My song is a sacred scream

“…we have been socialized to be the keepers of grave and serious secrets—especially those that could reveal the everyday strategies of male domination, how male power is enacted and maintained in our private lives.” ~bell hooks, The Will To Change

My song is a sacred scream

Learned from listening

To my friends on our street—

“No, No, No”

The tip-tap of slamming doors.

First a mother’s, then a sister’s plea

Then a brother’s rising silence.

Their dad stood at the end of the driveway smoking a cigar;

Mother, sister, and brother were inside, the lights on.

 

I brushed my teeth to the rhythm of the cries and slaps that reached

Me through the open bathroom window.

The furies inside my hand brushed up and down. My gums bled.

I couldn’t stop the bleeding. I turned off the light.

 

In bed, I heard Papa and my mom waltz down the hallway

His buckle scraped her ear and his battered knuckle held her wrist;

—Her countenance could not unfrown itself—I didn’t need to see

What I knew. He seemed happy, and the last few nights weren’t too bad.

The whimpers and sighs subsided in time for my waltz to begin:

 

Papa’s heavy stomps from down the hallway rattled my baseball trophies.

His ring clinked against the metal doorknob. I covered my head. Stomp stomp, stop.

I smelled the wine on his breath, felt the slap on the side of my head, heard the ringing,

Pled “No No No,” and listened to the silence echo in my room.

The day was over when Papa left my room for his, and began to snore.

My swelling and sobs passed, and left in their place—tomorrow.

Men Who Show Love and Affection Will Save The World

In a study of 2,934 fathers, 52% of the fathers said “showing love and affection to their children” is the “most important” responsibility of a father (Kalil, 2003). That means 48% of the fathers do not think it’s important to show love and affection to their children! If almost half of fathers do not think showing love towards kids is important, then how will their children learn to maintain a healthy relationship?

Fatherhood.gov is a national initiative to “encourage and strengthen fathers and families.” The tv ad campaign promoting the initiative features WWE Superstar Roman Reign and his daughter. You may have seen it: A female postal carrier stops and voyeurs through a house window at a hulky tattooed father singing “I’m a Little Tea Pot” with his daughter. The ad encourages fathers to take time to be a dad today, but fails by not emphasizing basic ways a father can use that time to show love and affection.

There is a negative connotation associated with men who say “I love you” and show affection. The most affection the daughter experiences in the fatherhood.gov tv ad is eye contact. For too many women and children, they “…learn to settle for whatever positive attention men are able to give. They learn to overvalue it. They learn to pretend that it is love” (The Will To Change). Men must learn and practice ways to express love and affection. They must learn to lead by example and with integrity.

We cannot love what we fear and that is why so many religious traditions teach us there is no fear in love (The Will To Change). We’ve heard that love is patient, kind, rejoices with the truth; does not envy, boast, delight in evil, dishonor others, keep records of wrongs; is not proud, self-seeking, easy to anger; always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. It’s critical all fathers practice these basic acts of love, not just 52% of them.

As bell hooks emphasizes in The Will To Change: “…life has shown me that any time a single male dares to transgress patriarchal boundaries in order to love, the lives of women, men, and children are fundamentally changed for the better” (Will To Change). Saying I Love You, giving a hug, and being kind to your family and friends are simple yet important acts that we know will save the world.

The Will To Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love

“…we have been socialized to be the keepers of grave and serious secrets—especially those that could reveal the everyday strategies of male domination, how male power is enacted and maintained in our private lives.” ~bell hooks, The Will To Change

I was the target of male rage throughout my childhood. To soothe my physical and mental pains, I sought the peace and support of the women in my life. They hugged instead of hit; smiled instead of sneered; joked instead of jested. Life was calm around them, not callous. But by 12 I began to look like a man and the women stopped hugging, smiling, and joking with me. I was left to discover how to love on my own.

But how was I to learn about nurturing relationships with love when I rarely experienced or witnessed acts of love by the men in my life? When I was nine, my dad said I was too old to sit on his lap; at ten he stopped kissing me before going to bed; at eleven he stopped hitting me as punishment; and at twelve, we got in an argument and he challenged me to a fight. Over those years I learned how to hide emotions, withhold my affection, and intimidate with dominance. My father and I have shared moments of love and joy. But the memories of his rage and oppression are overshadowing. Men “…cannot change if there are no blueprints for change. Men cannot love if they are not taught the art of loving” (Will to Change).

There are many honorable men who are loving and kind. However, a loving and kind man may still choose dominance over love: “Many of these men were radical thinkers who participated in movements for social justice speaking out on behalf of the workers, the poor, speaking out on behalf of racial justice. However, when it came to the issue of gender they were as sexist as their conservative cohorts” (Will to Change). I’ve struggled with unlearning what patriarchal culture taught me. My willingness to change motivates me to relearn how to love others and myself.

When I was young the abuse and bullying confused me. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing and how to make it stop. I often wondered why people who said they were my family and friends hurt me. Was I unlovable? The people I wanted to talk to about my pain became the same people who hurt me. Over time I learned to hide my emotions from myself and others. The result of boys not experiencing or feeling love leads to the sad truth that “Boys are not seen as lovable in patriarchal culture” (Will to Change). Perhaps a reason why men struggle with saying “I love you” and sharing affection with their sons, brothers, nephews, fathers, and friends.

It’s easier for a man to act violent towards others who he doesn’t love. As a boy, I saw men yell at their wives, slap their children across the face, and withhold affection to gain emotional control. What I didn’t see were men who treated their wives as equals, were affectionate with their families, and nurtured lasting relationships. The Will To Change encourages men to nurture relationships with love and to “…let go the will to dominate…and be willing to change.”