Written By: Beto Ortiz and Alejandro Jimenez
“I’ve encountered a few scattered and isolated gentle straight men, the beginnings of a new breed, but they are confused, and entangled with sexist behaviors that they have not been able to eradicate. We need a new masculinity and the new man needs a movement”
-Gloria Anzaldua, “La conciencia de la mestiza” (1987)
Feminism has developed into a powerful source of critical interventions in social movements and in the intellectual world. While feminism is undoubtedly grounded upon the work of women, the question always arises: at what point is it appropriate for men, particularly heterosexual men of color, to become active participants in the feminist tradition? What is our role in feminist thought and practice? In what ways can we as hombres contribute to this liberatory movement?
As Gloria Anzaldua suggest (above), perhaps our role in feminism is articulating and embodying a “new masculinity” that is “gentle” and “eradicates sexist behaviors”. However, as Anzaldua keenly points to, we are deeply confused about how we can do this.
As young “conscious” Latino men we are in a unique place because we often feel compelled to offer our thoughts on gender inequality as humbly as we can, yet we also acknowledge that it’s a contentious task speaking in place of women or even alongside mujeres. Therefore, we sometimes remain silent on the issue out of fear of offending the feminist tradition in our community and out of fear of being shamed for having male privilege.
We are aware of the implications of speaking from a position of gendered power, and would thus like to remind our comunidad the following in an effort to be better understood: our knowledge on this issue emerges out our experience growing up as sons of Latina immigrant mothers and as brothers to young Chicana women. We understand the struggle of working-class women of color by witnessing our madres labor tirelessly as graveyard shift janitors, waitresses, and babysitters in order to feed their familias. We can never claim bodily or experiential feminist knowledge – the theory in the flesh (Cherrie Moraga, 1981) – but we can claim a particular emotional, spiritual, and intellectual feminist knowledge forged in the relationship with our mothers. .
We hope other men are willing to engage these experiences in their life and use them as points of departure into feminist conversation. This does not in any way make us ideal male feminists – as Anzaldua rightfully asserts (above), we are still combating and unlearning sexist mindsets and actions.
We must learn to generate a healthy masculinity not always through interactions with women but also with other men. We can no longer expect women to be the only ones speaking, writing, and thinking about issues of gender. We have to make the commitment to transform the relationship between women of color feminism and masculinity.
We do not expect women to do this uncomfortable work for us, but we do hope to have the support of the women in our community as we strive to become new men.