Today, I’m wrapping up my gratefulness/ how to be a better person series with a few final thoughts. On life, on how we behave, on how we can behave better. I had an interesting week, filled with downs, then ups. I reflected on my politics and beliefs. I should start with a bit of preamble about one of those commitments, which I thought was implicit but was recently challenged: I’m a male feminist. I got all riled up by Emma Watson’s speech. I tweeted #HeForShe. I purposefully craft strong female characters overcoming difficult situations. Furthermore, I am accepting of people regardless of their gender, race, creed or sexual orientation. I can’t credit myself for my humanitarianism—I owe that mostly to my incredible, socially-defiant mother. She, who married an African-Canadian fellow to the disgust of certain friends, family and her parents at the time (they came around). We had a burning cross on our lawn, which I seem to remember even though I was very young, as in infantile (or my writer’s mind has concocted enough of a reality from the family legend that I appear to remember). My father, obviously, also deserves admiration for standing against intolerance and hate, and without a doubt he faced a number of struggles as a child and as a man.
My parents fought for women’s rights, gay rights and racial equality. While they won a few important battles, many hatreds and biases are so ingrained into our culture it is unreasonable to hope to erase these issues in a generation or two. Sexism is one of them. Still around, and still a thing. Back to the male feminist thing, I shouldn’t have to be one. The whole concept that we fight for one sex to have equal representation and respect in the world is absurd. If that means that I have to brand myself as a radical to defend this concept, then so be it.
I’ve talked about these issues before on my blog, in one post in particular called Women In Fantasy. I wanted to expound upon that topic now, which was really just a rant on how much I dislike terribly written female characters in fantasy. Terribly written as per my personal tastes: pining wife, succubus, spoiled princess, or always-needs-to-be-saved. We also get those “female” characters that have been stripped of all femininity and emotion and are written as men, which is just as frustrating. For the record, terribly written and stereotypical male characters abound in popular novels, too. None of that is important, except to emphasise that I’m doing my part to initiate change by challenging these stereotypes with my work.
What are you doing? Sorry if that sounded confrontational, however, it’s a question that we should be asking ourselves. How have we as a modern society allowed segregation, hate, and bias to exist for so long? How do we fix our universal apathy? We can start by being grateful, we can start by being kind, we can start—and this point is key—by correcting misbehaviour and prejudice as it occurs. We’re not talking about the annoyingly obtuse rules of Political Correctness, where one is excluded from saying anything outside of any context aside from bland. I swear. I make tasteless jokes around the people that I know won’t find them offensive. Knowing your audience is key. And so is stepping outside of your comfort zone and tastefully, respectfully, standing up for the things that need to change. When you see a little girl wondering why she isn’t popular and famous like Miley Cyrus, explain to her how great she is as her quirky/ nerdy/ chubby/ whatever self—perhaps without the obvious and easy defamation of Miley’s character. I repeat: know your audience. I wouldn’t advise walking down an inner city neighborhood and suggesting—even politely—to others to embrace humanity and courteous fellowship. That’s a different and admirable challenge to be tackled: breaking down ghettos (which I believe we should do). It requires a unique set of tools beyond mere civility.
I started talking about feminism, because that is a cause which I dedicatedly support. However, every form of intolerance in the world is in need of champions. Will we ever eliminate hate, greed and violence? Not a chance. We can only minimize these evils. Any change happens in increments, usually ones so tiny that they’re untraceable. The whole “ripple becomes a wave” thing. Well, we can be those ripples. At least I consider myself one, in this tiny corner of the internet, and in the words I’ve cast out into the world. You don’t need to be a writer, a speaker, or anyone with any obvious form of influence, however, to be an instigator of change. You only have to care, and act.
All the best,
P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers. Eat, drink and be merry.