My perception of men has changed very swiftly, in the space of a few months. I can’t pinpoint exactly when this switch happened, but whereas I used to be all “people are people,” now I very distinctly separate men from women. In my eyes, men are the Other.
This isn’t OK with me. It does not correlate with my feminist principles or my belief in complete equality among all genders. I hate it when I catch myself referring to “boys” or “men” as a single entity, lumping them all into the same pile of clichés and stereotypes. It just doesn’t feel right.
But recently I’ve started to discern a dividing line, delineated by the slight brush of an arse in a pub, or the groan at a brief mention of male privilege in a classroom. And all the touching—so much touching. My body is a battleground, an object disconnected from my personhood. It just has another waist for an arm to be placed around, another “front” (as a teacher called my boobs) to make a joke about. This same body has been touched this year in private, in a way that hasn’t made me uncomfortable at all. So I have been thinking a lot about the differences between the wanted touch, the unwanted touch, and the touches in the grey areas in between.
I have also recently experienced what feels like a gender divide in terms of honesty in romantic relations. People are always saying that “men are all the same,” and I have never believed that. But when I think about the guys I’ve known lately, that old cliché is starting to gain some weight. And then I think about how much I hate it when people say the same thing about women. I know we’re not all the same.
A bright note is that while 2012 has cast doubt on my opinions about relationships with boys, it has only strengthened my friendships with women and girls. I feel so inspired by the women I know, who have held me up when I’ve felt as thin as cardboard (possibly because of certain guys). These women didn’t have to listen to me rant and rave, to be patient with me, to let me make my own mistakes and try to give advice. And when they tell me I am beautiful, I believe it deep down, because I know that they understand the true meaning of beauty. And when they tell me I am a good enough person, I believe it, because they are too. ♦