Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Little Misses: a note to 'Misogynists' and 'Misandrists' everywhere.

When I was young, I was a tearaway. Everyone has to tear away from something at some point and I was lucky enough to have a childhood that meant that most of my tearing away was over nothing more dramatic than the lack in my life of a pair of rainbow-coloured wellie boots. One thing sticks with me from the tantrums of youth though: whenever I started shouting, my Mum stopped listening. Her reasoning went thusly: when someone starts shouting, they have retreated to their reptilian brain. That is, the part of the brain concerned with fighting, eating and (in adults) humping things.

My Mum's proclamation may rest on shaky neuroscience foundations, but from a human point of view she was on point. Not that David Icke's actually right and we're all space lizards inside, but nothing solidifies a debate into an argument faster than yelling. And I mean yelling, screaming, frothy bile-covered word vomit. Not just raising your voice. When you're yelling, when you're angry, your opponent isn't a person any more. They're an enemy. It's kill or be killed. Or in our modern, evolved society get the last word or slam down your laptop lid so hard it cracks the screen.

And that's why I'm asking, politely and calmly, that anyone who wears the word misogynist or misandrist as a badge of pride consider what they're saying about themselves. Even if you brush the insulting implications of either of those words off, please think about what you're doing. Because what you're doing is writing off half the population based on a difference in one pair of chromosomes. Listen, ladies, I get it. Centuries of oppression, and all we got was this lousy suffrage? We've still got a long way to go, in terms of rights and in terms of attitudes. And a little bit of retribution might not seem out of place. And gents? I can see why you might be angry too. Life can be difficult wherever you come from and whoever you are. Where there's pain, anger can grow and where anger can grow, blame can bloom.

And there's the rub. People are people, before anything else. Before you're a woman, or a man, or gender-fluid, you're a person. And so is the person next to you. The minute, the very second, you think that 'men are all bastards' or 'woman are all whores', you stop thinking about people and individuals. Even 'woman are good communicators' and 'men are good at reading maps' piles a little more 'should' on people, and pinches a little of their humanity. What we're fighting, as feminists, is Patriarchy, not men. And incidentally, a vast chunk of what Men's Rights Activists are worried about can be attributed to the Patriarchy too. Well, aside from the Friend-zone, and that is a tale for another night.

My feminism is about lifting people. It's about the fact that if we free people from labels then they can achieve more. And this is no baseless idealised view of potential, labels can hold people back. Look into stereotype threat if you don't believe me. And the labels of misogynist and misandrist? They could be holding you back from seeing just how beautiful people can be.

Wikimedia: Pearson Scott Foresman Foundation