I grew up around the outskirts of Glasgow and up until my early to mid twenties I was unaware of feminism. Discovering feminist ideas sent guilt surging through my brain. It was like getting a new lens with which to look not only at my present way of being but all of my past too. I was horrified with the way I had thought, believed and acted previously. As far as I was educated by TV, film, music, books, family and friends, being male meant desiring sex from women. Seeing women as objects of desire rather than human beings but then I didn’t really see humanity in males either.. I was too effeminate and as such I would be called gay or bender and would be beaten up regularly. This was ALWAYS from males, the violence was a way of them reminding me that I do not fit into the masculinity box. I think the fact that I was obviously heterosexual was what made my feminine traits all the more unbearable for these males. I was breaking out of the masculinity box. That box that tells you to be a “hard man”, a “big man” and “take nae shit fae nae wan”. A man should love football and sports, enjoy porn, like drinking and “going on the pull”. Let’s not forget the main important thing, be able to fight.
The culture and expectations of Masculinity, my failing to meet the standards and being beaten regularly for this drove me to self harm and attempts at suicide on a fair few occasions when I was younger. I attempted to fit into this culture of masculinity by taking up martial arts, getting drunk and trying to have sex with as many women as I could. It didn’t work. I just didn’t seem wired correctly to be a “man”. I hated football, cared very little for pin up models and always seemed to feel more at ease hanging around women than men. My attempts to fit in with this idea of masculinity led to horrific behaviour resulting in me losing many of my friends. At times I was drunken and lecherous with little knowledge of how behaving like this could really hurt and offend people.
It wasn’t until I left my town and came to the big city that I felt more able to be myself. Having left all of my friends, and a horrible part of myself behind I began to dress more like I wanted to. I would apply black lipstick, nail polish and eye liner over a background of white face powder and go out to the Rat Trap or Cat House Nightclubs in the city. While I would occasionally be called names I was never beaten or hurt for looking this way where I lived in the city. It was one night before going out dancing that I was sitting chatting with some friends of mine who were telling me that they hated going out dancing because of the way men were with them. I told them I simply did not see it but wanted to understand. This led to a bet taking place, a few glasses of wine later it was accepted. The bet. I was to be dressed up as a woman for the evening. As a goth , and looking quite effeminate, this was not too difficult at the time. Dressed in a nice short black dress with black tights and socks under a bra to give the illusion of breasts we headed out. We made it as far as the local petrol station at about 1am in the morning where I was confronted by drunken lecherous guys. I was whistled at and had horrible comments made towards me. The way they would stare at us was so predatory, it was terrifying. I couldn’t handle actually going into town and said I wanted to go home. The point was made. I understood, somewhat, what they were saying earlier. The difference being of course that they had to deal with this on a day to day basis all of their lives. This was the beginning of my path towards feminism.
I met several feminists after that who would tell me I could not be a feminist because I was a man. I couldn’t understand or know what it was like to put up with what they deal with all the time. That it was a movement for women and that males should just listen and act upon what they were told. When I reached university this all changed. There I met some brilliant people who had a major impact on my life. There I discovered Emma Goldman’s biography and I poured over both volumes greedily and quickly. This really set my politics in the direction not only of syndicalism and anarchism but feminism also.
I know my experience is far from unique in Glasgow. This Masculinity Box is killing us. I knew many females who felt the effect and had suffered at the hands of male physical/psychological abuse. My first ever next door neighbour used to beat his wife until she fled to a women’s safety shelter. This has been a part of my life for a very long time, this is why I felt the need to show feminist documentary films at the Free Hetherington over a month ago, hold talks and write these articles. The issue has been getting worse and worse year on year. Increases in rape, sexual abuse, physical and psychological violence etc. Not to mention the pornification of mainstream media, which is imprinting these horrific images and ideas of women as sexual objects only and men as these ripped, strong, aggressive beings. I feel that because of this we must speak up on these issues and push them to the forefront of the debate. The revolution was begun many decades ago for feminism, the time is coming when we must finish what we have started.