I walked past an older lady while I was wearing my Wonder Woman t-shirt. She laughed and called after me saying, “Oh Wonder Woman, you look so different.” Pick another evening and I’m walking into a restaurant wearing the same shirt and an old woman looks at me in dismay and says, “That’s weird.” I’m not sure what that means. I do know what I look like and a large bearded man is typically not the prime candidate to be sporting any Wonder Woman memorabilia.
A large part of my sense of humor for years has been my embrace of what would typically seen as feminine interests. It’s funny to say that I cry or that I’m rocking out to Beyonce or watching A Walk to Remember because I love Mandy Moore. It’s a bit of a schtick that I have become more and more aware of, purposefully creating these juxtapositions. Sure I like watching boxing, but I also have been dabbling with watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix.
The jokes are never meant to be rude or even that self-deprecating. I don’t look down on any of these things that are so commonly associate with women and I am very secure in the fact that I genuinely appreciate these things of their own merits. But it is beginning to dawn on me that the humor in these situations stems from a larger systematic problem. I shouldn’t have to be “secure in my masculinity” to like a story or show with a female lead. I shouldn’t have to be “secure in my masculinity” to enjoy pop music. Just because a woman creates an art, does not make it somehow lesser and novel for a man to enjoy these things.
But that’s where the humor is most of the time. Men who embrace female roles or feminine interests are sitcom fodder. I know this card and play it all the time. I joke about how I openly wept during “The Fault in Our Stars” along with the theater full of 15 year old girls. I laugh about knowing all the words to “Hips Don’t Lie.” But if I were to try to explain why that should be funny to anyone, the only answer is “because that sort of thing is for girls and I’m a man.” And quite frankly there’s nothing funny about that line of thinking.
When I was listening to N’SYNC and Backstreet Boys when I was younger, I was not thinking “this is for girls.” When I became obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I was eight, I never thought “this is for girls.” But when I retell these sorts of things, there is always a hint of that. A little bit of “haha Chase likes a girl thing.” Even though I continue to embrace female artists and athletes and characters, I feel like there’s this weird undertone to it.
Whenever I talk about the WNBA it almost sounds like a brag. Like I’m trying to buy some sort of feminist bonus points. Like “Look at me, I respect female athletes, aren’t I progressive?” But that’s a large problem that I see with male feminists. We have no sense of subtlety. Its like we’re waving this big banner that says “I respect women, aren’t I cool?!” One of the biggest things that bothers me is the guy that’s like “I’m a feminist and I’ll beat you up, ’cause I’m still a man.” But I tend to do a very similar thing, but with humor: “I love Taylor Swift, but it’s funny because I’m a guy.”
There’s little contradictions all the time in my line of thinking. I talk about wanting to be a stay-at-home dad, marrying a powerful lawyer or athlete and doing the dishes at home while I work on my novel, and yet I still refuse to let a woman pick up the tab. That somehow that makes me a freeloader. It’s a weird way of thinking. To actively try to subvert the gender role in thought, but still my actions are engrained in the traditional.
It’s hard to undo this systematic wedge driven into our society. Even the best of intentions ultimately fail in the execution. I’m not saying that it’s bad to laugh, but when I examined why I thought some of the things I say or do are funny, it felt a little problematic. I’m going to continue to read Wonder Woman and watch the Minnesota Lynx. Buffy Summers will always be my hero and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” will continue to get me through rough days. But there is a necessity to remain vigilant. To make sure that what I’m doing is really going towards helping the women I admire and giving girls a platform to stand on in the future.
I scolded a friend of mine because he was joking with his son that women are bad drivers. I said, “You can’t teach him that kind of shit.” There was no harm meant on any side, but jokes are a powerful tool even when we aren’t conscious of what we’re saying. It’s a process and I intend on revisiting mine as often as I can.