[A little about the “I’m a..” series: This series is about my naive and absurdist approach to identifiers in life – its all about reductio ad absurdum and breaking down the serious for a moment.]
So hi there,
I’m a… Feminist. Lets start somewhere and where I stand on this one is anyone’s choice. Feminism is about seeking equality between genders. Ok, so that is what I am told. But then I look at the statement and ask the redundant question, if it is for both, why are you naming it after one gender? So I got interested when I was a young boy and read into it. First thing, a definition. On feminism, my search noted that it was advocating and defending “equal political, economic, social rights and opportunities for women” (similar to wikipedia).. So why then am I being told it is about all genders?
I get responses stating that “Feminism has changed and grown beyond just advocating for women” – well why? The mission statement was pretty clear and there are still women identifying themselves as feminists. But there is already an advocacy group for this and it is called Egalitarianism. So if you are a feminist who claims equality for all, then maybe you really mean egalitarian. If so, why not simply use this term?
But feminism was supposedly much more than advocacy, because as I looked into it, there was an inlet of feminism claiming rights to something it was not about. The rights of women were advocated by the Women’s rights movement. Those were the activists and advocates who later became blanketed under the title of feminism. I thought it was pretty interesting. Then I heard that there was a Patriarchy that oppressed women and that meant that the women were being oppressed. “Oh fuck no!” I thought, whatever will they do. Then I thought. Wait, I’m male, does that mean I am a potential Patriarch? It sort of did. So with this big wolf looming it was my duty apparently to enable all women to their rightful place of equality. Apparently men gave no courtesy whatsoever to women and we were all scum. I didn’t agree with this when I was younger and thought, well thats not fair to have a load of people saying that anyone is not equal for what they were born as. Then I thought, wait, the patriarchy? That’s a large group isn’t it? How do they know what all men are like? How could they possibly know that?
Advocating Sugar and Spice
As a child on a playground I knew better than to think a girl and a boy were anatomically similar, but I also knew that the “sugar and spice versus puppy dogs tails and insects” contrast was idiotic. Apparently it seemed, people didn’t want to grow out of it. So when I grew up I saw it continue. Only now it seemed people wanted to get stats and science to back the problem up. So much so that when bad things happened it would seem like the slimy, gross and bad really ought to be the problem for men. Ironically, as I began to feed into this bullshit and thought the best way to be the “good guy” was to play the white knight. It appears though that women also liked the image that men were slugs and snails. Because quite frankly, that is what apparently made them different to boys.. Well not really. This is where things got a little weird. Boys began to be told that girls are allowed to be slugs and snails too. But boys are not sweet – ever! Girls are people damn it, so sayeth the feminist council. Aye, I couldn’t have disagreed – because I wasn’t allowed, shit.
But what about the slugs and snails movement?
Advocating Slugs and snails
Us boys had our clubs and sports and what not, but nonetheless, doing, thinking or acting in the sweet category was just not accepted. I thought, well that wasn’t the case. I had friends who although rough and tumble, we watched each other’s backs and really gave a damn about what happened to each other. Girls had this too. We were equal I foolishly assumed. Then as we grew older we were still the lads of fun, but we had to be slugs and snails. We kept the sugary, spicy stuff to ourselves or private. Then one day, the girls came by and said, hey I like you. So we all thought, I want some sweetness too. We went out of our way, even competed to get some time with girls and make an effort, we got girlfriends. And the girls would come play with us and we had female friends.
Us boys would mock the girls who mocked us, they got easily offended when we treated them as one of us. Some took it in their stride but normally you would have a girl throwing a fit if we didn’t take it easy on them. My friends and I were for none of that shit. You could eat it if you failed. To be honest, as the fat kid, I hit this wall myself and whined every now and again. However, I got up and kept going or I let it be and knew my limits. I thought of how when I am an adult, then these girls will be on board with keeping their ground and competing fairly or letting it go right. Apparently not. It became the same issue all over. Women were just being a grown version of what was there before. Not all of them, I still encountered the odd tomboyish girl and often I really fell for them. It seemed though that the times I was growing up in were the days of the girls’ rules. I later found out that men really did take it easy on girls and as the girls complained to parents as children, so did they to the government as adults. What was this? The Patriarchy was still the Parent? It didn’t actually have a gender? It wasn’t the daddy? I felt cheated.. So I thought can’t beat em? Join em.
“When in Rome…”
When the time came and I grew up, the big parent of government was everywhere. It was like with a child, that the sense of security was all based on it. Whatever way a person was attached to their parent it seemed they would attach the same way to the government. If you were a secure child, whose parents were safe, you looked at the government the same. If you were the insecure child, you over demanded your parent to perform for you. If you were the ambivalent child you could not give a fuck what the government said or did, that they meant nothing to you. But now the government was a parent and I was told originally it was the patriarchy. So it must have been a Dad right? Well, my Dad was a noble and good man, he worked hard and provided for us. What reason had I to believe anything bad about it? Apparently though, the government could not have a gender, so what did this mean? Was the government now a Matriarchy as well? I hated this idea, my mother was a malicious and violent woman. It seemed I should have been even more confused, because the mix of sugar and snails was irrational. It turned out though that many people still assumed the world was engendered and I thought, no! The world consisted of people, and it was only people that mattered, no matter who they were and no matter what they did they deserved to be treated fairly. So in my quest to learn about people I did what I could to learn about behaviour. I started to study Psychology. And so I re-entered the playground
“People are people, so why should it be that you and I should get along so awfully”
I was a big boy now apparently. It meant different things to different people, and I found this out the hard way. Throughout my life I looked on life as though it were a game, so it grasped me that people played these games with one another.
My limited learning in psychology became riddled with the element of play all the time. Game theory as applied to behavioural interpersonal interaction and social cognition, groups and social identity as picking teams, sex differences as the anatomy of a game piece and the play styles it best suited. And it struck me, people are trying to look at each other in the light of a game design to look at the actions they undertake, their behaviour and reactions. I still remember mentioning this concept to my sister and being met with a very odd reaction: Her tone inclined to disagree with the words she strategically used “This is serious!” but her facial expressions were by definition the same as what is normally a combination of confusion and surprise. I won’t assume I knew what she was thinking, thats just stupid, but I honestly was pleased to see the conflict it caused. So I did what I normally do, I took the outside and turned it in. She had shown a different behaviour to what she was almost scripted to say and do. It was humourous, because although she had no idea she was doing this, to my blank slate she was acting absurdly.
I thought, what kind of play is this? The serious game? Aye, it was serious. Bad things happened in life when people didn’t play by the rules apparently. People got into games that ended up hurting them but it was against the rules to complain. Not for women anyway, apparently for men it was. When the girls complained they got the parents to say “now play nice and play safe”. The boys never had a chance against this one-sided sugary smiling whine. The internal monologue of concern from the parent was to be serious, to be rule abiding. The child that was, had to look to the parent’s advice as the way to be, it was what we were facing in the bigger world. Yet, what happened when we got to adulthood was not the throwing away of childish things. It was the same games of childhood looking to the collective serious playing field. That was not the adult I expected to be.
The adult I was becoming whilst growing up was the same as thinking I held whilst I was as a child.. The world is not about the slugs and snails; the rougher you played, the higher the likelihood someone got hurt, but you learned your limits. Nor was it about the sugar and spice; Niceties and soft play does not mean that the parent should come in and tell the rough play to stop. It was, however, about: Knowing your limits and respecting the limits of others. Being fair with those who were not in the game for the competition, but also kindly keeping them aware that harm is coming if they get into danger by choice.