“When we love maleness, we extend our love whether males are performing or not. […]In an anti-patriarchal culture males do not have to prove their value and worth. They know from birth that simply being gives them value, the right to be cherished and loved.”
bell hooks in The Will to Change.
You live it since you are a girl. The moment you can give your first steps and a boy hurts you, and you are told that he does that because “he likes you.” The instant your very own father teaches you to protect yourself from boys and men because “boys will be boys.” Or the second you realize your father is not around because men “can just pick up and leave” everything behind, including their partners, their children and their loved ones. Or the very day, you are taught that God is a man and “sacred history” becomes a life lesson.
Soon enough you are made aware that (supposedly) women wear makeup for men, that they dress (or undress) for their pleasure and that they become partners, girlfriends and wives after a racy chase that resembles lions and antelopes. You are implicitly and slowly shown that “successful (white) women” adhere to the rules of (white) men in suits and that upholding the wishes of patriarchs has its rewards… most notably the prize of survival.
By this point you know what catcalling is and have probably been touched in unwanted ways in the streets or at home. Perhaps you have seen or experienced verbal and physical violence, as well; and you have practiced sex in ways that are violent, unfulfilling and profane to your own sacredness. Yet, you have possibly also been told that only patriarchs and their rules (like celibacy and monogamy), in the forms of the men in your life and in numerous institutions, are the only ones that can keep such disheartening experiences at bay.
And it does not (always) matter that you surround yourself with feminists and/or radical women, because the (white) toxic masculine ethos will continue to determine your access to jobs, education and services. In fact, your closeness to white maleness will partly determine your likelihood of becoming a statistic of violence. These (white) males in police paraphernalia will further be the ones to “rescue” you when violence sparks. Sometimes they will “help you,” some others they will leave you at the mercy of societies that have never valued women who are “the other.” And after the trauma, you will also be criminalized and once-again violated after been raped, for instance; and you will be sent home wearing your attackers DNA and with no rape kit, awaiting for someone to do something that will probably result in a whole lot of nothingness.
But despite these experiences, it will not be long before you hear that it is Black, Brown and Indigenous men the ones who are oppressing you. Your will see them being called “terrorists,” “criminals,” “rapists,” “drug-dealers,” “drunks,” “backwards,” “effeminate” and “violent” before you can even comprehend what these terms mean. You will try to fight these stereotypes because you have seen these men crushed by white supremacy and colonial violence. You have seen them beaten so they will “man up,” shamed for not being “man enough,” racially profiled, incarcerated and pushed to the margins for being the descendants of slaves or/and of colonized nations where they are often shot in the streets or driven to suicide.
But you also, deep down, cannot shake the images of these very men breaking the spirits of women, homosexual and non-gender conforming community members. You have seen these men exorcising men and women in attempts to “fix them.” You have seen them demonize “unwanted” women. You have seen them strike anything they wish and pay a blind eye to other men’s violence. You have seen them have multiple families (in non-consensual ways) in the name of “manhood” while carefully imposing chastity on women and ridiculing the third-gender that challenges their supremacy. You have seen them push their own sons to their margins when they fail to comply with the patriarchal/heteronormative/capitalist standard. And although you know this is colonial heritage and the results of colonial trauma, you cannot wash away the stories of abuse, neglect, violent “love” and “proper womanhood” that you have seen and experienced for decades now.
You will eventually learn about love from these very men. Men who do not understand consent; who will sniff you and touch you against your will; who will swear to “love you” and promise to “protect you” because you are often seen as the “virgin frontier” waiting to be colonized; men who demand heteronormative monogamy and cannot wait to put a ring on your finger because they think it is all about marking “their (colonized) territory.” Yet, you encounter that these very men are often warry of notions of “commitment” because “men are not naturally monogamous,” in societies that preach (to women, primarily) that monogamy and heteronormativity are the only ways to be.
And sometimes these men will ask you to do things… Things that do not feel right. Things that your soul fights, but that you comply with because you have been told all your life that this is “the way to get a man” or “the way things work” or “God’s will.” And you hide it from the (so-called) feminist friends, because “strong women do not let men walk all over them” and “oppressed minority women cannot be feminists.”
One day, however, you realize that is not what you want. You cannot live suppressing what your soul has been fighting for, so you find it in you to move on, and you recognize the privilege in even having such an option. Then, you come across people who teach you about radical ways of loving. The types of love that transcend heteronormativity and monogamy. Decolonial waves of affection and connection that are not bound by the demands of white-centered heteronormativity and capitalism. The sorts of connection that are spiritual rather than material. The kinds that are caring and accountable. The types that only those who know colonial, racialized, capitalist and gendered violence can know. The kind which stems from the very pain of distinct, complex but often intersecting (colonial) histories. And you learn that these loves are incredibly powerful and freeing.
Nonetheless, sometimes in this journey you also come across marvelous men who keep fighting their own demons. Those which have been infused in them since they are children. Those which make them connectionless and unable to give and receive. Those that keep them in fear. Those that whisper in marvelous men’s ears that they have no worth except when they become capitalist and violent patriarchs.
And while these marvelous men know their soul is being robed and they fight it… they sometimes fail because societies are rarely built for non-toxic men, “unwanted” women and radical lovers. So these men retreat, because shame and guilt continue to be some of the most successful tools of social heteropatriarchal control; and they imagine that loneliness and silence is the only way to survive and not become a patriarchal man. But what they sometimes fail to see is that self-imposed seclusion without ties to all which is sacred, including their own soul, is patriarchy(ies)’s jail.
And as much as you love and care for them in the radical ways you have been taught by all those other beings in your life who continue to pull you out from the depths of the patriarchal order, you cannot heal them. You can send your love, care and support in smoke signals. You can be a warm presence. You can be a source of accountability. But you cannot heal them, and you need to, sometimes, step back and let them fall. And one day they may find it in themselves to seek healing, to fight the soul-crushing system and to take responsibility for their own pain-inducing actions. And if and when they are ready to be loved they shall be welcomed by radical lovers, who can see beyond the spectrum of toxic masculinity that we have all been taught to accept.