& the Social Media Fishbowl
(To My Generation, Part III)
Art & Words by Fanitsa Petrou
Plus you are probably a website designer who re-reads the Harry Potter novels every year (and secretly believes that he is a Hufflepuff), not to mention you still sleep in your Star Wars PJs, spooning with your rescue French Bulldog, for godsakes! How tough do you think we think you are, by looking at your “mean” old beard?
Being born in the late sixties, and facing the big five-O coming your way, like an omen the size of a ship (or possibly a planet), is quite an eye-opener. It gives you clarity and perspective, but at the same time, renders you unable to have any kind of patience with certain things. Or with certain types of millennials, who you might as well admit it, annoy the hell out of you. (Cause you are finally old enough to have gained the right to! And it feels damn good too!) Yes, yes our generation apparently did screw up the world, and then they inherited it, but guess what millennials? The generation that came before us, screwed up OUR world and then we inherited it. And then got annoyed with us on top of that. And there is no doubt in my mind, in a couple of decades you will feel equally annoyed with the generation that comes after you. And given that you will undoubtedly going to raise it with your favorite “hey, it’ s your choice”approach, you better brace themselves: it’ s gonna get ugly! That’ s just the way it goes baby. It’ s the damn circle of life. “Every generation”(like the oldie but goodie song - from the eighties no less - goes) “blames the one before” and is annoyed with that one that comes after it… because “We all talk a different language / Talking in defence”. That’ s right!
So yes, I do feel strongly about the specific group of young people who use activism as a way to promote themselves, who are more concerned with appearing to care about issues, than actually doing anything substantial about them. Who use studies as a decoy tactic that will prolong their childhood indefinitely, and would go for a second degree (and a third and a fourth if they must) not because they are so gifted academically, but in order to postpone the time when they’ ll have to finally became adults,taking responsibility for their own life. Who are blissfully ignorant of their own human limitations and just feel “special”and “creative”even if there is no indication whatsoever that they are indeed that, and even if they are not doing anything to justify such a characterisation. (Boy I must be ageing!!! This rightful indignation business feels really REALLY good all of a sudden!)Plus the beards; The faux artistic interests; The usually yellow or green hipster T-shirts with the crude, child-like drawings (undoubtedly designed by other “designer” millennials); The waxed handlebar moustaches; The beards; The way too short bangs on girls, that look like they were cut by a mental patient using a letter opener; The sexual “experimentation” and the endless, random hook-upswith totally random people, or often with their close friends which apparently mean “nothing”; The “sexual fluidity” (I mean you are practically in your thirties! Pick a side already!);The glasses that are worn not in order to improve one’ s eye-sight, but “ironically”. (What next? Ironical hearing devices?); the pointless apps; And the beards. (Did I mention the beards?) The fucking“I-have-just-invented-the-telegram-machine / I-have-just-enlisted-in-Isis” long beards! I mean yes, you are a man. You can grow facial hair. We get it. We are impressed. But ENOUGH! Buy a razor. A pair of scissors. A comp. A shampoo. Something! Trim the damn thing. Nobody wants to see what you’ ve eaten yesterday still lingering there. Plus you are probably a website designer who re-reads the Harry Potter novels every year (and secretly believes that he must be a Hufflepuff), not to mention you still sleep in your Star Wars PJs, spooning with your rescue French Bulldog, for godsakes! How tough do you think we think you are, by looking at your “mean” ol’ beard?
Not to mention that at some point you will have to realise that long, bushy, wild, unkept beards, have a very bad rep, as they have through the centuries been attached to misogyny, in all its wonderful, disgusting forms. They were for example favoured by the Old Testament prophets who used to get a serious kick out of uttering angry aphorisms about female “vices”; or by creepy, polygamous leaders of cults; loner white supremacists who kill rodents for lunch, and live in compounds with other heavily armed - and heavily bearded guys - in the middle of forests, chopping wood, muttering incoherently about those crazy feminists who are taking over the world, and dreaming of someday overthrowing the government and showing them what they deserve; Moslem fundamentalists; Amish priests; Greek Orthodox priests; Jewish Orthodox priests; and generally speaking, women-hating priests, women-hating monks and women-hating hermits of any religion. (Not to mention the fictional hordes of rapists in Game of Thrones…) All of them seriously and unhealthily obsessed with a woman’ s “morals”. Was that what you are going for? Is that REALLY the message you are trying to send to women: not that you hope they’ ll think you are cool, and hopefully will want to hook up with you, but that they should be ashamed for ever thinking about it? Could it be that you may need to rethink the whole thing I wonder?
I kid the millennials of course,who are lovely (not counting the far too long beards and the far too short bangs obviously). We probably were worse at their age, what do I know? (Those ra-ra skirts alone, should be enough to condemn us as a generation of questionable intelligence…) And they were admittedly dealt a bad hand: first they were spoiled by our generation, and made to believe that every single one of them deserves the Sun, the Moon, and all the stars above, and then thrown into the dark pit of a financial crisis. It can’t be easy…(If it’s one thing we can say about the generation that preceded us, is that it at least made sure to prepare us for failure and disappointment, so we have that working for us…) Plus this is a far more complicated and much less innocent time to be young, and in fact we are all (young, middle-aged, or old) daily loosing our grip on reality, anyway. We are daily being seduced for example, by the idea that we have the freedom to have and express opinions about the things that matter to us, just because we have an access to social media, which is what I call the “millennial way of thinking”(which by the way has nothing to do with one’s age!) Before the Internet andsmartphones’ profound takeover of society, unless you were a columnist, an author, a newsperson, a politician, an academic, a scientist of some kind, you just had no way of publicly expressing opinions about love, politics, life on Mars, the environment, sexuality, God, or the universe at large.Through social media, everyday people (of all ages) were granted the right to weight in, to opinionize about serious political issues, the best way to make a soufflé, or a bookcase out of wooden cases, Beyoncé’s pregnancy, Kim Kardashian’s contouring techniques, the refugee problem, feminism, or sex. And they sure love it!
But seeing life through the lens of social media, is a tricky business, and it offers an altered perception of reality – and our selves. Watching a two-minute meme about dolphins, or reading three lines on a facebook post about the war in Syria, does not mean you are now an expert on the matter. And being “liked” for your posts, is not being actually LIKED, right? Any more than posing like a star actually makes you one… And more to the point, being given a place to express opinions about things, does not automatically mean you were allowed to form them all on your own in the first place… That is because social media are part of the modern echo chamber that was created in the mid 00s (popular culture and pornography being the others), that contains in its hallow center preordained ideas we think are ours, which we end up amplifying by relentless repetition shouting them to the world and having them return back to us, cheating us into believing they are ours.A vicious circle that perpetuates the phenomenon, and keeps us safely inside the chamber and our self-deceit.
The opinions we get from other sources (like books and movies, and travelling and actual life experiences, etc) have a slow burning effect, as we are given the time to think properly about the info we receive, to process it, to discard it, or allow it to influence us in a lasting manner. But in the instant gratification / short-attention-span world of social media, ideas are not given the time to be seen from all sides.Not to mention they are created with that in mind! In the “millennial world” we all (regardless of our age)live our life inside the social media fishbowl, being watched, while watching others, projecting a self we think will be perceived by other “watchers” as “watchable”, as worthy of attention – that old powerful drug. We are “programmed” to like certain things, that will give us “Likes” back… The lines become blurred, and the opinions we perceive to be ours, and which we keep repeating to each other in posts and tweets and whatever, do not actually represent the true core of our self. If these opinions seem to be progressive for example, they don’t necessarily represent an actual individual or social evolution,just the need to appear to be that. The illusion is shuttered and the real self is revealed, whenever we are faced with real controversial issues.
One fine example, is the news of transgender athletes competing in women’s sports, even when they are not taking hormone blockers which results in them dominating and breaking women’s records. The problem is worse when it comes to violence sports like boxing, wrestling and Martial Arts, with trans athletes basically ending up literally hitting the crap out of women, because the reality is, no matter whether or not a trans individual identifies psychologically speaking as a woman, she stills has the muscles, and the testosterone-fueled physical strength and aggression of a male athlete. People are tip-toeing around the fact, scared that if they say anything about it, they will be seen as transphobic. The attention is of course driven away from the reality of women athletes being treated unfairly,because whenever this side of the matter is pointed out, then you are seen by female commentators as a "terf" and a “bad feminist who hates trans women”,and you are being smugly reminded by male commentators that women are “obviously not as worthy as men”,because they are not as strong as them, as in “even a guy in make up can run faster / hit harder than a woman, and what more proof do you need of a man’s supremacy?”etc. etc. Physical strength being the supreme measure of what makes you a worthy human being and the absolute measure of all things, and all that. An argument that was also VERY popular with prehistoric cavemen and biblical prophets, not to mention present-day Moslem fundamentalists and a whollot of American Republicans, let us not forget!) A woman's body can create actual human beings, not to mention produce blood that is the equivalent of the blood of 52 men in her lifetime (52!!) but hey, she can't hit as hard and violently as a guy so it must mean her body is not first rate material...
The same narrative is used to claim that “cis” women are unfairly “privileged” in relation to trans women, because they have vaginas,which is apparently offensive as a reality, and seen as a threat to the rights of transgender individuals!So much so, that the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group in the United States, has suggested that doctors use the term “front hole” instead of“vagina”, while the British Medical Association has suggested the term“pregnant people” as an alternative to “pregnant women” so that transgender women are not “victimised” and “offended” by the biological realities of women...Of course, any woman who dares to point out the absurdity of all that, is again seen as a "terf" and a bad feminist and a racist who fails to see transgender women as “real” women. What THEY fail to understand, is that discrimination and violence against trans individuals is not the result of women having vaginas (and calling them that), or the ability to be pregnant, and it has everything to do with men and Patriarchy. Like in the case of “cis” women, the violence trans women experience, is NOT done by anyone who has a uterus or a vagina (or pardon me, “front hole”), but by men!They should be reminded that this sort of oppression, persecution, discrimination and violence have always been gender basedand is not different from what “cis” women (to use the horrible term) have been experiencing for thousands of years. So much so, that it is sadly part of the deal of being a female! (Welcome to the club! Being subject to discrimination, violence, injustice and being paid less than men, is sadly what makes you a woman in our societies, more than anything else… Not wearing make up and high heels. And yes, making babies and having periods is what makes a woman in terms of biology. And it is not disputable...)
The fact that women – the half of the Earth’ s population - are having even the language that refers to their biology, to their very nature, being altered in order to make the 0.3% of men who psychologically speaking, identify as women feel more “comfortable”,is ironically a testimony to the undeniable power of Patriarchy! Because asking women to conform to this, is actually very "male" of them... (though the irony is I bet lost on them...)Not to mention the fact that all men, including the ones who feel like they are women, would rather not face the realities of Patriarchy, yet have absolutely no difficulty in branding women as “bigoted” for the mere fact that they dare to voice their concerns. Additionally, the fact that women who have (with good reason!) learned to live with the constant possibility of male violence for the entirety of their lives, are not even allowed to say they might feel “uncomfortable”themselves with the idea of sharing a bathroom with any guy for example not because he is a transgender individual, but because he may only be pretending to be one – and are continually being asked to adjust, so that men of any persuasion are made to feel comfortable, is kind of symbolic actually…
Furthermore, the fact that right-wingers, especially in the US, are using the “public restroom access” issue as a way to indeed brand transgender people as unwanted, has nothing to do with the real concerns of women who do NOT identify with their Right, conservative transphobic agenda, but still consider it their right to not continually become smaller and less significant, losing their own rights and space (in literal and symbolic terms) in their societies, having even their biology being seen as offensive, in order to make anyone feel more comfortable. Why is it that people are not nearly as mad with heterosexual men, why are they not asking them to adjust,to give up part of their own gendered-assigned public spaces to transgender people, to change their own way of thinking, or indeed to refrain from using violence against them?Why is it that they are not seen as “bigoted” and racists for the fact that they cannot even stop themselves from bullying and using violence when in the vicinity of a trans individual,and a woman merely saying she is not 100% comfortable in having any guy pretending to be a trans woman anywhere near her underage daughter’ s bathroom, is seen as that?Also, how come female athletes are seen as bigots and cowards because they dare to speak about being treated unfairly? And how come female journalists are being branded as haters and shamers when they report actual cases of men pretending to be transgenders in order to rape women, girls and boys? And how does that make them transphobic?!! Why is it always so easy to direct our anger towards the women who merely report an injustice or a gender- based crime, than the men who actually commit it?
The bottom line is, it is not women, who need to acknowledge trans individuals as “real” women, it is men! Feminists have nothing against trans individuals who respect others! In fact they have always been their allies and they are fighting the same battle as them - and have been fighting it for longer and with less support. Transgender individuals, have the same right as any of us to pursue self-determination and live the life they have chosen with dignity, and safety, and without violence and discrimination. But this has nothing to do with women, their vaginas, their pregnancies, their female nature and the language that refers to it, or indeed their public restrooms.It however has everything to do with men finally, (FINALLY!!) understanding that they need to adjust, evolve, become less violent and more inclusive.
The point is, in theory we seem to be sexually free and “cool” with a whollot of issues, and are a little too careful not to deviate too far from the so-called “progressive” path, and therefore be called a “shamer”, but when it comes right down to it, when asked to deal with real controversy, the old bias, the old sexism, the old misogyny tend to rear their ugly heads.An example of that, is also the case of an overweight woman (the plus size model Tess Holliday) who said that she would stop using Uber taxis after being fat-shamed by a Uber driver, because she considered that he had no right to comment on her size, or offer unsolicited advice on her health, she was met with ridicule and downright outrage on social media. The outrage was of course aimed not at the guy who considered it his right to comment on her appearance, but at her, for daring to exist in this world while being a fat woman, and then taking offense when she was basically reminded that she had no right to. Dozens, hundreds, of angry comments were written in a disturbingly contemptuous and dismissive language, all about how disgusting she looks, and how she got what she deserved, and how she needs to diet if she wants to be treated like a human being, or be healthy (that fact that she assured them that she IS in fact perfectly healthy makes no difference to them) by the same people who I’m sure loooove posting on social media about “feminism”, and “diversity,” and ‘tolerance” and “love”, and “inclusion”, and “beauty”that “comes from within”, and all that crab. When it comes right down to it, the generic platitudes and the sugary quotes which are bought at social media interactions, Self-Help seminars or church pews, in order to make us feel “spiritual”and “special”,just don’t match that old, prejudiced, angry, sexist, anything-but-progressive self that is hidden underneath them, apparently…
The truth is, there is an undeniable urgency to appear to be “cool” about all matters pertaining to sex and gender roles in particular, to the point that we seemed to have lost all sense of measure, reality or common sense.On the surface, we are a little too concerned about appearing open-minded, lest we are branded as “shamers”, even if this hides a secret misogyny or indeed victimises women. This is a fairly new trend actually. If you are a person of my generation, you remember the time back when expressing an unpopular opinion, was not seen as “shaming”.And more to the point, when you could tell the difference between having an opinion and actual fucking facts!Plus you knew about “old-fashioned” things like boundaries, and human decency, and dignity and the responsibility to at least attempt to shelter the next generation from your own shit, instead of using it to proof how open-minded you are, scarring it for life in the process…
Back when we knew better than address EVERY issue with an "entirely up to them" attitude: like in the case of a mother “choosing” to breast-feed her kid until its tenth year for example, and being seen by commentators on social media as the same as “any of us drinking cow milk, and what is wrong with that”?And besides, that’s “Ok, if SHE feels it’s OK”(instead of shouting to her: “WHAT ABOUT THE KID who will have her mom breastfeeding her, at middle school for Godsakes”???); A young woman asking people for relationship advice because her boyfriend wants to make a sex tape using his friend as a cameraman, and being told by a bunch of people “hey, it’s your choice!”(instead of, you know: “dump his ass! And get a self-esteem while you are at it, so that next time it happens, you won’t be going to strangers for advice, and you will know what to do, which is: DUMP HIS ASS!”);Pedophiles who are in prison (in some Scandinavian country, I forget which one, and frankly I don’t have the stomach to Google it…) being given life-like sex dolls in the shape of adorably beautiful children, (with pigtails and cute floral dresses and rosy cheeks), so that they can use them sexually, and people instead of seeing this as creepy and sick on a number of levels, and feeling outraged that the genius who thought of that is accommodating and feeding the pedophiles’ perversions, they consider it to be “cool”and a “good idea” since “it keeps them from going after children”(a moot point, since they are in prison at the time after all, plus where is the guarantee they won’t go after real children as soon as they are out?) and “fair for them, since other prisoners are getting conjugal visits anyway, why should they not be sexually active too?” (and you need to lie down in a darkened room for hours as soon as you read it…); Prostitution and pornography being seen as “empowering”,and “feministic” choices for women (Andrea Dworkinwhere, Oh where are you now that we need you the most?!); A girl (one of the many) “offering” her virginity for sale to the pervert who will be the highest bidder and being told that “it’s cool”and being congratulated on social media by a bunch of people because she gets to have a “control”(and the screaming in your head becomes audible miles away…); a father taking baths with his five year old daughter, and of course taking photos of the event, and posting them on Istagram, and people congratulating him for not being a prude and being “natural” and all that; Kids being “allowed” not to go to school because they just don’t “like” it; Rape being seen as “entertainment” in pop culture, and sadism and torture actually being romanticizedby trashy literature and mainstream movies; “Human skin” leather jackets (made out of actual human skin!!!) being offered for sale, and people reacting in a nonchalant “Hey, it’s a choice for some”, kind of manner! (and your brain explodes as you are reading it!) talking in a completely nonchalant manner about where exactly in London they saw a shop dedicated exclusively to such "goods"; A baby being diagnosed with scurvy (SCURVY! The disease of pirates and old timey sailors…) on account of an almond-milk only diet (who knew that babies need nutrients and things, right?) and again people reacting in a “well it’s the parent’s choice”kind of manner!; Dolls (as in toys for little girls) being dressed in “bondage chic”, and similarly, baby clothes designed in black latex and fishnet tights and both being seen as “fun” and a "cool" parent’ s choice, leaving you wondering: “HAS THE WORLD GONE COMPLETELY MAD, OR IS IT JUST YOU? And do you HAVE to be born after the seventies in order to be unable to see that this is just a lot of crap?!!! Can we just see the point of each story, and stop being so damn politically correct all the time?
It is quite obvious that our need to appear “progressive”, unprejudiced and very, very sexual, keeps us from pausing and thinking about things before we jump into conclusions. All of the above are actual facts which have recently reached my social media newsfeeds by the way, and which were all mostly addressed in the usual “millennial” (a term I use here to describe a trend not a generation mind you) nonchalant “hey, that’s cool, if that’s what you choose to do”kind of attitude, which prompts the question: Is EVERYTHING permissible, if it makes us feel like we are open-minded and generous in our granting of our approval? Can we just acknowledge, that certain things are just sick, creepy beyond words, destructive, dangerous, abusive, silly, or just a really, REALLY bad idea? And can we allow our self to fucking say that, instead of always being afraid that we won’t be seen as progressive if we do? And can we finally see that our progressiveness is not that real anyway?
Interestingly enough, people were NOT that cool with the news of the village Umoja inKenya, which was founded in 1990, by 15 women who were raped by British soldiers, and which is still to this day inhabited exclusively by growing numbers of women who have suffered sexual and domestic violence, and by girls trying to escape from child marriages and female genital mutilation. Because of that, they decided to not allow any men to live anywhere near them and they live peacefully and with safety, taking care of each other and themselves. This particular piece of news, was like I said, not met with the usual, nonchalant “Hey, if that’s what they want to do, it’s their choice”commentary. People were all of a sudden taking a stance, taking it personally even, and actually voicing an opinion - as they have not done when it came to the human skin jacket guy, the underage girl selling herself off on the Internet, the bondage-chic baby clothes, the little creep who wants to have his friend film his girlfriend having sex, or indeed the children / sex toys! THIS offends them! (Actually, if it’s one case when the phrase “Hey, it’s THEIR choice”is appropriate it’s this one, if you ask me!!!)People were getting angry at any one who "liked" this news post, calling them "man-haters"and finding this to be really “offensive”,and “unfair”to the men (poor, poor rapists, and domestic abusers, having to live without victims!! What will become of them?) and were expressing their concern about these women who thought they must live very“boring”lives without men (because being abused, forced to marry at nine, or having your genitals being cut off, is such fun…)They were apparently not offended by the fact that these women and girls were living for God knows how long in constant fear, and their life reached such an extreme point of pain and desperation, that this was the only way they could get to feel safe, and they were offended by the "segregation"and how “unnatural”and “unfair”it was for men! (Because we can’t have men’s right to use violence against women be affected, right?) I have the feeling (in fact the certainty) that should the news of a community of lesbian women reach their social media newsfeed, the same people would shower it with “Likes” and a little too eager “Good for them”comments, and jump to express their joy, NOT necessarily because they are not homophobic (as in they wouldn't mind if their daughter was lesbian), but because it is very, very cool to be seen as not being one. But the notion of heterosexual (!) women living by choice self-sufficient, independent and