I was in semi-wakefulness for most of my childhood and some of my adolescence. Vaguely aware that something was bothering me but lacking the understanding of what it was or the words to express the bother. Certain terms and behaviors triggered strong dissonance, but as an adolescent I was unable to articulate why.
I’d hear the word ‘slut’ or ‘girls can’t *insert random activity/ability/skill/function*’ or see gender-unequal systems (for example the school I went to had a desultory attitude toward girls sport) and feel annoyed. This was exacerbated by my observation that no one else appeared disturbed by those words, behaviors.
I gradually woke up; a conscious process of self-education, navigating gender politics, socio-cultural mores and religion. Now, more awake than I have ever been, I sometimes fall into the classic echo-chamber trap. Just because me and mine are awake, doesn’t mean everyone is.
I am not talking about sleep, obviously. I am talking about wakening to the patriarchal hold that can go so deep you don’t feel or see the hold. The hold becomes the ‘normal’. When you can feel it and see it, only then can you see what ‘normal’ should look like. And a lot of people, regardless of gender, still don’t. Still don’t feel it, see it or seem to want to wake up to it.
I had a conversation with an early-30’s Pakistani male yesterday (let’s call him Man-Child, for convenience). I know him, he wasn’t just some random male I accosted and forced into conversation, I promise. In that conversation Man-Child began to describe why he feels so strongly about his current girlfriend. In his words “she’s a really GOOD girl, man. I mean, good. No messing around and shit. I mean she drinks, but that’s ok. See, man, other girls here; wow! I mean, one girl I was into tried taking me into a bathroom to *insert vague allusion to some sexual act * at a party. I mean, a party where her brother was! That shit cray-cray, man! Girls doing that stuff? So I know; I’ve got to keep this girl, this Good Girl.”
Let’s just pause and deconstruct this little speech. Continue reading