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The Culture of Male Incivility: A Global Pandemic

It is now an undeniable fact, COVID-19 has peeled off layers of social inequities and revealed some of our deepest vulnerabilities. Systemic and systematic racism now widely acknowledged, have further unveiled tentacles of hate and oppression. Our venerated institutions of government, law, justice, education, health care, religious denominations, corporations, and so many others, have all been tainted by racism. In the past five months revelations from these same structures that were created to protect, defend, and socialize, have shown that they too are complicit. Why did it take some of us this long to see truths that were staring right at us for centuries? Miseducation and denial created a cocktail of intoxication mixed with our own consumeristic drives and our thirst for entertainment, numbing us deeper into our own oppression.

The health pandemic has also forced us to look at the racial pandemic from all angles, including within. For, yes, we have all internalized oppression. We have internalized the supremacist maxim, that Anti-racist Educator Jane Elliot calls, “whiteness is rightness.” Forcing ourselves to live our lives perennially trying to achieve “white standards” that were created to denigrate and destroy our uniqueness. We have had to acknowledge that the roots of racism are so embedded in our souls that we, both people of color and people of European descent, have believed lies that normalized the drinking of our own poison.

At the same time, while numbers of victims of domestic violence have risen to unprecedented heights prompting the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, to call a “ceasefire” on its “horrifying global surge”. Yet, we continue to conveniently ignore the culture of male violence and incivility that is dominating our world today. From the highest offices of the land to the streets of our cities, male violence and incivility towards women has become pervasive. Another pandemic that we sometimes seem unable or unwilling to eradicate. But, large part of our unwillingness is a result of our own complicit dance with internalized patriarchy. Internalized patriarchy would have us entertain notions that try to justify that women are indeed inferior to men.

The patriarchy has been part of our indoctrination and male supremacy has been normalized. As a result, we still have laws that do not protect women, cultures that still uphold women as sub-servient, and religious denominations with (mis)interpreted and applied theologies that see women as deserving of male domination.

Two very recent public incidents illustrate this normalization.

In popular culture, a male artist* reveals that he had an affair with a married celebrity, Jada Pinkett- Smith. Besides the scandal that it generated, we see a wife willing to publicly speak her truth before her husband, actor Will Smith. Putting herself on her own Red Table, a popular symbol of truth-telling and confession; her husband acknowledges her truth and forgives her. However, the backlash from younger women on social media towards Jada, is revelatory of women’s internalized self-hatred. They took to their platforms to call another woman, like themselves, every derogatory terminology available. Days later the male artist debuted a song with lyrics that revealed explicit details of their sexual encounters during the affair. Yet, very few if any females rose in condemnation of his uncivil behavior.

Not long after this incident in the halls of the U.S House of Representatives, Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) took to the floor to pronounce one of the most eloquent and stirring speeches on male incivility of this generation. She recounted that she had been accosted by a male colleague*, from the opposing party. He pointed his finger in her face and in front of reporters, called her debasing and derogatory terms. Ocasio-Cortez’ speech presented several reckoning points:

• Male incivility is not new.
• Male incivility is acceptable.
• Male incivility is part of the culture of male supremacy.
• Male incivility is accepting dehumanizing language and violence against women.
• Male incivility is systemic.
• Male incivility is supported by the same institutions and structures that were created to protect and defend its female citizenry.

Male incivility is indeed our third global pandemic. Like racism it has been around for centuries. Every nation, and every culture has been impacted by it. It occurs in the privacy of marriages, when it comes from men who swore to love and protect women until death. It also occurs publicly, in communities, before the eyes of our children. It fills our airwaves, with music with misogynistic lyrics that equate the debasing of a woman with love for her. It is pronounced in churches that use the Bible to promote women’s subjection to abusive men.

Male incivility destroys. It crushes women’s spirits. It steals their joy. It slowly dims the glow in a woman’s eyes. Male incivility uses violent words, language, and actions to perpetrate and dehumanize women. Whether it be a woman’s reputation or her politics, the purpose of male incivility remains the same, to “put a woman in her place”. This putting in one’s place is truly the ultimate sabotaging of a woman’s soul. Like racism, it seeks to silence her, debase her, question her agency, and invalidate her humanity. As women, we need to break every cycle of internalization that would seek to violate the essence of our humanity. We need to hold each other accountable and we need to hold men accountable to this quest. The culture of male supremacy, at all levels and in every institution,  needs to be questioned, rejected, and broken. The time is now.

*Names of both the male celebrity and representative mentioned in this blog as perpetrators of male incivility will remain unmentioned. We refuse to honor their names in this space.

For more on this topic watch: The Pink Room  (Live on August 2nd at 7:30 PM)

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Survival is Your Main Priority Right Now

Living in Queens, New York, one of the epicenters of the pandemic in the USA, illness, death and sorrow of strangers, acquaintances and loved ones are daily headlines. As part of the 4 Real Women International Sisterhood, I also get a view into the how the tentacles of this pandemic have inflicted havoc on the world. This Corona Virus does not seem to discriminate; people of all colors, ages, genders, nationalities, religions and ethnicities have died. It has also manifested that the human family is undeniably inter-connected.

However, the virus has come to reveal some deep social vulnerabilities that have divided us long before its arrival.  In greater numbers men, and specifically blacks, people of color and immigrants have been victims. For men, the long held socialized tendencies of not accessing medical help with regularity could be great part of the cause. For the second group, long held social inequalities are part of the issue. While a lot of mention is made of comorbidities prevalent in both groups, (hypertension, diabetes, etc.) very little reference is made to other conditions that are perhaps greater offending factors.

  • Living in crowded geographical settings with reduced green space,
  • unaffordable housing,
  • houses, apartments and basements with low square-footage and high numbers of occupants,
  • air pollution,
  • limited access to affordable healthy food options,
  • lack of medical provisions through a system that barters health, not as a human right but as a commodity.

These are serious factors that are leaving us victimized by and unprotected from the virus. Added to that, information about the virus seems to change weekly. The virus is novel in its manifestation. As Dr Tricia Penniecook reminded us during the C.A.R.E Connection Series, there is a lot about how this virus behaves that scientists are still finding out; our best bet is to maintain protective measures.

To the previous factors, let’s add the fact that women are in large numbers on the front line of this pandemic.We are the care givers and essential workers at home and in society. Statistics reveal that 80% of health care workers in the US are women. For women the pandemic hits even harder.  While we are caring and working, we are also grieving the loss of our fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, cousins and husbands. And, for women of color and immigrants, we are also sheltering in communities that are deeply impacted by COVID-19.  For women, this pandemic is all encompassing, it touches almost every aspect of our lives.

In the midst of this daunting panorama, like me, you have seen the mindless behavior of friends who throw social distancing to the wind and insist on sharing unmasked pics and selfies in close proximity. You’ve also seen the lines of women waiting to get their nails done, or large numbers of people at the beach, parks or on the streets, after their state leadership prematurely lifted social distancing guidelines. You’ve also seen the crowds, of mostly men, waiting to buy the new Air Jordans. And, like me you have perhaps wondered what would possess them to behave this way? But, I am sure that you have also heard your Christian friends boast that either they have, or can, overcome COVID-19 because their belief in God has inoculated them from the Corona Virus. False equivalencies that have resulted in the death of many Christians, including ministers.

Your phone and social media feed are probably crammed with alarming videos shared and posted by well-meaning folk. With “experts” who assert that Gates, Fauci and Zuckerberg are out to get us. That this is population control at its best. That this is an attempt to inject us all with vaccines that will cripple us mentally. That COVID-19 was bio-engineered; intended as a weapon of war.

If being caught between these doom-like realities and conspiracy theories, were not cause for heightened anxiety, we can now add the relaxing of social distancing guidelines way before scientifically recommended. A relaxing of guidelines centered in the fear of a failing economy. The hard facts are that the unemployment numbers are staggering and money in the streets could probably give the economy a jolt of life. Some politicians, pundits and well-respected TV celebrities have even been bold enough to state that we should be willing to sacrifice the elderly and even our school-aged children to save the economy. Unfortunately, none of them stated that they were wiling to put their grandparents, parents or children on the line of sacrifice. For the truth is, that they are not the ones dying in larger numbers, it is us. It is our men, our women, our children, our parents, and our grandparents.

These really are life and death decisions. Your decisions matter because standing in a line for vanity sake, going to a crowded beach, or taking a selfie or pic to look cute with your friends, are not innocuous actions. In fact, they are self-centered. At the same time using religion to undercut common sense and pitting science against the Bible is highly presumptuous. Because yes, it is your right to choose to get infected, but you could potentially also infect someone I care for. And, yes, I get it; we are all suffering from Quarantine Fatigue. This is a lot, but not enough to sacrifice your life. One day it will end; right now we are in survival mode. Survival, by whatever means necessary. Prioritize your survival and that of your family. Your survival means my survival.

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