5 min

Does Christie Blatchford need a history lesson?

In the world of online comments and editorials, it’s hard sometimes not to critique someone without falling into hyperbole, let alone making snide comments.

I tend to shy away from comments as much as possible — both reading and posting — even in my own stories, unless I truly believe that something is amiss (factual errors, etc).

But lately, I have taken to reading editorials and op-eds, as I have been given the opportunity to write some myself in this space from time to time. It is a privilege and opportunity that I am incredibly grateful to have.

But I think that some people occasionally forget what a privilege it is to have the opportunity to share an idea, an opinion or even possibly provide a notion of clarity when topics become muddled. I don’t necessarily count myself among those who can provide the latter, as there are very few topics where I would honestly consider myself to be an expert. As for the other two, I have opinions, just like everyone else does. Remember that old adage that says opinions are like a certain orifice?

Case in point: Christie Blatchford.

Now, before I go off on Blatchford’s recent tirade in the National Post, I will give her due where it is warranted, without any complaint or grudge. I will gladly praise her, as she is an award-winning writer, has produced some amazing editorials, given insight on various issues and even written a great book about the lives of Canadian soldiers. She deserves that merit.

She also merits an intellectual boot (or re-boot?) to the head when it comes to discussing concepts of gender and identity.

This Saturday, Blatchford published a commentary in the National Post entitled “Toronto, City of Sissies.”

“Sissies”? Excuse me?

At first I thought, okay . . . the title is a little problematic, but I will read this thing through.

In her first paragraph, Blatchford says:

"It was in Toronto recently, while temporarily resuming my semi-charmed kind of life there and briefly ditching the other semi-charmed half in Kingston, that I realized how much in need the modern male of the species is of some toughening up."

Okay. At least she admits that she does have a “semi-charmed” life. Blatchford has the eyes and ears of many Canadians when it comes to her views. That is rather “charmed.” She also makes, it is rumoured, a six-figure salary, something that is not to scoff at, especially in these days where journalists are being let go and downsized at a rapid-fire pace. It is possible that she makes less, but it would be easy to believe that she makes more than journalists who are not afforded the opportunity to write columns for a national newspaper.

Blatchford’s column gets interesting when she says she believes that men need “toughening up.” She goes on to describe a situation in which she views a group of 10- to 12-year-old boys meeting and hugging each other when they greet. According to her, this act left her “mortified and appalled.”

Knowing she is possibly raising the ire of some of her readers, she goes on a passive defensive approach, stating:

“Do not mistake this as a [. . .] defence of bullies, or a veiled anti-gay message. I have [. . .] no time for bullies at all, and as a downtowner, I live surrounded by gay men, who, like most women, I adore as a group.”

That smacks of “I’m not bigoted because I have (enter racial/religious/cultural/sexual minority/etc) friends.” It’s easy to believe that one is “pro” anything if one identifies characteristics about that group or thing that one likes. It’s when we see the results of things we don’t like that things get interesting. Like heterosexual men exhibiting “non-manly” forms of affection, dress or social decorum.

Blatchford continues in her commentary by saying that she tires of the “novelty of being the toughest guy in the room.”

Admittedly, Blatchford probably is one of the “toughest guys” in the room. You would have to be to get as far as she has in journalism circles, especially as a woman. There is no denying that women make less than men and that often, women have to work harder in the workforce to be taken seriously — and then are decried as “bitches” for being strong-willed, opinionated, articulate and driven. As a white male in my 30s, I haven’t had to deal with misogyny and sexism. I can only experience it from afar and be empathetic. I can sympathize and possibly garner some insight into what it is like to deal with systemic forms of oppression and stigma, being that I am an openly gay man who came out in the 1990s when being gay was still somewhat frowned upon by certain sectors of society, and still is today in many circles.

But the fact that I could come out, that I can find work and say what I want to say is because of individuals who came before me and blazed open the way. They made it easier for people like me, and hopefully my generation will continue to do so for others.

I’d like to remind Ms Blatchford that the things you wish to find, what you called “the way it was once upon a time and really always should be” . . . you know what? Those gender stereotypes and models are what would have kept you in the secretarial pool, in skirts and heels. It’s what would have kept you from becoming what you wanted to be. Remember your opening paragraph, where you discussed your “semi-charmed life?” Maybe you should examine it a little closer and think about how it came to be: through women who chose to experience life in what were considered “masculine” ways who broke open gender and sex roles. That power pantsuit you’re wearing? Thank Chanel for being brave enough to be a woman who wore pants.

It is because of women in pantsuits, women wanting jobs, women wanting equality and breaking down gender roles and taking on more “masculine” employment and ideologies that you and I get to stand where we are: as individuals who have benefited from what occurs when gender roles become less entrenched. It is because of the fluidity in those gender roles that I can be one of the “gentle and kind men” you wish for, but I will continue to “speak[. . .] in a soft, sibilant voice that makes all sentences sound to my ear as though they were composed entirely of Ss.”

When you say, “Gay, as I’ve mentioned, is entirely fine. Fey is a pain in the arse,” it strikes me as being similar to what men said about women who were looking for gender equality over the course of the centuries. They called them bitches, whores, cunts, harlots and more. “Fey” men are called faggots and cocksuckers. And “sissies.”

I’ll admit that you may consider it presumptuous of a gay man in his 30s to remind you of events that happened when you were coming up in the world of journalism. I don’t know what it would’ve been like for a young woman in the world of journalism in the ‘70s. But then again, you should remember, shouldn’t you?

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