Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Worried White Male Bastard Writes...

I was sitting here in my barely conscious haze when I was struck by a thought. It involved a difference between men and women, an example of a biological difference, something that naturally separated the two. Then I stopped because I’ve heard so many people (and by people I mean men) talking about the differences between men and women. Every time I hear a comedian say, “D’ya ever notice how women always do this generic action while on their periods?” I brace myself for reams of unimaginative, easy filler gags.

Of course it is possible to make funny and insightful comments about the differences between the sexes. We don’t live in a society that’s equal for men and women. Everywhere you look there are things that treat 50% of the population differently to the other 50% based on nothing more than a single chromosome. Statements that highlight the genuine differences between the sexes help us all change and improve on a society that makes such an arbitrary distinction. Considering this, I started to worry that my point was more akin to the “Why do women have so many shoes?” variety of statements on sexism.

Was my view sexist too? Would saying it make me sexist? Was I going to unintentionally make myself out to be a chauvinistic pig feasting in a trough of female genitalia? If I didn’t say it, would I be sexist for assuming that I was being sexist? Am I being sexist in what I’m saying in this note? Are these thoughts sexist? Why does this whole thing present so many fucking questions?

It’s better than trying to talk about homophobia or racism though. Oh Lord, yes. At least I am of the male sex, I regularly come in to contact with members of the female sex, so I have some idea of what it’s all about. However, I am also white, middle class and straight. Therefore I know nothing about what it’s like to be hated and ridiculed for the colour of your skin, your beliefs or who you are attracted to.

I once had a heated discussion with my female English teacher who everyone suspected of being a lesbian * about using the word ‘gay’ as a derogatory term. My point was that I’d been using the word as an insult for a full eight years before I even had a vague of concept of what a gay person actually was. When I said, “That’s so gay” I didn’t mean, “That’s rubbish because it’s sexually attracted to members of the same sex” any more than when I said, “That’s bloke’s a wanker” was I being tautologous. But then she pointed out that I have no idea what it’s like to be gay and hear that word being used as a derogatory term. And she’s right, I don’t.

For me it’s like trying to imagine going through life with a bungee jumping badger perched on my head. I just don’t know what that would be like, and I certainly don’t feel qualified to accurately talk about bungee jumping head badgers and the issues involved, or whether or not I’d be offended by badger related comments and jokes. I’d have to live the life of both the badger and the person to truly understand I guess.

These issues are difficult too because it’s hard to talk about these things without sounding like a preachy hippie. What it all boils down to is treating people as people, and not hating someone based on what group they are pigeon-holed into. A point so painstakingly obvious it shouldn’t have to be made. And if you do say it, you come across as a patronising prick most of the time. These celebrity nutjobs with nothing better to do with their time than tell us common folk how selfish and shallow we all are can seriously fuck off*. Of course when it’s someone who’s been there and experienced the troubles themselves it’s a different issue. These people care about something and change the world.

Which is why I’m off. I’m taking part in an ethically questionable series of cosmetic operations that will involve a thorough sex change, the loss of a limb and the exact reverse series of skin grafts as Michael Jackson. Following this I shall jet off to Baghdad, where I shall truly experience the suffering and pain of others and learn how not to worry about these things. Which will make me a good person, yes?

Needless to say I’ve completely forgotten what my original point was…

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