Saturday, 30 June 2018

Feminism and Me

It has been drawn to my attention that, as a man, I'm not in a position to comment on, never mind criticise, feminism...

The thing about feminism and me is I've been doing it for bloody decades. I was doing it at Brighton Poly back in the 80s and it was almost like this sacred cow for us male students then - we renounced anything masculine - everything manly or paternal, macho or laddish. I knew I couldn't be a woman, but I certainly didn't want to be a man. Women were right about everything and their perspective was true. I believed in political correctness - it was right to modify our language and check our sexist assumptions. This was the 80s and Soft Cell and Boy George were in the charts. Tom Robinson went Sing if you're Glad To Be Gay and Frankie said Relax. I wasn't interested in clothes enough to really go for The Look but I cultivated effeminate mannerisms, which were noted and approved of. I even let it be believed that I might be gay (even though I've never wanted to have sex with a man) because it wasn't cool to be straight. We all agreed that nobody was completely straight anyway. I never doubted that women were at least as intelligent, capable and creative as men, that everyone had an absolute right to love and fuck whoever they fancied and that any kind of abuse or oppression of women and homosexuals was totally wrong.

Actually I'd been doing this a lot longer. I was standing up for a woman's right not to be stuck in the kitchen against my working class conservative uncles at 13 and was idolising the girls at school by the time I was 8. I desperately wanted to be with them. The boys and men were hard and aggressive, unpredictable and rude and I wanted as little as possible to do with them. It was a common view back in the 70s among the men that women were better than men, though that didn't stop them putting them down and taking them for granted. For their part the women made it very clear what they thought of the men - laughable, smelly and crude. I never really understood why any of them would ever deign to have sex with us without some sort of subterfuge.

And all this time, despite desperately wanting to have sex with many women, I tried incredibly hard not to be a typical man - to listen and ask questions, to be emotionally intelligent, to not push myself on them and to not make assumptions. Actually I'm pretty sure I missed quite a few chances to have sex because I didn't want to spoil a friendship or make them uncomfortable. And it wasn't an act - I genuinely prefered the company of women to men, and I liked the conversation and the fact that I didn't have to compete or banter. I wore my hair long and wandered around in a sarong and a black vest and was actually fairly gorgeous for a while there, though I didn't know it at the time.

So yes - now I think it's time to take a little back. I think I've been doing the women's cause long enough to be able to say - you know what? Women aren't always right. Feminism gets it wrong sometimes - especially when it talks about how men feel or think (I'm not sure they ever asked us). Women get it wrong too - they make assumptions and over generalise. And sometimes, when things go wrong between men and women, it's not because of sexism or patriarchy - sometimes it's because we're human and humans piss each other off fairly frequently, and sometimes we handle it badly and sometimes we fuck up - men and women. Patriarchy is still far too strong and men attack women far more often than women attack men, but in other ways, women can be every bit as evil as men - just a selfish and ruthless, as jealous and manipulative, just as lacking in empathy and compassion. I even suspect that women are just as capable of aggression and violence. On average women are still physically weaker than men - but it's an average. There's an awful lot of overlap.

The fact is I am, at heart, an egalitarian. I actually believe that men and women aren't all that different and that a lot of what is assumed to be typically masculine behaviour is actually the behaviour of people in power, and as women become more powerful, they will do more obnoxious things - just as opinionated and aggressive, ruthless and competitive (but also adventurous and creative). I also believe that men will become more like the women were. In fact it's obvious to me that both these things are already happening and have been at least since the 60s.

Many women seem to have assumed that as they become more equal with men, the world will become a better, more nurturing caring place with fewer wars and less focus on money and wealth, in accordance with traditional feminine values, but being equal and being moral are two quite separate things. As the economy moves inexorably toward brains rather than brawn, and technology takes the place of physical strength, women will become equal. They just will. And I will defend that to the end - the right of women to be our equals, even though I know it means more women behaving badly, because women having the freedom to choose is the thing, whatever they choose to do with it. They should have as much right to fuck up as we men have. Whether the world will ever be better is another matter. I've not given up on that but it feels a lot less achievable at the moment.

So yes I'm not going to deferentially let women tell me what I'm allowed to say. I've been doing women's rights since before a lot of them were born. I hope I'd never try to tell anyone what they've experienced or how they feel but if they start trying to tell me what I feel and what I want I will go for them, whoever they are. We're all human - we can all empathise. We can all use reason and evidence. And this may come as a shock to some but feminism is about men as well as women. It has to be - it's about how men think and feel about women and how to change that. If women have the wrong information about men (assuming that we all feel confident and powerful in our lives for example) feminism won't work. If women care about men at all - even if it's just their sons - they need to understand us. And you know what? sometimes an outsider's perspective is valuable. Sometimes when you're in the thick of it you can't see out. It's good to get the opinion of someone who's less embroiled. A man's opinion doesn't have any more power than a woman's. It's just an opinion. Nobody's forcing women to do as they say. As long as the opinion is expressed respectfully (and briefly if possible) it doesn't hurt to hear it out.

I am also proud to call myself a socialist, an environmentalist and a scientist and I have problems with some of the stuff they come out with too. I've never been one to just stick to the party line. So I will continue to express my opinions on feminism. It's a great cause and I want it to be as strong as possible. Plus I hate patriarchy so it's not entirely selfless