The other day, I was looking around on Facebook, and I saw a video about how to make a swan out of an apple. Angel, my husband, had just bought apples, and I thought I'd make one for him to surprise him. I thought it turned out well, and he liked it. I wanted to share that with my friends here on Facebook, and I did so. Over the course of no more than twelve hours, two people commented on that post and made a point to say it was very "gay".
Now, I know these people, and I know they probably thought nothing of it. It wasn't meant as an attack. However, what they unwittingly did was take something that I was proud of, something I felt good about, and shamed me for it. Because under the message of "What you did is gay" is another message: "A real man wouldn't do that."
What those comments are doing, whether the people making them know it or not, is enforcing a set of cultural norms about acceptable/unacceptable behavior for men. Apparently, taking time to make something for someone you love is unacceptable. The voices we hear from our culture tell us that men are insensitive, we don't do "sweet" things, we don't show emotion. And apparently we aren't supposed to make swans out of apples.
The problem is, however, that I am a man, and I can be sensitive and show emotion and do nice things for the person I love. But instead of people questioning the nature of our culture's views on manhood and masculinity, they instead emasculate those who don't fit into this cultural standard. And it's so engrained in them that they make the comments without thinking about it. They are privileged by fitting into the standards of the cultural system, and thus they are oblivious to how their words may affect those outside of the system.
I love my friends, the ones who made those comments included. But I think it's important that people be aware of these toxic cultural constructions, the shaming, and the system of oppression that they enforce with their unthinking words.
Zachary Scott Roe
BS, Middle Tennessee State University, Organizational Communication
Zachary has lived in many places, but his home is in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This is Zachary’s first year at Andover Newton, and he is working towards a Master of Divinity and ordination with the American Baptist Church. Currently a member of First Baptist Church in Newton, Zachary is active as a deacon, a bible study leader, a young adults leader and organizer, and in various other ministries of the church. He is recently married to Angel Marrero who is an ordination candidate with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
For the last four years, Zachary was living in Changhua and Jhunan, Taiwan, working as an English teacher. He also spent shorter periods doing the same in Manisa, Turkey and Guadalajara, Mexico.
While raised in a family of Old Regular Baptists and Southern Baptists, Zachary has had the opportunity to encounter and engage with many faith traditions through both personal friendships and interfaith work. While in Tennessee, Zachary was active with the Nashville branch of the National Conference for Community and Justice. For seven years, he worked as an advisor and panelist for their annual Camp Anytown, which was designed to work with high school youth in teaching them about tolerance and diversity issues regarding sexual orientation, gender, socio-economic status, race and ethnicity, and religion. He is looking forward to the new connections he will be making with the staff and students at Andover Newton and is excited to see his own faith and passions grow through his studies and interactions there.