Feminism

Gender neutral toilets.

Gender neutral toilets. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Gender neutral toilets. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

We had a story telling event at the studio the other day and, as part of the event, the toilets were set up as gender neutral.

This essentially meant a sign on the toilet doors that covered the “Male” and “Female” with “Gender Neutral – x cubicles, x urinals”.

This was my first time being involved with creating gender neutral toilets…so I had lots of questions (which I felt kind of shy to ask, but I did anyhow…)

It all boiled down to one question really…What’s the etiquette?

Well, as I’ve understood it, it goes like this…

Everyone is welcome to use whichever toilet they like, knowing that certain toilets have urinals. Which means if you use that toilet you are comfortable seeing someone standing at a urinal or being seen standing at a urinal.

This makes total, logical, sense.

I still found it surprisingly unnerving though.

Which makes no sense.

But that really goes to show how ‘gendered’ our lives are. From very little I’ve been taught that it is ok to go to the toilet with other men around, but not with women. And that there really aren’t any other options (genders) than that.

It also raises some uncomfortable questions for me.

Do I trust men to be in the same toilets as women?

How incredibly sad is that.

Oh my.

I left the gender-neutral toilets in place on the Monday and then for the Campfire that happened on the weekend. I’m very curious to know what others think about this.

Why do it? The benefits, of course, are specifically for people who don’t identify with this narrow male/female gender identity thing. Gender neutral toilets, as far as I can tell, are a way of being inclusive, a way of saying to everyone…we don’t need you to make some grand statement about how you define your gender just because you need to have a wee – that’s your business, tell us what you want to tell us when you want to tell us. If you just want to use the bathroom, these gender-neutral toilets allow you to do that, no questions.

I’m sure there’s more than that in it all. But that’s what I can see. I really like this idea, a lot. I’m aware that, like any change, it could make people feel uncomfortable. But we need a bit of that, don’t we?

Otherwise things stagnate and the patriarchy wins, right?

Love

Luke

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Day 1,273

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The kissing cam is over.

The kissing cam is over. Drawing Luke Hockley.

The kissing cam is over. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

Last night I went to the football.

Sure, take a moment to take that in.

This is not the kind of thing I do very often. My family has an annual pilgrimage to a particular match between two particular teams that represent a long-standing rivalry between my Dad and one of my Sisters.

I go because, well I can, and it's a whole world I never really visit. It is a spectacular, a theatre experience really.

At quarter time the people stop running around chasing the ball and 80,000 people go to the toilet or buy another drink or sit and check social media while the players chat about what happened and what they want to happen next.

To entertain those who are lost in the internet they do this thing they call the “kissing cam”. They go around the audience and pick a man and a woman (always a man and a woman) and they pressure them to kiss each other.

I was shocked.

I couldn't believe that this is really a thing. That this is still a thing. I can see how light it is meant to be. How people look at it and get a laugh. And mostly it is just people who are married or dating or have been together for a long time having a laugh and kissing on screen for an audience of thousands.

But there is this other edge that I found disturbing.

If there was reluctance from the two people on the screen, then the camera would linger on them and the man on the voice over would apply some pressure.

There was one particular man and woman who were extremely uninterested in kissing. I’m pretty sure they were not at the game together and had never met. So, maybe a producer has made a mistake and picked a couple who weren’t a couple…it’s what happened next that I found unacceptable. They lingered on them and said…

“We can’t start the next quarter until we get a kiss…”

The woman sat there stony faced (which I read as a silent plea to be left alone) and the man pointed off camera to his left at his unseen partner to indicate he was happy to give a kiss in that direction (one that would be, we assumed, consensual). Finally, the producer picked another two victims and the awkwardness abated, momentarily…because they kept coming back! Two more times they visited these two strangers and pressured them to kiss. At this point I realised this was all part of the script the producer was running. Find the reluctant pair and pressure them over time, create the tension and finally get a win when at least one of them gives in.

On the third visit to them (at which point the producer could easily have selected the man and his actual partner to get the kiss they felt they needed) the man reluctantly invaded the woman’s personal space and kissed her on the cheek without her consent.

I know some people would think this isn’t really worth thinking about.

That nothing happened, just a harmless joke on a couple of strangers at the football.

I think that view downplays the incredible power that ‘football’ has as an author of our culture. What was this ‘story’ saying to the men and boys in that stadium?

To me it was saying real men do the thing everyone is pressuring them to do, real men get the girl, that its ok to keep pushing until you get the thing you want (or that you are being told you want) even if the woman seems reticent or openly reluctant, that once you ‘get the girl’ the crowd will cheer and pat you on the back.

And what was it telling the women and girls in that stadium? I think it is telling them that if you say no to a man then you are wrecking things for everyone else, that you are letting the team down, that a man’s needs (or what he is being told he needs) are more important than yours and that everyone will appreciate you just giving in and letting him do the thing he wants (or thinks he wants) to do. I think it’s saying that your personal space, your body, isn’t really ‘yours’ its ‘ours’ and if we want you to ‘share it’ then who are you to say no?

I felt deeply for this man and this woman.

What was he thinking? I wished he’d had the courage to just look at the camera and shake his head or at least lean out of shot and kiss his actual partner. What did he want to happen? How did he feel about being placed in this position? Being asked to take something from someone he didn’t know?

I wondered what she was thinking. I felt offended on her behalf. Angry at this uninvited invasion of her life. I wondered what she really wanted to do? Did she want to give the camera the bird? Did she want to turn to him and say “kiss me and I’ll call the police”? Did she just want to walk away? Did she want to turn to the camera and shake her head?

I may have misread this whole situation. Maybe they were both totally into this ‘game’ that was thrust upon them…I don’t think so though.

Regardless, I think this kind of stunt sets up the culture that means men aren’t allowed to be kind and respectful in front of their mates and women aren’t allowed to be in charge of their own bodies.

The kissing cam is over.

It was never ok, but now it has run whatever course it had to run.

It’s time to stop this kind of rot.

Now.

Love

Luke

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Day 1,201

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Five men at a table.

Five men at a table. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Five men at a table. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

This morning I sat with four other men and had breakfast.

Most of them I hardly knew.

It was a pleasant conversation. Light and easy.

Then someone asked me about what I do…and I told them about the live art work I made last year – listening by hand, where I sat and listened to women talk about their experience of the world…and an incredible conversation unfolded.

The men were all kind hearted, generous men, but they had a broad range of experiences as ‘men’ and differing opinions about how ‘fair’ things are for women and men in this world.

I noticed in these conversations how hard it is for me to listen to perspectives that are different to my own.

I saw how valuable it is for men to be able to say out loud the things that they think about ‘equality’ and have other men listen to them without necessarily agreeing with them.

Mostly I was amazed that these men, who I really wouldn’t have imagined would be interested in a nuanced conversation about gender equity, were absolutely interested.

There weren’t really any earth-shattering changes in any of us.

Afterwards I thought to myself, that for men, this conversation (which has been championed by women for a very long time) may have finally begun.

And that gave me hope.

Love

Luke

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Day 1,187

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Knit off, purl on.

Knit off, purl on. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Knit off, purl on. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

I’m up to the final stage of the ugliest sock ever.

It’s called grafting, or Kitchener stitch.

(Actually, let’s call it grafting…because ‘Kitchener’ stitch is named after some man who, during one of the wars, taught people (women and children I imagine) how to do the stitch so that they could make socks for soldiers at war. Now, he was probably a really nice guy, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t invent the stitch, I don’t know if it was a man or a woman who invented it, but women have been ‘responsible’ for things like knitting for a while as far as I know and I am just a little worried that this might be a case of a man getting credit for a woman’s invention…so, let’s go with grafting.

Interesting side note. I was on the train out to the country with some friends one day and the ticket inspector walked past and stopped and said he used to knit socks as a kid, but that he would hand them to his mum to turn the heel and finish them off…)

It’s not that hard, but each time I do it I have to learn how to do it again.

And, of course, when I did it on my worst sock ever it kind of went haywire at the end and I was unhappy with it so I undid it to do again and then I dropped a bunch of stitches and it became remarkably complex to get back to where I needed to be to have another go at grafting.

The women in the Youtube video has this little saying to help you remember how to do the graft. Starting with the front needle…knit off, purl on, then to the back needle…Purl off, knit on…

I think I might have to accept that this sock is going to be awkward at every stage.

So, grafting – let’s do this.

Love

Luke

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Day 1,058

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The dancer.

The dancer. Drawing Luke Hockley.

The dancer. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

We watched a film last night called ‘the dancer’ about the artist Loie Fuller.

She was a dancer who changed the way we view movement and the body.

She was a fierce pioneer who forged a path as an independent woman at a time when that was a long way from what was expected of women.

I’ve known about her work since I studied as a dancer at University.

But I had never seen any footage of her actual dance.

It is breath taking. Even now. With all the amazing effects and trickery we have access to…Loie did a simple astounding thing. She created a flowing dress that she inserted sticks into the arms of and she drew pictures in the air by moving her arms (and body) through space. The effect is like some outrageous, mesmerising sea creature. She was also at the forefront of using lighting, mirrors and stage craft to create dramatic effects.

When I watched this fictionalised version of her life and this dance last night I was very moved. I fell in love with dance again. I think I realised why it is so important to me.

Around the turn of the century (when the 1800’s became the 1900’s) human beings reinvented themselves by redefining their relationship with the body. Women were the major pioneers at this time. Mable Todd, Loie Fuller, and all of the body practitioners and artists who followed them, asked questions about how movement worked and began to challenge the clothing that contained the body and stopped it from moving in its natural ways.

It was a rediscovery.

An attempt to undo the damage that was done through ‘progress’.

Watching this film I saw how political the body is. And how these contemporary pioneers of movement, reacting against the restrictions and anti-gravity aspirations of the ballet, were changing the language of human movement in a way that laid the foundation for the freedom I now benefit from.

I was moved, and very grateful.

Love

Luke

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Day 1,054

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The problem with men.

The problem with men. Drawing Luke Hockley.

The problem with men. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

The problem with men is that we are the problem and yet we are also the only tool we have to fix the problem, which is us.

It’s like trying to use a broken tool to fix itself.

The problem with all of that is that it feels intractable, insurmountable – and who wants to tackle something that is impossible to fix.

It’s like a giant ball of string that is all knotted up.

All I can do is find the end and start to unravel it.

Knot by knot.

Love

Luke

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Day 1,045

The boatman’s call.

The boatman’s call. Drawing Luke Hockley.

The boatman’s call. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

Over the last few months I have been on an odyssey.

Alone on a boat witnessing the magnificent and the unspeakable.

I’ve had radio contact with the world.

But getting the boat back to shore has been my sole responsibility.

I chose this sea voyage, I wanted to take it and feel proud of myself for making it home again.

On the voyage I have met many incredible women who are navigating their boats with such skill, I’m in awe.

Taking this voyage has been uncomfortable, risky and sometimes has even felt dangerous. So, why did I want to do this?

I thought it might help change something that needs to be changed.

I thought, maybe, that other men would be inspired to get in a boat and join me. Men who really need to step off the safety of shore and experience the world from the perspective of the wild and untamed ocean.

When I was at sea I did my best not to ask the women I saw to take responsibility for me. But I saw them help each other, in a way that I’ve not really been helped by men in my life.

And I realised why it was important for me to get back to shore.

To ask men to help each other have the emotional strength to get in their boats and sail with me.

Last night a small group of men answered my call. That, in their own ways, they have been venturing out into the ocean too.

Now I’ve got more than radio contact, I can see them on the ocean with me and I know, if I need them, they will be on the ship with me, helping us get safely back to shore.

And, for me, when I experienced this, the healing began.

Love

Luke.

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Day 1,043

Gently, gently.

Gently, gently. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Gently, gently. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

Walking through a minefield…the only tip is to go gently, gently.

Otherwise something might go off.

And that would be no good at all.

Love

Luke

Luke

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Day 1,037

It’s not quite right.

It’s not quite right. Drawing Luke Hockley.

It’s not quite right. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

All my sewing and knitting projects are not quite right at the moment.

I’m up to the toe of the socks I am knitting and, well it’s all quite technical, but the toe is not shaping up the way it’s meant to.

I have been putting the collar onto my shirt for at least 6 weeks now (I know, that is slow progress even for me) and it has been, at every stage, incredibly slow and tedious work. And the results are extremely unsatisfying.

I love the handmade nature of my shirt (and the socks). I love that you can see the stitching and that the stitching is imperfectly perfect. But this is beyond that. It feels unloved.

I’ve realised that I’ve actually sewn the collar on in the wrong order…which is why it looks so rough.

What I have been doing, whilst I sew this collar on and whilst I knit these socks is dismantling the patriarchy. It sounds grander than it is. It is a very small pocket of patriarchy that I have been slowly taking apart.

A small but important pocket. In my heart.

For the last month I’ve sat, and I have listened to women talk about their experiences of being a woman.

As I have listened I have been sewing.

The idea behind the sewing was to have a physical representation of my ability and willingness to take responsibility for myself in the world. Domestically, emotionally, financially, physically.

It has not escaped my notice that during this month of listening I have demonstrated some of my worst sewing and knitting. My incompetence at being able to sew and listen, to be able to take care of myself and create space for listening to women, is, surely a tragic metaphor of some sought.

I’m acutely aware of how inadequate this work is as a response to this deep and insidious problem.

But when my mate Matt said to me “Why aren’t you commenting on #MeToo posts on Facebook to show your support for your female friends?” and I started seriously thinking about how I could act to address this injustice…well it's the best I could come up with.

Its small, its flawed and it’s not quite right…but it's a hell of a lot better than doing nothing. It's a step. One that I’m taking with the right destination in mind. Which is a start. And we have to start.

So, I started.

Love

Luke

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Day 1,036

Anger.

Anger. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Anger. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

Yesterday I felt angry.

Anger is an emotion I’ve been told is not healthy for me.

I was talking with one of my best friends yesterday about something that really mattered to me.

I felt this anger.

Not at my friend, but at men in general.

At injustice and privilege and entitlement. At assumptions about whose job it is to take care of people (Yes, I understand that I am a man, that I was partly angry at myself).

I nearly skipped over it. I nearly closed it down.

But because my mate is so awesome I didn’t.

I stopped for a moment and listened to it.

I felt angry.

And then, I was able to articulate more clearly (after a bit of inarticulate rambling) what was so upsetting to me about the way some men behave.

It was a relief.

I realised that this feeling I sometimes get that is cold and nothing and blank is an anger at how men have treated me. A wall I have put up to stop them being able to hurt me.

Once upon a time I was too little to be able to stand up properly to the injustice of it all.

So, I shut down.

Men are being entitled, privileged shits all the time. Worse still, they mostly don’t see that they are acting in these ways, they don’t see their great privilege. They can feel hurt and offended and upset when it is pointed out. They ask for it to be done in a kinder, gentler way. They ask the people they have oppressed (unconsciously or not) to make it easier for them not to oppress them anymore.

Are you fucking serious?

And I only know this because, even though I am a man, I committed some crimes against masculinity.

I was a creative child. I liked to sew, climb trees, draw, build fires, swim, knit, swing on the monkey bars, wear dresses, do cartwheels, run, read, dance, act and sing.

Some of these things were acceptable to the people around me and some were not. Those 'unacceptable things' were my crimes, my misdemeanours against the norms of being a man.

And some people let me know, very clearly, that this made me less.

And, because I have all the privileges that come with being a man, I don’t even see the half of it. Women have put up with so much worse than I can imagine.

I’m not little anymore.

And I’m angry.

I realised, whilst talking to my friend, that I wasn’t angry with men for their past behaviour. I realised I was angry that many of them are still not listening. I am angry at not being heard now, today, here, by men who still carry all the benefits and privileges that they acquire at the expense of others.

It felt right to have my male friend listen, really listen, to me.

I felt heard.

And I realised that, as a man, it’s time for me to listen.

Love

Luke

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Day 980