The Question on Everyone’s Mind “How Should Men Behave?”

This time last year I wrote about An Unbalanced Gender Culture, and how things were rapidly coming to a head (which I encourage you to read before continuing), with regards to uncertainty within our standard gender roles and how we relate to each other.  I have been blogging and tweeting about Baby It’s Cold Outside and the #MeToo movement with concern about what effect this is having on our perceptions.  And the problem being that we are ignoring the underlying issue about the roles changing between men and women, and more importantly how we are perceiving these changes.  And this is bringing up a multitude of questions, including, “where is the new line?”

Just yesterday, I was bartending, and one of my regulars told me with sincerity, that he no longer knows how to talk to women because of the #MeToo movement.  The last thing he wants to do is offend anyone, but the reality is, he is a newly divorced 50 year old man, and he wants to get out dating and flirting again, but the old ways don’t seem acceptable anymore.  He is completely open to changing his ways, but he also feels too old to walk on eggshells and not be authentic or truthful.  I think his challenges are completely relatable to almost everyone.  The world is changing, and what’s super scary is that we are trying to go back in time and retroactively punish people, media, etc with our currently unclear new world view.

Now let me be clear here, that this statement is not meant to scold the brave women for standing up against Weinstein or any rapist or abuser.  That, I need to be clear going forward, has always been wrong, and will continue to be wrong.  That isn’t hindsight.  That is bravery on the part of these women for finding the courage to say something, even years later.  There is a very clear difference between knowing something is wrong, or that gut wrenching action that made you feel horrible at the time, and what I am discussing here with regards to using todays new cloudy lens then seeking out situations from our past that, probably would not be acceptable by todays standards.  This is the key problem we are currently facing, we are focusing on digging up past situations instead of finding solutions for the current world view or thinking about what we want our future to look like.

So, with that in mind, let’s ask the question, how should men today, flirt and interact with women that they are interested in?  Where is the new line between coy, flirty and fun, versus rude, crude and inappropriate?  The answer, and I am really, really sorry about this, but… there isn’t one.  This is a grey area.  We do not have a solution yet.  So far, we can all agree that we have to start listening to the word no, and further we have to start using the word no in a more responsible and in a firm manor.  It cannot be said with a playful or coy intonation, and whenever used in that context it has to be taken at face value (precisely the reason why Baby It’s Cold Outside cannot be viewed with today’s new standards, no was used in a playful manor).  But aside from that, I struggle to find any other all encompassing rule that can help guide us in a sex positive behavioural direction.  Or in a less wordy way, to help us all get our flirt on and feel good about ourselves later.  Things remain really fuzzy and this is why I suggest we start with the simplest question first, where is your line?

I know where my lines and limits are, and just to give you a little insight or help point you in the right direction I will share or overshare as is often the case; I don’t enjoy flirting with strangers.  I like getting to know someone, and them in turn getting to know me.  Even just a coffee or two in a completely platonic way helps bring my guard down.  After that, flirting becomes fun and an enjoyable action, and I feel free to make dirty jokes, touch, and even drive things towards a much more physical setting.  So for this reason, online dating has never been an effective way to date.  Instead, it’s a way to find someone for a first meeting and then go from there.  I just don’t get off flirting or sexting with strangers.  And this is only an example of what works for me.  This insight will not work for every person out there, not even close.  As there are many women who won’t waste their time meeting someone if they haven’t been told they are attractive or have caught the eye of a stranger.  Expressing desire goes a long way for many, hell it even goes a long way for me, but again, never in an opening message or before an in person conversation (again just my opinion and will not work for everyone which is why I am asking you where your own line is).

My earnest hope in you reading or listening to this post is that you take a little comfort in knowing you are not alone.  And that you don’t give up, or go to the other extreme, which I hope I don’t need to spell out here.  We will find a solution, and we will get out of this grey area together.  Flirting will be fun again!  Mistakes will once again be allowed to be made without witch hunts, and we will again find the humanity in our sexuality, and even our sensuality.  It will just take time, education, asking tough questions and of course accepting a few more stumbles and growing pains.

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Cheating is Still a Gender Biased Issue

A few years ago I wrote a post aimed at women who cheat and how they give non-monogamy a bad name.  It’s something that over the years has come up time and time again, and the reason I wrote it pointing the finger at women specifically is that I feel there is a huge discrepancy between how we treat men who cheat, versus women.  And thus, I want to address this point again, but from a different angle now that I have grown a little older, wiser, and if I’m honest a little bolder with my recent life experiences.

Firstly, whenever I hear the sad news that a friend of mine has experienced cheating, the first thing I do is calmly remove myself from the situation and slowly gather information before forming any opinion.  I have learned that being Switzerland is a far more valuable place to sit than just picking sides and quickly reaching out to both parties in a quest to plant my flag on the winning side.  I am always available to listen, and provide any insights when asked, but as I have mentioned in previous posts, I do not go out of my way to seek out drama anymore.  I would rather be approached than provide my unsolicited opinions into someone else’s very complex relationship.

The next step I take, and the most important one to this post and my current gender blogging trend, is to pretend that the opposite gender is telling me the story and gauge how my reaction changes to the information (yes this is valuable in same sex couples too).   And why do I feel this is so important?  Because throughout my childhood and formative years, I bore witness to at least a dozen acts of indiscretions either through my mother, or hearing her talk with her friends about them.  And one clear thing always resulted, a witch hunt, and it was almost exclusively towards the male.  Whether the man did the cheating or not, he always seemed to deserve it somehow.  He either treated the woman badly and thus drove her away, or he was lying man-whore who should have never gotten married in the first place, or the ever common drunken mistake with the whole forgive and forget or divorce the so-and-so etc.

Growing up with this constant narrative, I began to ask myself why cheating was always exclusively blamed on the man.  And further to this, why the women always escaped unscathed even when they were the ones who very often cheated.  And this line of questioning started to expand further after having experiences of my own in the this very dicey place.  Every single time that I have come close to cheating it has been my own doing, and I would say 80 percent of the time, the man has been the one to put the brakes on.  Yes, this is full disclosure.  I was very unhappy in the latter part of my last long term relationship and I came increasingly close to cheating on numerous occasions.  And again, I repeat, I was the one who was in the drivers seat.  And what’s more, I was the one who consciously drank excessively in order to have something to blame if I got caught or needed an out.

Perhaps I am just more self aware than many people out there.  Or perhaps I just have reached a point in my life whereby I would rather be honest with myself and others than sugar coat a damn thing.  Whatever the case may be, I have not actually participated in this male witch hunt.  And that is definitely against the grain.  Yes, it takes two people to cheat.  And yes, relationships are incredibly complicated, and that only supports my theory that always blaming one side, especially the men is just wasted time, energy and makes everyone involved look even more like the assholes.  So I guess where I am at right now is that cheating is an issue for the couples themselves.  If you are going to form an opinion on someone else’ relationship, I don’t think it is too much to ask that you try and look at it from both sides first.  Cheating is a gender stereotyped issue and thus we need to ensure that we flip the narrative and judgement every once in a while, if for nothing else, than to give hope to the future generations that cheating will be discussed more fairly and judged on individual merit and not just gender sway.

I would love to hear your opinions on this, or lessons that you have learned when it comes to helping friends through indiscretions, so please leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter.

The Latest Gender Debate in the Media – Transgender Actors

I just finished reading an article stating that Scarlett Johansson stepped down from the role she had agreed to play, whereby she was going to portray a transgendered person.  Obviously this has been a media shit storm from the onset, especially when it was announced that she would play this role and not someone who was transgendered themselves.  Now, I have a few thoughts on this.

Firstly, why did she need to step down or decline the role?  Why in the world does the general populous get to dictate what a producer, director, writer, etc wants or can do with their movie and their investments?  If you don’t like something, don’t go see it.  Pretty simple stuff.  And as we all know, social media is a skewed view of what the real world wants or will support.  It’s a platform that works based on the notion that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and might I just add, something I absolutely loath in real life.

Second, are transgendered people actually trying to state that unless you are transgendered yourself, then you are not qualified to understand, empathize or portray what you go through?  Is this group truly preventing actors from acting?  Honestly!  Do you need to be a pirate to actually portray one on the big screen?  No?  Well then, this whole debacle is ridiculous.  Now, if you are saying that this role would have been perfect to award to a qualified transgendered person for exposure, etc, then please understand that this mindset works both ways.  If only a transgendered person could properly fill these shoes, then you open yourselves up to the criticism that transgendered people are only fit for transgendered roles.  And if I am not mistaken, that’s not what acting is about.  It’s actually about portraying someone else, and convincing the audience that your role is authentic and believable.  You know, pretend and make believe, or dare I say, to act?

Third, if this media shit storm strikes the movie or project hard enough, it could lose investors and never be made at all.  And then guess what, you just lost an amazing opportunity to bring a role like this into the mainstream dialogue.  The exposure you risk losing, cannot possibly be worth this much fuss, can it?  This seems like simple math.  Would you like something, or nothing?

Fourth and finally, if you truly believe that only a transgendered person is qualified to act out this very important part, then guess what?  You have failed to portray to the public exactly how you feel as an outsider in society.  And not to put too fine a point on it, but you will remain a victim and an outsider.  Not every member of society will be able to understand exactly what your pain is.  But know that each of us have our own unique pain, and it is empathy that allows us to work together as a society to accept and love one another.  And you do not need to wear every single human beings shoes to accomplish that.  It is time to learn how to communicate your thoughts and feelings in a more effective way and stop playing the poor me card.  We all try that as young children, and guess what?  It does not fly in the adult world.  So time to pick a different tactic!

And honestly, these arguments I have put forward can be substituted for a long list of social justice warrior causes that are currently in the media.  Stop giving grease to the squeaky wheel, just because we don’t want to hear it squeak anymore.  Instead lets try to get to the root cause of the problem and try to fix that.

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Social Media Versus Reality: Gender

I saw a tweet on Father’s Day, that basically asked you not to wish dad’s a happy father’s day if you are not sure of their preferred pronoun.  And well, this got me thinking…

Every time I take a social media break and get out into the real world I am stunned by the dichotomy of the two worlds.  And specifically I am talking about gender.  While I will not claim to be any sort of expert when it comes to all the gender diversity, I am certainly one who likes to have an open mind and always learn more.  I try to write with a less male/female vernacular, and I do attempt to employ the “softer” tones of they or them when it makes the words flow a little more naturally.  I do this, mostly because I want my writing to be relatable.  I want people to seamlessly put themselves in my shoes or gauge a new perspective free of the gender limits.  And while I cannot promise to always get it correct, I am happy to have a broader voice that appeals to more people.

With that in mind, I sometimes forget just how staggeringly different the real world is.  Social media is this idealized bubble of how society should be, mixed with trolls and outliers for a strange balance.  It works in a weird way.  I feel secure in my views and fairly happy that I am surrounded by so many sex positive and open minded individuals, even though I have no clue what many of them look like, (thanks social media).  We get along on a level that is interesting and often educational for me.  And that is in stark contrast to the realities of the offline world.

Take for example washrooms.  The online world makes it seem like genderless washrooms are becoming more and more common place and are an inclusive, amazing steps for businesses, schools and events to start incorporating.  And in the social media bubble, I am all for it.  No one should ever feel shamed for using the restroom.  But then, I get out into the real world and remember that going to the bathroom in front of people is absolutely awful!  I do not like peeing in front of women, so how in the hell could I comfortably do that with all genders in the same space?  Oh, wait… I do.  In many swing clubs, they have a bathroom where both men and women can go together to ensure that partners do not unnecessarily get separated from each other.  So, the reality is I have been doing this for years.  And yet, in the normal day to day setting, it feels uncomfortable and just plain wrong to do.  Especially in the workplace or in educational facilities. But a swing club is like a little invite only bubble, just as social media is.  Maybe in some future reality bodily functions won’t be such a big deal.  But today, in the here and now, I do not enjoy public washrooms!

So, let’s look at another example.  Using social media, I again try to use an inclusive voice.  I work hard to be mindful of my diverse network of people.  And in doing so, I try and catch myself when I call out men or women for bad behaviour.  I make many attempts to broaden my finger pointing and use words like people, or humans or really anything that removes gender.  But, the real world is a stark contrast from this online community.   I won’t lie, it’s so refreshing to sit down with a girlfriend and bitch about all the ways men and women are different.  To talk about gender in the workplace and just how lopsided even something as benign as dress code is.  For you see, the workplace is not an open and genderless environment.  Perhaps someday it will be, but right now, we are not even close to that.  It is polarized.  Men do this, wear this, talk like this, and women have their own rules for behaviour, dress and acceptable language they can use.

Gender exists all around us.  We see men who hold open doors, believe in being chivalrous, and always pay on a first date.  We see women getting dolled up, wearing high beautiful heels, and acting in a way that opens the door for me to take care of them.  If you go to a bar, you see men talking crash and crude, objectifying women.  And you see women gossiping and bitching for hours on end over a few bottles of wine.  Men work the physically challenging roles, and drink beer to unwind.  And the ladies, well, they are the nurses, the teachers and the caregivers.  Will this change?  Of course it will.  We are constantly evolving.  But when you talk on social media forums, it feels like men and women are being shamed for doing things that feel natural to their specific genders.  And we must remember that that is not healthy either.  It takes time to undo decades of gender roles and our socialization.  And truly, I don’t see a problem with maintaining a certain level of division, so long as there is a place to include those who want to break free of their moulds.

We are living in a polarized real world society, with the online community providing us an ideologized space.  There are going to be clashes as we figure this all out.  But if I can offer one peace of advice, just be open, understanding and inclusive wherever possible.  Don’t get too stressed out about calling people him/her/they/them.  Just be kind and respectful if you are ever corrected.  This is going to take time to figure out a system that works for as many people as possible.  We cannot expect language or gender norms like this to change overnight.

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An Unbalanced Gender Culture

I wrote a post in 2013, discussing the loss of male identity, and I highly encourage you all to please give this a quick read before continuing: A Push for Individuals.

I wrote that piece after a particularly difficult genders studies course in University.  Our professor was discussing rape culture, and the variation of machoism throughout our world.  How in some cultures men are encouraged by their male counterparts to cat call, grope and fondle passing women as a signal of how masculine they are.  While there are other cultures where men are the main caregivers, and they are taught to take care of, educate and play with the children while the women sew, farm, and make the political decisions.  What I found striking about all these cultures is that men and women seemingly had their gender specific place, putting aside natural outliers for the moment, but gender roles served their society.  The cultures existed and thrived based on gender specific traits that were cultivated and taught for generations.

Ok, so where am I actually going with this?  I have been cautiously waiting for the gender breakdown to occur in our own society.  And right now, before all of our eyes, it’s happening.  And I am nervous, anxious and trying to find a place of hope.  What do I mean by that?  Well, women in the 60’s right up through the 80’s gave a very hard push for equality.  Everywhere they looked they felt inferior and less valued in society, and they rallied together to change that, now known as the feminist movement.  A push for a female identity that was equal to men.  And the only way to do that successfully was to overshoot the target.  Woman not only proved that they were equal to men, but in many ways reached further to show that woman were and are actually better than men in many areas.  This was a revelation.  Women were not lesser, but rather had strengths and weaknesses, and enriched our culture outside of the home as well as in.

Are you with me so far?  Because here is where I get a little nervous.  Women united as a feminist movement with a clear goal of seeking equality.  And not only was there a vision, but there were real monetary and social checks that would show when we had succeeded.  To be clear there was a specific goal, that goal was clearly defined, with a finish line so to speak.  To be treated and receive the same rights as the husbands, fathers, brothers and coworkers.  Just one clear example is the wage gap, a clear monetary goal, that once achieved, we would get satisfaction and could do our jobs with security and certainty.

But now we have run into a little snag.  In all the focus on raising women up, to an equal place with men, we forgot that many men would feel that they have to come down to achieve gender equality.  That in order for the scales to find balance, men will not get to keep their status quo, the position of power and dominance.  And do you remember what I mentioned in that piece I asked you to read about men being breadwinners, etc?  That is a fundamental part of their male identity and it is being taken away.  So, in order for equality to be achieved there is a real give and take.  And the thing is, if the men are not willing to give, the women are fully prepared to take.  All personal opinions aside for a moment, the tides are changing, there is no stopping this forward movement, and there is no telling where the new shore will be.

I personally think this is why men are having such a difficult time with the consent movement.  Not only are women telling the men that they are no longer allowed to grope, or touch females without their express consent, we are going back in time to show example after example of when men crossed a huge line.  Now, my issue here, is that although its obvious now looking back what that line should look like, it wasn’t so clear back then.  We have told men that sexualizing women without permission is a crime, but we have not offered any solutions for them to fix the behaviour other than to stop it, change overnight and in fact somehow go back in time and stop their past from doing what they did.

Feel free to pause here for a moment and yell and scream at me if you want.  Men should never have objectified women in the first place.  When a women says no, or looks uncomfortable or is in a position of lesser power such that her future and livelihood depend on pleasing the male at the top, men should have recognized that this was a problem and stopped.  But they didn’t, they were in fact often encouraged to continue by their fathers and peers, and now here we are.  In a turbulent time, filled with apprehension and discord all around.  In a perfect world, I wish  men could change over night and undo their past indiscretions.  Obviously that cannot happen, and women are so angry that nothing is filling the void we feel.  No apology is good enough, no career damaged enough, no action heartfelt enough to sooth the injustice of male dominance over our bodies.

It’s bad out there, and I think it’s going to get worse.  The male identity is lost, and they are going to get angry and push back.  Female equality feels so close to our grasp, and yet, there is so much past pain, that when we finally have it, in every single part of our lives, are we going to be content or do the scars run just too deep.

From my personal perspective I do not feel a part of the feminist community.  Instead, I feel like I align more closely with the humanist movement.  One free of genders, or biases, and one filled with individuals working together for a common good, the expansion and survival of our beautiful species.  I envision a world where we break free from gender norms or roles, where the boxes that contain us are broken apart.  I look for a world beyond equality, a world where we just exists in peace, love and unity.  For now though, I want to bring clarity to the real issues.  Men fucked up.  And women, we need to figure out how to educate them on how to treat us, and figure out a way to move forward after a harrowing past.  So keep spreading the #metoo movement, and explain why consent matters, that all people are equal, and autonomy over our bodies is a positive thing for both men, women and all future generations to come.

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