I am a troubled and haunted woman of late. This post will be remarkably self-indulgent, and for that I apologize, but if you make it to the end, you will see that I have a solution, of sorts.
I have not watched Cassie Jaye’s Red Pill movie yet, because I want to do so when I have clarified and understood my own thoughts better. I am pleased to see feminists pitching hissies over it, and I am even more pleased that respectable, thoughtful commentators have found it to be fair and balanced. Having said that, I am uncertain what I now think of the men’s rights movement and the direction we have taken it, collectively. I acknowledge that I have contributed to our current iteration of ‘men’s rights’, and I am troubled over a number of things, despite having contributed.
The past year has seen some fairly momentous changes for me. Momentous in terms of my rather quiet, small life. It’s all relative. It begins with martial arts. As I have described, this was an utterly transformative experience for me, and it continues to be. It is not really proper to describe what I do as a ‘martial art’. There is no sport to it. No element of honor or fairness or artistry. There is nothing noble or just or humane about it either. It is pure violence. Pure survival. It is state of nature, and thus, we can’t really train it. We can only simulate. And in order to simulate we must trust one another utterly, and then throw that out and refuse to trust anyone.
It’s quite difficult to do that.
I’ll give you an example. When we train with knives (they are training knives and won’t cut us, although we can still give or get a nice stab wound), we begin with complete trust. You can’t train with people you don’t trust, and certainly not with weapons. But once the scenario is under way, you trust no one. I understand perfectly that my instructor is not going to cause me an injury (he’ll hurt me, but won’t injure me), and I will allow him to demonstrate any technique, because I know I am safe, but once we step on the mat, I am not going to allow him to get in my bubble. No one gets behind me, and certainly not Leo. Why not? Because I don’t trust the fucker. He’s gonna kill me.
I’ve only been training for a year, so I get killed every class. Many times over, but still. I don’t hand him the kill! He has to exert himself a little. I enjoy this tremendously. I am training 5 days a week now, and often for 5 or more hours a session. My husband and eldest daughter think I am straight up, full on nuts. My two younger children resent that they don’t get to train yet. At least not hard. We have a WaveMaster in the backyard they like to beat up, and Santa is bringing paintball guns for Christmas, but they are young and in need of guidance at this stage more than training. We go on tactical walks, practicing how to avoid the zombie apocalypse – another thing I absolutely love to do!
My husband refuses to join me. He wants nothing to do with this. There is no part of his being that relishes or enjoys violence, and he does not want to learn the brutality and savagery that sets my blood on fire. He watched me train briefly, and found it disturbing. He would prefer I stop. I am not the person he knows when you hand me a blunt edged weapon. Hunting is one thing. He is fine with that. Fighting is another. He is not fine with it.
And in many ways, I understand.
I am not feminine or ‘like a woman’ when I fight.
At least, not like a common or average woman.
I am torn, knowing my husband does not like the person I am when I fight, and yet, my heart shatters at the thought of stopping. I have not become someone new. I have simply allowed the person I have always been to emerge. This is a painful and troubling time for me. It is disturbing to understand I am creating barriers and walls, separating myself from the man I have known and loved for almost all of my adult life, and yet I feel nothing but the most overwhelming grief to think of not continuing to train. I am so inept. I have so much to learn. I feel so at home in the gym. I love the sounds and smells and sight of sweat and blood and frustration and anger.
I cannot shake Jack Donovan’s idea, his distinction between being a good man, and being good at being a man. When I invert it, and ask if I am a good woman, and good at being a woman, I cannot avoid that the answer is complicated and perhaps not what I want to hear. I understand my many haters and detractors will disagree heartily, but I think I am a good woman. I live my life with honor and integrity and I am thoughtful and kind and considerate to others if they are considerate to me. Being a good woman or a good man is synonymous with being a good person.
Being good at being a man or good at being a woman is another thing altogether. I am very good at being a woman. I have mastered most of the tasks that define femininity and womanhood – I am a good mother, a good cook, I run a highly functioning household, I tend to my sick and disgruntled family, I nurture, I care, I love. Donovan describes four tactical virtues a man must have to be good at being a man: Strength, Honor, Mastery, Courage. The feminine equivalent to strength is beauty, I think. Honor for a woman is fidelity. Mastery is mastery, but over utterly different domains. Men master providing, women master cooking. Primal stuff, but mastery is mastery. Courage is courage, too. Women face their biggest battle on the childbed, and men on the battlefield. Both require courage, although please do not mistake my assertion to mean I think childbirth is equal to combat.
Nothing is equivalent to combat. Combat is combat.
Asking myself difficult questions leads to some unpleasant conclusions. Is my husband a good man? Most assuredly. Is he good at being a man? Not really. No. Measured in terms of being a good provider, he is absolutely good at being a man. Measured in terms of his ability to physically defend us, with blood and muscle and sinew and sweat? Nope. Not a chance. In his mind, that doesn’t matter. He can pay ‘meatheads’ (his words, not mine) to provide security for us. Or he can rely on me.
I don’t like that. But I am no better.
Am I good at being a woman? I undermine all my femininity by being violent and brutal and vicious. When I am training in the woods with a class, and I walk beside my main instructor, people get the fuck out of our way. We are a formidable pair, backed by even more formidable friends. I like that, but how feminine is that? It’s not. There isn’t anything particularly womanly about it. This troubles me.
When I think of the broader implications for the men’s rights movement, I wonder if we are fighting to make space for men who don’t want to be men and women who don’t want to be women and is that really in our own best interest? Would the men’s rights movement be better off fighting for space for men who want to be men, and women who want to be women? There is a lot of disdain thrown towards traditional gender roles, but is that only because women are permitted to exploit their roles grossly, while holding men to stringent requirements that harm all of us, and men in particular? Are we better off returning to a state of nature? And if life circumstances return us to a state of nature whether we like it or not, are we prepared?
I don’t know the answers to any of this, or even how to begin thinking my way through the complications. What is my duty? What are my obligations? To whom am I beholden? I reject the notion that I should do whatever makes me happiest. That is nonsense. I am not the only person who matters. I despise the fact that women especially are taught that their own needs are the only needs that count. This is source of social and personal misery that defies imagination and understanding. Women typically do not understand what will make them happiest. I do not exempt myself from that trap.
In order to understand how I think and why I might think that way, I am working with my primary martial arts instructor on a book, aimed at women’s self-defense, tentatively titled Attack Back. My goal is to understand myself, to encourage other women to ask themselves tough questions, and to equip women with at least some rudimentary self-defense skills. We have a skeleton manuscript, and we are not too far off having a full manuscript. We will then supplement it with photos. I am hoping to have this book available for January. It’s my new year’s goal. And of course, the hardest question of all must be answered: whose will should prevail? Mine or my husband’s? Can we compromise? What will that compromise look like?
As always, I am curious as to what thoughtful readers think. I know some of you are on a similar journey, and your words are most welcome.
I look forward to your responses.
Lots of love,