have you ever felt awkward relying on other people's kindness, particularly men? throughout my life thus far, i have found myself confused as to what a gesture means or may not even mean. some say it's a matter of maturity, but really? like my mum always told me that it is never good to accept gifts as it means indebtedness until it is repaid to the person. this was pretty much normalised, as an understanding amongst our community in singapore. but this kinda screwed up my system in new zealand, where my encounters are with people who aren't as calculative as how I've been brought up to be. Then on the notion of men. When men offer to pay for meals, my feminist convictions teach me to go dutch - pay half - but really it's based on that assumption that we're playing ownership games and refusing the other the satisfaction of having the woman indebted to the man for whatever it could be - from another date or casual sex. This becomes more problematic, when I met a few "good" men who seem like they are pro-feminist to some extent AND behave chivalrously. you would think, a fine-mannered man like that, wouldn't be problem? i'm not so sure anymore. you know, i've been thinking: just like how in social-conscious movements where "white" people behave over-compensatingly or apologetically for the horrible deeds past and present, of "their" people to "our" people? Maybe the same is happening amongst men. While the mainstream consists of all these backlashes, bringing a revival of "Man-hood" that dominant, sexist patriacrhal, misogynist masculinities streaming through the media, advertising and social spaces, the "few good men", perhaps as a way to adjust or re-define their space and masculinity, find themselves off-centre towards that pro-feminist gentleman leanings. And if especially, these pro-feminist gentlemen are heterosexual, you wonder, what is their agenda? surely not confined to the advancement of gender equalities.
My issue is with this man who seem pro-feminist, gentlemanly, and social-apparently heterosexual. He has been very nice to me in many ways, from small gestures like buying me dinner or dropping me off after work, and seem to casually challenge our physical boundaries. This is not the first time I have had an experience like this; it has happened with at least 3 other men before, that is, when I felt uncomfortable with their "kindness". recently i felt slightly threatened but majorly awkward being in a position where he was basically always in my face, or hovering over me a lot. I felt quite panicked and extremely uncomfortable and this was in an environment where there was another person in the room who did not take notice perhaps. But I quickly escaped from that space, rather apologetically (which is another thing, how do i stop myself for feeling sorry for how i feel??) and tried to shift conversations away from him. I think he also noticed this strange transition but did not say a word. He later just said that this has been a stressful few days, and I just acknowledged it and tried to leave the situation as it is.
When I spoke to a female friend, she said that I was so naive to not have picked up the signs prir to this built-up situation. I don't think she was judging me, but plainly stating the obvious. But what are these signs? Through my different socialisations with different types of men, this becomes very confusing. When do I accept a gift, a ride, an act of kindness from a man, without feeling like that was code for "you owe me one" or "i own you bitch". these signs are so subtle, and becoming increasingly subtle as masculinities keep changing and taking different forms of being in everyday life. I just feel so mistrusting especially when socialising with pro-feminist heterosexual men. At the end of the day, these social identities were created as cloaks to fashion our bodies, and sense of being in the world. It just feels even more unsafe now, more than ever before, when they come into our circles, in our struggles as feminist women, and somehow us referring to them as these "few good men".