Friday, December 23, 2016

Smash the “Smash the Patriarchy!”

Meg Myers before
Meg Myers, a singer-songwriter whose work I admire, recently got a pixie cut. I prefer to call it “a pixie cut,” because it sounds better than “shaved her head, and letting it grow back,” which is what her Twitter and Facebook photos resemble. I don’t like it; her clavicle-length black locks have loomed large in her public image, and the pixie cut doesn’t frame her face the same way. The formerly savage artist looks tamed.

So, okay, it’s not for me. But I’d no sooner thought that than I began second-guessing myself. Am I imposing some male heteronormative colonial blah-blah on a woman I’ve never met, never gotten closer to that performing on a stage sixty feet away? Am I trying to turn a woman, whom I admire partly for her independence and chutzpah, into a vessel for my expectations of feminine modeling and docility? How dare I standardize her?

These thoughts plagued me, off and on, for two days. (Okay, more off than on:I have a job.) Y’know, the standard “male feminist” self-doubt from a heterosexual man who loves women, while also respecting them as humans. Us honky dude progressives regularly engage in self-censorship that makes citizens of communist regimes look easygoing by comparison, constantly policing our every thought. I chased myself around the house several times before I realized: it doesn’t matter.

Literally, my opinions on a celebrity’s haircut don’t matter. My taste in women’s hair only matter to those who seek my input. Meg Myers has a boyfriend, a tour manager, and a press agent through her record label, who all have valid input regarding her image. If they believe shaving her head won’t harm ticket sales, will move albums, and looks good in bed, their opinions matter. Me, I only follow her for her voice.

Some people certainly should do better shutting their yaps. When she posted her first full-face photo with her cropped hair on Facebook, some meathead commmented: “Your hair is fucking horrible”. This blunt, vulgar imposition crosses a line by demanding that she take his opinion as seriously as her professional contacts and family. Plus, cussing out a celebrity in public is bush-league Mark David Chapman behavior. It’s a dick move, venturing perilously into abusive boyfriend territory.

Meg Myers after
Myers handled it beautifully, posting back: “Thank you I really appreciate that. You're a really kind person [heart emoji]”. Her response made me laugh, defanging the harshness of that numbskull’s comment. This solidified in my brain that fans can have taste-based opinions. My view of her hair, like my view of her music, is my own. Not everybody likes her music (she’s never cracked the Hot 100), and not everybody will like her hair. So?

Men should certainly desire to help, advance, and respect women. We’ve enjoyed standing in society for so long, we have the unique ability to raise others up, and should take the opportunity whenever it arises. That should be the ideal of male feminism, that we use the privileges society accords men to boost women. Yet in today’s atmosphere of social media outrage, Jezebel.com screeds, and full-time professional offense-takers, male feminism has become about impotent self-flagellation.

If I second-guess something as fundamental as my taste standards, how can I function as a creative individual? My tastes led me to Myers, long before I recognized her face, and I never questioned that. Yet my desire to be supportive leads me to negate my own opinions. It would be unsupportive to tell a celebrity “Your hair is fucking horrible.” It is not unsupportive to think, quietly to myself, “I don’t care for it.”

Who benefits from such attitudes? Certainly not me, since it started a cascade of self-doubt and second-guessing myself. Men who support women internalize the attitudes of social media outrage, get reduced to quivering jellies of indecision, paralyzed by their self-criticism. Men who don’t support women dismiss that outrage as typical feminist bitchiness, and continue behaving as before. Those men who most need the message, are least likely to hear it. And the cycle continues unabated.

So that’s the lesson Meg Myers taught me: dogmatic “-ism” thinking hamstrings those who really should act. It stops people from talking to those with whom they disagree. And, paradoxically, believing something strongly and giving voice to that opinion, probably entrenches anyone who believes the opposite. As our media has become more “social,” we’ve stopped communicating with diverse groups. Maybe it’s better if, rather than embracing an established  “-ism,” we simply sit down to conversation.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. There's a difference between having opinions and assuming others should take them into consideration.

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