The idea that a man’s role is to be the breadwinner and come home to be taken care of and assisted at the drop of a pin by his female counterpart, whether it be his mother, grandmother, sister, or partner, runs deep in many communities, but often seen at too extreme and toxic levels in Latinx homes. Men are expected to uphold the notion that they are dominant, masculine, and overpowering, meanwhile, womxn are taught how to cook, clean, provide, and be submissive to all males in their life. These expectations are nearly impossible to uphold, especially for Millennials and Gen Z, because of the great social strides that have allowed for more open and honest conversations about the meaning of masculinity, feminism, mental health, and overall equality of all genders.
Still, conversations involving these ideas are often met with backlash from elders in the community, but more often than not, womxn and members of the LGBTQ+ community struggle the most. For womxn, being assertive in their beliefs and unapologetically using their voices is immediately marked as disrespectful and ungrateful. Womxn are redirected to ‘act like a lady’ and reminded that ‘calladita te ves mas bonita’ you look prettier when silent. For those in the LGBTQ+ community, any expression of their non-cisgender and heteronormative self is seen as a ‘phase’ and ‘not normal.’ Anything traits that do not fit into the mold previous generations have sculpted is completely disregarded but finding ways to have these conversations, no matter how open or closed-minded your family members are, can strengthen relationships and create an environment that fosters and accepts changes in opinions.
Now you may be wondering, “how am I supposed to bring up a conversation about toxic masculinity to my family members?” Here are some tips I have found useful that can be applied whether you are talking about feminism, sexuality, and everything in between.
- STAY ON TOPIC: It is important to make sure you are assertive and firm, especially if your family members are slightly more close-minded. Being assertive and firm, especially if you are passionate enough, can lead to you going on a long monologue rant about the topic and lose sight of the main point you wanted to make. If you start on why the roles of womxn in a Latinx household are toxic but end up on the top ten reasons why you love U.S representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, they are more than likely leaving the conversation more confused than before. This can also make it easier for your family to begin to ignore or delegitimize what you’re saying. Your family will try to get you onto a different idea to distract from their discomfort. Making sure you have a clear message before going into the discussion will force you to be more thorough and force them to confront the issue, despite discomfort.
- CONSTANT EXPOSURE: More often than not, our family members are uncomfortable with different topics simply because they are ignorant of what it means and how these beliefs are expressed. Having a family night where you watch movies, TV shows, documentaries, music videos, or listen to poetry that expresses the topics can go a long way. You can only explain the importance of healthy gender expression in so many ways before feeling like giving up, but there is always a new Bad Bunny post to be used as an example. Pop culture will become a great way to find examples even if the person in the example is not Latinx.
- SPEAK THEIR LANGUAGE: At the surface level, this can be interpreted as having the discussions on their native language and this is very true and will create more clarity and transparency, but this is not what I mean. Similarly to using pop culture as an example, use their actions and words as examples. Bring up the time you were forced to clean and do laundry while your brother played video games all day. Showing them how they contribute to furthering outdated ideals forces them to question their actions and reevaluate their roots. Full disclosure, they may take this as a sign of disrespect to be conscious of your tone and word choice.
- NEVER GIVE UP: No matter how annoying you think you are being or how many times you are told to just move on and talk about something else, you cannot stop being an advocate for yourself and those around you. The issues being discussed can also be affecting other family members or can affect any future additions to the family. Keeping up the fight for greater equality will have a lasting domino effect for generations to come and may even trigger your family members to spread what you have taught them to their friends and peers.
Ultimately, breaking down and changing someone’s belief system is difficult and can feel daunting at times, but there are always things you can do to make it just that much easier.