I’m a story teller. I want to share my story with you. It may be mine today, or perhaps someone else’s. Ideas tail me until I give them space on the page and I can think of nothing more joyful than to send them chasing after you, make you smile, laugh, or shed a tear if that’s what you need today.
Project O : truth + fiction. After submitting my Opinion piece preview for the project (you can read this here: https://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/project-o/ ), I decided I’d delve a little deeper and see what I can come up for you. It soon became clear that an interview was in order.
Opinionated Man came to the virtual rescue. But. It always helps to visualise.
The interview below is between a fictionalised Opinionated Man and myself. To avoid any confusion, I shall refer to him as iOM.
September 1, 2013. 10:03am GMT.
Altitude: 37000 feet (plus minus a couple of toes)
Ground Speed: 548mph
Somewhere south of Prague, nosing ahead towards Vienna; final destination: Iasi.
iOM walks towards me with an assured step. His shoulders move in rhythmic sequence one after another, as if driving his body forward, towards this place that contains me. I just stand here, watching him walk. Interesting. I never noticed before that he keeps his arms balancing slightly apart from his torso, that he walks tall and straight, carrying his height to its full.
Half way down the seat-path he twitches his nose and fans it with his hand. I laugh. Yes. This is one stinky plane. No two opinions about it. We could’ve chosen a better place for this interview, but needs must.
We await the lukewarm pretend-coffee liquid to be brought around. Once the green-coated, cherry-lipsticked, and rather grumpy Tarom stewardess (excuse me, ‘pilotical’ incorrectness alert!), ok: flight attendant leaves us; Lilliputian coffee cups in hand, iOM turns towards me and gets straight to the point.
iOM: You are relatively new on the blog scene, having just celebrated your first month blogniversary. We first crossed swords over the question of women being crazy. In your opinion, did your background influence your position on the matter?
vicbriggs: Very much so. My first instinct was to rebuff your claim, but that’s the lazy route. I remembered how a fellow thinker once dealt with someone who called her a feminist dyke (not that I’m suggesting here in any shape or form any equivalence between your view and that of her assailant). Rather than getting angry, she embraced the term transforming it into something positive: “Yes. I’m a feminist and a dyke. It’s wonderful that we live in a society where we can be one and the other, and be proud and vocal about it, wouldn’t you agree?” she said. It completely befuddled her wannabe attacker.
Opinion on gender issues in my country of birth, a small former Soviet republic, is still dominated, to my great chagrin, by a misogynist male population. It was tough growing up as a woman in Basarabia, but I think I owe my strength and commitment to women’s cause to that place.
iOM: Are things different in that respect in your new home country?
vicbriggs: Things are much better in Britain. Women do have a voice here and their social standing is relatively better than in Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, there are still many hurdles to be overcome. There is a backlash of conservatism against the advances of feminism on women’s rights.
Since the recession, some politicians have even suggested that women ought to return to the home as their rightful place. Women’s pay is still considerably lower than men’s in equivalent jobs. Whilst men do not have to sacrifice their career in order to have a family, many women are still faced with that choice.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if society viewed both men and women as equally responsible for the upbringing of new generations? I think a lot can be done to share the burden, and I do believe that men suffer because of these attitudes too. Many would like to have the chance to be more involved as fathers.
My last few years in academia have also thrown light on the difficulties female academics have to face. Male students are never told at the very start of their phd that they have to break through a glass ceiling and that those of their gender have a tough time making it in this ‘industry’.
iOM: In your previous piece for Project O, you recounted how your grandfather’s attitude towards his wife was the first prompt for your unearthing how important it is for people to be allowed to voice their opinions. What, if anything, in your opinion, acts as the Grandfather-figure for others today? What keeps people silent when they ought to speak out?
vicbriggs: Fear. There are many reasons why people chose to remain silent, or are compelled to be so. Fear, whether of rejection, of reprisal, of not fitting in, is a big factor.
States and their governments are well versed in using the power of fear to keep their citizens and/or subjects in check. The Cold War provided the perfect opportunity for both superpowers and their allies to curtail the rights and freedoms of their own people, whilst pointing the finger over the Iron Curtain. When “they have it worse than you” no longer served as an excuse, they found other enemies to scare us with into silence.
The war on terrorism provided the ultimate threat. When your enemy cannot be identified, you live forever in fear. The truth is that no one has as much power and opportunity to hurt us than those we’ve put in charge of our decisions, our laws, and ultimately – since politics now infiltrates every aspect of society – our lives.
This is why projects such as yours (Project O) are so important in offering others a platform, a voice. It is wonderful to be able to be a part of it, and I hope that it will encourage others to express their thoughts and beliefs, whilst respecting those of others.
iOM: Speaking of respect, what do you understand by it?
vicbriggs: Good question, and a difficult one to answer. I suppose respect starts with an open mind. Listen before you speak your mind. Do not judge people before they’ve had a chance to explain their position. Give them a chance to defend it. If you disagree, do so by approaching the issue at hand rather than going for the jugular. Never make it personal, even if at times it feels so. If we were all a little more willing to listen and to at least try and empathise with others, then we’d make the first step towards mutual respect.
iOM: You’ve had a chance to travel and interact with people from cultures and backgrounds other than your own. How did this influence your opinions, if at all?
vicbriggs: I owe a lot of who I am today to these experiences. It’s opened my eyes to other ways of life, other modes of thinking, to others’ ability to cope in tough circumstances. Travelling has made me feel closer to my fellow women and men. I am a better person for it.
iOM: You say that you are a feminist and a democrat, and that you can’t be one without the other. Does that influence the way you view nascent democracies?
vicbriggs: New democracies have a lot of work to do for their women citizens. Outmoded attitudes ought to be left behind. It is not easy. I appreciate that in societies where religion is an important factor there is an additional hurdle to overcome. But I stand by what I said If you are a democrat, you are a feminist.
A Modern Greek philosopher and friend once told me that you can be a Greek or a Christian, not both. Greeks have managed it somehow, so I think there is hope for new democracies to subscribe to feminist values without abandoning their beliefs. But they do need to adapt them to new realities.
iOM: And if they don’t adapt?
vicbriggs: If they continue to oppress and devalue more than half of their citizens, then they do not deserve the label. They may be something, but not democracies.
Women ought to fight for their right to an opinion. Men, if they have that right already, and even if they don’t, ought to join women in their cause. If we stand together, if we persist and never give up, then we are bound to succeed. “Constant Vigilance!”
iOM: If everyone is entitled to their opinion, surely some clashes are bound to happen?
vicbriggs: Absolutely. But as long as there is a mutual respect and a desire to listen and understand the position of your opponent or adversary, then opinion will be in good hands.
As I mentioned before, the one line I draw is on sexism, racism and homophobia. If you deny people of a different gender, race or sexual inclination an equal standing in the conversation, then you are an opponent unworthy of respect. You cannot expect to be listened to when you belittle others. You are entitled to your opinion, sure. But no one likes a dick.
iOM: The last question. Do you have anything more to add regarding the importance of this project to you and to the world?
vicbriggs: The fact that so many people have chosen to take time and participate, voice their opinion in this context , is inspiring. I am grateful to be a part of it. We have so many projects of our own that sometimes we can lose sight of what is most important to us. Project O has prompted me to delve deep and consider what I value most and why.
I hope that you will be able to make this a return feature on your blog. Perhaps we can rename September as the month of opinion and encourage more writers to participate every year with new sets of questions related to this topic.
Thank you for initiating the project. And thanks to you all for joining in.
Our lukewarm cups long emptied, we said our goodbyes and Opinionated Man left to hunt down another blogger for their opinion. From theory to action, I landed in Iasi and sticking a protester’s banner on my arm tattoo-style, went of the Union Square and screamed my lungs out to save Rosia Montana from the greedy claw of gold-diggers (literally) and preserve this place of outstanding natural beauty for future generations. The future is too late a time to make amends. Begin now. Grab a cause.
You have a voice. Use it.
For a rather more humorous take on AOpinionatedMan’s Project O questions, follow the link to my original contribution: https://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/project-o/
And here is the link to all other contributions by my fellow-bloggers. Enjoy! http://aopinionatedman.com/category/project-o/