Year for the Planet Year 2 Week 11: A Sustainable Planet Has Men Who Can Pick Up after Themselves

Year for the Planet is a campaign to make better choices for the planet. 2017 was when I fixed my eating habits. This year, 2018, is where I deal with my clothing choices.

Among all my YFTP posts, it was the one on emotional decluttering that got the most reactions. You know what I’m talking about—after I did about ten loads of laundry for my newly-married brother, who dropped by and had a malevolent episode of what I can only describe as Third World Male Anger. I haven’t seen him since.

Male Anger is a serious issue, not just in developing countries, but also in progressive ones where women now rule. Achieving a sustainable planet is impossible without gender equality, and we can’t have the latter without facing up to these problems. In our world, not only are women paid less, but if you happen to have spoiled men in the family, they buy more stuff that they won’t take care of.

I recall one conversation with the chair of my then-graduate school in New York, where she was wondering, almost in exasperation, why I dreaded coming home, as was one of the terms of my Fulbright fellowship. How could I possibly explain concepts of colonial mentality, perversion of religion, and entitled men in an exit interview? I just got my MFA from one of the best art schools in the world, finished my first TED talks, visited places like Iceland, developed my practice, and there I was about to fly back into crapdom. Life’s not fair.

Most people in these situations tend to keep these on the down low. I prefer to speak about it because strangers respond and it turns out there are so many entitled guys like this in all the places I’ve been. With speaking out comes a realization of our shared struggles. I was relieved; this isn’t necessarily a failure of upbringing, as I think my parents did the best they could. Instead, I’d wager that this is part of a systemic breakdown like most other things in the world today. I’ve always been aghast at how a lot of women put up with garbage like this. For the first time, I’m glad the Philippines doesn’t allow divorce. He’s someone else’s problem now.

But I will say that wow, with him out of the house, I haven’t had to pick up a dirty brief in the toilet, or a used plastic sachet of shampoo, or a dusty bottle of whitening cream. No one is tiptoeing on eggshells. No one is afraid.

There were so many good things that happened right after this guy exited my life. I got a residency to Vienna—picked out of a pool of almost a thousand artists. I got nominated for an award. I was considering applying to this university for a PhD program; a day later I get an email from one of its professors asking me to give a lecture. I’m invited to give workshops, been introduced to new people, and about to go on an expedition in the rainforest—and for the first time I haven’t had to knock on anyone’s door. When bad energy leaves your life, good energy comes in. Clutter comes in many forms. Clearing them all out leads to things falling into place, like nature taking over an abandoned factory.


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