Clutching my pearls and thinking out loud

I’m seeing a lot of this lately; pile-ons from young women in Twitter, claiming that men who call one another ‘soft cock’ or ‘pussy’ aren’t just crass, they’re evil or mentally unhinged, with masculinity so toxic it melts your vegan nailpolish at 100 metres (and smells like Lynx and packet macaroni – be on guard, womyn).

In other circumstances, this ‘pile on’ – where the hysteria reaches epic proportions and otherwise sensible people find themselves making frankly ridiculous claims about the mental health/motivations and/or personal hygiene of someone else – would be called out for being over the top.

The fact that it isn’t demonstrates a complete schism between the classes. I’ve heard many, many men refer to one another as soft-cocks and pussies. Generally speaking it is a gentle form of giving one another curry. It is not, as the hysteria would suggest, an incitement to commit war crimes (generally war crimes language is more subtle. It often includes terms like, ‘operational’ ‘sustainable’ ‘negative’ ‘maximise’ and ‘neutralise’. This masculinity smells less like Lynx and more like Polo for Men).

I have worked in male environments before, with men who might be called working class *gasp*. I am familiar with their strange and exotic ways, a familiarity that I can only assume does not extend to the woke twitteratto, above.

I know language matters. I am not undermining the sexism that this kind of language reflects – a social order that is rapidly changing. Yet I struggle though to connect this kind of sexist language with severe violence against women – which is the basis for this extreme, clutch-my-pearls hysteria against it. Calling someone a pussy does not make you a murderer.

It’s something I’ve thought about a lot lately. My personal is my political. And I think my personal is different to these twittering women above. Unlike them, I suspect ‘personal’ includes experience with ‘the working class’. Many encounters have shaped my view, including this one;

I once worked in a place (all men) where one employee (I’ll call him ‘Neil’) regularly used the services of a prostitute. Neil was married with teenaged kids. His wife was aware of the arrangement. Although he held a relatively senior position in our little hierarchy (he got to choose the workshop radio station four days out of five and had access to the welder for personal use, both privileges bordering on minor royalty) he was always on the outer. Several years previously Neil had made one or two derogatory comments about his wife’s sexual organs. These comments were eventually relayed to me when I started. Although he was treated with some decency, he was not respected. I wouldn’t say shunned, but definitely regarded very differently. Worse.

The language in this workplace would feed the Twitter outrage machine for a year. Terms of endearment included; Cunt, fuckhead, soft cock, pussy. Men routinely derided one another’s sexual abilities and capacities. Except Neil. Neil was left out of it.

Terms that alluded to one’s sexual prowess (or lack thereof) were acceptable. Interestingly, terms that derided one’s cognitive abilities were not OK. No-one was ever called a moron. That’s a key difference between classes – slagging off one’s mental health or abilities is completely OK for the twittering middle classes (I guess it doesn’t matter how thick you are if your parents are rich, Queenwood will get you over the line and you can pretend you got there on merit). It’s not OK for everyone else.

Men who are sexually violent have a peculiar attitude to women. It is not denoted by calling one another’s masculinity into question by calling them softcocks. You know it when you see it. Looking back on it, I was never, ever left alone in the workshop with Neil. Everyone else – no dramas, just not Neil.

Men who are violent towards women belittle them, often in subtle ways, and often in front of other people. Thinking that masculine violence is underpinned and heralded by smutty talk just demonstrates a class division between middle class young women and working class men (I’m not even comfortable with the term working class because it’s so problematic in both economic and cultural terms. It’s also universalising and therefore feels derogatory).

The whole point of this navel gazing is of course so we all stop talking about this;

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Why I only buy books written by men.

Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 9.43.48 AM.pngYes, it came as something of a shock to me too. But I think I know how it happens.

I buy books from op shops. This is for two reasons. First: I am poor. Second: There is nothing I enjoy more than tipping an entire cup of coffee and/or brake fluid into a good book. The three-for-a-dollar shelf at the Salvos is the clumsy reader’s natural habitat.

Op-shopping hones my reading choices in a rather hokey way, unmediated by popular media or breathy reviews on National Radio. It introduces a deliciously wobbly stochastic process oriented by little more than, ‘For fuckssake, just tell me which one of these boxes isn’t going to the tip, Russell’.

What it doesn’t do, however, is weight for gender.

Last Thursday’s three-for-a-dollar selection is typical;

  1. a peculiar work of ‘experimental literature’ (Habitus, by James Flint)
  2. a well known but tragically dated work of cleverness (Paul Theroux, The Old Patagonian Express)
  3. a classic that I should have read as a teenager but chose to modify a set of header pipes instead (Huxley, Brave New World).

You’ll note these books are all written by men. Female authors are under-represented in the publishing industry, and therefore, ultimately, on the op-shop shelves. But this doesn’t entirely explain why I end up taking home only male authors (so to speak).

Last year, Booker prize winner, Marlon James firmly planted himself in a towering pile of shit for claiming the publishing industry deliberately appeals to white, middle class women (WMCW). According to him, writers of colour are tacitly encouraged to write WMCW’s stories. This, according to James, is the key to getting published.

James characterised these books as;

“…pander[ing[ to that archetype of the white woman, that long-suffering, astringent prose set in suburbia. You know, ‘older mother or wife sits down and thinks about her horrible life’.”

He’s right, of course, writers of colour are tacitly encouraged to write stories for White Middle Class Women. Mostly however, WMCW write these books for themselves. In other words, most self-involved, white women’s narrative fiction is narrated by self-involved white women.

We’re all familiar with this genre. I like to call it suburban-ennui, it is characterised by suffocating interpersonal relationships, pop-sociologies of motherhood or overly considered evocations of minute moral dilemmas. Frequently, these books do little more than reconcile the small generational differences between the author’s mother’s life (as remembered by the author), and the author’s own. They are unutterably dull and redolent with the scent of score settling. Men are one-dimensional or absent altogether. The storyline is often animated by some kind of contrived family secret *gasp*, a banal horror like alcoholism or sexual abuse of which the white, middle class author knows sweet fuck-all. They are portraits of seething proximity and emotional tourism, a claustrophobic, technicolour yawn.

It’s worth mentioning the type of middle class white women’s literature — something I like to call Gyno Grunge. The apotheosis of the exhausting suburban tomes above, Gyno-grunge is equally formulaic. Unlike their motherly suburban counterparts, these stories typically revolve around a single, hideous alter-femme, women who are overtly, grotesquely physical — comprised of cheesy creases and coarse, unbidden hairs. Venal and lazily violent they are part circus-freak, part modern morality play — women in extremis. Invariably they succumb to the purple excesses of loneliness, masturbation and poor dental hygiene. Their class status and motivations are unpredictable and unknowable. They are foreign and base, a clunky ‘other’. Like its suburban-ennui counterpart, above, Gyno-grunge also makes for dispiriting reading.

‘Suburban Ennui’ and ‘Gyno-Grunge’ comprise an inward-looking women’s lit, as tedious and insulting as it is dominant. And the fear of encountering it amongst the jaunty stacks of paperbacks at the Salvos has me clutching for the Wilbur Smith.

And this is how I end up buying the work of male writers. It’s not that I think all women writers produce the kind of work as described above, but many do, the industry rewards it and I fear I might accidentally read some of it.

I’ve decided, though, that in 2018 I will right the balance. I will only select works by female authors upon which to drop honey and brake fluid. Let’s see how this goes.

Phew

I have a passing interest in economics and policy. At times, this has led me to examine some of the key theories about history and economics, including Marxism. Today we’ll be talking about Cultural Marxism  *cue hysteria*

Cultural Marxism is the idea that economic Marxism failed (where’s my revolution, it was here a minute ago etc.,.) and so now lefties are attempting to dismantle the current social fabric with a different type of Marxism – the Marxism of culture. Or so the critics would have it. You’ll be familiar with this idea; Cultural Marxists are promoting the death of the family and western social structures through the devious propagation of silly ideas like gender theory and identity politics. Thirty years ago, the same thing was said about feminists, that was until right wing pundits realised that the only thing that served capitalism better than one person working outside the home was two people working outside the home.

Undaunted, these shrill lunatics continued to maintain that cultural Marxism is a threat to humanity. Feminism has been replaced by issues such as ‘gender dysphoria’ or ‘trans-visibility’. Yep, it’s scary stuff, this cultural Marxism. Apparently we’re teetering on the edge of a society-wide apocalypse because a bunch of bored, screen-sallow shut-ins think that everyone cares very deeply about the cut of their trousers.

The corporatist oligarchy is shitting itself.

And that’s my point. Because if anything, the wobbly juggernaut of Western capitalism loves cultural Marxism. After all, if young adults are keeping themselves entertained competing to see whose dignity and humanity has been, like, super-impugned the most, they’re hardly likely to organise to take collective action against the forces who stand to fleece them the most.

Cultural Marxism is Gen Y’s Marxism – tangling itself up in narcissistic irrelevances, while the real machinery of global capitalism marches on. Cultural Marxism is the Marxism you have when the real thing is too dangerous. Cultural Marxism’s key sponsors are likely to be The Capitalists themselves. After all, this form of Marxism doesn’t bite. What’s not to love?

There’s another reading of course – that capitalism has won. After all, nothing screams, ‘conspicuous consumption’ like the idea that you might fetishise (and monetise) your very gender.

It’s all deeply silly.

Conversations

Yesterday

Kid gets off bus buzzing and happy.

K. N says I’m her friend and she gave me this friendship ring. It’s because we’re friends!

M. Cool.

K. She also says I should wash my hair and conditioner it, because she said she could smell a funny smell and she thought it was me. She said I would look heaps better with shiny hair.

M. Well, you have a shower every day, and you’ve been swimming a lot, so I doubt you’re stinky. But OK, you can use conditioner if you want.

This morning

K. Mum, can I wear talcum powder today?

M. No, we’re walking out the door, it’s too late for that conversation Wait, is this cos N said you smelled bad yesterday?

K. Yeah, she said I should wear perfume, but I told her that my Mum only lets me wear talcum powder, and that’s only sometimes.

M. Ok, let’s get this straight. Sometimes girls tell one another that they should change something about how they look so they look prettier, or that they should smell different. They seem like they’re being nice and being your friend, but it’s actually called; ‘Being a bitch’.

[perhaps could have toned this down a bit, but the kid is used to this kind of straight talk chances are she’ll survive]

M. It’s a bit like bullying where someone tries to make you feel bad, but in this case they’re not necessarily trying to make you feel bad. It’s just a thing that girls learn to do to make other girls feel like they’re inadequate and that they need to do something to themselves to improve themselves.

K. But why do they do it at all?

M. There are a couple of main reasons. The first is that it makes money. Companies do this thing where they tell you there is something wrong with you when there isn’t. But then they make you think there is, and then they tell you they have a product that solves the problem. But there wasn’t a problem in the first place.

Have you got two legs? Are you tired of having two perfectly operational legs? Are the bottoms of your legs always in shoes? Yes! Well, we’ve got the solution, the new Suzuki 1000!

K. I don’t know what you’re on about Mum [exasperated but increasingly common look]

M. Look, companies tell you that something normal about your body isn’t normal. And then they sell a product that will change it. And then they become rich, by solving a problem that wasn’t a problem in the first place. That kind of thinking has become quite normal, so that’s one reason that girls think it’s OK to tell other girls that there is something wrong with them when there isn’t. Make sense?

K. Yep

The other reason is a thing called sexism. Have you heard of sexism?

K. No.

M. It sounds like sex, but it’s really just the old fashioned idea that girls should be pretty and smell nice, and play with dollies, and that’s all they can do. No science. No Operation Ouch. No maths. 

K. No maths? Whaaaat? But we all do maths at school.

M. Yeah, but with sexism girls think it’s OK to not be good at maths, because what’s really important is that they look pretty and smell nice. Imagine if you couldn’t go to the Physics Learning Labs because you were a girl.

[Look of abject horror as this freaky alternate reality sinks in]

M. Yeah, so that’s sexism. The important thing to remember is that N probably isn’t trying to be horrible when she tells you there’s something wrong with how you look or smell. It’s just something some girls are trained to do. So you can still be friends with her, but just be aware that you’ll hear this kind of stuff from time to time. What’s important is that you are aware that there is nothing wrong with you, and you get to decide if you want to change something about yourself. 

A good thing to ask yourself is; would this friend still say this stuff to me if I was a boy? Would N tell a boy that he smelled bad or should use conditioner in his hair?

K. No, I don’t think so.  

M. Ok, that’s sexism, consumerism and body politics covered. Now, try to remember to get your jumper out of your tote tray please, and have a look for missing containers. Here comes the bus.

 

51% of university students sexually harassed!

It’s a good line isn’t it? Certainly got everyone’s attention. Here’s the stat;

Around half of all university students (51%) were sexually harassed on at least one occasion in 2016, and 6.9% of students were sexually assaulted on at least one occasion in 2015 or 2016. A significant proportion of the sexual harassment experienced by students in 2015 and 2016 occurred in university settings. For the purposes of the National Survey, incidents which occurred in ‘university settings’ included sexual assault and sexual harassment that occurred:

• on the university campus

• while travelling to or from university

• at an off-campus event organised by or endorsed by the university, and

• at university employment.

Experiences of technology-based harassment were included where some or all of the perpetrators were students, teachers or other people associated with the university…..

When incidents of sexual harassment which occurred while travelling to or from university are excluded, the Commission found that 21% of students were sexually harassed in a university setting in 2016.

So, 21% of students experienced some form of sexual harassment on campus, or in a ‘university setting’. I’m not prepared to consider public transport a ‘university setting’. After all, when was the last time you were expected to pay for trips with massively inflated dollars twenty years down the track?

Still, 21% is quite a high rate but then it apparently includes being harassed over ‘technology’. Does this mean a vaguely smutty/insulting remark in response to something (equally offensive) that you’ve posted on Facebook is sexual harassment? If that’s the case then I think 21% is remarkably low.

No matter. 51% is a great statistic. Especially on Twitter.

Things got pretty…

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Here are some numbers for Mr Stepney and those like him.

– The survey polled around 30 000 students, yielding a standard error of around +/-0.4%. 30 000 students could therefore be considered a representative sample.

– Annabel Crabb is a well known and respected Australian journalist. She has 437K followers.

The main problem with this survey is that it’s biased towards those who would take the time to fill it in. In other words, it’s more likely to attract those with some experience of sexual harassment or assault.

Sex; making kiteboarding safer since ~2012

kiteporn.jpg

Random social media images of kiteboarding

Up until recently, extreme sport companies had a team of sponsored riders, snowboarders, kiters, surfers and the rest. These people were performers – they demonstrated the equipment and contributed to the brand’s image.

Social media has blurred the line between producer and product. Companies now get their customers to do their marketing for them. Kiteboarders, surfers and snowboarders tag companies in their pictures, hoping to gain more traffic, to bolster and feed their personal image,

I’m a Slingshot/Burton/Billabong girl.

This is ‘late capitalism’, where products help produce their own consumers. The line between producer and consumer is increasingly a two-way street.

Yet not all extreme sports are undergoing this transition in the same way. Kiteboarding, snowboarding and surfing are all different.

Kiteboarding for instance, has changed remarkably. It’s almost impossible to find social media images or videos of female kiteboarders doing anything other just the most simple act of riding along. This is the bare minimum of kiteboarding, the snowboarding equivalent of standing up and sliding down a hill. ‘Lifestyle’ shots are now the norm, where ‘lifestyle’ involves flashing your cloaca on the daily.

I don’t really give a shit if women want to objectify themselves in this way. My main problem with it is probably jealousy – ten years ago I spent my days attempting to secure a watery death for myself in the pursuit of increasingly more difficult tricks and skills. At the time I was constantly frustrated by my lack of bravery and skill, and a niggling regard for spinal integrity.

Nowadays, as a skinny blond chick living in a photogenic place, I could achieve the same results with less kiteloops and more raw chia smoothies. I had fun back then, don’t get me wrong, but the best trick I ever learned was chucking the twin-tip and getting a surfboard. My focus has shifted, I now kite purely for fun. The last freestyle trick I pulled off was icing an octopus birthday cake (and I fucking NAILED it).

Although I stopped kiteboarding in anger years ago, I’ve remained tangentially associated with the industry. Of course, I’ve noted the rise in sex-marketing – kiteboarding is a male dominated industry. But within that I’ve noticed something else. There’s been a huge rise in Eastern European/Brazilian/South American ‘model/kiteboarders’. For some reason I feel less comfortable with these women’s images than those of their global-north counterparts.

To be sure, they’re all producing more or less the same flange-shots, but I think it feels more exploitative. The images of Aleksandra posing Playboy style on the beach, wiping a cheeky blush of sand from her perfectly formed arse-cheek feel somehow more contrived than Emma’s sunny instagram pic from Mauritius. Emma is carefree – she knows that pretty soon she’ll be back in Bristol studying vet science and getting a root canal.

To be sure, Emma’s pic feels ‘thirsty’, but Aleksandra’s is desperate.

Snowboarding is different. It’s hard to look sexy in an outfit that looks like a floor-to-ceiling sanitary pad. The snowboarding social media is dominated by images of men attempting to put their teeth through their lips. Shots of women are more or less the same.

Perhaps the lack of women’s objectification has something to do with the market – most of the top female snowboarders hail from the global north – Norway, Canada etc.,. places where women are encouraged to participate not only in life, but also extreme risk taking. Also, it’s an extremely high cost sport, which limits any kind of participation from poorer countries/women.

Both surfing and snowboarding are also somewhat professional – there are pro-tours and, in the case of snowboarding, Olympic events. Although surfing most definitely has the same cadre of young skinny women flopping about on surfboards in between strong bikini cacao enemas, there is a higher level to the sport – one which endlessly and problematically conflicts with the mainstream marketing image oriented around the multiple trajectories of the bronzed side-boob.

Gah! How can we possibly use these strong, healthy women in our marketing campaigns? What do you mean the bikini ‘falls straight off in the surf?’

I’ve got more to say about this, but I think I’ll crack into that another day.

 

 

 

 

 

Dreaming

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Oh my God, fat hair!

I just had a birthday. And, after a lovely day of presents, delicious food and general flopping around in the ocean I went to bed and had a rather vivid dream.

I was in a mechanics’ workshop, trying to explain to a 19 year old manboy that my diesel bicycle was not hitting its power-band. (Like I said: dream).

Anyway, the young chap sighed, looked me hard in the eye and said;

‘It’s not working because you’re sitting on it. You are too fat, lady. You are a fat old lady’.

He delivered these words almost like a chore, as if this fact alone was so self-evident that he shouldn’t even need to push the foetid air past his shiny white teeth.

Of course, this is the point where I’m supposed to wake up in a cold, thundering sweat, freaking out about my pending mid-life crisis.

But I didn’t freak out. Or wake up. In fact, I kept dreaming. Here’s what happened next.

The young man turned away from me with the thinly veiled disgust of someone who spends an eighth of each day with his own, lonely cock in his hand. I reached out and yanked the front of his overalls. As he stumbled towards my sweaty face, I said;

‘Look here, you tumescent little turd. If you think getting a woman skinnier than me is going to work out well for you, then think again. I’m sure you spend your humid under-blanket moments lusting over some scrawny bint with the je ne sais quoi of a pair of tights filled with coat hangers but let me tell you, the only thing standing between her and a dish-rack is a thick coat of spray tan. At least a dish rack is useful’.

And then I slapped him on his greasy, stubbly little chin and fixed the bike myself.

My dream was unexpected, but welcome.

I have no time for the paranoid foibles of middle age. Fuck that shit. I’ve had a bloody good run, and it just keeps getting better. I have earned my aches and pains and they were worth every bleeding moment. The modern obsession with youth is little more than a fear of wisdom – we idolise inexperience and stupidity, to do otherwise would be dangerous.

Well, screw that. I’m only just hitting my straps.

NB. I’m not actually fat – but maybe my subconscious thinks I am so I’m suffocating it in a layer of chocolate.