Friday, June 6, 2008

Men's Liberation!

For 2 decades now, i have been attempting to formulate a revolutionary manifesto calling for the 'Liberation of Men'. The main obstacle to creating it has been my inability to find words to express why and how men are oppressed without being offensive to women and to other men.

But the sad news this week of Yves St Laurent's passing has curiously led me to voice my half-baked theory in public.

It has long been accepted that sexism exists.

However, we are quite willing to acknowledge [after much struggle by feminists] that men are sexist and oppress women. But, are we ready to explore and maybe embrace the obvious and inevitable corollary ?

Women are also sexist and they oppress men in their own way [possibly as a backlash].

Furthermore, just as the feminist movement discovered unexpectedly [and to their cost], one can also experience sexism from others of our own gender and even from ourselves in the form of self-hatred.

We have created a multi-layered social pyramid based on sexism in all its many-splendoured forms:


Now this is where Yves St Laurent comes in...

Men and women learn to appease eachother to create social harmony where it doesn't exist and in order to get what they want - sex, love, children, money, status etc

So too, gay men learn to appease in order to gain some more social acceptance.

Gay men cannot look to straight men for this - that would be too far up the socio-sexist ladder to leap.
Gay men must look to straight women for that status boost.

This leads to many gay men ingratiating themselves with women in their workplace or in educational establishments and the like.
The pay-off is not only the obvious friendship and mutual support that ensues but also the equalising of the gay man with the woman.

We gay men achieve this consciously or unconsciously and we also do it through beautifying women [fashion, media and the beauty industry], or simply by being a nonthreatening male presence in her life [a humorous, 'harmless' and maybe effeminate side-kick].

St Laurent, a French gay man who says he was brutalised by straight society, heroically decided to elevate himself by turning dress-drawing and dress-making into an 'art form'. He was a man who simply adored women and wished to adorn the female form. He even reproduced [on a gown, pictured] a famous painting by the French artist Mondrian to assert his self-proclaimed genius in the emerging 'Haute Couture' firmament.

YSL himself became an icon and his gowns are the stuff of fantasy and legend.

Despite the fact that the fashion industry mostly alienates the average-sized woman, promotes anorexic self-loathing, and is controlled by gay men, women everywhere can't get enough of it.
Maybe like 'Bollywood' movies in India, the proletariat can escape awhile and dream of being/looking like this or that by leafing through a few glossy expensive mags and wishing their lives away.

But those particular kinds of gay men accepted by women on the second rung of the social ladder, are not really doing men in general any favours on the road to male liberation.

Just explore the stereotypes commonly applied to men without ever being challenged as sexism; men are widely depicted as stupid, aggressive, over-sexed, power-mad, hen-pecked, emotionless, worker bees.
Of course there is some evidence to support these stereotypes and prejudices but it is by no means the full picture.
In fact, by allowing these misconceptions to continue and to be voiced [especially by women], we are also enabling a crime to be committed - Incitement to Hatred.

It's as if society is willing to accept anti-male sexism in order to atone for all the wrongs perpetrated against women over the millennia.

Just look at the men in Sex and the City...

2 one-dimensional gay men are accepted into the golden circle [4 two-dimensional women] while the badly caricatured boyfriends and husbands are shamelessly painted as sub-human props and objets trouvés - devices to move the female stories along...

And this [it has to be said, very enjoyable] TV series and now movie was created by a man - a gay man!

I look forward to the day when ordinary men - gay and straight - can come out of their emasculated closets and walk in the sun, their heads held high in all their true masculine multi-dimensional glory.

I look forward to the day when men are no longer oppressed and stereotyped and we can all rejoice in the many many great qualities of a man - all the positive qualities, too numerous to list off here like some kind of pseudo-apologia.

This, unfortunately, can only come about when men present themselves in this new light of fuller truth, beyond stereotypes, and in turn claim their due respect and appreciation first as individuals and then as the various roles we assume in the world - son, brother, lover, friend, father...

So, like Carrie Bradshaw, I sit here tonight by my window on the world, typing on my laptop - wondering... when it comes to Sexism in the City, why can't we all just get along?

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