This is not Ginny

I like those facebook-analyzer memes much more than my ego wishes I did, and I almost always click on them, and I post the results when I find them pleasing and/or amusing. Until today, when I found my results amusing and most displeasing.

It started when a friend of mine (we’ll call her Cher) posted hers, which went something like:

This is Cher.

Cher says what she thinks and often speaks the truth. That’s why she is disliked by some.

Cher doesn’t give a shit.

Cher is smart.

Be like Cher.

I appreciated this, and it was so appropriate to Cher that at first I thought she’d made up her own text to go with the image, and started to think about what my text would be. Alas, I found that the meme has auto-generated text, but I was still curious.

So this is the first one they gave me:

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LOL NO. Ginny grudgingly admits that there are a couple of good men, and even trusts about four or five of them. Ginny complains about men on facebook whenever she damn well pleases.

But the “try again” button was enticing so I quickly went through a dozen or so. The least objectionable ones were along the lines of “Ginny feels fine about her body and doesn’t care who knows it,” but they were all selfie-related and I don’t take a lot of selfies (but I support those of you who do!) It became evident very soon that the text pulled was completely random, with no input from anything I’ve said or done ever.

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I have nothing but respect for this person, but it is clearly some other Ginny.

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Ginny doesn’t remove her eyebrows because she’s not very femme and it fucking hurts, but she doesn’t shame other people for their beauty routines.

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Au contraire, Ginny recognizes the value in speaking common experiences as a way of community building. When Ginny posts about the weather it is not to inform others, but to express what is important to her in her world at that time. Ginny knows that the closest relationships are ones where we can each speak whatever is on our mind, even if it is well known to the other person.

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WTF of course I would check in on facebook if I were in the hospital! Unless I wanted privacy about the experience. My friends give a shit about me and would want to know that I was going through something! What kind of monster wrote this one?

(Actually I bet I know: people who accuse you of “attention seeking” when you talk about important things in your life are almost always narcissists themselves, pissed that you’re stealing their spotlight. Or they’ve been raised by narcissists and have internalized the self-abnegation that comes with that — if that’s you, message me, I have some books you should read.)

Anyway.

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Oh. Oh nuh-uh. Ginny loves to cook but has NOTHING but side-eye for this one. Moving on.

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BWAhahahhahahhahaha brb laughing forever.

***

If I wanted to do some kind of remotely valuable analysis, I’d log in and tell it I was male (no one will be surprised that there was no non-binary option, and clearly they assumed I’m straight) to find out whether they’re sexist or equal-opportunity crappy. But it’s my vacation weekend and I don’t feel like it.

I don’t know exactly what I’d put if I was designing one of these, but it would probably be something like:

This is Ginny.

Ginny thinks people should do whatever the hell they feel in their souls is right for them, as long as it doesn’t harm others.

Ginny is smart, although that doesn’t mean all her opinions are correct.

Don’t be like Ginny.

Be like you.

A Year of Healthy Masculinity

Sometimes, I care a lot about a subject, but I’m afraid to talk about it because I’m not sure I fully understand it. Sometimes I get over this fear, and talk about it anyway. When I do that, so long as I acknowledge that I’m still figuring it out, I often find my understanding of it grows. People give me feedback on my ideas, share their own stories, and point out flaws in what I think I know. And sometimes, simply trying to express my thoughts forces me to improve them.

There’s an issue that I care about a lot. It doesn’t have a good name, though the phrase “toxic masculinity” covers part of it. I love masculinity, but I hate patriarchy. Men are granted significant power under the patriarchy, but at the same time, all too often, they are held to ridiculous standards. Toxic masculinity interferes with good relationships, reasonable expectations and self-acceptance. It teaches men that to express a full range of normal human emotions is shameful and worthy of mockery. The patriarchy is the only system I can think of that dehumanizes both the group it oppresses and the group that it privileges.

A huge part of how it does this is with the concept of masculinity. Men are controlled and shamed with masculinity just as women are with femininity. On top of that, in the name of masculinity boys are often encouraged to learn behavior that is demeaning towards others, especially women and boys whose gender expression is more feminine. I hate that, and I don’t think it’s necessary. I think it is possible for masculinity to exist without misogyny or homophobia, and I think when that happens, masculinity will also lose its aspects that are toxic to men.

This is a serious issue, but its difficult to talk about for a number of reasons.

  1. People who bring it up are often just trying to attack feminists.
    I remember when I was a little trans boy, not yet out of the closet, and discovered this thing called men’s rights activists. I was so excited that someone was talking about the ways society was unfair to men and I was sure such a movement would be full of thoughtful, intelligent men who would merge all the best aspects of feminism and maleness. God, was that ever disappointing. So many of these legitimate issues are brought up by men who don’t seem interested in actually solving them, but simply silencing other people who happen to be standing up for other important issues. This has created some knee-jerk responses from feminists, many of whom have defensive, pre-determined responses to anything that smacks of “what about teh menz?” It sucks for everyone.
  2. Some women feel this issue comes under the jurisdiction of feminism, others do not.
    Feminism is about gender equality. Many feminists are fantastic at recognizing the legitimacy of these issues; some of the most intelligent discussions I’ve had about toxic masculinity have been with women. Contrary to the image of the vitriolic feminist, quite a few feminists care about men too. At the same time, many women have been deeply wounded by the way men in their lives have treated them, and the way the misogynistic rules of society have enabled those abuses. Some women need feminism to be a space where its okay for them to be angry about that without worrying whether they have made some man somewhere angry. That’s just one reason why women might object to campaigning on behalf of men, and its a pretty valid one.
  3. When men try to discuss men’s issues under the umbrella of feminism, it can create problems.
    Men are granted a lot of space for their voices in our society, and when they come to the world of feminism, they often expect that same level of attention. Feminism has a lot of important battles to fight on a number of fronts, most of which men shouldn’t lead. Now, I don’t think that masculinity is something that only male-identified people can discuss. But I do think a discussion of how to reform masculinity and deal with men’s issues should include male voices. At the same time, I can’t help but see the point of feminists who say that men have so many platforms to speak on, they should let women lead discussions that fall under feminist umbrellas. Women should feel free to focus on the vast injustices perpetrated against them and should have a space to recover from misogyny, without having to also fix everything for men.

Because of the last two points, I don’t think feminism is the right movement to fix toxic masculinity. Instead, I think there can exist a separate but allied movement that seeks to reform masculinity so its no longer so closely allied with the patriarchy. I want to see a healthy masculinity movement that is not synonymous with either feminists or men, but makes life a better for both.

I just don’t know how to make that movement.

So I’m going to dive in and talk about it. For the next year, all of my posts on this blogs will center  around the topic of healthy masculinity; how to recognize it, how to create it, and how to defend it against toxic masculinity. Hopefully by the end of it, I will have some good groundwork laid.

Thanks for reading, and here’s hoping I find something helpful in the coming year. Stay awesome, peoples.