back and allowed the conversation to continue. In that moment, I rendered myself complicit and found myself caught in the flows of a white supremacist hetero patriarchal regulatory system. Most importantly, I saw how friendship and “brotherhood” had been co-opted for the goals of hetero patriarchy.
Historically, “brotherhood” and the pursuit of brotherhood as been a prominent fixture in society. From country clubs to Al Bundy’s “No Ma’ma Club,” male-only groups have served to reenforce patriarchy and misogyny in the name of comradery.
How do self-identified men connect with one another in a way that doesn’t serve the goals of a white supremacist hetero patriarchal society?
Until till then:
My relationship with my father is my primary mode of inspiration and the source that fuels my own exploration into patriarchy, sexism, and male privilege. My opposition to gender discrimination stems from witnessing how my father treated the people around me. I wasn’t present for much of the violence but the scars of my father’s territorial approach lingers in my DNA.
Patriarchs aren’t made from the same mold and are surrounded by complex systems of oppression to legitimize their position. In the case of my father, his background being a white skinned African American self-made man with anger problems created a unique set of constraints. I learned early in life that the objective of patriarchs is to occupy space through constraining the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual parts of the people close to them. As we have seen in settler colonial examples, patriarchs are legitimized and validated in their actions by the acquisition of space. Yet, power doesn’t occupy space absolutely. There are places unscathed and free from influence.
I want to spend the next month reflecting on how my politicization came from watching my father’s relationship to the people around me. In doing so, I want to work through my own relationship to patriarchy and my refusal to buy into the standard definitions of what it means to be a man and how this is rooted to my relationship with my father. In what will be know as lessons from my father, I hope to bring myself closer to my father and depart from the legacy he created.
Part 1: How do you keep someone accountable if they have no history? #lessonsfrommyfather
The graduate school application process is slowly becoming a mild obsession. I am afraid that under great distress, I turn into this obsessive beast incapable of any kind of reason. I wake up thinking about my applications and personal statements which I truly hate. I wonder if our minds are hardwired to remember what hurts us as an evolutionary defense against things that hurt? If this is the case then a good life could be measured in remembering the things that make life worthwhile!
Aside from the biological determinism behind my graduate school applications, I am scared. I wish I believed in Jesus.
So, bell hooks challenges me on my own internalized oppression. Usually when I read her work, I have these strong feelings of mistrust that are centered around what I think are her apologist feelings toward men. I feel she defends men in a way that is very heteronormative and undercuts some forms of radical feminism. While this may have some kind of value in some spaces, my mistrust in her is centered around my own negation of myself as a male/man. Her attempts to create spaces for men to go through their own transformations challenges a lot of the absolutist style of thinking I have around men, maleness, and masculinity. This brings up a very crucial question; Do I fully respect myself or do I dislike who I am? I really have to applaud bell hooks for not giving up on men and men who still operate within patriarchy masculinity. Also, An example of this is Audre Lorde’s conversation with James Baldwin in Essence Magazine. Some real bizarre shit happens where James Baldwin’s male privileged creeps out! and Audre handles it in a way that I feel is right and so so so needed. In short, folks can chat with us(self-identified men) about what is going on with ourselves but we(self-identified men)need to learn how to feel for ourselves.
It is hard being honest with how I feel about myself. It is hard asking really tough questions and it is even harder answering back with some truth. The longer I went without asking myself those questions the more I became estranged from the social activities of everyday life. Not to say that my duty in life was to engage in the ritualistic nortions of what a 27 year should be doing, but overtime I became an expert at taking time for myself. I find this to be perfectly fine but instead of making some progress, I dwelled in the negative validation I created rather than work on my shit.
For the longest time, I thought I could procrastinate my way to positive mental health but while listening to a Kimya Dawson line “I got good at feeling bad.” I realized through Kimya Dawson own honesty I had come to be a champ at feeling bad. Feel bad is healthy sometimes. Yet unlike Kimya, I wasn’t being proactive with these feelings. I just sat, sat, and sat. I didn’t produce a bad song, eat vegan ice cream, or cry while watching others take part in life. Instead, I dwelled on my mortality, colonization, played video games and drank a bottle of Jack! There was a certain genetic nostalgia that was very familiar to me when I was in my room. I started to know these feelings all to well and realize a person very close to me did this same type of self deprecation for years. It was one thing to feel like I was alone in this process but to know that people I love go through this was maddening. One thing form e to be a certain type of loose but it kills me to see people I care about not living the lives they want to live. So, I took a shot of Tennessee whiskey, Shaved off the beard, Stopped playing NBA2k13 and Called my mama. This was the phone conversation:
Me: Mama, we aint no punks!
Mama: That’s right baby, I didn’t raise any punks!
Me: Mama let’s fuck shit up and smash Patriarchy!!!
Mama: That’s Right!!!
I got off my ass and started to work! This was the most apparent result!
I didn’t know how large I was till I saw this picture at company event.
Me a few days ago after loosing 50+ pounds!