On Women

January 7th, 2019 | Tags: , ,

First, the news. We have shuffled along to Catonsville! I am returned to work, as a preschool language teacher at a Reggio Emilia-inspired facility, where my son has been graciously afforded an opportunity to thrive and grow alongside me. We live right on top of the Catonsville Junction, with all the Scittino’s pizza, Caffe Di Roma goodness, and Trolley Trail #8 hiking within walking distance that entails. It’s also nice to be a 10-minute drive to Seoul Spa, the only jjimjilbang in the region. (I have so much to say about Korean saunas. Another time.)

What I wanted to write about here, though, is women. Not specific women–I mean the idea of women as being included, as a fundamental part of our perspective. The woman who married me sat me down and shared with me a (nominally) comedy segment called Nanette, performed by an Australian woman, Hannah Gadsby. It’s apparently much talked-about, but I missed all that in the vortex of being back at work full-time (and raising a son, and being out of the country, and on and on and on). And before I write more, I exhort you to sit down with nothing else to do, and watch it.

All of it. Don’t stop watching when it gets uncomfortable. Keep going.

OK, you still with me? Good.

So, Nanette blew the gates wide open for me. I have been writing, working, and living as a feminist, but Hannah’s story sunk home for me a lesson that I should have learned growing up as a young man, raised largely by my mother. My mother, who had to fight her direct supervisor tooth and nail (successfully!) for every promotion and raise at work. My mother, who stood up against (and beat!) the school board who wanted to suspend my sister for violating their arbitrary no-shorts policy for girls.

And the lesson is this: we need to become aware of marginalized people’s perspectives, and educate ourselves on their realities. We need to be conscious of the validity of their perspectives–and actively demonstrate that validity–not merely in our spoken words, but in our internal speech and the actions that spring from that. We must take up arms against an active oppression, one that has been going on for centuries, against humanity.

But I didn’t learn it. I went to high school and college, absorbing patriarchal thought patterns as you do when you are part of the highest social caste in Western culture–the straight, white man. Rape jokes were funny. Prison rape jokes were just the bomb. “Gay” was a useful epithet for describing disdain. Even as I dislodged my mind from this intellectual morass in undergraduate, even as I began to practice a basic sort of feminism thanks to my fantastically patient professors and my vastly-improved peer group, I persisted in thinking of women as objects (to be worshiped and praised and sought after, but objects nevertheless). I thought trans individuals were arrogant for rejecting the pronouns that perpetuate our cultural ignorance of the vast diversity of gender that exists. And even as I grew into a teacher, as I began to inject into my curriculum that awareness of the social Other, I laid down and rested on my laurels. I wrote from the lens of that boy growing up sheltered in a cul-de-sac, reading fantasy books by old white men.

No more. I’m not tearing up what I have written. But it requires surgery, and long rounds of physical therapy. It’s pretty simple, really. All people are equal, fiercely and unapologetically–and I commit to my writing as an act of showcasing the ways that people–and specifically women–are alive, and intrinsically worthy of those lives without any reference to another. I have so much to learn.

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