Embarrassed by my Gender
While I’m well aware that none of this has to do anything with me personally, the abuse that various Internet Ladies (forgive me for being raised a Southern Gentleman) have had to suffer this week has really made me embarrassed for my gender.
The thing is, I’m never really sure how to respond. I can understand what it’s like to be bullied, threatened, harassed, and made to be afraid by people around me; I had a bad time in school with bullying, as has been discussed before. But to suffer it on such a large scale over something as ubiquitous as gender makes me wary of acting like I know what it’s really like.
I simply cannot understand – and never will – how people can live with themselves, can sleep at night, when they say or write such things to another person. There’s being young, being a troublemaker, being ignorant, feeling invincible… but then there’s what we’ve seen this week.
Forgive me if this next bit seems a bit nuts, or condescending to youth, or suggests that I may not be fully in touch with reality, but when I’ve gotten pretty comfortable around someone, I have a theory I like to bring out.
Studies of the recent rise in dog attacks against humans (recent, in this case, was probably more than a decade ago now. I’ve had this theory a long time) suggested that one cause was the lack of socialization of the dogs – meaning that neighbors weren’t bringing their dogs out any more, weren’t going to company picnics with them, weren’t taking them to the dog park as much, etc. On top of that, dog behavior was so closely monitored that any perceived dog “fight” signals led to quick separation and isolation.
The consequence of this dog alienation is that many dogs never learned their place in the natural “pecking order.” They never learned that they, the individual dog, weren’t the end-all, be-all alpha of all they surveyed. So when little Timmy grabs their tail when they’re in a bad mood, they maul his face because they’re the boss.
I wonder if there’s not some connection here with what we see in some of our more immature adults. Having far less face-to-face socialization in their lives, be it church (which I’m not necessarily saying is “important – I never went to church) or athletics (budgets having been cut), or simply just playing outside might have this same effect. Helicopter parenting – never letting their kids misbehave and learn the consequences (until college, where binge drinking and sexual assaults are hugely rising) might lead to similar outcomes. Each kid thinks they’re the end-all, be-all of all they can see.
Never having had to suffer, sacrifice, or even just survive (even something as temporary as bullying) seems to have left a huge morality gap in some of my and younger generations. It’s the same emptiness that Bret Easton Ellis captures in books like Less Than Zero, The Rules of Attraction, and American Psycho (the final being a hyperbolic satire of precisely the kind of behavior I’m talking about in dogs) and Chuck Palahniuk lampoons with his self-centered, unlikable characters (who, unlike Ellis’s, often change by the end). The popularity of both in recent years doesn’t seem a coincidence.
It may be wrong to compare human behavior, which we wish to be rational, to animal behavior, which we may not believe can be rational. That’s one reason I don’t blurt that theory to everyone I meet. Still… I wonder. One of my favorite quotes, one I’m sure I’ve used here before, relates to our ability to think rationally, comes from Gene Wolfe (though I read it in A General Theory of Love).
”We say ‘I will’ and ‘I will not,’ and imagine ourselves our own masters, when the truth is our true masters are sleeping. When one wakes within us, we are ridden like beasts.”
I wonder if we’re not more like beasts than we think. Regardless, that’s neither an excuse nor an explanation. I’m disgusted by what I’ve seen this week, and I’m ashamed of many members of my gender.
I haven’t a clue what I can do to support Ms. Sarkeesian beyond writing about my support of her ideas. It’s not much, I know, but it’s something, as tear-jerkingly (at times, for me) rendered by Justin Sane in Thanks for the Letter that You Sent.
We all need to do more, and do better, in whatever way we can.
Stubborn (and dismayed)