Black plastic, gender norms, yin and yang and culture wars: We didn’t start the fire

I’ve been trying to write another post to conclude the topic I’ve come to know as “Liberals, Conservatives and Blurring Gender Lines”, but after two somewhat different drafts, I couldn’t seem to find a suitable way of drawing it all to a close. Until now.

And, I’m sorry to say, beyond its title, the article has little to do with Billy Joel.

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The first and second drafts, in summary, opined that conservative attitudes are merely progressive attitudes offset a generation behind. Looking back through history, we’ve been constantly moving towards Cultural Liberalism with each generation; from the strict rules and norms of the Victorian era, the suffragette movement of the early 20th century through to the liberation of the 1960’s and beyond. Time moves forward and people continue to ask questions and learn from the answers, making such progress inevitable… so why worry and why fight it? If you believe modern attitudes and conveniences are having a negative impact on society, and that life was so much better thirty years ago, remember that the older generation were likely saying the same when you were young and rebellious.

Thing is, it’s not quite as simple as that. I could have included the role religion has to play in such attitudes, but that’s quite a lengthy topic on its own, and one that’s more of an issue in the US than it is here in the UK. Here, it’s not actually a culture war between conservative and liberal attitudes, or traditional and modern, at all. It’s yin and yang.

pexels-photo-26662Take the “Vinyl Revival” of the past several years: a format in decline through the mid-1990s CD boom, and was good as buried once digital music became the standard. The technology is a century old, yet more and more younger people today are embracing it as a format they actually invest in and feel connected to. There is an aesthetic romanticism to it, and as a Vinyl addict myself, I know how that feels. Convenience is good – Spotify, Deezer and all the other services are great for discovering and expanding one’s own music tastes – but it’s far better to have the freedom to choose how you prefer experiencing the music you love, whether that be in the modern-day cloud or carved into a traditional, plastic disc.

In one context, the whole topic could be summed up in that one word: Freedom. Morality aside, liberalism will always be there to provide greater cultural freedoms, but conservatism will always be there to curb the excesses. Tradition will always be there to preserve history, but modernisation will always be there to provide variety and hindsight.

It can be summed up more effectively with another word: Feminism. Contrary to some of the more extreme understandings of the word, Feminism is not just about granting women the same rights and opportunities as men, it is also the other way around. As a prime example, men have always had the right to be hands-on parents, but social stigma has always relegated them to a supporting role (or, at worst, a disciplinarian). It just wasn’t acceptable for a family to consist of a working mother and a stay-at-home father. Today, we have Shared Parental Leave and stay-at-home fathers are not uncommon. Again, this is an example of emancipation, not emasculation.

2000px-Whitehead-link-alternative-sexuality-symbol.svgAnd now we come full-circle. At the end of the day, Masculinity and Femininity are only abstract words – they have no explicit or universal definition. Some may see the division between the two as a bold line drawn in permanent marker, but in reality, it’s just a dotted pencil line that, over time, has had bits erased or moved. The blurring of gender lines is just one step towards equality for all.

So be good, be free, be yourself and be happy… and certainly don’t be afraid to be creative.

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