I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on what I might be able to add to the discussion on male privilege and toxic masculinity.
I think there are a lot of things we go through as boys and young men that no one really unpicks or even talks about and, from where I sit, they look an awful lot like part of the problem. Here’s a couple of fairly random thoughts on that topic.
I’ve never been what I would call a “stereotypical guy”, a “man’s man”. I’ve always recoiled from displays of machismo, “locker room” talk, boasting over sexual “conquests” and the like, and have never felt comfortable engaging in that stuff.
This year it will be the 25 year anniversary of a month-long inter rail trip I saved up for and took around Europe with another male friend.
We were 19, had no fixed plan and travelled freely around, making our plans day by day, staying in random little backstreet hostels and hanging out with strangers we met.
We went to random parties in abandoned warehouses, slept on seats in trains and benches in train stations.
Sometimes we went off individually and there were nights when I wandered strange streets on my own, thousands of miles from home, with literally no one knowing where I was.
It was a spectacular feeling of freedom and, honestly, there were only a handful of times when I felt worried or unsafe.
Now yes, I was young and had plenty of hubris and was maybe more overconfident than I should have been. But it only occurred to me *this year* what an extraordinary privilege that was, and – more specifically- how much of that freedom was granted by virtue of my gender.
A recent study confirmed what others have shown before – that the overwhelming majority of young women (97%) have experienced sexual harassment or worse. And even that tiny percentage who have avoided it first hand will very likely have a close friend or family member who hasn’t been so lucky.
And so the harsh reality is that, by that same age of 19, there is a vanishingly small number of women who have not been affected, one way or another.
A woman simply does not get to breeze down the street in a fit of care-free exuberance like I did. Not because of anything she has any control over, but because of how our society and specifically the men in our society treat her.
This seems so obvious to me now that I’ve seen it, but the fact is it took me a very long time to recognise there was anything different about my experience compared to that of a woman in the exact same circumstances.
To my shame, this is despite having heard about the terrifying attempted rape of someone close to me on a similar type of trip.
I don’t think I am especially lacking in self-awareness (perhaps others would disagree) but the privilege I had and have was so invisible to me that it has taken a quarter of a century to even notice it was there.
Of course that doesn’t mean my life has been easy – I’ve had my own share of difficulties. But there are things that are baked into men’s expectations of the world so early and so deep in our subconscious that it takes – or at least it took me – a lot of time and thought to see.
So, men: if you would worry about – say – your young daughter in a situation like that, then you *know* this is out there. Please, take some time to re-evaluate some of the things you do without thinking through the lens of a woman, and think about how different it might feel to have to live that every single day.
TwoSeven is a website and browser add-on that allows you to synchronise watching various streaming sites alongside video chat (and/or text chat).
At the moment, although it is supported in Chrome, it only seems to work reliably with services like Netflix in the Firefox browser, which you can install (for free) from http://www.mozilla.org if you don’t already have it. Continue reading →
I wrote this a while back in response to a post in a mental health support group, but thought I’d share it here too. It’s a list of few things that I find it helpful to remember when I’m having a panic attack – hopefully they might help some of you… 🙂
1) They ALWAYS PASS.
It feels like they will never go away, but they always do eventually – you just need to find a way of letting some time pass. Whatever you are doing, however you are feeling, time keeps ticking on and you get closer and closer to coming out the other side. Continue reading →
I am deeply unhappy about the result of the referendum, and I am honestly furious about those who voted as a protest, or without thinking about the possible consequences.
BUT we need to be careful of extrapolating from polls and using the information to socially profile the people around us. I’m a little ashamed to admit I have already found myself looking at the people around me and wondering how they voted and we have to be SO careful we don’t slip into “that person belongs to Group X, so they probably voted differently to me”.
Polls give us a useful indicator of how people voted, but they are only a small sample – the actual vote is a secret ballot and although it is probable it reflects the same as the polls, it may not.
Even assuming it does accurately represent the overall shape of things, it is still unfair to make assumptions about individuals, or making sweeping statements about large groups of people based on that.
The media are highlighting a number of areas like this – age, social class, education and more – and while this may help us understand what has happened, it can also be dangerous and divisive. At its worst, it’s no better than the racism shown by some during the campaign.
So please – don’t assume. If you don’t know, give people the benefit of the doubt.
I’ve just finished reading Sara Pascoe’s really brilliant book, Animal. Well, not actually “reading”; I listened to the audiobook, because a lot of my free time is in the car and literally reading while driving down the M3 is not very sensible.
I’d reccomend it to absolutely everyone. Honestly, I think something like this book should be part of the National Curriculum. Continue reading →
We think we live in an “enlightened” society. We look back on the inequalities of the past, at how far we’ve come and I think just maybe we sometimes feel a teensy bit smug.
Don’t get me wrong – many, many things are much, much better than they were 100, 50, 25, even 10 years ago. This is a brilliant thing, brought about by countless brave pioneers and legions of unsung heroes.
But the war has not been won. There are still deep inequalities in our society and one of the biggest threats is the idea that we can somehow sit back and coast – that our society is somehow “done” – it is “equal”. Continue reading →