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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Sun 30
Nov
2008

The War on He

What Max Reckons HerI was reasonably confident we had this whole gender inequality thing licked, until I fathered a girl. I mean, I was aware things were not perfect. I worked in corporate-land; women were clearly held to different standards than men. But still: close enough, I thought. In the grand scheme, there were bigger problems.

Now I realize the smallest hint of sex discrimination is A GLOBAL CONSPIRACY TARGETING MY DAUGHTER. And it’s everywhere. Why is every animal assumed to be male? Why is “he” used interchangeably with “it” in a great swathe of children’s picture books? I’ll tell you why: because male is the default setting for everything, unless it’s soft and pink. Or a cat. I’m not sure why cats are the exception. But everything else is “he.”

I realized this was a problem when Fin began naming her teddies. I don’t mind her having boy teddies. Boy teddies are fine, in limited quantities. But she thought almost all of them were all boy teddies. That didn’t seem right. I realized I was doing that thing: using “he” as default. I had imprinted her.

So I switched defaults. It’s a simple rule: you assume that everything is female unless there’s clear evidence to the contrary. Animals, teddies, unseen car drivers: all girls. It proved surprisingly difficult. I’ve been doing it about a year and I still sometimes slip up.

I also began converting Fin’s teddies. Now, possibly I’m teaching her that boys sometimes spontaneously turn into girls. But I had to do something about that men’s club. She’s picked up on it: many of them now waver between male and female, according to Fin, and a few I think I’ve turned completely.

Just the other day we saw a dog in the street and Fin asked if it was a boy or a girl. I asked what she thought. “I think it’s a girl,” she said. That was new.

That’s why all my examples now are going to be “she.” I used to try to mix it up: a “he” example here, a “she” example there. To, you know, be balanced. But now I realize the world is full of “he.” I don’t need to add any more.

Next I plan to father an illegitimate child with a Kenyan and discover we still haven’t solved racism.

P.S. Last day of Movember! I’m so happy; I finally get to shave off this monstrosity. Look at me! I’m a broken man.

Wed 12
Nov
2008

Mo Bad Blues

Max Max develops horrific moAt first it wasn’t too bad. In the right light, my mo looked fairly legit. It was rough and tough and ready to rumble, just like you might think I am, if you don’t know me very well. Seven days in, I could even be considered debonair.

Then the gingers came in.

Now, I don’t have anything against the ginger peoples. Some of my best friends—well, no, all right, that’s not true. I shun them. But I have several close ginger relatives. Lovely people. Really courageous. Also, there’s no problem with ginger if you’re a woman. For chicks, red hair means: “I am so aflame with animal passion, I could burst into fire at any moment.” I think we can all agree on that. But on a man, ginger hair is not popularly translated as “fiery, dangerous love beast.” It’s more “weird pervert from Accounting.”

On top of that, I keep accidentally cruising for gay sex. I don’t mean to. I just haven’t adapted to the signals my mo is sending out. For example, on my run this morning, I jiggled my eyebrows in greeting to a runner passing by. Usually, this means, “Nice morning.” But now, apparently, it means, “Nice thighs.” At least, that’s what I’m getting from the look of terror that crossed the guy’s face.

I’m beginning to catch glimpses of it in my peripheral vision. When I have a drink, it gets there before I do. The other day I blew my nose, and three hours later realized my upper lip was hoarding bits of tissue. Also, despite my private hopes, Jen has not been harboring a secret passion for circa 1970s tennis stars. Hairy, scratchy, ginger lip caterpillar: apparently not a turn-on.

It’s just as well I’m doing this for a good cause. Thanks so much to everyone who donated. I just want you to know, it’s because of you that I’m stuck with this thing until December.

[ Sponsor Max’s Moustache! ]

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