Opening Move: Feminism


So you’re going to start with a nice, gentle subject to ease everyone in, right? Nothing controversial, nothing that could cause a giant load of backlash, nothing like that? I mean, I already know what the planned subject of this post is, but I can hope you’ll change your mind whilst I’m rambling, right?

Yeah, about that… I’m here today to talk about feminism.

I know I can’t take this action, since I’m just a disembodied voice, but if I could I’d be entirely slapping my forehead with my palm right now. But fine. Why do you, someone who’s grown up as a privileged male and hasn’t directly experienced any of the problems with a male-centric society, want to focus on feminism for what is effectively our first blog post? I’m not including our introduction here, you see.

See, that is actually one of the reasons why I want to discuss this topic. It’s certainly true that I’ve not experienced misogyny directly, albeit I’ve been witness to it first hand and that alone is enough to make my blood boil. It’s also almost certainly true that I’ve engaged in acts of misogyny myself over the course of my life, either because I didn’t know any better or because it was unintentional. But therein lies the nub of my argument.

‘Nub’? You’re really going to use the word ‘nub’ here? Why not go whole-hog on the visual metaphors here? Describe this as the clitoris of your argument?

Wow. Really?

Eh, we were never going to get very far if we denied our propensity towards innuendo. I figured just come right out with it early on.

That’s… actually fairly on point. Anyway, my point is that just because I’ve not experienced direct prejudice because of my gender, or at least perceived gender, doesn’t mean I haven’t been shaped by unconscious biases in the society I was raised in. That’s just how the world works. There are a lot of people out there who would have you believe that, whilst feminism was all well and good in the past, we’re well beyond the point of needing it now and the only folk who are feminists now are rabid men-haters who want all penis wielders to drown in a vat of oestrogen. And that’s just not true.

I’d lay down a solid bet that there are some people out there, somewhere, who solidly identify as what you just described.

Almost certainly. Heck, I’ll likely discuss some in a little bit. But I can be fairly safe in assuming that if they’re reading this, they’re only doing it out of hate. So I can say what I like, really. But all that aside, feminism from my perspective is a movement that is trying to move our society away from its ingrained and unhealthy preconceptions around the dichotomy of men and women.

Plain English, please.

That… was… right, fine. Society has created very specific stereotypes around what a man is and what a woman is. How both should act. What’s appropriate and what isn’t. And you can certainly make arguments about how more recent changes over the last half-century or so have eliminated that, but they really haven’t. Think for a moment, if you’d be so kind.

Who, me?

Nope. This is aimed squarely at the hypothetical sceptical reader who has somehow got this far down. So yes. Do me a favour and imagine, if you will, someone weeping wholeheartedly upon witnessing a beloved character die in their favourite show. And this is full on bawling, not some quiet tears of respect. Proper blubbing. Got that image? Great. Now switch that person to be the opposite gender and create an equally vivid image in your head. My guess here is that your first image was of a woman, whilst the second was a man, and that it was significantly harder to imagine a man having a full, public and open display of emotion in those circumstances. I could of course be wrong, and in so doing I’m showing my own biases here, but I’m pretty confident here.

That makes two of us. I mean, take a look at this little summary of a study from back in 2016: https://digest.bps.org.uk/2016/12/23/men-this-study-suggests-its-a-really-bad-idea-to-cry-in-front-of-your-colleagues/

Sure, it’s a small study, but it’s pretty indicative, isn’t it?

Exactly. And this is the sort of snap judgement and focus on stereotypes that feminism, or at least the branch of feminist thinking I subscribe to of intersectional feminism, works to do away with.

Let’s get a few of the classic anti-feminist talking points out of the way at this stage too, shall we? I’ll serve them up, you smack ‘em down. Just imagine me with an irritating nasal voice here. First one: ‘Are you trying to say that absolutely everyone is equal and there aren’t any physical differences between people at all?! That’s madness!!!!11’

Nothing like a good ol’ straw man argument, eh? No, of course that’s not what’s being said here. That’s like saying that me advocating for people with disabilities not being discriminated against means we shouldn’t have wheelchair ramps. It’s ridiculous. The key element is avoiding wide-reaching baseless stereotypes. For instance, one common one is the idea that ‘men are physically stronger than women’. But there’s a problem with that, since there are a lot of specific women who are stronger than the average man, and a lot of specific men who aren’t as strong as the average woman.

Wait, you’ve met these mythical average man and average woman?! What are they like?

Oh, you know, pretty average.

… Well I asked for that.

Quite. So my point is that these stereotypes can easily break down when you start looking at individuals. So why should you make a blanket assumption based on them? Because when such a thing is so deeply ingrained, it’s incredibly easy to encourage some really toxic behaviours and thoughts. Following on from that example, if a man is physically frail for reasons beyond his control, does that diminish his identity as a man? It shouldn’t, but you can easily see how some would feel insecure in those circumstances. It’s the same with the example of crying I gave above. Because it’s considered un-masculine to show your emotions in an open display, there are a lot of men who simply don’t feel comfortable doing so. That can lead to bottling them up, which any student of mental health will tell you is bad. Or it can lead to those emotions being channelled into other, more ‘acceptable’ outlets. It’s pretty easy to visualise a big macho manly man slamming his fist into the wall in a bout of righteous anger, isn’t it? That doesn’t seem great to me, though, when he probably would have been just as satisfied sat down crying into a box of tissues.

And you know he’ll have tissues on hand, eh? Eh??

Thank you… You see how quickly these stereotypes can build into a truly bizarre series of requirements for one to fulfil? And they’re so deeply ingrained sometimes that we just don’t see them. So try and have a look around for these assumptions you make without even thinking, just for a day. You’d be astonished what you find.

I’m pretty sure you started this blog with a very specific topic to cover, and we have rather meandered away from that topic and waffled fairly extensively.

True. We’ll save the original focus of this discussion for another post. But I still think this little run-through of how I see feminism, and why I’m such an ardent supporter and promoter of same, is important and will give everyone a little more insight into how I think. Or at least, how I think now. I can promise you, I didn’t always think like this.

It’s true. Oh good golly, it’s true. And I bet we’ll cover that in a future post too. But for now, we’ve spoken for quite long enough. Salutations, good folk, and we’ll see you in the next one!

Bye bye!

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