My Metaphorical, Meandering Truth
by John Dwyer
My mother complains that she has a chauvinist for an eldest son but nevertheless, when pressed I call myself a feminist. I write for the Good Men Project, embrace everything that goes along with being a man, and have even used the term “misandry” with a straight face. Yet, when asked, I admit that misogyny and misanthropy are much greater problems which still plague my generation Y as much as my parents ’. So where does such a serious dichotomy or disconnect come from?
I argue that there are two reasons, one particular to me and the other more general, but both affect my generation greatly and adversely. Before continuing, however, full disclosure: I have absolutely no interest in defining my feminism much to my girlfriend’s chagrin, but she’s a woman, so who cares about her opinion, right?
That joke (it was a joke, by the way) brings me to why my mother shakes her head over her chauvinistic son. At a young age I learned to interact with the world through the protection of sarcasm. I was brought up religious and so I believed every real question had already been answered (and answered correctly!) and when the real world ran counter to my expectations, I embraced verbal irony.
If you’re in on the joke, a sarcastic comment says a lot; by capitalizing on the absurd space between expectations and reality, it subtly reveals the speaker’s wishes and hopes while never fully exposing them to direct sunlight. The problem is that not everyone is in on the joke (and that has been addressed wonderfully over here by Lindy West on Jezebel, with race as a focus in place of gender). I don’t think my jokes are funny, I think they’re tragic but tears in your eyes can blur the lines and my generation often sees life as a tragicomedy.
That brings me to the general issue: my generation of writers has a collective problem with self-identifying as feminists and as much as I hate admitting that I’m a “Millennial,” I’m no different in this respect. Even here in So to Speak’s sacred hyperspace, unabashedly visceral writers like Amanda Graham hesitate before throwing out the word like it’s the new f-bomb and should be approached only with caution.
I admit that I can only conjecture on what causes my peers to pause before labeling themselves feminists – and I do believe a vast swathe of us are, at least on an intellectual level. However, if I extrapolate from my own experience, I don’t think the problem is a secret chauvinism or fear of pigeonholing but an ingrained aversion towards speaking the truth, or anything approaching an absolute.
That men and women are equals is a capital “T” Truth – even as they still are routinely treated unequally is true – and Truth with a capital T is a rather difficult thing to say and doubly difficult for a writer. Burying the Truth at the bottom of a spoonful of saccharine, making it palatable and sneaking it past your defenses through artificial constructs, alliterations and conceits, is what writers do. This is not a bad thing and what writers do is not a bad thing (it’s glorious!) even if it’s technically dishonest.
I will steal Anne Sexton’s words to admit that I often “lie / as all who love have lied,” and I believe that dishonesty is something a good person has ready at his or her disposal. However, as writers, and more importantly as Millenials, we need to remember to occasionally cut through the bullshit and admit the unadulterated and sometimes bifurcated Truth.
John Dwyer writes over here at the Good Men Project and you can follow him on Twitter: @JohnCDwyer where he tweets about anything from technology to public health. He works for a non-profit in the D.C. area.