Somewhere between Sexist and 3 am
So I posted a video last night, which featured a male gymnast in women’s clothing, doing all kinds of silly and comical moves. At first, I thought it was pretty cool. After all, a dude in “girls clothes” – funny, right? Nope, as a female friend of mine would later point out, it is candid sexism.
At first, I was like: “What the fuck did I do? It was harmless!” After all, what’s wrong with a guy in a dress? Should it not be considered progressive that we all get in touch with our “feminine sides?” Nonetheless, seeing as I did not have a response to her argument, I decided to shut up and listen. Let it be known that I consider myself a pretty open-minded and open-hearted guy. How could I not be? I’m a Pansexual, Pagan, and very free spirited. But to my surprise, my friend drew attention to a lot of little points which I had not considered.
For example, how stereotypical female and feminine attributes, such as the color pink or pigtails, were being used as comedic devices, something to laugh at as silly and inferior. I immediately wanted to take the post down. However, for educational purposes and self-reference, I decided to let it stay. After all, it is my archive.
Having shut my mouth and listened; I decided to take what I had learned and do a little more reading regarding the issues of sexism, racism, and bigotry.
I Grew up in a small-ish town that was predominantly Afrikaans. Thus I was never comfortable to come out as gay. In fact, it took me 27 years of destroying myself to reach a point where I could say, “Fuck what you think, it’s time to be me now!” At home, Mom had raised us in a pretty open minded way, but my data less so. He was the typical South African man, of his time. He loved his God, hated the gays, and was on paper a ‘non-racist’ – even though his actions spoke differently.
As I began to read about sexism, racism, and bigotry – an article here, a blog there – I started to gather how patriarchal we still are in our societies. We condone this culture as it is still entirely normalized in all aspects of our daily lives. We are being taught this in schools, in churches, and by our friends.
My mom thankfully was a little more progressive in that she taught me that it was okay for a boy to cry, to feel, to care, to nurture, and that there was nothing unmanly about love or empathy. These were qualities that she encouraged and helped me to grow!
So then why was I continuing, in my language, to identify them as feminine qualities? Why did I look at the video of the male gymnast and think he was merely getting in touch with his “feminine side” by wearing pink and acting silly? Because mom had taught me this? Or because society had told me that these things are inherently feminine qualities?
Why is it that every time I decided to don a lovely summer dress – you know, get ‘in your face’ about my feminine qualities – I understood that as me expressing something feminine? Because in doing so, as I now realized, I was just perpetuating this practice of gender stereotyping. Never again will I classify so-called feminine qualities as such. I care, and nurture, and love, and empathize deeply but that does not make me “feminine”. Care and connection are (and should be) just as many expressions of masculinity as they are femininity. And knowing that is something which makes me stronger and more whole than your average ‘dude’, who denies these parts to themselves.
I used to think strength was only about domination and destruction. I’ve proved that in my younger days. I denied myself and destroyed a young woman that gifted me a child. I destroyed myself in denial and hard drug abuse. I was oppressive towards my partner because she was my ‘wife’ and the mother of my child. I believed that this meant she should have to submit unto me; because I was a man. But really, I wasn’t any man. I was a mindless boy, and I’m more of a man now than I was ten years ago.
So in this light, of what it means to me to be a man – to be caring and empathetic and whole, I will be more of a man from now on. I will not sit down for sexist jokes, and I will be mindful of the jokes that I make (we can all be bigots despite the best intentions). I know now that I am lucky to have beautiful, strong-minded, strong-willed, and wild-hearted female friends which I no longer tease with sexist quips. These puns have no place in society anymore, well at least not in my society. I always claim to be the change I want to see in the world. So this is me, changing the way I think, in an attempt to replace ignorance with consciousness and apathy with action. To grow, we need to learn to challenge that which we ‘know to be true,’ because sometimes, just sometimes, that truth is bullshit.
As a man, it is not our role to be saviors and protectors. But rather, to allow women the spaces and opportunities to be strong and powerful in their right. To respect her right to say no, and to value her a human. Rather, as a man, be strong for yourself. Strong enough to know that cowboys do cry, real men are vulnerable, and the only way we’ll change perceptions to the contrary, is by changing ourselves. As well as condemning and challenging the stereotypical views of what it means to be a man. After all, who is anyone to tell us how we should be? Just let be. At the end of the day, it’s about mutual respect as human beings! Not about “he’s femme” or “she’s butch” or “look at that tranny!” Not about “Aw sweet, a man that cries!” or “Oh she’s just a feminist because she has such strong opinions.” Respect people who they are and what they have to express.
So in closing, I have attached an article on how men can help address sexism in their daily lives. Yes, it may take me a while to unlearn these things, but it starts with a conscious effort to try. Even as someone who doesn’t want to tolerate racism, sexism and such, I do at times participate in these things without realizing it. So thanks to my friend Danielle Kate, for the three and a half hours of reading! It was well worth losing sleep over. And thank you to anyone that read this and made a decision to change the way they contribute to gender inequality too. As the saying goes: ‘It’s time for women to stop being politely angry!’ Kudos to the challenge girl! And thanks for the lesson.
Written by R.G. Davies, Challenged by Danielle Kate.
Somewhere between midnight and I’m guessing 3 am…