Lindsay’s preamble to what we are trying our best not to call “Men Week.”
I have been nothing short of jazzed about Slate’s recent series Strictly Platonic — from Juliet Lapidos’s terrific meditations (through cultural analysis and personal accounts of her own Platonic relationship with her best friend, Jeff) on the idea of male-female friendships, to the comments section in which readers fiercely debate whether such friendships can exist. As a woman with many close male friends, I have reason to think they can. Lapidos does too: so much so that she says comments to the contrary (such as this gem left by a reader: “As a straight man, I can’t imagine liking someone enough to be friends with, but not enough to have sex with”) strike her as a little absurd. And I’d imagine she’s not alone. For many people I know — and especially for people of my generation, cross-sex friendships have become so normal that it’s not until we’re asked to think about them as abstractions (or, perhaps, the subject of a multi-part web series) that we realize how historically significant and strangely radical they actually are.
Lapidos puts the idea of cross-sex friendship in a larger context: “For most of Western history, society was not built to foster non-romantic attachments between the genders. Women were relegated to domestic roles, without access to education, and most cross-sex mixing was reserved explicitly for courtship.” Of course, when women began entering the workforce and then participating in the feminist movement, the dynamic changed — though not unequivocally for the better. Mainstream media often (incorrectly) depicted the feminist movement as anti-male, which bred a lot of misconceptions about men, women and shared experience.
But I get the feeling we’re finally ready to break free from those misconceptions. Lapidos’s original piece featured the results of a survey she’d conducted:
I asked respondents to approximate what percentage of their friends had a close but platonic cross-sex relationship. The average for teens was 73 percent; for twentysomethings, 59 percent; for thirtysomethings through fiftysomethings, about half; and for sixtysomethings, 24 percent. The trend could be taken to mean that younger (unmarried, unattached) people are more likely to form cross-sex friendships in any era. But it could also reveal something about the time in which we live: Maybe it’s much easier to make cross-sex friends now than it’s ever been.
Which is to say: there’s something sort of revolutionary going on with all of this right now. Even more commonly than with women and men who actually participated in the feminist movement of the 1970s, the current generation of teens and twentysomethings are living a quiet — even blase — sort of revolution: ladies and dudes are exercising the simple freedom to form friendships around shared interests and enjoyment of each other’s company. And in doing so, we’re finding tiny pockets of equality in a world that’s still far from equal.
I never realized what all of this had to do with feminism until reading Lapidos’s series, but then it struck me: we are living in a time of tremendous opportunity. Yes, us. Me, the blogger who just stopped writing mid-paragraph to tweet about the Mad Men season finale (but really: how good was that scene between Joan + Peggy?! #sterlingsgold). You, the dude who posed for the illustrative photo to an article about “twentysomethings in the workplace” I recently read on an airplane — remember, that picture where you were breakdancing in a conference room, wearing a suit jacket and Air Force 1’s? I’m talking about all of us, the generation that gets so often maligned for our short attention spans and our shallow wells of knowledge and all the cultural debts we’ll probably leave unpaid. Because we have a truly awesome opportunity. We are now living in a time when men and women are free to talk about feminism in a way that is honest, productive, all-inclusive, no-bullshit, and totally, completely new.
Because let’s face it — feminism’s never going to bounce back from all its recent death sentences if the way we talk about it doesn’t change. So let’s embrace some basic truths. Men can be feminists. Women can be sexist. In fact, every single one of us — dude, lady, and those outside the unholy dude/lady dichotomy — has sexism internalized within us. Feminism is not anti-male. And the only way that feminism is going to evolve with our changing society is if we all get comfortable talking about it — the times it works for us, the times it fails us, the times when we’re not even sure what the hell the word means anymore. Let’s just get it all out there.
All of this is my and Mia’s way of introducing our first guest posts, which will go up later in the week. And yes, they are written by men. Specifically, men writing honestly about the experience of reading (and, in some cases, not reading) the work of female writers. There will be many more guest posts — some by men, some by women, perhaps even some by you! But above all things, we want to make Canonball a space that breaks down the hesitation and the misgivings that a lot of people have when talking about feminism. Really, it’s about time. So when writing and commenting, know that there’s no question too simple, no experience too trivial, and — to those worried about offending — know that silence borne out of a fear of offending is more offensive than (well, almost) any words.
Check back all week — and beyond! And if you’re interested in writing something for us, do drop us a line. We’re all friends here.