Spoons and forks

A couple of years ago I began writing, in my head, another essay about how people are perceived in society, how people are expected to act in society - that convoluted umbrella, gender relations.

Specifically, I wanted to write about rape culture.

This was the time when the term was gaining traction, at least on particular corners of the Internet, the very corners I happen to find myself in. I'm hearing it from friends. I'm hearing it from the people whose posts my friends were sharing. I'm hearing it in columns from writers, mostly, but not all, feminist. And I get it: I get that we're asking females to act a certain way because males act a certain way. I just wasn't sure if we are supposed to call it a "culture" - that term meant "universally accepted" to me, and I wasn't sure if we all really agreed to that.

I have written about gender relations before, and I know, from experience, that writing about it is a foolish thing to attempt, because it opens you to so much vitriol. But I got quite serious about that essay. I even told Nat about it, or at least the thesis statement, that third paragraph.

Two things stopped me from ultimately writing that entry, though.

One, I was afraid of the vitriol. I know, I know, I often am foolish enough to attempt to write about particularly contentious issues. I wasn't sure, however, that I could handle whatever it is that would come my way. And that's considering I am very sure the only people who would be reading this are my friends.

Two, I realized I was wrong.

While I dithered, I read a bunch of things that pretty much laid out, clearly, why it's called a "culture". I realized that, yes, I may have played a part in perpetrating rape culture - but not actively, not aware of things at all. Culture, after all, is not just something passed down from one generation to another formally, like through lessons; it can be something we emulate, we imitate, unknowingly, because we just know it's how things work.

I remembered all this a couple of weeks ago, in the middle of a night market in Cebu. Nat and I were drinking what I'd call alcoholic slushies. She had calamansi and tequila, I think; I had mango and rum.

I tried my best to avoid conversations about gender, because when we do talk for an extended period, whether via words or in person, we ended up drifting towards that. I guess it's a crutch: Nat has always posted about these things. I guess she trusted me enough to not be an idiot about it. This time, however, we'll just catch up like friends do. And besides, this is the first time I'm meeting her in her home city, after several attempts.

Well, we drifted towards that anyway.

I don't remember the details well anymore, but I remember three points distinctly. One, we talked about how Nat seems to always attract the gaze of, well, creepy men. Two, she mentioned how her colleagues remark about what she wears to work - either she dresses like someone in her mid-30s, or someone barely into puberty. That night, she was wearing loose, comfortable outfits - it was a dress-down Friday, after all, but it was firmly in "you dress like you're 12" territory. Three, I remember saying something about how I usually act.

"Sure, I sometimes leer at women, sure," I said, more or less. "But when I do, I wouldn't be loud about it."

I paused for a split-second, thinking that if I was talking to someone else, I would have probably gotten a lashing, at the very least.

And why wouldn't I? I'm a guy. I have benefited from whatever this is without doing a single thing. That means I'm not sure if I was taught that a girl is a prize, or if I just lived with it as if it's a fact. I really don't know.

But, the more I know, the more I try to be at least aware of, well, these things. I know it's a lifelong process. I know I will never get it right - I know nobody will, all of us, regardless of how we identify, or are identified. I can definitely tell you that, as a male, I am also a victim as much as a benefactor - how I am expected to be the stronger one, how I am expected to get a girlfriend, how deviating away from that makes my entire being questionable.

But boo hoo you! How dare you call yourself a victim? How dare you call yourself as one of the oppressed? You don't fucking know what being oppressed is! You don't have a fucking idea! You don't have the fucking right to say you're a victim! You have no idea! Don't tell me to feel bad for you! This is all your fucking fault!

How are we supposed to get this conversation to the point where we all agree on, at least, one thing, if we refuse to listen to what others are saying? Of course, I have to qualify that - for every person who attempts to wade in with a fleshed-out thought, there's always someone who gets a thrill whenever he yells "fuck her right in the pussy!" on live television. Really, though, the idea that there's only one victim and one perpetrator - the idea that it can never be the other way around; the idea that it's all just black and white - it just makes us enemies of everyone.

We will never see the change we want to see in our lifetimes. If we want to get closer to that point, though, we have to be incredibly patient. We're dismantling a skyscraper with a spoon and a fork. Okay, many spoons and forks, but still - this is no easy task, and all of us foolish enough to dive into this will have to at least acknowledge that, well, there are many of us armed with spoons and forks.

And your responses...

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