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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What being gay ISN’T.

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Is it time for my life and worth to be the subject of public debate again already?! Gosh time flies when you’re a “minority” at the peak of social cool but still pariahs for equal rights. Guaranteed there’ll be a few hurt feelings by the time this marriage equality debacle and anti-homophobia education conniption is over and we can let humans be happy in who they are independent of outdated discrimination. The LGBTIQA community constitutes a vast diversity (and likely majority) of people, all of whom deserve recognition as valuable contributors to the world by virtue of their humanity, not their plight or struggle.

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The incredible Gus. Image from Gayby Baby.

Here’s what being gay isn’t. It isn’t living as though lives haven’t been risked so you can fill yours up with as much self-expression, passion and joy as you possibly can. It isn’t forgetting your worth outside your community as much as in it. It isn’t mistaking triumph of yourself with torture of others or confusing making good with looking good. Having been accused of conforming to a stereotype in one breath and applauded for brave originality in the next, the pressure to choose sides or meet expectations is all-too-familiar when it comes to appearance, apparel, career, conversation, sex and social life. You name it, someone always has a question to ask. The response to such questions are almost always “nobody’s business but mine!”. Being gay ISN’T disrespecting the years of oppression, massacre and persecution LGBTI people have experienced in order to flourish in who you are, and that includes LGBTI people themselves.

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Sydney’s first Mardi Gras.

Being part of the LGBTI community does not preclude anyone from other prejudices or poor attitudes, just as being part of the community does not suddenly prescribe someone to a specific type of activity, or permit others to treat them as personal property or entertainment. Being gay ISN’T a novelty.

If being gay were about sex with people of the same sex, I’d have long been excommunicated. And if it were about having a gods-built body, hung for days, dressed designer and 1m followers on instagram, then I might have something to tell my parents. And allow me to note that I’m not a witty, fantastic lush because I’m  gay, but because I’m a witty fantastic lush. Everything I do, I do it for me, which is how I do it for you. What I’m hoping is that by living for yourself, you’ll see that everyone deserves the same rights to living their life, and so open your actions to be accepting, humble and supportive of the people and animals and planet around you. Being gay ISN’T adherence to a trope or stereotype, but the experience of a real, only-given-one-time human life.

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Hearing humans at Slut Walk Melbourne. Image by Chris Hopkins for The Age.

 

The two biggest issues in this country right now concerning diverse communities, of marriage equality and anti-homophobia education, when compared with the battles of other communities (of which some LGBTI people are part), is so far beyond ridiculous that our government should be ashamed, except for the part where it is a tactical manoeuvre of misdirection. Indigenous Australians still do not have the rights their lineage, their contribution to our country’s culture, and their triumph over oppression warrants. Refugees are traumatised further than anything an Australian can empathise with, further upon which we traumatise and torture their futures for no other reason than they were born somewhere else and sought to change their circumstances. Australians living with disabilities, everything from mobility to mental functionality, are continually excluded from spaces, employment, support and education models.

Compared to those issues, and the ones that plague the climate we thrive on, the wildlife we should respect, and the imbalanced economy we are manipulated by daily, the ability for me to marry the love of my life has all the trappings of a first-world problem. However, the socio-political equality that is a key component of the right to marry as my heterosexual or simply hetero-apparent? That is a right for which I should fight because it does impact the rights of others, does improve liberation of all people, and involve the consciousness and compassion of our species further and further away from the archaic, murderous notions that take the freedoms and lives of the brothers, sisters, betweens and beyonds in my community. Being gay ISN’T just about me.

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Speaking of those issues of marriage equality and anti-homophobia education, let’s recap:

  • Homophobia and transphobia impacts ALL children. Anyone can be called a homophobic slur or misgendered as a form of bullying in a school environment. Education about LGBTI people is what prevents those types of harassment from destroying the self-esteem and mental health of those students who experience it as attackers or sufferers.
  • We do have same-sex de facto relationships recognised in Australia, which isn’t the case in many countries where marriage equality has been introduced, and so there hasn’t been as much urgency. However, decisions on end-of-life care, custody of children, provision of insurances and family support, travel safety, organ/blood donation, census information are all impacted by the ability to declare your marital status.
  • The absolutely abhorrent state of sexual education in Australia is responsible for the kinds of abuses experienced that conservative and homophobe alike use to discredit and disparage LGBTI people. Suppression and shame of sexuality can have lasting and dangerous impacts on the individual, and therefore put others around that individual at risk, but not because they’re gay, but because they’ve been mentally beaten and made an animal by their torture, internal and societal.
  • Inclusivity has never had any impact but a positive one on society at large, and it is exclusivity from systems like marriage, like spiritual lifestyles, like politics and education that have created the insanity of our species. That insanity where we kill each other, we revert our very natures, we live in alarming disharmony with the resources of the planet and have developed a way of being to secure our own destruction as soon as humanly possible.

Being gay ISN’T a lot to ask of our fellow human beings.

See I can get married if I want, just not your way. I can have a child, I can educate myself, I can feel love, I can travel. There is no difference between your life and mine, except you’ve got it in your head that your way is the right way. I’ll gladly leave you to the delusion, or I can rescue you from the cruel fate of strangling yourself in your own web of prejudice. Choice is yours, because I didn’t get one.

B.

#TBT: Anti-domestic abuse campaigns aren’t working. It’s probably because they’re crap.

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Sorry. But Australian campaigns to stop domestic violence are ineffective, pussyfooting, and some I’d say are even misogynistic. I’m a man, converted to the cause, haven’t touched anyone in anger ever except my brother and sister when we were kids, and sometimes when they take the last Tim Tam. I see these attempts we’re making to stem the entrenched inequality experienced by women in our society, and I think they’re all but useless. They’re not good enough.

Case in point: what family-abusing man is put off his anger issues and routine beatings by nail polish? What does this even mean? I presume the idea is to create an identifiable community of men to activate some sort of peer pressure to not hit women or children.

Here’s an idea: keep the photo of Matt Cooper or Jarryd Hayne, but instead of the manicure, perhaps offer the phrase “If you beat your child you’re a cunt of a human/imbecile/wantwit and don’t come to my games”? Feature Malcolm Turnbull in there with a “If you hit your wife you’re a cunt of a human/piece of shit/danger to society and if you’re found guilty in court we’re suspending your right to vote”? Chuck the Australian Federal Police Commissioner in there for good measure with the quote “If you murder your ex-partner in breach of a restraining order you’re a cunt of a human/asshat/waste of skin and you’re going to prison, and then you won’t come out again”. Who are we protecting here?

Another case for your submission: definitely more on track, and yet still far more focused on how terrible a boy’s going to feel if he starts his reign of terror over his relationships early. No point showing how things turn out for the victims of domestic violence: the likelihood of unstable employability, serious psychological problems, perpetuation of violent behaviour in children, and the list goes on.

How about you show clips of a kid in juvenile detention, and how seriously uncool life is in there. Show more clips of disappointed family coming to visit. Show uncomfortable situations with future girlfriends having the talk with your concerned mates? Maybe a quick grab of a high security prison, because re-offending is REALLY a thing.

Bizarrely enough, the best advertisement against domestic violence I’ve seen is, is a commercial for better conditions for battery hens. How obscenely ironic.

If you’re looking for satire in my point, you’ll have to look awful hard, because although the tone of this blog is sardonic, I am deadly serious. Get it together. We all need to fight back against the offenders, their friends, the environments in which their prejudice is bred, and any party neutralising the cause with their “PR”. When the blood of women drenches our lives and stains our newspapers, there’s no applause for participation.

For those of you thinking my ideas are a molotov cocktail that might spark more problems, or they haven’t shown enough compassion for what men go through before they become violent, or any other #notallmen-esque evasive maneuver you’ve come up with, at least I thought of some kind of solution. How about you human up?

If you do know of a group spreading positive, proactive and effective messages, PLEASE put their name, hyperlink, initiative below. We need to know where they are.

 Author’s note: this article has been edited to include alternatives to ‘the c word’ at the polite request of some women and women’s support groups, the opinions of which I respected and were affirmed by in my choice to include not replace. Thanks to Mamamia for posting it.

Don’t sweat dying alone

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We sat opposite each other on his floor mattress. He was older, he’d been loved, he’d accomplished things I could only dream of, and he’s listening to me but he’s not hearing. I was telling him that if I died alone, like Jane Austen, then it wouldn’t be a terrible thing and he kept saying how ridiculous it was that someone my age (21) would think it likely they’ll die alone. Needless to say he did not fall in love with me. But I did stop talking about it from that moment, because there’s no easy way to tell someone, ‘I’m all I need, and if I do die alone, I won’t be wishing I wasn’t, I’ll be grateful I spent every moment making my life something else”.

Aside from being an inherently sexist paradigm similar to the ‘clock-is-ticking’ bullshit, designed to guilt women into settling or selling out for a relationship because it’s your primary value-base as a female, dying alone is nothing more than shaming the self. When I see people now, who look teary-eyed into their selfies or slouch across from me at coffee saying they know they’re dying alone, I feel like saying “yeah, so what’re you going to do about it?!”. Trouble is, I know they’ll loathe me for that because there is no way to stop yourself from dying alone unless you meet someone who loves you until-and while- you die, and you can’t control that, you can’t force that.

  • Darling heart, you have no clue when you’re going to die, so there’s never going to be any way of telling if you’ll die outside of a relationship. You could break up with someone who has been emotionally belittling you and physically abusing you for over a year, and when you leave in floods of happy tears that you’re free be hit by a car. Did you die alone?
  • Darling heart, you know as well as I do that no matter how well you think you know someone or how much love you give them, there is no guarantee they’ll be with you until you’re old, until you’re old and for fuck’s sake they still won’t leave you the hell alone and thank goodness for that!
  • Darling heart, even if you could force someone to be with you forever, you know it like a ball of wool sitting under your stomach scratching at your diaphragm that you’re only together because you’re full of fear, not full of love. You stick by each other because you prefer the devil you know than the devil you don’t. But that’s not love, that’s punishment. It’s not trust, it’s dependence. You both deserve better.
  • Darling heart, you know what to me is worse than dying alone? Dying beside someone you don’t love, and who doesn’t love you. You can spend your whole life pretending that’s not true, but I genuinely believe that at the last moment of our lives is when we reach the most clarified and pure truth of our lives. I would rather anything than my last moment feeling that though I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t happy.

That all being said, I think there are ways around this nightmare we continually empower, this obstacle we keep building a skyscraper of then applauding ourselves that we can’t overcome, an unsinkable ship. Here’s three ways you can stop the seemingly inevitable:

  1. Work out what “dying alone” actually means. Does “dying alone” mean never being in a meaningful relationship, does it mean not having any children, or any friends who call you more regularly than once a month? Does it actually mean you never having a fulfilling career, or travel to India, or own a home, or lose that last seven kilos? What do you want to look back on? Once you actually work out what it is, the steps to overcoming it instead of crucifying yourself with an unknown therefore insurmountable regret become easier to break into steps to walk on.
  2. Take a look at the map of your life. How far do you ever travel from home, or from work. We humans are truly creatures of habit, but we’re also creatures of comfort, now more than ever. We frequent the same places, we see the same people, we sit on the same train carriages and stare into our screens, we shop at the same stores. Make an effort to go to one entirely new place a month and not hide in your phone or earbuds the whole way. Take a friend if you feel the need, but just try and observe the undiscovered world around you- if it’s in a small way like a new bar, or a gallery opening, or a big way like a mystery road trip or surprise visit home to your family. You might catch someone’s eye, you might find the best coffee in ever, you might like yourself a little more for growing a vagina and getting the heck out there.
  3. Being sad, or feeling lonely, is never something to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s something to be encouraged by, it’s your soul telling you there’s something you want, something you’d like to change. In the same way our bodies tell us we’re hungry, but we ignore it because we’re busy, or that we’re tired but your ex will be there so we’ll still go and look drop-dead gorgeous, or that we’re in pain but the shoes just look so good. We know intuitively what we need, but are so capable of starving ourselves of for some alternate, usually regrettable purpose. Stop doing that. Eat the food, get the sleep, try the talking, do the changing.

There is no living creature to whom nature has been more generous, but in turn has been most ungrateful to and destructive of. We use our gifts of critical thought, mass production-and reproduction- and ingenuity to squander and destroy our planet’s resources, each other, and ourselves. All the while we hate, we fear the end of our suffering and we admonish those who love, anticipate it. Sometimes I go to bed feeling wasted, like there’s some unfulfilled purpose, some soul-level goal I’ve not even begun walking consciously toward. That means something. That means there’s more to be gained. Sometimes I go to bed feeling like I’ve fallen too far behind, because I’ve never been serious or long-term with anybody, but that has never stopped me, and never will. Whatever it took for me to learn I can only count on myself, I’m grateful for. I think it will make me a better partner someday. But today, I don’t matter any more or less, but I do.

In love and independence,

B.

Also read Augusten Burroughs and Brene Brown. Like now. Not Elizabeth Gilbert, she’s onto it but seriously these people first.

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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