The following post stems from matters of feminism / gender studies, but doesn’t really offer much insight into either of those apart from the personal ramblings of a white cis dude. So, feel free to skip it, unless you want a brief insight into how my mind works.
When you’re walking with a discrete amount of people for a certain time, eventually you’ll see them split up into three main groups: some rushing up ahead, others lagging towards the back, and a smattering of others scattered around the middle.
There’s a peculiar feeling to being in the middle. You ask yourself whether you should try to reach one of the two main groups, even if that means walking at a pace that is uncomfortable to you, and losing touch with the other people; or if you should try to go back and forth, keep contact with both, but walking at a more uneven pace; or just go steady your way, catching a few people from either side, but mostly walking alone.
Lately, I’ve been feeling that way on the road to feminism and equality.
An example: a friend posted about the crowdfunding the Italian translation of two French children books, called (roughly translated) “The declaration of boy’s / girl’s rights”. These two books state, through words and illustrations, that girls have the right to do traditionally boyish things and vice versa.
Considering that Italy is centuries behind the times when it comes to gender equality and questioning gender roles, you’d think I would’ve backed the project immediately, right? Wrong. My first instinct was to be pissed. What about the non-binary kids?, I thought, Why do they have to be two exclusive, male/female books, rather than a single one for all kids? And why is no boy wearing a skirt?
And there I was, feeling in the middle. Because yes, books for kids -and parents- that challenge the gender roles are a very beautiful and important thing. On the other hand, I don’t like the idea of giving my money to publish books that leave out a whole category of people. On the other other hand, that is a bit hypocritical of me, as the main reason I even know about non-binary people is because of an acquaintance of mine that “came out” a few years ago. But then I’m just an IT guy, whereas someone writing a book on gender roles should have done their research. But then, I only got this defensive about trans* people and enbies after I got to know some of them. But then…
And so on, ad nauseam.
And that all leaves me wondering. For some people, these books are a step forward. For others, a step backwards. For me, a bit of both. Is it bad of me not to support this project because it’s not 100% what I want it to be, even if it could do some good? If I support it, am I doing wrong by my enby friends? At which point is the good in something negated by the problematic aspects? Is it even possible to quantify that?
I don’t expect these questions to be answered. I don’t think there even is an answer. But I think it’s important to keep asking the questions, in order to be a better ally, a better friend, and a better person. Even if it means to be stuck in the middle.