First of all I would like to thank my teachers for cultivating a person that somebody as active in the equality movement as Feminist Activist would consider a feminist. Even when I write the word now, feminist, in relation to myself, I laugh out loud. Thank you for the opportunity to have so much fun wading through my dream of memories and try and add a bit of value to your meaningful work. Before it’s too late I would like to dedicate this to all the men out there who cannot express themselves and to all the women who are confused by their own physiology.
“YOU DON’T HIT GIRLS!!!”
That was what the girl next door’s father yelled at me as his carpenter’s hands wrathfully shook me by the shoulders with my feet dangling in the air. Before the shaking stopped, although I am not sure it has ever stopped, I suddenly thought to myself, “Why don’t you hit girls?” They are bigger, stronger, and certainly smarter than me. See, I had the grace to be the last one born to nice parents who already had two daughters. So in my little boy brain, girls were indeed bigger, stronger, and smarter than me.
Ok, so as not to bring the water to a boil as I dive into the deep end here, please allow me to state my intention on this piece. What I would like to share is that my intuition tells me latent violence on the intrapersonal level affects everyone on the interpersonal level in the form of overt violence. Through my experience this latent violence which crosses gender and cultural understanding seems to be realized by few and talked about by fewer though I suspect if affects just about all of us. I would like to draw off an example with a type of violence I can empathize for males revolving around an understanding of machismo. I would also like to bring up a type of a violence I cannot fully empathize with having to do with the whatnots of the female brain.
I remember a moonless night walking home from a wake when I was a fresh community organizer maybe a month into my job in rural Panama. The road was hard packed dirt slimed with mud and I was walking in the dark because the only person who had a flashlight was proving to me and his two sons that a man doesn’t need a light to make his way home…no matter how drunk he may be. That is why I thought to ask my dear friend, who is an even five feet tall with a body chiseled out of hard wood from throwing machete his whole life, what does machismo mean? He replied with one word as some roosters release a single crow during a cockfight, “Pride.”
A teacher of mine says that when the mind becomes full of pride, there will arise thoughts of competition and humiliation. As this pride becomes stronger and stronger, one will experience the suffering of quarrels and abuse. On the other hand, to my friend, pride was the highest expression a man could take. Machismo meant walking tall and being strong for the family at all costs. I can only speculate, but it may have been the internal struggle between competition and humiliation that this man’s pride cost him the companionship of his wife. My friend didn’t learn at the same age I did, you don’t hit girls.
To put my friend’s life into perspective, when he is at home, he is the “man of the house.” His dominance gets him the biggest portion of dinner and the only finger he lifts is to his mouth. But, when my friend is sweating for six dollars a day, he is humiliated by the man who owns the land. The landowner can do whatever he wants because he knows my friend has a crop of children back home with all their necessities and ambitions. It is a reality that my friend is not treated like a king when he is outside the home. When he returns home, his competitive attitude returns and to consider himself a man, he physically exerts his dominance over the humiliation that his six dollars a day isn’t enough to buy the opportunities for his children to break the cycle.
Furthermore, the violence doesn’t stop with the man. There are some instances that the latent violence extends from the women to the children. And from the children to the domesticated animals. To point out a sensitive subject, the children who are abusing animals may be abused in some form or another from the top down.
Without the slightest inclination to justify overt violence, I am inclined to understand my friend’s latent violence. A framework I can empathize with would be to imagine as vividly as possible what I would be going through if I were suffering the same affliction of pride given his conditions. As a man, I can ask myself how I would feel and how I would want my family to treat me. I can understand what a wounded man wants most. Sometimes, that is just a little bit of sympathy in the form of understanding that life is hard.
In an attempted to cross back over the picketed gender fence and provide an answer to the question, I aspire not to hit girls not just because I love them and want them to be happy; it is also because I simply do not understand them. My oversimplified understanding of women tells me that the female brain is flooded on a monthly basis with chemicals from birth until death. The precarious position I have found myself in over and over in this life suggests that some women do not understand their own physiological cycle. And for the sake of being polemical, I think that is a form of intrapersonal violence which can be seen in the form of interpersonal violence… having two brilliantly strong older sisters I can attest to that
So using the little empathy framework, my testosterone controlled brain’s solution is to be a provider. My goal is to provide space for women to grow into their inner beauty… usually by muting my words with a smile. And when I have the chance my satisfaction is to provide women with the opportunity to sleep for eight hours a day, eat three times a day, and stretch out in some fresh air. The only way to make this more complicated is to be in charge of providing ladies with their chemical fix by making strong coffee and finding delicious sugary treats. And people, I ain’t even getting into the utopian pleasure of random acts of kindness here!
That is all I got. It’s that simple. If I am a feminist, I am left wondering why on this tiny little planet it is all so complicated… oh I almost forgot my own pride.
Peace and love to all. May they find happiness and the causes of happiness and be free from the sorrow of suffering.
Currently Robby Alley can be found in the highlands of western Panama. He is working on an initiative to create legal and economic instruments to promote the sustainable use of biodiversity around a national park. Part of his passion is found while informally promoting the participation of rural community members in projects that create sustainable livelihoods through protecting nature. It’s been a struggle, but Robby has found happiness loving women and laughing with men.