Does the Ideal Fraternity Man Exist?

So what have I been doing for the last week or so? Well, Remember when I wrote about how boys need to treat women better? Well, the first line of that that was…”I decided today that I need to do a workshop”. Consider it done. This past weekend, me and a colleague did a workshop on masculinity, but we geared it toward Fraternity men of Color.

It was for a program called Values Academy that is an all day program at Syracuse University that has several leadership workshops for Fraternity and Sororities of Color. My workshop was called “Are You a real Fraternity Man?” Together, @panthbro and I, put out some surveys in which we asked male and female students about their perceptions of Fraternity Men of color. Needless to say it was a very interesting workshop with data that you can feel.

It is no secret that less and less men of color (with the exception of Asians) are getting into college. The dropout rate of men who do enter college is increasing as well. So roughly about 20% of males of color who graduate High School enter college. Out of those who make it, roughly 25% of those men join fraternal organization (at least that is the rough number at Syracuse University). This makes these boys feel as if they are elite or cream of the crop. I would consider them leaders and so would the national organizations of NPHC, NAPA, and NALFO. 
So with “great power come great responsibility?” Well, not according to data we collected. The perception of Fraternity men are not that great. Many people feel that these men would rather “pad their numbers”(in terms of women) than performing the community service that their National organizations preach so much about. While we asked men and women, both greek and non greek alike, it was the women who had such deep feelings about men.
There is this perception that the letters shouldn’t define these boys, that these men should define the letters. This was a big thing for the women on this campus. Which leads me to my ultimate point of being a man. When I started this campaign on showing boys what being a man is about, I asked @pathbro to help me define what this is in terms of selling this to Fraternities. 

We both work many NPHC and NALFO events and we have seen how these boys can act. While I know that rudeness and womanizing isn’t indicative of all males, one has to understand that perception is reality. Dr Walter M. Kimbrough, who was also at Values Academy, made a presentation touching upon the points about they types of messages that Fraternities and Sororities give. He wrote the book, Black Greek 101. Read it. He challenges the notions and rituals of what it is considered to be a Black Geek.

So the question is, while people have no problems defining what an Ideal Fraternity man is, does he exist? Students listed things like humble, selfless, and a leader. Is that reality? Well, according to one of the workshop I attended, 15% of any chapter are the doers. So, many chapters within SU are very small, 4-5 members on average. That easily reduces the amount real fraternity men to 1 (maybe) per chapter. That leaves the rest to party and other social activities.

In the end. We came up with a list of guidelines to help boys be better men. I wish there were more males in the room to witness the workshop. Luckily, I was able to record it. 

Maybe it is just me, but aren’t gay jokes wrong?

Maybe it is just me, but when did it become ok to make jokes about homosexuals? I mean really? Really? Do I really have to go there and tell you that is not cool to do this? My people of color have yet to grasp the gravity of the situation. Is it that people like Tracy Morgan are really surprised that no one laughs at their gay bashing jokes? Perhaps I do not understand what the appeal is.

Maybe there is a feeling that the sanctity of masculinity is under attack. After all, most of us are brought up to believe that the color pink is strictly a feminine color. We are brought up to think that playing with dolls is not a good thing for little boys. We are taught that we need to be a real man, but can anyone really give a solid definition for what a real man is? Consider that many Black and Latinos are raised in single-family homes where the mother is the soul provider. Does mom provide that definition of what being a man is? Or does the absent father who is either in jail or god knows where else provide that example?

I just find it interesting that so many people are really worried about what goes on in the bedroom of other people. It is very disconcerting however, that there is a rise in bullying of homosexuals in schools. We all should know that kids are not born with hatred in their heart; it is something that is passed down and learned. It was not too long ago that Blacks and Latinos were singled out in schools as an object to be ridiculed because of what they looked like. So, does it become ok to now be the ones to pass along hate to a group of people who happen to identify as homosexual? What about the kids who we think that are gay but really aren’t? Maybe there is a rule similar to the one-drop rule where if you seem gay then you must be gay.

Which brings me to my next point, who defines what gay is? Is there a general book that people look up where something is gay because it is proclaimed so? I think there is an insecurity in the collective subconscious of the male psyche. I would argue that the most insecure men are the most homophobic. What is the insecurity for? Are they afraid that they may like the touch of another man and thus the natural reaction to fear is to destroy that which makes them afraid? That explanation makes sense to me. Much like the slave master mentality of being afraid of the Negros because of the size of their…masculinity.

I am completely comfortable in my skin. I know what I am. I can wear bright colors as you see in my profile picture. You will not hear me say that I love purple and finish it with “no homo.” Masculinity is not about sexual preference; it is about a man standing up for what he believes. It is about knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the balls to stand up to your peers. I had a friend tell me that he felt one of my shirts was gay. My response is that if you can define gay…then you must be gay.

It bothers me to see people make fun of Chris Bosh for crying after the Miami Heat lost in the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks. I mean really? How many athletes have we seen weep on the grandest of stage win or lose? Have we forgotten about Adam Morrison crying in 2006 when Gonzaga lost in the NCAA tournament? He was a complete mess and I sincerely do not remember anyone saying that he was homosexual. The “manliest” of men have all cried during times of heartbreak, but you know what? We are taught that emotional release such as crying is not good. Little boys should not cry because it does not look right, so we have to “man up”.

Let me just say that I have been known to cry. I have been angry enough, I have been frustrated enough, and I have been sad enough to do that. The best way to describe all of this is that an emotional release is very liberating. Dropping those walls of being “a real man” lead me to be a “better man” by understanding my pain and accepting my faults. Most men cannot fathom this or comprehend what it means to be in touch with emotions until it is too late, such as a death of a loved one. We are taught to hold in that emotion and release it with violence if necessary.

For those keeping score, gender (much like race), is a social construct. We only act on what we perceive to be right or wrong based on society’s ideals. Or perhaps we look at it as a faith based belief that homosexuality is wrong. If you think that is the case, then let me remind you who wrote the bible: Man. I just think people stopped thinking critically about themselves and their place in the world and started thinking about what society wants. It seems like gay bashing has become the popular thing in this decade in particular…but maybe it is just me.

20 Questions for Men who are not like Me.

A few things that I don’t do often that I am doing now. The first is I do not write blogs this early. Secondly, I tend to not write about being a man…which I guess I could try. Never thought about it. Thirdly, I try not to imitate another blogger. Although, flattery is indeed the biggest form of imitation…or was it the other way around. (see why I don’t blog in the morning).

Anyway, a friend of mine past along this blog to me this morning called 20 Questions for Women who aren’t us. So I decided that I might just give this a try and just throw out 20 questions for men who are not me.

1. Do you really think your dick is that big?

2. Is it that hard to iron your clothes in the morning? Better yet, just do a once over.

3. Do you realize a baseball cap does not go with everything you wear? I am sure when the designers of the new Yankee hats, that pop up every minute, did not have a suit and tie in mind when they put that hat together.

4. Must you tell me how many women you been with? I really do not care to know and please hold the details.

5. Are you in that much of a rush that when exit the bathroom without washing your hands? At least run water on them!

6. Why do you think you look cool with your pants hanging down past your ass? It really is stupid.

7. Do you really feel the need to look Gangsta on Facebook? I really wonder if real gangstas even have time for Facebook.

8. I understand that you are bigger than me, but why are trying to pull my arm off when you shake my hand? I have class ring on, so you do leave the SU crest on my middle finger, here let me show you…thanks.

9. I know we are in a locker room, but seriously, do you really see the need to have this conversation when your nuts are out? Get dressed.

10. Just so we are clear, why would you hit a woman? I mean, clearly your ex-girl texted you and you got caught out there. But did you really have to do all that?

11. Dude, do you really think I want here about how you shave every every hair on your body?

12. When are you going to realize that you do not wear white socks with a suit? That is just as bad as wearing the baseball cap.

13. Did you really just ask me why we do not celebrate White Heritage Month?

14. How can you be 40 years old and still listen to Jay Z?

15. Do you really think you are all that? Seriously, the world does not revolve around you.

16. So, because you have an SUV, does it mean that you have to ride my ass in a 20 mile zone? Then you get mad when you pass me as if the School we just passed isn’t open…asshole.

17. You do realize the stripper you just tipped doesn’t really like you?

18. Is the weed that good that you need to smoke it everyday?

19. Mailman, is it that hard to close the mailbox when it is raining? Then you wonder why people sick their dogs on you when the see the soggy mail you left…jerk.

20. You do know Stars Wars is not real right? Sure I love it too, but you do see me dressing up as a storm trooper on days that are not Halloween.

Real Men?

This past week we have been witness to many things. Superstar Chris Brown beats his girlfriend and All Star Alex Rodriguez admits to taking steroids. Both events have caused serious discussions in certain circles and blogs about the severity of both events. It just makes me think about how we view the role of masculinity in society.

Lets view both acts as what they are, Chris Brown, for whatever reason wanted to asserted his male dominance or a female and A-Rod wanted to assert his dominance over the baseball diamond. Does that make them real men? Does a real man feel that he has to dominate another individual, or sport, or industry?

Men seem to measure how much of a man they are by the size of their penises. I want to state that obvious fact because I know when growing up I would always hear jokes about how big some one’s dick was. I would always ask myself if that was really necessary? The fact is that many males equate how manly they are by the number of women they can sleep with. While that may be fine to them, these may end up being the same men that women end up avoiding in clubs because he is too old to be there. The male ego is a very fragile one and once it is broken it is hard to repair. Those who have issues with self esteem or confidence have a hard time dealing with those issues.

In college, I would here about who real men were. Apparently these are guys that step and stroll and are a part of a Fraternity. They would be able to tell you who was a real man and who wasn’t. While I understood exactly what they meant by the sacrifices they made to become the men representing those organizations, I was sure if that was something that I wanted to aspire to. So again, I am left think what is a real man?

Lets start with best man that we know today: President Barack Obama. No one will question his masculinity. How is he a real man? He is a leader with vision that provides us hope. He is good husband with 2 beautiful daughters. An educated man that can take you out at a debate or break you down with a crossover. Clearly that is not a hard one to follow, but many men cannot compare.

So I will go with something simpler. A single father who raises his only son. Works tirelessly at his job to make sure that he can afford college for his son. He makes mistakes along the way because he doesn’t want raise his son in the same way his father raised him, with violence. His son graduates and the next chapter in his life is spent dealing with cancer that he contracted from working late hours in manholes that contained asbestos. I would say that my father is a real man.

A real man to me is a man that can lead the way when times are difficult. A real man is man that will not let an obstacle get in his way of achieve a goal. A real man makes mistakes and is ready to pay for them when the time comes. A real man also acknowledges these mistakes and learns from them while being able to cope with it. A real man does not need to assert his control on other people because he is confident in himself. A real man knows the difference between gentle and firm.

Once you recognize those traits. You will know who the real men in your life are. They are not perfect in any way, but they will always leave an good impression on you.