The Gender Trap

While there have been huge progressive leaps in Law and a softening by some religions and cultures, many, if not most women, will still experience some degree of misogyny and sexual aggression: it is quite likely they will have felt intimidated and abused at least once by a man and they will certainly have felt patronised. Considering the news out of India, Africa and the Middle East recently, I appreciate that this is a western understatement because, although too many western men (and some women) still hold this patriarchal mindset, millions of women are literally imprisoned by a near-inescapable religious/cultural force: the perception of Woman as either the angel on the pedestal or the whore on the floor.

Those women are consistently deemed as unreliable witnesses to their own lives – as though truth was no more their property than were their bodies. It speaks to the concept that men can behave according to their natures but that women must have their natures determined for them. This is an inauthentic state of being, with consequences for self-identification and esteem which guarantees a superficial path in which motherhood may contain the only potential for a life of any depth. Under such cultural/religious dogma, the female is reduced to a two-dimensional construct: a doll whose dissatisfaction or abuse is merely collateral damage – to say nothing of the violence so many endure.

This is a medieval expression of how men view the “dangerous” or dark aspect of the feminine principle: through their perceptions of women as irresistible and deliberate temptresses. This is the self-corruption of men who blame women for their own lack of control or desire for brutal domination. The fear that women are dangerous haunts those men while their desire for women to be perfect and malleable haunts the women. Men would contain the light and discard the shadow rather than recognise a woman’s need, indeed any human’s need to reconcile the two. The irony is marvellous: that each sex should feel their gender to be in a hell, both of patriarchal engineering and man’s so-called ‘natural’ instincts. It is as though the straitjacket of misguided and unbearable expectations of a patriarchal world have placed such a burden on its female populace that Patriarchy itself has inadvertently destroyed that which it so treasures.

In the West – in Law at least, women have made gains yet they are still judged by their distance from the ancient pedestal. Often by other women. Women still struggle to maintain self-esteem in the face of self-doubt. Every woman given limelight is categorised according to the superficial standards of appearance and weight. Their life choices and difficulties are up for inspection, judgement and ridicule, not just by the community but to global scale and grotesquely supported by the Media. And just look at America, where renewed and determined efforts are underway to again strip women of their rights over their bodies. Have you noticed how religious extremists are always more concerned for the souls of those they victimise than for their own? Or the debates over the right to walk down the street and not be accosted because your dress is ‘provocative’ or because you’ve foolishly drunk more than you can handle; someone decides that something about you is so tempting that you must surely be ‘asking for it’ or at least expecting ‘it’. The argument is always too much concerned with the woman’s conduct. Personally, I would caution any female to think about her attire and behaviour but actually, she should be safe even if she is naked and passed out drunk.

Women’s suffrage and the feminist movement have facilitated changes in laws and social employment policies etc which acknowledge and respect equality, but the antiquated attitudes of power and predation they fought against still abide within all spheres of experience. I though, have always felt that the Movement was highjacked somewhat and rather let down by those who mistook replication of the masculine as the only vehicle for and proof of equality. I always baulked at the idea of such foolish imitation: I always imagined that all I had to do was to be.

I was born in the Sixties. I learned about the women before me and I watched the pioneers of my own time. And though they made huge inroads; their motives justified and their action overdue, it was the Law that afforded me my rights and not my community. The community was just a platform on which angry, contemptuous and fearful men ridiculed the fascistic arguments of extremists who, as usual were getting the most attention. I have to say too, that some women I encountered backed up such men quite viciously. If you reached for or assumed equality back then you were automatically accused of being a lesbian or a freak of nature: a betrayer of your sex. Yes, that’s how much of a clue some men and women had! And how ridiculous! That is as bad as stereotyping and categorising men according to their masculinity or effeminacy. And any jokes aside, dear Reader, but is this not an essence of the equality issue? It is just as easy for a woman to emasculate a man as it is for a man to infantilise a woman precisely because the rigid assignment of gender roles at the particular expense of one sex, informs the layers of stereotyping. Have men too, not been boxed in by the patriarchal model? What if they are not the ‘strong’ one in a crisis, the alpha in their circle, brave, practical – straight, even? Are they not still men? Intelligence, mental strength, emotional capacity, aggression, timidity, compassion, predation, selfishness etc – these are not gender specific – it was the permission to express them that was.

It’s about time that men and women saw each other as people rather than by a set of gender-based characteristics to be projected and acted upon according to Society’s narrow expectations. It’s surely well understood by now, or it should be, that women are as varied in nature, character and outlook as the other gender. If feminism is to mean anything, it should include this reality. Being equal to men requires nothing more than being a woman. Being Human, in fact.

I came into the world assuming I already had equality. I’ve never questioned it, though many men wanted me to and treated me as less – and some women, too. Maybe I just got lucky in my upbringing and education (it’s always the upbringing and education, isn’t it?), but I have never thought or felt myself to be less equal to any class of man. I’m a human being, therefore I am equal. Simple. Or did racism teach us nothing about such arbitrary nonsense? Society must learn that when it comes to equality, it’s as irrelevant what qualities a gender possesses and expresses as is the colour of a human’s skin. We are equal. And that is that. If a woman, married or single, wants to prioritise the Hearth Stone, she is no less equal to the single professional career woman or the female ‘breadwinner’ – just as the man who tends the home and children is no less equal to the builder, lawyer… whatever. Neither is superior to the other. Not of either sex; not within the sexes. If a woman doesn’t want children, it is her prerogative: it’s not some weird mystery or rebellious spite. Motherhood is not an inevitable desire for all women and for some, it is not even possible, so stop interrogating them because it is nosey and cruel. She is not a traitor or a failure.

A ‘real’ woman and a ‘real’ man are simply those who step into their own power and embrace their own selves as authentic human beings, walking their own talk as best they can, without apology. It’s better to be concerned about whether you like yourself than whether you match with Society’s approval of the way you reflect your gender. And yes, I know fine well that it’s easier said than done but it doesn’t stop it being true.

Respect for both men and women – and all sexualities expressed thereof – starts with respect for oneself and for human beings generally. We are automatically equal by virtue of our species. Through supportive Media, conversation and education we can instil into our children that their bodies and minds are their own; that no one has a right to either without their willing consent; that they must discern their own personal boundaries as they grow into adulthood; to respect that the boundaries of others may not be the same. Nothing will change if we don’t tap into our emotional intelligence and facilitate it in our young.

Mission Creep

Mission creep is mission sneak
In governed and ungoverned spaces:
Lies that by convenience leap,
Supplying evidence to cases
Base and tenuous at best,
As from the wicked comes no rest…

Incessant droning,
On and on…
Dissembled premises that mock:
The roots, the causes, overlooked.
The names change as it drags along
But the tune
The themes
When you take stock,
Are generally the same old song:

Hunger, poverty and gross inequality
Weakened and enslaved by crass ideologies
Coming from within and embedded from without
Little people in the middle all devoid of any clout.

Defence budgets growing for
Perpetual attack
On all rebels and jihadis
And there is no going back
On your folly for mad jollies
And the rape of their resources
That you plunder so remorselessly
Amidst the glaring facts:

That trade without manipulation
And respect for those who live
With perspective and perception
Other than your narrative,
Would, by many estimations,
Have been highly recommended
Over colonising, which,
It seems, is also themed and

Clearly,

Never really ended.

Dear Club Europe,

We realise you must see us a bunch of uppity, self-righteous carpers when it comes to our membership of the European Club. Please do forgive us, for we are mostly misinformed of what we think we know and ignorant of the remainder. You could say that we honestly don’t know what is good for us and we find we must beg your patience for just a little longer.

Of course, we accept that the inner circle is in a bit of a pickle and we recognise that, what with all the meddling and endless machinations, your hastily knocked up magic trick means you will have your hands full for some time to come. Accordingly, we wish to express our regret that our general whining and non-committal attitude is terribly inconvenient for you and we ask that you make allowances for our sense of irony and comic timing.

It is clear, however, that, between the Magic Zone and the Outer Rim, our Club is struggling rather, with its identity and purpose and we urge you to consider the possibility that we might yet have a point. Furthermore, we would like to suggest the distinct possibility that we are not alone and that other members, of all zones and circles, would also like to iron out some quirks. To this end and, in light of the fact that ‘tits-up’ is the current European reality; it seems that squandering this opportunity would be an utterly tragic waste of a reality check.

We look forward to your response and have full confidence in our mutual endeavours, going forward.

Yours, maybe faithfully,

Some of the UK.

P.S. We are reassured by the invaluable and indomitable enthusiasm of those jolly helpful and insightful chaps in Washington and, naturally, we welcome their objective contribution as an enhancement to the spirit and atmosphere of unfettered cooperation. 

Moving On

Ideological labelling is a two-edged sword. It is both convenient shorthand, for the purpose of making a generalised point and a poisonous straitjacket, wielded as a weapon of insult. Well I’m tired of such labels being bandied about to no helpful effect. Far from facilitating progress, they just distract from the essential arguments and solutions which invariably require a balanced outcome. Such polarised thinking is confining, isolating if you will and is better reserved for absolutes. As it ‘takes all sorts to make a world’ and, if we believe in freedom, individual empowerment, collective good, national interest, global solidarity – why then, policies need to embody these abstractions and make manifest their humanitarian meanings.  

Our Dear Leaders, governmental, corporate and institutional, are tinkering around the edges of everything because they want to maintain control and to this end they practise more than enough chaos to ensure they do. We still have decent domestic and global frameworks but they are run by hyenas and amoebae. Conflicted between their own self-preservation and collusion with their domestic and global counterparts, they fight for their theoretical survival by toughening up the status quo. This is not progress. This is a frog-march towards entropy.  

Where we are, where we have been and where we are currently going – this is not a viable construct. It never really was because – well, look at the state of things! It took lifetimes of ‘progress’ to get into this state and it will probably take one or two more to counter the damage inflicted. It surely won’t be fixed this decade. Nevertheless, this is a moment of huge opportunity which is being obscenely wasted while The Powers That Be take full advantage of theirs. Progress is always defined in terms of growth, expansion and profit: more, more, more. Of course these are not bad things in themselves but they are also not the be-all and end-all of a thriving Society. In fact they have got us all running to stand still. I look at my country and I look out at the world and I think: concentrate on achieving self-sufficiency and sustainability and build up from there – because, dear Reader, right now, I would call that ‘Progress’. I don’t much care for the ‘buts’ of old ideology or stale economic thinking. I care about principle-in-practice. If there’s a Will, there’s a Way, right? Well I believe the People have the will and that ways can be found. So this is also our opportunity.

Will it take a revolution? Probably, though it needs to be one of united consciousness to be successful. Will it happen? Not if the despots get their way and we have a big fat war, the after-effect of which would be seen as setting a restore time rather than rebooting.  Once the war was over, the world would just be reset by the same people in order to begin the whole cycle all over again. We’d be right back here within a decade. But ‘they’ lack imagination so desperately that they can’t see past their love for broken window economics, so the signs do rather point that way. [I half expect within the next twelve months to hear David Cameron declare a State of Emergency followed by an announcement that elections are postponed until further notice.] So, there’s that narrow window I mentioned in a previous post. Revolt now in united consciousness and seize control before we lose the opportunity, or trust that those who currently can will alter the flight path.  

I believe in identifying the ideal and taking all practical and ethical steps towards achieving it. Yes, I’m an idealist at heart, but I’m also quite pragmatic. I’m not some naive romantic or impractical utopian. I figure that if I don’t get there, I am at least travelling in the right direction. To me, that’s what’s missing in national and global debate. Instead all we get is the feudal, has-been ideology from the usual withered ranks of political discourse. I don’t care so much what it’s called; I care about whether it actually works. We need to be looking at and talking about what it takes for a country to be self-sufficient and how we ensure that Life’s essentials are globally sustainable and accessible to ALL.

This must put philosophical conversations about values and expectations above those of economics – at least temporarily – and dialogue must rise sufficiently high above the existing level of crap. Once we have established our collective priorities we will know what we want our revenue to be spent on and the politicians will be in no doubt as to their function: that of representative management rather than managing representation… unless of course, we decide to do away with politicians altogether. And along the way, here at home we could establish that so-longed-for written Constitution to enshrine our high but common values. This would, in turn inform the basis of our economy. Bottom-up reorganisation. Will and Way. Whose will and whose way will it be?

This will take deep thought, much heated debate, openness and a great deal of patience but we shouldn’t be afraid of stimulating, radical and creative ideas. Imagination is currently all geared towards paranoia, albeit largely justified. Our Dear Leaders can’t see further than their own professional mortality and they will not jeopardise this for the sake of our brighter future because it doesn’t countenance their traditional vehicles of power. Our ideal world isn’t run on the fuels of war, exploitation, profiteering or terrorism, is it? No, our ideal fuels for Life are our precious natural resources, naturally grown food, fresh water, shelter, peace of mind, a stimulating education, an empathic community and respect for all Life: human, animal, vegetable, mineral (and digital?!).

The Vested Interests should be investing in us, the planetary populace. They should be working to achieve lives worth living, not just for their own but for every being on the Earth. It takes courage to let go and raze the dross; it takes respect, integrity, vision, wisdom to build ethical structures. Isn’t that what we want? What is left to carry humanity through is Hope, Despair’s antidote: a grounded, tangible hope, which breeds optimism, aspiration, cooperation, endurance, focus, effort, strength. The Dear Ones can’t or won’t promote this chink of light but the energy of a Just revolution just might.