If I had more than about 7 friends on facebook, I would say something like: ‘quite a few of you raised an issue on a recent status I posted’.
This is because I posted a status which could easily have been misconstrued as blatant sexism. It’s not misconstruing at all, actually. It was sexism.
But it wasn’t unfair sexism, and it wasn’t specific to women, just because it happened to be about women. If anyone had actually complained I would have gone into greater detail justifying it. The post went as follows:
Screw gender equality; a woman’s only purpose in the modern age is to pose for photos.
Well, I could be relegating women to a single use, and are otherwise useless, but it wasn’t really about sexism or equality at all. It was about a blaze of thoughts that conflicted each other earlier on in the day.
I was driving around slowly, minding my own business, idly browsing for a place to stop and eat, when I decided to park by the park by the riverside. The park is a thin strip that follows the river downriver. I love irregular word play.
On the far side of the river, you see a sort of riverside restaurant called Ben something-or-other. Ben not being the name of the owner, but a Vietnamese word. Customers were to get on the boat that bobbed back and forth between the two sides, so it’s clearly too expensive for my tastes.
Directly in front of me was another bike, incredibly battered and bruised – headlight smashed, plastic torn asunder, and no model or brand name to be seen. On the back, carefully balanced, was a big pile of maybe 4-5 bags of what I can only guess was ice, given the precipitation coming from the base.
I didn’t check where they went with it but upon reflection I would guess they were taking it to the restaurant, or a nearby stall selling ice creams and things. The two guys on the bike were young, the typical skinny Vietnamese kind. One was sitting on the very front – ahead of the seat, the other had a baseball cap on for protection.
The park was full of people enjoying themselves. This mostly consisted of people taking photos. People just departing on the boat were taking photos of themselves on the boat, one person had a bigger camera so they had the alpha-female position at the bow to take photos of them all on the boat.
The people not privileged enough to be on a boat were taking photos of themselves sitting on the grass, or standing in front of the river, or in front of a tree.
The couple closest to me, albeit a good 10-15 metres away, were positioned by a rock. The female was sitting on the rock, posture raised to attention, hair flicking sideways every 1.7 seconds, various muscles in her mouth figuring out what might be best without actually seeing the camera screen herself. This is because her boyfriend was the one taking the shots on an iPhone.
After about 10 minutes of him seemingly taking the same photo, she decided she wanted to do some herself. She got him to back up a bit and took out her own iPhone, and started playing with selfies. The guy in the meantime was just looking at his phone and scrolling up and down. I imagine he’s alternating between Facebook, a browser and something like Stumbleupon or some kind of Buzzfeed app if one exists.
After she finished, they both spent about 5 more minutes just staring at their own phones. I imagine she was going through every filter possible on Instagram and 2-3 other apps which are the same but with every-so-slightly varied filters which all serve the purpose to make the digital photo look like a film-photo from the 1990’s or a Polaroid from the 1950’s.
This is when I started getting my conflicting thoughts.
On one hand, I was getting annoyed because I felt set apart from everyone, or at least the majority. I suppose I felt better than them, superior and at the same time ashamed that people can so easily slip into this pattern of life. Sure, I use my smartphone quite a lot, but let’s look at *what* I do with it. I have numerous music apps that are there to keep my music theory honed, sight reading practice and so forth. I have numerous Korean and Russian language apps, translation, BBC and Guardian news, percentage and conversion tools, emails, maps and a few of the usuals (some games, YouTube, Facebook, chats).
For the most part, when I use my phone, it’s to learn, improve myself in some way. These people are just… taking photos. Are they honestly going to look back at these photos one day and be like ‘remember the time when we were by that tree? Oh and remember the time we were by that tree again but 2 inches to the left? I remember almost blinking in that one!’
I’ve watched these people, I’ve seen their screens. They endlessly flip between one thing and the next without actually doing anything on them. Facebook to check if anyone has liked anything. Swiftly switch to emails, back to Facebook, move to one of the chat apps, back to Facebook, repeat. They’re just desperate to touch the phone. They aren’t achieving anything.
Their lifestyle is shaped around this idea. The couples walk down the park, and I can only imagine inane small talk, having nothing else to say to each other until they get to one of 189 billion photo spots in which they can share opinions on photos. It just seems like a waste, whereas I’m doing things with my life, I’m learning Piano, and tennis, an… well you get the idea. The point is, I was being a massive, arrogant prick.
(Just FYI, this wasn’t a large series of arrogant shunning, this is just the general concept that passed by over a couple of seconds of my natural thought process)
During this arrogant nonsense, a second thought was battling:
Who on earth am I to decide whether my life was more useful than theirs? Why is ‘learning’ more useful than taking photos that nobody cares about? Why do you think being useful is the priority of human nature?
Just because someone isn’t doing something useful doesn’t mean they should start. They can continue to be useless if they want. They are useful in their own personal surroundings, they have what they need, why ask more of them?
I’m not with some pretty girl, showing my admiration by immortalising it with inane imagery, maybe I’m the one losing out here, and these guys are just basking in their success as a human being. They have the girl they want, and the luxury fortune of at least owning an iPhone. What an old fashioned, decrepit way I was thinking, with this obligation to be something more, always be something more. I should know better than that.
At the same time as these two thoughts, a third thought was popping through: If these girls want gender equality, if they want to prove they are just as equal to men, why are they so obsessed with their hair, their posture, their weight, their poses, their Instagram?
I was reminded of a Korean music video I saw in which some Korean singer – not a particularly good or out-standing singer at that – was messing around with various men all called ‘Mr Lee’. She was going on about how they can’t resist her etc etc. The problem I had was her frame. She was so skinny, so frail, I couldn’t picture her doing anything other than what she was doing in that music video. Seducing men was seemingly her only ability.
Maybe she was constructed, created from the evil music corporation dominated by men, or maybe she chose that life due to growing up in a male-dominant society which has pressured her through media to be that way, or maybe, just maybe, she wanted to be that way. But when I see her, I wouldn’t make joked about her getting back into the kitchen or cleaning the bedroom. I wouldn’t even joke about her racing a car or playing football. Nor would I suggest she clips her own toenails or brushes her own hair. I don’t think she could do these simple tasks. She looked so overly dollified that I feel her body would just collapse and break under the pressure of closing the clippers around such tough Keratin.
I’m not arguing what or who is to blame for her existence, I don’t really care as long as it changes. I just feel that I don’t belong with the majority of these people.
When browsing chat apps for people to talk to, there is no variation in profiles; food photos with instagram, batches of selfie photos in albums, a couple of spread out images at a club or bar.
When browsing Couchsurfing, there is no variation: People living for the moment, LOVING travel. Hobbies? Travel, listening to music, meeting new people. Some who try to be intellectual or extra interesting include reading books or learning about cultures.
But I can’t go around thinking I’m better, and likewise I can’t think I’m worse. Both have negative effects. I can only see things from my perspective and so I will naturally take the higher ground but being aware of that allows me to at least admit there are other perspectives, and mine may not necessarily be the best one. Let these people do what they do. Maybe they will die after a lifetime of working in as a till operator, but maybe that’s great. Maybe that is all that was needed of them in this life.
I’m still going to complain incessantly but I think It will only be in jest from this point. I can’t take it seriously anymore, it’s not my place to, clearly.