I’ve wanted to write this piece for a while. In the past few months we’ve weathered a number of deplorable, violent, commendable and inspirational social media-storms. As an outspoken fellah, I’ve been asking myself lately, where and how I fit into these debates.
I am a biracial, visible minority. I’ve been quite poor in my lifetime, miserably poor. I watched my parents struggle with each other, and more so with a world that—at the time—did not approve of their love. I’m married to a Métis amputee. I’ve been discriminated against because of my skin color, my social status, my sexuality. I’ve been forced to question my masculinity, my body, my behavior and my emotions. Despite being a mature, physically fit and able male, I’ve once been trapped in a sexually violent situation. (No, I do not need to talk about it with the public. Nor do I consider myself a victim—I hate that mentality and all that it encompasses.) Between myself and those that I love, I’d say that I’ve been blessed to have experienced a full spectrum of marginalization and trauma. That’s my résumé. Those are the experiences that make me “qualified” to speak as on these topics that I often do. Not that qualifications and a history with marginalization should be a requirement for speaking of and engaging oneself in social issues. Everyone needs to talk about the “isms”. That’s how the power of hate is dispelled. And yet, in this world where various groups scream to be heard above the noise of each other, people still find time to judge, to enforce further isms—the negative ones—and rules about who and how we are to address the social constructs of our world.
Now some camps, and believe me all of the isms have camps, would preclude me from speaking out against inequality because I do not neatly fit into the mould of their ideal advocate. A sweetly confused person once implied that I was a misogynist. That comes with the territory of being a man who involves himself, openly, in social issues. And it’s the sort of finger-wagging, exclusionary and excessive “trigger warning” reflex that tends to do more harm than good. Believe it or not, issues are not resolved by not talking about them. The darkest acts of human kind lack real impact and meaning when we dress them up and water them down for consumption. We need to fear things and to feel horror. Sometimes that seems to be the only way to get people to come out of their bubbles and actually engage in an issue. Newsflash: marginalization is not changed without involving in the dialog the group who are responsible for the marginalizing. Rocket science, eh? In a first world county, where we have a basis for ethics, law and science, some of the arguments and sensitivities being shown from groups both marginalizing and standing against marginalization are frighteningly similar.
How many types of feminism do we have, for example? Wikipedia says twenty. Yes, that’s correct. TWENTY. Holy shit. No wonder the movement has all the impetus of a 100 year old man wiping his arse when there seems to be no unified opinion on how the movement should proceed. Oh, wait, there is one. We have an ethical thread that weaves its way through any social construct made to battle marginalization. We have rights, laws and legal freedoms for which we are fighting. I may not be making any new friends by saying this, but the rest is mostly I-don’t-like-what-you-like and ego-feeding narcissism.
A test. Which image do you find offensive? A, B, neither or both?
Liberal feminists might like ladies in image A, since the women are reclaiming and embracing their curvaceous bodies. Socialist/ Marxist feminists would probably lambast image A since the models are evocative of traditional, over-glamorized, over-sexualized women. Image B, the “Mancandy”, I’m sure both groups would like, even if they did not say so out loud. Oh, and guess what? That’s a hyper-sexualized and gender conforming stereotypical male image, by the way. Correct answer to the quiz: there isn’t one, and we’re amazingly blind to how hypocritical we can be.
Stop fighting about the small stuff, the cosmetic and harder-to-change behavioral stuff before you figure out the goddam basics. I’m talking about the big problems: wages, equality, rights, freedom to choose.
These building blocks toward equality are being laid in some of the most religiously entrenched, developing countries, in regions of the world where the treatment of women and minorities is every shade of appalling. Yet we seem to have moved past the important stuff and onto other debates. Exemplifying these blinders, we can look toward Patricia Arquette’s well meaning, but unrefined, roast of women’s wages, which possessed a tone-deaf insinuation that gay rights and racial equality have in some way been achieved. I don’t know where Patty lives, though I’d like a ticket to that Utopia. Obviously I agree with Patricia’s base sentiment—equal pay for women. However, I do not agree in dropping the focus on the other marginalized groups that she mentioned in pursuit of this cause (Patricia later went on a Twitter binge and softened her point).
Debating whether Mary Sue is a true feminist or woman because she decides to stay at home with the kids is a circular and ridiculous argument. Does Mary Sue have access to the same medical care as her husband? (Or wife, if we want to be really progressive.) Are we sure that Mary Sue chose to become a housewife and wasn’t shackled to the stove in an act of Black Snake Moan weirdness? (Actually, that movie attempted to promote a strong, moralist message, although the imagery certainly did it no favors.) Does Mary Sue have higher insurance premiums because she is a woman living without an income? Can she vote? These are the more important questions to ask, and they are questions that we can measure with the yardstick of science and law. These are problems that we can resolve with our judicial systems. That’s assuming that people are rational, and we all know the answer to that. We’re not. We’re built with insecurities. We find comfort in packs, and we bring those insecurities with us. Not so secret tip: if we’re insecure, we usually bond with people that share the same faults as us—misery loves company. Wherein one of the biggest problems facing the anti-isms lies: creating silos, protecting what we know, evangelizing our cause, can come at the expense of fearing and reprimanding what is not within our chosen circle.
And we’re not just talking about feminism, either. Any of the “isms” have innumerable splinter factions. I’m a righteous feminist myself. I only chose that ism, since I’m familiar with it through my work, life and role models. At the start of this piece, I mentioned my background because I wanted to point out that I am not speaking from a position of traditional, white male power and influence. I’m not adopting a holier than thou humanist standpoint, which comes with certain perils. I think that diversity is important. Hell, I’m a product of diversity. Still, we can’t let our fight for inclusiveness force us to withdraw into unassailable fortresses of thought. At that point, we’ve put ourselves on the outside of an already outside margin. At that point, we’ve become no different, no less intractable than the hate we fight against.
Enough of it. Everyone pause and try and remember what you’re fighting for. Equality. Inclusiveness. An era when we’re not all such assholes. Don’t get me started on the incalculable mental energy human beings have wasted on #TheDress this week.
All my love,
P.S. Since we chatted about feminism, here’s a cool site to check out relating to women, their perception and their bodies and beauty. (18+. It’s not porn, but it is a celebration of women accepting their—beautiful, skinny, overweight, cancer-surviving—bodies. Expect nudity.)
P.S.S. A thank you to all of the brilliant minds behind the supporting links for this piece; each of those resources is worth a good read/ view.