A Xicano Speaks on Male Privilege
November 15, 2015, El León
I’m in my late 30s. Most men I know would despise me for challenging their idea of what “being a man” means but we’ve reached that moment though … that moment in time where we should begin to examine who we have been raised to believe we are. Society and culture have inflated the male ego and years of conditioning by both have left us creating an oppressive and debilitating effect on people around us … females especially.
If you aren’t familiar with the term “patriarchy,” allow me to elaborate since I’ll be using it throughout this piece. We are living in a patriarchy now. Women are constantly fighting to break common expectations placed on them by the existence of male dominated societies where men hoard a majority of power and women are continuously excluded from it. In recent years the fight for sexual identity has gained momentum as it also exposes the damaging subjugation of patriarchy. The problem begins with child rearing. Families often pass on the morals they were instilled with. Exposure to mainstream ideology (public opinion) determine what is “acceptable” and what is not, then families pass those belief systems on to their children. It is a nasty river of influence that has gained speed aided by mainstream ideas of public image and sway.
This particular article was prompted by a recent story regarding NFL Quarterback Johnny Manziel’s domestic dispute. Unlike a lot of his fans, I wasn’t quick to jump on the blaming bandwagon. I just watched the facts slowly reveal themselves. There’s one thing I couldn’t get passed though … in the initial report, the main focus of the story was Colleen Crowley and the “excessive drinking” she had done that day. Also, she kept being referred to as “Manziel’s girlfriend” or “the woman he’s been in a relationship with for over a year” or “NFL gf.” Given his celebrity status, there was a certain “care” that was taken in reporting the events of that day but that didn’t stop an online petition from calling for a suspension in relation to the incident.
But forget that baboso for a second and think back to Crowley and the conventional labels the media took ease in benevolently imparting upon her. Were any of them false? Who really knows pero, it’s an indicator of the comfort that society takes in describing women as if they are a decorative ornament for men. The patriarchy over time has rendered many of us bliss to the fact that this is taking place. We’ve been conditioned to accept this and men for the most part take privilege they are not even aware of in situations relating to women.
Now … lets take a look at our own lives and households. In the Mexicano community, we are notorious for this same demeaning language and behavior. We take great comfort and pride in women changing their last names when we marry because it is tradition. Chale … es la expectation. Meet patriarchy.
It exists in every corner de nuestra cultura. Life as we know it is set up to benefit men in most households and women are cast into servitude. A father may care for and help support his daughters but at what price? Still today, I have male family members who will sit and wait to be served by mujeres and this is being handed down to their children. En algunos casas, el hombre es el unico que trabaja or is educated beyond high school. In another house, the “man” is “degreed” and still doesn’t work while the mujer is not and works full-time to provide for everyone and doesn’t have an equal voice in decision making. In some houses, mujeres are expected to fulfill a man’s demand of large families tambien. Do their own lives and bodies no longer belong to them? In some of these same houses, young women have been known to have lesbian tendencies but instead of allowing for a comforting space to be who they are, they are objectified by their parents’ expectations and made to feel embarrassed about their sexuality pushing them further into their own lived shame. I’m not innocent in all this either.
I came to this realization after an incident in college where words like “misogynist” and “bully,” were used to describe me. I was angry but I began to examine how I treated the females in my family. In my house, I feel I pulled my weight and then some “like a man should” but, when it came to my academic career I realized I was putting more pressure on my wife to pick up the slack so I’d be able to focus on my classes and not considered that she needed to focus on hers. Neither one of us is a “traditional college aged student.” We have jobs, children and the demands that come with both. I was taking privilege in this situation because I was expecting her to do whatever I needed for my benefit. Guys … we do things like this without even realizing it. ¡Pero ya guey!
Think of the pressure parents place on the boys in their families to “be a man.” All the language we use to raise our children, including for girls, revolves around a false sense of identity of manhood (I’ll be publishing later on this topic). Mexicanos perpetuate the patriarchy by continuously using language in child rearing that incarcerates women in a man’s expection. “Be a man,” “don’t cry like a girl” or even use vulgar language that refers to the female anatomy in a demeaning manner as a way to belittle boys like “don’t be a pussy!” Unfortunately, this type of language is not explicit to males. Many females use this vernacular under the same premise. It’s important to mention language in common usage but marginalizes a person’s sexuality as well like “that’s so gay” or “quit being a bitch.”
I know many men out there may feel as if this “isn’t their problem” or “they didn’t create the situation” and they may be right however, we certainly perpetuate it by not acknowledging our privilege and not making an honest effort to shift into a new sense of humanity. Carnales … It’ll take some effort pero es do-able.
Vatos … How are we supposed to face our daughters and encourage them to be who they want to be and then in the very next breath remind them that they face patriarchal oppression in their very own families? At what point do we set aside our egos pa que los mujeres who have nurtured our growth can have an equal voice and control over their own lives? It starts with looking in a mirror. The patriarchy we are privileged into doesn’t make you a bad person. What you do from this point on WILL.
Many of us don’t have access to information that exposes us to this historical injustice. But if you’ve taken the time to read this to the end, lo tienes ahora. Make healthy decisions. En todo lo que aces, be aware of opportunities you may have that others may not; be aware of that privilege. Understand that we all have a unique journey and no one is subject to anyone else’s expectation. The most dangerous borders Xican@s face ya no son physical, son los mental borders we put up in our minds to make one human being feel inferior to another in order to validate our own comfort of ignorance. Gloria Anzaldua reminds us that “a border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary.” Human existence is in a “constant state of transition.” We are living in a new borderland and we must not allow our ideology to slide of that steep edge.