When asked to write a blog entry ‘showing my feminism’ my instinctive response was to say ‘sure’. My enthusiastic acceptance was based on a number of factors. First of all I do (or should I say did?) think of myself as a reasonably feminist-thinking male, with an abundance of strong women as role models, well-schooled in treating women as equals and with plenty of practise at getting told off when I didn’t. I thought to myself ‘oh great, I can talk about my perceptions of the roles and rights of women in the Middle East and India’ (easy points, I’ve just been travelling there). I thought I would be able to provide commentary on my observations of women in contemporary Australian society, popular culture, the media, male-orientated groups, sports, relationships, etc, etc.
I initially thought this was going to be easy; an exercise in explaining the world I saw around me with a feminist tinge. It wasn’t until I sat down the next day to write this piece that I began to realise just how challenging this was going to be for me and just how complicated my relationship with women was. I began to realise how giant the chasm between my thoughts about women and my treatment of them was, and just how little I really knew about feminism as a defined subject. My response, like any good recently graduated university student, was to put in some solid research, largely consisting of googling feminism, feminism from a male’s perspective, gender equality, etc. After a good hour of fruitless browsing I began to realise that ‘showing my feminism’ had little to do with my understanding of defined feminism or external observation. It had nothing to do with researching well-published feminist authors, or with trying to remember all the things my feminist friends had told me. ‘Showing my feminism’ was all about my attempts to deconstruct the workings of my brain and un-pack my everyday attitudes and behaviour towards women.
‘My feminism’ was in my head and not on the internet or any books. Once I started really thinking about this, my mood changed as I realised how prevalent inherent prejudices (of all kinds) are in my thinking. I wasn’t the progressive young male that I often perceive myself to be. But then I realised, ‘my feminism’ doesn’t rely on me being a pillar of feminist thinking or my behaviour as a model of über fem. My feminism is about me being aware of and accepting that on some issues I am a sexist (and a racists, classist, ageist and homophobe for that matter). What defines ‘my feminism’ is a simultaneous acknowledgement of my own tendency towards patriarchal thinking and my own capacity to change this. Accepting that I am, on some levels, a sexist, was also the first step in accepting that I am a feminist. In that sense I thought of feminism as a continual process, a peeling back of layers upon layers of learnt behaviour and cultural norms, with the intent of reaching a point at which you don’t know what it looks like, but which is nonetheless desirable and necessary.
Changing one’s own behaviour and patterns of thought has never been an easy task. But, while it’s a cliché, mistakes are only a problem if you don’t learn anything from them. In the case of sexism, I may not be responsible for the underlying prejudices and inequality throughout society, but I am responsible for the way I interact to or buy into them, whether or not I perpetuate them, and whether or not I stand up or stand by while it goes on around me.
Bryn is supposed to be an urban planner but has been avoiding full-time work like the plague, having just returned from extended travel and with the intention of studying a masters of economics in the future. He grew up with donkeys, has actually slipped on a banana peel, and once got a Christmas card from Jennifer Keyte (the channel 7 newsreader). Feminism wise, Bryn’s a work in progress, but excited about a world freer of prejudice.