“Things never change, so why bother?” – GUEST POST!

Bringing you my first ever guest post! By Jamie Coughlan, of indie music zine overblown.co.uk.

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There’s a public and very virulent epidemic in the western world. No, it’s not AIDS. It’s not alcoholism. It’s not ADHD.

It’s apathy.

It is encapsulated by the most abhorrent, pathetic and pitiful phrase you will ever hear in your life: “Things never change, so why bother?” If you ever hear someone confidently spout these despicable words with an ill-informed, patronising arrogance you should…what should you do? Should you turn your back on them and walk away? Should you acquiesce to their deluded and pathetic statement? Should you spit in their eye? No. You should stand tall, equally confident in the provable hope that exists in your rational and logical knowledge. As the speaker and his/her cronies cackle at the pathetic naïvete you display in your assertion that everything is changing all the time, you should take a breath and prepare. Don’t be cowed by traditionally accepted platitudes, and the clichéd non-thought of the morass of ignorance in your immediate presence. Straighten your back (which is admittedly against the wall) and calmly begin.

c101 years ago, women were disenfranchised. Second class citizens by virtue of being born with a uterus. A 40 year old immensely brave woman named Emily Davison stepped in front of King George V’s horse Anmer at the Epsom Derby. and suffered injuries that four days later resulted in her death.

Did she do this because things never change? No, she did this because she believed in her cause and was hopeful that her statement would have a positive impact. Now, due to her sacrifice and the brave and hopeful work of the Suffragette movement, women in the western world enjoy rights that their foremothers could only dream of. They vote, they work, they own property, they run businesses and lead governments. There is work yet to be done, but I am brave and hopeful.

59 years ago, black people were second class citizens in the western world. They were regularly segregated into ‘black’ theatres and bars. Interracial marriage was seen as unnatural and disgusting, they were forced to drink from ‘blacks only’ water fountains, and frequently the subject of gross judicial injustice. Rosa Parks, a seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama, had worked all day and decided to get the bus home. She sat in the ‘black’ section of the bus towards the back, but in the first row directly behind the ‘white’ section. As the bus filled with white people, she was instructed to move. After her refusal she was arrested for violation of the Jim Crow laws.

Did she do this because things never change? No, she did this because she believed in her cause and was hopeful that her statement would have a positive impact. Now, due to her bravery and hope and the work of civil rights groups such as the NAACP, black people and other so-called “minorities” enjoy rights their foremothers and fathers could only dream of. Interracial marriage is no longer seen as disgusting, mixed race children are no longer dismissed as “mongrels”, and there’s even a black man in the White House, a thing that my father thought he would never see in his lifetime. There is work yet to be done, but I am brave and hopeful.

37 years ago, gay people were second class citizens around the world. In many places, the act of homosexual sex, degradingly referred to as sodomy in legislation, was illegal. They were seen as degenerates, perverts and a threat to society. In California, Harvey Milk became the first openly gay person to hold political office in that state. Did he run as an openly gay person because nothing ever changes? No, he did so because he believed in his cause and was hopeful that he could be elected without compromising who he was. In 1978, he and Mayor Mascone of San Francisco were assassinated by Dan White. While this was not directly due to Milk’s homosexuality, it was linked to White being refused reappointment to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors due to his conservative agenda. A more liberal appointment was deemed more desirable in that time of social change. Now, due to Milk’s bravery and hope, and the work of LGBT civil rights groups, homosexual sex is no longer illegal, gay people can legally marry and they can adopt children in many countries. There is work yet to be done, but I am brave and hopeful.

After you have finished sharing your hope based on fact, reason and logic, you can then focus on this adherent to archaic non-intellectual and ignorant thought before you, and say to them: how dare you teach such nonsense to your children. How dare you spread it among your peers and colleagues. How dare you attempt to diminish my faith in and hope for humanity with your ill-informed and cowardly apathy. The world is in constant flux, and over time there is progressive and positive change. I will never allow your apathy to infest my faith in and hope for humanity. We are a work in progress, and progress is hard, and progress is slow.

Things will never change if you’re apathetic, pitiful, and pathetic world view takes hold. There is work yet to be done, but I am brave and hopeful.

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Jamie is a muso, teacher and writer from Ireland. He considers himself incredibly pretentious, though no one else does, resulting in either a full confirmation or complete cancelling out of the fact, I’m not sure. He’s bad with money, and loves beer gardens (hence being bad with money. Topiary addictions are niche and expensive.)

You can find more of Jamie’s work at his site Overblown at the link above. Follow him on Twitter @OverblownZine.

What do you think about Jamie’s view of apathy? Post a comment below – if anybody would like to respond, it would be interesting to host another piece on the state of apathy…continue the train of thought!

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We need masculism, because…

pin up boysAbout a week before I became aware of the failed intentions of Twitter hashtag #INeedMasculismBecause I posted this for the consideration of my facebook friends:

 

Anyone ever come across a name for someone who opposes masculine normativity? For example, Jackson Katz: while he’s certainly a feminist, his ‘bag’ is writing about the construction of masculinity. He is brilliant. But what is he? A Man-in-ist? An Andronist? I feel this agenda should warrant a name other than ‘Gender Equality’ (since feminism has a specific name…even though we’re all really after the same outcome.)

 

While feminists, womanists and other marginalised activist groups have long been looking at the tangible ideological impact of under- or false-representation and the pervasive persistence of prejudice against societies ‘underdogs’, have we neglected the plight of the overdogs? Does the straight white male of Western society have a leg to stand on in discourses of oppression?

 

The first, simplest answer is: no, not in the way that you probably think I mean.

 

The Men’s Rights Activists, and other petty-minded people of the twittersphere (and, unfortunately, of the real world) poured out their shallow misunderstandings and perverse frustrations about life in the most predictably (and sometimes bewilderingly) sexist ways, for everyone else’s mocking pleasure. They formed a mighty and fascinating display of reasons why we need masculism, ranging from #INMB without us, where’s the workforce? to #INMB Feminists and Arts students are intellectually challenged. I am a mathematician. Said nutters’ defensive responses to people expressing palpable systemic inequalities in society reminds me of the complaint that it’s unfair to whites that black people have their own, special history month. Those entitled, privileged black bastards.

 

However, we need masculism. And it is important to distinguish the very specific reasons why. Before knowing the extent of ridiculous by which this ‘trend’ had been born, I had a Eureka moment: Masculism! That’s its name! I’d always considered ‘Maninism’ to be Feminism’s equivalent, but this failed my terminological standards due to sounding like an art movement that no one had ever needed because of anything. I’d almost settled on Andronism, though I didn’t feel it would ever catch on in the public consciousness due to a general unfamiliarity amongst my peers with the combining form andro- to mean male. (My lexical snobbery slaps me in the face as I realize that Masculism was the feminism-equivalent label in the first place. Even the MRAs worked that out.)

 

It should be fairly obvious that gender equality means gender equality. With that aim in mind, it would be counter productive to examine the minutiae of how the female and the feminine is problematically defined, and ignore the definitions of masculinity. (Personally I believe that) gender is a construct. We learn our traits, our neuro-automatic behaviours, and some of us are lucky enough to successfully un-learn the ones we don’t want during our lifetimes. Thus, at its most simplified, I believe males and females ‘exist’ in reality, whereas masculinity and femininity do not. So masculism, as I would (humbly) define it is about examining sexist assumptions about men, traits that have been defined as the ‘pillars’ of masculinity, and the representation of manly men men men in the media. (If you don’t get that last reference, you’re life is infinitely better than someone who does.)

 

We cannot equate masculine stereotyping to the oppression of and continuing sexual dehumanization of women. Even if we could, we do not need to play off against one another as though only the ‘worse off’ gender is allowed to campaign for fair representation and treatment. And I’m not even defining masculism as it is apparently usually defined (as in, “Who’s defending the fragility of MY rights, bro?!”) so I can only say how relevant I consider it to be in the context that I have assigned it. But if we are to progress towards a truly gender-equal society, we must examine what has been defined as ‘masculine’ as well as ‘feminine’. All inequalities within, and stereotypes of, gender normativity are a result of the patriarchal system by which ‘things’ have been, and to a huge extent, still are run; by examining all these restrictions and expectations, that normativity breaks down for everyone’s benefit. I can’t say it any better than Jackson Katz, who inspired me to ask the initial question with regard to male representation; he highlights the ways in which respectable masculinity is equated with violence and intimidation, and a disregard for compassion, sexual intimacy and respect for ‘others’. His work focuses on the perpetuation of these trends in contemporary media representation, though these stereotypes are reinforced in wider society, and have been throughout history.

 

The Media Education Foundation, with whom Katz works, are an organisation who distribute videos and educational resources highlighting the ideological impacts of trends in media representation. As a good example of the most base sexual power relations that our culture continues to reproduce, (if you can stomach it; I only got half way through and never finished it) watch Dreamworlds 3: Desire, Sex & Power in Music Video; a disturbing and thorough (a worthwhile but depressing combination) look at the gender power dynamics of the American music video. Many young adults will recognize these explicit videos (and idents, and backstage documentaries etc.) as staples of their childhood viewing; at 24, watching a woman’s bare buttock being branded with the MTV 2 logo is disturbing not only because of its sexualizing and dehumanizing nature but also because looking back, my friends and I grew up surrounded by these images, and since they were being broadcast by adults who ‘knew better’, assumed the were nothing worse than ‘edgy’. And edgy is exactly what most teenagers are told they should want to be. Within the music video universe, the smug, bragging, belligerent, fully-clothed face of masculinity can be seen amongst the female body parts, lauding it over everyone with their miming skills, unrestricted. But this is a restricted and shallow brand of masculinity. This sells a powerful idea of what men can do, should do, can have and should want, and the vulnerable young male is also given his acceptable gender position. Fortunately for him, he has a plethora of other male characters and masculine traits in his cultural sphere; but a frightening number of them blend respectability and likeable comedic frivolity with violence, indifference, domination, ignorance, hypocrisy, infallibility, and a distinct lack of compassion, intimacy and vulnerability. Much more research and education needs to be provided on our beliefs in gender roles as a whole, taking into account our belief in fixed gender itself.

 

So in the context of the construction and representation of gender and the power dynamics between us all, this idea of masculism could become radically transformative. If it catches on.

 

(Finally: there were a few tweets in the INMB feed that really broke my heart, and were obviously a cry for help. Jackson Kent tweeted #INMB it’s my fault that I get an uncontrollable boner at a woman’s overexposed cleavage; then, lashing out in pain, wrote #INMB women are fucking stupid. If you’d like to send Jackson a message of support, you can tweet @analwipe1.)