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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

Gender and Masculinity

We first began with Jasmahny and Matt (a pair of instructors that live and work here in Bolivia with Dragons) by introducing our names, where our mothers were born, where their mothers were born and a sound that describes how you were feeling about the talk. After this unorthodox start we dissected the binaries that perpetrate our society: ´man, woman´; ´gay, straight´; ´black, white´; and many more. These binaries we learned our tools to separate and constrain people to a certain set of societal rules. These ´boxes´ which people are placed into, often at birth, give people little choice of how society seems them. No one gets to choose what colour their skin is or their gender. Jasmahny shared his perspective on this matter, when he goes to the US he is seen first and foremost as a Latino man, this however does not happen in his native Bolivia.

Next, we separated into three small groups. Each group was given a poster sized piece of paper and tasked with assigning characteristics and descriptors associated with masculinity and femininity, such as have been taught to us our whole lives. Each group had different takes on the same central idea, that men are associated with: bravery, strength and leadership (aka the knight); whereas women are associated with: delicacy, obedience and silence (aka the damsel). One by one, the groups gave their brief presentations on their thoughts. One group spoke about how even colors are gendered, and babies are sexualized with such comments as, ¨Wow, what a ladies man!¨ or, ¨You will not be able to keep the boys away!¨ After passionately discussing the different societal expectations, and our personal experiences with them, we moved outside for the accompanying activity. Jasmati, with our posters in hand designated a fig tree to be masculinity, while the side of the house represented femininity. He then gave us prompts, such as ¨emotional vs. non-emotional. Femininity became emotional while non-emotional was masculinity. We were told to place ourselves where we though we fit on this spectrum. Where we more emotional (feminine) or not (masculine)? Silently we shuffled to different spots lining up behind each other if we were in the same place. Then we each individually shared why we put ourselves where we did.
After this, we again moved inside to talk about Intersectionality. Intersectionality is defined as the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as ¨race, class and gender¨ as they apply to a given individual or group. Regarded as creating overlapping and independent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. We ended the talk with a brief summary of feminism and equal rights in Bolivia. The conflict within Bolivia’s laws was at once encouraging and frustrating. It has inspired us to investigate more deeply civil rights laws in Latin America and our own countries.