More like #metoosoon

This is mostly gonna be another Posts From Facebook entry, because I’ve been characteristically distractible today. To start with, I posted the following status:

“It’s kind of neat that in all the media I’ve seen about Louis CK doing a surprise set, none of them have given him any quarter.”

Which is true. At least from the pieces I’ve noticed from my usual channels (and that’s a big spot of bias right there) his return has been overwhelmingly condemned. Whether it was The AV Club, Vulture, or Dana Schwartz at EW, it wasn’t shown in a favourable light. A friend of mine chimed in with her support for, well, the lack of support. I agreed with her, but also didn’t want us to go off the notion that the rest of the world agreed with me. We all live in bubbles and my community is as insular as the rest. Anyway, here’s what I posted:

“Yeah. At the same time if we’re being realistic, while these elite media organisations are giving him shit, I don’t honestly think he’s been truly condemned by the mainstream. He got a standing ovation. If he dropped a Netflix special tomorrow, a lot of people would watch it.

While the movement is doing some really important stuff, and opening the conversation to create a ripple effect, I think it’d be incredibly out of touch to think it’s actually dented mainstream societal views. What we need is a total overhaul of dominant power structures. What we have is organisations doing the bare minimum they can to seem progressive as long as it doesn’t affect their bottom line.

Notice how so many people mention the “amazing” apology he made, but fail to remember how he fucking denied it to his death until there was absolutely zero doubt and then came forward with how contrite he was. If he was sincerely sorry he would’ve started with the apology.

People have a sickeningly short memory. Remember how we all ranted about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill or how inhumane those TSA full body scanners were? It takes virtually nothing for people to swallow their moral objections if it means maintaining the status quo or continuing to have the things they want.

We’ve talked about this before, right? I was a colossal CK fan. I 100% thought he was one of the good ones. There’s a not insubstantial part of me who’d love nothing more than for him to pull back, do the work and eventually have a redemptive arc.

There’s a lot more to that notion though. “Doing the work” means more than empty lip service because of his career being on the line. It means extensive therapy, putting his money and influence behind acts who wouldn’t otherwise have access to those audiences. It means making a meaningful push towards reforming the horrible industry imbalance he was abhorrently complicit in. It means owning up to his bullshit and the lives/careers he’s ruined in a tangible manner. It means using his platform to educate those who idolise him on why his actions were so horrible and what consent is. That’s not remotely even the extent of it. I don’t fully know what redemption for him looks like, but I know that it’s exponentially more than taking 10 months off to sit with his money and write more dick jokes.

He’s a very talented comedian and writer, but those two things mean absolutely nothing if he’s a rotting piece of shit who’s learned zero from what he’s done. I want to be completely clear that no part of me thinks he *deserves* redemption. I hope none of the above gave that impression.”

It’s hard, because society at present has moved past integrity. I’m not saying that words were ever more than empty rhetoric, but they certainly ring hollow these days. Even corruption is irrelevant in a society where the truth is subjective. We’re living in a world where the only things that matter are preaching to the converted and good PR. And the PR doesn’t even need to be *that* good. You just need a receptive crowd who’ll parrot whatever you’ve given them as if it’s gospel. The “right direction” is all a matter of perspective and as such, doesn’t mean a whole lot. Prejudice is so often welcomed as “just saying what we’re all thinking”. Here’s the thing, if a bigot is just saying what you’re thinking, you’re probably a bigot.

Just sayin’.

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Harassmentality

I don’t know what it’s like to be constantly harassed and hit on.

I do know what it’s like to be stopped 10+ times a day and asked why I have a cast on my hand, knowing this interaction is gonna take at least a minute or two to explain the absurdity of not only the structure that led to the accident in the first place, but the uncanny bad luck that caused it. It’s the same every time:

Them: Oh, how did you hurt your hand?
Me: I fractured it on a big standing 360° swing.
Them: A standing swing? How did you hurt your hand on that? Did you fall off?
Me: Well I couldn’t fall off, I was strapped in. The arm strap wrenched my wrist down and fractured it.
Them: On a swing? That doesn’t make sense.
Me: *sigh* So you know how I said 360° swing? Vertically, not horizontally.
Them: Meaning?
Me: You know as a kid how you always wanted to go over the bars on the playground swing? This thing lets you do that.
Them: What? But wouldn’t you fall off?
Me: That’s what the straps are for. Instead of chains they have big metal poles that you’re strapped to. Feet strapped in too. You’ve got nowhere to go.
Them: Well that sounds unsafe.
Me: Technically it probably is, but so far I’m the only one who’s been hurt on it.
Them: Was this at some amusement park?
Me: No, my friend made it. We set it up in parks and stuff.
Them: And you’re the only one who’s been hurt?
Me: It was a freak accident. A certain angle/velocity thing. Super unlucky. Anyway, I should probably do some work now.

Frankly, I don’t want to talk about it. While people aren’t necessarily acting in an innately abhorrent manner (showing concern), it’s frustrating to know that even though I don’t want to be having this interaction, being dismissive is gonna seem like rude behaviour and I’ll be tarred as the asshole in their eyes. So I’m kinda forced to cede to the socially accepted thing to do and answer their query, which invariably does take a minute or two that I can’t get back. Most of these people don’t even know me by name. I’ve conversed with them once or twice while filling my water bottle or grabbing a cup of coffee. Or it’s at a party and one person will ask on the tail end of me explaining it to someone else. Playing through this scenario time and time again, day by day, has become irritating and a point of tension.

I’ve had to do this for two weeks. I can only imagine how rebuffing the advances of others for your entire life must feel. The thing is, my ceiling is that I’m irritated or frustrated. When women get hit on there’s the possibility of threatening behaviour, verbal or physical harassment. They could get stalked or sexual assaulted. It’s not a perfect metaphor by any means, but as a white cis dude it’s the closest I’ll really come to unwanted interactions caused by circumstances outside my control. While many guys are utterly clueless about microaggressions, my guess is that they’re something like this.

In any case, today was my first time jogging 5km on my recently sprained ankles. It was really fucking hard. It was slower than usual. Goddammit though, moving again at speed without significant pain was amazing. I only wish my building had hand dryers so I didn’t have to drip dry my cast for the next half hour.

It was shit luck to get injured in the first place, but I’m pretty damn fortunate it’s only temporary.

Calling it a day, because what else would you call it?

I slept more than zero hours but probably fewer than four last night. My body is still in the throes of the cold that I’ve had for the past week and a half. On top of all that, I’m in A Mood. So once again, in lieu of quality content, I’m going to drop utter nonsense in bullet point form in the hopes that it fulfils my daily obligation of 30 minutes writing. Today, that’s about all I have in me.

  • I woke up with McDonald’s’ “Double Cheeseburger” ad in my head. The thing that’s pissing me off the most isn’t that it’s lodged firmly in there, but that I can’t find an example of the exact ad I’m talking about. I was all prepped this morning to do a Facebook post of “Sure there have been some bangers in the last 20 years, but let’s not pretend McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger song doesn’t exist.” Laughs would’ve been had by all, right? Thing is, it was a campaign that ran years ago and resurfaced basically every decade in a different iteration. Not only this, but there were national variations across the world. There are multiple US versions, multiple Australian versions and a whole host of assorted dubs. You know it for sure, the “double double cheese cheese burger burger please” one. In 90s New Zealand we had our own and I know this for sure because the price on ours was “Only two dollars and fifty cents”. That’s burned into my memory in places where basic motor skills were meant to go. I found a New Zealand version, but it’s clearly too old because it mentions $1.99 or something. I can’t be bothered going down a Google wormhole for the sake of this, so instead I’ll sit here and stew in my own fallibility. Anyway, here’s the old Aussie one ’cause it’s cheesy as shit. Doubly so.
  • Infinity War has too many characters. I’m doubtful it will be a good movie. I’m happy to be proven wrong.
  • The new Venom trailer is out and it looks similarly trash. I don’t think I’m gonna be proven wrong, but I’m very happy that it’s spawned this content.
  • Since we’re on the topic of ads and selling out, I’m happy to be a corporate shill too. I did my taxes today using Simple Tax, like I do every year. It took all of ten minutes (since it links up with your past return details and the CRA). If you’re in Canada and plan on doing your taxes in the next week, give them a shot.
  • Our bus was evacuated this morning because two homeless people got on and started arguing. The bystander effect was strongly in place and nobody really knew what to do. We just heard yelling and conflict (though nothing physical) between these two men who clearly had history. I’m assuming most everyone assumed mental illness was a factor and didn’t want to either dehumanise anyone or intervene in an unpredictable situation. Instead everyone just got off and walked to the bus stopped in front. The driver sat behind his plasticised screen and waited for things to subside, then went out of service. He probably had some kind of report to file. I walked the rest of the way to work in a daze.
  • Toronto in general is pretty conflict avoidant. I guess it has a lot to do with everyone possessing the illusion of being busy at all times. Even in the video of yesterday’s van based terrorism, people in the background are sort of just going about their day. There’s this police and suspect stand off in the middle of the street and passers by mostly seemed to ignore it or not give it a second look. Weird.
  • Speaking of the van attack, it seems to have been a terrorist attack rooted in toxic masculinity. The guy was some kind of incel and, I don’t know, wanted to go out in a blaze of “glory” or something. It was pretty fucked up. The cop who dealt with the situation acted like a total professional. All of the guy’s actions made it seem like he was angling towards suicide by cop. He was acting like he had a gun in his pocket, but the cop called his bluff. If we needed a better illustration of how our rigid forms of masculinity are harming young men, yesterday’s attack was it. This guy, like Elliot Rodger before him, decided that he was entitled to women’s bodies. That their lack of attraction to him demanded violent reprisal. There are ten Torontonians who will never wake up again because this lonely child acted from a place of anger and misguided indignance. How many families are today in mourning because of what we’re teaching men in our society? When are we going to reframe our long held beliefs to teach compassion and understanding instead of harmful stoicism? The Marlboro Man died of cancer. Toxic masculinity is a similar blight. When are we gonna cut it out?

I’m done.

You may not have seen it, but I definitely winked at the fourth wall.

I’ve been doing some deep diving navel gazing lately. Wow, that sentence was a mouthful. In preparation for a Very Special Episode of I Have My Doubts, I’ve cast an eye back into my past to see what I can dredge up. No, it’s not for some clip show style entry (though if I get lazy enough on the day, who knows?). I’m doing a “live episode” for a select group of close friends. I’m gonna read a bunch of entries, then invite others to read any entries that resonated with them.

It’s 100% the most narcissistic thing I’ve ever done, but then again so is this project. In a few days it’ll turn five. One thousand eight hundred and twenty five days of writing in a row. At least nine hundred and twelve hours spent on this. If we estimate that each entry has had at least 500 words, that’d be nine hundred twelve thousand, five hundred words. It’s spanned continents, careers, relationships and haircuts (mostly all the same, to be frank). A lot has happened. I think it’s fair for me to celebrate that by indulging in a couple of blasts from the past. To see who of my friends actually read this project (because honestly, I have very little idea) and hear what my words sound like from the mouths of others.

Something I didn’t expect was how gratifying it would be to have years of my life catalogued. Scrolling through the archives, I was pulled instantly back to my mental state while writing. It was all intimately familiar. So much that I’d forgotten, I was able to recollect all too quickly. It felt lived in, experienced. Without stomping too hard on the narcissism pedal, it was all kinds of fulfilling to realise that the writing is actually pretty decent. I shit on myself constantly for churning out drivel. Still, casting an eye to what I’d done, most of it was better than I’d thought.

It was incredible seeing change over time. Particularly in regards to my attitude towards women. In possibly the most heartbreaking, disgusting, cringe-inducing entry, I recounted my thoughts towards a crush at the time. It reads straight up like a PUA manual. It’s all manner of gross. I hate myself for once thinking like this. I remember feeling lonely, desperate and so in need of validation. I can’t even recall who it was I was pining for, but I sincerely hope nothing happened there. She deserved better, whoever she was. Reading that entry, however, gives me faith. If I could grow the fuck up and develop healthy attitudes towards women, maybe other shitty young dudes can too? With patience, education and unfortunately necessary emotional labour, MRAs could be a thing of the past. As I said, wishful thinking.

I read a bunch of entries and thought oh wait, this is actually pretty funny. Others left me profoundly sad or wistful. The story of my first relationship struck me hard, not so much because I missed her, but because of how well I’d captured it. At times my own creativity surprised me. Whether it was the Rob Ford song I wrote, the freestyle rap or the 30 minute dad joke fest. It was better than I’d expected. A couple of choice words I’d swap out here and there (I’m a lot less comfortable with the term “prostitute” than “sex-worker” these days), but aside from that they weren’t too shabby.

Most of all, it was affirming to note just how much of my current self was in those entries. While I’ve definitely grown in leaps and bounds, I’m still me. In some ways I’m more me than ever. I see the seeds of who I’ve become in so many of those early entries. From life at the university, getting ready to travel, losing myself in the adventure of my budding immigration and finding my footing. From branching out to blossoming, all while never losing sight of my roots. Learning how to integrate metaphors, even.

It’s crazy to think that at 960 entries, I wondered if I was reaching the end of my creative tether. I’d be lying if I said that those thoughts hadn’t plagued me at periodic intervals. Why not? It’s baked into the very framework of this whole endeavour.

I Have My Doubts, after all.

Here I was thinking Women’s Day was a New Zealand publication.

Happy International Women’s Day. I’m in a sorta grouchy mood, but that’s not IWD’s fault.

Let’s get some stuff straight. I think International Women’s Day is important. I want nothing more than people around the world signal boosting that there are so many issues where it’s vital we stand behind women. The zeitgeist is finally catching up to the fact that the subjugation of women in a patriarchal society is no way to move forward. It’s essential that we all work together to clamp down on institutionalised sexism and actually treat women as equals. It’s amazing to see the momentum behind a number of recent global movements. Time’s Up, Me Too, etc. It’s wonderful that these have captured the public eye and prompted serious examination of what we’ve for so long treated as acceptable. It warms my heart that us men have been put under the microscope and taken to task for the awful systematic shit we’ve perpetrated throughout our lives. I truly believe that a seismic societal shift needs to happen in order for us to advance. I’m not sure if it’ll happen in my lifetime, but I’m hopeful that the necessary fire has been lit (after years of agitators doing great work to get it started) that’ll usher in meaningful change.

I also want to say that regardless of stuff that I’ll inevitably say, where I no doubt put my foot in my mouth or just otherwise make a dildo out of myself, the baseline is at a better place than it was ten years ago. Baby steps are better than zero progress. There’s also the caveat that I’m a dude. This is all coming from listening to friends and their qualms, reading articles they post and generally soaking up their wisdom, but also interpreting it through my own lens. I’m not gonna get everything right, but I’m all too happy to be wrong. How else will I get better.

With that said, holy shit has there ever been a flying fuckload of tokenism being thrown around today? If there’s one thing I’ll never get tired of shitting on, it’s capitalist entities co-opting political movements to try and shift more of their stock. So Kim Kardashian released a line of feminist Kimojis, right? What a great way for fans to show their support of this burgeoning societal conversation than by rolling out stylised commodification of catchy slogans for $2.99 a pack. If your politics come with a fiscal barrier to entry, they’re pretty fucking hollow. It’s one thing to support an artist doing vital work. This is not that. You’re just stamping the Kim K brand over a movement she’s directly profited from. Worse, people are literally and metaphorically buying them.

Or what about this bloody (wow, I actually didn’t intend that pun at all) women’s fitness ad I keep seeing on TV at work? It starts off with these two women furiously dance battling. They come face to face with staunch looks and bold blue writing appears onscreen:

ONE OF THESE WOMEN IS ON HER PERIOD.
WHO IS IT?

Then half a second for dramatic effect.

IT DOESN’T MATTER

They start laughing and hug each other. Cue company slogan. Yaaaas Queen! Boom Goes The Dynamite! Gotcha! Shame on you, sexist! What a monster for buying into these dynamics. Thing is, that was the last thing anyone was thinking. There’s zero causal link between a woman dance battling and her menstrual cycle. You were the one who brought that idea up, then tried to roast us for it. Do you realise that by introducing this as a concept, you’re actively reinforcing the outdated stereotypes you’re high-fiving yourself for calling out? You’re a fitness joint. Maybe instead of bringing blood and the moon into it, reinforce the notion that an active lifestyle doesn’t discriminate between body types. Or that people should feel safe and respected irrespective of ethnicity, socio-economic status or gender. It’s a fucking construct and maybe if you had interest in being progressive, you’d applaud people for having the motivation to put themselves out there regardless of discrimination instead of using feminism to sell your product. Nah man, let’s just get a good zing in. Fuck you.

I dunno. I’m trying to learn to be better over time. If you’re looking to learn, listen to women. Treat non-binary folks, people of colour, sex workers, queer, disabled and everyone I’ve failed to mention (I did say I’m still learning) as human beings. Don’t treat women as gatekeepers. They’re people. They’re don’t exist solely to nurture you, to be your emotional support, for your physical pleasure or gratification to your ego. Seek out women as friends because you enjoy their company, you think they’re brilliant and funny, because you respect them. When they talk about stuff that bothers them, hear them out instead of trying to poke holes in some kind of devil’s advocate bullshit.

We can all be better. Let’s do that.

Bye bye Mr American Pie.

It’s easy to forget what it was like to be a teenager. With the wisdom of retrospection, I now openly mock the emotional struggles of teens. Wait, that sounds actively spiteful. What I meant to say is that looking back at some of the instances in which my hormones brought me to my knees, I can see how trivial they were. I was almost an entirely different person, chemicals viciously clashing through my body. My brain was a volatile beaker of testosterone, spunk and sadness. I saw the world with a mixture of curiousity, envy and anger. Why was it all chaotic and where was my part in that madness? The future seemed both distant and immediate. Moreover, I just wanted to get laid.

Perhaps that’s uncharitable. Having sex wasn’t the only thought on my mind. I also spent a bunch of time thinking about anime and Pokémon. Still, sex probably ruled 90% of my thoughts. Why?

Sex was everywhere. It was in the advertising I absorbed every day. It was on the internet (and how). Sex was walking past me every day at school (in short skirts, no less). Sex was in the shows I watched and the movies we’d put on when we hung out. Oh those teen sex comedies. In the tradition of Porky’s and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the late 90s and early 2000s saw the resurgence of the genre. American Pie was the tentpole property (pun kinda intended), but it was far from the only one. Road Trip, The Girl Next Door, EuroTrip, Van Wilder and in a sterling example that both parodied and exemplified the genre: Not Another Teen Movie. My friends and I all loved them. How could we not? They were comedy and wish fulfilment wrapped into a single package. They also irrevocably shaped our attitudes towards sex and relationships on the path to adulthood.

On a whim, my girlfriend and I watched American Pie last night. In my memory it was just a typical teen movie irrespective of gender. All of my teenage female friends loved it, so I had no reason to think otherwise. It’s hard to see it the same way at 31. The women in the film are mostly without agency and almost exclusively seen as objectives. They’re tools through which the male leads can gain control over their sexual destinies. Prizes to be won. Personalities only as far as they can create obstacles for Jim and Co. It’s just dudes wanting to get laid. I mean, of course it is. I don’t know how the years dulled my notion that the entire plot was predicated upon that. It places sex on such a pedestal that all purpose for these guys pales in comparison to putting their dick in someone. Yes, the film has thinly applied lessons in the end. Oz discovers a different side to himself through his pursuit of pretending to be something he’s not for a girl. Finch’s plot resolution is maybe the most cringeworthy scene committed to celluloid I’ve seen in some time. It’s basically the personification of m’lady mentality and guys who think watching Rick and Morty gives them a genius level intellect.

Hey, don’t get me wrong. There was nostalgia in the rewatch. I didn’t hate it, but it felt great realising I’d grown past it. It’s not a good film by any metric, but there’s still some amusement in giving it a gander. Eugene Levy is a treasure. Plus I’d forgotten good ol’ John Cho gave worldwide public vernacular the word “MILF”.

The biggest revelation was how heavily I’d absorbed all the wrong messages it spread. American Pie and its ilk made me thirst for sex all the more. I was desperate for it. What’s worse is that I saw it as something I was owed, that was being kept from me. To teenage Leon, girls were gatekeepers of a treasure that was mine for the taking, but hidden within a locked vault. How do you think this shaped my attitudes towards the women in my life? It’s not like I treated them like trash. Still, underlying so many my interactions was the notion of looking for ways to unlock the opportunity for sex. As if ladies (m’ladies. Oh god, I did own a trilby), were a game to be played for the underlying goal of sex. Typical of someone my age? I’m sure. Still, gross as fuck.

As a teenager it never happened. You know what? Thank fuck. I’m glad I never put anyone through that. By the time I did start having sex I’d at least developed some modicum of emotional maturity. My heart was in the right place to treat women as people, not opportunities. Would getting laid as a teen have changed how I now approach the act? Would I still have learned to respect women in the same way?

Perhaps that’s an alternate reality I’m happy to not think about. At least I never got desperate enough to fuck a pie.

Am I too contrite to make an Aziz An-sorry pun? Looks like I’m just trite.

I want to talk about the Aziz allegations, because I think it’s worth putting thoughts out there. I’d like to emphasise that I’m not aiming to grandstand, to throw out some pointed think piece to put people in their place. My experiences aren’t relevant enough for that, there are better voices to listen to. Still, some conversation (is that what it’s called when I put words out into an echo chamber?) is better than none.

With all the allegations flying around right now, I’m sure everyone has a list. Some desert island top five of celebrities who you’re only wanting to hear squeaky clean things from. That may not even be the best way of putting it, ’cause frankly we all want to continue to believe that our faves are beyond issue. However, this ever-relevant piece by Ijeoma Oluo stands true. Anyway, I’ve got a bunch of dudes that I really, really don’t want to hear shit about. Aziz was on my list, as I’m sure he was for most. He’s made some great television, written a well-received book on dating, had compelling stand up bits and half-staked his career on the notion that he’s one of the good guys. It’s to the credit of his work that a bunch of people likely responded to his allegations with oh, is that it?

Pieces like this from the New York Times: Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader. Seeking to find fault in the victim’s behaviour, her lack of verbal rejection or conviction in getting the fuck out of an uncomfortable situation. Making it her problem that she wasn’t more direct in avoiding an unpleasant interaction. I get it. I want to keep on enjoying his material guilt free. The most prevalent reaction I’ve seen online has been that’s not assault. It’s just bad sex. I get it. I understand this reaction 100%. Why? Because I’ve been Aziz before.

I can recall a number of times in my early sexual experiences where I entirely ignored clues of disinterest. Whether this was out of ignorance or wilful desire, there’s no question that I was placing my wants over the comfort of others. Taking a soft “no” as a “not right now”. Slipping my hand between a partner’s legs and being rebuffed, only to try again ten minutes later. Pushing for sex when I got the sense she wasn’t interested, but I was. I don’t think I ever pressured a partner enough that she relented and gave in to get it over with. I did, however, fail to create a sexual environment where enthusiastic consent was imperative. I’m certain that I’m not the only guy who could admit as much. In fact, I’m quite sure that similar stories are likely more of the norm than we’d care to admit. I’m sure many guys wouldn’t even see fault with my behaviour. That’s why there’s fault in how Aziz acted. That’s why the culture of sexual consent in our society needs a major restructuring.

My initial response to the Aziz allegations was resigned frustration. As I said above, I’ve been there before. I’d hoped that someone like Aziz would be better than that, which clearly was hoping for too much. I was embarrassed that Aziz, who was 33 at the time, was behaving like a 21 year old. I was embarrassed that this behaviour in my mind was classified as that of a typical 21 year old. Unlike most of the allegations that’ve come out, this one has resonated with me the most. Why? Because these aren’t the shocking actions of a serial abuser like Harvey Weinstein. According to many of the female voices I’ve heard, they’re pretty run of the mill. That’s why it’s important men listen to what’s being said and swim in how it makes them feel.

If they’re not embarrassed or frustrated, maybe they should look at why that is. This movement marks a departure from what we all considered normal and a necessity to explore past experiences for egregious activity. We need to look at what we’ve done in order to learn how to be better. It’s important to sit with guilt, to use it to recalibrate both expectations and behaviour. The system is broken and fixing it is gonna take wilful intention and education.

Do I think Aziz is a monster who deserves to be stripped of his career? Honestly, despite what I’ve said today, I don’t. I think his story deserves to be out there as a cultural learning moment. I think he needs to have a long look at his past experiences and create meaningful change from here on out. I think if his heart is really where he’s made it out to be, that he should use his platform to admit fault and be a role model for the great many men who think he did nothing wrong.

As for me, I’ve spent years trying to unlearn what I took for granted. I’m not done yet. The movement may be called Time’s Up, but for a bunch of us it’s just begun.