Monday, October 18, 2010

On Courtly love and Chivalry

The progress of sexual equality is very slow, no doubt upsetting many in favour of the feminist movement. Though the idea can be traced back to abstract Platonic protofeminist concepts, our contemporary human behaviour capacity is about 50,000 years old. But hey, after a measly two and a half millennia, it seems we’re finally beginning to get on track. In many societies today woman can vote, speak their minds, and we’re beginning to chip away at the glass ceiling. And yet, there’s still one very obvious and very old sexist practice which continuously slips through the net. The other day, I held a door open for my girlfriend. A harmless gesture to both assist in the passage of my girlfriend through said doorway and to subtly express an appreciation for her. She even mentioned how she approved of such gestures. And why shouldn’t she? There certainly was a door in the way. But as a woman, did she have more right to have doors held open for her than I did? Was I actually practicing chivalrous courtesy?
If I was, it seems a little unnecessary and even counterproductive in these times. I wasn’t about to go burn some pagans, and she wasn’t about to go embroider a tapestry or polish her underpants. Courtly love was based around the idea that woman require special treatment. Delicate, feeble women surely can’t be expected to hold open big heavy doors or get their shoes dirty. They need all their strength and cleanliness to be pregnant and cook relatively protozoa-free boar heads. Sound demeaning? It didn’t a millennium ago. At least not to male nobility. These honourable protocols that involved fetching a woman flowers from the meadow or poaching a fresh dodo would surely make up for her subsequent lifetime of servitude.
Sexism is still everywhere. Even in the schoolyards. How many men remember being hit by girls in primary school but when they hit them back, they were called ‘girl-bashers’? It’s all well and good to say violence against women is wrong, but violence against men is a very real problem that remains mostly ignored. Violence against anybody is socially reprehensible. Just don’t hurt someone else. You’d think that was a basic enough idea. I’m not going to pretend that as a species the two sexes have evolved in the same way, but I’m not going to justify generally being an arsehole either. And then there’s phallic symbolism. When all-girls high school girls weren’t busy masturbating to Purple Stain, they were busy pointing out the vast amounts of phallic symbolism which must’ve been deliberately placed by the patriarchy. This may have upset some of the all-boys high school boys who were busy masturbating to… well… anything really. Actually, now that I think of it, they were probably pointing out phalluses too.
So why do we insist on retaining these blatantly sexist motions? As stated before, there are women who like it, and some women still demand to be treated in this fashion. Many feminists would agree that there are numerous women who work against feminist ideals, indirectly or otherwise. And hey, maybe there are some men who really would like things to change too. That’s why I’ve never really warmed to veins of radical feminism which believe all men work against women. The good news is that we don’t necessarily have to stamp out courtesy to achieve true sexual equality. I consider myself a socialist feminist, and still indulge in the odd door-holding and drink-fetching. Although I may have hunted the odd dodo if they were still around. I don’t hold open doors for people because they’re women (or I think they’re women). I simply wish to express courtesy from one human being to another. It falls into the same category as holding elevators, lending umbrellas and avoiding crowded urinals. Bill and Ted had the right idea. Be excellent to each other.
So what are some changes you as a human can make? Well, try opening a door for someone, regardless of their gender. Maybe they’ll appreciate it. If you’re playing ‘spot the phallus’ with your pretentious friends, maybe you could try spotting a little yonic symbolism too. And of course, don’t hurt people!
Maybe if you can all master these basics, we can move on to the complex stuff.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

On profanity

WARNING: This week’s issue of ‘The Glass Dagger’ contains vulgar and offensive language. Filthy wankers with no balls should refrain from reading.

A friend recently told me that we were all living in a ‘Godless world’. I couldn’t disagree more to this statement. Society has plenty of Gods to go around. Money, sex, violence, Edward Cullen… it’s truly hard to pick these days. So with all this sanctity about, it’s almost too easy to defile something. Something which is ‘profane’ is something outside holiness, and perhaps even blasphemous. And certainly one of the most popular ways to ‘make unholy’ is to verbally curse. It’s probably so popular because it’s so easy. For example take a few of the words I just mentioned before; like Money, and Edward Cullen. Now add ‘fuck’ in front each one (treating Edward Cullen as one word, of course. Although adding a second ‘fuck’ before Cullen works too, the fuckwit…) and you’ve rather successfully cursed each of the subjects. Yes, it’s that easy. No cutting yourself. No burning things. It is a purely mental and verbal process. Feel free to try this experiment with other words, or the names of your friends and family. I honestly have no problem with swearing. Seriously. It’s a device which has a very important role to play in many people’s lives, and makes us feel a tiny bit more in control in situations where we seemingly have none. It’s a very human way of taking the power back, even if it’s only for a second. Why would I want to take that away from anybody? What I DO have a problem with is that almost everybody does it wrong.
There seems to be two extremes in the cussing world. The first one is the most annoying to me. They’re those delightful people who will never utter an offensive word in everyday speech, and then when they do something to arouse anger, like spill a drink or stub a toe, they’ll yell words like “Shivers!” or “Fruitcake!”. These people make me want to yell words like “Liar!” and “Coward!”. If you truly think that you’re intelligent enough to express yourself in sentences rather than to use swear words, you can’t simply substitute already existing swear words. If you’re yelling ‘fruitcake’ to the world, you’re still cursing what’s happened, still cursing your Gods, and you’re just as ineloquent as the rest of us peasants. Besides, if you keep using surrogate swear words, they’re bound to officially become what they’re substituting. Then we’ll all be shitting when we’re cold and eating Christmas fucks.
Then there are those that sit on the other end of the spectrum who use swear words to punctuate their sentences. “I was down at the fuckin’ post office the other fuckin’ day. And who do I bump into but the fuckin’ Smiths!” The biggest damage this does is that it seriously cheapens these important words. Why swear if all the punch has been taken away from the cussing? Swearing constantly does no good for anybody. Especially for yourself. It’s like going to work every day wearing a strap-on. Sure, it’ll get you attention for a while (assuming it’s a casual dress job), but eventually the shock value will wear off, and everyone will see you for the attention-sapping arsehole you truly are.
Before I leave you all, I would like to touch on one last thing. With all these people dissing religion, people don’t realise just how sexist the secular world is. With all our efforts to keep profanity alive, we only really have one real taboo left. Which is, of course, human genitals. And not even male genitals! Think about it. If you say ‘dick’, ‘pecker’, ‘wang’, ‘dong’, ‘Johnson’ or ‘pink oboe’ to people, most will find you socially acceptable, and might even laugh. However, mentioning ‘slit’, ‘snatch’, ‘poon’, ‘hatchet wound’, ‘gash’ or ‘cunt’ will invite eviction from society. So what should you take away from all of this?
Well, come up with some more light hearted words for female genitals, or more offensive male ones. If you stub your toe or you’re filling out a tax return form, swear. If you’re ordering a pizza, or talking about people you like, don’t.
Now seriously fuck off, before I get really angry.