feminist men, part two: bad boys
March 18, 2003 04:22 PM

This is a continuation of my response to the collab topic for this week. Sometimes I just don't have the patience to write everything I'm thinking.

One should not assume that the entirety of the South is populated by well-mannered men with an unhealthy fixation on chivalry.

It's not.

I may have known a lot of good boys, but I've also known some fabulously bad ones. Not boys who are evil exactly, just with the capacity to break rules. To question, even undermine, authority.

Many of the truly great bad(ish) boys I've known I met in high school. Rather remarkable, that. I hung with a crowd who were pretty convinced that they were right. All the time.

It made from some frustrating debates.

I knew a gang of boys who had tapped into aspects of the Men's Movement before it really existed. These nerdy, argumentative boys (who were given to habits like wearing really horrid silk shirts - but hey, it wasn't long after the eighties) had a club, with an initiation ritual. Boys only. With exceptions.

One of the complaints that feminists have laid against men's clubs is that their exclusivity prevents women from certain types of conversation and economic advancement. And, when business-related discussion goes on in an environment one group can't access, it's a form of discrimination. This commonly gets misinterpreted to mean that any form of single-sex activity is unacceptable to feminists. Not so. There's a certain safety, even a feeling of sacredness, in men with men, or women with women.

So. Yeah. I knew these boys. They mixed a distance from and fascination with women with very simple respect. I remember, in grade school even, being pushed out of conversations by charismatic boys. But these boys - you had to be loud to hold your own, admittedly - were open to impassioned debate on trivial subjects from any comer.

I wouldn't have even called myself a feminist in high school, but I certainly was. And I think they were, too.

At the same time, I had a friend with a fondness for multigendered clothing. He was punk rock when punk rock had gone out of fashion. [The rare quality of nothing actually being in fashion in the early nineties is worth discussion some other day.] He wore lipstick. His feminism wasn't quite so traditional. He could be a patronizing fuck, for instance (this actually carried over to both sexes, so it was probably just a personality trait). He was known to make both disparaging and excessively chivalric remarks about the fairer/meaner/weaker/stronger sex.

Strange boy.

But he also introduced the concept of conscious gender play. His freaky fashion sense made it seem that the standards of gender-based dressing were completely arbitary. It also created a surprising amount of controversy. Maybe not so surprising. The average highschooler does, after all, long most to be average. In any case, that controversy started me thinking about some of the odd little ways gender inequity appeared in my world, long before fair wages were even something I thought about.

I dated a boy in college who was the first male to ever claim a feminist identity in my presence. Again, before I was really even calling myself a feminist. I was a queer activist (thanks in part to my queer male friends' intervention), but not a feminist per se.

In any case, this guy was one of the few people who call themselves feminists that I would actually like to veto. Yeah, he was sensitive. He was a feminist. He was deep.

Except, of course, for his general disregard for others' feelings. And his warm embrace of skeeziness. And his tendency to think of women in terms of that whole virgin/slut paradigm. I didn't know people still thought that way. Oh, and his lack of respect for most of the women he actually knew.

He wasn't a feminist, see - he was a dirty hippie. Big difference. [I've never actually been bitter about this, just amused.]

And then I met the man I live with. And the men and women who were his friends. They were all mysteriously arty. Freaky. Dark, even. Just - not so much so up close. I'm pretty weird myself.

I met people for whom gender wasn't really much of an issue.

This was near the end of college, when I was becoming a little more political (still not particularly feministy, though). And I'd never met so many people like that before. Particularly not so many men like that.

My boyfriend is, in many ways, what I hope this generation's children will be: just not that concerned with gender. I think he sees and understands the ways men and women are still unequal, but he also dismisses many of these things automatically. There isn't much question in our house about, say, who'll do chores - because he's there more, he just does them.

But he's not spineless, either - which is a common complaint of the soft, feminist man (although, you know, be subservient if that works for you). He's just an equal partner.

That's a feminist man.

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