One of the things about having a blog with any reasonable amount of traffic is that people tend to want to know what you think about things. After one interaction I had elsewhere, I realized I could afford to do that a bit more often and decided to pick a few topics I thought would be worthwhile. And this week, I figure I should tackle one that comes up a lot in the online realm: equality.
This is something that becomes a major topic for writers all the time. Creative works get held to standards about what’s appropriate and what isn’t and you feel a backlash if you misstep. I like to believe that most of us aren’t trying to cause any harm. I know I’m not. But it’s also true that the way we interpret things can be very different.
A great problem today is that the community can be very polarized at times. In an effort to weed out bad actors it can be easy to lash out at genuine mistakes. Meanwhile, some will see those genuine mistakes, decide the other side is unreasonable, and disregard the actual bad actors. Because of that we can enter the hammer and nail scenario which goes: “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
Which would be fine, except not everything is a nail and if you were to use a hammer on a screw you would cause damage to the wood. If that analogy lost you, I’m incredibly sorry because it got away from me pretty quickly. But if you did understand that analogy, then that’s probably the first step to understanding where I’m coming from on the topic.
Basically, I think this should be a simple thing: everyone deserves a chance to live their best lives. And, somehow, we keep finding ways to make that complicated…
So, let’s get this out of the way: I’m straight, I’m white, I’m male, and I’m aware that can color how people receive what I say. I’m not saying that as if I think I’m persecuted, I know I’m not, but rather that I know there’s a chance there’s some baggage with my opinions. But the second thing to get out of the way is this: I understand. The history books and news are full of reasons for that baggage to exist. However, I don’t come at this from a strictly traditional perspective.
As a white kid that grew up in a town that’s typically averaging around 70-80% Hispanic, I have seen things from a different angle than some. The fact of the matter is, while I am white, I have grown up around the Mexican culture most of my life and feel at least tangentially attached to it. I do not know Spanish (not for lack of effort), but when I was a child I grew up hearing Tejano music, becoming intimately aware of Quinceañeras (not that I was ever invited) and growing an incredible tolerance to spicy food that makes my Canadian friends burst into flame at the very thought of it.
However, one thing about being one of the few white kids in an area is that I was the odd man out and got to see a bit of what that could be like while also watching what happened to those around me. Often when we see stereotypes and prejudice it can take some digging to find the origins. But, while I’m not entirely sure on all of the reasons, one thing I know for sure was that some who came after me were responding to history. For every time a kid bullied me or attacked me while calling me some variation of “white boy”, I know that at least some of them were responding to an injustice done by someone else.
So when I say I want equality for all races, I’m not saying it blindly. I know it would be incredibly easy to read what I just said about my own experience and go, “well you haven’t experienced all of it”. And you know what? You’d be entirely correct.
But I have seen what it is like on the receiving end of intolerance on a smaller scale and heard some of the stories passed around town. The idea that it happens to anyone on a larger scale, carried out systematically, is terrifying. I know being singled out was terrifying in itself when I was a child just dealing with other children. So the idea that one of those people could have caused serious harm for something that no one can change about themselves? I wouldn’t know how to sleep at night.
As time goes on and the demographics of the country shift, it’s well past time that we start recognizing that this country is built on the stories of immigrants and that concepts like racism don’t really have a place here. We’re one of the most diverse countries on the planet and, while that can cause problems, it’s also been a source of strength for us. We’re an amalgamation of many backgrounds and cultures and that’s been a large part of what’s made us what we are today. The sooner we figure that out, the sooner we’ll all be better off.
But race isn’t the only thing that we really need to get beyond.
One thing everyone knows, it’s never exactly been easy to be gay in most of the world. Yes, some out there may believe it’s a sin. But the fact of the matter is, according to at least one faith, there was a man that died so that all sins may be forgiven. If Pope Francis can figure that out, then a lot of people are lagging behind an institution that actually profits off of condemnation and guilt. Think about that.
It’s not just that the sins were supposedly forgiven, but that people who condemn such acts are usually committing sims from the same books. If you’ve eaten at Red Lobster, guess what?
“But whatever is in the seas and in the rivers that does not have fins and scales among all the teeming life of the water, and among all the living creatures that are in the water, they are detestable things to you.” – Leviticus 11:10
And do you kow the content of the shirt you’re wearing? Because if you don’t…
“You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together.” – Leviticus 19:19
So if you’re willing to discard both of those passages and declare that book in the bible has been wiped away by Jesus, it feels odd to hold onto this one:
“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” – Leviticus 18:22
I don’t want to trivialize your beliefs, but we have to understand that some of the rules written in the old testament were meant for a very different time and that, while the rules seem arbitrary today, they were just as important to those people as the one that still gets quoted today. So it goes to say that you should put down the crab cakes and strip off anything that isn’t 100% cotton or cut people some slack and let them live their lives. Because, frankly, they’re not the only people who are trying to break free of the oldest traditions.
The feminist movement, by and large, has been a force for good. It has its imperfections like any movement, especially in some extreme corners of the internet, but the goal of everyone having an equal opportunity to pursue their dreams is a positive one. The world would be a better place if everyone, regardless of gender, could expect fair treatment from everyone they meet. And, for my whole life, that’s something I’ve wanted to see happen. But a problem I’ve had lately is understanding where exactly I fit.
From my teenage years through my adult life I identified myself as a “feminist”. I believe in the overall goal, after all. But over time I started to realize that there were instances where I disagreed with elements of the movement (particularly the extreme corners). So it left me wondering: what am I, exactly?
This question was mostly initiated by watching a few feminists declare that they didn’t actually want the support of men. And, while I knew they were extreme, I also realized the term really defined their stances more than they defined mine. I want to live in a world without a glass ceiling or a glass cellar. I want to live in a world where people will let women be leaders and trust men to be babysitters.
I want everyone to be able to live their lives without fear of discrimination of any form.
Mind you, this is what I think a lot of feminist believe, but there is a militant wing that wouldn’t quite agree with me on a few points. Once again, I can understand the emotion behind feeling a need to be militant. But in the course of that, where would it put someone like me?
One recent example of this extreme view that really impacts me because it happened in the creative industry was the treatment of male employees working at Archie comics. The Co-CEO of Archie Comics, Nancy Silberkleit, has been recently sued for sexism against her male employees, yelling “penis” at them and sexually harassing them. When confronted with this, Nancy’s legal team proposed the defense that, even if she did do it, it doesn’t matter because, quote:
“white males are not a member of a protected class”
Holy shit, right? Think about how that would look in the other direction and realize her defense is effectively that these people aren’t normally on the receiving end. The thing is, I’ve encountered feminists who would actively defend this notion. And, by definition, they’re right to not care about men in the same way they care about women. But if there’s room for that sort of extreme in the notion, what exactly would I be?
For a long time I’ve started to consider all of these things and think of myself as an egalitarian first and foremost. I care about the rights of everyone equally, regardless of their place in the current social hierarchy, and feel like the only solution forward is to put everyone on similar footing. This is a belief most people I know hold, regardless of the labels they apply to themselves, but the simplicity of egalitarianism rings true to me.
Everyone deserves a fair chance. No one should ever be hated, feared, mistreated or discriminated against for things they were born with. Regardless of what group we come from, we are human beings and we deserve to be treated on equal terms. And, while I know that’s still not exactly how the world works, I believe we can get there so long as we keep trying.
But then, that’s where my greatest truth about equality comes. Take whatever you will from the rest of this post, but let this last part be my official word on where I stand. I can control what I am no more than you can, but I can control who I am and do right by everyone based on that. We have to strive to remember and remind others that everyone else is human and deserves that same amount of respect and understanding. Or, as a great philosopher once said…
And I don’t think that’s all that complicated.