I posted this on my private FaceBook account the other day, a photo which made me guffaw out loud. For me it is funny precisely because it is impossible to take these kind of men seriously these days, something in itself that is cause for joy.
Some people of course may not necessarily find it funny. There maybe be battered women out there whose wounds are too raw or for whom the situation is just too close(may they find their way to peace and laughter). If so of course they can always switch off, unfriend. For me, generally speaking, I don’t ask the world to censor anything that touches off any of my pain. That is for me, as an autonomous individual to deal with and I offer everyone the same respect.
Anyway, I had thought that anyone who knows me or my work in real life or online would know that in posting this piece of frivolity that I was not condoning the repression of anyone by physical means or otherwise. (There maybe some exceptions to that but more in a bit.)*
I forgot about the existence of the humourless feminist armed with PC outrage. Well I didn’t but I didn’t think one would be silly enough to take it seriously. But, predictably, one hove into view, and planted a school marm type comment that queried the tone of my post and ended, without apparent humour “…the female of the species have more than enough to deal with from men without the addition of a spanking..”
After a minute or two of being first tickled at the response then annoyed at being so patronised and(There’s that DON’T BOSS ME button lighting up again!), I would have to concede that she had more than a right to comment and indeed I have made one or two silly comments myself in the past(yes, really!) but I continued to think about the discomfort I was feeling in being at odds with a woman who was obviously also a supporter of women.
Apart from the tone of the comment, which was a patronising tap on the wrist, a heads up to get back in line, get with the program, get in step with the Stepford Sisters, it flummoxed me on a couple of levels.
Firstly that someone who knows me, even a little, could believe that I would actually condone the repression of any person through intent or plain stupidity is a testament to the creepy power of politically correct thinking once it has taken hold and it quite unnerved me.
Secondly, it also inferred that my 46 year experience of being female was invalid, that somehow I didn’t know what women had “to put up with“, was an attitude scarily reminiscent of much of male oppression over the years.
I have been alone most of my life, not because I hate men but because I won’t settle for giving up any part of my freedom for anything less than I deserve. Freedom is a huge thing for me. It is not an exciting thing, freedom, it is often lonely and boring but I cannot live without it . So my life really has been an expression of many things that have been won for women in the last century or so, feminism in action rather than in theory.
So why is it that the idea of being a feminist can be a deeply unattractive proposition for me and for many others?
Often the political face of feminism seems to want merely to replace the “p” in patriarchy with an “m”. It is, in itself, as bad as the patriarchy it claims to fight. This expression of the matriarchy seeks to suppress individuality, demands that we all hold the same views and opinions and insists we all subscribe to the same way of being: a grey and humourless existence spent seeing rapists and wife beaters under every bush.The comment was an echo of this attitude.
What is also striking about this type of feminism, in common with a lot of political belief, is its complete lack of humour. Consider the local members of the Socialist Workers Party and their black on white posters(admirably parsimonious yes, but a little dull, non?). They all look so miserable all the time!
Religious groups are just as bad, witness the muslim worlds reaction to the Danish cartoon. Over 150 people died in protests around the world because of a cartoon, a joke that Islam did not feel it was strong enough to assimilate. A cartoon!
(The only religion I am drawn to is Buddhism mostly because all of its leaders seem to be laughing all the time. )
Consider humour. I am a great fan of it myself and I find the more one is immersed in the tragedy of life the more one is inclined to laugh, the more one advances the more hilarious everything is. And I mean everything.
I am sure there are mountains on studies on humour in the face of tragedy. My own observation would suggest that humour is a mankind’s way of coping with pain. When a tragedy happens one can measure the progress of peoples assimilation of it by the timing of the arrival of humour in the form of jokes and quips. Humour suggests a return to psychological health.
Conversely the denial of humour, the po-faced political correctness of a many social and religious groupings, to my mind indicates a deep weakness or sickness, internal wounds that suppurate and grow rancid.
(I am of course talking about genuine humour rather than hate and division disguised as jokes. It can be hard, of course, for some political and religious types who are not used to humour to differentiate and so they condemn it all. If only they took a bit of time to educate themselves they would find how easy it is to recognise real humour, real joy and how much brighter all our lives would be then.)
And so with feminism, much of my misgivings have been to do with the dourness of it all as much as with a propensity in certain quarters to tar all men with the same brush. But, though I do hate being put in a box, at the end of the day, my appreciation for the freedom that makes my live worth living and the knowledge that many are forcibly denied it, I would have to say I am a feminist, but one of my own design.
For instance, I like men. I suspect many of them hold views that feminists would not agree with but many of them, these days, are also smart enough not to share this, which is fine by me. I have no desire that anyone have their thoughts policed. Many of the men I have known or worked with I have got a long just fine with. I have a lot of male friends, I need male company. There have been times in my life when I have been surrounded only by women and I have nearly lost my reason. We need the men.
Yes, there’s plenty of patronising behaviour from weak individuals, and there is never a shortage of the type of men who seem to need to belittle women to make themselves feel bigger(not where I work anyway…) but then it’s not only men that come over all patronising. Women are more than capable of talking down to other women. Witness the comment above. I remember one local feminist, on hearing me say that I was painting small pictures, putting her hand on my arm and exhorting me not to call them small, assuming that I was belittling my own work. I wasn’t. They are small. She will never know how close she came to getting a smack in the gob.*(This would be one case in which I would consider indulging in a bit repression… )
I know of course that the humourless are responsible for many of the freedoms I enjoy now and sacrificed a lot for my gender but then they are also in some way responsible for the herds of young women roaming our cities at night offering up their pussies on a platter to all comers(ahem), an infestation that has done nothing to enhance the possibility of improving deep relationships between men and women, to the detriment of both. Maybe a bit more colour and humour and less ridiculous po-facedness would have made generations of young women consider feminism as a viable belief system.
I very consciously appreciate the freedom that has been won for me:when I am changing into my wetsuit to head into the waves , when I drive my car to town to meet a male friend, when I wake in the morning and put on whatever clothes I want, when I stagger outside in my dressing gown with a cup of tea, when I wear my hair up, when I wear it down. All these times I am often remembering that somewhere in the world there is a woman like me stuffed into a burkha, stuffed into a life she hates. A woman beaten, impregnated against her will, a woman denied an education or the freedom to express herself or to feel the wind in her hair, a girl stoned for being gang-raped or buried alive for talking to a boy. And when I remember this I burn with outrage than any woman should have to put up with this.
And this is what makes me angry too: that there are scores of women out there in the world trapped in unbearable lives while our sisters here in the west are splitting hairs with the women who are exercising, with joy, every freedom that has been won for us. How ludicrous.
I am a feminist in the sense I believe in everyone’s right to freedom as long as they do not encroach too much on anyones elses. As a feminist I will not allow any woman to repress the wildness in me the way the patriarchy repressed and represses so many women around the world. I will always try to prove (and sometimes fail ) that women are strong enough for a bit of humour. I will not support the oppressed to become the oppressor merely because they are too afraid to confront the wildness and contradictions in themselves.
I am a feminist with a sense of humour, with a sense of the ridiculousness and no sense whatsoever of what I am “supposed” to be expressing or not expressing in the eyes of my dull sisters.
Sisters, Brothers, my manifesto in short? DON’T BOSS ME. PASS THE CAKE.