Since I was 16 years old, every 31st of December, I devote part of the day to reflect on the goals for the coming year. This is a thoughtful exercise that requires reflecting on setting expectations and priorities for the following 12 months. I include in this list concrete goals such as learning how to play bar chords in the guitar or improving my language skills. I also include a sort of classic resolutions such as exercising more, drinking less and leaving bad habits behind.
Throughout the years, writing this list has proven to be incredibly helpful. It has allowed me to keep on check my ability to make personal commitments, stick to them (or not) and move closer to the person I want to be. For the past four years, we have made this exercise with my partner. This has taken the New Year resolutions to the next level. I have learned that sharing actively the new agreements you are trying to achieve is the first step to achieving them. If accountability starts with oneself the mantra should be “sharing commitments is the first commitment”.
In this sense, in 2014 I decided to make an addition to the list. I included in my list the goal “to pursue actively a new masculinity”. This was the result of a process of learning, reflecting and thinking constantly about what it means to be a man today.
In this process, it has been clear that gender roles have changed and will continue changing. That is a fact. If you are interested about empirical and anecdotal evidence that show how power relations between and within men and women are shifting rapidly, I invite you to read about it from Michael Kimmel or to hear it from Gary Barker. Even Emma Watson was talking about this at the UN. As such, working toward a new type of masculinity is an essential part of adapting to the new wave of gender relations.
In 2014, I identified three aspects of my masculinity that I wanted to change or improve, in order to get closer to the man I want to be:
- Recognise and express feelings of fear. Unfortunately as men we tend to express fear with aggression and violence.
- Hugh more and tell people how much they mean to me. This includes learning how to express affection without feeling emasculated.
- At least cry in public once this year. This is a really tough one, especially as a Latino male. Crying represents the ultimate vulnerability for a man, but also, the most natural human reaction.
Reflecting on these goals, last year, I was able to recognise more often when I was afraid. The simple fact of acknowledging to others this feeling has helped me to create deeper relationships. It is not easy to tell your dad or your friend that you are afraid, but when you do it, you are opening the door for a new level of engagement in your relationships.
I told my guy friends that I love them, in English and Spanish. It felt odd at the beginning, but it was so transformative when I heard them back saying I love you too. This year I received a beautiful message from a dear friend that made me realise that the things that supposedly make me weaker as a man, make me stronger as a human being.
Finally, I cried in public. But I did not cry alone, I cried with my friend when we said goodbye, I cried with my sister, I cried two or three times, just because it felt right. And it did, and it does.
So for 2015, my goal is to speak up purposefully against gender inequality. Unfortunately, in terms of how to reshape gender relations in our societies, we are not talking about men enough. Women have done an outstanding job of learning, speaking and acting towards a different type of gender relations based on feminism and vindicating women’s rights. On the other hand, as men, we need to step up and be ready to assume the challenge. The old pattern of protector, provider and reproduction is old dated. The new setting of gender relations requires a new type of men. A man who is a good parent; a man who speaks up against violence, harassment and inequality towards women. A man who is able to reflect on the way he sees the world and act accordingly.
So New Year, here it goes:
- Develop a social platform to create awareness on ways to defy harmful traditional gender roles. This means, to get out of my comfort zone, put my ideas out there and get people excited about defying gender roles.
- Talk to more people about why current concept of masculinity has problems and needs to be fixed. Sometimes, sharing ideas about the need to rethink what it means to be a man might seem emasculating. I am okay with that.
- Decrease my tolerance for normalised gender inequality. Sometimes I catch myself laughing at the wrong joke or being quiet when an authoritarian figure reinforces harmful gender roles. Now I know the difference.
I want to invite you to devote some minutes to think about this, an why not, to include specific resolutions about how to challenge unequal gender roles in 2015. Have fun!