Generation M

I’ve been a little lax about posting in my Man Up and Womanly Arts categories. To be honest, it’s hard to maintain the energy needed to be that worked up about it all the time. So I throw in the towel sometimes for a while. (Obviously it has NOTHING to do with my focus challenges. At all.) Also, I have a little wiggle room because I am raising a man-cub and while there are lots of gender and gender role issues to deal with for boys, the boxes they are put in have a little more room. However, I do sometimes come across something that really needs to be shared. This is one of those things.

Generation M for Misogyny

“Another generation of women and girls is being trained to please men, to do whatever they can to not make men unhappy, to stroke men’s egos and to know their second class status and not complain about it”

“Girls today are raised around images of idealized beauty, where airbrushed perfection informs girls of the standards of beauty in our society, and it is also no accident that the words “Hot” and “Sexy” appear on almost every cover of teen magazines aimed at girls and where makeover tips are found throughout. It is against this background of idealized beauty, and the beauty industry’s insistence that girls and young women have many imperfections that this beauty industry thrives.” 

Please click through and watch the video. It’s less than six minutes.

Man up Monday and Womanly Wednesday: Dear Woman

I think this video is just Amazing. Even just hearing this said aloud is healing to me.

I don’t really have much else to say about it.


An Ode to Equality

I wrote this as my final “essay” for my Gender and Race class.

An Ode to Equality

As we draw down to the end of the term

It’s time to assess what we might have learned.

That can feel like a rather difficult task.

But here is a brief tour of our term that just passed.

What do you get when you take a book on race, another on gender

and add movies, discussions, personal experience and articles to the Blender

Then mix it around and shake it up a bit?

You get a whole host of new ideas and thoughts from it.

For me, the meat of the class was the emphasis on connective tissue.

We can draw a thread through seemingly disparate issues,

Sewing together this piece with that part

In order to create a new fabric, or paradigm, from which we can now start.

Start to move forward and onward and up

Away from the old ways; the unfair, the unequal, the corrupt.

Hopefully we take from this class a feeling for how very lucky we are living in this place, in this time, in this skin.

The challenge, of course, is to not get too comfortable in this privileged situation we’re in.

But, from my own perspective, and as pointed out in the class readings

Every person can probably find a minority and majority group in which to find seating.

I am privileged to be white in a system that favors the lightness of your skin.

I have the honor, but perhaps not privilege, to be a woman in a system that favors the brawn without over the heart within.

Perhaps we are short, when the world likes us tall.

Perhaps we are big, when our world favors the small.

Yes, the media and, by extension, our culture favors the tall, skinny, blond woman with big boobs and a small intellect.

But, more importantly our culture wants the woman to be quiet and unaggressive; circumspect.

If I speak out in favor of more equal distribution of this nations bounty of rights and riches,

Then you know I’m probably one of those FemiNazi Bitches.

I don’t have a daughter, but if I did I would teach her about strength of character, body and mind.

I would show her every strong female role model I could find.

If she wanted to be a princess when she grows bigger

Then I would show her examples of the depth of the job, the importance, the rigor.

Because the point is not whether you want to be a princess or not.

The point is when the one cookie cutter image of a princess is all we’ve got.

But since I had the good sense to create a tall, slender, white male child in this particular society,

I will just have to teach him to love and respect women and people of all varieties.

I’ll have to help him to see the fallacy of the media’s portrayal of masculinity as angry, violent, stupid, and muscle bound.

I will seek out other definitions of manly and strong wherever they can be found.

My plan is to teach him and help him to grow into a man who is strong, respectful, smart, considerate -worthy of

The strong, respectful, considerate, smart woman who would be worthy of sharing his life and love.

And then there’s the issue of race

That’s now, thanks to this class, staring us right in the face.

I’ve been exposed this term to some of the subtle discriminations that are hidden in our supposedly nondiscriminatory system.

These are the kind of things that are quietly subverting true equality and as a member of the white race it’s so easy to miss them.

Or even to dismiss them.

Because on the surface it appears that we have eradicated discrimination based on your skin color

And those of us who aren’t prejudiced are tired of being blamed for the actions of others

We are weary of hearing how it’s still going on even though we have made so many strides and come so far.

This weariness, I think, leads to a reluctance to honestly look at the way things were and still sometimes are.

Or maybe we do look and we get overwhelmed by the systemic codification of discrimination and stereotyping that is far too often present.

How can we possibly root out these subtle and pervasive inequalities? This feeling can lead to apathy and even resentment.

The problem stems mostly I think, from a lack of honest and frank conversation about race and discrimination.

It seems as though sometimes it’s hard to have a talk without fear of some kind of retaliation or recrimination.

But, the real solution for our racial situation and indeed, I’d hazard, pretty much all of our societal woes.

Is free exchange of ideas and the honest baring to each other of our souls

I really responded to the article we read describing the symptoms of Attachment disorder and its effects.

I believe that we as a culture suffer from a form of cultural attachment disorder that leaves us distrustful and treating each other as suspect.

We, as a group, are guarded trying to protect ourselves from some real or imagined hurt.

This is perhaps understandable, but doesn’t often work.

All that happens, really, is that we create greater divides separating us.

We create more opportunity for misunderstanding when we treat each other thus.

I hope that in the next little while (because I can’t stand to wait very long)

We are able to sing a new, brighter more positive song.

The trick to the writing of this brand new song is, however,

That we must find the harmony so we can sing it together.

There is room within the music for everyone to sing their individual parts.

And music is the language that speaks directly to our hearts.

I know many people are nervous to get up and sing.

But the best part of music is that you can come to it with your own thing.

Can’t sing a note? Perhaps you play an instrument.

Not that either? Just hum or clap along with it.

From the information in this class I could probably come away feeling sad and wearing a frown.

I choose not to focus on how far we still have to go, but instead on the fact that we are on the journey; and pretty far down.

Man Up Monday: Football

My Dear Son,

I know that you love football. I could rail against the violence and cookie cutter gender roles that so obviously are present in this sport and its portrayal in the media. I will not. I will teach you that even within this sport there are many different roles played out. There is a vital role on the team for multiple types of masculinity if we only look.

The more traditional definition of masculinity can be found in the linemen. Big and strong, they give and take the brunt of the physical force bandied about in this battle. You have your daddy’s build, a longer, leaner body type that probably won’t lend itself to the linebacker model. Perhaps you will be a running back. In this role the man is not large and built for blocking. He is more slender. He is fleet of foot. He relies upon his eyes to show him the way through the opposition to reach his goals. With help from his teammates, he is able to use his quick reflexes and agile body to navigate across this minefield to where he can coordinate his feet, hands, eyes, and mind in concert to catch the passes thrown to him.

The linchpin of a football team on the field is the quarterback. Of course, the quarterback needs physical strength and nimble feet in order to fill his role on the team. But the quarterback, more than anything else, must be smart. He needs to be able to see the bigger picture, make quick decisions, and implement those decisions into actions while in the face of adversity in the form of the players on the other team. If it is my choice, I think you will make a great quarterback one day. But none of these players would win this game without the other players.

We also must mention in our roles of masculinity the role of the coach. I hope that we remember the coach as knowledgeable leader who has played the game before and is able to show you how to play, how to maximize your talents, and how you will best be an asset to the team. Do not mistake aging for losing strength. While it is true that the coach might not run as fast as you can, he has the knowledge to see things that you can’t and choose the play that will allow for the best possible outcome.

All of these positions are legitimate, valid pictures of strength. It takes all of them to make it possible to have a good game and win at it. Remember that in many ways football is all about life, but in no way is life all about football.


The Story of Norm

I wrote this essay for my gender and race class. It was difficult to write it in this way because it is in first person. But I took a chance on it and it paid off. I was very excited today when it was chosen as one of the favorites by my instructor and he read it aloud to the class. When I got it back the grade was 100/100. It’s pretty long, but I didn’t want to chop it up.

The Story of Norm

Hello. My name is Norm. I am no different from you. Actually, I am you. I have lived a long time and seen a lot of change. I tend to think I am right and everyone else is wrong. They are probably not as smart as I am either. I am very concerned with comfort and keeping things the way they already are. I am quite set in my ways and think that you should be too. My job is to try to keep “them” out and “us” in. It is very hard to change my habits. Often I will argue and fight with you to maintain my belief system and not change my behavior. But as is the case with most people, new information and a lot of introspection and discomfort later, I will change with the times. Often to the point where I can’t believe I acted the way I did way back then. I live here with you. I also have relatives living all over the world. But they don’t act like I do. They can’t help it; they don’t know any better.

When I was a younger man, I lived in Salem, Massachusetts. At that time I was mightily threatened by free thinking intelligent women. I considered it an acceptable practice to convict these women of the crime of witchcraft and burn them alive to make sure that they comported themselves properly. Of course, I would never do that now.

Before that and for a long time afterward I kept slaves. Black people were savages and not considered to be people by me and most of my friends. We were white, wealthy landowners who needed cheap labor to run our plantations and farms. I didn’t think that they could be allowed to be free. I even convinced myself that they were a danger to themselves if they weren’t protected by me and my kind. Really, it was for their own safety. And mine, of course. They couldn’t be trusted. Not only would they rise up in rebellion if given physical freedoms, they would do so if given intellectual freedoms. So I didn’t let them read, either. They had to be controlled so that their savage desires wouldn’t be allowed to wreak havoc on civilized society. It took hundreds of years and a devastating war to change my mind. Of course, I would never do that now.

Women have always needed protecting as well. They are so emotional and fragile. We never let them think for themselves. We couldn’t let them own property or make any decisions of any real consequence. They wouldn’t have been able to handle it. Their sensibilities are too delicate. They wouldn’t want any responsibilities any way. They are concerned with the bearing and rearing of children. They are so good at that and the upkeep of the home. They needn’t concern themselves with the bigger picture. It’s really beyond them. The suffragettes rallied and made those opinions almost obsolete in the 1920’s when women were given the right to vote. Of course, I would never think that way now.

It took another hundred years after the Civil War to convince me that I still wasn’t treating black people well enough. Segregation was in place until the 1960’s when Dr. King and his contemporaries were able to raise enough of a ruckus to instigate change on that front. The Civil Rights Movement finally convinced me to allow black people to integrate socially and legally with people like me. We let them, after much persuasion and argument, go to our schools and live in our neighborhoods and mingle with us freely. We even let them play on our sports teams with us. That turned out to be a good idea because they are so good at them. I’m surprised we didn’t do this earlier. I can’t believe I thought that way before. Thank goodness, I will never act that way again.

Around that same time, the Feminist Movement was on the rise. Women felt that we weren’t treating them fairly. We had given them the vote, but, apparently that wasn’t good enough for them. They thought they should be allowed to go to college and have careers. They ought to be able to choose whether or not they had children. They burned their bras as symbols of our restriction of them. I have to admit that I agreed that women’s breasts should be unfettered. I was slower to jump on board with the rest of it. Women are nurturers by nature. They are predisposed by biology and God to be less aggressive and more tender in their thoughts and feelings. They still need to be protected from themselves and the harsh world. Eventually, I was made to see that perhaps they should be allowed to make their own choices as to how protected they wanted to be. That it might be okay for them to be allowed into the workforce in greater numbers. That it would not bring about the ruination of civilized society if mother weren’t only relegated to the home. They could go out and have a career and a life outside of the home without it damaging the children of the world unduly. I know better now. I’ll never think like that again.

In the course of Northern European/American history, it has really been a good idea to look like me. As a heterosexual, Christian, white male I can’t see any reason why anyone would choose to live their life any other way. If you can be white, you should. In the past we have not tended to treat people of color very well. When we immigrated to this country, as the saying goes: we prayed first upon our knees and then upon the Indians. They of course had no idea what hit them. They were a bunch of godless heathens who didn’t even have the sense to own the land they lived on. Really, we had to pity them and help them to make a new life on the land that we gave them, one where they should try to be more like us. We outlawed their religious practices and languages in order to help them assimilate. It was for their own good. At least, that’s what I believed then. Praise God, I no longer think like that.

It takes a while for anyone new or “other” to be allowed into my society. I have a history of discriminating against Italians, the Irish, Asians-really, anybody who might look or talk different had better look out when they come here. That comedian George Carlin had a funny skit about me. He said that brown people should look out for us white Americans. He said that we mostly like to bomb countries that are full of brown people. I hadn’t looked at it that way before, but I guess he’s right. Unless you’re talking about the Japanese. They’re not brown. But I don’t do that kind of stuff anymore. I’ve really evolved a lot.

I want to take a moment to mention my relative, Norm, who lived in Germany in the 30’s and 40’s. There it became the cultural norm to practice genocide on anyone who didn’t fit within the criteria for genetic and societal perfection. The Norm there was also a white male who felt he deserved certain privileges as a result of his superior genetic makeup. He rose to power by playing on peoples’ sense of pride in their culture and also on their fear of differences. Ten million people were exterminated because they did not fit within the ideals of the cultural Norm. My ideals. Well, not mine. I would never do anything as atrocious as that. Thank goodness, we are better than that here.

We rushed to the aid of those in need and showed them that their way was not the right way. We convinced them to change their ways by use of force. This often works for us. We are powerful, strong, and will make you see things from our point of view or else. Of course, we try not to do that very often because we believe in peace. Fighting is no way to solve disputes. Everybody knows that.

I am a Christian white male. I shape the words that are used to describe the words that describe the foundation upon which our country is built. In God we Do trust. You should, too. Because even though we have separation of church and state on paper, it’s very hard to deny the permeation of our society with Christian themes and preferences. Recently, the Veterans Administration started to allow the religious symbol for Wicca to be placed on the headstones at the graves of deceased soldiers. I don’t really understand why that was such a big deal, but as long as it doesn’t affect my religious freedom I suppose it’s okay.

I am a heterosexual, Christian, white male. I am all for freedom and equality for everyone. As long as that freedom doesn’t oppose my own sense of morality. If a person chooses to be gay, then that is okay for them. However, I don’t want to see it. Those people should try to pass as the Norm that we all aspire to be. As long as we all pretend that it isn’t going on, then I can ignore any inequality that might exist. Since, after all, I can only see things from my position of power and privilege as a straight, white, Christian male.

I’m really happy to celebrate the many strides that we have made in the fields of equality and justice for all. We have virtually eliminated discrimination in all it’s forms. Black people are afforded all the same opportunities as us white folk now. I wish that they were better able to understand what to do with all this freedom that they now have. They all seem to be poor unless they are a rapper or an athlete. It seems like they are always shooting each other or doing drugs. You’d think that they would be more appreciative of what they’ve been given.

I am so proud of where we have come to over the life of our Great Nation. It’s so relaxing to be past all of that struggle and strife. Now we, the Norms, are able to settle back into our comfortable lives again. It’s really very nice to be Norm.

“In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

— by Martin Niemöller

Hello. My name is Norm. I am just like you.