This post is part of my 2019 Pride Month series “Proudly Reaffirming Identity, Diversity, and Equity,” exploring present-day issues facing the LGBTQ+ and allied communities.
When I was six or seven, my aunt gave me a copy of The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexander Dumas. It’s part of his D’Artagnan saga, most notably begun as the Three Musketeers. It’s a novel of historical adventure, with a political twist–not quite satire, but enough criticism it probably played a role in catalyzing the French Revolution.
The version I was given, however, was adapted for children. I never read it.
The book sat on my bookshelves for ages, and I probably still have it somewhere, stored away in a box in a closet probably, but because it was a gift, something given to me, I always felt obligated to read it. The intrigue was always present, if my interest in reading it was not: Who was this man? And why did he wear a mask made of iron?
The historical figure we may never know, but the fiction is a story all its own.
A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a Kickstarter campaign for a collection of books called Being ManKind–an intentional lapse of grammatical convention. The series tries to break free of gendered norms and stereotypes, the toxic masculinity we’ve all come to hate.
I’ve been wanting to write about why I support the project and why I think you should, too, but it’s been busy. So much of the last few weeks has gone straight into dealing with that kind of gender bias (in the classroom) that I haven’t had a second to write.
Now there’s little more than sixteen hours to go, and to be successfully funded, it needs to bring in about a thousand dollars every hour until it ends.
So, sure, there’ll be an ask at the end, but there’s (kinda) a story until we get there, too.
One year ago I woke up pressed between the warm bodies of two men I didn’t know. Cane mumbled something to Jay, asking if he was working the ten or one o’clock shift today. I don’t remember what time it was, but he checked the clock and muttered something angry about needing to wake up.
Cane got out of bed and went in the bathroom to shower. Jay walked their dog. I hadn’t even realized they had a dog. The room was bright now, but all I really saw were my pants and shirt on the floor. I dressed in vague motions that felt like the fabric of dreams. I latched my belt, listened to the falling water from the bathroom, and sat on the floor.
One year ago I was in the study room around the corner from my apartment working math problems at the white board after midnight. It was a month into the semester and I was three weeks behind. After talking with a graduate TA who put it simply–“If you’re not passionate about doing the homework, is this the right major for you?”–I turned my organization on its head and had spent the entire weekend getting myself caught up.
And I was almost there. I felt great.
I wiped the board free of my algebra, sprawled letters about groups and how they commute and associate, and I stacked my notebooks and my markers and went back to my room. But the night was nowhere near over.
In a recent interview, Debora Spar–president of Barnard College and author of the new book Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection–stepped forward to make the claim I’ve been saying a long time: To advance women, we need to include men.
That itself is a fantastic topic for discussion, but more so I want to point out something else President Spar said–something that blatantly stands against her ideas of inclusion.
More importantly, let me introduce you to their rapists.
One of my friends at Guilford Tech was raped by his father. One of the guys I worked alongside was raped by his older brother’s best friend. One of the guys I’ve met at N.C. State was raped by his first boyfriend. I have a friend who was raped by her ex-husband, and another friend who was raped by her boyfriend. One of my very best friends was raped twice–by people she didn’t even know.
And people say there’s no such thing as rape culture.
Women can multitask, park their cars better, and ask for direction–but the sorry male species can’t do a damn thing. It’s a beautiful world where you grow up with low expectations, isn’t it? A standard of male success is dying without going to jail. Poor women. They actually have to do something to be successful.
It’s been a long time since I’ve said this and an even longer time since I’ve sincerely believed it, but today I feel happy. Genuinely happy. And for the life of me, I can’t even say what’s changed.
It feels like, for so long, dark clouds have held their hands around me, ethereal and tornadic fingers twisting around me, tumultuous chaos attacking me from every angle. Today the wind awoke over the world and while I was crossing the Brickyard–an open courtyard at the heart of campus–I felt the wind whipping around me, awaken the wind inside me, and in a burst of ecstasy I spun around and watched as the world itself twisted beneath me….