My crisis masculinity and how feminism set me free

Cosmopolitan, The Kitchen

Through the women I have met and dated, I have met other people who have slightly shaped my world view or even brought things into focus.

One of the most noticeable recently was Valeska who I met through Architect Jane one day at a party she held. I don’t even know how we got on to the subject but she recommended a post which I didn’t know but had been thinking about in many different ways since. “My crisis masculinity and how feminism set me free.

I have always been deeply moved by injustice of women face in this world, and have tried to do my part where ever possible. I hadn’t really thought of myself as a feminist but only because I always tied being a feminist with being a woman. The notion of being a feminist was like the guys who claim to be black inside.

Which always reminds me of that scene from Go when Marcus and the guys are travelling to Las Vegas

TINY: Yo, I told you, my mother’s mother’s mother was black!
MARCUS: Your mother’s mother’s mother, f*** – this ain’t “Roots”, mutha… Man, I wanna see a picture of this Nubian princess. If you were any less black, you would be clear.
MARCUS: Look at your skin.
TINY: I see black because I know I am. Color is a state of mind.
MARCUS: Thank you Rhythm Nation.

How can I as a man truly understand what its like to be a woman? I might be able to identify with some of the problems, injustices, wrongs being a black man but really?

I’m lucky; I’ve been surrounded by remarkable women from an early age. My grandmother, who successfully ran two shops despite the bricks thrown through the window and “Pakis Out” graffiti common on the south London council estate where she lived, or my mother who, having been kicked out of Uganda by Idi Amin in the early Seventies, learned English from scratch while running a household at the age of 11 and is now managing director of a major healthcare consultancy. The women in my family are truly something to behold. There’s a financial analyst, a management consultant, an actuary, a New York ad exec and, in laughably stereotypical fashion, a multitude of doctors. They’re not perfect, but they’re as close to super women as I’ve ever seen.

Just like the author, I was surrounded by very strong woman. My mother is amazing, she works so hard and came to the UK with one of her sisters alone. They lived through a very bitterly racist Britain and laid the founding ground for the rest of the family to come from Jamaica. My Anties are all strongly opinionated women, my mum was the peace keeper in comparison. It wasn’t just my mums side either, my dads side also has some insanely opinionated women.

We men are still letting ourselves be bound by arbitrary and utterly ridiculous ideas about what a man is supposed to be, and I don’t just mean that which manifests itself as violence or systemic oppression. It’s also in the silly, day-to-day stuff: I have very close friends whose commitment to equal rights and representation amongst the genders I could hardly fault, and yet they still would be resistant, due mostly to the hot pink font on the DVD cover, to watching Bridesmaids. NB chaps: you’re sorely missing out. Similarly, I’m met with howls of derision if I order so-called “girly” drinks in pubs, even though everyone knows how unequivocally delicious they are. As far as I’m concerned, if we’re still gendering drinks, feminism isn’t finished.

It is a total joke that a man wouldn’t watch Bridesmaids because its pink (by the way Bridesmaids is funny but also quite toiletry in parts), but I’ve met guys who are so constrained by the notion of masculinity that they won’t have anything to do with Pink.

Girly drinks is a massive a problem I have. I like good cocktails and cosmopolitans are good solid cocktails. I must have told the story (which is in my book) when I was on a date in somewhere I should have known better. She wanted a pint of something, and so I go her it and I thought I’d give the cocktails a try. Ordering a cosmopolitan gives me a idea if they are good or crap at their cocktails. So I got a Cosmo. Slowly walking back with the pint and cosmo. I gently put the pint in front of my date and the put the cosmo in front of where I was sitting opposite her. Within a few minutes a guy walks up and says.

“Hey I think you got the drinks mixed up…?”

Oh how we laughed, not!

Many times I have to deal with the idea that a highly potent cocktail is a girly drink because its pink and it appeared on sex in the city a few times. How crap is that…!?

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I’m actually convinced this is the reason why there is a metropolitan cocktail.

Seriously, if having a pink drink makes you less masculine, then I might as well check out now.

We do need to talk about masculinity, or indeed the myth of it. There is a generation of young men out there who are sick of being told to “man up”, who tire of the patronising way that they are treated by the advertising industry and who hate the fear of being ostracised from many of their peers if they don’t participate in “banter” or acquiesce to social pressures to objectify women. Those for whom “being a man” is a daily burden – there’s more of them than you think. We can show these men that there is a community of people out there who will accept them for who they are. To me, this is as powerful an example of the life-changing potential of feminism as you could think of.

I can totally understand this. No one likes to be left out, the same way no one wants to be the last picked at Basketball. Social pressure is massive but group think is also very real and very scary. I have witnessed banter get out of hand, it takes a very strong willed person to stand up and say, “thats out of order”. Very few are willing to rub there hand against the social pressure like the thick sandpaper on a grinder. Heck even myself sometimes think “this isn’t the time to bring it up.” But if you pull each person aside and say “hey I think that was wrong” most would agree with you.

I declare I am a feminist and actually this is the new norm, if most modern men looked at their values deep down. I love to think most would side with a feminist view point. The same way the new norm changed to stand in favour of equality for all many decades ago. It doesn’t make you less sexually a man, you still love woman but your views are enlightened. It was hard to bring myself to say it but its so strikingly obvious to me now. Its this simple…

the radical idea that women are, in fact, people too…

My belief structure is that people should be treated equally, women are people too!

Saying and thinking so, is so liberating – crisis over… thank you Valeska

Don’t worry let it soak in, you will all be saying it in years to come.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.