unlearn
Francis Duffy

a Yank, lived abroad for decades. His initial journey was required — war —but thereafter, he went willingly. He returned to the homeland for college (L.A. and San Francisco) and later grad school (UT-Austin, then a fellowship at Hawaii’s East West Center, where Obama’s parents met), then he was gone again.

He learned in college that “deracination”—to lose one’s roots—is how science labels the expatriation process. Yet he doesn’t see the process as one of subtraction, but rather addition. His roots are intact, enhanced via exposure to cultures unlike that into which he was born.

Duffy is also the author of Bar Kafka, the captivating story of Joe Nickerson’s adventures after serving in Vietnam, which was featured in Season 1 of the PenDust Radio podcast.

Fiction
Unlearn

written by Francis Duffy

In the short story Unlearn, Francis Duffy’s main character reflects on a boyhood steeped in dogma, patriarchy, and racism. His alcoholic father is often absent, and his admiration is for his “lioness” of a mother who never missed work, and put three kids through parochial schools. Before welfare, Ms. Magazine, and #MeToo.

 

© 2021 Francis Duffy  | Recording © 2022 Rivercliff Books & Media. All rights reserved.

Of course, gender reassignment wasn’t available then. Not that I was unhappy with having been born male. Rather, it was the latter half of the nature-versus-nurture dichotomy that vexed me.

My abnormality surfaced early.

Kids didn’t use words like matriarchy or patriarchy. The best I could do was wonder (to myself), “Who died and left guys in charge of everything?” School nuns were an exception—yet their gender was open to doubt. Many were robust, had male names (Sister Martin Joseph, Mother Saint Jasper), and their orca garb hid all but cropped face and violent hands.
It would take years (decades, actually) for me to realize that patriarchy rules all societies.

Not so in my nuclear family.

Dad was a barfly, but Mom was our lioness.
Dad was most at home in dingy bars. He excelled at mocking others, a tavern-learned skill he’d bring home with the stink of beer, ashtrays, and urinals. A WWII draft dodger, he’d boast, “Only dummies get drafted. And the dumbest of all enlist.”

Age twenty and off to war, I’d yet to meet a man the equal of Mom.

unlearn
A Yank, Francis Duffy lived abroad for decades. His initial journey was required — war —but thereafter, he went willingly. He returned to the homeland for college (L.A. and San Francisco) and later grad school (UT-Austin, then a fellowship at Hawaii’s East West Center, where Obama’s parents met), then he was gone again.

He learned in college that “deracination”—to lose one’s roots—is how science labels the expatriation process. Yet he doesn’t see the process as one of subtraction, but rather addition. His roots are intact, enhanced via exposure to cultures unlike that into which he was born.

Duffy is also the author of Bar Kafka, the captivating story of Joe Nickerson’s adventures after serving in Vietnam, which was featured in Season 1 of the PenDust Radio podcast..

Q&A with Francis

Tell us about your story...
From an early age it seemed that, as I used to explain to my teen self, “Females are born with one foot in a hole.” From birth they’re assigned unequal status by males, who have systemized (and most benefit from) gender inequality no less than white males most benefit from racial and ethnic inequalities. Males are socialized to expect unearned privilege, as females are socialized to yield to males. Patriarchy’s bedrock defense: both Yahweh and Jesus are male.
What was the inspiration for this story?
The soothing male delusion that females are lesser humans (as are nonwhites of all genders), and a Mom who showed otherwise. UNLEARN shows society instilling male supremacy.
What's your favorite word?
Since 2016 it’s “HollowWeenies”—Used to describe males (overwhelmingly white) who dress up in macho military gear and posture menacingly with assault rifles at BTM rallies and voting locations. Like kids dressed for Halloween, most have never served in the military, much less during time of war. Their behavior bolsters my long-held observation: males care far more what other males think of them (aka, peer pressure) than they do what females think. An end result of such is the Proud Boys: “. . .opposed to feminism and promotes gender stereotypes in which women are subservient to men” (Wikipedia). Also in that vein are “incels” (involuntarily celibate), males who blame feminism and higher education for their inability to get dates.
What have you recently read that you loved?
In the vein of points raised in UNLEARN, comes this via Bloomberg News (7 Dec 21) re: what happens to males when soothing delusions go poof. Gender and racial equality have white males feeling “unmoored.” Feminism, plus surging higher education among females get blamed for: A Crisis of Masculinity as Robots Replace Men.

 

 

 

Anything else you'd like to share?
Yes, Genesis 2:7:

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

No mention of Eve… until Genesis 2:8-22, when she’s not created but rather jury-rigged like an afterthought. And her life’s purpose?

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Adam needs a “helper,” so rather than Eve being fully created on par with him, she’s made subordinate to a male whose sparerib was used by a male deity to sanctify male dominance, according to the writings of male theologians.

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