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Back from the Edge | 2012 | Ritual Gestures


What is feminism? Simply the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy and smug they might be.  

-Caitlin Moran


Take Back the Fight

Do not become the monsters you rail against.

Years ago, I attended a Take Back the Night march. I had not planned on it. I had been visiting the woman I was then dating, Kate, and we left her dorm to see why there were a hundred people chanting in the streets. (It is the sort of thing that provokes curiosity.) We followed after the teeming throng, though I recall being underdressed for the chill of the night.

Though I was far from the only man taking part, I remember a few glares and rude comments my way the moment I appeared, though I had done nothing more offensive than daring to be male in their presence. I ignored these, assuming they belonged to a few people who mistook equality for separatism, instead focusing on the small candle in a Dixie cup I had been given and the woman holding my hand as though this were simply a walk around SUNY New Paltz.

When we came to the end of the march proper an hour later, a woman came over a bullhorn to announce that the women would be ushered into one building to hear rape statistics and discuss personal abuses. The men would go into a building fifteen yards away and be lectured on how not to rape. I had no interest in being parted from my girlfriend, especially as this has not been my plan for the evening, and I was quite chilly, so I took her hand and we tried to quietly leave.

Tried to. Furious college age women shouted at me that I had to stay and figure out how not to be a rapist, that I had no right to leave. When I still insisted on leaving, several women grabbed me and tried to pull me away from my girlfriend, screaming with no evident sense of irony that I wasn't going anywhere except where they wanted me. I broke their grip, shouted that I knew already how not to rape, and my girlfriend and I escaped their zealous catcalls.

When I was a teenager, I had been the victim of an attempted sexual assault by a woman ten years my senior who used her size to intimidate and attack me and then got people to blame me for stopping her (because, after all, I was a sixteen year old boy so it must be my fault she shoved me to the ground, lay on top of me with all of her weight, bit me repeatedly on the neck, and groped me before I was able to get away). I have been barred from exiting rooms and verbally abused for my chromosomes by women who believed they were acting with the best of intentions under the guise of "radical feminism". I suffered verbal abuse and degradation at my first job, because the new management felt that a male had no business working with children (after having been hired by an amazing woman who went on maternity leave a month later and never returned). I have been denied housing because the rental agent doesn't "rent to men". I have been to my face denied employment because I am male in a supposedly female field because the interviewer knows there is nothing I can do about it, that no one will believe me or care.

And I have been told time and again that I deserve this treatment, that I cannot be discriminated against, that a woman cannot assault a man because he has the nebulous "male privilege". Any punishment, any pain, is overdue based solely on that. I am supposed to be guilty of the sins of my father because I happen to have been born with a penis in a country where we have yet to have a female president.

I do not blame women as a whole for this. Those who have done me wrong, even and especially those who have abused me in the name of their interpretation of feminism, are a distinctly tiny subset. To be blunt, there are unrepentant jerks in every group and it is myopic to assume all are represented by the misdeeds of the few.

I am not saying - nor do I imagine I will ever say, much as I wish I could - that women are not discriminated against. They are and I think it is abhorrent this persists in being an issue in the twenty-first century. I work to counter misogyny, to foster equality, because it is the only way to create the world as I wish to see it, one where my nieces and nephews are not treated differently. But I will never advocate equality based on "we were denigrated, now it's your turn." (If you shout "die cis scum" at men while screaming for equality, are you trying to be equal to scum?)

I resent being told - based on some external factor - that I am not worthy as an ally. I find it the worst kind of irony, the oppressed turning around and proclaiming anyone not in their in-group unworthy, unsavory, unpleasant, and unwelcomed. At the absolute least, it is counterproductive.

Dehumanizing me based on my sexual equipment, accusing me of "swallowing the poison of patriarchy" for daring to voice my opinion that I would rather not be treated as subhuman, stereotyping me without letting me speak means I may remain an ally to the cause you believe you represent when acting as a jackboot, but it sure as hell doesn't make me your ally.

The cancerous sins of oppression must be dealt with surgically, selected removal of the sickness, not by nuking the whole organism. Beating down all men because a few are corrupt makes as much sense as adopting virulent racism because you learned about Joseph Kony. You hurt the people who you should be helping, yourself most of all.

Soon in Xenology: Male friendships. Lake George. Burlesque. Melanie.

last watched: Puella Magi Madoka Magica
reading: The Stranger
listening: Ellen McLain

Back from the Edge | 2012 | Ritual Gestures

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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