Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Back-Pedalling of a Nazi Feminist

The first people who met me in Edmonton will always think of me as a feminist first, and then a person. Fresh out of university, I was still an idealist who thought Alberta's backwards ways would change, if only I preached more about equality. Three and a half years later, and I would argue the other side of that coin...

Has the province won? Have I become a redneck?

Shock and horror, I know!

Don't worry, though, I'm a cheatin' vegan. I think the first qualifier for becoming a redneck is your ability to rip the meat from a bone while it's still bleeding. Not that I have anything against people who like their steaks rare...

How did it happen? How did I calm down so much on this whole feminist thing?

I don't blame Alberta...I blame England!

I remember being so mad about the girls wearing skirts and the boys wearing shorts. And the fact that the girls were excellent at their sports, but the parents only really cared to go watch the boys' sports. It reminded me so much of our softball team and the first time my little feminist voice cried out for justice. That voice was never really heard, though. And I think she stopped speaking after awhile.

In England, I learned a lot about the real differences between boys and girls too. Most of this occurred when I was observing play time. I learned so many things from observing those kids! Even about social relationships. At that age, they were mostly figuring out how to make friends, and deal with society in general. The most violent boy was the most soft-spoken when we worked one-on-one. I think this was his reaction to finding himself within the society. Many of their games were expressions of their ideas about family life! Especially the girls. Children are sponges! It's amazing how they manipulate what happens at home into what happens during playtime. I thought that I gained much more insight into British life because of this. Children have very little filters. Perhaps I was misinterpretting a lot of it, but it was still extremely interesting...

After ten months of this, I accepted that there were major differences between men and women. Even if it is a mere social construct. Like wearing shorts, violence became a similarity among the boys. Building and playing with the trucks also became a boy activity. The girls played tag, and house, song-singing, and tattle-telling. If two boys were at odds with one another, they would often end up hurting one another physically. It was never a pre-meditated attack, but it was a physical expression of their changing relationship. If two girls were at odds, they would fight for the attention of the group, usually through their story-telling. Some of the best imaginations were housed inside of the three or four girls who took turns being ring-leaders. And all of this was happening among three and four year olds! That's how young this social expression begins! There were social expectations for them to behave in a certain way, but most of that came from home and/or the dress code. Playtime was always a choice, and the boys chose different activities than the girls.

I remember discussing this with the teacher once or twice. Her observations were interesting as well. Having gone to school to learn how to analyze the children, and making this her life work, she understood much more than I did. She told me that both sexes went through this phase of finding a "best friend." Whether they were friends for life, or only through prep school didn't really matter. They were all learning how to partner up. This would later be used as adults as they found their mates. I thought that was pretty interesting.

Last spring, I started seeing a counsellor. She was amazingly helpful! The best conversation we had was about childhood situations like the ones I had been observing in England. Most things that we do as adults, she told me, have their beginning in childhood or adolescence. When I would bring up an emotion I had in a situation of the time, she would ask me when the first time I had felt that was. Often it had been in childhood. With only a question or two, she made me realize that continuing to think that way was ridiculous. Life is not the same as childhood. The people I wanted to be in elementary school did not turn out any better than I did. And they probably wanted to be me at some point too. Realizing this made me heal so much faster. Most of it, I think, was merely being able to let go of the past and just move on. But, some of the things I learned in elementary school, are still kind of important.

I never had a best friend. Or, well, I guess I've gone through several best friends. Right now, I can count ten fabulous women as my best friend. The friendship was never perfect, though. I always expected them to be better friends to me than they were. Possibly why I think so highly of those best friends right now, too! When I make a connection with somebody, I pour my heart into that connection. That's what all of my best friends have done at some point too. After the initial friendship is formed, we don't have to focus so much on pouring our hearts into the relationship. It just works. And, I know that when I need them for me, they'll be there for me; just like when they need me, I'll be there too. But, that's how girls are. Women are social creatures.

Men are not. Well, no, that's an overstatement. Men grow up being told to be independent. As far as feminism has gone, it has not stopped this from happening. Maybe it has something to do with smashing the trucks into one another on the playground. They don't use language to manipulate the social order, they use their strength. One of the best strengths is independence. It's great to know that your friend has your back if you need it, but it's even better realizing that even if your best friend isn't there, you have the situation under your control. And this is socially rewarding!

Of course, this is a very simple argument and I see several holes within it. But, alas, this is but one blog post. I'm sure there will be more on the subject. For now, I'll address the first hole in the basic difference I just described.

"Bros Before Hoes" has become quite a popular saying in today's society. (I blame that dude from the Hills.) And it's a good one, for both men and women. I'm not sure how wrong Harry (as he was meeting Sally...) is in his theory that "men and women can never be friends," but it does happen that they are. Regardless, both sexes create a support network of friends, their "bros," that will help them when their partners, or "hoes," are no longer there. That's why it's so important to have friends! And, that is why you must put enough energy into your friendships as you do your relationships. Boyfriends and girlfriends come and go, and they elate us as much as they deflate us, but having a good set of friends there to lift you up when you need it most will never find yourself lonely. Well, at least not for anything longer than a moment or two of vitamin-D-deficient crying :-( But, that's important too.

What was my point? Oh, yes, I used to be a feminist. Then I realized that there is truth in differences between the sex. Did I proof that here? Meh....I dunno. But this was an interesting rant about men and women, regardless...

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