I am a feminist.
Hardly a stop press moment if you’ve followed my writing for a while. Still, one that is important to announce from time to time without ambiguity or any possibility of misinterpretation. International Women’s Day is as appropriate a moment as any. Yet I don’t put it out there for applause, or to suggest that it is somehow worthy of excessive note. In fact I would hope, rather, that we continue to evolve collectively as a species toward a place and time where being a feminist is simply a natural component of being a man. I say “natural component” because at present there are still far too many men in the world – and far too many of them in positions of significant power and global influence – whose factory default setting includes the compulsion to press their boots down hard on women’s throats.
I don’t get it. I never have.
If I try to boil my feminism down to a single, easily digestible concept, it’s the basic notion that men shouldn’t be dicks to women. I don’t see why that is so hard. In the wilds of the Internet you’ll sometimes stumble upon these bizarre misogynist rants and just shake your head and think to yourself, “wow, if he and everyone like him had taken all the energy it must require to remain so hateful on a daily basis and turned it in a positive direction instead, we’d have world peace and eighteen cures for cancer by now.” Since before recorded history women the world over have paid an unfathomable price for the insecurity and self-loathing of males, for this comical notion that a man’s worth is somehow defined only by how much of his world he is able to dominate absolutely; by how much he can control of the things he fears and does not understand.
We recognize this, we shake our heads at it, and yet it continues, whenever a male-dominated legislature starts introducing bills prescribing what a woman can and can’t do with her uterus. When males harass women off the Internet with threats of rape just for saying something they don’t agree with. When women have their personal information made public because they dared challenge males to make the playing field fair. When a female opinion expressed aloud is met with a torrent of pictures of penises.
When a woman’s pain is greeted with male laughter.
When a lawyer can suggest with a straight face in court that ESPN reporter Erin Andrews wasn’t harmed by having a stalker post online nude pictures of her because her television career has continued to ascend, something is seriously askew.
Why does it have to be this way?
Misogyny is a bloated, slouching, Hutt-like beast relentless in its pursuit to crush out every light and smother every voice with its oozing, pustulent folds. Its faces are disappointingly legion, and united in the horrific tenet that apparently, women should exist solely for the purpose of making more men.
We don’t have colonies on the moon yet because too many men are too busy working at grinding women into the dirt, whether their names are splashed across international headlines as they pursue the Republican presidential nomination or cried out only by the woman who begs them not to hit her again.
We should all be ashamed.
How different might things be if men made a conscious decision to learn from women rather than treating them as chattel?
I was asked by a friend to review the first volume of a short story compilation out today called Mosaics: A Collection of Independent Women. The book brings together twenty female authors of diverse origins offering short stories, poetry and essays on the subject of femininity. Profits from this book are to be donated to the Pixel Project to End Violence Against Women. The pieces are by turns challenging, enlightening, magical, gritty, heartbreaking and always provocative. One that stood out for me was P.K. Tyler’s The Book of Lilith, which recounts the legend of Adam’s first wife in the Garden of Eden, and presents the story of the first woman to have her uncontrollable spirit condemned by the (literally) prototypical man. I was struck also by Tonya Liburd’s Adventures in Gaming, which shines an important spotlight on the positively ghastly misogyny infecting the world of online games. While these two stories are stylistically quite removed from one another, the theme is the same: a woman who would like to experience the world on her own terms and is slapped back hard by the rigid male-dominated status quo. And despite what men’s rights types would immediately suggest when presented with such a collection, these and the other stories contained therein are not voices that are haranguing, propagandizing or spewing misandry – they are merely voices asking to be heard and inviting you to listen, because they are as worthy to be heard as any other.
I read on, and I nod at the lessons learned and admonish myself for not seeking out more female perspectives in the works I choose to read. Truly, the gender of the author has never factored that much into the stories I seek out, but maybe it should.
Maybe I need to listen and learn even more.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a piece in The Globe and Mail today. The entire piece is worth a read but here’s the passage that really strikes home:
Every day, I meet incredible women who inspire me to be a better feminist and a better person. Women can do (and be) anything they want. But powerful cultural change cannot happen when only half of the population works toward that change. Men need to act, set examples and be role models.
I was raised by an incredible woman, I am married to an incredible woman. I work with incredible women and I am friends with incredible women. I have learned something from every single one of them, and I continue to look to their wisdom and their experience to guide me. I do what I can to encourage and promote them as well, because when women do better, we all do better. And to the prime minister’s last point, I try to impart the importance of doing so to my teenage son, in the great hope that one day we may simply breed the hulking beast that is misogyny out of existence. That future generations may regard the concept with as much uncomprehending disdain as we reserve for people who insist the earth is flat.
The old way ain’t working, folks. Dedicating themselves to abusing and demeaning women with each breath isn’t making that portion of the male population any happier. What if instead, one of these men chose to lift a woman up instead of pushing her down? Isn’t a smile more of a balm for that terribly fragile ego than a shiver of terror? Isn’t it better to court a woman’s respect than to stoke her fears? Isn’t it fundamentally just better to be kind – to say “way to go” instead of “get back in the kitchen”?
Isn’t treating women with their due respect what makes us better men? Isn’t celebrating their achievements our duty – not just as men, but as human beings?
Isn’t that what we mean when we say, I am a feminist?
Mosaics is available through Amazon.