Masculinity

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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I hope so.

I hope so. Drawing Luke Hockley.

I hope so. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

Do I have the courage to deal with the things that I would like to deal with?

The things that no one else can see.

Can I love and care for and believe in myself enough to take the time and space to heal myself?

I hope so.

I really do.

Love

Luke

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Day 1,195

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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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Will I regret this?

Will I regret this? Drawing Luke Hockley.

Will I regret this? Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

I’ve just spent the afternoon moving in ways I have not moved for quite some time.

Handstands and cartwheels and play wrestling on the beach.

It felt great to be moving again, but…will I regret this in the morning?

Let’s wait and see.

Love

Luke

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Day 1,186

Show your support for Dear Self by becoming a monthly supporter of my work or by buying some stamp money. Your support means I can keep doing the things I do to make the world a better place.

This guy.

This guy. Drawing Luke Hockley.

This guy. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

This guy, sitting next to me on the plane, takes up more space than he is allocated.

Only ever so slightly more.

But more.

He is very tall. And quite broad shouldered.

And I think he maybe thinks that he is taking up the amount of space he needs…because he is quite tall and all of that.

But he’s not.

He is taking up ever so slightly more than he needs…how do I know that?

Because I am tall and reasonably broad shouldered…and I manage to fit myself into my seat without encroaching on the space of the people beside me.

This guy kind of annoys me because he thinks his comfort is more important than all of ours.

And it’s not.

It’s just not.

Love

Luke

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Day 1,184

Show your support for Dear Self by becoming a monthly supporter of my work or by buying some stamp money. Your support means I can keep doing the things I do to make the world a better place.

My hard edges.

My hard edges. Drawing Luke Hockley.

My hard edges. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

There are spikey parts of me.

Parts that are less pleasant and are very uncomfortable to look at.

I’ve got a hard and sharp edge that will cut you if you come at me the wrong way.

I saw this yesterday in a telephone conversation I had.

My hard edges were in response to someone not being straight with me about something.

I go all quiet and cold. I give nothing away.

Because I’m trying to get my feet back underneath me. Trying to get my bearings. And while I can’t feel my feet and I don’t know which direction is north I don’t want to move.

Truth is I probably just want to run away and hide for a moment. Think about what is going on, formulate a response, but I don’t feel like this is an option. Running away feels like a failure.

But it’s not running away, or failing, it’s just taking some time to think. And I reckon just calmly stating that and doing it is going to be better for everyone.

In yesterday’s conversation I feel like I did slightly better. Ever so slightly better than I have in the past. I had a sense that something was going on and I (a little too late) just asked for some more time to think everything through.

A little progress is better than no progress.

Isn’t it?

Love

Luke

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Day 1,072

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A gentle gift.

A gentle gift. Drawing Luke Hockley.

A gentle gift. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

To make things, with my hands, is a real pleasure.

It’s always been like this.

A gentle, unseen, gift.

An ability that I never really valued.

Until now.

Now, I can see how deeply the knowledge of making things runs.

How important to survival it has been.

How much joy it brings.

A real pleasure.

Love

Luke

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Day 1,067

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Love and friendship.

Love and friendship. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Love and friendship. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

It’s complex.

Getting around as a human.

There’s all this finding food and water and shelter and all of that to stay alive.

That’s tricky enough.

Then there is love and friendship and family – and that’s a whole new level.

The people bit of being a human has a lot of complexity to it.

Just when I think I’ve got the hang of it…turns out I don’t.

How do I feel frightened and hurt and simultaneously show love and compassion?

That just seems like too big a reach for me.

But if I don’t find a way to do it I’m worried that I will hurt the people I love because I feel unsafe.

That just seems like too big a cost for me.

Getting around as a human.

It’s complex.

Love

Luke

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Day 1,064

It's nice to be back.

It’s nice to be back. Drawing Luke Hockley.

It’s nice to be back. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

I just sat for two hours and sewed the bottom hem of my new shirt whilst listening to an audio book.   

I felt the practice of making my clothes come back to me. For a while now it has eluded me. I’ve felt bored or even frustrated by the idea of hand sewing.  

But just now it felt like a luxury again.

A pleasure.

A small gift that I can give myself as a way of refilling the well.

The thing that changed was I stopped worrying (once again) about the finished thing being perfect (it’s handmade - that’s the whole point!) and just enjoyed the process of sewing.

It’s nice to be back.

Love

Luke