Sometimes I get asked why I am a feminist. Male feminists can be somewhat of a rare breed, and it can be confusing to some people why I go beyond “gender equality” to argue in favour of feminism. Feminism is largely about gender equality, but it goes beyond it to focus specifically on women’s issues (generally revolving around issues regarding reproduction, but also others like violence against women). So why am I, a man, concerned with women’s issues?
The answer is at once simple and complex: autonomy.Continue Reading
The past couple weeks have brought a lot of discussion about the role of Western society in helping African nations. While I found the recent “Kony 2012” campaign problematic and misguided right from the get-go, one positive aspect is that it has sparked some discussion (though never enough) about the “White man’s burden” and the “White Savior Industrial Complex.” This issue, as with others, has raised once again the question of what part the Western world should play in these issues. Should we step into a conflict that does not affect us, merely because it offends our moral senses? Should we give our money to the first organization that puts forward a simple, clear plan of action, regardless of our own knowledge of the situation? Should we let the people of Uganda (and the neighbouring countries) fix their own problems?Continue Reading
I just recently watched an excellent TED Talk by Susan Cain about introversion. She argued for the need for solitude in society in a world that is quickly becoming more and more of an extrovert’s world. I found her message to be powerful: We need more balance in society so that the insights of both introverts and extroverts can be heard and encouraged. As cities grow larger, and schools and workplaces encourage more and more open “collaboration”, it is easy for introverts to get lost in the commotion.Continue Reading
A few days ago, I was part of an infuriating argument on Facebook about abortion. It started out with much civility: a pro-life person asking nicely for people’s views, and people responding with their own views. But it was largely men who responded (myself included), and when a couple women chimed in to point out the gender disparity, the response ended up being something like, “So you’re saying I can’t have an opinion because I don’t have a uterus?” The conversation only continued to plummet further downhill.
But at some point early on in the discussion, one of the commenters asked the question, “But what about rape?” It’s a common question when discussing abortion. In fact, it has come up quite early on in almost every discussion I’ve ever had about abortion. What do pro-life people think about situations where a woman is raped and now is pregnant with her attacker’s child? It is a question, however, of which I’ve grown tired. It generally does not progress the discussion, and I think it holds the potential to be hurtful. So I’d like to ask people to stop asking that question, and talk about the reasons why they should stop.Continue Reading
The current political rhetoric in the United States (and other countries, to a lesser extent) is all about government regulations vs. the free market. Republican candidates have been spending much time making promises about budget cuts, removal of regulations, and untying the hands of “job creators.” Government regulation is said to be “inefficient” and an impedance to the progress of the country. The rhetoric here in Canada over the past few years has been similar, focusing on “stimulating the economy” and creating jobs.
Amongst all this language about business and economies, it is important to clarify the goals or end-state that one wishes for society to achieve. Certainly, people have different ideas about what society should be like, but in general I think it is fairly uncontroversial to state that society should benefit the people within it. I would submit that a good goal for society to have is to be just and equitable, and to work toward the well-being of its citizens. It is only after we set this goal that we can start to clarify whether government regulations and policies are truly a good thing. Do they achieve this goal?Continue Reading
One of the lovely words that feminism has created is “mansplaining”. Unlike “bromance” or “manscaping” or “murse”, which imply that men’s non-sexual same-gender friendships, untamed body hair, or fashion accessories are somehow totally different from women’s, mansplaining is not an attempt to state that men explain things differently than women. I think Karen Healey says it well:
Mansplaining is when a dude tells you, a woman, how to do something you already know how to do, or how you are wrong about something you are actually right about, or miscellaneous and inaccurate “facts” about something you know a hell of a lot more about than he does.
Bonus points if he is explaining how you are wrong about something being sexist!
It’s the “Well, actually…” of discussions about gender (or any topic, really). As an example of the attitude in question: I had a discussion today with a guy who thinks that he knows everything. On any topic for which you could ever dream up, he would confidently assert his opinion, stated more as fact than opinion. While I admit that he is certainly well-read, no one is capable of being an expert in every topic. But conversations with this person quickly devolve into a lesson about how you are wrong and he is right. He frequently cuts people off to interject his disagreement before even having anything to disagree about, and relays his points with didactic condescension. All-around, he is just an annoying conversation partner. Take this attitude, and put it in the context of men conversing with women, and you have mansplaining.Continue Reading
“There Was an Old Lady” retells the fantastical account of an elderly woman who swallows various animals in an ever-increasingly bizarre and grotesque display of ingurgitation. The following brief analysis will examine this nursery rhyme for critical thematic elements and possible problematic components.
The song opens as follows:
There was an old lady who swallowed a fly I don’t know why she swallowed a fly — perhaps she’ll die!
One should note the relative banality of the opening statement: While swallowing a fly is somewhat uncommon and an unpleasant experience, it is almost certainly not fatal. The utter confusion of the author is expressed, as he or she seems to believe that the woman must have swallowed the insect on purpose. Much more likely is that she did so by accident. Nevertheless, the author “blames the victim” in an attempt to explain the described event, and then seems to revel in the possibility that she may not survive the incident. Whereas most observers would spend the time helping the old lady, performing first aid techniques if necessary, and calling the paramedics if serious, the author instead decides to retell the event with no indication that any help was given. As can be seen in the following stanzas, the woman is left to correct the problem herself.Continue Reading