Carlos Andrés Gómez performed on campus on Tuesday, presenting his thoughts on identity, redefining masculinity, and the culture of sexual violence.
Gómez is an acclaimed poet, actor and writer who is a two-time National Slam Poetry finalist. He recently wrote a book entitled “Man Up: Reimagining Modern Manhood.” The structure of Gómez’s lecture, which was held in the Hill Ballroom of Kagin Commons, was largely based around anecdotes that displayed the pressures and challenges of growing up with such strict interpretations of masculinity.
“I really liked his narrative poetry because I felt like his stories were so relatable to many things that I’ve gone through,” Zeke Vainer ’17, the co-chair of Mac Reimagines Masculinity (Mr. M), said. “It was refreshing to see someone who was able to be really brave in spite of other people’s ignorance.”
Early on, Gómez discussed an early experience playing soccer, when he tripped and began crying – a direct deviation from the social construction of masculinity. He recounted the moment of being berated by his coach and noted that while he was young, all of the men he admired were emotionally stoic.
“I thought there were two boxes I had access to: dainty women with no agency and hyper machismo men,” Gómez said, explaining that he forced himself to fall in line with society’s own definition of masculinity while rejecting his own, causing him deep regret in the future.
Gómez maintained his false persona until age 17, when he attended a high school poetry performance. After hearing the poet perform, Gómez – then the captain of the basketball team “with a six pack” – stunned his circle of friends with his reaction.
“I start feeling this weird little pinch behind my eyes,” Gómez said. “And then I had this allergic reaction to the poetry where water starts to come down my face.”
Following this experience and after getting deeply involved with the poetry community, Gómez began to accept and celebrate that there is no single definition of masculinity and that all masculine-identified people should be in touch with their emotions.
“I want to encourage and nurture that there is a fluid, infinite spectrum of masculinities,” Gómez said, further noting that “we [all] have to be aware, and okay with, and in touch with what’s happening inside.”
The talk was part of the SPEAK! Series coordinated by Mr. M, Adelante!, the Department of Multicultural Life, Campus Life, Sexual Violence Prevention and MacSlams. Earlier in the day, Gómez attended a MacSlams workshop where he spoke about storytelling techniques.
Mr. M., the lead sponsor, viewed the lecture as a learning opportunity for students, many of whom had not previously been exposed to the idea that there are differing shades of masculinity. Vainer urged anyone who was receptive to Gómez’s lecture to join. The group meets on Mondays at 8 p.m. in the Campus Center, Room 215.
“There is still gender inequality that exists and a sense of date rape culture that is prevalent on campus,” Vainer said. “I hope the lecture will get more people involved in Mr. M.”
Gómez received a standing ovation at the end of his lecture.
“I was profoundly moved by how several of his poems included an easy villain who he was eventually able to connect with [to] help the audience see themselves in,” Director of Campus Life Keith Edwards said. “That level of compassion for those who hurt us is difficult, remarkable and transformational.”
This was a common theme during the lecture: rather than blaming masculine-identified people for buying into machismo culture, Gómez placed blame on society and asked the audience to challenge their personal misconceptions of masculinity first.
“If [the lecture] helped one more person feel connected and seen, the visit was worth it,” Edwards said. “If he helps folks connect with themselves in a way that prevents one instance of bullying, sexual harassment or sexual assault, his visit was more than worth it.”