Once upon a time we used to believe that demons and evil spirits and hungry ghosts caused plagues, famines, floods, epilepsy, diseases, suffering and bad manners. We also believed in unicorns.
The scientific method opened doors to new knowledge and introduced us to the world of viruses and bacteria and weather patterns and alternate theories on what drives human behaviour. Not everyone is on board with the scientific method: it’s mainly the Western world steeped as it is in Greco-Christian-Judeo philosophies and beliefs. Still, it is a reasonable approach to distill testable flights of imagination, myths, legends and beliefs to assess what is fact, and what is fiction or fancy.
And yet regardless of factual, scientific evidence and regardless of law, there will always be people who believe what they think is the truth and is a solid fact, mo matter if it’s real or not: it is their thought, in their mind and that makes it a fact, a reality and a truth. Sometimes this is good. Like when engineers said there’s no way a 3D printer could be built for $100 and then a non-technical guy who said it could be done, went ahead and did it.
We’re beginning to understand some of the neurobiology behind how this works: habitual thoughts seem to create pathways in the brain, a kind of ‘neural rut’. As a result, when we run into situations that might be similar or even sniff of something similar, it triggers neuronal firings along the same old pathways, making the ruts even deeper and when those neurons fire, the body responds automatically and the same thoughts arise with the same reactions, often not positively: “I didn’t do anything wrong, it’s those other people!” or “It always happens this way!” or the ever-popular, “You always/you never ever!” or “lesbians hate men” or “I can’t ever do anything right!”
Some people hold their thoughts as irrefutable, solid facts, which tend to trigger automatic behaviours and reactions which may or may not be to anyone’s benefit. You know these people. They are Rob Ford supporters. They are placard-holding fundamentalists outside of women’s health clinics. They are white people from various Protestant sects preaching sanctioned hate and murder against black LGBT people in Africa. They are the people of intractable, ancient blood feuds in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. They are whites who hate blacks, blacks who hate whites, Asians who hate whites, whites who hate Asians, whites who hate whites, blacks who hate blacks, rich people who hate poor people, populists who hate socialists, liberals who hate conservatives, conservatives who hate everyone, atheists who hate religion, Christians who hate Jews, Jews who hate Muslims, Muslims who hate Jews, Burmese Buddhists who hate Burmese Muslims, Arabs who hate Westerners, Chinese who hate Japanese, Koreans who hate Japanese, Japanese who hate Caucasians, blondes who hate brunettes, drivers who hate cyclists, men who hate women, gay men who hate lesbians, lesbians who hate men, lesbians who hate women, women who hate women, people who hate children and dogs and cats and life and all sorts of people who go live by a motto of “my tribe is the best and only tribe”. The list could get very long.
These people, with deep ruts in their neural pathways and no inclination to change, are filling the airwaves, the papers and the internet news feeds. No surprise there: we are fascinated out of our mundane lives by the crazy goings-on of other people in the world, and our fascination is something that the business of media coverage has monetized.
Mainstream news is all about everything that is not common, not regular, not normal, not balanced. Mainstream media doesn’t sell product when things are working, when people get along, when no one is killed, when bombs aren’t going off, when the weather is good and peace is long and sustained. The news is based on everything that sniffs of conflict, strife, oddities, imbalances, stupidity and celebrity in all its forms including the notorious kind, such as when a populist Toronto mayor and his big brother — a city counsellor — are only too happy to show the world what rich, white, inarticulate bullies in their 40s look like and how they behave.
And so it is with that background of neurons firing and brain rut imagery, humans behaving badly and the media that I wish to share someone’s thought — stated as fact multiple times in the comments of this blog: “good straight men can’t find good straight women because good straight women are turning bi or lesbian … because some men must have treated these women badly.”
Oh grrrr. Because I try to avoid calling people names, I shall refer to him as Mr. American Commenter (MAC). Judging from his comments, MAC believes he should have access to any woman he wants and because that’s not happening, he’s blaming lesbians and the fact that a woman can be a lesbian as an impediment to his success in all things romantic. A woman saying no to him is because of lesbianism.
Perhaps MAC is just baiting me with his comments about how good straight men like him (how ever ‘good’ is defined) can’t find good straight women because women are all turning into lesbians. If he isn’t baiting me it would seem he thinks that the only reason a woman is a lesbian or bisexual is because a woman can only be a lesbian because of a man. It suggests he thinks it’s not natural for a woman to love another woman.
MAC Newsflash #1: You’re gonna have to get used to the new facts. There are women who love women. There are women who love men and women. There are men who love men and women who love men and men who love women. In the middle of that, there are plenty of people who don’t know how to love anyone or don’t want to love anyone. This is the world we live in.
MAC Newsflash #2: If it is true that the impact of men behaving poorly or badly with women or abusing women in any way actually did turn women into lesbians, there would only be roughly 17,252 straight women left on the planet. The odds would never be in your favour.
MAC Newsflash #3: Thoughts are not facts.
We’re also learning that it takes a conscious effort to change how we react to our habitual thoughts. What we now now, is that it can happen. So I have some hope, if not for MAC, for the future. Hope for women to achieve equality to men in personhood and opportunity and law in all things including choosing whom to love. Sure it’ll take time — probably generations given what’s happening in Africa and Asia and Eastern Europe. But just as we got over learning that unicorns never existed, that not all germs are bad, that the war on drugs was stupid, that the body and mind are connected and that there are limits to what can be tested by the scientific method, people can get over thinking that women loving women is caused by anything other than women falling in love with each other, for all the reasons that two people fall in love with each other.