lxxvii

I’ve found reading about misogyny very moving, and while the women writers I’ve read present interesting/depressing facts and explain in well-judged detail their own experiences and the experiences of others, it’s the men who’ve written about it who have ultimately made me think about my own misogyny.

Inadvertent or not, this is a fairly sexist position to begin examining my own sexism. But perhaps unavoidably, given that the voices of women prompt my awareness and my dismay, while the reported journeys of other men give me patterns to follow or examples to learn from.

What I’ve come clearly to, though, is that I am not an activist. I am interested. But that’s not the same thing. What I want to do is explore, experience and then express. I’m more prompted to try to talk to others, to try to prompt others (men, really) to explore and experience themselves. Is that activism?

I see activism as being compelled to step out and speak out, not to think about these issues and tease them apart in writing. Perhaps it’s a different kind of activism, but the word does suggest a way of addressing a problem with action, with direct movement. As much as I respect the Occupy movement’s aspirations, I am not about to join them.

Is this a problem? It certainly means I feel less stable in arguing online or anywhere about “What should change” or “How things should change”. But maybe that’s why Occupy doesn’t have clearly stated goals or demands – it is expressing disgust, dismay and dissatisfaction. It’s not suggesting a particular solution, just pointing out the problem.

Pointing out the problem is something I’m interested in, as a start. But the exploring and expressing of it is what drives me. I’m more fascinated in the “Why” and the “What” of a problem than exactly how society can respond. And when I am interested in what can be done, I’m more connected to the personal level of response.

I do feel that there is something more powerful in the personal response than the social. Were we to educate every child to think in a broad and self-aware fashion, I believe there would be more change – and certainly more stable and lasting change – than if society were to impress upon people a requirement or incentive for such thinking.

The personal is actually harder, because it involves us all. It involves you. It asks you to think, to really go through something that can be intense, damaging even if you don’t have the support to hand. And support is needed, because the personal can often go in opposition to society, to the way in which you are imprinted or influenced.

What I want to write are studies, in a way, of consequences and choices. I’m interested in how you can be a man today without either stepping over women or minorities, yet without compromising what makes you your self or becoming a hang-wringing self-denier or an ever-deferential sop to people’s feelings of need.

I’ve fiction and non-fiction in mind, and my mother in law has just bought me a beautiful notebook which I’ve been physically afraid of starting to write in for the exact reason that I love it – it’s so beautiful, such quality, that it needs to be treated with respect and only written in when I have something worthy to say.

Classic diversion, classic avoidance, classic fear of failure. Failure to express properly or ably, given that I’ve everything already rattling about inside. Tonight I’m going to crack it open and put the first words on those blank pages. I see it being my Quest journal, somewhere I don’t put ideas for stories but the reasons I’m having those ideas.

The novel could benefit from this, certainly. I’ve struck a slight disinterest with it, having completed the first draft of one section (of three) but the first section still half-done and the third only just begun but wavering and in need of some real thought. I made time for this post when I probably didn’t have it at work, but I’m already glad.

I want to strive for honesty in my writing, but this journal has been often a confessional and an exposure of the past or my worries now, whereas I can see this gorgeous leatherbound physical journal becoming my touchstone, my manifesto perhaps, which will shape all of the writing I do in my future.

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About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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