Categories: public nuisances

… that it’s possible to care about more than one thing at the same time, without having to explain it to other feminists, too.

Destroy the Joint image

The title of this post was swiped with permission from Orlando, commenting on this post, by Mindy on Hoyden about Town, on Helen Razer’s popular article Destroy the Joint misses the point.

I am weary, so very very weary, of reading “Where are the Feminists” type articles where the topic is anything “feminists” are failing to write about this week. In some cases, this is taken to be proof that feminists do not care about the Thing that should be written about, or they excuse the Thing due to their excessive PC-ness. The fact that we might be unpaid feminists blogging in the cracks between work and family and real-life activities (which might include activism, personal or family illness, or a million other things) isn’t an excuse for our failure. Because the world is absolutely chock full of Terrible Things, and feminism is fighting many systemic problems on lots of fronts, it’s inevitable that we will often write about things other than the Thing which should be written about. Proof positive that we are horrible.

Helen Razer, a celebrity opinion writer with something of a media megaphone, has decreed that

Feminism is the struggle against masculinsed violence and feminised poverty. Or, the acknowledgement that physical violence is enacted disproportionately by men and poverty is experienced disproportionately by women. That’s it, really.

Just to mention the article by Jenna Price of DtJ she’s describing as “twaddle”: Razer wastes quite a few pixels claiming Price is claiming women in power will be nicer, which is indeed a horrible old relic of the Victorian “Angel in the house” image still held by some well meaning people. Reading Price’s article, she says no such thing. She does, however, point out that women are still underrepresented in power networks generally and are hived off into “life and style” media ghettos which are deemed suitable for our overheated ladybrains. Not earth shatteringly new information, but I don’t see how Razer can dismiss this as “twaddle” or trivial.

I had thought that feminist writers and bloggers do write quite a lot about masculinised violence and feminised poverty. I also get the impression that Razer, who has made this complaint more than once, doesn’t write much about these topics at all, preferring to write articles about how much other feminists suck.

In her article about Lingerie Football (Again, aren’t modern feminists pathetic, etc) she missed the opportunity to write about how that “sporting code” demonstrated exactly how feminised poverty works by writing about their very different treatment, in terms of pay and conditions, health and safety etcetera, compared to male footballers. She left it to other bloggers to pick that up.

Google searches on “”Helen Razer” violence” and “Helen Razer” poverty” have so far failed to locate any articles or blog posts specifically on these topics. Come on, Helen; you can’t criticise other people in at least three articles for not focusing on the big issues without writing about them yourself. Go on. Hit us with your best shot.

To be fair to Razer, and to get back to the general topic of this rant, this attitude is not unique to her. I wish I had a dollar for every Tumblr social justice blogger who has blasted “feminists” for not writing about the Terrible Thing which she has decided is the Thing which must be written about du jour. Next thing you know she’s posting about nail art or some favourite food. (This is perfectly OK by me, by the way – I’m not the one wanting to make a huge deal out of blogging/not blogging any given topic. But consistency, y’know.)

This has percolated into academe, with Swati Parashar’s Drum article on the failure of local feminists to blog about the gang rape in Delhi. Clearly, this meant we did not care, or even excused it because of our excessive pee-cee.

Razer’s broadside included a Twitter hashtag, #DestroyThePoint, which portrayed the DtJ group as a bunch of airheads making hilarious non-sequiturs. Now any large facebook group will naturally have a few airheads in it, but I don’t think DtJ was a particularly terrible offender.
Moreover, I think feminist writing over the last few years has effectively put to bed the notion that the treatment of women in the media and everyday life is somehow separate to the Big Questions of Power and Money. Sexism is the notion that men are the default humans and women are the other, the sex class, less serious. It’s all linked. As Tigtog says in a comment on Mindy’s post, “it strikes me as a crucial omission to overlook the role of microaggressions and double standards in perpetuating masculinised violence and feminised poverty.”

These things are connected with veins and nerves and connective tissue. Try to cut them apart and you’ll be left with a bleeding mess. And that’s what I see when I look at things like the Razer article.

Razer has a schtick, and it’s being the Cool Girl of Australian feminism, scolding other feminists for sweating all that small stuff which is small, and neglecting to focus 100% on the Terrible Things (about which she doesn’t write much herself). #DestroyThePoint and other snarky tweets were greeted with You Go Girls! and Woohoos! (a description, not a verbatim quote) from numerous male media figures with recognisable names. Cool girls, of course, don’t call people on their day-to-day shit, they keep their powder dry for the Terrible Things, so they make men feel so much more relaxed and comfortable. People who think #EverydaySexism might feed directly into the big issues are so irritating and boring and serious. No, wait – they’re not serious enough, because they’re not off writing articles about masculinised violence and feminised poverty? Are you completely confused now?

When the “How much Other Feminists Suck” topic has become a subset of feminist writing in itself, it’s time to ask how valuable adding another dead cat to that pile has become. If your criticism is that feminists aren’t writing about the important topics you have chosen, guess what?

It’s time to go off, sit down and write some articles on those topics.

More from Monica Seeber and Jennifer Wilson.
 
 
 
Crossposted at Hoyden About Town

17 Sep 2012, Comments (8)

The Recent Unpleasantness

Author: Helen

…Not the zombie Apocalypse the Herald Sun and sundry dickheads are making out.

The smugness and gloating on facebook and other media has been truly cringeworthy. Again the implied narrative was: How terrible “they” are, and how wonderful “we” are. “They” don’t deserve to live in our society!

A spoofed image of the kid with the "beheading" sign at the Sydney Muslim protest - instead of the original message he has a sign saying "If anyone has any Cookies i would like some please"

Little boy at the protest with a sign more suited to his age and inclinations



Unfortunately, a little boy was placed front and centre in the hate-fest. (This picture is spoofed, of course, but the original is all over the internet now.) To paraphrase the stupid movie which sparked this thing – and to throw its hateful words back at it – he is innocent. There is no way he understands death and consequences at this age. His mum and dad, of course, are the complete nangers in this scenario.

Accounts of the demonstration by “reasonable people”, though, as exemplified by Waleed Aly in the Fairfax opinion pages, place this ratbag minority at front and centre, as if that wasn’t done daily by the tabloids and by popular social mythology. At the very end of his piece, he mentions – in passing – that not one, but several Muslim associations in Australia condemned the action. No matter. Aly’s piece sticks to the tabloid picture of Muslims: Miserable, disengaged, violent.

Aly says:

This is the behaviour of a drunkenly humiliated people: swinging wildly with the hope of landing a blow, any blow, somewhere, anywhere. There’s nothing strategic or calculated about this. It doesn’t matter that they are the film’s most effective publicists. It doesn’t matter that they protest using offensive slogans and signs, while protesting against people’s right to offend. It doesn’t matter that they object to insulting people on the basis of their religion, while declaring that Christians have no morals. This is baffling only until you realise these protesters are not truly protesting to make a point. The protest is the point.

It feels good. It feels powerful. This is why people yell pointlessly or punch walls when frustrated. It’s not instrumental. It doesn’t achieve anything directly. But it is catharsis. Outrage and aggression is an intoxicating prospect for the powerless.

And more in that vein. But isn’t it easy to counsel positivity and self-empowerment and not being outraged when you have a drivetime radio program and lecture at university? What about the responsibility of the trolls not to troll?

And what about the fact that the Western invason of Iraq and Afghanistan have killed hundreds of thousands – there were probably few people at the protest who hadn’t lost relatives. Many are displaced against their will. And they find themselves in a society where a sizeable section of the population continually abuses, others and baits them. This blog doesn’t condone the violence when it erupts but hell, I think I can dimly understand the sadness and anger.

And the usual suspects are moving in, gleefully, to capitalise on these events.

There are a hell of a lot of things people are forgetting here.

The Cronulla riots were largely absent from the discussion: the call to arms by white thugs and ne’er-do-wells in the name, not of religion, but their equivalent – a distorted version of nationalism – and the shock jock (the equivalent of the methhead movie maker) who incited them to attack. Also absent from the collective memory were the deranged killers thrown up by Western society.

There was no mention of the notorious WEF demonstrations where young, white demonstrators were similarly demonised for a very similar “riot”, which was, naturally, over-egged to the hilt by the popular press and right-wing commentators. Any mass demonstration where pushing and shoving take place will, in Australia, result in such demonisation, but despite the blanket condemnation of WEF protesters, this was not taken as a sign of the irrationality or inferiority of Australians generally. And despite the hyperventilation in the press, society didn’t collapse.

The condemnation of the Sydney demonstration by the Islamic Council of Victoria, Muslim Women’s Association, the Islamic Council of NSW and Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights, and the setting up of a Facebook page and twitter hashtag – Muslims Against Violent Sydney Protests and #MAVSP. These have been reported, but they aren’t getting the attention they deserve, I think, among all the shouting about the impending imposition of sharia law. They should get more than a passing mention. After all, the Bolts and Blairs and other opinionistas set such store by people “refusing to condemn”. These people, and numerous internet commenters and tweeters, have not refused to condemn, but the fundamentalist woman with her sadly exploited little boy remain the go-to image for the demonstration.

One of the contents of the invisible backpack of White privilege is the ability to fuck up without people projecting your actions onto your entire group (See Breivik, Anders or Bryant, Martin.)

Above all, with “trolling” such a hot topic in the media last week, there seems to be very little recognition of one of the protagonists as a classic troll. I refer, of course, to the person who, under false pretences, shot and disseminated the film which caused all the trouble. Like Alan Jones’ Cronulla quote, it was a deliberate attempt to provoke.

Before you fire up the knee-jerk “freedom of speech” and “looking to be offended” response, have a read of this. Freedom and responsibility: they go together.

On Twitter, I compared this situation to yelling “FIRE!” in a crowded movie theater – something that actually is illegal in the US. A user I follow responded to me, “This isn’t just yelling fire, it’s loading the theatre with kindling & putting gas in the sprinkler line & toying with a Zippo.”

We can’t be responsible for how every individual reacts to our opinions or expressions. But some misconstrual or mild disagreement was not what happened here; what happened here was that a former meth-dealer, a militant racist, and an extremist from a different religion got together and created a hateful portrayal of another religion to debase 23% of the world’s population. Any claims that these people didn’t know exactly what they were doing and what the end result would be are patently false. The filmmaker who was ejected from Egypt after calling for the US to attack the country specifically promoted his film in Muslim countries. He dubbed it in Arabic and sent it to Egyptian television statements in the days before September 11th – a date which is always charged with tension for Muslims inside and outside the US.

(H/T Guerillamamamedicine).

What else was forgotten? Why, this. I think the methhead filmmaker, a Copt, forgot it too.

We can enjoy our superiority and have fun throwing things at an Aunt Sally other, but we shouldn’t be shocked and horrified if we help to bring into being the very thing we’re supposed to be so afraid of. I just hope that little boy has a good school counsellor, and some good friends who won’t give him a hard time as he grows old enough to know what has happened to him.

It’s bash the bloggers season again, I see. There have been several “Oh, how about those bloggers!!” articles in my favoured dead-tree daily lately. I guess the recent carnage in the Fairfax group and promise of carnage-to-come in the News Ltd group has prompted a fresh outbreak of insecurity and defensiveness in journos and trollumnists alike. We’ve had the usual slew of commentators making the incorrect assumption that blogging equals “citizen journalism” and complaining that bloggers want to replace journalists. NO. Just… for the ten thousandth time… NO.

Most bloggers are essayists, or diarists, not citizen journalists. Sometimes we write about the news. In fact, those of us who write about things we see in the news generally include links – something the AGE and Herald Sun are just beginning to learn to do – which give many more hits to their journos’ columns than they would otherwise get. (If the “citizen journo” myth has any merit it would be that many bloggers are filling in the details on local events which mainstream news outlets only skim over, or providing an alternative view on material easily obtainable from primary sources –press releases online, the Gonski report– which reward discussion or which haven’t been well served by the media.)

Christine Croyden writes in the SMH:

I’M VISITING Paris, where newspapers and books written in English are expensive and can be hard to locate, so I’ve taken to reading a wide range of blogs. I find most are written by people who give expansive accounts of their dealings with the world, yet are not particularly attentive to the world’s responses.

Oh, you just know this is going to go well.

The headline of the article puts two stonkin’ great cliches in one line: “I blog, therefore I am. Life in modern times”. Charmian Clift, eat your heart out. But perhaps we can blame a sub editor for this, if there are any left, so we’ll pay that one for now.

”Look at me, let me tell you what I like, where I’m going, what I think about anything and everything in the world, what I had for breakfast and how fascinating I am” is the gist of most.

And that tells you everything you need to know: it’s another anti-blogging article of type 2663a/C, “I haven’t actually done much blog reading, but I feel knowledgeable enough to write a trollumn for the SMH telling them what numpties they are.” Have we been here before? Yes, we have! With all the financial problems besetting Fairfax, couldn’t they just pick one example of type 2663a/C and republish it every three months?

Croyden’s critique is rather amusing in the light of the article itself which is a feast of the very I – statements about her own fascinating trivia which she complains about in the writing of others. “I’m visiting Paris”. “I’ve taken to reading a wide range of blogs”. “I recently found myself uploading photos onto Facebook”. “I’m of a certain age and not right up with every new thing… I am mother to three young adult children…” et cetera. (Can you handle the excitement?) Yairs, Croyden is not narcissistic for publishing all this trivia because… because… well, because she is a playwright, as opposed to a mere desk jockey, which means she is allowed to talk about her trivia in this manner. Legitimately. And Shut Up, you there up the back.

(Ms Croyden, since you asked, “Do I want people to know I’m away?” when you post on Facebook? No. You don’t. Upload the photos when you get back. This has been a public service announcement. Also: part of your article is conflating Facebook with blogging. They are not the same thing.)

Thing is, there are plenty of writers out there who aren’t snobbish about blogs. The literary critics, expert makers, polymorphous polymaths, fiction writers, environmentalists, contrarians, academicsso many academicsscientists and writers on subjects like feminism on which mainstream journalism/commentariat just seems to spin its wheels. As for the personal (or personal-political) bloggers like me, we’re just doing it to learn how to write. Some more successfully than others, but the blogosphere is much more than a bunch of ninnies wittering about nothing.

Truly, some blogs offer fresh social and political opinions, some do a decent theatre or restaurant review, and there are a few specific interest blogs of value. But these are far outnumbered by the ”look at me” variety.

Most people are familiar with the adage that ”everyone has one novel in them” or the latest, and even sillier idea, that anybody can write, as demonstrated by the thousands of bloggers who give it a red-hot go every day. So why discourage them? After all, the only way to improve writing is to keep at it. But in most cases, although style may improve, it doesn’t mean everyone can become some sort of contemporary seer.

Thanks, Captain Obvious. But I see from this interview at Australian Stage that Croyden worked as a nurse and midwife for 10 years before getting a professional writing gig.

AS: So how/when did you get started as a writer?
CC: I’ve always written – I’d rather write down how I feel and what I think of something than talk about it any day. My first short story was published in 1998 but I’d spent many years writing and crafting short stories prior to that and still love the form. I read a lot of short stories.

So at one point, Croyden herself was an amateur, a writer for the sheer hell of it, “writ(ing) down how I feel”. But someone else doing it on the Web is “narcissistic”. I imagine at some point someone in the writing world gave this aspiring writer a break. I wonder whether anyone sneered at her and told her to stick to changing catheters. It’s a shame she can’t do any better than snipe and carp at other aspiring writers (and many others that are fully fledged) because they publish online.

My wish is that before bloggers decide to post another word, they read a few good books, think about what it is they want to say, wonder for a while about how often it’s been said before, and, once they realise it’s been said in many more insightful, well-written and interesting ways on numerous occasions they go to bed and forget about “their blog”.

You would have to have a pretty high opinion of your own talents to write something so dismissive, belittling and downright patronising, especially having been on the other side of the fence yourself.

But is the article even sincere? In a final egregious example of “it’s all right for me but not for them”, in googling information for this post, I found she runs a blog herself, and has done so since 2008. And here’s an instance of her commenting on an activist blog. That sheds a different light on the “I’ve just noticed this thing called blogging and I’m not really up with all this newfangled internet stuff but it seems loopy to me” boilerplate. It appears it’s not just mean and ungenerous, it seems like a bit of a performance as well. Maybe some anti-blogger screeds on the mainstream media sites are written to order and purchased by the yard. Maybe the editor just says “Hey, get me another type 2663a/C, thanks.”

Manga character says "Girl Cooties"!

All right.

Sigh.

I wasn’t going to take the bait. Trollumnists want attention and clicks, and it’s all very well to take my frustration out on the blog by pounding out a reply – that’s one of the reasons we blog – but it gives them the attention the advertising manager of their media outlet craves, and sends the signal to the media outlet that more trollumning is required. But to hell with it, I can’t leave rubbish like this unfisked.

Here, Elizabeth Farrelly protests: “Here’s the truth. I’m not a misogynist. It’s 13 weeks, give or take, since I was accused of misogyny in these pages… but in the intervening weeks I’ve searched my soul and decided no, not true.”

Trouble is, Farrelly goes on to demonstrate some sterling misogyny in the very same article.

Feminism always had a strategic choice; either to escape the sewing circle or to make it legitimate. I’m with the escape artists. Most of what passes for feminism these days, however, just legitimises girliness.

Scorn for crafts and pastimes associated with femaleness? Check.

I don’t usually read women authors but not because they’re women. Because they’re boring. My female friends are shocked by this, urging me to revisit my Margaret Atwood or Jeanette Winterson. But I tell you, if I never read another intelligent female devoting her first page to how she felt when her husband left her it’ll be too soon.

Valorisation of male writing over womens’ writing? Denigration of womens’ writing in its entirety (with a few exeptions-which-prove-the-rule thrown in to convince us she’s being fair)? Using an obvious straw-writer (all novels written by women begin with a woman musing about how her husband has left her, O RLY) to provide some weak argument for this? Check.

In part this is an aesthetic thing. I like writing with a higher IQ and lower pH than most women can manage: tougher, edgier, stringier. But it’s also, unavoidably, political.

Praise for attributes coded by the writer as “male” (without stopping to consider whether these attributes are intrinsically “male” or whether she just assigns these to maleness in her personal world view)? Claiming men ipso facto have a higher IQ? Check!

To my mind it is the task of writing to lace the personal into the supra-personal – bridging from the self to the political, the abstract, the cosmic. To fail in this, to wallow about in the personal, is a muscular dystrophy of the mind.

Associating women with the “personal” (domestic, earthed, grounded)? Associating men with the cosmic, transcendent world of affairs? Check.

Remember when people used to take offence at women athletes being called ”girls”? Now it seems feminism has given up. Far from liberating us into the tough, exciting world, it has simply stretched the circle, like some outsize marsupial pouch, to encompass it. We’re all girls now.

This makes no sense. The feminist objection to the use of the word “girls” for grown women is to do with infantilising female adults, not hating the very notion of girls and girl-ness. Moreover, Farrelly uses the term “girls” to patronise the reader a few paragraphs on.

I hope you don’t think men escape Farrelly’s beady-eyed gender policing:

At the gym you hear men earnestly sharing tips on diet products. Over coffee they dissect fashion, babies, relationships. “I said, then she said, then I said …” Neo-boys’ natter.

Fearing some kind of contamination of male society by female qualities? Check.(Don’t forget, this is the woman who fears modern building codes and environmental oestrogens are effeminizing our little boys and putting the entire nation at risk. seriously. Obviously, these girly-men are those poor kids, grown up.) See also.

Just as suddenly the Women’s Weekly, which for me growing up symbolised everything frilled, dumb and domestic – everything I did not want my life to become – is a cultural icon, with its own TV drama and a National Library project to digitise it as “nationally significant material”.
Now you can catch up on all those stain-removal tips and sponge-making recipes online, secure in the knowledge that you’re engaged in something of national significance. Super.


Thinking that womanhood or girlhood is defined by womens’ magazines? check. Assertion that material aimed at women can have no archival, educational or historic significance? Check.

Everywhere you look there’s women’s stuff. Websites, blogs, zines and e-groups. The explosion of social networking, and not just the ability but the expectation that you indulge, is a symbolic victory for the X chromosome. But how feminist is it, actually?

Interpretation of proper feminism as abandoning anything which could be coded “girly”? Obsession with avoiding Girl Cooties? Check.

But it’s more than that. The sub-heads of the Parlour blog, for example, go unconscious bias, leadership, mentoring, pay equity, career paths, work/life, and so on.) It’s run by writers and academics but none of it – not a word – deals with architecture the stuff, the content, the juice.
It makes me want to scream. Stop self-obsessing, girls. Leave the sewing circle. You want respect as architects, get on and bloody do it. Build something brilliant, funny, sweet, enchanting, weird, crazy – I don’t care. Do it, and they’ll come.

Women concerned with building professional networks as “self-obsessed”? Check. “Sewing Circle” (Girl cooties, eww!) used as insult? Check. (Have the Melbourne Club, the MCC and other male social networking organisations anything to do with the actual work their members do? What might be the role of a magazine like the one she’s bagging?) Use of “Girls” to denote adult women? Check.

I have a lot of time for Zaha Hadid for this reason alone. I recall her as a young thing in London, sweeping all before her with her retinue of black-clad gay boys like the Persian princess she was. She didn’t bother whingeing about work-life balance. Balance be damned. She just did it.

Yes, “gay boys” are so useful as a social/interior decoration prop, aren’t they? We wouldn’t want to only patronise women, after all.

I believe Greer is right (she too is labelled misogynist, as is Paglia, so I’m in good company). There is a level at which men hate women, for a very simple reason. They’re jealous. Women are core, men are luxuries.

After such a litany of “Girl cooties, eww! Be more like men!”, suddenly Farrelly is concerned to show she’s really on the womens’ team. Somehow, it rings less than true. And Camille Paglia “good company”? I guess if you believe environmental chemicals and female teachers are wrecking society with their “oestrogen-heaviness”, Camille Paglia suddenly seems quite rational.

But this very core-ness can turn us into ruminants, and saying so is not misogynistic. Quite the contrary. It’s recognising that it’s bigger than us. The world needs heroic females more than ever; it needs us out there, muscular, mindful, purposeful and strong. That’s funny.

Women compared to “ruminants”, i.e., cows? Check!

Well, Farrelly’s protestations have failed to convince me that misogyny has no place in her world view. We’re being asked to accept that someonewho looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck may not be one. A goose, perhaps.

5 Jun 2012, Comments (7)

Catastrophe!!!!

Author: Helen

More Liberal party hyperbole on ABC Radio this morning. Apparently, Four Corners has uncovered a medium sized criminal who the Federal police failed to catch, probably because they were too busy spying on ordinary people. Anyway, according to Scott Morrison, this is “catastrophic”.

Scott. This is a catastrophe.

This is a catastrophe.

This is not a catastrophe.
 
Infogram showing how tiny the percentage is of asylum seekers arriving by boat.
 
 
World Refugee Day Rally & March 2012
20 years too long! End Mandatory Detention
Sunday 17 June, 12 noon
Gather State Parliament House, Spring Street, Melbourne CBD

(TW for racist dogwhistling and insulting and offensive language)

Here’s a wonderful cartoon from Crikey’s First Dog on the Moon describing Andrew Bolt’s shock (SHOCK!) that his readers, told to go and “review” Anita Heiss’s new book on Amazon, indulged in angry trolling and race-baiting in his defence (as they saw it).

…Obviously I am not suggesting my brave readers unleash an anonymous torrent of racist abuse and cruel one star reviews on Anita’s Amazon page, that would be all incitey and I’m not that sort of person.
…What?…No… Who are these MONSTERS? Is it I who have inadvertently released this dusky genie from its bottle? Surely not. I was simply mourning free speech in my little way…

Jeremy Sear at Pure Poison drives the point home: Andrew Bolt does not support “Amazon Bombing” critics’ books, and he wishes they would stop following the link he gave them!

Of course, no one except his loyal followers believed him for a minute. Bolt then switched to denying that the comments on Heiss’s Amazon page were racist in tone, at all:

(N)ot one comment I saw then was “openly racist”.

And, in response to a couple of AGE articles,

But how curious. You know my reputation for calling things by their blunt names. If I were a racist, wouldn’t I just say so?

Yes, because that’s totally how it works, isn’t it?

Hmm. I took some screencaps on Friday, and it’s technically true that no one gets up and yells “Hey, I’m a complete friggin’ racist!” As the First Dog would know, some dog whistles are so well known in Australia even a human can recognise them.

Racist limerick on Anita Heiss's Amazon page

Transcript:
Some people who claim to be blacks
Gorge on the teat of our tax.
Though lacking in melanin,
Don’t ever try tellin’ em;
You’ll be sued for stating the facts.

See? Completely not racist. Unless you’ve lived through the Hanson era of the internet (shudder), in which case the dogwhistling is loud and clear. I’ll give them doggy identities to distinguish them:
(more…)

21 Feb 2012, Comments (8)

Another poke at the steaming pile

Author: Helen

…Or steaming bile, as Jo Tamar accurately called it.

Yes, not content with reading Bettina Arndt’s latest so you don’t have to, I went back to the steaming pile of bile and poked it with a stick to examine some suspicious-looking critters I’d seen lurking in there. I have to say some of these spokescreatures were quite creepy and crawly. Others simply failed to impress me with their compelling evidence for her, ahem, thesis.

Most of the people quoted in the first few paragraphs are the latter type – mostly harmless but annoying retailers of Arndt’s straw-woman theories – but Catherine Deveny has already done a good job on them. I’d like to pick up where Deveny left off. First, though, I’d like to mention one of Agony’s “real life stories”, the scuttlebutt about somebody’s workplace. If this anecdote isn’t invented, it’s a notable example of unprofessional conduct – on the part of the storyteller, that is.

A mid-40s woman tells me about a naive 22-year-old work colleague who recently had a breast enlargement.
”She is a tiny thing, quite pretty but socially inept and ready to settle for anything that comes along….”

Could anything be so unprofessional? This is Arndt’s scholarly evidence, her peer-reviewed source. This nasty piece of gossip has no value at all except to flag to the CEO of that company that they need to counsel their staff about acceptable workplace behaviour. Personal boundary violations and verbal bullying, I mean, not bra cup size. This isn’t evidence, it’s abuse.

After a “men’s advocate” from Perth, about whom the internet has nothing much to say, we’re treated to the thoughts of a thing called Giovanni Dannato writing on the group blog In Mala Fide. He’s the “assault on men” dude. I’m not linking to this blog, and if you decide to google it, here’s a prior warning for racism, antisemitism, white supremacist ideology and of course, bottomless misogyny sung from the whole sorry MRA/MGTOW/paleocon songbook. Some article headings: “How to stop masturbating”, “Modern Rape laws protect Harems”, “To be anti-Jewish is not to be racist”. The tagline: “The blog that shouted love at the heart of the world.” They’re joking, obviously. This is where I start saying HEY, SERIOUSLY, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING BETTINA.

How did Arndt come to include a quotation from this guy, on this blog? What wiki-walk or recommendation drew her to it? Is it a regular read? There’s a link to a neo-nazi bookshop, purveyors of young Eastern European women (or pictures of, anyway), and as well as the misogyny there are numerous references to “Race and IQ”, whites-as-a-disposessed-minority, and approving references to Steve Sailer, Roissy, John Derbyshire and many other slimy creatures who I recognise as belonging to the far right-o-sphere.

In case you think this is an aberration and that Arndt is just a naive and undiscerning web surfer, next up is F. Roger Devlin, who she describes as “a political philosopher who writes challenging material on gender issues for The Occidental Quarterly”. If your finely-tuned bullshit meter is hearing “challenging” as a word from the same playbook as “refreshingly un-PC!” and “heresy”, you’d be right.

This challenging material is… Oh, dear god. (Peers through fingers). No link for the Occidental Quarterly, either. TOQ is the mouthpiece of the Charles Martel Society, which Sourcewatch links to William Regnery (a US “White Nationalist”) and other white supremacist individuals and organisations such as Stormfront. Yes, that Stormfront. This stuff isn’t conservative. It’s white supremacist and male supremacist wingnuttery, to the extreme. Devlin also writes for VDARE, another anti-immigration, white supremacist website. He’s the author of such wholesome titles as “Sexual liberation and Racial Suicide”.

My recommendation: Back away, slowly. Disinfect computer after reading.

*Dishonourable mention: The Dad from Family Guy. You do, er, realise he’s a fictitious character, don’t you, Bettina? And

*Hugo Schwyzer. No comment.

Poking into the steaming heap of an Arndt article is not only unspeakably depressing, it shows the very, very dubious provenance of her antifeminist thinkpieces. Bettina Arndt comes across as the voice of reason, the dimple-cheeked smiling disarmer of male interviewers and defender against “extreme feminists”. In fact, I think she is somewhat extreme herself.

Today it was reported that police are searching near Cann River for the body of a teenage girl who was abducted in 1992. One of the “persons of interest” in that case is Craig Minogue, one of the nasties responsible for the Russell St Bombing.

Months before the bombing, one of the key planners, Craig Minogue, warned that if anyone spoke to the police he would kill them and their families, pointedly telling Hetzel’s de facto wife, Julie: ”It would be a shame if anything happened to your sweet little Prue, wouldn’t it?”
The girl was eight at the time.
Police say Minogue made a similar threat on at least one other occasion.

In 1988 Minogue was sentenced to life with a minimum of 27 years for the murder of Angela Taylor [the policewoman killed in the bomb attack]. And…

OK, are you sitting down? You’d better swallow that coffee before you read any further:

…he is now completing his PhD in applied ethics and moral philosophy inside prison.

I’m sorry about your keyboard, but I did warn you.

Now I don’t mean to come all Heraldsuntele on your arse, complaining about people furthering their education in prison and implying that they should be picking oakum for most of the time they aren’t being flogged on triangles, but there is a point at which an occupation and the person engaged in it appear to be, let’s say, an unlikely fit.

I’m fascinated to know what his thesis topic might be. “Abduction: a Comparison of Satisfaction levels from Ransom Collection versus Just Killing ’em”? “Persuasion: the Efficacy of large Explosions in protesting the Failure of the Justice system”. “Shame: What the F**’s that?”

Perhaps some people need to complete a PhD in ethics and moral philosophy before they’re able to make basic ethical decisions of the kind most of us master in kindergarten. Not killing people, for instance.

And recent online discussions suggest that some people might think the completion of a PhD is punishment enough.

13 Feb 2012, Comments (14)

Agony Arndt At it Again

Author: Helen


 
Weapons, baby!
 
 

“Who let Bettina Arndt out again?” complained someone on Twitter. Yes, someone at Fairfax editorial has enabled this abuser of women, again, to peddle her hatred of “liberated women” in the opinion section.

And just as an aside, haven’t the merry punsters of the subediting profession had a field day with this one. It’s largely (snerk! snerk!) about breasts, you see. So the AGE had “Booby Trap” for the title of Arnd’s outpourings, the SMH had “Busted”: the politics of cleavage”, WA Today had “Tit for Tat”… Hilarious and so original!

Arndt pretty much takes Sheikh Hilaly’s Uncovered Meat and reheats it with a serve of pseudoscience sauce. The issue: women wearing clothing that shows skin, particularly where breast cleavage is involved.

“Increasingly, women feel they are entitled to dress however they like,” she begins. The cheek! It’s time they were slapped down, and Arndt is the woman to do the slapping.

Women “dress provocatively but bristle if the wrong man shows he enjoys the display.” They have their “goodies on display”. (Commodification 101, yes?). They’re “half naked and pandering to the male gaze”, and “proudly proclaiming their right to dress as they wish” (Again! this must be stopped!). They “dress sluttishly just to make themselves feel good”, but they are just “flaunting women’s sexual power” and “making “an “UP YOURS” gesture of the most provocative kind”. They’re “advertising (their) wares to the world” (there’s that commodification problem again, Bettina.) Their way of dressing is “sexual arrogance”, like “like schoolchildren who bring something tasty to class that they are not prepared to share”, but at the same time “an act of aggression in which they use the power of their sex as a weapon”, subjecting men to “constant just-out-of-reach titillation”. Yet they have the temerity to “hate men’s ogling” and “protest (their) caveman shenanigans”.

But what about the men, because you know in the Arndt world of today it’s always What About the Men!

Men are “biologically programmed to scan for life-giving breasts for (their) future offspring” (she’s keen on tabloid-level EvPsych Mars-Venus factoids). But they’re in a “total state of confusion”, due to the womens’ terrible weaponized bazonkas. The “Alpha males” are fine, but For the “Beta Males”, “the whole thing is a tease. They know it and resent it,” They’re “angry”, and most likely to “behave badly”. Serve those teasing women right for making people angry with their agressive breasts, right? Then the “sensitive males” are “wary, not knowing where to look. Afraid of causing offence.” (I don’t know where they stand in Bettina’s alphabet soup. Perhaps being “sensitive” makes you too unmanly to even rate a letter.) They describe cleavage as “a form of biological sexual harassment” and an “assault against men”. Behaviour such as catcalling is only “a defence mechanism used by low-status men against women flaunting themselves publicly”. They find “the constant just-out-of-reach titillation men now face confusing, irritating and even insulting.” Another dude thinks that low-cut garments in the workplace are a deliberate ploy to throw their concentration.

And we know this is all true, because she quotes at least three reliable witnesses, including…Peter Griffin, The Dad in Family Guy.

Oh give us a break.

And if you detect a whiff of threat and rape apology in the above, you’re not alone, although Arndt tries to evade it with the classicly formed “Of course, there’s never an excuse for sexual violence…But…”

I must inhabit a different universe, because in my world, women often wear singlet tops and the like purely for reasons of comfort. And every warm day, we encounter topless males, from loungers at the beach or sporting facilities to builders’ labourers. Out walking the dog in my aggressively harassing tank top and sports bra, I’ll see old guys watering the lawn in their shorts and thongs and nothing else. I envy their freedom to experience the soft breeze on their skin. The closest we get to it is a singlet top, but apparently that’s too weapony. Heaven forbid we ever do something that’s just for us.

And where the motivation is pride in your physique, well, I haven’t notice the more toned topless males and buffed singlet-wearers hold back with their flaunting. Maybe we should make them cover up, too? Ha, ha, joking – women don’t have the uncontrollable, animal libido that makes being visibly female such a risk!

It’s surprising and sad, as a fifty-plus woman, to think back to the 1970s where Arndt was a self-described “sexologist”, which sounded slightly ridiculous then, and still does, and writing alongside libertarians like Greer and Humprhries in Forum magazine, encouraging women and men alike to embrace their sexuality and throw off the old shackles. Now she reads more like a member of Family First. It’s hard to see any merit in this article, but of course, we know what it is: linkbait. And I’ve fallen for it.

More fool me. But there’s more I want to say about this steaming pile, er, article, so there will be a part two of this post.

More from The Sarah Monologues, Jane Caro and others.

The AGE must have thought At Home With Julia was a doco, because they had an item about it in the News section today. “Slight it certainly was, but not fundamentally unkind – to the Prime Minister at least.” Er, no. Mocking Gillard’s partner doesn’t leave her untouched. Not the way they did it. I switched it on in trepidation, wondering what antidiluvian gender-policing tropes they would serve up. I wasn’t undisappointed. Besides Amanda Bishop’s HILARIOUS take on Gillards voice (She’s got such a FUNNY VOICE HURH HURH HURH – That stuff never palls!), the focus is all on her partner, Tim Mathieson (Phil Lloyd). And it’s all hanging on the side-splitting scenario of Man Living with a woman who’s More Successful than Him ZOMG!! WEARZ TEH PANTZORZ!!111!!

It’s relentless, from the first bar of the cliched piano intro. As the first episode opens, Tim is followed by a bunch of subteen boys who taunt him about his lack of manliness as he puts the bins out. That sets the monotonous pattern from then on as Tim fails again and again to live up to masculine standards. He even visits JG’s workplace with a sandwich. Emasculating! His day continues as a mounting litany of humiliations. Gillard calls him “my little T-pot”. And while the Tim Mathieson character bears most of the weight of the superannuated tropes, as he becomes ever more irritated and frustrated (and as oblique jokes about his manhood are made by the minute) we’re given to understand that JG’s relationship is doomed to failure. A woman simply shouldn’t be under work pressure. Everyone knows it’s the woman who makes the damned sandwich, amirite? Even in the first episode we feel the relationship is so strained it must eventually crack, and then she’ll be all alone with only Bill Shorten the terrier and Bob Katter for company, won’t she? And serve her right for being an emasculating prime minister and destroying her man.

Clearly – still – the idea that men taking the role of partner to a successful woman are pathetic, and they’re pathetic because they are then comparable to a woman, which is terrible, still has great traction. I’m just about to watch Rush: a woman running about in a flak suit with a gun might be frowned on by some conservatives, but no-one sees her as pathetic and laughable. Women taking on mens’ roles might meet with resistance, but it’s because they’re a subordinate moving up. A man taking on (what’s still defined as) a woman’s role is looked on as moving down.

I can’t help but wonder what this meanspirited and patriarchy-fellating little show will do to the real-life relationship. No matter how Mathieson presents himself in his everyday life, he now has the “man emasculated by successful woman” lesson rammed down his throat weekly, and it can’t help but affect how he’s treated by the public when he goes out. I imagine it can’t help but affect the dynamic between the two of them. And if anything happens to their relationship, then the world will be all, “See, there you go, ball buster.”

And I can’t help but wonder how many teenage girls are abandoning plans for a bigger role in the wide world, because you know, it just makes you unloveable and makes your partner miserable.

Thanks, ABC.
 
 
 
Crossposted at Larvatus Prodeo