I have wondered for a long time now if the outrage that radical Latinx men have for the injustices suffered by women is anger for the oppression of another person or indignance that someone could “treat OUR women this way”.
I think I can speak for many when I say that the specific impacts of imperialism, patriarchy, white supremacy and capitalism on women are obvious. Unequal pay, femicide, sexual abuse, and an unfair distribution of household chores are just some of the issues that quickly come to mind when this subject comes up. But just like how many white liberals will say racism is bad, acknowledging the worst symptoms of oppression does not mean you’re not an oppressive force. If we really are about creating change and liberating ourselves from all forms of oppression, then we need not only a political and economic revolution, but we’re badly in need of a cultural one, especially within our own activist circles.
In the same way that every person of color has stories about microaggressions in the workplace and at school, every non-male comrade I’ve met has at least one story of hypocritical machismo from a male comrade. We’ve all suffered from either being fetishized for our revolutionary thought and criticisms, been approached for less than savory personal relationships, been vilified for being too emotional, sidelined from our male peers during decision making, excommunicated for being too confrontational, and much more. How, then, can we be decolonial when it’s clear that the blatant disregard for women still reigns supreme? How can we call for the end of oppressive forces when our own comrades are active participants in it? How can our comrades call themselves Marxists when they do not live in feminist practice?
As one non-binary comrade recently quoted to me, “Yes you read feminist literature, but do you do the dishes?” Men, are you doing the dishes? I don’t think so. It’s time to wash up, because we’re tired.
We’re tired of militant woman fetish. How many male comrades don’t drool over pictures of women in fatigues or carrying large guns? Where these are women fighting for their lives, for their families and children and futures, men are reducing this awe-inspiring fire to an idealized identity for their own fantasy and consumption. To fetishize this woman is to have little value for her earnest zeal for revolution and instead place value into a two-dimensional image that removes the woman from all her human complexities. To create such a simplified woman for such a selfish illusion is nothing more than dictating her worth at your discretion and limiting all your respect and admiration to the limited box you think she exists in. It’s no wonder so many male comrades seem to care little about the thousands of other permutations of female and non-binary revolutionaries in their circles.
We’re tired of men playing out the mujeriego, “Spicy Latin Lover” stereotype at our expense and anyone else’s. Too many comrades seem to market their radical views like the newest “I’m a nice guy” trope, only to act as much the emotionally manipulative, two-timing, unprincipled F-boy they claim not to be. So many of us have been led to believe in seemingly principled men that have relied upon emotional manipulation, lying, gaslighting, and belittling to maintain multiple relationships without consent. They numb deep-rooted feelings of insecurity and fulfil their need for validation by keeping multiple partners, but do so selfishly through what are, quite honestly, abusive behaviors. Despite so many of us having been told since childhood that these attitudes are just inherent in men, that’s just no excuse for men to manipulate emotional intimacy, sex, and/or admiration from people who they assume would perhaps not consent to do so without exclusivity. Our comrades, our Marxist men, men that supposedly live and breathe justice, are clandestinely using mind games for selfish gain. Some even do so while having partners at home, adding even more material benefit via childcare and house chores while hypocritical comrades continue with their “mactivism”.
In a twisted way, I think these men pursue their non-male comrades with a similar motivation to the aforementioned fetishized militant woman. They see us for our radicalism, our strength, our principles, and to a degree admire us for it. However, without their own personal undoing of patriarchal teachings, these men continue to view themselves as automatically stronger, braver, smarter, more revolutionary than the rest of us. And by having a radical partner at their side, they must therefore be that much more radical – not too dissimilar from a “woke” white liberal seeing themselves as ever more socially aware by virtue of having POC friends. Unfortunately for male chauvinism, strong intellectuals eventually pick up on inconsistencies in belief and action. When we call it out though, we get bullied and berated, with accusations of being overly emotional, obsessed, nagging, clingy, and more. It’s tiring.
As well, we are tired of men using any excuse to unleash what seems to be pent up anger and frustration with women and non-binaries. Where debates and arguments between comrades should be discussions, we are met with ego-driven aggression; where there are disagreements we are belittled; when we make challenges and critiques to thought or individuals, we’re labelled as confrontational; and when we try to introduce new ideas and issues, especially ones that specifically affect us, we are dismissed. The mental and emotional toll it takes to walk on eggshells, to say things “just so”, to mold oneself to others’ needs in spaces where we supposedly push for social freedom, all in an effort to not provoke male ire, pushes us to the limit. The result? Either we stay quiet and contribute little, or we eventually explode our pent up frustration (only to be met with more vitriol), or we leave our movements entirely.
How can we be comfortable pushing for change when we can’t even have differences in our most radical of groups? How can we as individuals contribute our unique perspectives if they are only to be heard when convenient? How can we as women and non-men change our realities for the benefit of the collective whole when our opinions and experiences are viewed as less than, as an afterthought, as something useful for later when the men’s revolution has been carried out? And how much damage is created, how incomplete are our movements without the vital input of half the population – a group that is responsible for and sees the injustices faced by other women, by other non-men, and by the elderly, men, and children? How can revolution, which relies so heavily on the morale and conviction of the whole of society, be carried out if those of us that drive that very society are to be seen as tokens and sexual objects, not heard as revolutionaries or credible human beings?
If we are to make real radical change, we must have individual radical change. We can no longer sit by while our comrades in theory are not our comrades in practice. We can no longer be sidelined by men that seemingly do anything to protect their masculinity – the entire construction of which comes from Euro-centric thought and imposition mixed with centuries of imperial abuse and genocide. A masculinity that is defined as being above non-men, as being smarter, stronger, more reasonable, more capable than any non-male simply because. A masculinity that has been created in man after man through the systemic emotional abuse of boys taught to deny their humanity; deny their feelings; to numb themselves from any frustration, any sadness, any over-enthusiasm, any joy, only anger and toil and jealousy – the perfect workhorse. A masculinity that forces boys to recoil from everything outside the limited box of acceptable attributes, to despise non-men but take advantage of them for pleasure, status, and material gain via domestic slavery and unquestionable loyalty. A masculinity that excuses, perpetuates, and violently protects predatory behavior. A masculinity that is completely removed from our Indigenous and Black cultures.
With such deep-seated machismo, is it any wonder that non-men suffer so? We are dismissed and scorned in the most mundane of circumstances and in the most radical of circles. Is it any wonder then that our needs aren’t met in society? Is it any wonder that our health, our bodies, our joys, our stories, our lives are reduced to meaninglessness? Is it any wonder that our diaspora hails from countries where femicide, infidelity, abuse, anti-abortion laws, gender discrimination, uneven distribution of housework, and so many other patriarchal wrong-doings are all common place?
How can comrades speak of freedom if we are not free alongside you? How do we address these when our very blood, our brothers and fathers and sons, quickly brush aside our worthiness as equals when they are challenged in their morality, behaviors, or actions? Is it reasonable to expect, or even hope, for change? For a movement of men that take the time to undo and unlearn their horrid behaviors, to change their very approach and idea of men, of masculinity, of what makes a man worthy and valuable? Is it reasonable to hope for a day when our children don’t have to be traumatized into social acceptability? Will I see a day when my heart doesn’t break for my sisters and daughters at the onset of puberty?
It is not enough to hope and work for a socialist Latin America without its women and non-men. It is not enough to agree with feminist thought if you do not live in feminist practice. In every facet of everyday life, our men must be anti-machista if they are to be our comrades. Without this, cries for a proletariat dictatorship mean very little. Our issues aren’t a “tomorrow” issue. They aren’t an afterthought. They are intrinsic to the revolution. They are as immediate as all cries for ownership of the means of production, for the expulsion of imperialist forces and the white supremacist rich. And if men can’t agree with this then they have no business calling themselves Marxists. Machista Marxist men are not communists. They are only chauvinistic liberals.