Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Masculinity Around the Thanksgiving Table

So when I went out of town this past weekend for Thanksgiving I ended up at my mom’s friend’s house in Tampa. Well my mom is very conservative and her friends are fellow right wingers who’s children have clearly never been prompted or encouraged to check their own white, male, cisgendered, heterosexual, upper middle class, educated, Judeo Christian, able-bodied privilege. Often times light hearted conversation will not go much past the superficial “joke” or statement. However, when you have lived in the world where you have found a feminist lens, it is extremely difficult and even morally challenging to try to not look at things through that lens. The conversation went from racist generalizations, to apathy about the working class, to sexist comments about the “availability” of women in sororities without even touching on sex positivity, or social constructs that not only perpetuates the degradation of sex positive women but vilifies them, then it moved to hazing.  
Growing up in a hyper conservative household where authority was key and was not to be questioned, and women were naturally inferior and thus did not have a voice, it is an interesting experience sitting in a family setting where to speak out would be to leave home – to leave the comfort that home once provided. But it was impossible for me to keep quiet and thus I ended up leaving that comfortable space of silence that housed me all my life to speaking out against the continuing slurs and oppression.
The point is a particular conversation was stricken that hit the context of this class. When hazing came up it was not about the psychological torture hazing can provoke, or the scarring and subjugation it effects but how it happens to men and men need to suck it up because if he’s new then he deserves to pay. Pay? Pay for what? Pay for wanting to be a part of a group that he has probably been conditioned to think is “fitting in” (aka fraternities)? It strikes me as really ironic that the way to fit in on a college campus is to be a part of a fraternity, HOWEVER, in order to join you are alienated and marginalized within that group and oppressed in an extremely overt way – and damaging psychologically and physically. Then my mom’s friend’s son, Kevin started talking about how he couldn’t believe that his fraternity got in trouble for hazing because they made the pledges memorize a lot of detailed information about the frat and if they missed a question then they would receive one of various punishments that were “harmless”. Then I started asking him, well what purpose does it serve to have them memorize the information in the first place? Did they NEED to know the information to be a member of the frat by campus bylaws? His answer: “Well…..no…we just did it to do it…” They mentally harangued and physically punished hundreds of men just for fun. That was the point.
It’s hard in any situation, but like we talked about in class today, micro interactions can change a lot and I know it changed my family’s view of me and their level of comfort around me. We’ll see how it works out, but I feel like it was a really important moment for people who have never been checked on their oppressive ideals never mind recognize them. 

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