I use Facebook muchly. Every now and again I get involved in discussions, arguments, whatever you want to call them. One of my friends posted this article, which I thought was quite fair. One of her Facebook friends took issue with it and stated his position thusly:
“Nop. Fuck that. I knit, I sew, I do fabric work, and I can cook 33 dishes. But if someone calls me girly, I’ll knock their teeth out. I’m me – a man. Girly men are not men anymore. It’s simple as that.”
I thought this was a pretty narrow way of looking at things. A discussion thread developed where this guy raged about identity politics, individualism and such. I decided to chime in.
Also [Person’s Name], I can be snarky all day but I’m not sure it’d get us anywhere. Frankly, I’m not sure an actual conversation will get us anywhere because from your responses, it seems like you came here to be adversarial. Who knows? If that’s not the case, here, have an essay.
I don’t know if you read the article or not. In case you didn’t, the TL;DR is basically “it’s silly that we push people away from doing certain activities because of gender, when they could benefit from them.” It’s actively heading away from identity politics, which seems to be your Hulk-esque trigger. It’s also weird, because it sounded at the start like you were in agreement with this concept. Cooking and sewing are activities and it makes no sense for them to be gendered, right? We all got argumentative and stuff, but I think we were all on the same page here. I’m pretty sure [My friend’s name – Redacted] said as much (and better). Let me know if I’m wrong.
You seem to get really hung up on words while also being all “labels don’t matter”. You’re right. Labels don’t matter. By giving a shit about them (which you say you don’t, but then you’re also all “if someone calls me girly I’ll remove their teeth with my knuckles” or something. That seems like a pretty drastic response, but what do I know? I just like my teeth, is all), you’re the one giving them power. It’s entirely within you to remove yourself from this narrow view of what defines an individual. If someone calls you girly, does that really affect you? Doesn’t that seem more like their issue of suffering from such a myopic societal view? As you’ve said, people are all “cooking and sewing are girly” and you already know how silly this is. Why would you care if they’re wrong? Let them be wrong.
Also from what you’ve said there seems to be this super binary way of thinking to your worldview. I can see the flowchart in your brain when you say stuff like:
“I do not believe in identity politics. =>
To me, that is synonymous to mental illness. =>
And that is why labels are bad.”
There’s so much more nuance in society than that. I understand that stereotypes were created in order to make it easier and more efficient to process information, but it also means that you start judging people and situations without context and depth. Identity Politics => Mental Illness => Labels are bad?
Let’s talk for a second about Identity Politics.
Maybe some people take comfort in finding others who resonate with them. Community is a pretty strong beacon for a ton of people and it makes them feel connected. Is that wrong? Are people aberrant in seeking out comfort and connection? It doesn’t mean that by default they reject anyone who’s not connected with them, but it might mean that they’re able to share more of themselves with people who add value in their lives. I play Magic the Gathering. I tend to like to meet others who play. We can talk about our favourite decks, play games and stuff. I’ve met tons of cool folks playing. Some people might call me a Magic player because I play. Sure, I’m a magic player. It’s not the entirety of my existence. I also love stand up comedy and occasionally engage in bloated and protracted dialogues with people on Facebook. Someone calling me a Magic Player or Nerd or Geek or whatever doesn’t get rid of that nuance in my life. They can call me whatever they want, but I’m still the myriad of things that make me Me. So I figure there’s no sweat in other people’s labels, right?
Other people may congregate for religious stuff. I’m not a religious person, but them enjoying that in their lives doesn’t preclude me from enjoying my life for not being into religion, right? If something’s not for me, that doesn’t automatically make it wrong.
For some people, they may group for things that unite them like gender or sexual identity. Maybe they’ve been judged or persecuted throughout their lives because of who they’re in love with, or that the way society makes them feel about themselves makes them uncomfortable. That sounds pretty shitty to me, I don’t know how you feel about that. I can also imagine that when you come together with a ton of people who have similar experiences to you, certain viewpoints get reiterated and amplified. The world looks a particular way because of how people talk about it. We tend to absorb aspects of the personalities of people we spend time with, because we often admire them and want to be more like them. Within a lot of communities, I’m sure this happens. I’m sure it leads to people outside of the group hearing a homogeneous voice from a mass of people, when in fact it’s tons of people saying lots of things, but the more commonly said things are more audible, because they’re more often said. Then we hear those amplified things and think “they’re all so narrow minded”. We judge them. Probably unfairly.
Maybe identity politics don’t matter to you, but is it possible for you to understand that for some people they matter a great deal? That they might be lonely without them? That even if they sometimes lead to homogeneous thought, it makes an otherwise challenging life easier and more engaging for those people?
Also I don’t know if indirectly you were casting negativity on people with mental illness. If so, that’s shitty. Straight up. If that’s the case, that’s a whole different discussion and one that should be had.
I have a tendency to be super condescending on Facebook and I’ve really tried not to be here. Mostly. If you actually want to have a conversation about this stuff (rather than me posting an essay) with back and forth in a non-judgemental manner, feel free to send me a message request and we can do that. This whole thing doesn’t have to be yet more emotional labour for [My friend’s name – Redacted].
If not, and this is just destined to be a polarising Facebook argument, please at least come back and qualify your system for deciding that you know exactly 33 dishes, because trying to figure out the specifics is doing my head in.