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

THE CRUMBCAST // Real Men Burn Their Jockstraps in Support of Women!

Or maybe they don’t. It’s their choice really. They can have a cup of tea and a lie down if they prefer.

Okay, so I’m not a feminist, but this doesn’t excuse me from showing support to my sisters out there. They’re speaking up, and it’s been a long time coming, so I’m-a-gonna turn my hearing aid on and have me a listen. Might learn something.

By the by, my latest Crumbcast is a babble about the thorny issue of feminism as a label. Yes, I know… I’m a fool. Be gentle?

 

by TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2017

COMFY CONFABS // Tony Single

Hullo, Dear Reader. Guess what? I got talked into being the second interviewee for my brand new, ongoing feature, Comfy Confabs. The interviewer being the interviewed?! How on Cthulhu’s sweet, barren earth did that happen? Well, I’ll tell you how… It’s all the fault of one Candice Daquin, and if you don’t know who she is then you really need to edjumacate yourself at The Feathered Sleep. Okay, go. Go now! Go and have your eyes opened and your mind exploded. I’m serious! I’ll be here when you get back.

Right, got all that? Good. So, anyways, I approached Candice to be the focus of this second interview, but instead of a yes I got an offer to be interviewed by her instead. “You’ll be more interesting!” she said. “But I’m a career hack!” I protested. She was having none of it, so I folded rather more easily than a deck chair at a conflict resolution symposium…

All joking aside, I am rather pleased with the outcome. Not only have I shared dialogue with a writer of Candice’s calibre, but the resulting Q&A even makes it seem like I’m not a total and utter narcissistic halfwit—pretentious maybe, and a bit of a tool, but still…

CANDICE: Were you always an artist? Did you used to do something before that? If so, when did you decide to devote yourself more toward your art and networking your work for others to see?

TONY: I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon, so I feel like I’ve never not been an artist. I was even creating comic strips all the way through my school years, so by the time I was accepted into art college the idea of trying to be a professional cartoonist felt like the next logical step to me. However, my life since then has consisted of being equal parts job seeker, house husband, and struggling artist.

CANDICE: What do you recall as your original inspiration when you began to draw more for others to appreciate? What message if any did you want to convey the most?

TONY: I don’t really recall much to be honest. I do remember Charles Schulz’s Peanuts strip featuring quite prominently in my childhood. I adored its many characters (and still do), and very much aspired to do something in the same vein. As for messages, I don’t think I had any in mind at that age—only an idea that I wished to live out a creative life.

CANDICE: Do you consciously impart messages in your work or do you think they are interpreted by the viewer?

TONY: I believe it’s a bit of both. The older I get, the more I find what I want to say, and so I’ll layer this into whatever I create. However, no one likes to be preached at, so I’ll try to find an indirect way to impart that meaning, a way that gives the reader credit for having their own mind and take on things. Of course, whatever I put out there does often get interpreted in ways that I cannot possibly anticipate, but this is no bad thing. All it means is that people aren’t being passive, that they’re actively engaging with my work, and that makes me happy.

CANDICE: Does your hearing-loss factor in the choices you make artistically?

TONY: Such an interesting question. No one has ever asked me this before! If my hearing-loss is any factor at all then it would have to be in the way I try to write dialogue. I am constantly striving to make my characters sound as naturalistic as possible (not easy to do within the silence of the page). I want their stresses, intonations, and turns of phrase to mimic what I will often hear in everyday conversations.

CANDICE: When did you begin to combine your ability as a writer/poet with your art? Do you feel more confident in one genre than another?

TONY: As a cartoonist, I’ve always combined my writing with my art. I do find it difficult to draw a standalone image as it often feels like there’s no story present. I tend to be more comfortable working with a sequence of images; it’s a less static approach that’s conducive to driving narrative or some overall message. If there’s one thing I like more than writing or drawing alone, it’s putting those two things together to tell a story.

CANDICE: If you had endless options, what would you choose to do with your art? Would you like to be a comic-artist, a graphic-novelist? Or something else?

TONY: When I was young, my goal was to write and draw a famous comic strip, just like my hero Charles Schulz. That changed. What I’m doing now with Crumble Cult actually plays to my strengths as a cartoonist, and far more so than the newspaper format ever would have. It’s emotionally fulfilling in a way that a gag strip could never be for me. Still, as a creative, I can’t say that I’ve ‘arrived’. My next big challenge is to write and draw my first graphic novel, and I want to do this in Ukraine. I have no idea how I can make this happen, but I sure aim to.

CANDICE: If you weren’t you and you didn’t know you, and you saw your art what would you think of the person behind it?

TONY: God. Again with the interesting questions! I find this difficult to answer as I’m often wondering what people make of me anyway (could someone tell me?). I’m constantly striving to get personal with my comics, to bare my all, and yet I use them to hide myself at the same time. It’s weird, I know. I guess I just like to confound people’s expectations.

CANDICE: Whom are your biggest influences both historically and in more recent times and why?

TONY: There’s the aforementioned Mr. Schulz. His Peanuts strip has always appealed to my whimsical and melancholic natures, as have the works of Tove Jansson. I grew up reading her Moomintroll books, and they were fanciful but in an extraordinarily mundane, grounded way. Then there was the Osamu Tezuka comics that possessed a certain kineticism which I very much admired. And they had a rather pleasing pulp fiction sensibility too; for me, Adolf and Astroboy will always be his definitive works. Oh, and Rumiko Takahashi’s Maison Ikkoku was another influence. That story was romantic, down-to-earth, very very funny, and humane. I’m also seeing an abundance of that last quality in Love and Rockets by the Hernandez Bros. That’s a more recent influence I suppose, but no way in hell will I ever reach those giddy heights of masterful storytelling. Not with my own paltry efforts. Still, I love what I do, so I can try.

CANDICE: You mentioned wanting to do a graphic novel (so glad you said that, this interviewer always felt this was your destiny, jus sayin’!) but also ‘in Ukraine’ meaning you want to write / draw it in Ukraine or in Ukrainian? Can you elaborate on this and explain to the readers where this momentum began and why? (I think I know!)

TONY: I think you do too! I once asked my writing partner Tetiana Aleksina about her home country, and she challenged me to simply go there and pay her a visit. Her feeling was that it would be better for me to experience Ukraine firsthand rather than simply hear about it from afar. That’s when I had the idea to turn this potential trip into a story that I could tell in the graphic novel format, and so I’ve been obsessed with the idea ever since. Plus, it would just be a cool thing to hang out with someone that I love and admire very much! I plan to make it happen. Again, I don’t know how, but I will.

CANDICE: What influence has your writing collaborator Tetiana Aleksina had on your work and how do you feel she has influenced your direction?

TONY: I was floundering creatively before Tati came along, and that’s the truth. I don’t know where I’d be today if it weren’t for her timely intervention. The width and breadth of her imagination is the one thing that shone through when I first encountered her blog, and so I very quickly became a fan. And as I got to know Tati through our collaborations thereafter, I came to realise she was someone I very much wanted to work with on a permanent basis. With much trepidation, I asked her if I could, and luckily for me she said yes! And in all the time since, I’ve come to see just how meticulous Tati is with her endeavours. Everything counts for her; nothing gets wasted. Things are worth doing properly or not at all. Not many bloggers seem to have this perfectionist drive, and so I’ve really come to value her professional approach and attention to detail. I’m forced to lift my game—to strive for my absolute best—and this clearly is no bad thing. As a result, we now have many projects in the pipeline, and aim to make them all come to fruition.

CANDICE: If you could fast-forward ten years where would you like to be in terms of creative output and accomplishment?

TONY: I would like my wife and I to be living abroad, and for me to be working alongside Tati in person. That’s the dream. We want to bring out more books, to complete our first novel, and maybe even tackle a graphic novel together too. The sky’s the limit. We just have to be foolish enough to reach for it!

CANDICE: What subjects most influence your perspective as an artist and why?

TONY: Religion and mental health are two huge subjects in my life, so they tend to crop up in my work a lot. After suffocating in a Baptist church environment for nearly twenty years, I realised that I needed to get out and truly be myself for once. I’d also given up on the idea of a loving god by this point, and was feeling tremendous guilt about that—I felt like a heretic and a failure as a human being. There were also lingering questions from my youth regarding my sexuality and self-identity that were still not going away, that could not be adequately addressed the longer I stayed in such an emotionally and intellectually toxic subculture. I felt stained and stunted. I needed to escape. Add ongoing anxiety and depression to the mix, and you can see why I write and draw the things I do. I have to.

CANDICE: What role do you think you play as an artist in terms of being a ‘truth’ bearer to subjects most close to your heart and what subjects would you include? (Example; This interviewer holds mental-health and gender close to her heart and incorporates them into her work often.)

TONY: The more I follow my current path, the more I find what I want to explore in terms of themes. Of course, there’s the aforementioned religious and mental health issues, but I’m now branching out into other areas such as sexual identity and gender politics, and finding that there’s quite a bit of crossover. Actually, it’s shocking to note just how much church and society have framed my thinking in general, and in ways that are less than helpful, that quite frankly fly in the face of reality. Back in my church days I tried to cleave to some pretty dangerous ideas dressed up as piousness and a sacrificial love for mankind, but really… I was only robbing myself of the ability to empathise with others while at the same time deliberately taking leave of my senses. One particular issue seemed to crop up again and again amongst my peers: homosexuality. God and his ‘chosen ones’ were disturbingly obsessed with that, and sought to box it up as something which was ‘aberrant’ and ‘evil’. This kind of bigotry troubled me as I’d always believed that homosexuals were as normal as anyone, but I never had the guts to challenge the church’s prejudice head on. At the time, I was more invested in gaining total acceptance from my fellow Christians than in pursuing a form of ethical honesty. So, yes, I now incorporate such concerns and themes into my works as often as possible. It’s kind of my duty, and I have a lot to atone for.

CANDICE: Thank you for your time answering these questions. As long as I have had the fortune to know you as an artist, I have found you to be a continual inspiration, but I also know you personally to be very modest and unaware of the impact you have upon others. Do you think this came about from your life thus far? Have you felt working in this creative community and especially with your creative partner Tati, that you have begun to shed your modesty and become fully the creative person you wanted to be? Do you see this as a process of transformation? I say this because in the last year I see a shift in the courage of your work delving deeper into issues and subjects that matter to you with more willingness to ‘go there’ than say, before.

TONY: Oh, Candice, you’ve always been very kind to me. I wish I truly was modest. The reality is that I possess a massive ego, and it offends me. Seriously, I must have an overinflated sense of self if I’m trying to tear that down on a constant basis! If I was truly humble, I wouldn’t even be thinking about myself in the first place. As for the impact I have on others, I’m always worried that it will be a bad one, so I find I overcompensate and try not to have an impact at all. I know—messed up or what? I’ve always suspected that I’m not being totally honest with myself, which is why I write and draw. I just want to get closer to the truth of me—whatever that may be—so the creative process is very much an act of attempted transformation. It’s taken me a long time to ‘go there’, to work up the courage (or foolishness?) to tackle issues and subjects that I personally still find very painful. I also hope I don’t end up fashioning a narrative for my life that’s dishonest, or a narrative that paints me as some blameless, long-suffering saint, a narrative that fools even me. How do you stay true to something like that? I’ve no idea.

 

Interview by CANDICE DAQUIN
© All rights reserved 2017

THE CRUMBCAST // Lovers of a Lesser God

I hate being preachy, but I feel I might have crossed that line with the latest Crumbcast. I guess this stems from the fact that I’m finally ready to reveal what I really think when it comes to relationship and religion (with a dash of sexy sex thrown in for good measure). Of course, it’s not as if the world is breathlessly awaiting my opinions! I’m certainly under no illusions about that. Really, I’m only doing this because I want to. If someone’s willing to listen… then great!

Also, it’s only fair that I warn my religious friends and readers that some of the views expressed in this episode may be offensive to them. While I don’t feel it necessary to apologise for said views, I do want to acknowledge the distress that they may cause. So, please do be aware that I don’t take this lightly, and that I hope we can at least agree to disagree. It would be grand if we could still be chums anyway. Yeah, let’s give peace a chance, man!

Oh, and please do feel free to read Matching Jeremy Tang for some much needed context regarding this installment of the podcast (which can be found below). Crumble Cult is my baby, so I enjoy having people fuss over it! Hint. Nudge. Insert winking smiley here…

 

by TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2017