Long Shots

Sexism: It’s a thing. I didn’t know that before.

As I grew up, my father kept his opinions regarding such things to himself. So much even, that I am still completely oblivious to his political opinion, and on just about any and all social matters.
And that’s okay with me. In fact, I feel like I should thank him some day for it (I’ll put it on the list), it gave me the perfect opportunity to form my own opinion, not one based on the one I was brought up with.

The downside is, that I only become aware of problems within our society when I am confronted with them. I didn’t know what racism was until I moved to the city, or poverty. I feel like I am still lacking foundation for my opinions on these matters, because I had to play catch-up.

Same with sexism; I was blissfully unaware of it until recently when my attention was gently nudged in its direction.
It’s not like I was completely in the dark before- I can see its effects plentifully on the job, where female colleagues are sexually intimidated, and flat-out told that they have to behave differently simply because they have tits. It’s infuriating, but at the same time not my problem.

I understood that these were real problems, but perhaps didn’t realize how deeply it went.
I don’t think I’ve had one girlfriend who didn’t call herself a feminist. I sometimes agreed with what they said, often didn’t. I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the actual eye-opener came from someone I’ve only met like, 3 times.

I am founded and educated in the matter to the point where I can’t even formulate a constructive point in the matter, mostly because I am guilty of sexism as much as the person next to me. I didn’t know just how much before, but it’s slowly dawning on me. I still make sexist jokes (albeit more carefully placed) and treat women differently from men (let’s, for simplicity’s sake, keep it at these two for now) but a few simple conversations with this person seem to have woken up an awareness of where and when actual sexism arises.

Here’s my personal problem: I’ve always tried to treat men and women exactly the same. Not so much because I cared about their feelings- I just didn’t want it to become a weakness of my own. I didn’t want to be that guy in the movies who is approached by a beautiful women and with eyes open, suckered into an obvious trap.
The issue is, that it wasn’t getting me married. I had to un-learn that principle and allow myself to be wooed stupidly by women now and then, if I wanted to seem approachable at all. That included treating them like a fragile little thing and behaving macho, because that happens to be what women dig BOOM at least 4 sexist statements in one sentence, bitch. See what happened there?

I don’t plan to change that, because it’s part of a larger effort to make Maarten less socially awkward. And I’m really fucking sorry, but I’m gonna try and function normally and once I’ve accomplished that, let principles get in the way of it again- not sooner.

I recently learned that she may or may not be bisexual and I’m going to go ahead and shoot myself in the foot right now: That would make sense.
Not that she’d be any different because of that, but because we heterosexuals are different in our reasoning. I for example, can’t make a serious statement on the issue without appearing hypocrite (as demonstrated above) because at the end of the line, I will always treat an attractive girl differently from an attractive guy. I might be able to keep up appearances for a limited time, but I’ve noticed time and time again that I will or won’t do certain things for one reason only: That she has panties I wouldn’t mind getting into.

So if it would be possible to eliminate that distinction, by bisexuality or asexuality (god what a blessing the latter must be), I feel like it would be easier to treat people on equal level a little more, and recognize situations where they aren’t. And regardless of her orientation, she seemed very good at that. Curious as I was, I still seem to have underestimated the impact her patient reasoning had on my own thinking.

It probably won’t change my own ways all that much and it certainly won’t change those around me, but I’m at least grateful for the insight she gave me. I seem more aware of it now, and it pisses me off a lot more where I see it. Situations where things are said or done that might not cause direct harm, but reinforce prehistoric installations in a self-fulfilling way. And once or twice thus far, I had the balls to speak up and challenge their reasoning.
If I were a superhero, I’d have a big fucking scarlet ‘H’ on my chest.

I was going to round this up with a logical fallacy (my pet peeves) I found at the base of sexism, but you know what, leafing through them, there’s just too many.
Do your own fucking homework.

Sexism isn’t the only thing I was brought up without. Racism, homophobia, intolerance in general never really set foot in our house. The only time when racism was discussed was when my father were listening to a Raymond van het Groenewoud album that had two songs on the same disc: One that was about how strangers were his friends, and one where he expresses distrust towards Italians. We both briefly agreed that it was strange to have both on the same album and that was it.

It was all I needed, really: A clean definition of each of those phobias and political ideas without emotional bias. So when I grew old enough to make up my own opinion, I didn’t feel the need to agree or disagree.

The opposite was the case at my girlfriend’s house. Her father was a very intolerant man, and while she clearly tried to distance herself from his slogans, her brothers just copied them. In the whitest neighborhood in Belgium, they were spouting racist bullshit as if trying to impress the jury at a Miss KKK competition.

I grew aware of the dangers of such thinking all by myself, didn’t have to be explained because they are pretty obvious, at least to those who aren’t blinded by the teachings of a figure of authority.

I changed schools half a dozen time and joined the army in the end. Started working as a stage builder after that.
I don’t think my father approved of any of those decisions. In fact, I once hear him say “I have only one regret in life: My time spent in the army.” Despite this, he never so much as disagreed. He let me do my thing, and off I went.

Of all the things my father did while raising me, it’s the things he didn’t do that I am most thankful for. Just like a moral code untainted by religion is a much more elegant one, my upbringing shines by the things it lacked. Of course, I got into some real trouble because most of the time I ran around unchecked, but even those had enormous value.

Like many other things, I started my moral development much later than most kids. I still wonder daily, second-guessing as many things as possible. With nothing to guide us, I guess it’s difficult to form a coherent opinion and stick to it, given the world’s many facets. But we can try. In fact, we must try. Regardless of our personal and collective upbringing.


One response

  1. Note to self

    24 September 2013 at 23:37

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