I have a temper.
This is the entire conversation I had with X. There are some people who are already aware that I had this fight and know who X is, but she deserves her privacy. I choose to write my response this way because I don't believe that our "meeting for coffee" would work. I use this blog to articulate myself and process and I see no reason not to do it this way.
After receiving these, I posted an extremely angry response on the women's group that we were both part of (I left immediately after). It was definitely an attack, but I did my best in my rage to keep the ad hominem low and state what I believed. I'd post that here so you can see that it was irrational and angry, but it's been taken down since. X posted the very first message of the conversation we had, and from what I gather, it was that message alone that people assume I got angry about. I chose not to post the entire conversation in part because I wanted to find out whether or not she would. I knew the information would get back to me one way or another and that would either confirm what I believed about this being a propagation of victim mentality, or prove me wrong in which case I'd be more open to speaking with her more in depth. She did not prove me wrong.
For those of you who TLDR'ed that wall of text, the gist of it is that I didn't book have a woman booked on my show this month. That's true; I had someone booked, she dropped out, I chose someone else that I thought was a strong comedian. I picked someone that I thought was different in style and high energy (I won't say who it was), because I was considering the overall pacing of the show from what I know about the people on it.
I realize that this is a very long blog, but any one who talks to me about it will hear the exact same thing. I have this as backup. I want to be completely clear about where I stand and I hold myself accountable for what I say. If someone does illustrate to me that I am wrong and she is not, so be it.
After booking my last comedian and seeing my all male line up, I posted in a Denver comedy women's group inviting women to show me their sets. Invite me to a show, pull me aside at a mic, let me know who you are so if I was unaware I could book you. I considered this a solution so I could avoid in the future. In her message X accuses me of not looking hard enough. I'm not sure what the realism of this statement is. I hit mics constantly and I watch everyone's set. I pay attention to people that I don't know on shows. I opened up booking for women specifically. I'm not sure what is not looking hard enough so much as her just thinking I'm not allowed to have my opinion as to what is funny, or what would work in my room.
X, this is for you. I am not having coffee with you because none of your reaction to me seemed to acknowledge my views in the first place. You don't seem open to dialogue. To be blunt, wrongly or rightly, the fact that you hid behind your first message to make me seem like I was overreacting, combined with the content of your message, makes me believe you can't. You are aware of my opinion. You disagree. You want me to conform to yours. I will not, not with that kind of communication.
You simply stated that what I did wasn't good enough for you. You don't speak for every woman in comedy. You are new to the scene and the rationale you're applying isn't equivalent to the real world. This kind of blind eye, blanket approach to things is detrimental, in my opinion, to feminism as a whole.
From here on, I'm just going to break down why I reacted the way I did.
There are so many ladies looking to get stage time.
Yes, there are, but there are a lot of human beings looking for stage time. From what little I have to base this off of, there are about 80 women in that comedy group. There were about 400 people in the draft for comedy works, which includes all of us who signed up for new talent or the contest. That's not a perfect gauge of how many there are total, but it demonstrates a level of one in five, the number of women that are booked on the show that I, a woman who busts ass to put it together every month while hitting mics, shows and working 2 jobs, puts together. You are devaluing my work and opinion as a woman because you think I owe you more. I believe in fairness and mathematically, I believe that's a fair representation.
I'm sure your audience would appreciate a diverse lineup.
X, you have never set foot in my room. You don't get to tell me what they enjoy. Saying this implies that it's not something I consider because 2 of 14 shows, both instances because of someone dropping out, there have not been women. This is highly insulting to me, that you're suggesting I have put a room that averages about 60 people together and am clueless to what they might like.
It's strange to me that I need to remind you how hard it is [since] you're a lady comic and have probably faced prejudice yourself.
You contradict yourself on this point strongly a bit later, X, and this is one of the most condescending and infuriating things you said to me. For one thing, this type of statement is both an appeal to flattery and an appeal to consequence. You are telling me, effectively, that I should know better, "I'm better than my decisions. That's a nonsense statement. You're trying to elicit my emotional response as though I'm not completely aware of what I'm doing.
Secondly, you are essentially suggesting that "because I care about women, and your point is about caring about women, then I must be wrong if I don't agree to your point." I hope I don't need to further explain why that is a baseless argument. I believe in feminism and I believe in pragmatism, showing that we are empowered, logical and strengthen our argument with critical thought, not picking every battle for sympathy, which I firmly believe you did here. That, I will stipulate is my opinion and you can try and change my mind on that, I can't state what your intentions are, that's just how it comes across. More on this as we go.
Happy International Women's Day!
This wouldn't have bothered me aside from the fact it's a petty jab at me apparently being ignorant to your brand of feminism. This wasn't an olive branch or solidarity, it was a literal, use of words power play. If you are talking to me in person you can offer me inflection or tone but this is writing and choosing your words is all you have to get your point across. This reeks of ivory tower bullshit where you can tell me about your women's studies courses because my knowledge must be outdated or incomplete. It comes across as you believing I am ignorant. Again, you imply that I must be less ... I don't know, feminist, something, than you, because I didn't do what you liked.
My response explained the situation and steps I had taken for it not to happen in the future. I further mentioned my firm belief that I am against this kind of nitpicking and it prevents me from doing things that I consider to be supporting women, namely, letting them feature or headline when I don't see it happening. It is hard to win respect, and it is hard to be promoted.
I look at every show you have and see that you typically have at least one woman booked.
Holy, holy shit. First of all, 1 in 5, because I believe that is proportional. That number is on the rise which is encouraging, but that's still where I think it is. Second of all, looking at every single line up and deciding to comment on the one anomaly and feeling the need to say something is nitpicking bullshit. You didn't ask me what happened, which is why I become defensive by default simply by explaining it.
If this were a trend that I continued over a few shows, by all means, you should have asked me why; I would have had no good answer. My answer, which is what the pragmatist in me believes, is that shit happens. You are making a nothing statement to someone who does consider women and fairness and it makes me discredit you. When you are discredited, it is to some extension reflected on a lot of us. How much harder would it be to actually point out when someone is booking a sexist lineup when you're claiming that any moment something doesn't go your way is against women?
I find it hard to believe to believe that you can't think of a single funny woman to take her spot. If that is the case, I would have to say you aren't looking or listening hard enough.
X, I implore you to have someone say that to your face and see if you don't find it offensive. Again, I can think of a few women that I thought would be "funny enough." Some of them I want to feature in the next couple months, and there are even fewer of those spots. I don't like to book people multiple times too close together because my audience contains a lot of repeat members. I don't want to have them see the same show every month. Some of them were just on my show, and some of them simply didn't have the kind of energy that I wanted to balance the people I knew were on it. There were funny women, they just weren't right for this situation.
Additionally, you believe that I'm not looking or listening hard enough, knowing and being one of the respondents to a call to women to see their sets so maybe I can find people I have missed. What steps would you have me take? Should I book people that I have nothing to vet with because they're women? I won't. I realize our meritocracy is subjective, and the reason why I want to see people in front of a crowd is because even if they aren't my style of humor, I can see when they do well. What else, exactly, do you want me to do other than put someone on my show who I either don't know or believe is ready for it, or burn through people as openers that I want to give more time as features and headliners?
I appreciate your post [but] it's your show and your responsibility to book it.
See aforementioned point. I took steps to find more women that I might be overlooking. You're again implying that I did nothing, that I do nothing, that I don't consider this. Not once did you ask me.
I am happy to talk to you more in depth about how I see sexism arise in the scene and the nuances of my experience. I don't want to assume it's the experience of all women.
X, this is the sentence that triggered me to write the post attacking you in the first place. You are making a very stark and arrogant conclusion that I must be the way I am because I have just been shrouded in cotton candy and never been touched by sexism.
I was sexually assaulted as a teenager and I have spent most of my life developing myself into a person that can deal with that. Being able to not blame all of men for the actions of that one has taken me well over a decade, and has been at the expense of some very kind people.
I have been talked over, forgotten, been marginalized, misunderstood, dismissed and harassed. There are a few people who don't know me very well that have thought I have slept with a lot of comics to get where I am. I have been hurt, intentionally or not, by men and women. You inviting me to hear the nuances of your experience, just over the year-ish that you have been here, you don't get to tell me that. You didn't even ask what I've been through. You just said you didn't want to assume I've been through anything. Can you not see how that would be incredibly offensive?
You end that, effectively, with "let's get coffee and chat." You don't make that sound like you're inviting me to an open dialogue. That sounds like me staring at you while you get on a soap box about whatever has happened in your life. Maybe you have been assaulted too. Maybe you feel marginalized and trapped. You are inviting me to hear why you are the way you are but in no way have you presented yourself, in this message or your life, in a way that makes me believe you would understand the first thing about who I am and why I think what your doing is hurtful to women as a whole. You can't conceive of being wrong.
I accuse you of taking a moral high ground. Again, because you are nitpicking one of my shows out of many that I have had, and because you dismiss me, as maybe nothing has happened to me. Remember that line in your first message about how surely I must know how hard it is to be a woman in comedy?
I repeat what I said before about the steps I'd taken. I tell you not to police anyone's show. I accuse you of taking moral high ground. I withdraw from your show.
Just book a woman and you have no need to [justify] your actions.
I did book a woman. See continued point I've been making this whole time.
I don't know whose "job" you think it is to police the scene accountable. If I see a show that doesn't have a women booked, especially by a female show runner, I am going to say something.
I don't think it's any one's job to police a scene because that implies there are select people with authority. We should lead by example. Again, if there is a show where women are never booked over the course of weeks or months, then someone, (and I would) should ask the show runner why. Looking at behavior as a whole is important. Focusing on singular events is childish. It makes women seem entitled and trivial, that our merits aren't enough to get stage time. We are not more entitled than anyone else.
Also,because I am female show runner, wouldn't you consider holding me to some higher standard than you do men to be somewhat sexist? I should be held to the same standards as anyone else. I explained to you my rationale and you didn't like it. End of story. You have your opinion, X, and you won't budge from it. You are just going to be shouting into the void and you are going to alienate people from feeling like they can trust women, talk to them, or book them. You make mistakes and accidents look like threats to feminism as a whole. That cheapens the entire idea, and it's completely impractical.
The rest of your post just repeats your points, and I've already talked about them. You acknowledge nothing I said. You are simply saying I am not trying hard enough. You admit you're not perfect in your ways of communicating. That could be fixed by thinking critically about them and communicating with purpose. Ask questions, X. That's the easiest way. Make sure you understand me before you pass this kind of criticism. You don't, you give me no evidence of it, at least. I found this to be irritating and damaging to how I fundamentally believe we can gain strength and community. Alienating men is not an answer. Alienating me, and women like me, is not an answer.
You asked me for coffee. That's your solution. You think you can have this dialogue in a coffee shop. Maybe, X. But you didn't invite me. You told me. Nothing in your conversation so far has really seems to acknowledge why I hold my beliefs valid. You are lost in an echo chamber, X. Your own statements are just repetitions of themselves and not once did you ask me why. I hope you read this over coffee. That last statement, that is a petty jab. That's what you are eliciting with this type of "call out" behavior. It's the girl who cried sexism. X, you are so focused on your point that not once did I believe you realized you were actually talking to me.
When I was angry and posted my rage, I could have done that on facebook at large. I chose not to, not because I thought I was wrong, but because I was certain you would face a huge amount of trolling and attack that you did not deserve. I trust my point and the thickness of my skin to have done fine with it. I posted it in that group because I felt it necessary to "call you out" and this type of insular thinking in general. I don't tolerate it.
I looked for you last night. I'm not afraid of confrontation and more than write this I wanted to say it to you. The kicker is, I had you written in my notebook potentially for next month on my show. I know that when enough time has passed I will simply dismiss you. It was hard not to before because you made these complaints that make me have to believe you suck at proportions. You are not supporting women when you pick every battle. You are a shout in the street.
So to recap, your sexual orientation is a part of your identity that you don't choose. However, you start to assign traits, negative or positive, to sexual identities as you come across them. For example, it's acceptable in the US to idolize the straight, white man, and you chiefly identify him as masculine. Shortly behind, as long as she's riding sidecar, would be the straight white woman who is identified most significantly as feminine. Race plays a huge part of identity, both personal and perceived, although I'm going to have to just acknowledge that and move along if I don't want to end up writing a novel.
Beyond the heteronormative, to borrow a buzz word, we can include a few different stereotypes we assign to other sexual orientations, though the list of recognized sexual orientations is growing. For the scope of this article, we're going to focus on the stereotypes of these first two mentioned, as well as the stereotype of gay men and women because of how they help highlight this issue as one of perception and not of inherent value.
To start off, here basic traits assigned to each, by default, in US Culture:
Straight Men are assigned the culturally appealing trait of being masculine.
Straight Women are assigned the culturally skewed and moderately negative, trait of being feminine.
Gay men are also assigned the culturally skewed, moderately negative trait of being feminine. They are also maligned as having "given up" or possibly "not achieving" true masculinity that's available in/to a straight man.
Finally, gay women are assigned the culturally appealing trait of being masculine, but they are maligned for being women who could never truly "achieve" masculinity, because masculinity is again, only available to/part of a straight man.
Okay, American Culture, so you assign some traits to each persona (which is now my shorthand for identity/orientation), and there's certainly more we could add. Right now, we're only focusing on those pertaining to masculine and feminine.
So what is it about masculinity that our culture considers appealing, and why is it only available to one out of four personas listed, regardless of gender or orientation?
Masculinity and femininity are complicated vocabulary; we don't necessarily know what these words mean when we say them, let alone when someone else does. They apply to us, but we don't always know how, or for that matter why. Why would being confident make me appear masculine, why was my friend's emotional sensitivity considered effeminate? Those are interpretations of exhibited traits, which is exactly the reason why masculinity and femininity, unlike gender identity or sexual orientation, are mostly (but not entirely) cultural constructs. They primarily exist because of comparison and observation; Particularly, observation of how heterosexuals successfully attract one another.
The fact that masculinity and femininity are portrayals of heterosexual attraction helps frame why the possession and distribution of the idea of masculinity can be so oppressive, why it's so exclusive and sadly, why it's effective as cultural dogma.
I want to stress that there is nothing bad or wrong with masculinity; far from it. In order to work my way back to that point, there's a little shit talking that I need to do in the form of a history lesson: the rise of the Patriarchy.
Here's the short version: Patriarchy arose with the development of agricultural domesticating animals, and by proxy, owning territory that needed to be defended. Societies that remained hunter-gatherer based were typically more egalitarian, matriarchal in some cases. Ancient Greece went a long way into establishing patriarchy, with philosophers like Aristotle making such bullshit assumptions as women having "colder blood" which is why they couldn't "become men".
This wasn't strictly true across all civilizations, but there's far more examples than exceptions, and for the most part there's some level of subordination to the woman's role.
So what was a woman's place in a stationary, agricultural society? Child rearing, making babies that could help do farm work and defend the land, not to mention being bought and sold via marriage in order to establish treaties and merge family wealth. In order to buy and sell members of your species, you'd have to believe they're not as worthy as you, and so, long, long ago, before any one who reads this got close to being born, humans developed attitudes that females and things that are attributed to females are worth less. Because they were worth less as individuals, it made someone worth more to have many of them as property. Think of the early view of women as the pawns no the chess board. Only that one that might make it across and become queen would be of real value. The rest were sacrificial, literally or figuratively.
This isn't a comfortable truth, nor is it one men should feel responsible for: a lot of your traceable ancestry wasn't around while this was happening. This was very, very early in human civilization, and perpetuated with a lot of momentum until a few short lifetimes ago. Without learning this kind of history, however, we can't really do anything constructive about its effects in the present, never mind the "doomed to repeat it" thing.
So, here's my best guess as to where the ancient kernel of this dilemma arises :We're still working with an archaic framework for what defines masculinity: typically, a virile man who can attract the best mate, who will make the most and best offspring, offspring who can help him maintain his territory and possibly take more territory from other, weaker men.
As you might have noticed, the world we live in looks nothing like the ancient world where this idea developed. Does that mean that in modern society there is no masculinity? Before you can even look at that question, we have to start smaller : What is masculinity?
To be honest, I don't know if I could define, or find any one person who could definitely tell you, what masculinity "is": We could only maintain a list of things that are masculine.
Beards. Strength. Cars. Aggression. Fitness. Math. Video Games. Fathers. Confidence. Bearskin Rugs. Guns. Mustaches. Anger. Suits. Decisiveness. Wood Pipes. Whiskey. Ambition. Lumber, probably.
Wieners? Usually, but not always.
Even stupidity could be considered something of a masculine trait. In the media, it's usually used as an Achilles heel to exonerate or explain undesirable side effects (such as misjudging one's confidence) of characteristics that are still only attributed to men. Any word that "masculine" applies to should be a word that can be put in front of the word "man" and still give the same impression: Confident Man, Bearded Man, Strong Man, all similar in how they conjure our mental image.
(Wiener Man? Again, not really.)
Search the internet and you'll find a pretty expansive scope as to what manliness or masculinity is. There's a lot of scholarly papers written on the topic, the ever popular "Art of Manliness" franchise and let's not forget the myriad of men's magazines to help define it for you.
The simplest definition is in the dictionary, where the word masculine is defined as "pertaining to the characteristics of men."
What makes this adjective so troubling is that we use it like it's effectively tangible, and distributed exclusively to some people, as in men, and they must pertain to all men. Why do these qualities only pertain to men and not women? For that matter, do they really pertain to all men? We can easily establish that not all men share the same characteristics, but how does that make them any different in terms of being a man?
Those questions are frustrating enough, but the frustration could only be amplified given that we've never really toned down the importance of "being a man" since the days where that meant you had the most oxen or could wrestle a bear off of your pregnant wife.
At one point in time, your survival, your social status, and your family's well being was directly related to how good of a provider you were. How good of a provider you were was not only a trait of masculinity, but it was considered a result of it, as well. As the social climate progresses and we learn more about one another, including the diversity of sexual and gender identities, the idea of masculinity continues to play a huge role, but nobody has a fucking clue what that role actually is.
We developed cultural masculinity; ideals based off of our social values of being a man, that often have little to do with the actual qualities of being a man. We're taught these when we're very young and they're reinforced for the rest of our life. Our only reprieve is by meeting people who don't fit the mold that trigger some further understanding or acceptance.
American culture has further tailored the quality of masculinity as something ascribed to people in power, possibly because that's partially where the ideas originated. Today, power comes in different forms: money, success, and in this model, sexual prowess. Additionally, it's often preached (religiously or by social norms) to the middle class that "success" involves having a family, settling down, getting your own house, etc. Lifestyles that deviate from this idea of success are often viewed as also deviating from the qualities of that success, such as masculinity.
In order to keep it in the hands of the powerful, we've had to adjust the relevance of the word; masculinity can't apply to men who don't uphold the adapted power structure, nor can the favorable traits that are identified as masculine be considered inherent to the women who challenge it.
So, to challenge men who don't fit the social structure by claiming they lack masculinity, and therefore must be homosexual, goes back to those outdated power structures that are slowly cracking. A man who isn't masculine, who doesn't fit the stereotype that would lead them to the current patriarchal power model, must therefore either be sexually unfit, or gay (a social status which is still fighting for equality, and which is still considered by some groups of people to be a form of sexual deviancy).
If you don't think you're gay, and at the very least hope you're not sexually unfit, but you lack the prescribed traits of masculinity assigned by our culture, you're forced to make some very difficult judgment calls. Without doing anything besides having your personality, you're forced to figure out what kind of person you are, and how you fit into society as a whole, because you aren't the kind of man that culture dictates you should be. It's no wonder my male friends struggled with this for so long and felt frustrated and isolated; it took me hours to come up with that sentence and I only kind of think it makes sense.
Is that a fucked up social perspective? Sure is. Is the solution to stop putting such an elaborate cultural emphasis on masculinity? Yes and no; it's not that simple. First off, it's still not clear what our collective definition of masculinity even is. And again, there's nothing wrong with or bad about being masculine, and it shouldn't be discouraged in people who exhibit it in the traditional sense. The problem lies in the level of pressure we put on men to live up to what's ultimately an arbitrary definition of who they should be, and offering no alternative or recognition of diversity. That's idiotic.
Factor in a discouragement of diversity and the frequent lack of positive male role models a lot of my generation has, and you're left with confused, angry men who feel like they should hate themselves more than they actually do, but don't understand why. There's a million ways that kind of anomie can become dangerous.
Also, there's no point in celebrating femininity at the risk of snuffing masculinity out in some reverse chauvinism. This is usually the fear of people who have had poor introductions to feminism at large, and ironically could be argued would be by women exhibiting "masculine traits" such as confidence or aggression, in the name of feminism.
So far, we've established three things:
1. Sexuality and Masculinity (or femininity) aren't concurrent.
2. As a culture, we still overly value the idea of masculinity due to completely outdated social constructs.
3. Because we've changed so much as a society, we're pretty fuzzy on what that idea that we value so highly actually is.
Now that that's established, we have a new question: How is a person going to attain that social value if he doesn't know what it is? Essentially, how does a boy become a man?
Admittedly I could have titled this overall article better, but I chose the title because of its incendiary nature. There will be more on that in a later section; why we use "gay" as a derogatory term has a bit to do with why my friends have been struggling with their identity, as well.
First things first, there's a big difference between people I've met who are attracted to the same sex and people who ideologically believe they're supposed to because "that's their personality". I don't think there's something "wrong" with either person. That being said, these also entirely different struggles with identity.
If you're gay, I imagine your struggle is with feelings of attraction that you're told are unnatural or not okay; this might be in combination with a lack of feelings that you're told are expected or normal.
I say imagine because I don't have a ton of gay friends, the ones I do have pretty much solidified who they are and feel empowered by their sexuality. No homosexual, in my limited, anecdotal circle, thinks there's a problem with the fact they're gay. The people this article is written about not only think they might be gay, but they also seem somewhat opposed to it. They're struggling with how their personality makes them into someone gay or why that's expected of them, and their internal identity doesn't match that imposed sense of self.
To my knowledge science hasn't exactly nailed down the gay gene (and never had, that was an oversimplification of a study finding a genetic marker more common in gay men). Rather, there's a plethora of genetic factors, possibly including epigenetic factors for both you and your parents, as possible sources. There's also a lot of evidence that homosexuality isn't some "evolutionary misstep", as some people try to claim when arguing for the impairment of reproduction. Evolutionary biology (or psychology) isn't even close to as black and white as "If it helps us eat more food or make more kids, it's evolutionary success." The short version : Science agrees that it's complicated, and not something you simply decide on.
And it's precisely the idea that you can decide your sexuality that starts making people uncomfortable, and creates bizarre social controls that encourage you to make the "right choice". Being gay is part of who you are, as is any other orientation, but that doesn't mean it exclusively governs all aspects of your personality--and not every trait that's culturally considered homosexual is a link to that orientation, or vice versa.
Wrestling with feelings about your sexual orientation implies that you've had some kind of feeling or experience that relates to the people you desire to be close to, bond with and have sex with. For the people I'm talking about, those feelings don't exist at all or are primarily heterosexual. Attraction becomes an intellectualized process that makes it difficult for the individual to feel connected to their own desires for intimacy, and Intimacy is complicated enough without the fear that you're doing it the wrong way for yourself/with the wrong person.
The guys I talked to often admitted they'd flirted with or kissed men, or engaged in anal sex with women, other things that tested their belief that they might be gay. Most usually found actual homosexual contact to be more conflicting if not a total let down, but continued to have incredibly strained relationships with women in ways that still fostered doubts about their orientation.
I think the starting point of sexual maturation for your body is different for everyone, and whether you do or don't get hormonal signals about your identity, you'll invariably be bombarded with cultural messages about who you're supposed to be, how you're supposed to feel and what that's supposed to look like.
The problem with a lot of these social constructs is that they're generalizations, and they don't allow for the complexity and fluidity of human nature. It makes no account for the neck tattooed construction worker who picks up a couple of beers for him and his boyfriend after they get off work, or an ascot wearing interior decorator who goes home to his wife and three children and teaches his son how to play football or build an engine from scratch. At most, these people become the butt of a satire about gender roles without any recognition of the fact that they're just a different example of being human. Socially, we group deviations from accepted gender norms in the same category as deviations from heterosexuality, which is, well, dumb. It also further highlights discrepancies in how we idealize being human based on sexuality, as well as what roles we assume people have or worse, deserve based on it.
Orientation is just a fraction of your identity, and the amount of emphasis it holds varies from person to person. For some, their sexuality is a point of pride and for others it's just background noise. Sex sells, and appealing to a person's libido is a quick way to get a point across, positively or negatively. As a culture, we develop strong cues as to "negative" and positive" markers for sexuality because we're fed so much of it, early, whether we know it or not.
Many, then, begin to tailor their personality based on what they think makes them attractive to their desired partner, or at least mimic what they believe is desirable. When you learn that the things that make you "unattractive" to your desired mates are also the things that are anchors of your identity, and furthermore those also make you attractive to a different mate, there's undoubtedly going to be some internal conflict. Luckily, the further along you get in your life, the more you'll learn to balance the perfection of your mating call with who you most enjoy being as a person. In theory, it's the way you level that out attracts "the right person", AKA that statistical anomaly of "the one" we all seem to be searching for.
This leads us to the next problem: Your orientation is something wired into you, whether you're a lumberjack or an aspiring ballet dancer. Your view of a lumberjack or ballet dancer's orientation is based off of cultural values that you learn and internalize as you grow up and interact with people. Which takes us further through this intellectual corn maze...-->>
I'm amazed at how many things we hide from the people in our lives for fear that we'd be judged, completely unaware that these are things we'd have in common. In this case, this isn't my struggle that I'm writing about, but it's one that's been divulged to me multiple times by multiple people, and at this point I'm just shocked no one has thought of mentioning it to another one of their peers. The conclusions they drew, how the individuals were shaped from their experience and their overall opinions vary, but the root experience, which I promise I'll get to in a moment, was the same. It's also one they generally felt *very* uncomfortable sharing.
Since this isn't something I ever dealt with, let me preface this with the closest experience I have. While I was in late elementary school, I thought I might be a lesbian. I had no concept of sexuality at this point; I hadn't developed feelings for either sex and I wouldn't have had a clue what to do about it if I had. I thought I was a lesbian because I wanted to be a writer, I didn't wear girly clothes or makeup, and I preferred dogs to dolls. Based on what I learned from my peers, TV and whatever other sources of social control I had, these things would mean that I'd grow up to like women.
Again, I didn't even really know or understand what it would involve to "like" a girl or a boy, at this point. I was developing my assumption of sexual orientation strictly because of what kind of attributes and gender role was assigned to it.
Thinking I'd be a lesbian wasn't an opinion I expressed out loud because it seemed like a moot point. Firstly I was too young to be attracted to anybody. Secondly, even at that age and despite having a pretty conservative upbringing, I didn't think I'd have a choice. I like what I liked, and if that meant I'd end up liking women, I didn't see the point in trying to be somebody else for the sake of being straight.
I didn't look for women to be attracted to, either. Most of my preteen and teenage years lacked development of sexual desire. The reasons for that are pretty complex, but for brevity's sake, I can say that I didn't really feel attraction in any understandable form until I was 16, and I wouldn't do much about it with anyone until I was in college a year later. I just didn't understand how it worked, and at the time, I didn't place a lot of importance on it. Maybe I figured that the "right person" would be the one I'd work it out with, so I didn't have to worry about it.
Eventually, when I started getting crushes on boys, I didn't feel conflicted about it; and I certainly didn't feel like I was forcing myself to. It felt normal. I experimented with girls a little in my early 20s, but this had a lot more to do with problems I had in my relationship at the time. I was drinking a lot at that point, too. I don't devalue those experiences, but they didn't influence or change my orientation, and I didn't do them because I had questions about my sexuality.
I knew I was straight regardless of how I was perceived or thought myself to be perceived. Again, this wasn't a huge deal for me, although, maybe it wasn't a big deal because I didn't have to wrestle with my sexual identity. I imagine if I were gay, it would have been a whole other experience, and I would have gone through a lot more turmoil based on my exploration with those women. In the end, it was shits and giggles, stories for future parties, bucket list entries...
So what's with the personal exposition? Hang in there kids, this is armchair psychology day. It's also the moment I remind you I didn't graduate college, so take this all with whatever serving size of salt you require. This is all observational on my part. This observation also applies to something I'm not: a guy.
Recently, another male friend of mine confided in me that earlier in life, he had thought he was gay. That in itself isn't shocking; and while homosexuality is real and often times poorly misunderstood or mishandled in early years, that wasn't his case.
My friend believed this about himself because from what he understood, his personality "was gay", and not because he felt attracted to the same sex. He was artistic, perceived as more sensitive, slighter in build, and overall lacked the brutish, testosterone fueled stereotypes of masculinity that he perceived in his peers. In some cases, it was assumed for him, regardless of how he handled himself. So my friend experimented, felt unfulfilled, and struggle with his sexuality and his identity for years. It would be a few years before he worked out both his orientation and masculinity, all of which happened years before I met him, but left him with some downright bizarre ideas about relationships, and relationships with women in particular.
I'm not sure why he felt the need to tell me about it. I'm doing my best to keep any him as well as anyone else who's revealed this to me as anonymous as possible. I need to stress I wouldn't have any opinion were it not for the fact that I've heard this story a lot. This turned into a "tell me once, interesting story, tell me ten times, why the fuck does no one know this about each other?"
My friend was surprised to learn that I'd heard his story before. None of the guys I've talked to, to my knowledge, felt comfortable telling their friends or girlfriends, or felt misunderstood if they brought it up. This might be because the confusion and mixed feelings appear related to messages other people give you about what you're supposed to be. It's a strange kind of vulnerability to have with people whose opinions of you matter so much. It's mind blowing to me that these men could feel so deeply affected and completely terrified of the effect that they refused to tell anyone, opting to quietly deal with it alone. I guess they didn't feel like they had any alternative.
This article is written on the slim chance that someone else doesn't know how to work out what they're feeling, and they don't have anyone they trust to tell it to.
Firstly, you're not alone.
Secondly, you're not even a little weird.
Thirdly, even though this one doesn't really matter, I doubt you're actually gay. A lot more on this later.
This has taken me a long time to write, and I've split it into sections in hopes that it will be a little easier to read. If you have some insights that I missed, feel free to express them. This is a pretty complex issue and I don't claim expertise. This is only what I've learned from the people I've seen go through it, and I hope it's helpful to somebody.
Briefly, here's the overview of the next few sections.:
1. Your sexual orientation isn't a choice, but your idea of what makes you a man, to a degree at least, is.
2. In this case, the latter is what you're struggling with. This has a lot to do with the absolutely bonkers way we view masculinity in our culture, in addition to the amount of emphasis we place on that bonkers view.
3. The emphasis we put on this ideal descends further into madness because we have no real methodology or belief system for attaining masculinity, which makes it an even more vague quality.
4. We don't really understand or acknowledge the parental role, mother or father, that is embedded in our self-perception, particularly in our fulfillment of gender ideals.
5. Finally, the ill-defined, seemingly unattainable but ultimately prized sense of what it means to "be a man" is directly correlated to an also ill-defined, albeit much more attainable sense of "being a woman" (or a pussy, as will usually be used in this case). This fear of femininity, implicit or expressed, both comes from and causes a great deal of misunderstanding between sexes. I'd also argue that homophobia comes more from this quagmire of misconception than it does from any latent homosexuality.
Feeling unsure about this? Don't worry, we'll get there, bud. Read More Here -->>
I have two older brothers; and now that I look back on it, they taught me more about gender equality than any one else.
I'm suffering from the flu today; I have no voice, very little energy and have to stop typing every ten minutes or so because it's exhausting. I'm still writing because being sick is also incredibly boring and I'm a little behind. This completely unnecessary paragraph is my way of explaining how loose and possibly unintelligible this article might be.
Our concepts about what is masculine or feminine are largely shaped by our culture, and while gender is fluid, I find it hard to believe we don't inherently assign certain traits to each, at the very least on a social level. It seems like nature: people have ten fingers and ten toes, eyes and lips and limbs; man-people are built one way and woman-people are built another. We make distinctions by default because it's available to us and we're allowed to scrutinize. Blah blah blah, insert evolutionary psychological sentiment here. I've had a lot of cough medicine today.
It stands to reason that we continue this scrutiny both psychologically and socially; that man-people behave one way and woman-people behave another. Women are often thought of as emotional and chatty, and all men are secretly Don Draper while that reference still has some crumbs of relevance. If not; they're level headed, rarely emotional, rational beings. The separation between rationality and emotion we have in the US is appalling but to be spoken of some other time.
Where am I going with this? Sexism. So we learn to treat each other based off of these cultural assumptions of what men and women are like. Once you're released from your childhood into the adult world, you're forced to figure out what all these googly eyed motherfuckers are staring at and how you're supposed to talk to them.
We develop rifts as to what masculinity and femininity mean based on the roles they're assigned; Mother, Daughter, Sister was all women had for awhile. Men had Father, Son, Brother but they also had Doctor, Lawyer, and Guy Who Makes More Than You. Slowly though, we're working on bringing those roles to equilibrium. How long is that gonna take? Only the Moon Rabbits know. The point is we're trying.
Inevitably, as something becomes more acceptable, people become lost in the echo chamber, and utterly valid points suddenly seem like overblown arguments that aren't relevant any more because we see them 'all over the place' (IE our own facebook feed and nowhere else). We see this with the slow integration of anything; the lingering cries against racism and sexism are brushed off by many as the outcry of a few people who simply fail to accept that the fight is over and they're shouting only to hear themselves.
This includes bringing to light things that happen that people don't want to acknowledge are happening. For example, campaigns like Yes All Women made the uncomfortable point that rape and molestation can occur from any man in a woman's life; that's not saying every man wants to rape a woman; it's not accusing perfectly normal individuals of being monsters, it's acknowledging the very uncomfortable truth that it can happen by any one in our life, coworkers, friends, even boyfriends or family. You think that makes a dude uncomfortable, think about how it makes us feel. It's like Ratatouille but fucked up; Not every man is a rapist, but a rapist can be in any man.
Masculinity and Femininity have traits that are almost intrinsically associated with the words; Masculinity harbors aggression, femininity harbors sensitivity. We view the opposite sex through these ideals of what their gender represents. While this may not be a groundbreaking view, it's weird that we still seem to minimize our attention to the very common instances of these gender tropes being broken. There are many confident, aggressive women; there are also men who are sensitive and desire intense dialogue about what they're feeling. We all know this happens, but for some reason, we tend to be dismissive of it and reclaim the tropes anyways, consciously or unconsciously.
Growing up I was a tomboy. I wanted to be just like my older brothers. I remember being given dolls and losing interest in them quickly. I liked animals and playing in trees. I never really picked up on things that were feminine, and it wasn't a huge influence on my upbringing. I never had large circles of female friends, which never bothered me. For that matter, I never had large circles of friends so I think by comparison it wasn't much of a shocker. I picked up a lot of my influence (including being a fifth grader whose first CD purchase was Portishead Dummy) from my brothers; they taught me a lot about how to be human.
The cool thing about having siblings is you get to see the opposite gender in a completely desexualized context; it's not "men are from mars, women are from venus", it's "we're from earth and going to be in this minivan for the next eight hours." Growing up, I never saw their reactions to things and thought, "that's what boys do, and I'm a girl so that's why I do things differently" We were all just little people running around and figuring shit out.
As I got older, I got to see how my brothers were hurt by women. I got to see how they retaliated. I saw how their relationships formed and deteriorated and it appeared to have little to do with who had which sex organ. They were people, their respective girlfriends were people, and as they grew and changed they went through the same experiences I would later find myself going through. Masculinity wasn't some off putting toxic thing, it was just a different way the cards got shuffled. The fact that attached to it are certain privileges and attitudes shouldn't be ignored, but neither should the fact modern men can acknowledge it as an issue even if they don't know what to do about it.
I didn't meet too many strong women until much later in my life and it's been a great addition; I'm challenged on things and in ways I would have never considered. I'm a pretty passive person, and most of what I've learned about being assertive came from these badass women. What I learned about disarming people, how to not step on people's toes no matter what their personality, that was a gift from my brothers.
Feminism is about gender equality. It's unfortunate the word has been so tainted by the few irrational pubes who pull reverse chauvinism; in order for genders to be seen as equal, we need to consider both of them. You're going to run into well intended people with the wrong opinion and vice versa. There's no need to assume either way that someone can't be part of a conversation, understand something or even change their mind because of their sex. That's what sexism is by definition.
I feel like there may have been more of a point to make, but maybe not. Let me just include this completely unnecessary sentence and the equally unimportant one before it.
About A Blog
I'm a Denver Comedian, occasional cartoonist and person of interest to someone, probably. These articles are really too long.