Why I Don’t Call Myself a Feminist

This essay was recently recorded for a podcast that I host at Crumble Cult. If you want to hear the audio, you can access it here, here or here. You can even have a listen while reading the comic strip I initially based it on. Whatever you decide, I hope you enjoy reading the original text. Words on a page can sometimes resonate more than simple audio. We’re all about options here at Unbolt Me!

 

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I sometimes wonder if Eve was a feminist. Yes, that Eve. The one from the Garden of Eden. That same Eve who helped herself to forbidden fruit and used the devil as her skipping rope. Yeah, she really stuck it to god because that’s just what you do when someone’s being an authoritarian prick. God, the first patriarch versus Eve, the first underdog. It didn’t go too well for her in the end but at least she stood her ground. You’ve got to admire someone for doing that.

So, Eve, I salute you… but I still won’t call myself a feminist.

So, what is feminism exactly? Well, I don’t know if I’m the best person to be talking about this. All I do know is that it’s been much maligned and misunderstood since its inception. Throughout the ages, male and female alike have been quick to vilify and tear down any woman who dares to challenge society’s blinkered take on gender roles.

Still, does anybody even know what the word ‘feminist’ means any more? There’s a snifter of an ideal at play there—my nostril hairs divine that much at least. Any scholarly text will tell you that feminism was traditionally about advocating political change so that women had equal rights with men. Oh, and no more body shaming or rape. Or beatings. Or acid. Or genital mutilation. These and other means of punishing women for… well, being women.

So, the struggle was real, and it still is. That’s a fact. Parity of the sexes has still not happened. And there’s no good reason—nor has there ever been—for why women should still be treated as second class citizens. Globally, society really needs to do better.

Now, this is not to say that I believe all women are naturally kinder or more compassionate or generous or nurturing, and that they can do no wrong. For example, I don’t think a matriarchy would work any better than the patriarchy has. People are people and will still screw things up no matter what gender they identify as. Egos, incompetence and ill intent exist on all sides of the fence.

I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all been raised to believe certain lies about our so-called gender roles. If men are really predisposed to being thuggish, emotionally stunted, money-making, bash machines then it must hold that women are simply fuckable, child-bearing, disposable, self-denying machines, yeah? And that’s the natural way of things, right? No, it isn’t, and frankly everyone suffers when those so-called ideals are the ones that continually get pushed out there. And if you think they’re not, just glance at your nearest TV.

Of course, biologically speaking, there are differences between men and women. Most men can lift really big things. Most women can’t. Women get to have lovely, squidgy chest bits. Men get to have rather dubious, dangly, nether bits. Sure, men can aim their piss as a result, and women have to jockey into position, but is that really an advantage? Women can lactate after all, whereas men’s nipples are a joke. Of course, no one wants to see a breast-feeding father. Baby will be coughing up hairballs for a month and probably will need therapy for life! Nevertheless, these differences are there, and for some reason we get scared all of a sudden. And we go on the attack. That’s a shame.

Variety is the spice of life. It would be boring if we were all the same. Women are cool. So are men. So are trans, genderless, bigender, trigender, pangender, genderqueer, Harry Potter, kitchen sink, and whatever the hell else you wanna chuck in there—it’s all good! And, yeah, I really mean that. It really is all good, so how about we stop being scared?

So, anyway, this still doesn’t address my earlier question which was: Why won’t I call myself a feminist?

Okay, so we live in a patriarchal society, yes? I don’t seriously think that can be argued against any more because… well, evidence. On the whole, women haven’t enjoyed the same rights and quality of life that men traditionally have throughout history. We men have had an unfair advantage in a lot of ways and, frankly, it’s one that’s been collectively exploited to the hilt. That’s why there still aren’t enough women in positions of influence such as business, politics, religion, etc. So, parity in these areas is important and definitely needs to be worked towards.

But here’s where I may get myself into a bit of trouble. This patriarchy I speak of defines itself through the acquisition of money and power—power mostly. And it achieves this end by stomping on the weak and helpless. It always has. And this power that people hunger for is, to me, just vile ruthlessness dressed up as healthy competition. Sadly, it’s human nature to lift ourselves up by pushing others down. I guess it’s your call as to whether or not you’re personally guilty of this every once in a while, but I know I’m sure as hell am. It’s my belief that we just cannot help ourselves.

See, it’s often the use of force—whether physical or verbal—that gets us what we want. So, if force works, why change this for a more inclusive, even handed result? And it’s this mantra that feminism seems to be marching under right now. It seems to have adopted the patriarchy’s value system of power at all costs, so much so that there are feminists out there destroying each other over who truly counts as one of them and who doesn’t—establishing a pecking order as it were. And there are even others tromping about the place trying to shame everyone else in the world into labeling themselves feminists too—as if a mere label makes all the difference.

I can’t help but wonder if feminism has become a kind of dogma. And if so, is that really progress? Is that what we actually need? More people grubbing for the lion’s share of an ever dwindling ideological carcass-pie? More money, higher degrees and greater political and corporate clout for women everywhere are fair enough things for us to strive toward, but to what end? If everyone’s out for number one—themselves—then I fail to see how this benefits women in society on an individual level. If, say, a single mother’s lot isn’t improved but there are more Gina Rineharts in the world, then how is that better?

The patriarchy has always misused power. Why should I believe that a matriarchy would be any different? People have been known to swing their dicks around no matter what they’re packing between their legs—men and women. The fact is, we need everyone, and we all need to be in it together. We all need to hold each other accountable. Woman, man, gay, straight, brown, yellow, blue collar, white collar, politician. Everyone. This Frankenstein monstrosity we call a society cannot even begin to work unless we try collectively to shape it into some kind of Adonis.

Make no mistake, I need feminism to be in this world. I need their voices to be in the mix in order to experience as many different viewpoints in life as I possibly can. I don’t know everything and I never will. I’m not always right—as much as I’d like to be. I’m not perfect. I will hold wrong attitudes about women, and say and do the wrong things sometimes. In short, I probably will be a bit of a dick to womankind at some point, and that’s why I need feminists. Someone has to get it through my thick skull whenever I get it wrong. I need to not listen to respond, but to listen to understand. And that’s why feminists need to be there, to use their voice. Hell no. Let’s make it all women. All women need to use their voice.

At the end of the day, you’re just a woman. Beauty isn’t the most remarkable thing about you. At the end of the day, I’m just a man. Having a dick doesn’t entitle me to anything. Respect is intrinsic. It doesn’t matter what gender we are. There should be no conditions attached to treating someone with dignity. No one should have to earn anyone’s compassion.

And why should I have to identify as anything in particular anyway? Can’t I just use my own name? Sure, it was given to me—I had no say about that—but I like it plenty enough, and my parents raised me in such a way that the mere thought of hurting others can fill me with shame. As it ought. I was taught to know better. Their love ever so gently holds me accountable. Isn’t that enough?

We need to stop viewing women as the weaker sex, the fairer sex, or the whatever sex. Women aren’t in need of rescuing or being won like a prize. Nor are they victims. The more we see them as victims, the more we’ll kick them while they’re down, and then they’ll never be anything other than victims. You don’t need to be a feminist to comprehend that. The women in our lives are worth so much more than a label.

And to you women out there, remember this: You are real. You are all woman. You are human. You are whomever you want to be. And nobody can take that away from you.

 

by TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2017

Lose to Night

Sisu in the face of certain doom.

There’s no earthly reason why I should be feeling what I feel today. From when my head left its pillow my stomach kicked in. It’s a coil of snakes writhing and golloping me up inside. I can’t concentrate to work. I can’t let go and play. I can only churn times ten. I’m a tight knot waiting to unravel.

The years have seen many friends fall to this monstrosity at the middle of me. Emotionally, I’m just too high maintenance. I go out of my way to cover it up but at some point the façade crumbles. It always does. And then they see me for what I really am. And they get overwhelmed. And eventually they flee.

So now I lock myself away, waiting to unspool. Please, for the love of criminy, just let me unspool. I want to come unutterably and exhaustively undone. Can I rejoin society then? I’m scared of losing the two people I care most about in this world. I need to be safe. Or at least safe enough to handle.

It’s not about aggression. That isn’t why I sit in this room listening to my music. It’s about having something be louder than something else. I need to rumble the snakes out, to shake the bastards loose. To let heavy metal do its thing. Maybe it can save me from myself this time. No, seriously. As preposterous and overblown as that might sound—as metal might sound—just… just save me.

I hear the voices roaring from the speakers. I feel them thundering from beneath the earth, drowning out my insides. And even as I lay buried, my roiling innards will not be silenced. So I scream too, adding my voice to this cognitive and sonorous dissonance. It’s never been about aggression. It’s always been about survival. About letting people know I’m still buried down here. Sleep is so stupid and wasteful. I have to live. I want to live.

I see you, you things inside of me. God, you’re beautiful, but you’re sick. I know what you are. And I know you cannot have me. See? I’m lobbing a Molotov. I’m torching you, motherfuckers. I will not lose to night.

Yeah. Sisu. Sisu in the face of certain doom. That’s what I choose.

 

by TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2017

¿Dónde Está Santa Claus?

Dear readers, I wrote a letter to Santa. Yup. I really did. In it, I spilled my guts. I bared my soul even. Hell, I was mortifyingly earnest. Isn’t that just well-meaning stupidity in disguise? Ugh. Anyway.

I informed Santa that I’ve decided not to celebrate Christmas this year, or in any year going forth. As an embittered former Christian it’s something I can no longer, in all good conscience, do. And as someone who hasn’t then gone the whole kit and caboodle and converted to atheism, it does make things a bit tricky socially speaking.

You see, some of my atheist chums ask me why I don’t just boycott Christmas, like it’s my goddamn duty or something. They wave their little magazines in my face, evangelising me, expecting me to be inspired and galvanised. Apparently, I’m supposed to display some newfound passion about my newfound liberation from the tired old shackles of religion.

But really, I couldn’t be arsed. Not when they’re foisting titles like Fairy Tale Crushers Quarterly or Militant Mind Monkeys Monthly or Dawkins’s Dick Butter Digest in my face. How can I be expected to swallow that? Even the covers with their smug tag lines put me off. “Freethink like us or we’ll laugh at you!” Okay. They do realise people have been laughing at me my entire life, yes? It’s not exactly a threat. I mean, it’s not eternal damnation or anything. Try harder, atheists! Actually, no, don’t. You’re as annoying as the theists.

God, I’m so tired. When did people start giving such gorilla-sized shits about what others think? I just could not be that arsed. Hell, my thoughts probably come out of my arse so who am I to be policing everyone else’s brain turds? Seriously, I’m not that invested. I just want a cup of tea and a nice lie down. I mean, how can they possibly maintain the requisite amount of fulminating engagement 24/7? They have to sleep some time! Do they sleep angry? God, I hate social justice warriors. They’re so fucking exhausting.

I hate Christmas. That’s the one thing I will agree with the atheists on. All those wasted childhood years praying for a better looking face. No wonder I feel so aggrieved. Christians say Jesus is the reason for the season. Okay. So where were you, Jesus, when I needed my merry miracle makeover? Off pumping Kim Kardashian full of the good DNA no doubt. What a cheap bastard. And what a bitch for hogging it.

My face. God. It looks like it was regifted. Some unlucky, hopelessly damned soul must have received this face one Christmas, gone “AUGH!” then crammed it back in its wrapping paper and regifted it to me the following Christmas. “Oh, Tony will have it. He likes weird shit.” “Oh, thanks. I guess I gotta wear this now so I don’t hurt your feelin’s or nothin’.” Still, I suppose it could’ve been worse. I could’ve been regifted a box of used condoms.

But is this all I’ve been reduced to? Covering over the crushing disappointment that is life with gaudy tinsel? Making everything Christmas to within an inch of its goddamn life, godammit? Screw social convention! It doesn’t make me feel any better. It’s not like I can drape Christmas over a pile of dead puppies and suddenly everything’s okay. No one looks at a pile of dead puppies draped with Christmas and says, “D’aaawww… Let’s go carolling!” I’ve tried to fit in with this holiday season malarkey. Truly, I’ve tried. But it’s not working.

One thing I did do was to grow my hair out. I figured if I could grow it long enough, it’d cover my face and entire body, and I’d look like a wookie. Then I could finally rejoin society because, you know, everyone’s worshiping the new Star Wars right now. Which means they’ve gotta love me, right? I’d be famous! I’d get invited to comic conventions, sit on panels and sign tits. Lovely! It’s what I’ve always wanted. Hell, I wouldn’t even have to be articulate. All I’d need to say is “GAAARRRGGGHHH!” in answer to everything. Fans would lap that shit up. They’d be lining up for decades, waiting for autographed pics of themselves swooning over my immaculately groomed wookie weenie.

So, anyway, I wrote Santa a letter. In it, I told him of my esteem obliterating ennui. Yes, I told him that I’m tired. That I think I need to go to sleep now. Maybe for good. I recommended that he not get me anything this year, that he keep the extra he would’ve spent buying me a Robot Action Smurf and get himself a shot of egg nog or a beard mitten instead. I don’t know. Whatever floats Santa’s boat. Oh, sorry. Sleigh. I meant sleigh.

God, I suck.

Anyway, dear readers, I apologise for this. I don’t wish to burden you with my unburdening. Have a sack load of festive humbugs on me.

Yours grudgingly,
Scroogey McScrooge.

PS: I burnt the letter and sent Santa a Facebook message instead. He still hasn’t friended me. He’s probably chilling somewhere on a Majorcan beach with hookers, blow and a toddy. What a tosser.

 

by TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2016

As I Went Out One Morning

Thomas Paine tried to usher in the Age of Reason. Hippies tried to usher in the Age of Aquarius. Then came me. All I can do is age.

I am filled with false hope at the moment. This might be due to the fact that the day is still young and nothing bad has happened yet. I feel like I’m trying not to be fucked up. Really, truly, I do. And I’m trying not to fuck up by fucking others up.

On any given day I feel like I’ve smashed myself on the rocks of indifference, like I’ve lashed myself to the wrong mast with the wrong sail and then headed off in the wrong direction. I’ve crashed into a lonely desert island, and am about to slide from the brine-slicked crags to vanish over the waterfall at world’s end. But today? Today, so far, I feel pretty alright.

It was in my teens that I made a terrible discovery. I discovered that a man could cry. That man was my father. His tears were for my mother’s brother. I’d entered the room to find him laid out on his bed, hands pressed over his eyes as if to hold them in. Really, he was only trying to hold in the pain. It seemed an unconscious act of self preservation, as if to prevent pain itself from seeping out and consuming him. But it was already too late. My father’s face was wet with tears and loss had clearly eaten him up from the inside. It was a powerful moment that unearthed deep, unspeakable things within me. I became afraid of dropping into that abyss at the edge of the earth.

Johnny Cash once sang about a man who couldn’t cry. The man had been like that for as long as he could remember, and when he finally did cry it rained for forty days and forty nights. Then he dehydrated and died. Then his family, friends and associates began to fall victim to horrific happenings and in some cases met a tragic demise. Is this really how it is if a man dares to cry? The world falls apart? Everything comes undone?

Okay, now it’s beginning to feel like the last days again, and hope is waning… but of course it would. It’s false. And time marches on, goose stepping like a hateful Nazi over the memories of once held dreams, over my carefully buried hopes and fears. I’ve learned not to cry in the presence of others but it isn’t always easy to be so scrupulously contained. Sometimes you cry in the worst place at the worst possible time. We’re not all machines. It just happens and there’s nothing that can be done about it.

Let’s face it, the older I get the more emotional triggers I find. Take right now for example. I’m walking past a church sign that says we’re ‘too blessed to be stressed’. It’s probably a good thing I don’t own a gun. Not that I’d use it. Not really. I’d just think about those self-righteous godomites and get myself all twisted up and spiteful inside. And then I’d slink away to take a Pepto-Bismol or two. Or three. Hell, guns make me nervous anyway.

No, it’s far better to dwell on other things. Happy things. Like puddles. Look, there’s one now. My very own sky hole in the ground. I could just step off and drop through to the clouds beyond if I wanted to. It’s the lure of transcendence. I fall for it every time. Who needs to get on a boat to disappear? Just do this. Only… well…

…I can’t.

Not really. Damn reality in all its bloody-minded literalness! God fucking damn!

Sigh.

 

by TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2016

Bob Dylan and the Crabs of Fortitude

Bob Dylan opined once. Hell, lots of people do that but because it’s Dylan everybody listens. Actually, he’s opined quite a few times in his long life. He’s probably still doing it now–Dawkins bless him–into a cup of warm cocoa by a roaring fireplace. (Fireplaces roar apparently. Fuck knows why.) So, anyway, what did he specifically opine about once upon a specific time? I’m getting to that. Just gotta find these quotation marks first. Ah! Here we go…

“I change during the course of a day. I wake and I’m one person, and when I go to sleep I know for certain I’m somebody else.”

Imagine if that second X had been a Y. Growing up, I could have been on the receiving end of a clenched fist had my sister been a mister. She was much kinder to me than a same sex sibling would have been. Of course, like anybody she’s not perfect, but if I list those imperfections here then I’m bound to get killed in my sleep. (Okay, not really.) Hullo, sis! (Erm, you can put that horse head down now…)

I’ve been surrounded by women my whole life. Well, to a much greater degree than men anyway. Back in my dim, distant, whiny teen phase, I remember being frightened by women, and wanting to be that rock that Simon and Garfunkel sang about so that their womanly charms wouldn’t rattle me. I craved a masculine kind of strength, a certain degree of stoic, macho immovability in the face of their distressingly compelling… well, womanliness. I wanted to be rooted deep in myself. (That sounds so wrong.)

Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that I didn’t become this ‘ideal’. Rather, I became a tumbleweed rolling from scene to bewildering scene, trying to figure out its place in the choking dustbowl of life, and tangling uselessly around the ankles of women who were infinitely more accomplished at life than I could ever be.

I’m what some might call ‘an oversensitive, mewling nancy boy’. As far as they’re concerned, I’m like a vegetarian spider pretending to be a real spider that’s secretly going by the drag name of ‘Bambina’ at the local titty bar. The fact is, they don’t have the measure of me at all. Sure, I’ve had people call me a fugly bush pig, but oversensitive? Come on now! Really, what they’re saying is, “You’re male. Don’t have feelings. If you do, you’re a girl.” I have to ask… what’s wrong with being a girl, and since when did ‘girl’ become a pejorative? Oh, that’s right. Since always. Thanks, mankind. You’re progressive as all fuck. I’ll take my cues on how to live life from you, shall I?

Look, if having feelings–and, heaven forfend, showing them–makes me a girl then I’m proud to be so. At least female kind is in touch with its feelings. We men have missed a trick there. Women, collectively speaking, have got a rich, full, inner life going on that society by and large tries to quash. Fortunately, they’re more resilient than that, and are soft and curvy and bouncelicious enough to squeeze out of most attempts at subduing them. Yes, women can be subjugated but never ever subdued!

In this crazy, bizarro world that’s pathologically scared of them owning their own bodies and speaking their own minds, it’s still exhaustingly common for women to be treated as little more than brainless pommel horses to be ridden hard into the ground. Ugh! (And before anybody says I clearly must be a white-knighting, wowserish tart-arse who hates rumpy pumpy, lemme just say… oh, never mind. I couldn’t be arsed.)

Frankly, I’m glad of all the women who have walked through my life. My best teacher was a woman. My best boss was a woman. My best friend is a woman. Hell, even my wife is a woman! How cool is that? I feel like women ‘get’ me more than the most men. It’s that magical ‘woman’s touch’ that makes me want to be a better man. And although I’m not half the man I ought to be, I still wouldn’t be half the man I am now if it weren’t for that touch.

And that touch on my life continues. It reminds me that it’s okay to have feelings. It reminds me that I can cry when needed, that it’s not a peachy outcome when everyone sees me as an aggressive, heartless knob head. And, more importantly, it reminds me that demanding undying fealty from the nearest chick with an amazing rack and then bludgeoning her to death on the carpet when she doesn’t give me access to her vagina is simply not on. It’s good for us all to be reminded of stuff like that even though we shouldn’t need reminding.

So, yeah, this morning when I got out of bed Dylan’s words were doing a lazy little breaststroke through my brain. In fact, there would’ve been a spring in my step had I not been contemplating what a fraud I am by society’s warped standards of what constitutes manhood. But then I considered what my wife would say about being a man. Actually, she has said it, and many times. So has Tati. So has any woman I’ve ever cared about and looked up to. So then I found myself becoming a little less clear on the not-really-a-man thing. No, I am indeed a man. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just a biological fact. I’m a little ambiguous about the details sometimes but at least I don’t ever have to be what somebody else demands of me.

One of my fondest memories is from when I was a small child. It’s as golden as the beach I stood on before a special something entered the scene. One moment there was sand. The next moment there were crabs. They roamed around me in their hundreds–perhaps their thousands–going who knows where. They scuttled with purpose. They weren’t afraid of me and I wasn’t afraid of them. We just happened to be sharing the same space and time.

I want to be a man like that again.

 

by TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2016