Flower Crowns: exploring Black masculinity

The feminization of black men seems to be one of the most profound topics of my generation, specifically  because it is often compared to the concept of toxic masculinity. The polarization of masculinity and femininity seeps into our views on sex, gender dynamics, and even religion with topics such as what is appropriate during sex / attraction, masculinity in relation to financial provisions, and femininity linked to gender roles ( primarily submission ).

mas·cu·lin·i·ty : 

possession of the qualities traditionally associated with men.

C2wF6InUQAAci5ZThe “traditional qualities associated with men”…providing, protecting, possessing strength and athleticism, natural born leadership, and formidability.  The idea of this kind of man is good, as men monopolized power in society for centuries, typically these traits characterized brutish times and institutions founded on sexism, times that required more of men because they afforded less to women. Masculinity is often compared to femininity as an opposite, with homosexuality negating it all together, but when was the last time you had to go hunt some wild game my nigga? Or fight to the death ?  I honestly can’t say I’ve seen any men rescuing fair maidens around here so I think it’s safe to say some of those ideas are archaic and trite.

Homophobia, the idea of femininity as the polar opposite of traditional masculinity, and stringent standards of acceptability for men are what give place for toxic masculinity.

“It’s gay if he do that..REAL men don’t do this..That’s not a man that’s a faggot”

It seems like people are always trying to define what masculinity is, whats acceptable for men, and using rules that don’t afford a lot of wiggle room. Part of that is because there are also tight rules on what is acceptable for women as well. We view each other as polar opposites instead of compliment. Straight men and women are placed at polar ends of the spectrum of gender normalcy and everyone else is either lumped awkwardly in the middle or dismissed all together. One of the best ploys to rectify the disconnect is to “soften” men in the ways we previously deemed as feminine: makeup…nail polish.. flowers.. pretty soft things to contrast what we perceive as the harshness of manhood and “tone down” or dilute their masculinity. All of this, with the caveat that we want “soft” black men, not gay ones. While visually appealing to some, this could be construed as insults alluding to women being “soft” and elements of femininity being weak.

 


CRACKcrack2

 

We’ve al heard the old maxim “crack destroyed the black home”, ask any PoC (give or take a racist president, a “war on drugs”, and prison system that unfairly targets minorities) and you’ll get a summary that follows much the same:

“Late 70s early 80s crack hits. money is being made.  It turns into the animal kingdom. Masculinity is tested cause its needed to survive. Boys seeking drugs cause dads in jail moms on drugs. Its no time to be carefree. Gangs arise. Gangs are glorified. And thats the norm.

Fast forward to a time now where its a change in thought” – rićh

Originally, gangs represented a brotherhood for young black men who needed a sense of security and family, elements lacking at home. However, the introduction of drugs changed these dynamics. “ask any of those little boys in the hood nobody asks then what they feel at home. nobody talks to them there. You go to school, nobody there cares.  so you join a gang and you get a family but the only time you felt apart of something , the only time you felt like you were in a family was through violence. When you were hurting someone, when you were beating down on someone together.” 

When a small community loses a large amount of adult males, the family dynamics of said community will be disturbed. With father figures absent, it creates the illusion of weak community bonds and children grow up without a strong patriarch figure. Without this figure, the definitions and societal norms of the community will evolve and be redefined since the adult males are not around to carry out the traditional roles and enact traditional beliefs.

Malcolm West

The word tradition is provoking for a lot of people. It brings up wrongs that were justified by saying “thats just how we’ve done it for years” but in this context, it refers to the stability and example a father sets for his sons and the generation of men that grew up without the any examples of manhood that were not based on violence and aggression.


WOMEN

Women talk about toxic masculinity as if its a new concept. As if it’s something that just creepy up on the black community out of now where and we only see the affects of it when men are lashing out or beating on women. But we don’t think of masculinity when we are telling our sons to suppress their emotions and “be men”, at 5 or 6, and we don’t think of toxicity when we are shutting our ears at our boyfriends complaints,  “he’s a bitch, he’s soft, he’s too sensitive”. We don’t think about how these signals we give off affect men over time or how it reinforces the message that what they feel doesn’t matter or is secondary to what a woman feels.

I talk about equality a lot. With women usually posing the request for more avenues of selection and liberation but one of the greatest disparities between the genders is in terms of self expression

Men don’t cry , men don’t do this men don’t do that. I was raised by women around me for 14 years of my life and I’d go into my moms room and just joking put on her bra.. and my mom would beat my ass for that. I think little stuff like that can affect someone over time.

As a woman,  I do not think I can define what manhood is for anyone. So I dare not try. I have never been a man, I will never be a man, so I will never know what men think, feel, or experience. I can only speculate and respect the choices you make as you define manhood for yourself.  But it would be dishonest for me to neglect women’s roles as influencers of masculinity. Arguably, every big decision a man makes in his life is influenced by women.  From mother, to wife we set the pace.

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SEXScreen Shot 2017-04-22 at 12.06.29 PM

I was talking to my friend about the guys we’re dating:

Friend: girrl..so you know after I give him head and he kiss me with it still in my mouth and I’m like..ain’t that weird ? your cum still on me, he can’t taste that ?

Me: well .. niggas be weird but women do weird stuff too. We can’t really talk about equality if we’re not gonna give men the same chance to try and like different things in bed too, just like we do. We can’t just dismiss the lil weird shit they be into too thats why niggas be hiding it then come out with all softs of extra shit. 

*insert akekekeke laughing sound*

For some, Sex is where the playing field levels out.  For others, its another place where men *should* be more dominant. Jokes aside sexuality is a major cornerstone of masculinity.

To be clear, I’m in no way against homosexuality or any aspect of the LGBT community. The role or homosexuality in the perception of masculinity is a whole piece on its own. The idea of homosexuality making you less of a man is rooted in homophobia, which in the black community, can be traced back to the days of slavery and colonization with “breaking the buck” and the beliefs that men should be the more dominant and aggressive sexual partner.

Men are not allowed to explore their sexuality because anything deviating from the mundane routine of “vanilla sex” is often abrogated or dismissed gay.

This supports the perception of what is the acceptable as per the traditional standards of manhood.

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I’m 23 now. I’m dating. And I think I, like most women will attest to how hard it is to get our men to open up and how that seems to only worsen with age.  You talk to these men and its the same reoccurring pattern “nobody asks. I had nobody to talk to growing up and nobody cared. As men so much of what we do is centered on catering to women. Pleasing women. Most women don’t give support emotional, they give it physically. With her presence or her body. We may joke, agree when she says ‘if he’s sad just suck his dick’ but no man is that dense. Thats not enough.  A man needs more than that.” – Kevin Duguid

YT

I think we make a big deal out of men embracing more feminine aesthetics is because it does challenge gender norms and seems as an obvious contrast to what we see as “hard” men.

Young Thug wore a dress on the cover of “Jeffrey” in 2016 that sent the internet into raves about gender identity, sexuality, and the need for pioneers like him in the redefinition of masculinity to embrace more feminine aspects and soften the harshness of black men. In March 2017 he was put on trial for assaulting a woman in an Atlanta nightclub. 

I’m not putting on my “but what about men cape” in fact, I’ll quietly whisper “nigga’s ain’t shit” into the night one time for the one time just to appease any of my more pugnacious viewers but “feminization” as a blanket solution for masculinity is overly simplistic and self gratifying of femininity itself. 


“We want carefree black men…images showing the side of men you don’t normally see” 

We see images of carefree black men every day but we box them in, label them, and make them fit our own standards of acceptability – dissing any essence of them that we personally do not like.

Carefree is sagging, kissing his daughter. Crow-rows or pig tails. Poetry or Gold fronts.

But society only accepts “carefree”  when it comes wrapped in a pretty aesthetic. What’s the difference between carefree and thuggish ? Where’s the line between what’s “soft” and what’s weak? If carefree is simply being true to who you are without worrying about others, who draws these conclusions?

The man.

I think we forget that men are more than “providers and protectors”. They’re people, and like people there’re many aspects to that man, that should each be appreciated. 

I think in the black community theres a lot of standards for men out there.  Black men have to be represented in a certain way . If you dress a certain way or think something… it restricts a lot of us to be extra careful not to be misrepresented out there in the public . But you can’t do anything about that because it already happened. – Eni LK

We draw parallels between our genders that separate us and polarize us. “This is what it means to be a man” and “that is what it means to be a woman” which creates more of a divide between our sexes when in reality we are two sides of the same coin. When I talk about my decisions I get women that say that I “think like a man” no, I think for myself but any aggressive approach to logic, any calculated decision is attributed to masculinity while things motivated by emotions are attributed to femininity. “Female tendencies” and “woman logic”, labels that are both dismissive and derogatory of both men and women and speak to a bigger problem, the perception of femininity as being lesser and weakening of those who possess it.

To target masculinity at its core you need to change how people view femininity as the enemy of all things big bad and black.

Some of the men I spoke to wished to be kept anonymous because of the content of the conversations. I ask that you please don't pry.

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