Through group discussions and readings of creative work, multicultural fraternities Phi Beta Sigma and Gamma Zeta Alpha encouraged students to explore their experiences of masculinity and race in an event named “Hypermasculinity and Machismo in Black and Brown Communities.”
Co-host Rodrigo Moreno ’18 opened the event by explaining the importance of celebrating and challenging our own cultures.
“Sometimes we don’t like to have a mirror held up to our communities, our cultures, our identity,” Moreno said. “One day, every one in this room is going to be an ancestor and we’re all going to leave a little piece behind for following generations to pick up. There’s a lot of power in having conversations about issues like hypermasculinity and machismo in the black and brown communities.”
Performer Janei Maynard ’16 said the event “was an amazing space to be in,” allowing those present to broach challenging and often unvoiced aspects of their own experience.
“I think it was a good first step towards gender, masculinity and femininity no longer being ‘dinner table taboo’ topics,” said Maynard.
The first performer of the night was Christopher Ciders, a spoken word artist and activist from Los Angeles and recent graduate of Cal State Monterey Bay. Ciders performed two poems; the first was a sex-positivity poem called “Waiting to be Born.”
“As a young man growing up, sex was always talked about in a very degrading way,” Ciders said. “I wanted to talk about sex as something that’s intimate, something that’s meant to feel a connection with your partner, in a beautiful way.”
In the poem, he describes his experience as a black man from the inner-city — a man who has his first kiss at 19 and wants to wait longer to have sex with the right person.
Ciders’ second poem, “A Love’s Limit,” was about learning what it meant to be an ally to the feminist movement. In college, he wrote a column called “Memoirs of a Male Feminist,” interviewing men and women around campus to see how hypermasculinity and patriarchy affected their lives. One day, a woman approached him, saying, “I think you’re taking up too much space.”
“I wanted to teach the lesson of what it means to be an ally,” Ciders said of the poem. “When we are an ally to a movement, we have to sometimes just be quiet, listen and understand where the other person is coming from.”
Janei Maynard ’16 followed Ciders by reading a self-described “short story with poetic elements and a lot of ranting,” challenging the idea that women must reject men’s advances gently in order to protect their egos and masculinity.
The story describes her four-year saga of politely turning down a friend’s date requests. However, Maynard “quickly realized [she] was too kind, too soft, too gentle” when she received a frustrated and accusatory message from the friend.
“I’m not sorry you never took me on a date,” Maynard read. “I’m not sorry I was just not into you, not sorry that you just don’t get why I don’t want you. Not sorry you can’t handle rejection, not sorry you think I care about your fragile hurt ego when I don’t. Sorry, but I don’t need your forgiveness, because I am — honestly, truly, completely, fully, unapologetically — not sorry.”
Oscar Sandoval followed Maynard, reading a short story he wrote in 2013 as a student in English 190: Intermediate Fiction Writing. In the story, a man named Ramon describes a sexual experience with a “blatantly racist” woman he met at a bar.
During the sexual encounter, the woman repeatedly offends Ramon, but he thinks of the crude way his father and brother had always encouraged any and all sexual encounters as an affirmation of manhood.
“I felt my one ethnic studies class had prepared me for these battles, armed me with some machinery to disarm her of that intricate arsenal of white privilege that she had no idea was carrying her around,” Ramon says in Sandoval’s story. “[But my classes] didn’t tell me how to quiet the whispers of Papi and Alejandro in the back of my head. Nothing in the books about that.”
Eli Arbor gave the final performance of the night, a spoken word poem called “Boys Don’t Cry” which rejects a society that asks boys to mask emotions and conceal “weakness.”
“Wiped tears with my tender hands begin to construct the mask that I still wear today,” Arbor recited. “This isn’t papier-mâché — you see the mask that we build is of hatred and pain, of teasing and names, fashioned from our disdain of what we see as weak.”
After Arbor’s performance, the audience joined the performers and hosts in a conversation about how masculinity and machismo affects their experiences, identities and communities. Students discussed the difficulty of holding themselves and their friends accountable, especially when returning home to places with values and norms very different from Stanford’s.
As a closing activity, Williams asked the male-identifying students in the room to describe one activity they enjoyed that was not traditionally “masculine.”
“I absolutely love pedicures,” one student offered.
Contact Tia Schwab at kbschwab ‘at’ stanford.edu.