I think I might be a sexist. But since most of you are vagina-enabled, I’ll let you tell me. Many of you possess testicles, as well, and I’ll invite you to chime in, too. To those who have both: All are welcome here.
I’m not proud of the fact that I might be sexist, but it seems more honest to say so than declaring that I’m a feminist. Which I’m not. I’m having a tough enough time trying to figure out how to be a righteous dude. I suppose the best contribution I can make to the struggle for gender equality is to try and be a better man. I can’t allow myself to politicize my inner-struggles, to become, as Gandhi said, the change I want to see in the world. So, yeah, I’m not a feminist, and I might be a sexist. But better I be aware of that, than ignorant to the prejudices that make me oh-so human. And that’s the best I can do.
So why do I think I’m a sexist?
There were 155 survival stories involving the truly stunning ditching of US Airways Flight 1549 into the frigid waters of the Hudson River in New York City. The entire event is enough to make the cavity where my heart would be — had I not sold it to gypsies for whiskey — echo with melancholy, hopeful little whispers. Sometimes, a cynic is just a deeply disappointed romantic.
But one story that got lost in the hubbub surrounding the recent inauguration is how reportedly during the “controlled chaos” of the evacuation, some men shouted: “Women and children first!” There is already debate as to whether that gallant, chivalrous anachronism has any place in today’s gender political conversations. There are many women who are insulted by the debate, and I suppose I can empathize.
Long ago, I dated a woman whom I loved very much. She was a bad ass. She was a tattooed body-piercer. Our relationship was like burning a July 4 sparkler at both ends. Once, she ended a bar fight I had inadvertently started. She was beautiful, feminine, and a person with whom one does not mess with. I accepted this, never thought twice about it, and never felt emasculated by the fact that her Power Animal Warrior was a jaguar, and mine is more like an armadillo. A really awesome, manly little armadillo.
And I’m not even mentioning the countless examples of emotional and intellectual strength from the various women in my life that I have come to depend upon over the years.
But here’s the thing. When I read about “woman and children first,” I asked myself, Would I do that? And I’d like to think I would have the presence of mind, the instinct for self-sacrifice to allow those women and children who might be smaller, and physically weaker, into safety’s arms. Is this idealized machismo? Gender identity roles so hammered into me that I naturally assume that women, especially, cannot take care of themselves? Was chivalry just a refined, polite method by which to herd women? Plenty of women lost their lives on the Titanic, after all.
There are two maritime calls enshrined in history. One is “women and children first” and the other is “every man for himself.” I want to believe I’m not one who would be for himself. If that makes me sexist, so be it.
Not to bring feminism back into it, seeing as the term seems misinterpreted, misunderstood, and wholly divisive, but gender equality, if it’s ever to be achieved fully, seems dependent on knowing what the sexes have in common, and what makes us different. Special. Unique. That might be patriarchal, hetero-normative claptrap, but I’m being honest here. Life isn’t theory after all, the map isn’t the territory. As a purely speculative, fantastical situation, I want to be a man who ushers those people who need help. Even though there’s always the alternative reality, where I’m trapped in a sinking plane, and I crap myself, ball up into a heap of weeping hysteria, and am bravely carted out of the wreckage by two bespectacled female women’s studies grad students.