Travel: Taking a Bite Out of the Big Apple—My Guide to New York City.

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A month ago I returned from my first, three-week jaunt to New York, a city I’ve been dreaming about since childhood. Recently, a friend whose sister is traveling there soon asked me if I could recommend some sights to see in the city that never sleeps. What follows are my favourite neighbourhoods, shops, restaurants and tourist attractions.

Neighbourhoods.

I stayed on the Upper East Side on 82nd Street between 1st and York Avenues in what can also pass for Yorkville. I wanted to be in a safe, central location that I knew well from pop culture (Gossip Girl, I’m looking at you). It’s only five or so blocks from Central Park, where I jogged to most mornings.

I also loved Chelsea, and the East and Greenwich Villages. They’ve got much more of a European or even Melbournian vibe than some other parts of Manhattan and there are plenty of unique, vintage stores that won’t necessarily break the bank. Next time I visit the island I want to stay in one of those neighbourhoods.

View from the Highline.

One attraction that will take you through Chelsea, the Meatpacking District and drop you off in the West Village is the Highline park, a repurposed walking track on an old freight train line.

Broadway.

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You can’t go to the Big Apple and not see a Broadway show. I had my heart set on Wicked, Book of Mormon, Matilda, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark and Sleep No More, all of which I was lucky enough to see. Broadway lotteries are the way to go if you don’t want to spend exorbitant amounts of money for tickets to the hottest shows. And while hundreds of people can enter their name into the lottery on any given night (Broadway goes dark on Mondays and there are matinee performances in addition to evening ones on weekends), take it from me: it’s easier than it may initially seem. On our first try, my friend April and I won tickets to Matilda, followed by Wicked a few tries later, and Book of Mormon after four entries, the most amount of times we had to enter before we won tickets. You still have to pay if you win the lottery, but at $32 versus $200+, it’s a no brainer. Having spent three weeks in New York, we had ample nights to enter, but we managed to see everything within a week and a half! Our failsafe system saw April and I splitting up and putting one entry for each show we wanted to see; when we’d seen everything except Book of Mormon, we put two entries in the barrel to up our odds. Lotteries open two and a half hours before curtain, and are drawn two hours before curtain; that means you need to get to the theatre between 4:30 and 5pm for a 7pm show, for example, put your name in the barrel, and be present for the drawing from 5pm. Some theatres take credit cards for payment of lottery tickets, but it’s best to have cash just in case, along with photo ID. If you’re splitting up to enter multiple lotteries like us, it’s best to stay in contact via phone so you don’t end up winning multiple shows! Find out more about lotteries here.*

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Souvenirs from Sleep No More.

Sleep No More is not your typical Broadway fare. Instead of sitting down to watch a performance on a stage, Sleep No More takes place at the McKittrick Hotel, a fictional hotel spanning six floors of a warehouse in Chelsea. Attendees wear masks and are sworn to silence upon entering, while the cast members are differentiated by being maskless. The audience is encouraged to split up from their parties and explore, touching sets and props as they follow the actors around the hotel in an attempt to piece together the storyline, based on Macbeth and Hitchcock, amongst others. It is a very popular show not for the faint hearted but for theatre-goers interested in something different. Tickets aren’t always available, but my friend Marilyn and I managed to get tickets for about $80 a few days beforehand via the show’s website.

Food.

To be honest, my trip to New York wasn’t a gastronomical one. I have a pretty ordinary palate, so reliably Western chains were my eating-place of choice. I did find a wickedly good Mexican restaurant just near my apartment on the Upper East Side: Cascabel Taqueria. (They also have a venue on the Upper West Side.) If you ever have the pleasure of eating there, I recommend the chorizo burrito served with sweet potato fries. I can’t speak of anything else ’cause that was the only thing I ordered during the four times I ate there!

The Heavenly Rest Stop café at the Church of the Heavenly Rest on Fifth Avenue in the centre of Museum Mile does lovely cakes and sandwiches at a reasonable price.

In terms of coffee, I never really found anything of the calibre of Aussie caffeine but Starbucks is a fairly reliable source. I frequented a store on the Upper East Side on 81st Street and 2nd Avenue.

The Meatball Shop has locations all over Manhattan and one in Brooklyn that’re worth checking out.

Another chain for lunch or snacks is Au Bon Pain, which does really nice soups and salads.

Shops.

My main motivation in New York wasn’t to shop, but having said that I do have some recommendations. The Strand bookstore in the East Village is a book lovers’ heaven and somewhere I definitely wanted to visit. I managed to get $100 worth of rare and out of print books I’d been salivating over for years on my second day. This also meant I had to carry them around for the next four weeks… If you do have some hard-to-find titles on your list, I suggest you scout those first as many new releases you can purchase at home. Bluestockings Books is a feminist and intersectional bookstore on the Lower East Side where I got a book by Jessica Valenti and a “Feminist Killjoy” necklace that’s worth checking out, as is Housingworks Bookstore and Café in NoLiTa.

Bond No. 9 perfumery in NoHo is another place I spent up big. If you’re looking for a personalised perfume experience different from your typical celebrity and designer scents, Bond No. 9 is Mecca. I spent about an hour being catered to by the Bond Street store manager Jeanette, who hooked me up with three scents—Manhattan, Scent of Peace and Highline—after sampling possibly the whole collection! The cool thing about Bond No. 9 is that the scents are inspired by New York, they’re vegan and their bottles are like artwork.

Not too far away is Stella Dallas vintage, in Greenwich Village. I’d been to a few other vintage stores whose prices were astronomical, but Stella Dallas has a superb range of  items on the dressier side for under or around $100. I was umming and ahhing over a turquoise beaded top for around $50, a midnight blue, long-sleeved beaded dress that was reminiscent of something Nicole Richie would wear for about $80 or $90 and don’t even get me started on their ample selection of skirts and sweaters. They also have stores in Brooklyn if you’re in the area.

Museums.

I visited most museums in Manhattan, including the Museum of Natural History, the Jewish Museum and the Biblical Museum. The ones I recommend, however, are more on the artsy side of things. You could spend days in the Met and not see everything, and the Whitney and MoMA were standouts also. It’s worth checking out the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s website to see what’s on when you’re in town as the two that I saw, RetroSpective and the Queer History of Fashion, were some of the best exhibitions I’ve attended. The Museum of the City of New York was stellar and really gives you a taste of NYC life. The Superstorm Sandy photographic exhibition is particularly affecting.

What I Missed Out On But Will Be Ticking Off My List Next Time…

Two things I didn’t manage to fit in were New York City’s last remaining lighthouse, Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse in Fort Washington Park and the Elevator Shaft museum on Cortland Alley in Lower Manhattan. Both are free of charge, and the museum is open weekends but is available to view through windows at all other times.

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In Central Park on my birthday.

If you’ve been to NYC, what else do you think should be included on this list?

*Edited to reflect that Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has finished on Broadway as of Saturday 4th January, 2014.

My Weekend with Wrestlers.

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The last thing I expected when I attended a cousin’s wedding a few weeks ago was to reconnect with a family friend/fellow wrestling fan and be swept up in a two-week whirlwind of wrestling mania.

But that’s what happened to me and I’ve been reeling ever since.

A bit of background: I’ve been a die hard wrestling fan for twelve years, and even though I can’t afford/my landlord won’t let me have cable television to watch weekly episodes of WWE Raw, SmackDown!, Main Event and NXT, I try to stay abreast of what’s happening in the world of professional wrestling, and I never miss a WrestleMania. (For the uninitiated, WrestleMania is a yearly wrestling spectacular that brings the biggest stars [The Rock, Hulk Hogan, John Cena, The Undertaker, etc.] together in some of the most memorable moments [Hogan lifting the over-500 pound Andre the Giant in a scoop slam at WrestleMania III, The Undertaker’s undefeated streak, Edge spearing Jeff Hardy from 20 feet above the ring at WrestleMania X-Seven, the Money in the Bank ladder matches] in wrestling history.) One of my grandma’s close friends, Zoran—a huge wrestling fan and promoter who is married to the cousin of a WWE Superstar—and I have been introduced once or twice before and bonded over our mutual interest, but that was really the extent of our relationship.

So when we ran into each other at the aforementioned wedding, you can bet wrestling was on the conversational agenda. My answer when asked if I was still into it was, “Hell yeah, I just met Mick Foley last week!” Zoran revealed he was actually the photographer for Foley’s show, and that they went out to dinner prior. If only that wedding had’ve been the week before…

Zoran also told me that as of the following week he was working on a film project with a bunch of former WWE stars: Nick “Eugene” Dinsmore, Orlando Jordan, Gene Snitsky, “The Masterpiece” Chris Masters, Carlito and Rob Conway, as well as Ohio Valley Wrestling star, Mohamad Ali Vaez, and that I should come out for dinner with them later that week. He didn’t have to ask me twice.

In the days leading up to the dinner, I contracted a stomach bug. Great! After a few days off work, I mustered up enough physical strength to trek to Prahan for dinner to sip lemonade while everyone else indulged in a three-course meal. There I spoke a little with Nick, Orlando, Rob and some non-wrestling company including Zoran’s lovely wife Carrie, but mainly kept quiet as I pondered Zoran’s previous offer to be involved in the film as a wrestling valet. Or, a piece of eye candy that escorts wrestlers to the ring, for those not in the know.

As soon as I was dropped home by Zoran and Nick and stepped in my front door I decided to do it. After all, it’s not every day you can say you spent the evening at dinner with some of the world’s most famous wrestlers, let alone engage in a working relationship with them!

At a barbeque a few days later, I got to know some of the wrestlers a bit better, namely Rob and Ali, met some more people involved in the film, and was privy to bits and pieces of the film’s storyline. It was there that my feminist tendencies were revealed in conversation (something I’m still trying to reconcile with my wrestling fandom: watch this space), and were continuously brought up throughout the rest of my time with them. While many people tend to tune out when the topic of gender equality comes up, I think most of the wrestlers really got a kick out of being around a feminist; something I don’t imagine happens very often.

It was also at the barbeque that Zoran invited me to go up to my hometown, Bendigo, for the filming and some club-hopping with the group the following weekend.

It’d been years since I’d experienced the insular nightlife of Bendigo, and I was feeling some trepidation about it. But, again, when else am I ever going to hang out with wrestlers I grew up watching in the town I grew up in? Worlds collide…

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So, on a Friday night after work, I took the train up, dumped my stuff at my mum’s house, and headed out to meet the group. We hit up a couple of relatively dead bars before ending up on the top floor of Huha, where people over 21 and music with words and a decipherable beat go to die. I gravitated towards Zoran, Carrie, their friend Merrin and the two guys who were filming the late-night shenanigans, Corey and Sam, as they seemed to have a similar attitude as me to the atmosphere of the club.

It wasn’t a total loss, though; I got a free drink, saw a childhood friend, got to wear an outfit I’d been wanting to debut for months, and had a D&M about U.S. politics, feminism and Tupac with Chris, who I had yet to really get to know.

Me and a couple of others eventually convinced the group to gravitate downstairs where they were actually playing good music. By that point we’d lost Zoran, Ali, Corey and Sam and their cameras, and Nick.  I had a dance to a few songs, but by about 2:30am with no end in sight for the rest of the revelers, I called it a night and went home.

The next day, after barely any sleep from ruminating about the surreality of the previous night, I caught a ride with Corey to the location of that day’s filming, a property out whoop-whoop. We stood around in the sun for a few hours while production managers, investors, the film crew and hired help set up for that night’s scene, until it was time to go and pick up the wrestlers and their food.

The rest of the day was kind of a blur, as I became increasingly anxious about my cameo appearance in the project. What started out as a simple valet job that required next to no acting transformed into my character (check me out, I have a character!) needing a reason to suddenly appear on the scene as a valet. At one point the idea of me physically interfering in Chris and Carlito’s match and getting spanked for my efforts (see how troublingly sexist wrestling can be?) was brought up, but was scrapped due to my inexperience in and around the ring and the likelihood that I could get hurt.

We shot a few takes of my eventual cameo in the hot early evening sun and it was over in less than twenty minutes, so I worked myself up over nothing. What I really should have been focusing on, though, was navigating my through the ring ropes in heels, which I’ve never done before. Hell, I’ve never even been in a wrestling ring, period.

Nick, Gene, Chris and Carlito (who I ended up escorting as a tag team) were super helpful and advised me of what I needed to do and when. I did experience some “displacement” (Chris and Carlito’s take on anxiety, from what I could understand of their sophomoric antics) in the lead up, but I’d like to think that dissipated once I clambered into the back of a ute (our mode of transportation to the ring in the middle of a dusty paddock), struggled my way between the bottom and middle ropes (according to wrestling “etiquette”, that’s the way women have to get into the ring, even if they’re too tall and wearing too high a pair of heels, with the exception of Stacy Keibler) and self-consciously cheered for my team on the outside of the ring. Only time—and the footage—will tell, I guess…

After the match we could relax, so I sat outside on the patio and chatted to Chris, Carlito, Ali and Gene, whom I probably connected with the most out of all the guys, and I got a foot massage (you can find a photo of the aftermath of said massage on Gene’s Twitter…) and a Masterlock as part of my initiation (see video above). When the filming had finished and everyone was covered in all manner of wrestling-in-a-paddock by-products (sweat, baby oil or “physique enhancer”, dirt) and in need of some serious “isolation” (another Chris ’n’ Carlito coined term for relaxation), we all went outside to take some photos in the ring to commemorate what is sure to be one of the most memorable nights of my life: the night I became a wrestling valet.

Stay tuned for more wrestling shenanigans as I attempt to unpack the culture of masculinity in the sport (entertainment) and how a feminist can really call herself a wrestling fan.

Elsewhere: [YouTube] SnitskyTV.

Images via Facebook.

12 Trends of 2012.

Girls (Who Run the World).

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So misogyny may be running wild in the real world, but on TV, girls are calling the shots. We’ve had a bevvy of shows with “girl/s” both in the title and the storylines this year, with 2 Broke Girls and New Girl carrying their success over from 2011. While a lot of the subject matter is problematic, both shows have women carrying the comedy. Which brings us to just plain Girls, which is the brainchild of actor, writer and director Lena Dunham. Girls is not without its problems, either, but its portrayal of young urban women is almost faultless. Rounding out the representation of leading ladies in 2012 we have Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23, Homeland, Revenge, The Mindy Project, Are You There, Chelsea?, Smash, GCB (farewell!), Scandal, Nurse JackieVeep, Emily Owens, M.D., Whitney, The Good Wife and Hart of Dixie.

“Call Me Maybe”.

Until “Gangnam Style” came along, the YouTube Zeitgeist was dominated by one runaway success: Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”. Justin Bieber’s protégé came out of nowhere with the catchiest song of the year, which was subsequently covered by the guys from Harvard’s baseball team, Barack Obama and the Cookie Monster! Talk about diversity!

2012: Apocalypse Now.

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2012 was the year of the apocalypse, with the 21st of December long determined by the Mayans (or Mayan conspiracy theorists) as the day the world ends. You know, until the 7th of December tried to steal its thunder as the apparent recalculated date. Apart from the natural disasters, warfare and massacres, the 21st passed without a nuclear bombing, ice age or attitudinal shift, putting rest to the apocalypse panic. Until the next rapture, anyway…

Shit ___ Say.

It started with a sexist albeit funny YouTube video of a guy in a wig quoting “Shit Girls [Apparently] Say”, which snowballed into “Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls”, “Shit New Yorkers Say”, “Shit Christians Say to Jews” and “Shit Nobody Says”. Cue offence.

Snow White.

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Snow White was everywhere this year: Mirror Mirror, Snow White & the Hunstman, Once Upon a Time… Note: overexposure isn’t necessarily a good thing. In fact, I hated Mirror Mirror and Once Upon a Time, and Snow White & the Huntsman was such a snooze-fest I can barely remember what happened (not including Kristen Stewart’s affair with director Rupert Sanders).

50 Shades of Grey.

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On the one hand, E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey has singlehandedly revived the flailing publishing industry, so that’s a good thing. But on the other, it has falsely lulled its legions of (mostly female) fans into a state of apparent sexual empowerment: it’s a book about sex targeted towards women, so that means we’re empowered and we don’t need feminism anymore, right?

Oh, how wrong you Anastasia and Christian fans are…

“Gangnam Style”.

The Macarena of the 21st century, Psy’s horse dance took the world by storm, being performed in conjunction with Mel B on The X Factor, with Hugh Jackman in his Wolverine gloves, on Glee and at many a wedding, 21st birthday and Christmas party.

Misogyny.

Misogyny has long been the focus of feminists, but the word and its meaning really reached fever pitch this year.

After Julia Gillard’s scathing Question Time takedown of Tony Abbott and his sexist ways, people everywhere were quick to voice their opinion on her courage and/or hypocrisy. At one end of the spectrum, it could be said that Gillard finally had enough of the insidious sexist bullshit so many women in the workforce face on a daily basis and decided to say something about it, while at the other, many argued that the Labor party were crying sexism in a bid to smooth over the Peter Slipper slip up.

Julia Baird wrote last month in Sunday Life:

“Her electric speech on misogyny in parliament went beyond the sordid political context to firmly press a button on the chest of any woman who has been patronised, sidelined, dismissed or abused. It crackled across oceans, and, astonishingly, her standing went up in the polls, defying political wisdom that no woman would benefit from publicly slamming sexism.”

Whatever the motivation behind the speech, it went viral, with Twitter blowing up, The New Yorker writing that U.S. politicians could take a page out of Gillard’s book when it comes to their legislative hatred of all things female , laypeople bringing “misogyny” into their everyday lexicon, and Macquarie Dictionary using the momentum to broaden the word’s definition.

Kony.

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The viral doco that had millions of people rushing to plaster their neighbourhood in “Kony 2012” posters on 20th of April to little effect (the campaign’s goal was to catch Joseph Kony by years end) illustrated our obsession with social media, armchair activism and supporting the “cool” charities, not the thousands of worthy charities out there who could actually use donations to help their cause, not to produce YouTube videos and work the press circuit.

I’m Not a Feminist, But…

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While Tony Abbott is clamouring to call himself a feminist to gain electoral favour despite the abovementioned misogyny saga, it seems famous women can’t declare their anti-feminism fast enough.

First we had new mother and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer jumping at the chance to shun feminism despite the fact that without it she wouldn’t be where she is today. My favourite anti-feminist campaigner Taylor Swift said she doesn’t think of herself as a feminist because she “was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.” Um, Tay? That’s what feminism is, love.

Then there’s Katy Perry, who won’t let the whipped cream-spurting bra fool you: “I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women.” Right then.

Garnering less attention, but just as relevantly, was Carla Bruni-Sarkozy asserting that feminism is a thing only past generations need concern themselves with, while in an interview with MamaMia last week, Deborah Hutton also denounced her feminism.

Cronulla.

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The cronies from Sutherland Shire were all over our boxes, primarily on Channel Ten, this year. There was the widely panned Being Lara Bingle, the even worse Shire, and the quintessential Aussie drama set in the ’70s, Puberty Blues.

While these shows assisted in shedding a different light on the suburb now synonymous with race riots, it’s not necessarily a positive one, with The Shire being cancelled and Being Lara Bingle hanging in the balance.

White Girls in Native American Headdresses.

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This one really reared its racist head towards the end of the year, right around the festivities of Halloween and Thanksgiving.We had No Doubt “Looking Hot Racist” and Karlie Kloss donning a headdress for the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, in addition to the cultural appropriation of VS’s “Go East” lingerie line, Gala Darling’s headdress furore and Chris Brown dressed as a Middle Eastern terrorist for Halloween.

You’d think we were heading into 1953, not 2013.

Related: Posts Tagged “New Girl”.

2 Broke Girls Aren’t So Broke That They’d Turn to Sex Work.

Posts Tagged “Girls”.

Posts Tagged “Smash”.

Feminism, Barbeque & Good Christian Bitches.

Mirror Mirror Review.

Was Kristen Stewart’s Public Apology Really Necessary?

50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James Review.

Hating Kony is Cool.

Taylor Swift: The Perfect Victim.

Whipped Cream Feminism: The Underlying Message in Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” Video.

The Dire Shire.

Shaming Lara Bingle.

Is Gwen Stefani Racist?

The Puberty Blues Give Way to Feminism.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Why We Need to Keep Talking About the White Girls on Girls.

[io9] Why is Everybody Obsessed with Snow White Right Now?

[The Age] What Women Want.

[The New Yorker] Ladylike: Julia Gillard’s Misogyny Speech.

[Jezebel] Does it Matter if Marissa Mayer Doesn’t Think She’s a Feminist?

[Jezebel] Katy Perry, Billboard’s Woman of the Year, is “Not a Feminist”.

[MamaMia] Meet the Women at Our Dinner Table: Deborah Hutton.

[Daily Life] Carla Bruni’s Vogue Interview has Rough Landing.

[Racialicious] Nothing Says Native American Heritage Month Like White Girls in Headdresses.

[Racialicious] Victoria’s Secret Does it Again: When Racism Meets Fashion.

[Jezebel] Karlie Kloss as a Half-Naked “Indian” & Other Absurdities from the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

[xoJane] Fear & Loathing in the Comments Section… And Some Clarity.

[HuffPo] Chris Brown Halloween Costume: Singer Tweets Picture of Himself Dressed Up as Terrorist for Rihanna’s Party.

Images via Collider, Fox News Latino, io9, November Grey, ABC, Now Public, Ten.

Manning Up.

This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project.

“Man up, mate.” “Don’t be a pussy.” “Grow some balls.”

How many times have we heard these phrases—hell, sometimes we’ve been the ones dishing them out—aimed at the men we know and love?

I’ve been guilty of it myself, when a male friend cries to me on the phone about a failed relationship or bemoans a difficult co-worker/friend/family member and won’t just confront them about the problem. I don’t always say, “Just man up and do something about it!” Sometimes I just think it, which still isn’t ideal.

A recent spate of shows in the U.S. are cottoning on to this “masculinity” crisis, where men use “pomegranate body wash” and are at the mercy of the women in their lives:

“Among them are How to be a Gentleman, in which a metrosexual writer hires a trainer to dewussify him; Last Man Standing, with Tim Allen as a sporting-goods-company executive beset by girly men; Man Up, in which a group of male friends worry they’ve lost touch with their inner warriors; and Work It, in which two guys dress in drag to land jobs as pharmaceutical reps.”

This is nothing new, though. Scholars have long been lamenting “The War Against Boys”, which is also the title of Christina Hoff Sommers’ book on the topic.

But when we/society tell men to “stop being such sissies,” we’re sending the message that anything associated with “femaleness… [is] so insulting that men should react with full outrage,” Jill Filipovic writes on Feministe.

So how are these messages affecting actual men, not just those on fictional American TV shows?

When I asked a couple of my guy friends how they feel when told to “man up,” they replied as follows.

Eddie, 25, says because he “still does kiddy stuff like collect comics, people tend to think one of my faults is being a pushover. I also tend to be pretty open with my emotions. I can’t tell you the true meaning of ‘man up’, because everyone carries different reasons as to what makes someone a ‘man’. I, myself, will not ‘man up’ because I don’t think I need to and haven’t for a long time.”

Andrew, also 25, says, “I think there are men and women who, no doubt, find ‘man up’ offensive, because there are plenty of women who embody courage, fortitude and strength more than plenty of men. By the same token I think there are plenty of men who would find being told to ‘man up’ harrowing, because they lack confidence in their masculinity or cannot even define what the term means to them.”

As I wrote on this here blog last year, I have a real problem with the term “as it implies that simply being a man is equivalent to being courageous.” I, like Andrew, know a lot of women with more “balls” than their sack-packing counterparts. But talking about the role-reversal of women who possess “courage, fortitude and strength” as if they are purely masculine traits is damaging, too. We need to get over this gender stereotyping business and accept individuals for who they are, regardless of gender. (This way of thinking applies to the understanding of transgender people, too.)

We also need to get rid of this “disconcerting… focus on dominance and submission” in gender relations. On the other side of the coin, “stop being such a girl” comes to mind.

Hugo Schwyzer recently bemoaned the “real women” trope and how that has now been transferred onto men:

“Men are not immune from the pressure to be ‘real’. It’s been nearly 30 years since the tongue-in-cheek bestseller Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche spoofed an earlier generation’s Guy Code. But today, the ‘real men’ trope is everywhere. ‘Real Men Don’t Buy Girls’ is Ashton and Demi’s campaign to shame pedophiles, replete with the unspoken implication that ‘real men’ never have to pay for sex with women of any age …

“When I ask my students at the beginning of my Men & Masculinity course about ‘real men’, I get responses like, ‘real men aren’t afraid to show affection,’ or ‘real men like to dance,’ or ‘real men can cry in public and not care what anyone else thinks.’ My students want to subvert the traditional ‘sturdy oak’ model of masculinity. They mean well. But all they’re doing is swapping one unattainable ideal for another. Just as ‘real women have curves’ delegitimises countless slim women, ‘real men aren’t afraid to cry’ shames those men who for any number of reasons are awkward about public displays of emotion. The contemporary ‘real man’ ideal presents itself as inclusive, but it’s just another cultural straightjacket.”

So what is a “real man” according to… erm… real men?

Eddie thinks there’s a difference between being a “good man” and a “real man”:

“‘Man up’, for me, means being the best man you can be. Being selfless, being kind, being adult enough to handle responsibility while never taking yourself too seriously.”

While those traits may be what Eddie views as “good man qualities”, for the next guy they could be polar opposites. Being a good man is in the eye of the beholder, it would seem.

For me, respecting people and, especially, your significant other is paramount to “manning up” (or “human[ning] up”, as Irin Carmon puts it): being able to exert your opinion and standing up for what you believe in without the use of violence.

As Filipovic continues: “There is something very, very wrong with a masculinity premised on violence.” Where are men getting these messages that violence and aggression = machismo? (Um, years of socialisation and the media come to mind…)

For the founders of The Man Up Campaign, a “global initiative that engages youth to stop gender-based violence”, this ideal seems to be the consensus. “‘Our call to action challenges each of us to “man up” and declare that violence against women and girls must end,’ its mission statement reads.”

As recent as 50, 20, even ten years ago, being a “man” involved a large portion of physical aggression. And, despite feminism’s and gender equality’s best efforts, a look at many mainstream representations of men in the media, that stereotype still rings true today.

But if we can, through initiatives such as The Man Up Campaign, make it so that being called a “pussy”, like being called “gay,” is nothing to be ashamed of, even just for one person, then I think it’s a job well done.

After all, pussies push small humans out of them so they can’t be all that weak!

Related: Newspaper Clipping of the Week: Man Up.

Elsewhere: [The Good Men Project] Manning Up.

[Jezebel] Why Are Men Feeling So “Manxious” About The Rise of Women?

[Time] High Manxiety.

[Feministe] Masculinity Crisis.

[Jezebel] Stop Telling Men to “Man Up”.

[Jezebel] Real Women Have… Bodies.

[The Man Up Campaign] Homepage.

[New York Times] On Language: The Meaning of “Man Up”.

Okay, So Maybe I Was Wrong… You Give Men a Bad Name Revisited.

The morning after I wrote “You Give Men a Bad Name” I woke to an email in my inbox from the subject of the post.

I took a deep breath and prepared myself for the ripping of a new asshole.

However, I was pleasantly surprised.

He apologised for not returning my email, explained why he didn’t, and acknowledged that he had been a douchebag and that I deserve to be treated better.

Not what I was expecting AT ALL.

As I told him, I never expected him to ever see the post. The blog is publicised on Facebook, but only two of my friends actually read my stuff on the regular. I find it easier to write unselfconsciously when I think no one’s going to read it. Dancing like no one’s watching, or something.

But, while I still think he should have manned humanned up” in the first instance and just called me back to say thanks, but no thanks, I have to commend him for his response to criticism. Not many people can respond to being called out like that and acknowledge that they were wrong.

A couple of close friends who I told about the email responded in a myriad of ways: one cried; one grimaced; one said they didn’t see anything good about the email because he still had to be called out by me; and one called it incredibly sweet.

But all that really matters is what I thought of it, and I thought it was quite noble. His backstory allowed me to understand why he did the things he did (or didn’t do the things he didn’t do). It provided me with closure and has allowed me to move on. And it made me realise that he doesn’t give men a bad name.

Related: You Give Men a Bad Name.

Elsewhere: [The Good Men Project] Manning Up.

You Give Men a Bad Name.

My friend April’s catch cry seems to be, “All men are assholes.” I refuse to believe this, but sometimes certain men can make it mighty hard.

A month or two ago I met this guy. We exchanged flirty eye contact and eventually I got up the courage to add him on Facebook; today’s equivalent of courtship’s first step. Flirty messages followed, and we eventually hooked up just before Christmas.

While I made no secret that I was into him, he was a little harder to read, however when he approached me at a party; kissed me; invited me back to his house that night; I figured it was safe to assume that he was into me, too. He whispered sweet nothings into my ear, told me I was making him crazy with some of the things I’d written to him (I didn’t think I’d written anything out of the ordinary, but each to their own) and led me to a secluded corner of the party for more of the same. Again, safe to assume he was into me.

Then, after a couple of emails the next few days about how we were each feeling (physically, not emotionally) the day after the party, nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

I’d even asked him if, after Christmas, he’d like to catch up for a drink to get to know each other better. A date, I believe the kids call it these days. No reply. Come on, dude, you’re 30: grow up and call a sister back. Even just to tell me that you had fun that night, but that was all it’d amount to. We’re not in high school anymore.

And it wasn’t even like I’d gone back to his house like he’d asked. Maybe then it’d be understandable that all he’d wanted was sex and then decided to drop me like I was hot. But I went home with my friends and he went home with his. One friend suggested maybe all he had wanted was sex, and when he knew he couldn’t get that from me on the first date kiss, he figured I wasn’t worth the effort. (Full disclosure: I am.) But, again, JUST TELL ME! Is it really that hard to send a ten second email saying thanks, but no thanks?

What makes it even more awkward is that I work with him. Not in the same department, but close enough so that I see him several times a week. And he’s nice as pie, smiles, says hello, asks how I am. I smile curtly and respond; we’re adults, after all, even if he hasn’t really been demonstrating this.

Why do men insist on acting this way? And, I’m sure, a lot of men would assert that women act hot and cold, too. I’ve certainly been guilty of it in the past but, as I mature, I prefer to tell people straight if they’ve upset me or if I’m just not that into them.

Even one of the guys I’ve spoken to about my dilemma boiled his actions down to his Y chromosome. I just don’t believe this. I know plenty of men who are the polar opposite of this trope; then again, I know plenty of men who adhere to it. I suppose, despite what pop culture, bogus science and years of socialisation have told us, it’s really all about the individual, no matter whether they come from Venus or Mars. Douches come from both planets.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Men & Women Are Sooo Different, According to Sketchy Research.

12 Posts of Christmas: In Defence of Porn.

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th. 

This article didn’t garner as much controversy as I anticipated, which might just mean that porn is becoming more accepted in mainstream society, for all the right reasons, I would hope. The original post is here.

“Porn Wars” covered The Monthly in September. Melinda Tankard Reist and Abigail Bray just released Big Porn Inc., a compilation of anti-porn essays. Serendipitously, when I decided I would write this article over the weekend, controversial sex writer Bettina Arndt wrote about the porn debacle in The Sunday Age.

She said:

“The suggestion that porn changes men’s attitudes to sex is really questionable. While there’s a body of psychology research suggesting exposure to porn has that effect, Professor Catherine Lumby and colleagues in The Porn Report, published in 2008, found this laboratory-based research to be contradictory and unlikely to reflect real-life situations. ‘The entire tradition of social science research into pornography has started with the assumption that porn is a major cause of negative attitudes towards women and has set out to prove this,’ conclude these Australian academics.”

She goes on to write:

“… Arguably porn has nothing to do with the insensitivity causing men to behave in that way [with negative perceptions of women and sex], which stems from their cultural and social backgrounds.”

When society encourages the viewpoint of women as second-class citizens there for the appropriation of men’s desires and the male gaze, which—granted—porn does replicate in a lot of instances, I just don’t get what the big deal is surrounding it. While Tankard Reist and others go on about the “pornification of society”, shouldn’t we be looking at the society which spawned porn, not the other way around? Shouldn’t we be looking to, as Arndt suggests, porn consumers’ (of both sexes) backgrounds to determine their use and the effects of the medium?

Caitlin Moran says in her memoir, How to Be a Woman (which, keen-eyed readers, has been referenced here a hell of a lot in the past week or so!), that “the idea that pornography is intrinsically exploitative and sexist is bizarre; pornography is just ‘some fucking’, after all. The act of having sex isn’t sexist, so there’s no way pornography can be, in itself, inherently misogynist.”

She raises an interesting, left-of-centre notion that is not often discussed in (extremist?) feminist critique: if consensual sex isn’t sexist, how is consensual sex—that just happens to be filmed—in porn sexist?

I will argue that there are plenty of representations—in fact, most—in porn that are sexist. The lack of female orgasms, or the ejaculation of the male partner(s) into the face of his female partner(s), which seems to be how so many porn videos “finish” these days, come to mind. But, as Fine writes in The Monthly, “is degradation in the eye of the beholder, or is it just in the eye?”

As “facials” are really the only problem I have with heterosexual, seemingly consensual, two-(sometimes-three-)partner porn, I’d have to agree that “degradation is in the eye of the beholder.” In that case, you don’t have to watch it.

Not only that, but porn might be seen to have some positive effects.

Firstly, as have always argued, the existence of fetish porn is an outlet for those with said fetishes, who might otherwise have gone elsewhere to have their sexual desires fulfilled.

“… Some researchers suggest exposure to pornography might make some people less likely to commit sexual crimes,” writes Melinda Wenner Moyer in The Scientific American.

So long as we can educate young people—with an emphasis on young boys—about consent, the fantasy that porn survives and thrives on and expression of your own sexuality, whether it conforms to sexual stereotypes or no, porn is not harmful, in my opinion.

As a recent article on MamaMia opined: “We need better porn.” If we have access to porn in which everybody gets off, which is a major flaw in the current porn industry, what’s the problem?

As is a major focus of Arndt’s article, as well as The Sunny Side of Smut, men prefer to view women engaging in “enthusiastic consent” to sex, as opposed to the oft-mentioned concern that porn “incite[s] violence against women.” According to Wenner Moyer, the opposite is true, in fact:

“Perhaps the most serious accusation against pornography is that it incites sexual aggression. But not only do rape statistics suggest otherwise, some experts believe the consumption of pornography may actually reduce the desire to rape by offering a safe, private outlet for deviant sexual desires.”

In countries such as Japan, China and Denmark, and in certain states in America, which have increased access to online porn, rape statistics have receded significantly.

It’s not just porn that is changing attitudes (or our changing attitudes to porn) to sex, but prostitution, also.

In a Newsweek article a few months ago, Leslie Bennetts, profiled the idea of making soliciting prostitution illegal, instead of charging the women involved in prostitution. In countries that have started to bring in this legislation, such as Sweden, South Korea, Norway, Iceland, Israel and Mexico, sex trafficking has been “dramatically reduced”, whereas in countries where prostitution is legal, such as Australia, trafficking in other kinds of sex trade has increased. Are we cutting off our nose to spite our face?

There has been a lot of debate over the sex trade in Australia. I don’t pretend to know what I’m talking about when it comes to prostitution (for a more comprehensive look at this, see Feminaust), but I do know that it is still very much a grey area. Much greyer than porn, in my opinion. (Voice yours in the comments.)

And, back with porn, I do think it’s about education, in essence. Just as we educate young people about safe sex, we should be educating them about safe porn use, too. That the smorgasbord of sexual entrees (oral sex), main courses (vaginal intercourse) and just desserts (anal sex) on offer in porn can not always be expected of real life sexual relationships, and certainly not on the first date! (In porn, a first date amounts to come breast fondling and perhaps, in “feature” porn, a pizza delivery or plumbing [pardon the pun] fixed.)

Not to lessen the effect that porn can have on some users (again, harkening back to Arndt’s “cultural and social backgrounds” argument), but studies have shown that how a man responds to a woman in a porn clip is not how he’ll respond to her in a real-life sexual encounter. If anything, introducing porn into a sexual relationship can be the spice of life:

“… Variety in sexual experiences contributes to men’s sexual satisfaction—and other works support [Alan] McKee’s suggestion that pornography can help that along. But [Aleksandar] Stulhofer also found that intimacy is at least as, and probably more, important for sexual satisfaction and—contrary to stereotype—as much so for young men as women.” [The Monthly]

As is my understanding, if a porn consumer lets what they see on the computer screen (who uses DVDs these days? Although, I did hear a funny story from a friend about a porn DVD getting stuck in a DVD player. When I suggested throwing out the DVD player, the friend said it was part of the television. And that the DVD was borrowed from their partner’s Dad. A comedy of porn errors.) dictate their perception of sexual relationships, they’re probably not capable of real intimacy anyway.

So, what do you think? Is porn the hotbed of debauchery it’s made out to be? Or, like Moran suggests, is it “just some fucking”?

Related: In Defence of Porn.

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran Review.

Elsewhere: [Melinda Tankard Reist] Big Porn Inc.: Exposing the Harms of the Global Pornography Industry.

[The Monthly] The Porn Ultimatum.

[Sydney Morning Herald] Porn is Not a Dirty Word.

[The Scientific American] The Sunny Side of Smut.

[MamaMia] Why We Need Better Porn.

[Newsweek] The Growing Demand for Prostitution.