Wednesday, 19 November 2014

You're not as fly as you think you are

It's International Men's Day and, as a man, I am scared.

Scared of what people might say. Scared of what people might do. Scared of the reactions, scared of what people are capable of. What I'm capable of. I am genuinely scared. I'm like this every day. And I'm like it now, because I'm writing a blog post post on IMD.

My original plan for this post was to make a graphic composed entirely of abusive things that have been said to me over the years with the caption "men get abused too." But I can almost taste the backlash I'd get from that, and besides, I'd probably burst into tears at all the bad memories I'd bring back. So I've abandoned that idea. Because I was scared.

What I really want to say is this:

I'm a man. I was born male and have had no desire to change or ever define myself as anything else. I'm sure we can all agree that there's nothing wrong with that.

I also try, as hard as I can, to be the best person I can be. I, like everyone, am flawed. I have made mistakes - we all have. I'm not perfect - nobody is. But, to my credit, I've always tried as hard as I can to make things right. I don't like to fight - I like to resolve - I try to be selfless and helpful as much as I can. I'm not an absolute saint, but I like to think I'm generally a good person. But, as a man, I still feel guilty. Because of my gender.

This doesn't need to be how I feel.

I'm aware of the fact that people like Dapper Laughs and Julian Blanc, with their boorish overmasculinity - portraying men as emotionless idiots and women as meek, abused creatures (I know that wasn't the intention of their stuff, but that's what the effect was) is nothing new. But, for some reason, it adds to the brush that - intentional or not - men are being tarred with. As much as I want to disassociate myself from these people, I can't. I'm the same gender. And so I am damned, too.

Is this a generalisation? Absolutely. But I can see it happening more and more. I've heard my uncle talk about how his company actively hires women because they're not men, and for no other reason. I've seen the political party I support reopening nominations for internal votes because there wasn't a female candidate standing for a seat. I myself have been turned down for a job - more than one - in favour of a pretty girl. And my sister, who is a radfem, talks at great length about her feminist society, where men aren't allowed in - because men can't be feminists, oh no.

This doesn't help gender equality at all. It's quite the opposite - it seems to insinuate that women need a helping hand in order to get this status, rather than doing so under their own steam. It even goes so far as to reinforce the idea that men are in power and women only get their through male acquiescence. That's not meant to be the message!

The reason I have a big hang-up about this whole gender debacle is the fact that it really shouldn't matter, but it does so much. I've always been taught that everyone is equal, but I can't say anything about half the population of the planet because I'm so fearful of the repercussions. I can't say "not all men" - hashtag or no hashtag - because of the (unfortunate) association of that phrase with misogynistic jackasses on social media. I can't call myself a "men's right activist" because I'll get something like "well, men have had all the rights for 2,000 years, it's nothing new." I can't even promote IMD as a thing, even though it was originally set up to promote gender equality, because I'll get comments like "along with the other 364 days of the year".

And yet if I don't say anything, it looks as if I don't care.

I can't win. Damned if I do, damned if I don't. Because I am a man.

The concept of IMD, as far as I understand it (and Wikipedia says so, so it's got to be true), is to promote the idea of gender equality from a male point of view - a bit like #HeForShe, if you'll pardon the comparison. But the media thrusting people like Julian Blanc into the spotlight because of their misogyny is a scary thought. It's insulting to men because we are not all like that, but I can't say that, can I?

Or can I?

This is the reason I haven't waded too far into the "not all men" debate. Because I'm scared. Misogyny insults. Misandry hurts. Nobody wins here because there's no clear side to pick. The people we need to be highlighting because of their incompetence are the male "pick-up artists" who portray women as targets for sex and the power-hungry females who see men as enemies to be beaten. We need to highlight abuse from all sides. Helping or hindering one gender - or both genders - isn't going to help.

Because we're better than that.

And this is why we need an IMD just as much as we need an IWD. There are single fathers, there are male nurses. There are male artists, male thinkers, male heroes and there are just plain nice men. There are men - myself included - who will call the misogynistic idiots out on their bullshit. But I think I also have the right to take umbrage against misandry too. Because, however you want to spin it, two wrongs don't make a right. And if the idea is that everyone is equal - because everyone is - then why does there have to be any conflict at all?

So the next time you get annoyed or upset because of a story about someone getting abused or someone being an idiot on TV, take a look around. Look at your friends - I'm sure you'll find more than one gender there. And look at your family - I'm sure you have two parents, in many cases.

And take a look at yourself. Do you really want to be defined by the rest of your gender?

And writing all this, because I felt I needed it, is why I am scared.

Do you still want to #KillAllMen?


molly said...

*applauds wildly... I am all for gender equality too but not at the expense of one gender over another. Some people are horrible, that is about those people not about the whole gender group they belong to. I am the Mother of 2 children, one of each flavour, I hate the idea that my son, just because he has a dick, is viewed by some as people part of what is wrong with the world. He is just starting out in life, to tar him with the sins of his forefathers does NOTHING to further any fight for equality. Misandry is just as damaging to equality as misogyny in my opinion

Love and lust in London said...

"This doesn't need to be how I feel."

Absolutely. This is such an important piece of writing - one of the best things I've read in a long time. This is because it encapsulates and excellently describes all that I feel. I'm right there with you, you are most definitely not alone in the way that you feel and I hope this little show of support helps you feel just a little less scared.

CaptainSmith said...

Anyone who makes you feel guilty about being a men is Doing Feminism Wrong. Feminists argue that we men are advantaged in certain ways in society by our gender, which is true and worth remembering; but that doesn't mean you should feel guilty about it. You're not personally responsible for those things. Nobody should feel guilty for something which isn't their fault.

Meanwhile, as you say, there are certain ways in which men are disadvantaged, and men's issues don't get the attention they should. Posts like this one are why International Men's Day is still needed.

Bobbi said...

All of this. YES. *high fives in solidarity of the genders*