Editor’s Note: The spelling of a name has been corrected.
In a 2015 issue of Ebony magazine, Kendrick Lamar recalled his childhood while answering the question, “Who are you most comfortable talking to?”
His answer highlighted an evident but often suppressed problem within the black community—hypermasculinity. Somewhere in his reply, he said: “With all the good things my father has taught me, this is one of the things he taught me that he shouldn’t have: that I can’t really confide to him in an [emotional] way…”
In a collaborative effort, this university’s NAACP chapter and Black Male Initiative sought to shed light on this issue, as well as offer a safe space to exchange ideas with their second general body meeting of the year, “MAN UP! A Discussion on Black Masculinity.” The event was held Sept. 20 in the multipurpose room of the Nyumburu Cultural Center.
The event opened with a trailer for The Mask You Live In, a documentary capturing the pressures boys and men feel to be masculine and the effects of those pressures.
Immediately after, attendees participated in a poll, in which 22 out of 25 participants said they believe hypermasculinity is a problem within the black community.
But what is hypermasculinity? The Collins English Dictionary defines it as conduct “characterized by an exaggeration of traditionally masculine traits or behavior.”
One of these characteristics is the societal expectation stating men should not show emotion, especially sadness or defeat.
“Aggression is the only way men are allowed to show emotion,” said Gabriella Davis, a senior individual studies major.
Aggression was a recurring theme of the discourse, specifically aggression toward women. This concept was thoroughly dissected after questioning whether or not it is okay for a man to physically hit a woman.
Most said no. However, a handful of participants believed it depended on the situation. Those that said no attributed the typical size difference between women and men, as well as the man’s need to keep his composure.
“Hitting people shouldn’t be a gender thing, it should be a humanism thing,” Jela Shiver, a sophomore government and politics and economics double major, said.
Hypermasculinity in black society was discussed in three key areas of culture: music, sports and fashion.
In recent years, much of hip-hop music has been a well-documented culprit of hypermasculinity, with certain artists encouraging violence, drugs, sexual relations with multiple women and the flaunting of money. However, attendees acknowledged hypocrisy when they admitted to having songs like these on their playlists.
Sophomore letters and sciences major Amani Walker, who is also the chief of media relations for the NAACP, said the lyrics never had much of an effect on him as a child, to the point of emulation.
In his experience, he said music videos have a bigger impact because the viewer is able to connect the dots. In today’s hip-hop industry, he said the visuals are more important than ever as more rappers are moving away from emphasizing lyrics.
In recent pictures of male fashion trends, men including Young Thug, Kid Cudi, Zac Efron, Jaden Smith and Will Smith were wearing women’s garments such as skirts, dresses and crop tops. Overall, the fashions were embraced as attendees thought they emphasized confidence.
“I’m in the postmodern camp in thinking that gender identities are pretty stupid,” Shiver said. “There’s a duality. Everything that’s not masculine isn’t feminine, and everything that’s not feminine isn’t masculine.”
However, some thought Jaden Smith and Young Thug, in particular, dress in women’s clothing simply to garner attention, to which junior government and politics major Nicholas Agyevi Armah asked: “Are they trying to be out there for attention, or are they doing it to defy stereotypes of masculinity?”
Featured Photo Credit: Featured photo courtesy of Amani Walker at the University of Maryland’s chapter of NAACP.
Ayana Archie is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.