[note. det her er en engelsk blogpost, fordi at jeg cross-skrev den på min anden blog, men tænkte det var godt at få den ud til resten af jer.]
I am not a conform person.
I’ve tried to resist my society, every step of the way. And there are things that you cannot shake as a man, unless your are very keenly aware of it. To step into the shoes of something you try very keenly to get away from is a harsh reminder of all you failures.
And that’s what I learned from Mo.
And I would not spit on the flames if that land caught on fire.
From here on out, I don’t have enough trigger-warnings to give out.
There’s violence, both physical, psychological and sexual, to be found here.
Abuse, gender-based oppression and the like.
Bear in mind, this is exploration fiction examined through LARPing, and everything is talked about between consenting adults, to portray a fictional world in the hope of understanding the real world.
We had extensive workshops to agree upon everything that was needed for this to work. This is a text that I write to share my experiences with something that has deeply touched me, and I need to get out. Please, ask questions in the comments below, or on my Twitter/Facebook.
I just returned from Brudpris, a LARP where the goal was to explore a society of oppression and patriarchy, based of real world cultures.
You could certainly draw parallels to the Mormons of Deseret, the Amish, certain parts of past Scandinavian society and contemporary cultures of honor around the world. All of those were the Mo.
It was a world where the men ruled their families with violence, fear and righteous indignation. Where women are forced to accept everything, as their husbands know best. Where girls are bartered away for a dowry at the yearly Brudpris (lit. “Bride-price“), and are paired up with the young boys, to create new families.
However, it was also a world where religion were replaced by a culture of repressed sexuality, with women being the creatures of with Life and Vitality, and men being honor-bound to restrain the wild nature of their wives, making the men the objects of the sexual gaze, as they tried to force away the “lustful gazes of the women” by dressing proper and dignified, their collars clasped and hair braided.
And if necessary, strict, firm discipline. Emotions are not proper. Men do not show emotion. Women do not speak unless spoken too. They are a Burden, that an honorable man must tame and bear, to show his honor.
Everything is the worst, to put it simply.
And here, I stood, playing the Alderman of the hosting village of the Brudpris.
A firm gripped, steel-eyed patriarch, hardened by years as the highest authority of Hammar, his village. He had brought two sons here, to arrange for wifes for them and see them become men in the Test of Manhood. An event that would harden those boys as much as their father.
Playing Bjørn, the Alderman, I could see down on every family in attendence, and see the rotten nature of wrathful men, trying to hide their oppressed feelings with lashing out on their daughters and wives with both physical and psychological violence.
And because that was how the world worked, he could do nothing, and would do nothing, as such was the way of the world, even when he heard his wife, who he did care for, whisper of husbands who beat their wives bloody at the drop of a dime.
He was in control, tightly tied around himself, layer upon layer of chains placed on himself to cope with both trauma of his own upbringing, his horrible scars from seeing the world beyond Mo, his own Test of Manhood, and expectations of being the most honorable among all the patriarchs.
He cared for his wife, and had two sons that he seemed proud of. But his rule was also a rule of fear in the household, as discipline was enforced by terror of the unexpected backhand or slap, but mostly knowing that Bjørn once had beaten each of them to the brink of death, and the memory was often enough. Talking of emotions to him was forbidden, and eye-contact was avoided, as not to challenge the patriarch.
Black-clad and sobre, with thumb of a heavy stick that could be heard as he approached, he walked almost apart from the world that he ruled, and knew all that was rotten in himself and his world, and would do not to stop it. As who would dare to rock the boat when you are in control.
I fear that it was far, far too easy for me to slip into that character. Even though I’ve tried to move away from it, am I still so connected to the cruel and oppressive side of my masculine self, that it was so easy just to be the man of honor, who just stood by and watched atrocities, because that was what his society expected of him?
There is a fear that the reason I could play such a stern, almost callous character, I that I am detached in my own life, and clear cut rules makes the world far more easy to deal with. Which is a horrible thing to find in yourself. I have survivior’s guilt, for allowing all of those things to happen around me, and not stopping anything. I saw women and girls being beat and dragged around as ragdoll, simply for running too fast on the fields or not answering properly.
The sexual repression resonnated far too well with me, and the lack of emotional support for the men also rang very true from real life, just writ into the extremes. Nowhere was that closer than the first night, the Night of the Trial, where the Men of Mo, allowed for their women to unleash their sexual nature in a bacchanal rites at the top of the hillside, guided by the village shamans, and when the ritual reached a high, the drugged-fueled maenads would rush to the cirlce, where the intimacy-fearing men and men-to-be would be rushed onto as a sacrifice to the natural forces.
Yes. It means what you think it means. When the rite was done and the women slept in their , the males gathered around the fire in a sombre silence. No one had anything to say. Not a single word to speak. No comfort. No fellowship. Only the empty word of their honor.
The next morning, it was time for the Forgivening, where the women would beg and grovel for the ritualistic forgiveness. Every man, wanting nothing more than to lash out in anger, forgave their wives. In public. Because what each Patriarch did under his own house was his buisness.
The rest of the LARP consisted of the Tests of Manhood, where the former boys where test of if they could be become Men of Mo. In the end, they swore the Oath, and then, the Fathers would exchange dowries and words of honor, concluding in a ceremony where unwed women are claimed by the unwed men, at a wedding that most reminded me of a cattle auction. Men who wed more “Vital” (i.e. unruly) women, would earn a higher dowry, but greater risk to his honor, as his family would start here.
Here, I played a part, again, as the Alderman who would say a few uplifting words to the youngsters. Then, there was festivities, a dinner where the newlyweds sat together for the first time, finishing with a ball. That night, I had to play a proud father, as I saw my sons dutifully having their docile wives serve them, doing me honor for raising them right. I even gathered them for a short talk of how to manage the marriage-bed, as not to allow their new wife to push them into unseemliness.
At last, people went to bed, and the day after, each village went their separate ways, newlyweds having found their new home as part of the negotiations, and the theme song was played to end the scenario.
I closed my eyes, and allowed myself to smile for the first time in a while. It was over.
And then, we cried and celebrated. A lot.
And debriefed, to get out of that horrible world. That was happening for several hours. It was very much needed.
From my understanding, there was a very different tone between the two gender-role’s debriefings, where the Female side was filled with a lot of anger and resentment towards society and the male side was filled with a lot of both fear and shame. Fortunately, we also had a mixed workshop, where I we could work through those emotions in cooperation.
I’ve never really felt so much guilt from playing a LARP. And that was needed, even as I had not done anything that had not been agreed upon with the other players, extensively. But, it is the guilt gnawing from understanding the patterns you can see from the same society that you live in, and how fucking easy it was to just… fall into that world, as the Men of Mo are very much the worst part of masculinity writ to an extreme.
I know that my own RL-detachment will have to be addressed, as it is way to easy to bottle up and not let out your emotions. Detachment and repression can boil up to a point where it’s not easy to reach the other side of the gender-spectrum.
And when you do it like I am sure my grandfather, and his father did it, then at one point, a part of you will be a man like those of Mo. I still have a difficult time sharing my emotions, my fears and desires, especially with my male friends, because that is not what you talk about, according to society.
I have been aware of it before, tried to work against it, but to have it placed in front of you with such potency as to inhabit someone far worse than you? It puts it on display. In a way that I cannot stress enough is an enlightening, but still very tough experience.
My own repression of my emotions, both friendly and romantically, were blow up to the degree that I could avoid to understand a bit more about myself as a person through it. I have never been in a position where I’ve felt resentment towards other genders, and I am very comfortable in my own gender and the good sides that there *are* present in it, but if nothing is done to confront the shitty parts, nothing will change, just like every other part of society I’ve tried to pull myself apart from.
Being the Alderman made me feel responsible for it all, even though it was of course, the LARPers themselves who had come to play, but the feeling of committing an atrocity as it was simple tradition was quite harsh to shake.
And finally, I had a fear, that even though it has been banished for the most part, I cannot really shake. I played the Alderman, black coat and hat, white shirt and a stick that could kill a man in a single blow.
In those 42 hours, my form as an Iconic Man of Mo represented the structure, the system and all it’s oppressiveness. And there’s a fear that those women who played that LARP alongside me, will see contemptuous eyes glaring from beneath the a wide-brimmed hat, the very image of the horrible, horrible society, and see me.
I’ve been reassured. I’ve hugged everyone.
They’ve smiled and told me that they loved my performance and my presence. And I feel blessed to have been given the chance to make an impact on so many people’s game. There’s a slight chance I might try something like it.
But I am never braiding my hair in real life again.