Working on my reflect-ses.

Got to chatting in an online group about body image. I’m sure this is a mishmash of stuff I’ve posted here before, but in case this would be helpful to anyone else, I’ll post it.

I hear this intimately, ’cause it’s something that’s always been an immensely emotional sticking point for me. I also feel like I’ve rounded a corner in the past six months, maybe just through attrition, but I’m generally feeling better than I had. There’s a lot of talk about body positivity that never really jived with me. It didn’t seem to fit with my more pragmatic paradigm. To be clear, I think it’s amazing that we’re all talking about this and it’s helping people, but it wasn’t working for my subset of issues.

An exercise that really did help was suggested by a friend. It’s very easy when looking in the mirror to make negative statements. “I don’t like the way this looks when I do that”, etc etc. She suggested instead looking in the mirror and making neutral statements whenever I’d have the compulsion to say something negative. “I have eyebrows and a nose” or whatever. Dumb as it sounds, over time this helped push away my innate instinct to find the things that caused me to feel emotional, and replace them with statements that were empirically true.

Gradually I started experimenting by replacing neutral statements with positive ones. “I like the way my nose looks. It’s very proud” or whatever. I want to stress that this wasn’t an immediate impulse, it came over time. As more time passed, I tried doing this more often. “My eyes have really cool colours” etc. Then as even more time passed, I began to focus on these positive things when I looked in the mirror instead of the negative ones. Noticing things that I did like about myself was hugely refreshing. Yet again, this wasn’t a whole-body love thing. I still had lots of bits that felt like tension points in my brain. But it did help me have a more positive association with my reflection.

I don’t even know if that evolution was a necessary level. The neutral paradigm far and away helped so much with self-image on its own. Being able to just look in a mirror and look away without feeling down was massive, and really helped me to navigate the world with my head held a little higher.

Another aspect that helped me to become more courteous towards my body, was starting to create tacit connections between what it could do and how that made me feel. I began mentally acknowledging when my body did something that I appreciated, and keeping this in mind. If I had more endurance than I’d expected, I’d note how thankful I was. If my strength or fine motor control came in handy, I’d reflect on how this made me feel.

I’ve always come from a baseline of just assuming I hate my body and how I look. Ever since childhood, this is the way I taught myself to navigate the world. As I’ve grown up, the importance of my own physical competence has really reared its head. If I can accomplish a task, that does make me feel really great about myself. If I can accomplish a task well, I almost hum with satisfaction. These little notes and personal reminders have helped a ton, because they allow me to feel connected to my body in ways that don’t revolve around weird body image notions that cemented in my brain at age 12.

Feeling connected to my body has been a more recent experience. Coupled with the ability to see positive things in the mirror, it’s very much allowed me to give positive connotations to parts of my body that maybe I wouldn’t like the look of otherwise. Sure, I may not find them aesthetically pleasing, but I do understand how functionally helpful they are. Over time, it’s becoming harder and harder to cognitively tell the difference between something aesthetically pleasing, and something I’m functionally thankful for. In my brain, I think they present the same way. I’m sure the dopamine spike people get when they look good in the mirror is what I get from looking at my very functional body parts. They make me feel good about myself, and I’m pretty I’ve discovered positive body image by any other name.

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There’s gotta be a Toxic Schick joke somewhere in here

Hi friends. I did a lot of arguing on Facebook today. Because I’m perennially lazy, I’m basically just gonna blatantly repost a bunch of the stuff I wrote. It’s still writing, right?

Hi friends, it’s 2019. Just a reminder that you can…

1) Have an opinion about something.
2) Learn new information.
3) Change your opinion.
You’re not stuck with your first opinion just because you had it.

1) I thought Paddington was gonna be a worthless kids movie solely made to cash in on a long deceased franchise.
2) It turns out the script is very funny and charming, and the film is a total pleasure to watch.
3) I now really like Paddington.

Then I got into a BIG discussion with two blokes about the recent Gillette ad addressing toxic masculinity. It took a while and got basically nowhere. So, no different from the rest of the internet. This was not created as a wall of text, but a number of comments that I’ve stacked together. I hope it makes some sense in this format.

Toxic Masculinity is not saying that masculinity is inherently bad, it’s saying that there are aspects about the way masculinity is commonly framed, presented and performed that aren’t helpful for anyone.
The idea that men have to be stoic and cannot show weakness leads to men holding in emotions, then letting them out in harmful ways. Whether this is anger, violence or suicide, it’s not great. It harms us men, and people of other genders often face the consequences of these emotional outbursts too.

The whole “boys will be boys” mentality often lets men off the hook for shitty behaviour, but the behaviour we excuse at a young age can lead to a lot of men thinking the same behaviour is acceptable and useful as an adult. It tells men that we’re not responsible for a lot of the shitty things we do, that it’s okay because we’re “just boys”.

I’m not sure why people have an issue with the idea of encouraging us to be more compassionate and caring about others. If you’re already not being shitty to others and exhibiting the kind of behaviour that this message opposes then congrats, it’s not about you. But just because you don’t do something, that doesn’t mean the message isn’t helpful for other men who are doing this stuff.
Does that make sense? I’m not trying to be aggressive or really point fingers here, but I do think that a lot of men are either hearing the wrong message, or intentionally professing ignorance to prevent having to challenge their own behaviour. It’s holding all of us back as a society.

Do you know how often women get approached by men? I don’t believe that it’s inherently wrong for men to approach women, but there’s gotta be some context, right? Had they made eye contact? Engaged in fun banter? Did she show signs of interest? Or did the guy see a woman he thought was attractive (who hadn’t even noticed him) and put his desires for contact above any indication that she was looking for it? Does this treat her as a human being? Or a potential walking vagina? I think it’s pretty important for us to challenge these behaviours and ask why we do them.

I think it’s very important to be able to separate the ideas of “This is not my experience” and “this isn’t real”. Nobody has ever punched me in the face, but that doesn’t mean getting punched in the face isn’t a real experience that people have had.

If you haven’t experienced the fallout of this kind of behaviour then sincerely, that’s fantastic. Would you not want to encourage the idea of other people not having to experience it too?
Also I’m pretty sure that on some level you have experienced the fallout of toxic masculinity whether or not you knew it. Have you ever felt insecure for not being assertive in a situation? Or feeling small when someone has physically threatened you? Or inadequate about the way you look if you’re not six foot with rippling abs?

The notion that we *have* to be a certain way to be sufficient can really tear us down and prevent us from being our best selves. It’s okay to not feel like an alpha all the time. It’s okay to feel weak and tender at times. Understanding these feelings lets us extend compassion to others who are going through hard times. I personally don’t see an issue with that, I don’t know about you.

A big turning point for me was when I realised that “not all men” really just means “the exception proves the rule.” If “not all men” are like this, but a lot of men are like that, and you’re not like that, then you being an exception proves that it’s a general rule. Ergo, the message isn’t about you. If you can ignore ads for cigarettes because you don’t smoke, then you can ignore messaging about shitty behaviours if you’re not exhibiting these behaviours.

Toxic Masculinity doesn’t say all men are bad, it also doesn’t say all women are perfect. It’s saying there are harmful behaviours that need to be addressed, it’s not saying there aren’t other harmful behaviours worth addressing. I feel like there’s a bunch of false equivalence going on here. If it were true that the incidence of female perpetrated sexual assault was on the rise, it’s very, very, very unlikely that there would be as many female sexual predators as male ones. It’s not that these things don’t happen or the behaviours aren’t worth condemning, but there’s an exponentially larger power dynamic that shifts the scales in a preferential manner towards men. There are exponentially more men in positions of power. There are a lot of people in positions of power who are abusing this power. Saying that a lot of men commit assault is not the same as saying that women don’t commit assault.

If 1000 people got stabbed with forks in the US in 2018, that would not be equivalent to the amount of gun deaths in the US in 2018. Overall, yes. People should not kill other people, but fork stabbings would not be an epidemic on the same scale or be as pressing to address as gun death.

I want to put it out there that I don’t give a shit about Gillette. I really don’t. They’re a shitty corporate entity like anybody else. This is not going to make me buy Gillette products, I don’t care about the brand and this hasn’t changed anything. I do believe that the message they’re spreading is important. I think we need to examine behaviours we’ve always taken for granted and challenge them, if we’re ever gonna grow. I wish this message wasn’t being bound to a corporation. At the same time, I know that this has gotten the attention and spread it has precisely because Gillette have the reach as a corporate entity. Gillette can fucking rot for all I care, but I can hold the views of “fuck Gillette” and “I believe in what they’re trying to say” simultaneously because I’m a thinking person and not a one-dimensional cartoon character.

If people start buying Gillette razors now instead of Schick, I do not give close to a shit. I’ve never cared about consumers’ razor purchasing habits before and I’m not gonna start now. If this message encourages any number of men to rethink talking over their female colleagues, approaching a disinterested woman in public for their own reasons without considering her perspective, giving unwanted physical contact to a woman, teasing young boys for having tender feelings, or getting into physical altercations to solve problems, then that’s something I do care about.

I wonder what I’ll argue about on the internet tomorrow…

I will bend over backwards to defend this argument

I have a request for the guys out there.

It’s less a request than a consideration. Simply, I want you to consider buying women’s clothes sometimes. It’s both more and less specific than that, so I’ll speak plainly. Last year I bought a pair of women’s yoga pants. It was the best decision I made all year. A Joe Fresh across the road from work was having an end of year clear out. I’d seen my girlfriend and other gals wearing yoga pants and they looked snug as fuck. I’d heard them all say how comfy they were. I saw butts and the butts looked good. I noticed that Joe Fresh had pairs of women’s yoga pants for $10, and I wondered what would stop me from getting some. I mean, they technically were women’s clothing. Was that an issue?

I ran it through my head. Why is clothing gendered. Does it make sense? Are there arguments on both sides? I figured, yes. There’s context and it wholly depends on the item. In terms of pants, cis men straight up have a longer crotch. There’s more outward machinery going on down there that requires extra room. I know this because I once accidentally put on my female friend’s jeans and discovered a total lack of consideration for my aforementioned machinery. Some shapes and curves aren’t commonly replicated between the genders. I get that. At the same time, there are a bunch of clothing types for which it really doesn’t matter. Footwear, for instance, is about 1.5 sizes different. If you’re a 7 in men’s shoes, you’ll be an 8.5 in women’s shoes. I think. I once bought some jandals and the 12 was a perfect fit. I bought a women’s flight suit for a costume once and, apparently I’m a women’s size 8. Thing was, it was very roomy around the chest and tight around the waist. So no, it’s not perfect all the time.

My request, consideration or whatever you call it, is that if you’re a cis dude, to get yourself a goddamn pair of women’s yoga pants. I only mention cis dudes, because I feel/would hope that people outside of cis dudes would have the good sense to know that prescribed gender to clothing is mostly total nonsense. There’s no reason for something like yoga pants to be gendered. I LOVE my yoga pants. 99% of the time I change into them within five minutes of walking in the front door. They’re snug and comfy. I feel like I’m wearing a hug at all times. Plus they make my butt look fucking ace. There’s no reason why they wouldn’t be appropriate for anyone. They’ll conform to whatever shape you have, and make that shape feel great. Do yourself a favour and get yourself a pair.

Mine even have a tiny pocket in the front. Literally what more could you want?

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.

Coincidentally, “Better” was the only half-decent track from the legendarily delayed Guns N’ Roses album Chinese Democracy.

CW – Rape, rape culture, entitlement #notallmen-tality

Hey guys (and I’m talking to the men here. I have nothing valuable to teach women that they don’t already know), still listening? Lest anything in my tone yesterday came off as self-congratulatory, I’m here to hopefully expunge the thought that I have things to congratulate myself for. We saw countless women come forth yesterday and bravely divulge what they’ve been through. Siting back and say “I’ll try to be better” rings a little hollow without divulging any of my own shit. So here’s a thing. Strap in, this is gonna take a while.

I was 100% on course to become a full fledged, trillby tipping #notallmen-onist. Late teen/early 20s Leon would’ve been all over that shit. Many of you haven’t known me that long. Many of you have. Apart from all the commonplace egregious shit (feeling like women owed me anything at all, judging women based on how they dressed, befriending women largely with the hopes that it could lead to sex/intimacy), I sure did love some Devil’s Advocate or tossing out rape jokes. Grade A genius edgelord shit. Of course I thought rape was abhorrent, but I did love me a good rape joke. Why? Because to me (and I’m pretty sure I used these exact words many a time) rape was an abstract concept. It was a stand in for the worst of the worst. Comedy came from the chasm between expectations and delivery. Accordingly, if I was looking to spice up an innocuous set up, rape was an amazing out of nowhere punch line. I didn’t want anyone to be raped, but I did want people to be shocked.

Yep, I’m reading how fucking stupid this shit is as I’m typing it out. You don’t have to bear with me here. It’s the logic of a moronic twenty-something who knows it all while simultaneously has barely experienced the world.

Thing was, to twenty something Leon rape was an abstract concept. It wasn’t something I had to deal with in my everyday life. I could walk the streets at night without fear, but my life sucked because nobody wanted to fuck me. Yep. Super proud.

It’d be nice to say that I just grew out of it, but I wasn’t (am not) that smart. I got frequently taken to task by more intelligent Women who’d tell me how problematic my behaviour was. I’d engage in endless Devil’s Advocate arguments in an affort to prove some kind of intellectual superiority, then when my shitlord tactics provoked an emotional response, claim the intellectual high ground. This went on for years. Cracks in my bullshit appeared slowly, but let’s not overstate things. I still acted like a total piece of shit.

At some stage, a close friend of mine was raped. I didn’t know what to do. I felt stunned. I was heartbroken at what she’d been put through. I’d never been an angry person, but I had nothing in me but rage. I wanted to kill whoever it was that did it, but had no idea who he was. I physically trembled with no way to manifest the fury inside of me. It just stuck around and with no choice, I sat with it. I had literally no idea how to handle those feelings. I was fortunate enough to have access to a work supplied counsellor who talked me through it. It took time, but having sat with this foreign feeling, it was impossible to see the world in the same way.

Please please PLEASE, no sympathy. Why wasn’t I already blindingly furious? It’s shameful and abhorrent that this is what it took for me to stop seeing rape as an abstract concept. The “know it all” persona didn’t last for long after I discovered just how little I knew.

I started listening more, arguing less. At some stage I started learning. The older I’m getting, the more I’m understanding how little I know. As time goes by, I’m trying to listen even more. I’m trying to learn, but there are still so many little things I’ll never truly understand, because I don’t have to face them constantly on a daily basis.

I’m so sorry for all the shit women have had to put up with on my behalf. I’m sorry for the years of emotional labour to pull my shitty lizard brain to a place of burgeoning understanding. I’m sorry for the shit that I still put women through, even unwittingly. I’m sorry that apologies don’t make things better half as well as action does. I’m sorry that I don’t act nearly as often as I should. I’m thankful that so many women somehow never gave up on me. I should not have been your burden to carry. I still shouldn’t…

 

I don’t know how many men are still reading, but there’s something I want to talk about. I saw a lot of bullshit from self-righteous men yesterday when women were coming forth with their manifold admissions of trauma. There’s some bullshit regressive stereotype still permeating our society that logic is the domain of men and emotion is the domain of women. If this is still relevant to your life, maybe ask yourself why. What’s wrong with being emotional, having the capacity for compassion and empathising with others? Why is it more important for you to try and score “points” at the expense of someone else’s emotional wellbeing? When you’re engaging in these arguments, is it causing you to relive painful emotional experiences? Or are you just doing it out of some self-imposed duty to be “right”? Why do you think it’s #sobrave to poke and prod at the traumatic experiences of others when you haven’t had to repeatedly deal with the shit we men put women through. Because so many of us still believe that women owe us anything. That women exist for the purposes of our pleasure. That a woman’s humanity is secondary to what she can do for us. What is the value of this apparent logic that’s so obsessed with the notion of “winning” through technicalities and loopholes.

In what way is this “right”? It’s right in the way that both Bill Cosby and Jian Ghomeshi were not guilty in the eyes of the law, because the trials were predicated upon discrediting the testimonies of these brave (but unfortunately “emotional”) women. Do any of us really doubt they did it? Does that sound like justice to you? Does that seem like the “right” kind of society you want to live in? One that protects predators and makes victims relive their trauma in the hopes that when exposed to scrutinising light, the most miniscule loophole might shine through?

Men, we still have so an unfathomable amount of work to do to dismantle the bullshit biased society we’ve assembled. If that pressure is too much, let’s start small. The next time you’re about to start/join an argument about something a woman has gone through/is going through, ask yourself some questions: “How much of a personal stake do I have in this argument?” “Do I have tangible lived experience with what she’s talking about?” “What’s the worst that will happen if I don’t engage?” “If I listened instead of talking, could I possibly learn something from a point of view that’s outside of my own?” If any of the answers to the above questions are remotely affirmative, try sitting that one out. See what happens.

I know you’re certain that you have a totally unique point of view. I can assure you that nine times out of ten you don’t. I see the same arguments from men again and again. Why did #notallmen gain such groundswell? Because with no exaggeration, every day I see some supposedly well-intentioned dude pop into a discussion about shitty things that men do and say “yeah, I support what you’re saying for the most part, but I’m not like that.” If you’re not like that, she probably wasn’t talking about you. If she wasn’t talking about you, why would you pop in and make it about you? Do you think that any of your female friends talking shit about men think that you’re the scum of the Earth? Why then would they be your friends at all? If you’re so assured of your logic and intelligence, use that big brain and think about it. You’re not helping.

You can though. You can help. Instead of pouncing into an argument and loudly taking up space, listen and learn. Read what women are saying. Re-read it until it sinks in. Consider how these things make them feel. Do they sound frustrated? Angry? Why do they feel that way? Try putting yourself in their shoes and seeing things from their view point. Would you be angry in their situation? Would you just get over it if it was happening constantly? If you didn’t only have to deal with this shit, but when you expressed your frustrations, people told you that your feelings weren’t valid? Would that make you angry? Would it be possible to see their experiences as more than an abstract concept?

Listen… Learn… Repeat…

Take note of how other men treat women online. Does any of their behaviour seem strange to you? Do they seem like they have personal experience with the matter at hand? Or do they just seem like they’re trying to prove a point in order to prove a point? Does that seem strange to you?

Listen… Learn… Repeat…

Does the way that men carry themselves online still make sense to you. If a guy says something about a woman’s experience that shows little to no empathy, question it. If you know him and feel like he’s a decent dude, call him in. Send him a private message asking why feels that his opinion is more valid than hers. If you can’t call him in, try calling out that behaviour. Tell him that it doesn’t make sense for him to be telling a woman she’s wrong about something he doesn’t experience. Because that doesn’t make sense, right?

Listen… Learn… Repeat…

These are ellipses, not fullstops, because this is an ongoing thing. There’s not gonna be a point where you know everything. The more you learn, however, the more you can educate other men. If we’re gonna get anywhere, we’ve got to get there together. It shouldn’t be the job of women to make us work on our own shit.

Because we need to own our shit. Nobody else can. Be better. That’s your job, not theirs.

On second thought, I had a sushirrito. How could I be the loser?

The other day while foraging for vittles on the mean streets of Chinatown (I ended up finally trying a sushirrito. Expensive but solid. I can roll with that) I bore witness to an amazing scene. More accurately, I heard it first. The squeal of a car horn, uninterrupted. A steady stream both attention grabbing and arrogant. I figure the point at which you become the asshole for honking your horn is about five seconds in. I didn’t see precisely what the conflict was, but I saw a sleek sports car pulling up next to a chunky SUV. The SUV driver began to turn into a side street as the other driver hounded him. The dude behind the wheel of the sports car yelled out “HEY! YOU WANNA GO THEN?” The SUV driver nodded emphatically. The sports car dude replied “ALRIGHT, LET’S DO THIS!” I stood transfixed on the opposite corner, all ready for action. Who was in the wrong? As far as I was concerned, anyone willing to come to fisticuffs over a road scuffle was a prime asshole. I was raring to see the punishment dolled out.

College Street is a busy street and the Bathurst intersection is busier still. The SUV driver parked up on the side street, but the other guy had already shot the mark. There was no way he could U-turn on a busy street, so he had no choice but to aggressively pull back into traffic and wait at the lights for some way to turn back around. I figured his best call was to turn left onto Bathurst, find a side street on the left to turn onto another side street, then get lucky and shoot across College (one way streets being the bane of this guy’s existence). He waited for the light to go green for maybe a minute, then made a speedy left turn onto Bathurst. My body was ready.

That was the last I saw of him.

I figure it’s pretty tough to retain anger. It’s very much an in-the-moment emotion. You’ve gotta be present to truly seethe with fury. Logic and reason have no place in that kind of spontaneous rage. How do you keep that up when you’re waiting for a green light. Say the radio comes on and you like the song? Or you realise that your partner is already at the brunch spot? How do you self-righteously go off and spend several minutes finding parking in a busy spot filled to the brim with bluster, without contemplating whether or not you really want to pump money into a meter just to potentially get your ass kicked? How do you quash common sense from creeping into your bloodlusted mindframe when a Cars for Kids ad comes on the radio? On a sunny Sunday afternoon? That takes commitment to the cause (the cause being most likely a broken nose or at least a bruised ego).

In all honesty though, it was all an act, right? Neither dude really foresaw anything resulting from the altercation. They huffed and puffed out their chests, beat their fists loudly and maybe threw one or two faeces. Then they left, having proclaimed themselves the victor in their own hearts and minds. Some elaborate ruse to convince themselves that they were worthy of their place in the food chain. At least wrestlers require a certain level of skill and fitness for their charlatanry. These two? Well at least they’d sleep at night, having told themselves that they put their best feet forward.

If anything, I was the only one who truly lost in this situation. I was hoping to see a free show.

Putting the trade into trading places.

I don’t truly know how it is to live as a woman. Chances are I never will. I’ve had a life laden with privilege, wearing the assumed status and ease of being a white male at all times. I don’t know what it is to be constantly belittled and undermined on the basis of my gender. I don’t deal with a stream of microaggressions on a daily basis. While I’m sympathetic to the struggles inherent to being female in a patriarchal society, it’d be a stretch of arrogance to claim empathy with any veracity. I can listen android recognise, but implicit understanding will likely remain beyond my reach.

The other day in improv class we were working on character. To come to terms with what it was to quickly assume a new personally, we tried a monologue exercise intended to push us beyond our comfort levels and into the mindset of someone so foreign to our own. At the offset it sounded simple. We’d stand before the rest of the class. Collectively they’d build out our character: What we did, our age, gender, the status we gave ourselves, the status others gave to us and lastly, the environment in which we were. We’d answer questions from the crowd in front of us in character. Sounded challenging, but fun. The classmates who went first did a great job of fully realising their characters. Two guys, one inhabited the persona of a 60 year old naturopath presenting at a conference. He responded to questions so quickly an self-assuredly you would’ve assumed he did it for a living. Another guy played a gender-queer substitute French teacher with total aplomb. Incorporating accurate French and non-binary terms with his explanations to the class. They both made it look effortless, a wonder with such a challenging assignment.

My character was to be a 30 year old female welder. She came from a family of means, but didn’t feel comfortable with that lifestyle. She was constantly struggling to be taken seriously in a male dominated workplace/profession. The rest of the class assumed the role of my male co-workers and the scene began. I walked into the scene looking for an assist on a welding job. There was a pipe that’d been damaged in an accident and needed to be welded before it could resume use. I it was covered in debris and I needed a hand getting access. The response was an immediate flood of misogyny. “I’ve got a pipe you can weld, darling.” Yelled a co-worker. “Good luck finding anyone who wants to go near that rusty old thing Carl” I responded. A chorus of “woooOOOOoooo”s greeted me. A co-worker called out “what’s the matter? Little girl can’t do her job?” I felt my face redden. “I can do my job, I just need a hand to get it done quicker for our customers. Do any of you work?” Someone else chimed in with a dopey voice “what’s actually wrong with it?”

Flustered from the lack of help, I started inwardly panicking. Oh shit, I actually don’t know anything about welding. What the fuck do I say? I stammered out something about there being a hole in the pipe that needed mending. “Yeah” the dopey dude responded “but what’s there problem.” Everyone laughed. At me. I was in this character, but also felt very real opposition. I just wanted to do my job and nobody would take me seriously. “I can fucking weld!” My voice rose “the boss wouldn’t have hired me if I couldn’t.” I heard a voice chime in from the back of the room “I didn’t care if you could weld. I just liked the way your ass looked.” I was fuming. I tightened my first intentionally as a character moment, but with very real tension behind it. “Are we gonna get this fixed for the customer? Or am I gonna have to explain that the rest of the office was too lazy to get off their asses?” One dude spoke up. “Fine, I’ll give you a hand. Since you can’t seem to do it yourself.” Laughter greeted the comment and I stood there fuming as the scene ended.

The frustration of not being considered or taken seriously was such a new, visceral sensation. Of being defined and limited in the basis of my gender. Feeling so intensely the burning rage at this systematic undermining of my personhood. I went back to my seat inwardly trembling, shaken. “Welcome to the sisterhood Leon” called the teacher.