“Pat Tree’s Art Key”

The emotional states that drive beliefs are interesting to think about. For example, what leads a young woman to the belief that society would benefit if a majority of the white male population were dead? Whether this is simply hyperbolic black humor or outlandish sincerity, it’s reckless in its broad brush application, wherein the diagnosis of a problem teeters on one generalized and caricatured mass-identity, seemingly reluctant to distinguish particular individuals from its overarching shadow.

Individual responsibility, in speech and in actions, should, of course, be expected from everybody, but at what point does responsibility for one’s emotions begin, particularly in light of a perceived slight? Is the alleged offender always in the wrong, no matter the situation, despite no ill intention? (There are heavy thoughts on that word, “intention.”) If one enters every social interaction with the expectation of encountering sexism, they will certainly have little trouble finding it, whether it has shown its face in a particular instance or not, because an overexcited mind will conjure up the extraordinary from the perfectly mundane and insignificant. Of course, this revisits the question of just how deep and subtle the problem is, which could be chewed over indefinitely. Some see its existence straight down to the core, which would seem to suggest that we are all mere pawns of cultural conditioning, but that sort of hard determinism is a rather lazy outlook on human behavior. Others may simply see paranoiacs, phantom chasers. Perhaps reality lies somewhere in the middle? Regardless of the barometer’s current position, one would do well, in the search and routing out of pathology, not to get too liberal with the scalpel, to the point that one is maiming the body in order to save it and the treatment becomes as injurious as the ailment. History has numerous examples of this tendency to draw from, many of which were built on good intentions (there’s that word again) but ended poorly for all parties involved.

It’s been said by some that women are incapable of sexism, that they can be merely guilty of bias. Well, what exactly have we established with this distinction? Is one somehow worse than the other, more severe in its perpetration? Are women granted a certain level of immunity by virtue of being on the other side of that severity? Does the offending of one group matter more than that of the other? Isn’t the disrespect and devaluing of others crass, regardless of whom it’s directed toward? Are some entitled to special considerations, and if so, does this not amount to policing of minds, as it implies that some deeds are made worse simply by their motivating thoughts? At this point, some may feel inclined to just disassociate and maintain a respectful distance from others, rather than attempt word acrobatics in an effort to keep all eggshells intact. Nobody is wronged, then, inadvertently or otherwise.

If one were so inclined to look beyond the limits of ideology, real differences between males and females would become apparent, and it is those differences that make us so interesting. Edward Abbey once quipped, “It is the difference between men and women, not the sameness, that creates the tension and the delight.” These differences need not amount to the establishment and defense of a superior-subordinate existence. They merely reveal a yin and yang balance, wherein predominate qualities, strengths, and idiosyncrasies reside in each respective side, and yet, are tempered oh-so-slightly by a drop of its opposite, which, of course, creates some fluidity between the two, but it doesn’t dissolve the distinction completely. “Never forget that you are a woman, and the greatest powers you can employ … are totally dependent upon your own self-realization that in being a woman you are different from a man and that very difference must be exploited!” Now that’s empowerment.

So, the implication being that maybe, just maybe, in some instances, where a desired and expected outcome is unrealized, perhaps it has nothing to do with institutionalized prejudice and is simply a result of a natural sifting of innate inclinations. In those moments where it may be something more damaging, confronting it with grace, wit, fortitude, resiliency, and integrity, are all immeasurably effective. Resentment and bitterness eat away at all of whom they encircle. If the overall intention here is not to target specific others, then generalized and limiting categorizations, which always suggest guilt by association, ought to be tossed out for good. Don’t create an enemy out of those who may simply wish to understand you as much as you wish to understand them.

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