Dashiki Dialogues: The subtle prejudice of modern manliness

2013-09-10 10:00

I don’t know what’s worse – to have a guy ask if you’re gay or to wake up and discover you play for the other team.

In some circumstances, it can even be a matter of life and death. The brutality of corrective rape against homosexuals is all too real.

We need to move past that. But that is easier said than done when our president says that in his youth he would knock out any gay person who stood in front of him.

That said, the issue I want to talk about here is the more subtle instances of homophobia that affect the ways masculinity is seen as it struggles to redefine itself in a changing world.

You see, I recently had to confront my own latent homophobia. Acceptance is the first step towards healing. I’m working on this.

I was travelling with a group of colleagues. The group consisted of eight women and four men. I later discovered that all my male counterparts were gay.

It turned into a lonely affair for me, the only straight male in the travelling tribe. For starters, I wasn’t sure I could count on these guys as wing men, if you catch my drift. Hunting is a team sport, you know, and cats don’t hunt each other. At least that was my assumption.

You see, I found myself thinking twice about every assumption I ordinarily take for granted. I’ve come to understand that part of the stigma affects the way in which we project ourselves socially as men.

As straight men, we experience a need to accentuate our masculinity when we sense we might be in the company of a member of the other team.

In fact, I know a guy who says he tries to avoid any conversation about sex when he finds himself around gay men. One of my colleagues tells me he feels a need to make it subtly clear he is heterosexual when in such company.

Consider too Aziz Ansari, the American comedian on the recent Comedy Central Roast of James Franco. Ansari took shots at Sarah Silverman, Jeff Ross and others who made racist and homophobic jokes to roast Franco.

Ansari points out that these days, it seems, if you are clean, well-dressed and mildly cultured, you are supergay. So a guy must be fat, dirty and aggressive to prove he is straight.

Surely this is a sign that masculinity is in crisis. It seems modern manhood often defines itself against other things, not of its own accord.

Our dialogues really shouldn’t be driven by the fear of our dashikis turning pink.

» Follow me on Twitter @Percy_Mabandu

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