There is a term that i hear in Quebec about 4 or 5 times a year between the months of october and april. That term, makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck every time because i am acutely aware that the people using it are not bad people. They don`t mean to be sexist and yet, the term is undeniably innappropriate. This dreaded term is: ''Une grippe d'homme'' which translates to ''a man's cold''. The idea is that men are big complainers, overly sensitive to pain and take sick days whenever they have a sniffle. Some women have sometimes referred to the fact that women give birth and that no physical pain in a man`s life ever comes close to that type of pain. While that may be true, what is the idea of comparing men`s and women's sensations of suffering in competitive manner? It is sexist pure and simple. If a woman says to me, as has happenned in the past when i complain about being sick :'' c'est une grippe d'homme'' ''it's a man`s flu'', do i then have the right to reply: ''your woman`s intelligence must have brought you to that conclusion'' ''C'est ton intélligence de femme qui te fais penser comme ça'' ?
I have to recognise that most white men like myself acknowledge that we have had unfaire advantage and taken unfair priviledge throughout history. If there is some backlash against us for that history then maybe it is deserved. But i would remind those who felt they were the victims of oppression that one often becomes what one rejects most. Furthermore, i am not a white man like any white man. I was raised by a feminist and took some of those principles as my own. However, because i am a man, i am naturally inclined towards feeling for and understanding my own gender. So while I have strong feminist roots, I see feminism through the eyes of a man and as someone once said: ''we don`t see the things as they are, we see things as we are.''
Would it be o.k for me to say that a person is thinking like a black person? Acting like an Hispanic? I don`t think so. Any ethnic group would surely object to that kind of cultural harrassement. So, why is it o.k to do it to a white man. If I were a white man who had climed the corporate ladder and sat at the top of a bank, then maybe i could look a little more flippantly at the issue because anyone who would dare suggest i had a ''man`s cold'' would be fired or severely disciplined. Or maybe i would be so high up the food chain that a comment like that would ricochet off me like a tiny bullet off a modern tank. The fact is, I am not a man like the man i have just described. Maybe it does not matter. Wait, it does matter because i am a man who ''crossed over'' so to speak. I crossed over from engaging in traditional male activities which society had laid out on the path for me to choose. i crossed over the gender barrier. I became a nurturer. I left money and power behind for love and art. I chose to work with children in a disadvantaged setting rather than enlist in the army. I chose to be an art therapist rather than a politician. I chose to be an artist rather than a jock. I chose to be a nurturer rather than a sub-prime lender. I crossed over the barrier, into what has so far been a women`s world.
Now that i am here, i have asked myself if women are kinder to men than men were to women who attempted to cross over. Ultimately, the answer is yes. Otherwise, i would not be writing this to you know as an art teacher, art therapist and artist. However, now that I am here, I can assure you, women are not above saying stupid, sexist things and reminding you that you are on their turf. Still, I am sure some women will say, as my program director once said to me: ''your pain is nothing compared to what we go through every month''. Ironically, in saying that, the pain of marginalisation, and isolation which i sometimes feel in a women`s field is increased to a point where I feel i can truly understand what it is to be discriminated against. Maybe that is the point. As a matter of fact, i am pretty sure that is the point some women have tried to make. Especially that women who told me I was accepted into a certain field because i was a man. Some women appear to be saying: ''how do you like it now that the tables are turned?'' Well, I don`t. But then again, I never sat on the end of the table that oppressed women. I did not inherit all the priviledge that those people did. I was born to love and respect women. It is doubly hard for me to accept that women could perceive me, as a mere member of the other gender and project onto me all of the disdain and discontent meant for men living in the past.
I can almost hear you thinking: ''this guy has a serious chip on his shoulder'' or ''this guy`s issues are personal''. You would be right on both counts if that is your thinking. However, one of the most important slogans of our time happens to be one set forth by feminists :''the personal is political''. Until we start taking the political personally, nothing can change. Until whites stand up for black rights, adults fight for children and children for adults and until women fight for men`s rights and vice versa, nothing can change. It will always be just individuals sitting in the corner, getting angry and pushing back with no global results. To redress the current cultural and political inequalities, people with the power will have to make the concessions. Historically, this has only happenned through revolution. If you know of any instance where people in power voluntarily shared it with others please let me know.