I’ve always wondered what rape culture was, often thinking that someone had left an “e” on the end of rap, and thinking that I was about to read the next kanye west article.
As I turn 25 this week I thought, propagated by my double barrelled last name, and now being all grown up, I’d find out what rap(e) culture, and new age feminism was.
To be honest it was with some scepticism that I opened the link to Emma Watson’s UN speech, I did to quote her own words wonder what this “Harry potter” girl could elucidate.
Conclusion, I am part of the problem.
Mz Watson’s speech is great. Our concept of what makes up a true “guy” (or in NZ “bloke”) is a defining characteristic of anti-female rhetoric. When we conceptualise male dominance as typical, we reinforce female submission.
While this illumination of a feminist viewpoint is spot on, it was not what truly got me.
What did strike me was the damage we are doing to the notion of equality for both sexes.
Young male suicide is unbearably high, and not just related to coping with sexual confusion. It is a product of society’s misconception that men have to be aggressive, surly, or however else you want to characterise patriarchal leadership. When we enforce this view of how a man should be we reinforce not just female inequality but male also.
My own character bears the stains of society’s misconceptions. In recent years I’ve not conformed to stereotypical “kiwi bloke” archetypes. I go to plays, watch French films, drink wine, have almost more gay mates than straight, and sometimes I box. Some people call that slightly hipster, but definitely not typically male.
So why is this bad?
I had a colleague ask once “Hey Will, now that I’ve met you and your brother, and know you’re one of six kids, are there any real men in your family?”
Real men? Real men according to society’s most prevalent view watch rugby, drink beers, and bench press. They don’t talk about their feelings, and, while I don’t think this last point necessarily always follows, they don’t think women are supposed to be “manly”.
The corollary is twofold.
One, Emma is the accidental spokeswomen for men. The next time someone suggests you aren’t all that manly, take it as a compliment, you just have non-stereotypical interests.
Two, if we start owning this new male characterisation women may well be seen differently too.
Before “publishing” this (is it publishing if you start a wordpress blog and wonder if people read it?), I sent it around to a good girl friend, and a good gay guy mate, this is their response:
“But having now seen it [Mz Watson’s video] I stand by the gay thing we were talking about earlier – when gay is no longer considered a bad thing, straight men can stop stressing about needing to be macho to prove that they’re not gay, and that, along with an understanding that there’s really no logical basis for any differentiation at all, should result in fairer treatment of women.”
“Yeah it’s got me thinking a lot too about how I was a ‘tom boy’ growing up.. I’ve always had difficulty making friends with girls and find it much easier to instantly connect with and talk to men. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because I don’t want to have to conform to what being a woman is.”
Perhaps gender, like sexuality, should be seen on a scale rather than strict categories.