Thursday, April 4, 2013

Social Justice Event....An Unexpected Experience

On February 14, I attended a RICRising event where Carlos Andrés Gómez, a well-known poet and actor, acted out a poem he wrote about his grandmother, in Spanish "Abuelita," and spoke about stereotypes and the assumed role boys and men take. These roles reflect in their personalities, though they are not their actual identity. This coincides with McIntosh's article White Privilege in a Knapsnack which is about male privilege and how it is overlookedMcIntosh labels this privilege as a "social system," stating that male privilege must be acknowledged by men. He says "Disapproving of the system won't be enough to change redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions" (McIntosh 5-6).  Likewise, Gomez wants men to realize that they need to admit their actual social identity, rather than think they must have a strong demeanor to represent manhood. He spoke about the emotions men really feel verses the feelings they portray in public. In essence, Gomez wants me to act as they genuinely feel and acknowledge that this identity is really a "social system" that categorizes men. Just as McIntosh identified said that people must become aware of this "hidden system" of male advantage. Likewise, Gómez wants people to realize that this "macho" persona men think they have to put on is false and actually a stereotype, just like male advantage and white privilege.  At the event,  I was truly impressed by Gómez’s ability to speak, maintain the audience’s attention as well as compose such true statements about stereotypes and the clear existence in society. He wrote ManUp: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood, which highlights his viewpoints about this subject and the “emotional self.”

Gómez spoke about a persona he put on while in high school. He acted “macho,” became a basketball star and had a good social reputation. However, he truly liked poetry. He said he would secretly write poems, only known to his family and girlfriend at the time. Then, a poet came to his school. Gomez recalled how he joked around with his friends while going to hear the speaker when he actually liked poetry and was aware of the fact. (Like a typical high school boy, making fun of poetry, though interiorly he enjoyed it). Then Gomez told us that when he heard the poet speak, he was so touched that a tear came down his cheek. When his friend noticed, he made up some story. After, he went up to the author for a book signing. As soon as the poet saw him,  he wrote in the cover "to Carlos, the future poet" and I think he told Gómez too. Gomez was amazed and just looked at him, without saying a word. This is an example of the “emotional self” which he emphasizes as important, but often ignored by men because they believe they have to put on an appearance. In reality, this  appearance is a gender stereotype.  

In essence, Gómez wants men to show their true emotions and realize that this manly persona they try to put on is actually a stereotype. That persona blurs a man’s actual identity. I believe this event is related to the majority of the articles we read in class. This reminds me of the codes of power in Delpit’s article, A Silenced Dialogue. The “strong, built” stereotype has become a "culture of power" [code] (Delpit 24) that many boys look up to. This event also coincides with Linda's Christiansen's Unlearning the Myth's that Bind us. Christiansen said: "Our society's culture industry colonizes their minds and teaches them how to act, live, and dream. This indoctrination hits young children especially hard" (Christiansen 1). She was referring to the "secret education" in movies, advertisements and books that direct children in a specific social category that is actually stereotypical and thus the ideas become accepted norms in society. Similarly, young boys think they have to act in a "macho" manner because this identity is portayed on television and magazines. However, this must be prevented. Stereotypes have become “the norm” of many aspects in society. A man’s reputation as “macho” is common. Often, boys think that if they are built and tall they will have more social advantage. However, such is not true! In actuality, this is just a thought made up in their minds and they allow it to control their actions. Then many boys become self-conscious and repress their true identities, such as liking an uncommon sport or different customs. Gómez is speaking about his in public and has written ManUp in order to instigate a change in society, just as Linda Christiansen motivated her students to speak about steretypes in the media outside of the classroom.

I especially want to connect this event to Allan Johnson’s essay,  Privilege, Power and Difference: Rodney King’s Question. His essay defines society’s interpretations of privilege and how it causes divides among people in society. The majority of boys think being “macho” is a privilege and those who are strong and built become separated from those who are not. In my think piece, I noted that there are pre-determined principles about race, gender and social class; this connects directly with Gómez’s notion; the “macho” identity assumed for boys is a pre-determined principle! Boys with this mindset strive for attaining this identity and end up creating “social barriers” based on who has reached "being macho" or not.

Johnson relays that privilege is made up in our minds…just like the "macho" way boys think they must act.

Gómez wants boys to show their emotions—their true identities.  Like Johnson, Gómez wants people to realize that this problem must be talked about and acknowledged. I think it affects decision making skills. In regard to Johnson, I wrote in my think piece that if people just communicated more, without have pre-determined ideas about race, class and social topics, then people would realize that humans are one species and therefore should not be divided. It is our unique characteristics that bring creativity and innovation to the human race. However, these pre-determined principals prevent communication and twist our mindsets into thinking we have to present ourselves in a particular manner in order to be accepted. This “acceptance” is just an illusion, a diversion away from the actual truth—who we are. Gómez did an exceptional job enforcing that men must identify with their true qualities, and he proved it when he read aloud a poem he wrote about his grandmother. It combined his culture, voice, dramatic character and his true emotions, which was the foundation of his idea about expressing true identity. Again, some boys and men tend to think being "macho" (built and tall)is a privilege. As Johnson stated, people must admit that misperception of privilege exists. Gómez is an example of someone implementing a step to make a change to this social problem. The following is a well-known concept and it is absolutely true:  each person has unique characteristics to fulfill a purpose in this world. 

This event was through RIC Rising, which coincides with One Billion Rising—a global program that goes against sexual and domestic violence.

1 comment: