Friday, August 26, 2011

Drizzly Areolas and the Ethics of Chivalry: the effects of feminism on men

In a recent social networking debacle, I commented on a morning discomfort I experienced while loitering at a coffee shop directly in front of a breastfeeding woman. As expected, a gaggle of hysterical females angrily squawked over what they perceived as my insensitivity. No idea how that happened. To be clear, I would like to assure every woman reading this that I don’t care at all if you breastfeed in public. I’d much rather see your breasts than hear your screeching baby. Wait, that’s not a good reason. I’d much rather your child receive the vital sustenance he or she requires during such a formative time. Yes, that.

In a subsequent series of emails on feminism to my special ladyfriend, a woman who makes more money than I do, speaks four more languages than I do, is generally a better human being than I am, and for whom I’d be content donning a frilly apron and fluttering about a shared kitchen like Donna Reed, I defended my Facebook martyrdom as follows:

“I react to women’s boobies with wide eyes, puckered baby lips, and a gummy cry, ‘Mama!’ Then, I shit myself and require changing.”

On a spiritual level, that’s what’s going on behind my dull stare when I see sudden and unexpected breasts at 8am.

That’s certainly not a woman’s fault, but is it mine? I was taught social masculinity by a hierarchy of developmentally influential females in my life (e.g., mother, grandmother, various tias, family friends who behaved as surrogate mothers, etc.). They were tyrannical overlords but they wisely tempered my inherent aggression to assure that the physical strength that comes with manhood would never be turned against them. I learned. As a boy, I’d even lead rock-throwing campaigns into the territory of other boys, channeling the husking beast within, for the favor of some maiden waiving atop a playground prison tower; and when I’d affectionately punch and jump-kick my sisters, I assure you, they only ever received 35% power, tops, because I always tried to obey the half-dozen fingers that perpetually wagged their painted nails under my little mouse nose and teary eyes. “You don’t hit girls,” they’d say, commanding I unball my wild fist and release the wad of pink tee shirt clenched tightly in the other. You don’t.

Those same painted fingernails spent years pointing me ahead of them to open doors, squash bugs, carry out stinking bags of garbage, cut thousands of miles of summer-heated grass, and investigate suspicious noises in the middle of the night. If I refused the killing of a cockroach or rat, if I picketed for equal lawn-mowing duties with my sisters, if I expressed a self-preserving reluctance to be murdered by an intruder, those singly pointed fingers would turn into singly, swatting palms or joined by pinching thumbs at the backs of my arms. Operant conditioning at its finest, people, and quite frankly, I’m thankful for it.

That psychology, however, was and is not just extended toward women. I’ll hold a door open for an old man. I’ll hold a door open for a young man. It’s called manners and it has nothing to do with what is or is not dangling between a person’s legs. But therein lies the problem. My problem. See, I’ve actually had women laugh at me (on more than one occasion) for pulling open a door and standing piously aside. Fuck you, jerk. Do you realize how humiliatingly contemptuous that is? Very. What’s worse, my polite, closed-mouthed smile usually turns to an indignant frown and the door that I’m holding open is suddenly regarded as a potential weapon for repeatedly smashing her in the threshold. Think about that kind of crazy the next time you’re an asshole to a stranger who’s being civil for absolutely no other reason that because his mama told him that’s the way things should be.

I’ve never had a man think it odd or emasculating to have a door held open for him. Never. On the contrary, it’s become laughably ridiculous when he responds, “No, after you,” followed by my, “No, after you,” to which he responds with a generous, extended hand, “No, please,” and I bashfully thank him and prance into the building, which essentially means I’ve thanked myself for holding open a door, but the courteous exchange still makes me feel less cynical about people.

I try to be as socially conscious as humanly possible but understand, boys and girls, that men have been pounding their chests for 50,000 years and even today, life histories like mine have been inundated with traditional social norms by the very gender that demands their abolition. It gets confusing. However, empathetically understanding why a person feels so strongly about a subject is, in my opinion, more important than whether or not the impassioned individual understands his or herself. Maybe you can explain it to them once you figure it out.

Why does one person feel I’m being disrespectful by holding open a door? Does it recall, and leave undeniable (subjectively speaking), a sense of perceived inferiority? Does a cavalier smirk slime across my face as I impose my gallantry? Oh yeah, I’m gonna hold this door NASTY! Yeah, walk through that door, baby girl. Do it. You look so fine, girl. You see how strong I am? Yeah, you do. You like it when I hold this door, don’t you girl. That’s what’s going on in my head, anyway. Maybe there’s something dick-like in my rigid stance as she passes by and my very presence offends her. But why does another person regard me as disrespectful when I don’t hold a door open? Does that also recall a sense of perceived inferiority? Perhaps shouldering past a woman to enter a building first indicates that a man was never taught to comprehend his physical potential and his thoughtlessness makes him morally unpredictable, which in turn reminds the offended woman that voluntary social rules are the only barriers keeping brutes like him from total dominion. Perhaps I’m overthinking it, and should just start entering places through windows so I won’t have to deal with the agony of doing the right thing. The lyrics to The Flaming Lips’ wonderful “Fight Test” come to mind as they often do:

I don’t know where the sunbeams end and the starlight begins,
It’s aaaaaaaall a mystereeeeeeee.
And I don’t know how a man decides what’s right for his own life,
It’s aaaaaaaall a mystereeeeeeee


So yeah, breastfeeding. Do it. That was never an issue, I guess. Just, please, attempt empathy for the squirming man sitting across the coffee shop, attempting empathy for you because there’s more going on in his head than plotting the best ways of perpetuating the institutionalized sexism that keeps your tits cupped away in their bras. If that doesn’t move you, do it for no other reason than because you are, after all, sharing the same oxygen.

Festering Addendum:

If you’ve ever scoffed at another human being for holding a door open for you (empathy considered and gently set aside), I hope you’re one day beaten with a swinging sack of un-ripened oranges . . . by an orangutan, not because you’re an insolent man or woman without humility, but because you’re a genderless asshole who would benefit from a good ass-kicking.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Yeah, so?

In case you all thought my newfound reincarnation curio was just a passing interest, here’s another post for reinforcement. Actually, here’s a snap from an email to my special ladyfriend the other morning because I haven’t posted anything for a month but I’m too lazy to create right now. I didn’t ask her permission to reproduce it here, but since they’re my words, I don’t think she’d have a problem.

“Meditation was a wreck for me this morning but I have a good reason. A thought popped into my head and I couldn’t concentrate anymore. See, I’ve totally bought into reincarnation. It makes sense to me and ALL of the major religions have reference to it in their respective books, which gives it a bizarre credence for me. Anyway, if we consider Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, the purpose is to break the cycle of reincarnation by becoming enlightened (as I understand it). What popped in my head was cloning. How does that fuck things up? Maybe not at all. See, if we were cloned and reincarnated into our own bodies, with our discarnate “souls” (for lack of a better word) guiding embryonic development, as they seem to do, then wouldn’t our cloned bodies be the perfect vessels?* Perhaps we’d even hang onto the memories of the previous life instead to them fading by loosely 10 years of age. I used to think all those silly sci-fi books and Hollywood movies that depicted a clone having memories of the first body as stupid and unscientific, but I wonder now if the writers stumbled onto something with their mediocre imagination. Perhaps that’s a way to enlightenment. Shrug. I really don’t know, but the whole cloning thing really messes with my understanding of us. Taking reincarnation seriously like this has opened a VAST frontier of existential thought for me. I wish I had another me who could wax the subject with the same curiosity . . . but that second Carlos would likely be a clone and since I’m still living, and my proverbial soul would still be cozy in my body, I have no idea what he’d be like. Sigh. You see now why concentration quickly became impossible for me this morning.”

Perhaps he’d be a Bizzaro Carlos, my arch nemesis. You never know.

Here, I’d like to reiterate that I haven’t embraced religion or God(s). I still hold firmly that they are all foolish Santa Clauses for politicians and stupid people (which is almost redundant, if you think about it). No offense if that’s you. There’s no mysticism in my understanding of reincarnation and I’m not reading chicken bones or collecting energy stones to plug up my nose or to rest on my bedroom window. This is empirical, people. Oh, and don’t allow any loss of credibility by my reference to meditation. It’s not New Age or hippie just ‘cause I’m in San Francisco now. It’s progressive, you jerks, and I’ve been meaning to do it for years to calm the hurricane antagonism of my mind. Think of it as stretching or equate it to the extra fifteen minutes one might spend sitting on the toilet reading The Economist on an iPhone because family and friends literally cannot reach you in that private and holy place.

Back to cloning. I’m all for it and I think cloning a human (or even a Neanderthal) may very well clear up some serious existential questions I’m suffering right now.

For a series of fascinating Youtube videos on the subject, check out my last post on reincarnation. With any luck, you’ll follow in my footsteps; we can start a cult (with me as the divine figurehead, of course); and then we can road trip it to Beverly Hills and bludgeon Angelina Jolie to death. (Don’t worry, she’ll come back as Jesus or something.)

Discuss.


*Much of what I’ve read suggests an element of decision making in the discarnate phase between lives (e.g., a person declaring his intent to return as the son of a favorite niece, an effeminate boy vocalizing his intent to return as a female and then doing so).
Related Posts with Thumbnails