why it’ll never be #MenToo for me

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there is a reason I have imposed the rule on myself ‘no twitter before my self-esteem kicks in‘.

because when I see this hashtag it irks me some, but that’s OK we’re all different and we have different ways of communicating things. and when I see the “what about the men?” posts it causes me a fair bit of discomfort because to me this isn’t a competition, but that’s OK there will always be a need for the more inflammatory discourses to create attention. but when I see a post saying that if people don’t retweet or donate or mobilise around the “#MenToo movement” then that’s sexist, and demonstrates abandonment of men who’ve survived sexual trauma, well I find myself compelled to defend myself as an involuntary member of that group.

but before I do that, I’d like to remind readers that there are countless women who’ve written about this in different ways from perspectives other than mine to whom I credit how mine has developed, and if you click on their names you can – nay should – read their hard work, both written and lived. Van Badham. Clementine FordEmily Reynolds. Lea Rose Emery. Elizabeth Brico. Laura Hartnell. and of course the movement’s founder Tarana Burke.

Now, back to bullshit.

To me, #MenToo will always represent a society-wide need for men to wrestle women’s liberation from their grip and assume ownership in their initiatives of self-empowerment. That impression is mostly derived from many such posts and advocate accounts always feeling the need to pitch their purpose in opposition to the experience of women, “men get abused too!”, “why don’t men get”, “where’s the men’s movement?!”, “it’s harder for men to disclose”. I believe to pitch men in this homogenised way is the same as #NotAllMen – talking about men as an idea, as a collective noun, as a supreme incorporation.

I recently heard Tracey Spicer speak about how #MeToo affected her career and conviction to investigate sexual harassment and abuse in the media industry that so drew her in as an aspiration, only to dash her dream by demeaning her and exhausting her until finally turfing her out when she had the nerve to become a mother. That hero of a human woman stood up to some of the most powerful people in the world, and now helps other people do the same. Men and our allies need to be energised by that, not alienated by it because Tracey is a woman and we are not. Tracey being a woman is not an excuse for us not to tread the path she and many women before her wore in for us to follow. Men deserve the joy of following, of supporting, and women deserve the power of being followed, and supported. And not just white women like Tracey we can relate to, but women we can learn from and grow by the influence of. Women like Nakkiah Lui, Carly Findlay, Sally Goldner, Nayuka Gorrie, Emele Ugavele, Ayeesha Ash, Mama Alto, Ilana Charnelle, and Phoenix.

Tracey spoke about something else that irks me: the idea that is often woven in to delineate men’s and women’s experiences that acts of sexual violence are on a spectrum, and some behaviors are worse than others. There’s even a pyramid that did the rounds recently, and though I agree with it to a certain extent, I am wary of anything that affords any ground to the argument that some behaviors aren’t as bad as others. The act is relative to the person whose body and mind that act is committed upon, and how they respond based on their experiences past and present is no less valid regardless of the act. This pyramid lends itself to stigma that would mean someone feels enough shame to believe that when their family member grabbed them “all in fun”, they should suppress their feelings because being gang-raped would feel worse. If the pyramid is suggesting that being asked to show a car full of men pleasuring themselves in a car “the lips your mother never kissed” is as damaging and as harmful and as reprehensible as if those men pulled you into that car to force you to do what they had demanded, then I personally see that as valid.

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Coming back to the topic at hand, I’d like to tip my hat to Terry Crews. A physically powerful man of color who has worked through unimaginable prejudice already to enjoy reasonable cultural capital. At an event he attended with his wife, a man who believed himself to be more powerful than Terry in terms of industry clout, decided to molest him in public. Terry Crews recently testified to the US Congress about this! His story will make massive positive change to how this conversation involves men, and it will also do good things for women. He’s a personal hero of mine. Here’s the best bit: to my knowledge he has made no mention of his manhood qualifying him differently, nor has he called for a “#MeToo for Men”, and when he tweeted out his story he didn’t even feel the need to use the hashtag!

Men don’t need a movement, because in general everyone already moves for men.

I don’t agree with the idea that because the attention is focused on women (for now), men have a hard time of it – I do believe men feel harder done by when it happens because our experiences contrast so starkly to the freedom of movement we unwittingly enjoy everywhere else. The idea that men are suffering from neglect at the hands of women who’re occupying the resources that support their own suffering infuriates me no end. It is heartbreaking to see survivors pitted against one another, and taking their pain out on each other when the community of survivors is all we have when it comes to empathy, and being believed, and moving forward. Women have worked – are still working – 24/7 to receive the bare minimum of care and recognition we now have available, and male survivors should be thanking them for it, not bitterly complaining about how they feel ineligible to get in on the action. I’m reminded of when, being an eldest child, I had to ask, and remind, and plead, and work and proves myself worthy of an allowance, and the instant I got it my younger siblings were insistent they receive it too, and in the name of equality they did. I was furious – they were half my age, hadn’t had to do any of the work I did to implement an economic system of domestic reward, and yet here they were reaping that reward and, naturally, squandering it on lollies while I invested mine in my flair for scrap-booking. Which conveniently brings me around to how being gay figures in all of this.

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The trouble with the “not all men” argument is of course that it absolves us of responsibility. In the same way that if we blame the victim, we’re condoning the rape of someone else who fits the behavioral bill, when we other the men who rape, we acquit and even endorse the men who don’t look the part. Harvey Weinstein became the fall guy because he was powerful, and rich, and also slimy, and behind-the-scenes and in-the-shadows and no-one liked him. No-one was invested in him being “a good guy”. Spacey was a tougher case, people did like him, and if he hadn’t thrown the entire gay community under the bus to save his neck he might’ve got away with child molestation and statutory abuse – but still a lot of the narrative was “I always thought he was a bit weird”. Then they came for Morgan Freeman. The guy who we trust so much he gets to play God. We’ll see how that plays out. Gay men don’t fit the mold of the man we think of who assaults or harasses or rapes women, but for all we may be exempt from the stereotype, that doesn’t mean we should remain naive or indifferent about leading by example, and continuing the message that sexual violence isn’t about desire, it’s about power.

When Eurydice Dixon was walking home from her job as a comedian, a young man attacked, raped and murdered her. Afterward, police felt it pertinent to remind women to be aware of their surroundings, have their phone on them, and a whole lot of other advice that isn’t what I hope we see more of. And yet Larissa Bielby, Katherine Haley, Alicia Little, and no such statement – their murders dismissed as “misadventures” and “incidents”. I want to see those police looking unwavering right into the lens of the camera and saying “whoever you are, we will find you and you will be punished to the full extent of the law, and if you’re a man out there who believes themselves capable of sexual violence, or has considered violence against a woman in their life, seek help immediately”. That’s certainly the message I have.

We’re all fighting the same battle here, and it’s a battle against human nature itself, which is why it’s a battle we will fight our entire lives; and fight we must.

B.

if you have concerns for the safety of people around you, or ever considered yourself seriously capable of abusing anyone imminently, please contact 1800 Respect, White Ribbon, or Lifeline 13 11 14. or 000 if an emergency.

 

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the Christian, the question, and the queer

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it happened. today. in a seemingly innocuous moment of asking a colleague what their weekend had in store for them, they let me know they were attending a debate about marriage equality to be held in their church. and then we had a conversation.

let me preface this by saying that while I have been passionate about marriage equality and will be voting yes for the sake of my community, my future and generations of LGBTI people to come, I have not been emotionally attached or taken the “respectful debate” to heart. Aquarians.

But here I was, faced with the opportunity many people have talked about the importance of – to reach an influential, undecided individual. not a drop of mud was slung, nor any personal attack entered into. what was said went something like this:

he told me he was afraid that the freedoms of his community would be restricted should marriage equality be granted – that it would open a door to people of faith being further criticised and denigrated in wider society. I expressed to him my compassion, as I too was afraid that the personal, security freedoms of my community would be restricted in turn should the result be “no”. I genuinely don’t think he realised that – that we both feared the same things for those we loved – that something we believed to be so inherent to who we are – me my love of men, him his love of God – would be used as a tool to oppress us.

he told me he was scared to be judged as a Christian, that to tell people you believed in Jesus these days could attract a lot of hate and dismissal. I told him I could empathise, as telling someone I was gay has the same effect; it is a gamble. For instance, when I told a pastor attached to mission my church supported, she openly told me that for me to want to help others was selfish because God couldn’t act through me, as I was an abomination. I promptly lost my love of God, many of my friends, and a foundation of faith on which, at that time, a lot more of my life than I had thought was built. I told him not to worry, to be judged hurts, especially the first time. That you get used to it. That it gets better.

I’m sure by now you’re realising the parallels in our two perspectives as we face this issue in Australia. The irony of what I was telling him was not lost on either of us. I think if I had made the point with any derision or sarcasm, as I know is tempting to do for many people, it would have been closed to him.

So then he reveals he has suffered some incredibly isolating issues from which he knows his spiritual journey rescued him. I once again shared my empathy because I felt the same way when in amongst all my pain and confusion, the realisation I was gay allowed my mind to make sense to me, when I realised there was still love I could have, it made a peace inside me that turned my life from a sorrowful pilgrimage to a productive salvation all its own.

He said he didn’t know where he stood on the issues concerning children. I asked him if his thoughts would be the same about me having a child with a woman, which I can do, though I won’t love that woman like I would another man, though I would love my child as much. There is no law stopping me from having children, and marriage will not change my ability to procreate. On top of which, waving a marriage certificate in the school principal’s face will not play any role in whether that principal decides to deliver messages of equality, conciliation and understanding, nor what curriculum or programs that principal decides to implement or not. Being a parent is now, and has for many years been, acceptably mutually exclusive from being married.

It all came down to the same thing. They’re feeling something, potentially for the first time in the context of their social and spiritual identities: shame. Nothing awakens our defensive mechanisms like being ashamed – of our country, of our society, of our families, of our friends, of ourselves. Whatever causes us to question ourselves is often treated with contempt and rejection, because we don’t want to feel wrong; we barely want to feel unsure.

I don’t know if people opposed to marriage equality are homophobic; I feel like that’s a by-product of the real issue: fear of change. I too hope the spiritual mores of hospitality, kindness, love abundant and unconditional for one another will in this moment reign supreme over intolerance and wrath. What some call ignorance I still think of in some way as innocence. Though I am determined to move forward, to love freely as any other, to call out and disperse prejudice. Change will come, there is no stopping that. And communities under pressure of discrimination and persecution will forge what they need to for survival.

$122M could have saved lives. It could have improved health, education, environmental action or climate change. I reminded him it could be improving his pension. Instead, it’s being used to conduct a manual opinion poll, using methods that inherently discriminate against homeless people, regional communities, expats and holidaymakers.

I’m voting yes because I understand that swimming against the current is the surest way to drown, and that using these moments in our history to divide and deviate is a tragedy. I’m voting yes because I believe it’s the vote that will save more lives, bring more people together, and create more joy in this country. And now, he might too.

Keep an eye out for your ballot. Tick the box. Vote. If you are someone who believes this issue should be resolved and life progress beyond this prejudiced issues and focus on more important things, then please vote. Make the effort, on the behalf of those being slandered and belitted and abused and beaten up for who they are – and often just who they appear to be. Christians may be taking heat now, but it will die down after marriage equality is won in a way LGBT people can only dream of. Winning this will cost us, but it will be worth it, because the whole country knew we earned it.

Big love,
B.

artwork by Rachel DelaGardelle.

Further reading
https://marriagesurvey.abs.gov.au/

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/08/10/same-sex-marriage-how-vote-postal-plebiscite
http://www.smh.com.au/business/samesex-marriage-postal-plebiscite-doesnt-pass-the-pub-test-20170817-gxyhdj.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/08/15/marriage-equality-postal-plebiscite-what-you-need-to-know_a_23077619/

 

 

 

 

March.

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He said to me “I understand why you feel so passionate about it. I just don’t see why you need to disrupt traffic and people’s lives when they can’t do anything to help“.

Yeah we’re no longer dating.

It has only been in the last year that I’ve started marching. For Safe Schools. For Equal Marriage. For women’s health. Against Slut-Shaming. Against incumbent political bigots. And today, for Pride. Because having a face that stops traffic isn’t enough for me. And because the rhetoric still exists – both inside and outside of the LGBTI cohort – that seeks to discredit and disavow the rights to be seen, inspire, develop as a community. Hopefully it will be peaceful. Hopefully it will be impactful. The power of civic disruption cannot be underestimated.

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Invasion Day protest in Melbourne Jan 26 2017. Photo by Sally Rugg.

It continues to perturb me that privileged communities are as adamant as ever to promote the systems used to oppress the underprivileged as scapegoat-solutions to the problems their bias and supremacy provides. The homeless need to go get jobs, Indigenous people need to stay in school, gay people should respect religious freedoms to discriminate against them. These tools of discourse are as harmful now as ever, but now we have begun to win skirmishes of identity, welfare, healthcare, we are faced with smears of ‘ingratitude’ for what concessions have been made by the benevolence of the racial/socioeconomic/gender lottery winners. But for those of you who believe educating children in prejudice by omitting the place of underprivileged communities in curriculum content somehow relinquishes responsibility for violence in schoolyards, attrition, intellectual poverty and classism? We see through you, and march for you.

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Orlando Shooting vigil attendees in London 13 June 2016

For those of you who allow your ignorance to inform you, basing your distinctions and judgements on what you’ve been told and not what you’ve experienced, and heeding only the advice of your peers without undergoing any real investigation of perspectives? We see through you, and march for you.

For those of you who are too caught up in your own routines to be concerned with the public and unprocessed, yet not technically prohibited, slaughter of humans, whether by government, spiritual dogma, personal vendetta, or domestic discord? We see through you, and march for you.

For those of you who believe that because they’re not gay, there’s no point in being involved? We see through you, and march for you. We march for the day your niece comes out, we march for the day your husband does finally crack, we march for the day you get diagnosed with HIV, we march for the day your health insurance won’t cover a hate crime, we march for the day you can’t afford tampons, we march for the day your son takes his life for being a victim of homophobia, we march for the day you’re locked up in an airport because your immigration status changes mid-flight, we march for the day you can’t bring your husband’s ashes home, we march for the day your child is barred from enrolling in a school because of their gender, we march for the day your best friend starts treatment for PTSD after being raped at uni and she never told anyone, we march for the day they being conscription back, we march for the day the reef dies along with all the fish who live there, we march for the day we all realise feudalism has mastered a democratic disguise.

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Women’s March on Washington 21 Jan 2017.

There is no shame in discomfort. But there is in distraction. You cannot guarantee the outcome of the choices we’re being gaslighted, mass-media-manipulated, coerced at gunpoint (literal and figurative) to make. But you can guarantee that you fight at every post, writing letters, attending rallies, taking video, participating peacefully, infiltrating the systems themselves if you are smart and shrewd enough, engaging in discussion, activating others openly.

March before you’re made to.

I do it in the dark

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When people say “it’s getting better”, it’s easy to agree, though we’re all working out quite recently that’s not quite the whole truth so help you God. What we thought we were erasing was only being suppressed, marginalised, unfollowed, unfriended. Ignorance and hatred are left alone to fester, or kept together to infect each other, and some of us effectively ghettoize divisive and dangerous behaviour. Cooking beneath the brush waiting patiently to burst into bushfire. Waiting for a spark, just one.

A spark like Donald Trump, or Vladimir Putin. Like a terrorist threat, an airborne epidemic or a missing child. Like a Brexit or an apartheid or a plebiscite. These are all as much incite as they are insight, and the ability to not just determine the difference but persevere to probe the problem is what will ensure progress triumphs over prejudice. How many times have you pushed people aside, railroaded or abandoned them when they pose an offensive statement or question? If you’re me, you’ll have done it quite frequently. It’s natural to surround ourselves with people who agree, people who align. We consider our presence in people’s lives to be so valuable, that by withdrawing that as a means of punishing certain behaviours or interpretations, they have been suitably punished and about-faced. More often than not, we do it out of awkwardness and aversion to conflict. The truth is, this just hardens the opinion or the actions, makes them immune to threats of isolation or seclusion because that’s how they’ve always been treated. When someone offends me now, I still demonstrate reproach, but then I show what reprieve looks like, by providing compassion and response.

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Los Incotables, Erik Ravelo

I once worked with a young man who answered a question I asked about his life using the word “bitches” to describe the women in his life. When I asked him why he used that word, what emerged were some venomous thoughts about betrayal and dependence. When I asserted that he should not take those feelings out on women by calling them that word, he informed me I was the first person in his life to suggest such a thing. His peers who were present showed much agreement. Now if I’d come across these opinions online, galvanised by the separation and relative anonymity the internet provides me like a dangerous weapon I need no licence or background check to operate, and encouraged by the conduct I see from other online women I truly admire, I’d have taken the guy to shreds. Called him a sexist, called him a disgrace and dismissed him. His views won’t have changed, they’ll likely be affirmed, and I’m exhausted. What I might have done, if I had the time to deal with the hordes of men with views like his, is engage, is discuss, is show that retaliation of his devaluing of me is beneath me, and lead by example that the answer to our discriminative ways isn’t fire upon fire upon fire, but cleansing, steady and tidal water. We need people in there to burn the rage back, but for some of us, the journey is in rivulets through the zone.

The most dangerous thing for darkness, is to come into the light.

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Brexit and Trump have shone stark lights on racism, capitalist suppression and political damage to working-class communities as well as far-right feudal nouveau for education, health and equal rights. This has awakened the politically lethargic, the apathetic and ignorant to demand information. We ignored the rumblings when Russia and Africa silenced and incarcerated gay people, but a lone gunman has brought homophobia around the world to light, where scrutiny upon it led to unparalleled action against gun laws and resurgence of equal marriage campaigns.

The reduction of interpersonal interaction due to a digital divide that is technically classist, is dulling our sense of debate or deep connection over issues of any kind of leading by example. I am grateful, though it has taken years, to openly discuss unconscious, but no less impactful, homophobia with my close friends, colleagues and family. To address the outcomes at their source, not at their symptom. It is important that you educate your opinion without investing pride in it, and that you engage with other opinions without investing pride there either. If you can really look at the root of these issues, it’s often something deep that requires compassion, not dismissal. It is always up to you to do something about injustice, but don’t do it from a distance or up in the idealism. Do it in the dark.

B.

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The Seven Deadly Sins of Male Feminism

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There are few punchlines quite like the male feminist punchline. Besides the shining examples of Matt McGorry and Justin Trudeau most men who stick up for feminism, and possibly many who stick up for women period are labelled as sissies, pussies, gay, traitors, and ulterior-motived letharios. For those men with the balls to say they’re all about that gender parity and those rights for women, it’s worth noting that feminism isn’t something you just talk out your dick about or casually mention when someone questions your Alanis Morrissette-heavy playlist on Spotify. If you want to really earn your stripes, bear in mind these sins committed by all-too-many blowhard blokes.

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#1 Interruption
I noticed recently a female friend whose sentences have a way of trailing off after a while. They rarely really punctuate, just taper down. However, when we’re in company she’s the wittiest, punchy conversationalist. I realised that the reason I hear the fade out is because I’m unlikely to interrupt her mid-sentence. I imagine many women have mastered the art of getting their point or punchline out straight up before some guy cuts her off to deliver his own opinion, interpretation, agreement, disapproval, or joke of his own. There’s nothing wrong with just listening. Being a feminist doesn’t make it your fight, it makes you backup. Wait for the general to give you her instruction.

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#2 Ignorance
Who’s Gertrude Steinem? What’s the suffragette movement? What did bras do to deserve burning? Why is there a Minister for Women? Here’s a tip, don’t call yourself a feminist unless you know your shit, and the shit you don’t know? Ask. I know it might seem like a vulnerable position to be in when you confess ignorance about issues, people, events, policies key to the feminist movement, but if you’re not willing to show the simple respect of asking women to inform you about feminism, you’re on so many wrong tracks you’re basically Ludacris.

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#3 Martyrdom
We should all by now be in agreement that Masculinism and #notallmen are the devil. When male feminists use their feminism to whine and sulk that they feel tarred with the same brush and it’s not fair – welcome to what “sluts” might feel like, welcome to what it means when “women’s issues” is used to diminish your struggles in society. Far be it from me to school you, but being a feminist when you’re a man is not something you own, it’s something you earn. And until you’re willing to take a hard look at the brotherhood and gamble your place in it to stand up for women being disparaged, dismissed or degraded, no-one will respect your stance. This goes for all men masking their misogyny by asking for forgiveness because “I can empathise with the other side”. There is no other side for rape, abuse, murder or slander.

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#4 Tokenism
I’ve asked men why they became feminists and stood there being told how into Beyoncé they are, how inspiring she is. Now I’m all about the Queen, and her pop-feminism is doing beautiful things for forward motion in the masses, but I’ll be damned if your first response isn’t “because women deserve all rights available to any human being around the world, and deserve to fight for those rights and be regarded”. Feminism isn’t a trend, or a movement from the sixties, it’s a centuries-long battle that we are the latest recruits to take up shield, sword, pen, tongue in. So get to work, and don’t tire out when it suddenly becomes less popular to be the f-word.

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#5 Inaction
Hopefully by this point in the list you’re starting to realise that getting the door doesn’t make you a feminist, neither does following Clementine Ford on twitter, and sharing the domestic duties with your wife isn’t cutting it. When was the last time you asked your work if your pay was comparable with women’s pay in equivalent positions? When was the last time you checked your kid’s school uniform or bullying policy for gender equality? When have you checked for gender equality on the board or executive of your university, your super fund, your political party and allowed that to impact your choice? Don’t get confused between contributing to change and common courtesy. Actually actively do something.

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#6 Grandstanding
In the spirit of practicing what I preach, I searched for women who wrote about what male feminism is and how it’s important to the movement. However there were too many articles written by men. IS THIS THING ON?

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So here instead is a list of women who wrote about what to watch out for where male feminists are concerned. Get to clicking.
Jamie Utt and Jenika McCrayer
Lane Moore
Alicen Grey

#7 Evasion
You know how you’ve subconsciously assumed that doctors, actors, surgeons, lawyers are men sometimes? And you know how you never call a man a bitch unless he’s femme-gay? And when just between you and me, menstruation makes you uncomfortable? And when you surreptitiously don’t see a movie because it’s a chick-flick? It happens, it’s OK. We acknowledge it so we can fix it, and we should be mad about it. Because that’s misogyny impacting your life in the tiniest ways that allow a little more room for the bigger ways to somehow seem somewhat permissible. Being a feminist means being diligent, it doesn’t make you better than anyone else. On the contrary, being a feminist should be status quo. Be honest with yourself, challenge your interpretations and allow yourself to be part of a mass of people standing up against bigotry of all kinds. As a male feminist, just because it’s not about you, doesn’t mean it’s not valuable to you at all.   

B.

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