by Hector Gutierrez
Men are raised by their mothers, but miseducated inside locker rooms.
As a boy, all I wanted was to be accepted by other boys. I played sports my whole life, so I am familiar with the environment bred inside locker rooms. It's almost as if to fit in, you have to say things that you know are wrong.
Otherwise, you are not "man enough."
Is this what being a man truly means?
I know some men reading this will be eager to call me soft. They will say I am betraying men for believing we must be better. I know because that's what I would have done years ago to a guy like me. We are taught that anything that does not represent our toxic masculinity must represent the opposite. In this case, the opposite is femininity.
We spread the false narrative that man equals strong and woman is synonymous to weak. That pretending to be invincible makes us powerful, and speaking our insecurities into existence leaves us powerless. That taking up space is our right, and sharing that space makes us generous and deserving of praise.
But #9M is not about us. It's about the women we've been calling weak. The women that the patriarchy has sought to strip from power. The women that have to fight for space because it was never opened to them.
As men we are more afraid of being called feminine than we are of being called sexist. That has to change.
On March 9th, Mexico is performing an “exercise” as part of the feminist movement. It consists of a day when women don’t show up at work, don’t go out to the streets, nor engage on social media. It's a way to protest the years of systematic sexism and gender-based brutality that have led to a national crisis of violence.
To make matters worse, the government hasn't done enough.
In essence, the purpose of this movement is to show the country how a day without women would look like.
People have been eager to criticize every woman joining this cause, claiming they're just looking for an excuse to create chaos. But have you thought that while this day may be an exercise for our nation, it is the everyday reality for far too many people?
Today is not an exercise for the parents whose daughter never came back from the party. Today is not an exercise for the siblings who didn't understand why their sister lives with trauma. Today is not an exercise for the thousands of women who said goodbye to the people they loved without realizing it was the last time they'd see them.
This crisis has been going on for so long that all of us, regardless of whether we join the fight or criticize it, can agree on one thing:
Today is not just an exercise for someone you know, knew, or love.
So stop sharing memes. Don't joke about this being a "tantrum." Don't repost videos on social media that conspire against the cause of this movement.
Man up and realize how shitty this world would be without women. Not only because you have a mother or a sister, but because every human being deserves the right to feel safe, to have an opportunity to succeed, and most importantly, to live their life without the fear of being murdered or assaulted because of their gender.
Reflecting on this day, I realized that I had no problem labeling myself as a feminist before. After all, I believe gender equality is not only important but essential to our society.
However, Bisi Alimi, a Nigerian activist that fights against sexism, racism, and homophobia in Africa and beyond, says that men should instead use the term feminist-ally. Alimi believes that calling ourselves feminists is another attempt to take up a space that is not ours to take.
As men we must acknowledge that our lived experience is so different from that of women, and so we'll never be able to understand the rage, fear, and reality of being targeted because of our gender.
To be honest, this question of labels made me even more aware of the privilege I hold as a man.
I am concerned about what label is appropriate while women are concerned about not being murdered.
This doesn't mean we can't understand that our current state is unacceptable and that things must change. As a feminist or a feminist-ally, I am saying, "I'm fighting next to you, but I'm not leading."
Are you man enough to say the same?