A Woke in Progress

“Josué grew up in Oaxaca and East Los Angeles and is currently a senior at Dartmouth College, majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Latin American, Latinx, and Caribbean Studies and Womyn’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. He is passionate about deconstructing toxic masculinity through revolutionary love and fighting for transformative justice for all marginalized people.”

Say What?

We live in a society that privileges the voices, bodies, and humanity of cisgender men over womyn, a reality that is perpetually reinforced by violent patriarchal structures. Behind the inaccessible academic jargon of exclusive institutions, those words translate to one thing: sexism is real. While that may seem like a fact of life, sexism goes beyond catcalling or man-made glass ceilings. For cis men, sexism is ingrained in our behavior, our politics, our socialization, and manifests itself in every facet of our lives as toxic masculinity.

But let me be real for a moment. The truth is I had never heard the words “toxic masculinity” before I got to college, let alone realizing that I needed to be actively working to deconstruct it.

I would’ve probably raised an eyebrow and proceed to back away slowly if you spoke the words, “white supremacist heteropatriarchy” a few years ago. Not because I hadn’t experienced the violence of those terms, but because I never had access to the language and resources to understand how I was oppressing (read: hurting) others and how I was being oppressed at the same time. While that may speak to the fact that our language needs to be more accessible, it does show how little I understood the importance of dismantling the patriarchy.

Ironically, I found that womyn of color, those that already face the brunt of patriarchal violence, invested a lot of emotional labor into helping men and men of color (including myself) achieve a level of “wokeness.” Not surprisingly, every movement for liberation has been built on the backs of womyn of color, especially black womyn, while denying them the credit (and humanity) they’ve fought for.

I write to all self-identified cis men: we need to dismantle the patriarchal systems that womyn of color already combat on a daily basis. In time, I hope that this column can serve as an intersectional guide to deconstructing toxic masculinity. By no means do I have all the answers. I’ve come a long way and yet still have a long way to go, but I write to you so that we can collectively deconstruct our toxic masculinities and the fucked up systems that only serve to hurt us and everyone around us. We must change the violent paradigm of patriarchy and wake up.

So fellow cis men, you asked for a “cis male” perspective. Well, now you have one. Welcome to my column.

By Josué David Ruiz

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