Inciting Incident Blog #2 – It’s Not a Zero-Sum Game

I salvage the few sips left of my draft latte, as I take a break from my anatomy readings. As I’m not much of a coffee drinker, being here among the socialites who make daily stops at this dainty cafe is surprising in numerous ways. Whether it’s someone on their morning commute, or just someone slowly succumbing to the legal and encouraged addiction that is caffeine, many different stories make their stops at this place on a somewhat-regular basis. So many seem to know each other and the employees alike, and their brief, mutual exchange of pleasantries become nearly disregarded as voices that add to one’s day. Who really answers: “How are you?” as anything more than a synonym for “hello?”

I can’t help but notice the dynamics of the couples who pass by. Similar to the story that inspired this one, I see some of the older couples who built their lives on the construction of heteronormative, patriarchal nuclear family that spawns nostalgia for many who didn’t even experience that time. Most of these nostalgic visions are black-and-white memories of when Father Knew Best and made all the decisions, just leave it to ol’ Cleave. It brings about how early television, while it was still under the Hayes Code, shaped our memories of a time we didn’t or couldn’t recollect.

Social progress is scary for some, but most of all those who once had unquestioned power and now feel like they’re losing it. Certain types of cisgender straight Christian white men feel like they need to take our country back to a time where they were the only ones with authority, and they’ve confused that with losing their rights, their country, and equivocate it with persecution. They once saw our country as a gendered space, or at the very least, a boy’s club where their word was law. Now they see others no longer taking the bullying and ridicule they once received, and complain about how “everything’s gotten so PC nowadays,” rather than hear the voices that aren’t theirs.

The assumption that a young girl like Janice should, upon being greeted by strangers, receive implication that she needs to find a doctor for a husband displays this mindset in what the speakers likely wouldn’t designate as harmful or insulting. It’s simply how they grew up, and how else would a young girl in urban society survive than having a rich, successful man to support and provide for her, right? There was a time where that presumption may have been just as harmful, but it wasn’t questioned as normative. That time is no longer, and some don’t know how to handle that. They’re not malicious, but that doesn’t make their parochial perspective any less harmful.

Other religions, or lackthereof, existing and having a say does not persecution make. LGBT people speaking out and having rights is not the removal of rights for straight people. Women having the chance to hold the highest office in the land, the calling out of rape culture, and feminism; these ideas are not about the eradication of men, hating men, or reducing them to second-class citizens. When you have always been in control of everything, it can often feel like a zero-sum game, and that competitive nature of society has been challenged by women and feminists. They take it as a very indictment of their identity, and thus it must be an attack on gendered space and authority, because it is.

The place of the male in modern-day American society is not reserved for the head of the household. A young woman is not obligated to seek a successful rich man, or any man at all for that matter. When oblivious, sexist men like Donald Trump believe that their success entitles a man to a woman’s body regardless of consent, that is a symptom of a philosophy in society that has gone unchallenged way too long. Like the aforementioned men who feel they are under attack, someone in his position of being a successful white man cannot translate why that attitude is suddenly a big deal when it’s been allowed to run amok for so many years, it means that the fight against gendered privilege has made a mark. True equality will not begin until these ideas are not challenged by men who feel their very existence is at stake by others having the same rights they do.

-Al

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