Or; ‘I’ve been called Hysterical, too.’
When the news hit that Kamala Harris was called hysterical this week, the ladies on The View were quick to point out that this was a label associated historically with women, and specific to, women.
They went on to point out that no man would ever be called hysterical, only women.
They were wrong.
I’ve been called hysterical before, and I am a man.
Well, I’m a man depending on who you ask.
As a gay man, and a gay man who is rather effeminate in my mannerisms to boot, I have had to deal with the pressures of sexism my whole life. In fact, it is sexism, not homophobia, that has played the most difficult role in my life.
I can remember vividly being pushed over by the bullies in high school for being ‘too girly’ during Phys Ed class, as they laughed at the way I effeminately hit the ball with my basketball bat.
I can remember meeting my first career advisor at the age of 14, as we prepared to make our GCSE choices, and started discussing where we were going in our careers.
I distinctly remember the lady suggesting I seem like someone who would like Drama and Food Tech.
She crossed out the Woodwork classes and even moved me away from the Advanced IT double GCSE option, as it was too technical, and I would clearly be ‘bored’.
How funny that I went on to work in digital media, after hand coding websites that became popular that very same year.
She was right about the woodwork, I never did like getting my hands dirty, but this is not the point. The point is major judgements about the way I think and where my talents lie have been made about me from my ‘gender expression’, far more than my ‘sexual expression’ (a much easier thing to hide, as most people aren’t seeing who goes in and out of your bedroom).
And it isn’t just the ‘straight world’ that does this.
The gay community is famous for its slogan ‘No Fats, No Fems’ and it’s long standing desire for a ‘straight acting’ (read: non-feminine) male.
While the reasons for this are complex, the point should not be lost on any of us. Gay men, especially those who are not extremely masculine, are victims of SEXISM, above all else in their lives, and it affects us throughout our education and career.
We must fight harder to be heard in the boardroom. We must raise our hands higher in the Classrooms and we must become insanely driven if we want to get our shot at success. Nothing comes easy for us.
I’ve lost contracts where the words that came before ‘no deal’ were ‘you’re insanely talented, and beyond creative’. I’m sorry, these are problems, how?
Of course, this is code for ‘emotionally unstable’ and a free-thinking ‘creative type’, how very girly. We can’t have that in business.
Masculinity is marked by ‘strength’ not just physically but emotionally, too. We are taught to think straight, walk straight and talk straight. This is not me.
Indeed, I spent years mimicking masculinity; I would wear tracksuit bottoms and Nike trainers and walk with that boyish bounce, making sure my feet were always pointed outwards (inward is submissive, K?) I own about 10 books on body language, all of them highlighting how men’s “natural” body language is stifled, rigid and dry, and women’s is free, flowing and expressive.
I made the choice to carry on with the one that fit how I feel on the inside – free, flowing and expressive. Fun, playful, emotional, colourful and creative.
But I paid the price.
The same comments have followed me my whole life; You’re too feminine, too girly, walk properly, sit still, stop fidgeting, stop being so hysterical.
At some point, being you becomes active. Your entire life becomes a constant political protest.
I was given two choices: Blend in, be someone you’re not, and live an easy life – or go your own way and face a hard life, but maybe, just maybe change the game for those who come after you.
I chose the latter.
Indeed, I am sure I heighten these attributes for effect now, and I’m mostly not even conscious I’m doing it.
But, just as drag queens and camp comics performance becomes a magnifying glass on society itself, so does the fem boy in the boardroom.
I know sexism exists in the business world, because if feminine behavior and feminine associated labels have harmed my career, as a single white male, then what’s the point of difference here?
And it is this feminine expression, and it’s historical sexist connotations that are being discriminated against, far more than sexual orientation in my life and my career, and in many other men’s lives, gay or otherwise.
It is this, then, that is the real core of sexism. It is divisive, deep rooted in our entire social set up, and it affects men and women.
We must deploy feminism in a way that does include fem boys in its sexism debates, not just those born female – as often we are the ones who can highlight just how pervasive, and absurd, it really is.
And we must create a new message that embraces these qualities as drivers of success and innovation, not negative qualities that cannot possibly be conducive to good leadership.