I (Ampersand, a.k.a. Barry Deutsch) was born to a queen in 1968. Well, not really, but I was born in Queens, which is even better.
I’m a cartoonist; you can find more about my cartooning on my home page. Of particular note is my current comic book project, Hereville, and my ongoing political comic strip Ampersand, published in the lefty economics magazine Dollars and Sense.
I live in a big house with a bunch of my friends (including onetime “Alas” posters Kim (basement variety!), Bean, Charles, and Elkins) in Portland, Oregon; the house is painted bright blue with bubble-gum pink trim. Aside from that, I draw comics, watch too much TV, write about feminism, fat equality, and whatever else catches my interests, and beyond that I just hang out a lot.
You can send me email at barry (at) amptoons (dot) com.
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A point about why I’m a feminist. Partly it’s because I want gender justice. But partly it’s because I don’t think men and boys can ever be free until women and girls are. (This next bit, atypically for me, gets a little personal, so if you don’t want to read that shit this is your exit).
When I was a kid, I could not – really, really could not – “do” masculinity. And because of this, my peers (aided by too many adults who should have known better) taught me to hate myself. It took years, but I was an eager student, and I learned. I used to stand in front of mirrors interrogating my reflection, asking why I couldn’t just be “normal,” beating myself as hard as I could with my tiny balled fists (in retrospect, thank goodness I was a weakling!).
Can you punch yourself, as hard as you’re physically able to do, on your face? I can’t now – I reflexively stop myself. But I did it back then, many times. That’s how well I was taught to hate myself.
I wonder if it’s ridiculous, in my thirties, that I’m still stuck on stuff that happened to me over a quarter-century ago. It often seems ridiculous, to me. But I am stuck there. I’ve often said that I have no memories of my childhood, and to a great extent that’s true. But the truth is, I do remember – vividly, with immediacy, far more clearly than I can remember conversations I had just yesterday – isolated moments of shocking humiliation and self-hatred. Those moments are my primary childhood memories.
I’ve recovered, to a great degree. I’ve come to realize – largely thanks to feminism – that the self-hatred I was taught back then is sexist bullshit. But at another level, I’m not free of it. The self-hatred is still with me, lurking below the surface, at times astounding me with its immensity and urgency. I really don’t know if I’ll ever be free of it.
I’m not saying this to throw a pity-party for myself. Nor am I saying that my experience is worse than what happens to women in a male-centric society. Obviously, many people of both sexes have had much worse experiences than I’ve had.
I am just trying to explain that, for me, feminism is not only the movement to liberate women. Feminism for me is not charity work, and is only partly ally work. Feminism is also, selfishly, the movement to liberate myself, the boy that I was, and boys like me who are going through similar experiences all over the world.
I am not a feminist because I was bullied. I am a feminist because I’ve spent years thinking about the issues and examining the evidence, and I’ve become convinced that being a feminist is the only position that makes any damn sense. Feminism is the only movement in the world that has anything at all sensible to say about how gender roles are used as a whip to keep people in their place. But I do think my childhood is one reason that I was drawn to examining these issues in the first place, and one reason I was open to feminism.
There’s an expression so well-worn it’s in danger of becoming a cliche: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound with mine, then let’s work together.” Cliche or not, that quote encompasses a lot of why I’m a feminist.
(Note: An earlier version of this page became, for reasons that bewilder, host to a discussion of rape. If you’re looking for that discussion, look here.)