This was partially inspired by Hannah Gadsby’s latest “comedy” special.
Where is my place in all of this? When I was brought up, I was taught that the merit of my position was earned purely through my existence; I owed nobody anything and I could live untethered and free to burn my own trail. I feel that is the upbringing of almost all straight white men in the western world, this idea of a free cheque and an unbridled inheritance to the world, whether explicitly or implicitly.
I grew up reading books, watching movies, and listening to music created by a predominately white-male demographic and my romantic dreams began to emerge. This was my place: amongst the artistic pantheon of humanity. I would strive to join their ranks, following Frost or Cummings or Kubrick or Hitchcock, in the grand line of artistic excellence. Well, male artistic excellence, but in my western culture the addendum has been fairly redundant.
Everywhere I looked I saw statuesque figures of men looking down at me, beckoning out for me to take their hand and form my own man-shaped legacy in an artistic sphere. To an ignorant adolescent that seemed like a godsend. They wrote like magic and made my heart thump and my mind wander and I wanted to do the same.
Yeats has always been one of my favourite poets. I used to identify with his pathetic, insecure romanticisms and his seemingly endless heartbreak. I felt empowered by that; that these things I saw as character flaws could become tools in a veritable utility belt of creative potential.
Unfortunately, Yeats and the ideas that he has presented to me in the past have begun to feel further and further dated when it comes to my updated understanding of the harmful attitudes of masculinity. The narrative of the majority of Yeats’ life is told through a very sympathetic lens of a man hopelessly in love with his muse, Maud Gonne, who consistently refused his advances. His endless marriage proposals rejected by her, as well as her young daughter who Yeats sought to exert his stature in the cultural landscape over. He felt entitled by his abilities and his widespread acclaim to the romance of the only people that would not submit to him.
Now, I’m not ignorant to historical relativism, and I still see Yeats as a very valuable artistic influence. But I’ve learnt that I cannot hide my ambitions behind the silhouettes of misogynistic men. Those character flaws that I found in him should not have been left in his mould. The world must change and the idea that you can chase women and assault them with endless proposals and pleas because you can’t take “no” for an answer is disgusting.
But here I return to my initial enquiry: where is my place in all of this? Those male figures that I was raised to value biblically, historically, and throughout literature, have grown decrepit and faulty in any modern light as the cracks of traditional masculinity have been expanded into ravines that are very difficult to avoid. My romantic fantasies of sitting around in circles, such as the Inklings or the Beat writers, have deteriorated by my increasing awareness of the inherent faults in each of these. That being representation and platform.
I no longer strive for a seat in this neo-Olympic circle of white powerful men, I want to lend my hand to the process of its final deconstruction. Perhaps that is why I decided to start this blog with my sister, Chloe. Because I felt that my voice was not needed in the traditional solo-artistic field and would be better served as a partner to a voice that I loved and cared about with all of my heart, that I knew would not get as much attention as me, purely through a disregarding of her talents based on attributes of womanhood and motherhood.
I know that my sister is more than a mommy blogger, a slave to the life that she’s sacrificed so much for. And when she does “mommy blog,” she does it better than almost anyone I’ve ever seen. Yet young mothers are constantly robbed of any identity of their own, recognised only for their supporting roles in a story that is not their own. Chloe is one of the strongest people I know and the way she produces her writing while fighting battles that I could not even comprehend facing is inspirational. And there it is, she is my inspiration.
I do not seek to mirror her or emulate her beliefs or methodologies, but the power that I know she wields in her well-worn soul has pushed me into being the man and the artist that I am today. This, I believe, has been much better than any traditional male role model. She has shown me, simply through perseverance, that my voice is best-suited in the propulsion of the voices of others. The unheard and the muted. The stereotyped and the delegitimized.
A lot of my poems and pieces often still slip into the ideas of male entitlement or of an alienated masculinity or traditional romance, but I hope that still, in these attempts, I can shed light on those endless ravines so that some may view down those chasms and see the incredible and powerful perspectives of those that have been brushed over in our goals of Eurocentric heteronormativity.
Ultimately, I’ve discovered that as a white man with a voice, I can no longer bare to live for me and me alone. The livelihood of those less privileged than me deserve just as much, perhaps even more of a platform than I do, and my one hope is that I can shift any attitudes towards that more compassionate goal. I would ask that any fellow straight white men who may be reading this to please support our brothers and sisters (or others) who have not been granted such a secure and enfranchised position in the world around us, and to not act in defence to any criticisms or challenges. We must grow, and it is up to us to ensure that the violence and hatred spread by those among our ranks becomes isolated and finally, extinguished entirely.
This world is changing, but the answers to the confused masculinity dilemma are in the people all around us, including the women and the non-gender-conforming. I have found my inspiration, my voice, and I know you can find yours too.