I had my first sexual experience when I was six years old. A female friend and I were curious and played several rousing games of “what does this do?” I don’t regret that early experience, it allowed me to realize that my body can make me very happy. I know now that I’m an anomaly and not many other girl children do this. Apparently, though, parents will rarely bat an eyelash if a young boy is caught masturbating. It’s met with some giggles and blushes but that’s all.

This childhood memory makes me realize the difference between male and female behaviour and what is acceptable or not. The difference isn’t in our thinking or roles in life, it’s in the control we have over ourselves and who we are as people. Men who control their own destinies are seen as powerful and virile. A woman who tries to control her situation is seen as a controlling bitch, she is derided as a harpy and can be called butch. A man can be strong in the boardroom or in the bedroom yet a woman is expected to be the pure mother figure by day and a whore by night in the dark behind closed doors. Still there are those who question feminism’s validity. As though feminism is simply out to destroy their life or make the work environment difficult.

So I thought about some of the things that women in our country have to endure. I’m not taking this outside of Canada. Heck, I won’t even take it out of Alberta. I wonder if men would endure the same things. So let’s do a little switchup. Okay?

Bullying

Women aren’t bullied, are they? Women are the bullies. Damn. We expect those blonde jokes to stop but they’re so funny. So here’s the turnaround; a man goes in to work and the first comment he hears on how his female boss likes how tight his new pants are. When he makes a comment that he’s uncomfortable, she slaps him on the ass and says, “oh, can’t you take a joke?” He files a complaint with his human resources department but the boss is only given a slap on the wrist. Instead, he’s offered a chance to move out of that department. Forget that he’s spent five years in his current position and his boss has only been there for two but HR says this is for the best; change or leave. After all, they have to keep everyone happy. Besides, the boss did mean it as a compliment and is he so sensitive that he can’t take it?

Pay

Equal pay for equal work, right? By and large, women are paid far less for the same job men do. As a man, you automatically earn more for the same job as a woman. So, men, how would you like to do your current job but take an almost 25% pay cut? Yes, women earn around 75 to 80 cents per dollar men earn. Oh and that job your currently doing? Let’s add a few more duties but you’re not getting a pay raise.

The Old Boy’s Club

Think this is gone? It isn’t. In many companies, meetings are held on the golf course. Well, women golf, too, right? They do but they are less likely to be invited along to one of these little events. So let’s turn this around. The CEO is having a spa day and has invited three of her female managers. You, a male manager, expressed interest in going but she says you’ll be bored and she’ll grab a coffee with you some other time. Not a likely scenario? Think again.

Abuse

Well, guys, don’t worry; this one’s an equal opportunity game. Men are just as likely to be abused as women in a domestic relationship so this not one I’m going to do a switchup on. However, there is more societal pressure on a woman to “make things work” in a relationship. A woman is supposed to be caregiver and homemaker and if the relationship falls apart, there are movies and books pointing to how it was her fault. How she failed as a woman. This one is a toss up, though.

Cultural Expectations

Okay, this one’s a problem. There are cultures in the world that have practices that we, in Canada, have decided are wrong. Yet, Canada has a large immigrant population and these practices come to this country so I’m going to do a switchup here. Men, you are four or five years old when you are taken to your uncle’s home. There, you are stripped of your pants and underwear and lain on the kitchen table. Perhaps your limbs have been tied spread eagle to the table. A gag is placed in your mouth so you can’t scream or make noise. Your uncle takes a sharp knife, may even be a utility knife, and he begins cutting the foreskin off your penis. He then cuts the rim under the cap on your penis off and makes a slice down the length of your penis. This scar will grow in such a way so that getting a full erection later in life is impossible. To finish things off, he then sews your testicles in place. If you survive this little “operation”, you will then be an asset to your family. Forget about completing school. Getting married is more important. While you won’t be told to quit school, you also won’t be encouraged. Forget telling your teachers. It’s drilled into you every day that this is family business and family comes first. You will then perpetuate this horror on your sons.

Poverty

Okay, men, here’s your switchup. When you got married, she was the woman of her dreams. Then, after the wedding, something happened. It wasn’t obvious but she changed somehow. She was more distant, drank more, was less involved in you. One day, she went out to get milk for the baby and just never came back. Now you have three children and no skills to get a job. With a toddler, affordable childcare is a nightmare so being away for eight hours a day is not an option. The biggest surprise is finding out that all your savings, your RRSPs are all gone and your  credit is maxed out. Welcome to bankruptcy. Next you realize you have to feed the kids so you go to welfare. Humiliated and frustrated, you dance through their game just to feed your kids and give them a life but daily you feel the weight of just living pressing down on you until you simply give up. You go through a series of women, hoping to find a mommy to your babies but the next is worse than the last. You don’t know how to make it on your own but you can’t seem to make it with anyone else. Your kids resent you for driving daddy away and depression is your daily companion. You don’t even try any longer. Heck, it’s enough that you even put on pants during the day.

Rape

This one is just for you, guys. You’re a teen boy and you go to a party. Like the other kids, you have a few too many and pass out on the couch. At one point you wake up and realize you’ve been given a Viagra and girls are hopping on you like you’re a pogo stick. To top it off, there’s someone filming. It hurts and you want them to stop. Not one is using a condom. You go to your parents who take you to the police the next day. Then comes a series of doctors examining you, blood tests for STDs and pictures of marks. Then, you go on your Facebook page and there you are in all your shame. Someone has uploaded the video of you being raped multiple times and now the entire school, including the teachers, has seen it. Instead of being supportive, everyone blames you. They say you liked it. That you wanted it. Your friends want nothing to do with you and school is a nightmare. The girls responsible hang outside your locker, pressing against you and rape you verbally over and over. In desperation you and your family reach out to the media and your story gets out. The school, though, can’t allow these girls to be vilified. They’re the school stars and the school needs them. So the school hires its own public relations person and they put a new spin on it. Now you’re not only the villain in school, you’re the prick out to ruin these innocent girls’ lives. When you try to complain, start your own social media campaign, you’re told you’re playing the “victim” card. Forget college. They won’t touch a hot topic like this. Your family is forced to move but your shame goes with you. The outcome of the trial? The girls are found guilty but of a misdemeanor. They won’t spend any time in jail and when they’re 18, their record will be clear. One girl has had an offer for a free ride from two colleges.

Men, you tell me that you’d put yourself in any one of these positions and not want things to be better. You tell me that any of this is a reasonable situation for any woman to expect to happen to her then tell me that women are not allowed to fight back. Yes, there are Oprah Winfreys and Michele Obamas in this world and thank the gods for them. However, there are far more nameless, faceless, voiceless women who are beaten down by a system that expects them to be the perfect woman. They want the mother whore to satisfy every need. Heaven help the woman who embraces her inner wild child, for she is the wanton slut and open to shaming.

It is not the women who have taken control of their lives that we need to fight for. It is the woman in the shadows who cannot speak for herself that we need to give tools to be able to stand on her own.

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