Tuesday, 2 October 2012

When "Our" Men Turn Mean

Part 2 of Trids, Trads and Neo-Cons

There's nothing like a little persecution to bond people together. In first year high school Latin, Sister W scared us girls so much that we became good friends. We bonded in the cafeteria as we complained together about the nightmare that was Sister W's class.

Religious, ethical and political movements can work the same way. For example, it is so much harder in the decades after the Sexual Revolution just to be a nice Catholic girl who wants to "keep respectable", get married and have four children that it feels that Canadian society is now actively persecuting nice Catholic girls.

That was more of a feeling than a fact in the Eighties, at least. What was an obvious fact was that thousands of unborn babies were being snuffed out by doctors. Canadian society was supposedly mostly okay with this. But devout Catholics and a number of other people, including atheists who think human life starts when it starts, thought this was so appalling that we would be morally in the wrong if we didn't say how appalling it was. So we said it was appalling, and there was a hue and cry about how nasty we were.

The principal huers and criers were, I am sorry to say, feminists. Shortly before the Sexual Revolution, mainstream feminists ceased to rail against ab*rti*nists* and began to support them. And somehow they managed to turn cultures that were utterly repulsed by surgical ab*rti*n into cultures that thought it absolutely fine as long as no-one was forced to think about it much. The sin of pr*-l*fers, as far as society was concerned, was to make people think about it much. As far as feminists were concerned, our sin was to hate ab*rti*n itself. Shriek, shriek, scream, scream.

So if you were a Canadian Catholic girl in the 1980s, who just wanted to stay respectable and get married in the Church and have four children and also not be complicit by her silence in the wholesale destruction of unborn human life, you very much wanted like-minded friends. And you were very likely to find them in the local pr*-l*fe movement.

At this point in the narrative I should interrupt myself and tell you that although I had a very strong sense of Right and Wrong and knew that human life begins at c*nception, I was otherwise not very rooted in reality. To sum up, I thought fiction, no matter when it was written, was a guidebook to real life. The fact that the boys in my elementary school were absolutely nothing like the boys in British children's literature written before 1970 was a bitter disappointment to me, and I assumed that the boys C.S. Lewis and Enid Blyton wrote about were simply elsewhere, perhaps in England or in private schools.

They were not in the pr*-l*fe movement either, of course. The young men I knew in the pr*-l*fe movement were ordinary Canadian Catholic boys who were unusual only in that the wholesale destruction of human life made them angry enough to want to do something about it. That was their primary concern, and although most of them (I believe) strove to be chaste so as to continue in friendship with God, they valued chastity primarily as a solution to the problem.

These boys resented very much the implication that they were anti-woman, and I think they were frightened when adult women screamed at them on the street. They certainly resented women behaving that way, and they were glad that their female pr*-life friends did not.

The word "feminist", however, was a curse word and a lightning rod. And I attracted unnecessary attention to myself by asserting that I was a feminist. I had not yet learned that (A) the horror some men feel for that word precludes any reasonable discussion of its positive implications, (B) I should not scandalize the "weaker brethren" in this way, and (C) public feminism is controlled and policed by people for whom ab*rti*n rights are as necessary as air and water.

I wasted a lot of time, breath, emotion and even money trying to prove that as a feminist I was just as good a pr*-lifer as anyone else. And, of course, I saw these boys at their most unpleasant, which was when their resentment of much older female strangers who screamed at them on the street, and of those complicit in ab*rti*n (to us infanticide), spilled over into resentment or bullying of female pr*-lifers their age.

At the time I would have considered it absolute treason to complain about this publicly because we were all desperate to convince society that pr*-life is not anti-w*man but pro. But it was a shock and a disappointment to discover that boys who were brave enough to stand up to society's passive-aggressive apathy, "OUR" boys, could be jerks.

Now everyone has their jerky moments and even their jerky days. If a non-jerk behaves like a jerk, he or she usually knows it, calls you up or texts and apologizes. But in every religious, political, ideological and whatever movement, there are going to be bullies and dyed-in-the-wool jerks.

There are two ways to deal with bullies and dyed-in-the-wool jerks in voluntary associations. The first is to confront them directly, most safely with back-up, perhaps during a meeting. The second is to quit the voluntary association and go elsewhere, or do whatever else to avoid contact with the bully.

It can be hard to accept that a jerk is a jerk when he is a leader in your marginalized group. You might think that his other gifts outweigh the discomfort you feel in his presence. They don't. And you can bet that there are other people in the group, especially people who think that THEY should be the leader, who think so, too. Keep an eye out for them, and don't mutter quiet "I'll be okay"s when they offer you support.

Darlingses, I wish I could tell you that I shrugged off the jerkiness of the boys who weren't really jerks and incited palace revolts against the real ones. I did not. Not understanding male psychology, I just kept on trying to prove that a feminist was as good a pro-life girl as any other. I helped with schoolwork. I paid for Dear Leader's dinners. I voted for the jerk. I put up with insults. In fact, the only time I showed anything like a spine in dealing with the bad behaviour of certain Neo-con boys (for Neo-cons we were), was to phone their dad to complain. AWESOME. I'm so glad I did that because it balances out my embarrassment for having been such a wimp.

I will say one thing about age. Some jerks are only jerks because they are young, angry and confused, or because they are are the easily-led sidekicks of jerks. Many improve greatly with age. Not all do, of course, and you might not want to take that chance and continue to associate with them for the sake of "good old days" that might not have been all that good.

One of my most painful teenage memories is of three of the boys of my movement stealing my student travel card and shrieking with mean laughter at the photo.

The first (Dear Leader) I cut out of my life by university; I wanted nothing more to do with him, and to this day reject his social network overtures.

The second I foolishly kept in my life out of a misplaced sense of affectionate loyalty until his second of two serious betrayals.

The third, always more of a jerks' sidekick than a jerk, became a priest. He is, by all reports, a good, kind man, a fine priest, and the loving uncle of many nieces and nephews.

What I hope you take away from this post is that every movement has its jerks. Every movement has its misogynists. And every movement has its good guys, too. I'm not saying you'd be compatible with a guy whose religious or political beliefs contradict your own, but don't be surprised if many such men are much better company than the few jerks and bullies of your own community. Don't let the jerks and bullies dominate your life out of your own misplaced sense of loyalty. You don't deserve to be jerked around.

Tomorrow: Men resisting Womynpriests.

*Sorry about the all the *'s. It's to avoid Googling trolls.

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