I hate directives to conform to traditional rules. I tend to hate traditions, in general. You know what I’ve learned from history? The further back in time you look, the worse human beings have treated each other. We’ve used rules that may have started for some practical reasons and continued trying to enforce them long after they make any sense so that “we” can feel superior to “them”.
Fuck That Shit.
It’s not any one person’s fault. People tend to believe what they’ve been told and cultures hate change. The fact that traditions are still mostly revered instead of dismissed as anachronistic proves that point. So if you think, “people should behave like THIS,” you probably didn’t come up with that idea. It’s probably the same thing that millions of other people think.
That doesn’t make it true. That doesn’t make it right. That just makes it typical. I’m not typical. I feel like I’m in the minority because whenever I spot a “x should be y” statement, I try to figure out if that’s really how I feel or just what’s been impressed upon me. If you challenge the “should” statements that cross your path, then we’re probably kindred spirits. If you never question those statements, you’re probably in the majority.
For example, the light-hearted blog Boobs Bacon Bourbon posted a “10 Commandments of Manhood” article. It spawned a “10 Commandments of Womanhood” response from Miss DC 2009. I disagree with most of both, starting with their titles. A commandment is a divine rule. Neither of those lists are from a god, no matter what god you may worship (if any). And neither article’s author has the authority to dictate what rules should determine or guide “manhood” or “womanhood”.
If the posts were phrased as, “Here are things I like to see in men/women,” then they wouldn’t bother me as much. People can have whatever opinions they like. You might suggest that’s what the authors meant and I’m interpreting the words too literally. If you did, I’d have to reply that you don’t understand how people think. Everyone interprets words literally and then if they can determine the presence of humor, hyperbole, sarcasm, or irony, will impose more layers of meaning on those words. But the literal meanings don’t go away.
This is how cult leaders, hypnotists, advertisers, and therapists can influence how minds work. Words are the spells we cast to create thoughts and feelings and everything else about human beings stems from those.
Beyond the titles, the articles suggest arbitrary (though perhaps traditional) rules that you must follow to be a real man or a real woman. No, that’s not explicitly stated in either, but I think the implicit meaning is undeniable. Both those premises are false. You know what makes a person a “real man”? He identifies as a man. Full stop. You know what it takes for a human being to be a “real woman”? She identifies that way. That’s it!
What the BBB article is really telling readers is, “Here are things that the author wants you to believe you’d have to do in order for him, and possibly his readers, to think of you as having manhood.” Miss DC’s rebuttal is really saying, “Here are things that I think are ladylike. These opinions are probably shared in the social circles where I feel comfortable.” It’s just their opinions and there are probably tons of fantastic men and women who don’t fit their rules.
If you identify as a man and you don’t do any of the things listed in the BBB article, I hope you don’t feel any less of a man because you shouldn’t. No more than if someone in the street screamed at you that you’re not a real man. Or someone in Congress. Likewise, if you identify as a woman and don’t do a single thing Miss DC listed, I hope you don’t feel like your womanhood is lessened, because it’s not. Man, Woman, whatever you truly think you are, you are as legitimately your own identity as anyone could be. And more so than people who lie to themselves.
That’s my take on their two posts and I could end here. But I hear a theoretical commenter asking, “Well, what would YOU have said?” I’d have said:
10 Suggestions for How To Be A Decent Person
1) Take responsibility for yourself. Unless you’re a child, you’re not entitled to be cared for. You might be lucky enough to have someone in your life who does take care of you, but that’s just a fortunate circumstance. And it might change tomorrow. Be able to stay healthy and feed yourself.
2) Be hygienic. Odors, skin problems, illnesses, and the like can just be visible evidence of a lack of staying clean of body and action. Deodorant’s great, soap is great, cologne and perfume are optional. Clean teeth, clean hair, and clean skin are really the most important parts to being physically attractive as well, I think.
3) Be decisive. This is similar to some points both the other articles raise. A confident person can accomplish more because of directness and purpose. Taking a lot of time to make a decision won’t necessarily make your decision any better. Make a choice, move forward. If it’s the wrong choice, you’ll learn that and might have time to choose again. Don’t fear mistakes, get better because of them.
4) Be honest or be quiet. You like someone and it won’t hurt them to know it? Tell them. Have a problem with something a person says or does? Tell them. Want something in life? Say so. Have an opinion about something that would cause nothing positive to happen if you shared it? Keep it to yourself. There’s nothing more powerful than the truth and lies make the world harder for everyone. But an honest opinion is still not a fact, and if it could hurt someone, why are you cluttering the conversation with it?
5) Don’t worry about appearances. If you want to look nice and you make yourself up in a way that you think looks nice, then good for you! If someone asks you for your opinions on superficial things, by all means share them. But if you think someone else looks unappealing in some way and they haven’t asked you for any guidance, then don’t worry about it. How does it hurt you if someone wears shoes you don’t like or a tie you think is ugly or pants that you think are too tight or boots you think are seasonally inappropriate? It doesn’t. And physical features? Shut up. Something you think is ugly is probably beautiful to someone else.
6) Never stop learning. Change your mind. I do agree with the BBB point that you should read books. And you can learn how to cook and tie ties and throw dinner parties and maintain your car if you like. But you can also learn how to play unusual musical instruments, what small cliques of people believe, and how to play cricket. Learn anything! Learn everything! And if you hold some fervent opinion about a topic, learn about the opposing viewpoints and see if you can change your mind. Changing your mind when you learn more is not fickle or wishy-washy; it’s the whole freaking point of learning. Exercise your brain!
7) Don’t be a lady, don’t be manly, be yourself. If you’re a guy who likes wearing pink and watching ballet and hates sports, own that. If you’re a woman who likes boxing and fixing motorcycles and having sex in seedy bathrooms, love all that about yourself. And if you do fit some traditional roles but you’re happy about it, keep being happy about it. But don’t try to force yourself to be something or pretend to be something that you’re not because someone tells you that’ll enable you to fit into a label. Fight the labels, be yourself, let others be themselves, and I believe we’ll make the world a better place.
8) Have opinions and realize they’re opinions. I have no problems with BBB or Miss DC having their opinions. I don’t mind if everyone who reads this post opines that I’m completely wrong. I believe in freedom and that people can think whatever they like. But it’s even more important that people realize that something that can be measured repeatedly to produce the same results is a true fact. If you can’t measure it repeatedly, it can’t be a fact. If you don’t get the same results each time, it can’t be true. Opinions, facts, and truth are not interchangeable. It’ll make your life better to possess plenty of all three and know which are which.
9) Share when you can. When we’re weak or tired or sick, we should take care of ourselves. But when we’re strong, able, healthy, and wealthy in any way, I believe we can make our communities better by sharing what we can. Don’t force taxes to be necessary where your own charity can suffice. Share your strength, your knowledge, your time, your presence, your money, your art, whatever you think you can contribute that will make things better. Don’t forsake making your livelihood, though! I’m talking about extra, when you can. It will come back around to help you, too.
10) Be kind. I hate false niceness. Making shallow gestures so as not to upset anyone is not good or kind, it’s just nice and it’s crap. But if you see someone angry or sad or struggling in some way… Help them if you feel like it. A word can make a difference. So can a hand. So can patience. At the very least, don’t add to their burdens. You carry your own. You should know better.
This post got way long and it’s tl;dr and then some, but I kept going. Just remember that most of this stuff is made up of my opinions and all I’ve offered is suggestions. I hope they help.