Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bird is NOT the word

Update 22-10-12: This blog has been reposted on The Good Men Project. Check out their site great articles on a wide range of issues centered around men and identity in 21c.

Today I am looking for help. I need words.

When writing about men and women I obviously find myself referring to people of a given sex by a collective term such as “men” or “women”. In order to avoid my writing sounding repetitive I try and use other words that mean the same.

In the case of men I find this easy and have a bunch of the synonyms at my disposal.

Men, males, blokes, chaps, gents, guys, fellas, dudes, lads, boys.

To my knowledge none of these are considered offensive (please let me know if I am wrong) to anybody.

My problem comes when trying to find words for women. There are certainly several such terms but many are contraindicated for use as they are considered patronising, belittling or demeaning.

Sure we have the basics: - women, ladies, females - but in a lengthy article even these can get repetitive. So what are my alternatives?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Who are the rules for?

I want to try and reason out some of my confusion in my current explorations into equality, doubtless spurred by my current single status. (Please note I am not judging anybody by their relationship status, I just like having a partner to share things with)

Over the past months I have been regularly reading articles written by women, specifically women writing about themselves and their lives, as well as women writing about feminism. And it hasn’t come as any surprise to find that they come in a smorgasbord of styles and ideas and hopes and experiences. What has come to mind with this though is that some of them do not seem to want the things that feminism wants, yet they all seem to have the same levels of happiness and sadness, anger and joy in their lives.

I have read blogs by self-identifying feminists, and people who don’t label themselves such, who love to bake, who loves shoes, who love cycling and real ale, and lots and lots of women who love to play computer games (so do I - that’s why I read so many gaming blogs). I have also read blogs by women who want to be in charge, women who want to be dominated, women who want tenderness and women who want excitement. Now here’s the sticker: most women want some of all of this, in different quantities, at different times.

I have also been reading blogs by men and it turns out that they are the same. Exactly the same.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

To name, or not?

Identifying things to write about is quite easy, working out exactly how to tackle it is proving a touch harder. In the online debate on sexism I see many claims that I consider to be, shall we say, exaggerated, and many that I feel are completely misguided. I have referred to conversations in previous posts but only vaguely, making my anecdote no more reliable than those I wish to address. So my dilemma is whether to directly link, or copy/paste, to the relevant comments and discussions or just to refer to them.  

Despite the reputation of many men in this arena, I am not a nasty person and wish no hurt to anyone and can’t get over it feeling like bullying. A major component of the faction wars in online atheism is an endless rally of abuse and personal attacks between a few key members that is fed by bystanders adding their own, often less diplomatic, asides. This is not a way to reach any form of consensus and only serves to highlight the few differences rather than strengthening the strength of the similarities. What begins as a lack of mutual understanding rapidly converts into opposing sides, both looking further and further afield for ways to diminish their opponent and losing sight of the original point.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mansplaining - A Man Explains

The inspiration for today's blog is a single word - "Mansplaining".

This is apparently a term to describe men talking patronisingly to women. Simple enough, but web dictionaries (OED online has no references) indicate that people of either sex can be accused of this.

My issue is not with the concept - men can be very patronising both to women and to other men. I get the intent behind the word. Feminism particularly seems to be a space where men often patronise women and denigrate the experiences of those women. Men use words and phrases like "Feminazi" or "Female Logic" even "Women’s Problems" to dismiss the arguments of 50% of the population. They never explain their conclusions or try to point out why arguments may be fallacious, they just dismiss an argument with a trite phrase. I feel "mansplaining" is a word that allows similar behaviour. Try to take part in the debate, add some context, and you’re dismissed as a "mansplainer". If someone is patronising, call them patronising - there’s no need for a new word. Similar to ‘privilege’, which I discussed in my last post, labelling something as mansplaining can just be a trite way of dismissing an argument without the need for any apparent rationale.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Privileged? Maybe. Relevant? Yes.

Throughout the web I keep seeing use of the word "privilege" within the context of majority populations.  I apparently suffer from White Male Privilege, or should I say am blessed with it? It is hard to say.  I certainly don't deny that history is in my favour and that areas of society are still unbalanced in favour of one group or another, but I question the value of such titles.  The term has been used directly to me to insinuate that I have no role in the debate on sexism and on a very thin level I can see how that interpretation can be made.

If I accept that I have these privileges, I would ask it is also understood that I have never claimed against them or knowingly used them to my advantage. I, like most men of my acquaintance, do not wittingly take advantage of any societal weightings against women.  It is hard to say if I have ever been given a job, for example, purely because I am a man, but I do know I have never used that to my advantage in applications (I'm not even sure if I would know how).  I have, however, been passed restaurant bills when my girlfriend asked for them, or talked to by mechanics when my girlfriend owns the car, and I know for a fact that on all these occasions (and yes there have been many) I have quite firmly pointed out the error. Both of the above are common effects of sexism; having never owned a car of my own, and always earned less than my partners, I have seen them often.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lessons in blogging

So it seems this writing lark is not as easy as it looks.  Sure, I can arrange words in a coherent order on a page, but writing to a theme and sticking with it is not so simple.

I started out my last post with what, in my head, were clear ideas on how I wanted to progress. Even while writing I found new material that agreed or disagreed with me and led me off track, sometimes mid paragraph. This led to me varying the focus of the piece without really seeing how this changed the whole substance of the article

So my first lesson; Write one post at a time. If an idea doesn't fit in here, don't force it, there will be a place for it later, or it may just turn out to be a bad idea.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sexism, men get it too

Let's start with the disclaimers: I am a white, heterosexual, male.  As such I have been lucky with regards to discrimination.  I accept this.  I am not an academic and have very little experience in writing, so please be patient and polite when pointing out flaws - I will listen to any and all criticism on subject and/or style.

Much discussion is being had in some corners of the internet about sexism and more specifically feminism.  In my opinion this is no bad thing, discrimination against anybody on any grounds is a serious business that we should not hesitate to confront.

Sadly though it appears that the old chestnut that only women can be discriminated against is still rife. And the definition of anti-female sexism is now growing broader covering everything from unwanted flirtation to straight out molestation.

An excellent project is attempting to catalogue discrimination against women, but only women.  Reading this site can be hard, seeing what so many people have to go through each day, though in many cases these are not cases of discrimination, but sexual assault.  To my mind this is creates a straw man, by calling cases of rape sexism, we then cheapen both offences.  Discrimination is being treated differently on the basis of your sex, rape is about power and control, young men get raped too, though this is not seen as a crime against "men", rather a crime against "a man".  So this leaves the position where if you challenge claims of sexism, you are implicitly  denigrating the experience of people who have suffered assaults and are therefore bad. On the flip side, equating sexism with rape means that men who are "mildly sexist" will never learn the boundaries because they are not as bad as the rapists.

Whilst women undoubtedly get a raw deal from many aggressive men, it may not surprise many to know that most men get physically assaulted too.  While these seldom venture near my nether regions,  they involve elbow nudges, pushing at bars, and threats for simply being a short-arse near the wrong  testosterone (or lager) fuelled bloke. I have even been attacked by drunk blokes because of a perceived sleight from my partner (as if I am responsible for their behaviour). We also see discrimination based on our sex, this may be in slightly different forms but is still discrimination.  I would like to touch on this and illustrate how this has affected me directly and also where society itself seems okay with treating men differently because they are men.

I am not trying diminish anybody's experiences, simply to point out that men encounter this too and that if you are highlighting sexism you should not focus only on its effect on womanhood.

So to my experiences where I feel that my sex has resulted in my being treated differently.