Speaking Out, and Asking Men to Listen 

It has been an important contradiction1 for me to grasp that to be successful, women and men need to work together to end sexism and male domination. Both women’s and men’s lives will improve enormously as sexism and male domination are ended. We are partners in this liberation effort.

I am sensitive to where a man can and cannot see his sexism. And I notice where he can hear a woman as she talks about her experiences of sexism and where he cannot. I tend to back off on2 fighting for my liberation when I sense disinterest or resistance on the part of a male family member, friend, or co-worker. I do so to “keep the peace” and to avoid messy battles I probably won’t win.

During the workshop I worked on where I don’t speak out against sexism or talk openly about my experiences of sexism and male domination. I have old feelings of humiliation, especially from when I was a Latina Catholic girl, that seem unbearable to go back to and clean up. But making the effort to talk, and to ask a man to listen and try to understand, is the way out.

I came home from the workshop wanting to put into practice the idea that women and men are partners in this liberation effort, that both of our futures will necessarily improve as we figure out how to work on this together.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve asked two male friends and two male co-workers if they wanted to listen to my perspectives and experiences, when an issue has come up that would be good for me to talk about. Inviting them to listen and asking if they want to hear has allowed them to decide if they want to be partners in this liberation effort.

The men each said yes, and I could see their minds become more engaged as they made an active choice to listen. That is a contradiction for me, and will allow me to take a bigger risk in talking and showing myself. Three of the men made a big effort to listen, and I made a big effort to be vulnerable and talk. I felt closer to them afterward and more hopeful. One of the men disagreed with my perspective, which left me “wanting” to feel discouraged. But I realized that that was restimulation and that I could choose to notice our solid, long-term friendship and that both of us were commited to live our lives pointed toward healing and liberation. I realized that his disagreement was mostly due to his needing to discharge discouragement about his relationships with women.

As I continue to work through my own discouragement and early defeats and claim my voice as a Latina Catholic woman, I suspect that the future will become even more interesting and full of new possibilities. I’m so happy to be doing this work together with all of you.

"Maria Puentes"

1 Contradiction to distress
2 “Back off on” means retreat from.

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00