Opening Move: Feminism

So you’re going to start with a nice, gentle subject to ease everyone in, right? Nothing controversial, nothing that could cause a giant load of backlash, nothing like that? I mean, I already know what the planned subject of this post is, but I can hope you’ll change your mind whilst I’m rambling, right?

Yeah, about that… I’m here today to talk about feminism.

I know I can’t take this action, since I’m just a disembodied voice, but if I could I’d be entirely slapping my forehead with my palm right now. But fine. Why do you, someone who’s grown up as a privileged male and hasn’t directly experienced any of the problems with a male-centric society, want to focus on feminism for what is effectively our first blog post? I’m not including our introduction here, you see.

See, that is actually one of the reasons why I want to discuss this topic. It’s certainly true that I’ve not experienced misogyny directly, albeit I’ve been witness to it first hand and that alone is enough to make my blood boil. It’s also almost certainly true that I’ve engaged in acts of misogyny myself over the course of my life, either because I didn’t know any better or because it was unintentional. But therein lies the nub of my argument.

‘Nub’? You’re really going to use the word ‘nub’ here? Why not go whole-hog on the visual metaphors here? Describe this as the clitoris of your argument?

Wow. Really?

Eh, we were never going to get very far if we denied our propensity towards innuendo. I figured just come right out with it early on.

That’s… actually fairly on point. Anyway, my point is that just because I’ve not experienced direct prejudice because of my gender, or at least perceived gender, doesn’t mean I haven’t been shaped by unconscious biases in the society I was raised in. That’s just how the world works. There are a lot of people out there who would have you believe that, whilst feminism was all well and good in the past, we’re well beyond the point of needing it now and the only folk who are feminists now are rabid men-haters who want all penis wielders to drown in a vat of oestrogen. And that’s just not true.

I’d lay down a solid bet that there are some people out there, somewhere, who solidly identify as what you just described.

Almost certainly. Heck, I’ll likely discuss some in a little bit. But I can be fairly safe in assuming that if they’re reading this, they’re only doing it out of hate. So I can say what I like, really. But all that aside, feminism from my perspective is a movement that is trying to move our society away from its ingrained and unhealthy preconceptions around the dichotomy of men and women.

Plain English, please.

That… was… right, fine. Society has created very specific stereotypes around what a man is and what a woman is. How both should act. What’s appropriate and what isn’t. And you can certainly make arguments about how more recent changes over the last half-century or so have eliminated that, but they really haven’t. Think for a moment, if you’d be so kind.

Who, me?

Nope. This is aimed squarely at the hypothetical sceptical reader who has somehow got this far down. So yes. Do me a favour and imagine, if you will, someone weeping wholeheartedly upon witnessing a beloved character die in their favourite show. And this is full on bawling, not some quiet tears of respect. Proper blubbing. Got that image? Great. Now switch that person to be the opposite gender and create an equally vivid image in your head. My guess here is that your first image was of a woman, whilst the second was a man, and that it was significantly harder to imagine a man having a full, public and open display of emotion in those circumstances. I could of course be wrong, and in so doing I’m showing my own biases here, but I’m pretty confident here.

That makes two of us. I mean, take a look at this little summary of a study from back in 2016:

Sure, it’s a small study, but it’s pretty indicative, isn’t it?

Exactly. And this is the sort of snap judgement and focus on stereotypes that feminism, or at least the branch of feminist thinking I subscribe to of intersectional feminism, works to do away with.

Let’s get a few of the classic anti-feminist talking points out of the way at this stage too, shall we? I’ll serve them up, you smack ‘em down. Just imagine me with an irritating nasal voice here. First one: ‘Are you trying to say that absolutely everyone is equal and there aren’t any physical differences between people at all?! That’s madness!!!!11’

Nothing like a good ol’ straw man argument, eh? No, of course that’s not what’s being said here. That’s like saying that me advocating for people with disabilities not being discriminated against means we shouldn’t have wheelchair ramps. It’s ridiculous. The key element is avoiding wide-reaching baseless stereotypes. For instance, one common one is the idea that ‘men are physically stronger than women’. But there’s a problem with that, since there are a lot of specific women who are stronger than the average man, and a lot of specific men who aren’t as strong as the average woman.

Wait, you’ve met these mythical average man and average woman?! What are they like?

Oh, you know, pretty average.

… Well I asked for that.

Quite. So my point is that these stereotypes can easily break down when you start looking at individuals. So why should you make a blanket assumption based on them? Because when such a thing is so deeply ingrained, it’s incredibly easy to encourage some really toxic behaviours and thoughts. Following on from that example, if a man is physically frail for reasons beyond his control, does that diminish his identity as a man? It shouldn’t, but you can easily see how some would feel insecure in those circumstances. It’s the same with the example of crying I gave above. Because it’s considered un-masculine to show your emotions in an open display, there are a lot of men who simply don’t feel comfortable doing so. That can lead to bottling them up, which any student of mental health will tell you is bad. Or it can lead to those emotions being channelled into other, more ‘acceptable’ outlets. It’s pretty easy to visualise a big macho manly man slamming his fist into the wall in a bout of righteous anger, isn’t it? That doesn’t seem great to me, though, when he probably would have been just as satisfied sat down crying into a box of tissues.

And you know he’ll have tissues on hand, eh? Eh??

Thank you… You see how quickly these stereotypes can build into a truly bizarre series of requirements for one to fulfil? And they’re so deeply ingrained sometimes that we just don’t see them. So try and have a look around for these assumptions you make without even thinking, just for a day. You’d be astonished what you find.

I’m pretty sure you started this blog with a very specific topic to cover, and we have rather meandered away from that topic and waffled fairly extensively.

True. We’ll save the original focus of this discussion for another post. But I still think this little run-through of how I see feminism, and why I’m such an ardent supporter and promoter of same, is important and will give everyone a little more insight into how I think. Or at least, how I think now. I can promise you, I didn’t always think like this.

It’s true. Oh good golly, it’s true. And I bet we’ll cover that in a future post too. But for now, we’ve spoken for quite long enough. Salutations, good folk, and we’ll see you in the next one!

Bye bye!

An Introduction in Two Parts

Oh, look. Another anonymous journal from someone in their early adulthood describing their nebulous fears and worries that they can’t own up to in their everyday life. Not exactly original subject matter, is it?

Well, no. I suppose it isn’t. But I’m not doing this as something to stand as an original piece of art. To chase after originality in all things will only leave you stymied in a creative abyss. Instead, I’m here to create what I know. It’s been done before, I’m sure, but it’s not been done by the great mass of experiences, memories and perspectives that is me.

Or us, if we’re following this conceit through, surely?

I suppose so. I must admit, I didn’t intend for this journal to be written in the style of an interview. But my method of writing has always leant heavily on rhetorical questions and a focus on dialogue. One of the pieces of work I’m most proud of is a short story that takes the form of one person talking in a creepy fashion at the reader, with implied responses. I’ve just decided that this exploration of my experiences could be best portrayed through a similar method.

There is some logic in that, to be sure, even if it may come across as a little pretentious. But hey, it’s your blog. Or… our blog. I suspect this question of identity may be a recurring theme. Also, you do realise you’re likely going to be extremely self-critical when giving form to your thoughts in this manner, yes?

True. One could argue that may be an excellent form of therapy, honestly. But my anxiety and self-depreciating manner are core parts of the entity that is me. And when writing a blog that is very much describing a journey of self-discovery, I think that’s apt.

Fine. Are you actually going to tell the poor readers what the point of this blog is, then?

Sounds like a plan. To explain the circumstances: As far as the majority of the world is concerned, I am a happily married, straight, cisgendered man. And honestly, in terms of privileged positions and experiences, that’s a pretty good position to be in. Therein lies the problem: the happily married part is certainly true, with my wife being fully privy to all of my internal trials and tribulations, but the other two are pretty far from the mark. I consider myself bisexual, and I’ll discuss why I wouldn’t consider myself pansexual in a later post. This is something I tend to allude to and don’t deny when I’m asked about it, but I certainly don’t volunteer the information. As for cisgender… well that one is something I keep much closer to the chest.

You realise you’re still trying to shy away from putting it into words, right? Just spit it out, no need for all this dissembling.

Yes. Right. So the best term I’ve found in general parlance to fit my particular feelings is genderqueer, leaning more towards the feminine side of the gender slider in terms of preference. I’m not particularly fussed about pronouns, per se, but the fact that my body is a great hulking lump of man-meat when I would so much prefer to be at least a little androgyne is pretty depressing. Interestingly, folk who have known me for a fairly long time do tend to describe me as “not really a guy,” with the first time that I was told this actually starting my brain working on a self-examination of who and what I am. But in terms of appearance, I am in fact a superhero by the name of Man Man. And I honestly don’t feel safe in revealing how little that first impression is true beneath the surface. My workplace does its best to be inclusive, but that still leaves me with zero confidence that my life wouldn’t be torn apart if I started to reveal more of my gender-identity in everyday life.

And that’s the whole point of this, isn’t it?

Bingo. This rambling medium is intended as a way of me expressing myself as I am. A way of me describing myself without the veils of deceit, but instead through the safety blanket of anonymity. I’m going to try and be as open as I can be, about my exploration into this self I’m just finding out about. And I’d like to bring you with me on that little metaphorical journey.

Excellent. I’ll pack my metaphorical suitcase.

… I mean, I was actually talking to the reader there, but sure. Let’s have a nice non-existent road trip all together. All of us. Welcome to my little space in the internet. Welcome to The Duality. I’m Voice F, but you can call me Effie.

And I’ll be here too, providing the actually useful and thought-provoking elements of the conversation. I’m Voice M, but we’ll go for Emmet to give you something a bit less “HAL 9000” to visualise.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy our time together.