Let me start off by saying happy International Women’s Day. This is a day not only to celebrate all women, regardless of whether naturally born a woman or not, but also to acknowledge the constant fight for equality that women have been striving for for generations. In some countries it started with the working woman during times of war, and in others it has only recently begun to transition the way women are treated. Still, in some, the idea of equality for women is frowned upon and actively oppressed.
A few weeks ago while at a bar, whilst talking about a Chicago south side shot of mellort, I jokingly commented to my boyfriend to “man up.”
Immediately, one of the women in our group turned to me and said, with disdain, “you are not the type of person who would say something like that.”
Now, let me start off by saying this wasn’t serious. I would say this to either a man or a woman or even a gender neutral, while still respecting their preferences in normal conversation referring to them by their preferred “he” “she” “they” “ze” or any other variation.
Similarly to the idea expressed in Paramore’s song Proof with the lyrics “if I’m half the man I say I am…a woman with no fear just like I claim I am…” I truly believe that although the notions nurtured into our society of being a man or being a woman are meant to be gender specific, the idea behind them can be achieved in part of whole by anyone regardless of gender identity or sex.
Although many might disagree with this sentiment, believing that the very phrases are oppressive and/or anti-progressive, I believe that while anyone has the right to be offended by these phrases we equally have the right not to be offended by these phrases. Sure, I could have said something like “toughen up” or “steel up,” but I said what I said, and I often do. It’s in jest and while being politically correct does have its place, being familiar and silly does as well.
But aren’t I aware of the issues we face? One of my main characters, Kisami of the Valley, is stronger than her male companion both physically and emotionally. She is capable of doing what needs to be done, and also if being compassionate and affectionate. This isn’t a bash on men of course – Jadious Emory has his strengths having great empathy and being intellectually sound. I knew I wanted to represent men and women we don’t often see in our novels.
I grew up in a home that never addressed gender as a separation between me and my brother. My parents acknowledged that I was more of the dig-in-the-dirt save-my-older-brother-from-spiders defend-my-older-brother-fiercely while my brother was a bit more sensitive than I was and less inclined to play with bugs – this wasn’t seen as a flaw in our personalities, and our parents recognized this was only one side of our personalities. Just as much as my brother I could be sensitive and scared, and my brother was just as capable of being courageous and daring. It just depended on the situation, and not the person.
Similarly, my parents and entire family allowed the girls to bike around the dirt hills near our house if we so wished, and the boys to play with dolls. Were their jokes about my cousin being gay? Spoiler: he is. Were their comments about me being a tom-boy? Well, I am. But my parents nor anyone on either side of my extended family viewed these things as wrong, bad, or anything in between.
Of course there were offensive jokes made growing up – my brother once said he thought I might be about to come out of the closet as a lesbian just because of a haircut I had. I wasn’t offended that my brother assumed I was a lesbian and even though I’m bisexual, I knew this was just a concept that was popular in the 90’s when we were growing up. He didn’t mean it maliciously, and I don’t believe this comment was anti-feminist. Because ultimately my brother believes that women can do what they want and are capable of whatever they desire to do, whether it fits with their typical gender norms or not.
Even in some of my favorite movies growing up such as Disney’s animated Mulan, which did take some historical liberties, has the great and well-loved song “Be a Man” in a movie that is clearly about the strength of women and their capacity to achieve the same things that men are expected to achieve.
I see women and men rallying downtown, and observed through social media the march of January 21st – of course part of me wondered if by not joining in, if I was causing harm or not doing my part. But the honest truth is that I am anxious of large crowds and these events would cause me to panic despite remaining peaceful.
I don’t believe it’s necessary for anyone to feel guilty that they don’t participate in these shows of solidarity – I may not be able to say I was a figure of the movement, at the front of the lines with my signs and chants. But that doesn’t mean I’m not a part of the movement.
See, striving for and working towards a better future isn’t just about our public displays of masses. It isn’t just about our outrage and upset. It isn’t just about crying together and hugging our fellow humans. That’s very important – we need awareness and to show Earthlings everywhere that we are here, that we hear, and that we’re fighting for better.
But being part of the movement can also be the things we do in our day to day lives. As one of my favorite authors JRR Tolkien marvelously believed (despite perhaps not always having the best portrayals of women in his books, although Éowyn did kill the Witch King as no man could) said, “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.”
By showing kindness to one another, and treating each person with respect, we are part of the movement. We are helping to achieve a better future. We are standing with our protesting friends, if only in spirit and in the actions we exhibit each day.
So yes, I may occasionally make jokes that some would call anti-progressive. But this doesn’t mean I’m not helping to fight the fight. This doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the fight. I have a different opinion of what jokes can be, often finding that nothing is off-limits for a laugh as those who joke about these issues often intend the satire within them.
In these times, where we not only face issues of inequality but also great injustices and violations of basic human rights, we can stand together without judging how one or the other stands.
I’ll finish off with a quote by one of my favorite characters, Samwise Gamgee of the Lord of the Rings trilogyi. It is a quote that I have tattooed on my right shoulder blade, having gotten it to represent my struggles with depression and my often fearful outlook on the world and its future.
It’s only a passing thing, this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer.