In the struggle for gender equality and social justice how are men to help instead of just hinder the cause? This topic came up when, during the weekend, two issues in the media got me upset:
1) The Caleb Hannan controversy where a male journalist outted a trans scientist in a sports blog, and a few weeks later, the woman committed suicide.
2) The homophobic remarks that Latino bachelor, Juan Pablo Galavis, made about gay people being “pervs” (despite himself dating 27 women simultaneously) for which he later apologized.
Although completely different, these two issues are examples of male homophobia and transphobia in different cultures, and they also account for male hegemony at work in media outlets.
I grew up in Argentina, a culture that, like Juan Pablo’s Venezuela, is embedded in machismo and homophobia. I later moved to the United States as a teenager where I also experienced the cultural domination of white male privilege. In other words, both in Latino and in white cultures, the privilege of hegemonic masculinity has affected me. I began thinking, if there was a list of things men could do to help gender equality and LGBTQ causes instead of hinder them, what would that list be?
Using Juan Pablo and Caleb Hannan’s examples of “what NOT to do,” I came up with this list, which was initially posted on my blog to get feedback and later developed further. Here are some humble suggestions for all you manly men who get media attention, or work in journalism, to help you not write/act like oppressive, sexist, transphobic jerks:
1) Check your male privilege: During Monday meetings with your sports blogger bros or your TV producers, you could all reflect on questions such as; what does it mean to be a man who works for media platforms? Am I going to ridicule others whom I don’t think are equal to me? Am I going to dehumanize others whom I might feel slightly superior to? If the answer is YES. For Caleb Hannan, go do a workshop! I suggest awareness activities to help you see that as a cis-male subject, you have a position of advantage with respect to women and LGBTQ groups. Once this is clear, have fun reporting! For Juan Pablo, work on your own homophobic biases–ask your “gay friends” to call you out on your homophobia more often.
2) (Not that you ever did, but just in case…) Don’t call yourself a feminist Man: Hugo Schwyzer did, at the expense of women of color. Instead, how about focusing on being a male ally instead of speaking for other groups? And don’t just assume that women with different opinions and arguments are “angry.” Instead, ask women or LGBTQ people to help you reflect on your sexist practices and how these hinder gender equality. For Latin American men who call themselves “feminist men,” don’t do it if you will appropriate the discourse of feminism and use it for your own sexist agenda (the hashtag #machoprogre in Spanish Twitter describes the situation well).
3) Petition that your sports blog or network channel hire more women and LGBTQ editors and producers: This could save your reputation, and in the case of Hannan, who knows? Maybe it could have even saved a life. They will look at your journalistic piece and call you out on your transphobia, homophobia, sexism, etcetera. They will also suggest you don’t focus on the gender identity of your subject when the story is about SCIENCE, not the SCIENTIST. For Juan Pablo, an LGBTQ (or LGBTQ-friendly) producer might have also called out his homophobic comments before he went on air.
4) Reflect on how your hegemonic masculinity harms your own relationship to your interview subjects, and other women: For Hannan, the manly journalist, you could acknowledge that by focusing on someone’s gender identity as a fake, mysterious one, you are dehumanizing them. This “awkward” relationship to your interview subject which sent “chills down your spine” is asymmetrical because you take away the subject’s right to a narrative identity and replace it with your own transphobic, biased view. For Juan Pablo, you could also realize that, despite coming from a culture of machismo where men are considered superior and get to hyper sexualize women and oppress gay people, acting like that will also ruin your reputation.
If you have successfully understood, acknowledged, and maybe even agreed with these four points, you manly journalist and you “Macho Latino” might be able to go out into the world as men whom LGBTQ groups and women won’t think of as assholes.
Carolina Drake writes and does journalist stuff for feminist blogs such as Bustle and Black Girl Dangerous. She also writes critically about Fashion at Schön.