“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
As I’ve discovered this week, writing about gender brings out strong reactions in other people. This is fine, because I don’t use my blog as a way to try and get other people to agree with me; I use it as a space to try and figure out what I think. It is also fine because, in order to have the confidence to keep saying what I wish, I have erected what you might call a “wall of mute” around myself. Yes I know people say that you should “follow people you disagree with” on Twitter, in order to “challenge your thinking”. But actually, all this typically amounts to is people metaphorically looking over your shoulder and making snarky remarks. (I would be a bit less sceptical if I saw evidence that people had changed their opinions via an online conversation.) Ironically, I think the ability not to care what other people think about what I say or write is quite a ‘masculine’ trait in me. Whether this is to do with socialisation, or biology, I have no idea, but generally I think that women want to please others more than men do. We are more ‘touchy-feely’ in so many ways.
Anyway, I digress. The purpose of this final blog in my 3-part ‘mini series’ is not to reignite a debate, or to inspire someone to write yet another ‘blog about a blog’. The purpose of this blog is simply to celebrate some wonderful men who are at the top of my ‘He for She’ list. Men who, through their behaviour, their comments or their approaches, give women a boost and support us in having a voice. And number one on the list is the guy who is sitting beside me right at this moment. He would rather stab needles into his eyes than join Twitter, participate in any form of social media, or come to a teaching event, so you’ll never get to meet him. But he is the reason why I can do what I do. He has no problem at all with taking on what some people might see as ‘female roles’, such as childcare, cooking and shopping. He is the calm, still, rational balance to creative, flaky, emotional me. When I have a crazy idea (such as “let’s take our children out of school for a term and go on the road with them”), he is the guy who makes it happen. He is happy to be the butt of the jokes in my upcoming Road School book. Together, we are more than the sum of our parts.
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”
The other men I would like to celebrate are the ones who do the He for She thing online. Sometimes this is overt – men who speak directly about feminism, or in a way that boosts up women – but sometimes it’s just about the way that they talk, or the attitudes they take. In no particular order, I would like to thank Jonny Walker for his thoughtful blogs on being a male primary school teacher; David McQueen, for balancing a masculine presence on Twitter with an appreciation of women; Chris Chivers, for sensitive and nuanced tweets and blogs; David Weston, for speaking about coming out as a teacher, and for talking in Strictly Come Dancing metaphors with me; Peter Ford, for helping me get my head around words such as “epistemology” and not minding that I can’t; AspieDeLaZouch for writing the most stunning feminist blog I have ever read; Peter Blenkinsop, because even though we virulently disagree he disagrees with me in a way that never damages my confidence; Matt Young, who has only recently joined Twitter, but who has already boosted me up on many occasions; and lots of other guys who I don’t have space to mention here, but who will hopefully know who they are because I have said ‘thank you’ to them in the past.
“A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is
until you put her in hot water.”
Here’s the thing about discussions of gender: for me, it is not about male versus female, nor about women versus men. It is not even about masculine versus feminine, or biology versus socialisation. I don’t want men to become women, or women to become men. I’m rather keen on men being men, and women being women, since that is what they are. It is just (for me at least) about balance. It is about using language and approaches that are supportive to both genders, whenever we possibly can. So if you’re out there, busy looking for evidence, and rational explanations, and scientific rationales, or if you think that more grit and character, or more measurement and tests, are the answer, then that is all well and good. But that does not mean I have to agree with you, or that I can’t say what I think as well. And while I am strong enough not to care what others say to or about me, there are plenty of women who are not. At its heart, ‘He for She’ is about more than men being feminists. It is about men, supporting women, to have a voice.
“I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”