International Woah Men Day
I was going to write about a comic book project I'm working on this week, then the other day I ended up reading a list titled 100 Easy Ways to Make Women's Lives More Bearable and I decided to write about women and feminism instead. I've got a lot of thoughts on the topic, and they're not particularly well ordered so this might end up being a bit rambling. The first thing to say is there will very possibly (maybe even probably) be something I say here that some people will find sexist in one way or another, it will be a complete accident and I won't know it until someone else points it out, and I think I'm about to try and explain why that happens, in my case at least. I feel like I can't and shouldn't try to speak for anyone else on this particular topic.
Most of the stuff on that list I simply accepted and/or agreed with, but there were some things (1, 8, 41, some others) that made me have a reaction that was something along the lines of "What? I don't do/say those things! And if I do, I do/say them to men just as much as women. STOP CRITICISING ME!" Now, I'm not proud of that reaction and I know in the rational part of my brain that it's bollocks, but it's an instant gut reaction that I can't control and I think not acknowledging it doesn't benefit anyone. If I don't recognise it, and try to work out why it happens, I can't do anything to fix it. But feeling it makes me feel like I understand, to some extent, where anti-feminist, men's rights activists are coming from (not that I want to justify certain types of sketchy behaviour, but it's important to understand it). Sometimes I really can't tell when I do or say something sexist, and I don't mean I think it might be but I'm not sure. I mean I think that my behaviour has been perfectly respectful of women and when I'm told otherwise my gut reaction is to get defensive (this could just as easily be said about various other -isms but I'm trying to stay on topic). I think that's a perfectly understandable reaction to being told that beliefs you've held your entire life, that the way you see yourself and your identity are wrong. Some people can't get past that, or even realise that they might be happier people if they could. I try my best. As for the why, the reality is that, despite my parents doing their best to teach me to respect every single person I meet, I (and very nearly everyone else in the world, for that matter) have grown up in a society that doesn't respect women or treat them as equals. I have spent years consuming all types of media that depicts women in a really terrible way, that has encouraged me to act, feel and think in a certain way and to see that way as completely normal, and I believe it's had the same effect on my peers, both male and female. So basically we're all pretty fucked up.
I've sometimes caught myself explaining something to a woman and had the following thought process:
"This is a really simple thing. I probably don't need to explain this to her. Is this sexist? I can't tell. Would I be explaining this to a man that did her same job and had the same experience? I do have a habit of being a bit patronising to everyone, don't I? Maybe I'm only thinking this because of the changing political climate and if I was patronising a man all it means is that I'm patronising him and not that I have an ingrained disrespect for a huge chunk of the human race. I'd rather be an egalitarian condescending wank than an unwitting sexist"
I'm not going to pretend to have any answers so, in many ways, I can't tell anyone (especially women) how to be a feminist. All I can really do is keep trying to be better at this shit (which probably means accidentally offending people, and asking lots of questions), and I'll keep doing that until I'm dead. In the mean time, here's a bunch of links to women being awesome in a variety of ways:
- Invisibilia A podcast about psychology and brains and stuff, hosted by Hanna Rosin and Alix Spiegel.
- Bitch Planet A sci-fi/satire comic about "non- compliant" women being shipped off to live on a prison planet, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick.
- The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Once described to me, very accurately, as "The aftermath of Josef Fritzl: The Sitcom", created, produced and written by Tina Fey and featuring a slew of excellent women in the cast.
- Electrelane A rock/electronic band formed in Brighton, made of Verity Susman, Emma Gaze, Mia Clarke and Ros Murray.
- Twenty Toes To describe it at all spoils the joy (AKA just fucking click it!), performed by Roxana.
One last thing, that list, number 10 about closing legs on public transport, is this just about space when it's busy, or is it a more general thing? Like if I'm on a nearly empty tube train and I'm not getting in anyone else's space it's really a lot comfier to spread out a bit, there's bits there and it's nice to give them some room to breathe. If it's more than that then what is it? I don't get it, comment below and let me know.
(Asking for a friend, though.)