Blog 5: Masculinity

Masculinity is a word that many people struggle to define, or they think they know how to define it but only from their own view point and struggle to accept other definitions. The word in itself is a label and often through stereotypical viewpoints causes many emotional harm to many men and women who define this word in a different way. The stereotypical way to define masculinity is the image of a macho man, enjoys cars and dangerous sports, money, gorgeous women and dresses very “heterosexually.” This is a very inaccurate image. Bell Hooks, feminist and social activist, and Michael Kimmel, American Sociologist, talk about masculinity and the label and social constraints this word gives to many men as well as the patriarchy which subscribes to the stereotypical masculine point of view.

In Bell Hooks essay titled “Understanding the Patriarchy,” she talks about how the patriarchy is not only systematically damaging to women but also men, “Patriarchy demands that they [men] become and remain emotional cripples. Since it is a system that denies men full access to their freedom of will, it is difficult for any man of any class to rebel against the patriarchy, to be disloyal to the patriarchal parent, be that parent female or male.” In this passage Hooks explains that the patriarchy is damaging to men because it restricts their access to talk about their emotions and hard to want to fight against it, especially against parents that subscribe to patriarchal view points. In these cases men become emotionally detached and sometimes causes many problems in the future for their mental health. Hooks explains that to properly fight against the patriarchy and allow men to become “liberated” from this social system is to name the problem and acknowledge it to end it. This is easier said than done.

Furthermore, in Michael Kimmel’s text entitled “Masculinity as Homophobia,” he discusses how men are socialized to believe and act a certain way to avoid being labelled as “too feminine.” He writes, “The fear of being seen as sissy dominated the cultural definitions of manhood. It starts so early.” Here he is referring to when children, especially boys, make fun of other boys for doing things that are gender socialized as being too “girly” which continuously, throughout childhood, instills a need to be the stereotypical masculine figure. To add, Kimmel writes, “As young men, we are constantly riding those gender boundaries, checking the fences we have constructed on the perimeter, making sure that nothing even remotely feminine might show through.” Kimmel is explaining how many men feel trapped by the stereotypical view of masculinity and often feel powerless because deep down some of these men don’t want to subscribe to these confining societal ideologies. To act upon the gender struggle for men, Kimmel suggests that men do not participate in the actions of exclusion or escape that men have been doing for centuries and instead strive to stand up for equality and justice. Another way to interpret his solution is to get men to try and redefine masculinity to which it could help men feel “liberated” from how they are expected to behave in our society and act in a way that they feel reflects their person and not what society stereotypically reflects.

Moreover, Hooks and Kimmel’s essays at their core discuss men and the ways that society dictates and makes them behave, act and live. The word masculinity needs to be redefined so men can feel start behaving in a way that they feel is what is reflective of them. Men redefining what masculinity means to them could be beneficial to other social issues such as sexism, racism and homophobia because if every man felt secure with themselves with absence of gender struggle, there would be a lot more equality among the society as a whole. This equality and renown feeling of inclusion with absence of insecurities among men will allow all men to feel less angry against society and allow them to be more mindful of other sexual orientations, women’s rights and feelings towards the radicalization of other peoples.

Blog 4: Rafiki (Kenya, 2018)

During the International Women’s Week, on March 5th, I attended the screening of the film titled “Rafiki” in the auditorium. The key message I got from this movie is that homosexuality is still not accepted in many countries, such as Kenya. Indeed, in this movie, Kena and Ziki fall in love both being young women having parents that are rivals in the upcoming elections. Despite how they feel about each other, homosexuality is frowned upon by the conservative community that they live in. Kena and Ziki were aware of these realities and had to hide their love in the public. However, they are beaten up by the community when they are exposed as being homosexuals, which shows the cruelty as well as the closed-mindedness of the community. This film shows that the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is not over and that everybody has to continue to fight for equal rights between people of all sexualities. 

Some students reacted very emotionally even shedding tears while watching this movie as the two women who loved each other in the film had to hide their emotions to not be frowned upon by their community and because these women were hurt physically because of their sexual orientation, which is definitely hard to watch. Others were shocked by the fact that this inequality still happens today. 

This screening made me think differently as I was unaware of the extent to which some people are treated solely because of their sexual orientation. This is very alarming as I believe that people should be treated equally no matter their sexual orientation. The community completely rejected Kena and Ziki and believed they were possessed by demons for being themselves. They were beaten up to the point that they were bleeding and even Kena’s own mother, as well as Ziki’s parents, rejected them. This made me think that we have to continue to fight for LBGTQ+ rights in order for people to be treated equally no matter their sexuality. 

Additional information that I can add to my review would be the fact that this film was nominated as the best foreign-language film at the Oscar Awards. However, it was later removed from its nomination as Kenya officials banned the film for promoting lesbianism. This information shows that still today some officials are homophobic and that people have to continue to fight for equality for people in the LBGTQ+ community. Even in big award shows, there is inequality based on one’s sexual orientation.

I would recommend this film to my friends as it is a beautiful film that shows the love between Kena and Ziki. This film shows the reality of a conservative country, such as Kenya. In addition, it is a movie from African cinema, This allows people to explore movies from a different region as many people, nowadays, only watch very popular movies from Hollywood. This movie opens the mind of its viewers making them think about the society we live in today. In my opinion, this is a must-watch movie for everybody.

Blog 4: International Women’s Week

During International Women’s Week, I attended the screening of Rafiki movie. This film is about two young women, Kena and Ziki, who identify as homosexuals, in Kenya. These two women have an intimate relationship together. Their fathers are political rivals which creates tension and pressure on the two women. They are both pressured by the homophobic views of their society, and to take their father’s political party. Throughout the movie, Kena and Ziki are victims of prejudice, and they are verbally and physically abused because of their sexual orientation. They are separated later in the movie. It is only after a few years that they reunite, and that they can finally be together.

I think that the main message of this film is that these young women show the importance of embracing one’s sexual orientation no matter the political rules, views, and pressure the families, friends and society might have. For example, they did not stop seeing each other after the numerous abuses, and problems they went through. Expect the time they were separated against their will that they were unable to fight for their love.

This film reminded me that we do not share the same freedom of expression compared to other countries. It pointed out and showed me how LBGTQ+ communities must hide, and how they get arrested for their sexual orientation in some countries. It demonstrates how in certain countries such as Canada and the United-States, we have the opportunity, most of the time, to be ourselves without experiencing discrimination, and frequent verbal and physical assaults. This film did not make me see these issues differently, however, it reminded me of the difficulties, and horrific acts people go through for the things we take for granted. This representation of a homosexual’s life in Kenya was very controversial for the Kenyan government because homosexuality is illegal in Kenya. Sadly, the movie was banned from the Kenya Film Classification Board. It also demonstrates the main message of the movie through discriminative acts that the film faced.

I would recommend this movie for its relatable message such as the topic of young love and how it shows that across the world we go through the same emotions, and relationships regardless of the gender of the love. I also love that people of color could express their own stories and experiences based on their one creative freedom and views. By interview some people at the screening, they shared to me these thoughts which I found very interesting and accurate.

Blog 4: International Women Week

Image result for rafiki movie

For Women International Week I went to see a movie called Rafiki. This movie talks about the life of two girls named Ziki and Kena who live in the country of Kenya. Both of their families are politicians and are fighting against each other. After meeting a couple of times, Ziki and Kena started loving each other despite their families being rivals. Kenya is a country that strictly prohibits homosexuality and now they both have to remain quiet about their feelings and make sure to not revealing to the public. In addition, it was nominated for the best foreign language film at 91st Academy Awards, however, it was later removed because the Kenyan authorities banned this film for promoting homosexuality, which is against the law.  Furthermore, the key message I got from this screening was that love does not depend on your gender. Love is non-binary which means that it is not restricted to femininity and masculinity. Moreover, the director and writer of Rafiki, Wanuri Kahiu is against any labels. In a Ted Talk, she said, “I am a filmmaker, not Black African filmmaker, I am only a filmmaker”. She is a feminist, so she wants equality between men and women and this film portrayed her views on what she believes is the right thing to do.

The screening of this movie did not make me think differently about LGBTQ+ rights. Before watching the film, I was already aware that we already need to have equal rights both politically and socially. However, when I watched the movie what made me think differently is that for some societies it is more difficult to have these rights be implemented. For instance, in the movie, there was a clear representation of the role of religion in Kenya. The church is important for the Kenyan population and the is the factor that prevents people to change their minds about the LGBTQ+ society. For western societies is difficult as well, but religious factors are no longer involved politically.

After watching the film, I interviewed some students about how they felt about the movie. All the students that I interviewed really liked the movie. They said that it had a great storyline and did not know that this film even existed and that they are more open to watching foreign movies. I asked the students “what do you think about the movie”? One student said that it really represented how the LGBTQ+ community feels in society.  She told me that at first, her parents were not supportive of her being lesbian and that she related to the character Ziki. The parents of the character were angry and disappointed at her when her relationship with Kena was revealed. They even slapped her in the face. In addition, another student said that we need to promote equal rights in other parts of the world and show them how it is beneficial for society. He told me that he does not know that Kenya was that strict on homosexuality.

In conclusion, I would recommend watching Rafiki to my friends. I feel that most people are used to watch commercial movies and do not give enough credit to international movies. This movie had a great love story and a message that could be applied to everyone around the world which will change the perspective of other individuals on the idea of the LGBTQ+ community. This screening enables people to have empathy for the characters. I could feel the emotions of Kena and Ziki even though I am not part of the LGBTQ+ community. Overall, this, in my opinion, this movie could have won the Acadamy Award for the Best Foreign Language Movie.