Girls can’t be welders right? I mean they’re girls. They have, you know, feminine lady bits. They might hurt themselves. And really, how can they be expected to wheel a big, heavy tank of oxy acetylene around. Unless they’re one of those big, butch lesbian chicks with the cropped hair and a baritone voice (That can deadlift more than me). Maybe then.
I’m weary of opening with satire. Satire gets you beaten around the head and ears with a rolling pin. Or a spanner (if you’re dating a girl from the south). I was going to say ‘broken bottle’, but I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Maybe I should qualify this whole diatribe with some sort of statement of fact, lest I inadvertently offended the wrong people. Offense is inevitable, I understand that. Especially since I’m a male of the species and therefore the dominant and authoritative voice on the subject matter of gender. God blessed me with some mighty fine (and lets be honest about this, totally above average) junk. And God being a dude (fist bump) and having created me FIRST this gives me some divine expertise on the subject matter at hand.
I am not a feminist. I should probably state this as the first truthful and factual thing I’ve said so far. This is because feminism has, in my opinion, (fuck, I really don’t want to keep having to write in my opinion after every sentence, so just imagine this whole thing is, in my opinion. Which also means it’s what I happen to think right now… but might evolve by next week)
Feminism has migrated from a point left of centre to a position so far off to the extremist left you can barely see it anymore. It seems to have pilot fished itself onto whatever (vegan) creature exists there, content to fight broader battles other than the narrow bout it was created for.
The fact that feminism exists at all pisses me off. Gender equality should just be an accepted norm, it shouldn’t have to be campaigned for, constantly, with such vitriol so as to remind us that this chasm exists. With every reminder it points to us, as a species, and highlights how frighteningly un-evolved we really are. This makes me a little sad.
I’m not saying that we should just ignore it and hopefully it will go away. Because it won’t. I think that inequality has been so normal for so long that it won’t just slink off and hopefully die quietly. It’s got its hooks in deep.
Example. I can tell you that homeopathy is total bullshit. Its been proven over and over again by science. Yet people still choose to believe in it and still choose St. Johns Wort extract over antidepressants and still take belladonna when they get the flu. People continue to perpetuate this nonsense. Just like they pedal inequality, either unknowingly, or through complicity.
Let me use a personal example about ignorance and the bliss it brings. When you are a white male and the world is your oyster, you don’t care. You really don’t. I mean how can you… and more importantly why would you? You have no concept of being discriminated against; it’s something that’s NEVER EVER happened to you. I personally have never been discriminated against. Well not that I’ve noticed. And if someone has tried, my brain and ego would immediately override it as ‘Clearly this person is some kind of idiot, ho-hum’, and I would never think about it again.
That’s what you’re up against, unfortunately. How do you rage against something that I don’t think is really ‘a thing’. And if I do acknowledge that it is a thing, it doesn’t really affect me, so support from me is clearly going to be limited. Besides the status quo totally benefits me.
I don’t have any really good ideas about this. To be fair, It’s not really something I thought about much (until recently) I’ve always agreed with the concept that men and woman should be treated equally. As an aside, I don’t think men and women ARE EQUAL. Biologically speaking there are huge differences. But treated equally, sure I can get behind that in a lip-service kinda sense.
But then two things happened. One, I procreated and had a girl. And two I read two books by Caroline Paul, who was one of the first female firefighters in San Francisco.
Lets start with having a girl. If I lived in rural China I might have taken her away from her mother and drowned her, tossed her in an unmarked grave and tried again for a boy a couple of weeks later. I suppose I can appreciate their logic, even if it isn’t my own. I on the other hand didn’t mind either way what gender my progeny was. I asserted with profound conviction that my daughter could grow up to be anything she wanted to be, and I would be supportive of her in whatever endeavour she chose.
But then I started thinking about this. And I started to wonder if it was really true. I mean I can claim all sorts of things, but walking the walk, and talking the talk are easily separable. Then I started to suppose, that even if I did my best to encourage my daughter to be anything that she wanted to be, the world might not play along. The world constantly exerts pressure on us to make choices, to act in certain ways, to choose socially acceptable norms.
It starts way early. Walk into any baby shop. Girls stuff is pink. Boys stuff is multi-coloured. Girls tops will be… pink… with a some Disney princess or worse Barbie printed on it. Boys tops will have an epic monster-truck, or a cool bi-plane or a grinning shark on it. Girls get pink. I don’t want to conform to this. But there is NO choice.
Eventually we found this..
Which gave us a few more options in terms of gender neutrality. But still. People would say to us, ‘You have a little girl, why are you dressing her in black?’ and ‘Shame that poor child, you guys are cruel’. And that was just from my mother…
Little girls need to wear pink. And if they don’t have enough hair yet or they’re still looking a little androgynous you need to put those stupid flower things in their hair, preferably also pink to identify your child’s gender to the world.
Anyways, fuck you world. I’m not prepared to partake in your bullshit.
Then came Caroline Paul. I highly recommend her books (the two I’ve read), Fighting Fire and The Gutsy girl.
I first came across Caroline Paul in an interview where she posed the question, ‘why do we teach our girls that it’s cute to be scared’. And it was like a lighting bolt of realisation hit me. Holy fuck we really do that!
We as a society teach our girls from early on that they are weaker and more fragile than their male counterparts. And that they should be afraid of spiders. Wtf?
I was with my daughter on the jungle gym at a restaurant last week. I was sitting there watching her crawl around and explore. This other slightly older girl (I still struggle to judge ages) of maybe two or so, had climbed up onto the second tier of the jungle gym. Sitting there, I surmised she wasn’t in any real danger and she seemed quite capable. Only her father swooped in from the other side of the restaurant and scooped her off the jungle gym. As he took her down he chided her, ‘You need to be careful, that’s dangerous’.
Would he have done the same to his boy child? I don’t know. But this is often the case. We allow boys to engage in slightly riskier activities while girls are restricted because they might get hurt. Boys falling and scraping all the skin off their knees is a right of passage. For girls it’s an undesirable trait that needs to be discouraged. We even call them names, ‘Tom-boys’, girls that act like children are supposed to.
Would we have labelled this over protective father as anything else than an exemplary dad? Probably not. I do however now think about the little things we do, and think how it can affect those around, not just as individuals but as an entire species.