TV: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Makeover” Episode.

With the U.S. presidential election taking place one day before Glee’s “Makeover” episode—in which McKinley High’s class presidential election occurred—aired in Australia, Glee showed that it is capable of some self-awareness and social commentary every now and then.

Shades of Brittany’s bid for last year’s class presidency can be seen, but where that episode dealt more with the feminism of both the 2008 and McKinley’s elections, last night was about the celebrity culture that surrounds voting.

Blaine tries to make this clear when he admonishes Brittany for using her popularity to influence the glee club members to vote for her. “This isn’t a popularity contest; it’s about who’s got the best ideas.” That may be so, but the creators saw fit to milk this angle for all it’s worth with a “Celebrity Skin” by Hole montage.

While Brittany chooses to run with “part-robot” Artie, whom she forgot she dated several seasons ago and broke up with because he called her stupid, as her vice presidential candidate, a category which Sue Sylvester points out has been introduced “for no discernible reason whatsoever”, she suggests Blaine pick Sam as running mate. Sam assures Blaine he’ll bring in the “sympathy” and “not-gay vote[s]” because his family is on food stamps and he’s not gay: kind of like John McCain picked his “granddaughter” (according to Brittany) Sarah Palin as vice presidential candidate in 2008 to seemingly ensure the “female” vote to no avail.

Brittany’s influence on her opposition seemed to work to her disadvantage, as at the end of the episode we see Blaine and Sam (“Blam” as they are collectively called on the congratulations banner) celebrating their victory. Blaine is experiencing some self-doubt and displacement at McKinley when Kurt is more focused on his new intern-career at Vogue.com with guest star Sarah Jessica Parker (who herself is heavily involved in politics and the campaign to get Obama reelected, serendipitously enough) than him, but Sam says being the school’s “first gay-guy president” whose place of birth is brought into question by Brittany is something to be proud of, just like Obama was America’s first black president whose birthplace was also called into question by a fellow “celebrity” perhaps bitter about Obama’s influence in Hollywood: Donald Trump.

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Asian F” Episode.

Image via AllMyVideos.

Magazines: Conservative Feminist Melinda Tankard Reist for Sunday Life.

Sunday Life is back with a bang for 2012, featuring Rachel Hills’ fantastic article on “anti-raunch, anti-porn, pro-life” activist, Melinda Tankard Reist.

I’ve been reading Tankard Reist’s work for about a year or two now, and I have to say, like Hills and many other feminists, I don’t always agree with her views. Hell, I barely ever agree with her views. I’ve got her latest book, Big Porn Inc., which you can read a bit about in the article, on my bedside table ready to go. I have some trepidation about the book, as I don’t see a huge problem with porn, but MTR does. She also views our culture as an increasingly raunch-filled and pornified one, which I also disagree with.

The article details MTR’s “brand of feminism” and also quotes some of her supporters and detractors, which I think rounds out the article very nicely. There’s also a side box about some other notable conservative “feminists”, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. If ever there were two women who used feminism to further their (clearly non-feminist) political agenda, it’s them. Writes Hills:

LA Times columnist Meghan Daum [writes], ‘If [Palin] has the guts to call herself a feminist, then she’s entitled to be accepted as one.’

“‘I was at a debate recently where a lot people were saying we needed to reinvent feminism because it has become loaded with too much negativity,’ says Eva Cox. ‘But if it’s negative, it is interesting that the right is picking it up.’

“Still, Cox warns: ‘Those who don’t want feminism to be co-opted by the Palins and the Tankard Reists need to do some thinking about what direction they want to take it in instead.’”

I can be a bit of a snobby feminist when I want to be, and don’t think that everyone can call themselves a feminist. But, in a Facebook exchange on the topic, the idea that anyone can call themselves a feminist and has the right to that label was prevalent. I’ve been known to opine that my personal feminism isn’t as radical as second-wave feminism is perceived to be. Just as MTR’s feminism is just as radical, if not more.

Hills rounds out the article by asserting that, “whether you agree with her or not… Tankard Reist is now one of Australia’s best-known feminist voices… It is her language—and that of her supporters—that increasingly frames our debates on sex, gender and popular culture.”

Maybe I’m not hanging out in the right places, but I disagree. Those who shape the debates on sex, gender and pop culture that I read and listen to are the ladies at Feminaust, Jezebel and Feministe, and Hills herself. It just goes to show that everyone does subscribe to their own personal feminism. Mine just isn’t akin to MTR’s.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] In Defence of Porn.

Elsewhere: [Rachel Hills] Who’s Afraid of Melinda Tankard Reist?

[Musings of an Inappropriate Woman] Melinda Tankard Reist & Me: Meditations on My Sunday Life Cover Story.

Image via Musings of an Inappropriate Woman.

12 Posts of Christmas: Why is Feminism Still a Dirty Word?

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. 

Despite how far I feel I’ve come as a feminist in the last year or two, I find most people have “a long long way to go” in terms of realising what feminism actually means. I wrote this post in response to Beyonce’s musings on the topic, as well as the release of Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, “Sarah Palin feminism” and Tina Fey, amongst other things. The original version is here, and you can read an update here.

Recently, when asked in an interview with UK Harper’s Bazaar if she’s a feminist, Beyonce said she wanted to invent a new word for feminism, because she doesn’t feel it “necessary” to define whether she is one or not.

Why, in this day and age, do we still distance ourselves from the word “feminism”?

And it’s not just Beyonce. Keri Hilson, Lady Gaga, and even (kind of)Tina Fey, have been called a feminist in one instance, and tried tobacktrack on it in the next.

In response to all this, Jezebel ran a contest to come up with “a catchy new word for feminism”, like Beyonce suggested. Some suggestions were “FUCK PATRIARCHY”, “Flesh-Hungry Young Slutism” (seemingly appropriate given it has been the year of the SlutWalk, if you will), “Vaginist”, “Diva-is-a-female-version-of-a-hustla-ism” (how you like that, Beyonce?), but the one that came out on top was “Equalism” which, in my experience, is what young feminists today strive for.

Speaking of young feminists, I would probably only define a handful of my friends as this, and even they are hesitant to describe themselves this way.

One says she’s not a feminist because she wants to “cook for her boyfriend”. Since when did not cooking and feminism become mutually exclusive?

Another says he’s (yes, he’s) could never truly be a feminist because he doesn’t have a vagina, so therefore will never know what those who do have to go through on a daily basis in a patriarchal society, and have gone through for centuries in patriarchal societies.

I have another who, just by looking at her, screams feminism before she even opens her mouth. Yet sometimes, when she says things I morally disagree with, I think, “she’s not feminist enough”. (Abhorrent, I know, and something I strive not to think and say as a feminist. And, by my own admission, some might say I’m “not feminist enough” because of the way I talk and how I dress.)

It’s a far cry from Beyonce, Gaga et al., who try to distance themselves from feminism, while young feminists (and old!) bicker amongst themselves about who’s more feminist! And it perfectly illustrates the discrepancies between what self-described feminists project onto the movement, and what lay, non-feminist Generation Yers believes it to be about.

Camilla Peffer over at Girls Are Made From Pepsi writes:

“I think most women associate feminism with radicalism and the whole bra burning hulla-balloo. Which is RI-DUNK-U-LOUS. And a lot of people see the term feminist [as] biased towards females in the sense that the whole movement promotes this idea of women being better than men.”

Indeed, there is a far cry between the first wave suffragist movement, second wave “bra-burning” and the sexual revolution, and current third-wave feminism. Some would even say that we have passed third-wave feminism and are now living in a post-feminist society.

When I first started getting into feminism about two years ago, I subscribed to this notion. Now, having been exposed to all manner of blogs, academic articles, events etc. to put the sexism, discrimination and harassment I’ve experienced as a woman into perspective, I can see that we sure as hell aren’t living in a post-feminist world and that we still need feminism, perhaps more than ever with the rise of the Tea Party and Michele Bachmann and the closure of Planned Parenthoods in the U.S., the blatant harassment most women experience on the street and in their workplaces every day, theattacks on SlutWalk, and the atrocities facing Third World women, to name but a few.

Taking on these battles shouldn’t be seen as something “dirty”; it should be seen as something we can all get behind, if it leads to our daughters experiencing a world free from harassment and discrimination based on what genitals she possesses and what she looks like, no matter what part of the world she hails from.

Sadly, as Rachel Hills muses, “it can be a bit uncool to care. Feminism means caring and wanting to change things, ergo it makes people uncomfortable—especially people who are comfortable with the status quo.”

Are you comfortable with the status quo? Do you think feminism is still a dirty word?

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Why is Feminism Still a Dirty Word?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] UPDATED: Why is Feminism Still a Dirty Word?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Why Young Feminists Still Have “A Long, Long Way to Go” in the Eyes of Second-Wave Feminists.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] So Misunderstood.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Melbourne Writers’ Festival: A Long, Long Way to Go: Why We Still Need Feminism.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Has Feminism Failed?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] I Ain’t No Hollaback Girl: Street Harassment in CLEO.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Taboos of Sexual Harassment.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] SlutWalk: A Smokescreen of Lies, Misinformation & Those Old Myths About Males.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Let’s Invent a Catchy New Word for Feminism.

[Jezebel] The Catchy New Word for Feminism.

[Jezebel] Keri Hilson is a Feminist, Not That She Wants to Say So, Exactly.

[Jezebel] Tina Fey on the Message of 30 Rock’s “Joan of Snark” Episode.

[Feministe] Time to Check In With Tina Fey’s Feminism.

[The Frisky] Tina Fey: Not Feminist Enough?

[Girls Are Made From Pepsi] The Post in Which I Talk About Beyonce, Feminism & Equality For All.


On the (Rest of the) Net.

Tavi Gevinson on her “First Encounters with the Male Gaze” and “How to Bitchface”. Love. [Rookie]

So, I’m not the only twenty-something who’s never been in a serious relationship! MamaMia’s Lucy Ormonde writes:

“Maybe we’re too picky. Maybe we’re too focused on our careers, too busy to look. Or maybe we should stop congregating in my living room and, you know, get out there.”

While I agree with most all she said, I have to argue that we’re not “too” anything. It’s the guys’ problem if they can’t hand our standards, careers and busy lives. Amiright?

To all the street harassers: we’re not here for your entertainment. [Emanix]

The racial and cultural limitations of “Share a Coke With…” [MamaMia]

Still with race, the racial politics of the Occupy protests. [Racialicious, via Jezebel]

On smacking. While I don’t think it’s something I would employ in disciplining my future children, I don’t have a problem with other people smacking their children. But Katharine Cook does make some good points on the contrary. [MamaMia]

The problem with asserting that “real women have curves”. So what do other women have? And are non-curvy women not real? [Jezebel]

Links from the #MenCallMeThings movement: Tiger Beatdown and New Statesman.

Men also explain things to me. [Alternet]

God save Community. [Jezebel]

An oldie but a goodie: deconstructing “Sarah Palin Feminism”. [Jezebel]

Images via Rookie, Community Things.

TV: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Asian F” Episode.

Despite the racism of the title (is it racist if the two token Asian characters and their tiger parents say it?), last night’s episode of Glee was all about girl power, with some political undertones.

Brittany is continuing her race for class president, performing “Run the World (Girls)” by Beyonce to a standing ovation in the gym. It’s not the first time Brittany’s done a Beyonce song (remember “Single Ladies [Put a Ring On It]” when Kurt was trying to pass her and Tina off as his girlfriends?), and the episode was pretty Bey-heavy, with lots of Dreamgirls songs to boot.

If you haven’t seen this video from NineteenPercent, I wholeheartedly recommend you watch it. “Run the World” “lulls girls into a false sense of achievement and distracts them from doing the work it takes to actually run the world.” Hence Brittany performing in the halls of William McKinley in a leather miniskirt and suspenders, when she should really be working on her campaign promises. But she does look damn fine!

The whole Brittany versus Kurt (versus Rachel) thing evokes feelings of the Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton democratic primary race of 2008, not to mention the Sarah Palin-as-feminist debate.

Santana, Brittany’s right-hand campaign woman, tells Rachel that if she votes for “Jimmy Fallon’s butch daughter”, Kurt, “it would only empower another Frankenbeans,” whatever that means. (A Google search for both “Frankenbeans” and “Frank & Beans” yielded no relevant results.)

Brittany follows this up with all the shit male leaders have gotten America into lately: “double digit inflation, economic freefall, oil spills, the war in Afghanistan.”

But to make women feel like they have to vote for their political counterpart just because they’re a woman isn’t the way it should go. Palin is a perfect example of this: the only reason John McCain chose her as his running mate was because of the close upset of Clinton by Obama in the primaries. Upon further inspection, it was revealed that Palin didn’t know jack about most things. Perhaps Brittany’s run for senior class president is intended to reflect Palin’s vice-presidency bid, or her possible 2012 presidential candidacy, as Brittany isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.

When Rachel realises Mercedes might beat her for the role of Maria in McKinley’s production of West Side Story, she decides to run for president, too, so she’ll have a stellar extra-curricular on her application for NYADA. Kurt is understandably upset, as he knows that Rachel’s running for personal gain, and perhaps Brittany’s been brainwashed by Beyonce, but he can actually make a difference at the school for fellow outcasts like them.

So it looks like the thinking students of McKinley will be faced with a similar dilemma that Democrats were in 2008: to vote for the marginalised  candidate (coloured Obama/gay Kurt), or the female candidate, who also belongs to a marginalised group…

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message in Glee’s “I Am Unicorn” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Glee Back in Full Force.

Image via VideoBB.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Attack of the cupcakes!:

“… Badassery and toughness aren’t mutually exclusive with cupcakes. A woman can go home from her power-suit-wearing corporate job and unwind in front of Cute Overload. A ‘supermom’ can enjoy a vintage cocktail—and even wear a vintage apron, if she wants to—without becoming squishy and ineffective…” [Feministe, HuffPo]

Gloria Steinem’s not the feminist hero we think she is, according to Suzanne Venker. [National Review Online]

The Catholic Church respects women more than feminism? Laughable. [National Catholic Register]

Erica Bartle writes on the perils of being a Christian in a sometimes-misunderstanding world. I don’t think what she’s experiencing is a uniquely “Christian” thing. (More on that next week.) I abhor organised religion, but I still feel “hyper-sensitive”, as she puts it, to the small-minded bigots around me. I think it comes down to what kind of person you are, regardless of religion and faith, which aren’t mutually exclusive.

I think you can still keep your “awesomeness”, “pride” and “talents” and fight like Mike Tyson (minus the ear-biting and sexual assault). Those are the things that make us good people, in my opinion. [Girl with a Satchel]

Gala Darling on how “to be the person in the photo, instead of the person looking at it.”

The Help from a porcupine and bumblebee’s point of view. You’ll get it from mine next week. [Jezebel]

In the wake of recent assertions that Hillary Clinton might have made a better president than Barack Obama, I came across this 2008 article pitting the “Madonna” against the “whore”; “the hard-ass” against “the lightweight”; “the battle-ax” against “the bubblehead”; “the serious, pursed-lipped shrew” against “the silly, ineffectual girl”; “the bitch” against  “the ditz”, and why the Clinton/Sarah Palin debate was a futile one. [New York Magazine, The New York Times]

It’s all about the discontent of young Asian women, and how they want to look more Western. [Gender Across Borders, Sydney Morning Herald, SBS Insight]

To the inconsiderate douches who use the word “rape” as a joke. Brilliant. [Lipstick Feminists]

“The Deficient Single Woman.” [Zero at the Bone]

Discrepancies in the way college men and women dress are lauded as anti-feminist by Lisa Belkin, while Amanda Marcotte contends the sight of a woman dancing in her underwear on Halloween doesn’t mean she’s a) not a feminist, b) going to insight yearnings of violent assault in all men who lay eyes on her, and c) dumb:

“Men are perfectly capable of being turned on by a woman dancing in her underwear while never forgetting that said woman has a family that loves her, a mind of her own, and ambitions that are equal to his.  We don’t allow men’s sexuality to dehumanise them in our eyes.  If a young man spends his weekends partying and flirting with women, and spends his time in the classroom pulling down As, we don’t see that as a contradiction. The belief that female sexual expression is uniquely dehumanising is a double standard, no matter how much you dress it up in feminist language.” [The New York Times, Slate]

Somewhat in response to Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman (I’m eagerly awaiting my copy in the mail), Jason Sperber tells us “How to Be a Man”. [The Good Men Project]

Baby Beyonce is inciting debate about motherhood, race, and “doing it the right way”. [Jezebel]

Gay marriage is a human rights violation of children to be brought up by a female mother and a male father. Hmm… [The Australian]

“Professor Feminism” and the “Chronicles of Mansplaining”:

“I’m pretty confident that Professor Feminism is not Professor Understands Sarcasm, either, so I’ll spell it out: The point of listening to women and feminists is to listen to women and feminists. Because if you listen to them, you might start to understand certain basic points, such as: Women do not automatically have to accept you as an expert, particularly not when the subject under discussion (sexism!) is something you’ve never experienced first-hand. Women do not have to make you ‘comfortable’ and ‘welcome’ in every single conversation. Women do not automatically have to grant you a space in their discussions, on their blogs, or in their lives. Women do not have to permit you to enter their political movements, their self-created spaces, their personal space, their bodies, or anything else that belongs to them; you, as a man, are not entitled to women’s attention, praise, affection, respect, or company, just because you want it. And when a woman says ‘no,’ you respect that this particular woman said ‘no,’ and you stop. You don’t make excuses, you don’t explain why you should be able to get what you want, you don’t throw a tantrum, you don’t call that woman names: You just stop what you are doing. Because she said ‘no.’” [Tiger Beatdown]

See here for another example.

What Adele… and Lil Wayne… can teach us about love. [This Single Life]

“I Thought Success Meant Wearing a Suit.” So did I. I used to fantasise about working on Southbank, wearing suits (I had a penchant for an imaginary hot pink one!) and carrying my files in a suitcase-on-wheels. My how the tables have turned. In my day job, I wear a uniform that I try to spice up every now and then with biker boots and studded flats, and for my unpaid blogging duties, it’s usually trackies or pyjamas. This morning it’s raining, so I’ve invested in some extra insulation with my dressing gown. What do you were that indicates “success”. (In no way am I equating my mundane daily grind with success. I loath my paid job. Just doing it to pay the bills.) [MamaMia]

The facts and fictions of television’s crime dramas. [Jezebel]

Apparently, “Confronting Men About Sexism Makes Them Nicer,” and from my experience, I believe it. [Jezebel]

Sarah Wilson contemplates stopping for optimism. What am I optimistic about when I have to stop? The last two bouts of gastro I had I used to lie in bed and catch up on box sets between running to the bathroom. I don’t have an excuse for doing this every other day!

Images via YouTube, Jezebel, BuzzFeed. Bump Shack.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Is pop music turning into porn? [MamaMia]

Sex, lies, and DSK. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

Is Lady Gaga “a feminist icon, or just a slightly offbeat sex object?”:

“In some ways, Gaga’s entire persona seems to question what’s expected of women. It’s there in the internal contradiction of her name: ‘Lady’ with its suggestions of gentility, sweetness, high breeding; ‘Gaga’ with its intimations of infantility, madness, antic spirit. She has often been compared with a drag queen and, in many ways, this seems apt. Part of the brilliance and beauty of drag, of course, is that it can potentially expose sex roles—most often femininity—as a performance. A drag queen in enormous false eyelashes, teetering heels, a tight dress, heavy makeup, a voluminous wig, talon-like nails, is mimicking a woman, while underlining that what’s expected of women is in no way natural. With her increasingly bizarre getups, Gaga does the same.” [Queerty]

In defence of young adult fiction. [Girls Are Made From Pepsi]

The underlying lesbianism in the BFF relationship. [Girls Are Made From Pepsi]

One night with Quentin Tarantino. Fascinating, if not 100% verified. [Gawker]

Would you ever go through with labiaplasty? [MamaMia]

Michele Bachmann: “the candidate Sarah Palin was supposed to be.” Scary! [Rolling Stone]

16 & Pregnant as public service announcement. [Slate]

In celebration of gay marriage being approved in New York, check this little ditty out above. [Dear Blank Please Blank]

Images via Loopy Comments, Girls Are Made from Pepsi, Dear Blank Please Blank.

Osama bin Laden & Racism.

 

So, yay. Osama bin Laden is dead. If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past week and a half, you would know that.

It’s very cut and dry: they captured bin Laden in a hideaway compound in Pakistan after months of observation, they shot him dead in the head and chest, did a DNA test against his dead sister’s genes, and buried him at sea once it was confirmed it was him.

But the emotions surrounding bin Laden are anything but cut and dry.

The news showed masses celebrating in the streets in the U.S., and his followers mourning him in the East.

But the mistake a lot of people make, I think, is thinking that everyone in the East holds bin Laden in high esteem.

I encountered such racism the day of the martyr’s death, when I sent the equivalent of an office email around my workplace when I heard the news in the mid-afternoon. At this point it wasn’t common knowledge, so I thought most people would like to know that the man who single-handedly changed the world on September 11, 2001, was dead.

A couple of hours later, a colleague approached me and said he thought my message was a bit inappropriate. I asked how, as it is not uncommon for the AFL grand final results or who won the Melbourne Cup to be broadcast around my workplace, as this was a news story just like them.

He said there are Muslims in our workplace and they might have found it offensive.

I told my colleague—and friend, might I add—that I was offended by his small-mindedness, and to get out of my face. In the nicest possible way, of course!

But, legitimately, I was offended by the fact that he thought all Muslims were proud to have bin Laden as their figurehead; the person who represents their religion and culture to the rest of the world. That’s like saying that someone like George W. Bush, Sarah Palin or—God forbid!—Adolf Hitler is adored by the white masses, not taking into account that these people are morons (the former two) who slaughtered millions of people (the latter). This is an abhorrent worldview that, unfortunately, a lot of people hold true.

I followed this altercation up with a friend who happens to be Muslim, just to be sure that I wasn’t overreacting, and he assured me I wasn’t.

There’s always going to be people who have a bigoted attitude to people and cultures they aren’t familiar with, but hopefully bin Laden’s death can be used as a stepping stone in the right direction.

(Note: in reference to a post on the day of the Royal Wedding where I hypothesised that the decade between 2001 and 2011 would be book ended by two of the most important events in our history—September 11 and the Royal Wedding—it looks like I was wrong. The decade has been defined by one horrible man who introduced us to “the age of terror”, and has now escaped it to “rot in hell”, as the headlines have espoused. Not to become a martyr and move on to paradise, or Jannah, as one simple television commentator argued as a reason why they should have captured, not killed, bin Laden. Oh, the ignorance.)

(Note #2: Also check out Mia Freedman’s latest Sunday Life article, in which she demystifies the niqab and addresses bigots.)

Related: The Royal Wedding: The Other Event of the Decade?

Back to the Draw-ing Board: Australia’s Year of Indecision.

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] A Normal Face.

Images via Huffington Post, Zimbio, Sydney Morning Herald.

Event: “Who the Bloody Hell Are We?”—The Sentimental Bloke at the Wheeler Centre.

I was so looking forward to “So Who the Bloody Hell Are We?: The Sentimental Bloke”, held on Monday night at the Wheeler Centre, which I attended with my staunchly feminist friend Laura (who has written for The Scarlett Woman here, and whom I’ve written abouthere) and staunchly MRA friend Andrew (who has also guest posted here and here).

I was rudely disappointed.

I expected the panel to delve into the masculinity crisis facing Australian men today by addressing such issues as rape culture in sport, domestic violence, metrosexuality and parenting. Well, three out of four ain’t bad.

I’m not the only one who felt that way, as Andrew Frank writes:

“I’ve got two words for you: Sarah Palin”—Dr. Anne Summers, AO.

I didn’t get it. Based on the participation rates of the laughter that followed, I don’t think half the audience did either.

Using a right wing American female politician to attempt to illustrate that there are no gender issues related to  men that hunt in contemporary Australia, only cultural ones, is using a form of logic that I can’t understand. But then again, she claims to be a feminist.

The setting was The Wheeler Centre, and the discussion loosely titled, “So Who the Bloody Hell Are We?: The Sentimental Bloke”. The presenter: Michael Cathcart. The panel was comprised of Craig Reucassel, founding editor of The Chaser newspaper and ABC television personality, Craig Sherborne, memoirist, poet and playwright, and Dr. Anne Summers AO, “best-selling author, journalist, and thought leader”. About that last one: I am worried.

Initially, the discussion promised to focus upon being a man, as individuals and as an ideal, in contemporary Australian society. This would include several aspects of particular relevance, such as parenting, the workplace, and various social settings. It would also examine the evolution of the ideals of masculinity, over the 20th century to the present. I was sadly disappointed.

After being egged on by Scarlett and Laura to “man up” [Early Bird note: I say that sarcastically; I strongly disagree with “man-up” as motivation to be courageous.], I decided to ask the question that plagued me from the start, and gets under my skin from time to time. My question went something like this:

“I am a very passionate hunter. I do it because I love it, not because I need to feel manlier. This is something for which I am socially criticized, in a manner that suggests I use it as a method of compensation for feelings of being emasculated. Do any of you perceive any distinction between the social pressures placed on men of decades past to be the stiff-upper-lipped, emotionally suppressed and distant figure, and the social pressures contemporary Australian men are subject to in terms of being ‘metrosexual’ or the ‘Sensitive New Age Guy’?”

I missed Sherborne’s reaction, but Reucassel mocked hunting as an activity for the royal family {unbeknownst to him, I also fence!). Dr Anne Summers, screwed up her face and said, “Between being a SNAG and hunting?” in as condescending a tone as you can imagine.

It was asked that the microphone be returned to me. Reucassel asked me how I started hunting. I replied that it came to me through my Dad, and my Dad’s Dad. I then turned my attention to Summers again and stated that the hunting’s relevance here rested in the fact that according to my friends, hunting and masculinity were, for the distant father figure, and are, now, according to my friends, inextricably intertwined. It is the quintessential example of men today not conforming to the metrosexual, SNAG criteria.

Reucassel then said that the idea of hunting abhors him; that It is definitely an antiquated recreation, but it takes bravery to pursue in light of contemporary attitudes and if I want to, then more power to me. I respect his viewpoint. I would never force someone to hunt who didn’t want to, and he reflects my right to be autonomous in deciding where I get my food. But he missed the vital issue: is there a difference between my social pressure not to hunt and the social pressure on men from decades past to be emotionally restrained?

Insert Summers’ initial right-winged impression here, to which I didn’t get another chance to respond.

Sarah Palin hunts. I think Summers was trying to say that dealing with the bad rap that being a hunter carries is not specifically a male problem. And in that single fact, she is correct. So therefore, the issue faced here by hunters is not gendered, but cultural. However, to go so far as to imply that because Palin hunts, the social criticism of male Australian hunters—or indeed other men who engage in traditionally masculine recreational activities—does not warrant discussion is a fallacy. I believe that is what she intended to say. And soon after it became apparent from the comments of Cathcart and Sherborne that they believed she had jumped on the “cultural, not gendered” tack as well. However, because I did not warrant a detailed response, evidenced in hindsight by her curt reply and insulting tone, we cannot be sure. Perhaps she meant to say that Palin is an idiot, and therefore, all hunters are. But I shall continue through with the interpretation that Laura helped me conclude.

If we accept the premise of Summers, any criticism of my masculinity with hunting as evidence is blatantly flawed. Speaking regarding men in contemporary society, Summers has decided that the social reality is… wrong? Because a number of women engage in hunting, including the prominent Palin, they must be subject to exactly the same social criticisms that the men who engage in this statistically dominated male activity, right? If we accept this, Summers did not respond to me, as she intended. She responded to those that undermine the masculinity of Australian male hunters. Undermining my “masculinity in the metrosexual sense” because I hunt is wrong because women hunt, too. Unfortunately for her, your average person that rips on a hunter seems unaware of the tradition that hunting is a male thing. By the way: I hate that tradition. I really, really do.

On that count, any person seeking a discourse regarding being a man in contemporary Australia rather than trying to fulfill a feminist agenda would disagree. It’s like saying because both men and women are in the police force they obviously have precisely the same experience—I would have loved to get her started on that one pertaining to rape cases. If the topic for the evening had been, “The Sentimental Bloke and the Empowered Woman: Being a Man, Or a Woman, in Contemporary Society”, then perhaps it would have been a valid vein of thought. But could anyone really think that her premise was not flimsy and tenuous? She, too, missed the point: attempting to discern the differences and similarities of social pressure on males not to hunt and the social pressure on men from decades past to be emotionally restrained.

Discussion that followed pigeonholed me into the “shooter” stereotype as if I wasn’t even there. I won’t forget for a long time the sneer in her voice: “He’s a shooter”. I despise hoons that are hunters according to external perception, blazing through the bush with a beer in one hand and a gun in the other. Summers was perfectly willing to condemn me using a stereotype to which I do not conform. This after using a prominent female American politician, a single example, to attempt to nullify two gendered stereotypes and the resulting social pressures of two different eras that I wished to contrast. Yeah, that woman totally understood the topic for the evening. She is sooo smart! And yes, I’m bitter I didn’t get to verbally tear her to shreds.

The presenter, in my opinion, then made an awful mistake. Cathcart asked the panel, “Have any of you killed a mammal, and eaten it?” I think this was asked with the goal of illustrating the cultural differences between the contemporary and past societies in which hunters and men have existed. This wandered further still from the vital issue, as whether or not someone has killed an animal they have eaten and whether or not hunting is ethical does not address the relevant gendered issues. Reucassel said no, and then admitted to being a meat eater which, he realised, weakened his argument. Sherborne said yes, and told stories of how he grew up on a farm. Summers said no, and her admission to being a meat eater was accompanied with a bowed head.

In order to further display her tight grasp on the issues that were, but should not have been at hand, I remember Sherborne raising the following issue, when asked if he himself has ever hunted:

Sherborne: “Is fishing hunting?”

Summers: “No.”

Cathcart: “Why not?”

Summers: “I don’t know”

Cathcart ended that portion of the discussion with, “Well, I don’t know if we answered your question, but they certainly had fun ridiculing you”.

Subsequent audience questions referred to mine. They tried again to get at my “underlying question.” As far as I could tell, no such luck. My spirits were buoyed somewhat as I exited the room, as I heard the word hunting on the lips of four or five people, was complimented by a few others, and heard several chide the panel’s incorrect interpretation and inadequate response to my questioning. Walking down the street five minutes later I fortuitously heard an elderly couple discussing the exact same issue, and they could not have approved of my thoughts more.

Perhaps my motivation to have written all this down rests in the fact that I wanted answers—validation—and I didn’t get any. I am a hunter. I am also a kind, caring and sensitive man, who fully acknowledges the depths of his emotion wherever possible. I even have passing interests in skin care from time to time. The people on the stage were supposed to confirm my belief that pressures on me to be the latter (SNAG) are directly related to pressures not to be the former (strong, silent and conventionally “masculine”), and that the same situation with different polarities existed for men decades ago. Or, they were supposed to admonish this point of view, and provide me with enlightenment such that I could embrace my modern masculinity as the sensitive young man and the hunter with no sense of conflict.

But they didn’t. Aspects of life difficult for the contemporary sentimental bloke didn’t exist for every sentimental bloke. Consequently they were considered circumstantial and did not warrant discussion. Or difficulties that didn’t apply only for men, as women suffered similarly, meant that they did not warrant discussion. Or difficulties founded in culture were dealt with in a manner that suggested their gendered implications were irrelevant. Honestly, the only issue duly treated, was the evolution of male parents who now change nappies and push prams, juxtaposed against past male parents who would only pace outside the birthing room then work to support the child, occasionally throwing in a life lesson. Everything else was glossed over in a cursory fashion, played way, way down, or even straight out denied, suggesting that none of the panel members were prepared to really get their hands dirty and discuss issues that contemporary Australian men deal with in defining who and what we are. After all, even though the title of the event was “So Who the Bloody Hell Are We?: The Sentimental Bloke” it just wouldn’t be fair to deal with the impact issues have on men when they also effect women, would it?

Related: How to Make a Woman Fall in Love with You, Glee Style.

Double Standards.

On Stripping.

Unfinished Business at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Images via The Wheeler Centre, Indie Posted.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Rachel Hills discusses Naomi Wolf’s response to WikiGate here, whilst also doing a fine job of unpacking the fun for twenty-somethings = lots of casual sex myth.

On that, “How to Be A 20-Something”:

“Be really attractive. Your acne is gone, your face has matured without having wrinkles and everything on your body is lifted naturally. Eat bagels seven days a week, binge-drink and do drugs: you’ll still look like a babe. When you turn thirty, it’ll become a different story but that’s, like, not for a really long time.

“Reestablish a relationship with your parents. You don’t live with them anymore (hopefully) so start to appreciate them as human beings with thoughts, flaws and feelings rather than soulless life ruiners who won’t let you borrow their car.”

What Would Phoebe Do? on the pretentiousness of Francophilia:

“Gratuitously adding French words to conversation is a time-honoured way of signalling pretentiousness.”

Next year’s Halloween costume sorted!

“How to Be A Complete Douche” has a certain Patrick Bateman feel to it.

Hugh Hefner defends his May-December engagement to Crystal Harris to The Daily Beast.

“How to Live in New York City”:

“Certain moments of living in the city will always stick out to you. Buying plums from a fruit vendor on 34th street and eating three of them on a long walk, the day you spent in bed with your best friend watching Tyra Banks, the amazing rooftop party you attended on a sweltering hot day in July. These memories might seem insignificant but they were all moments when you looked around the city and felt like you were a part of it all.”

Sarah at Feministe recalls “How I Learned to Stop Caring and Admit I Love Pop”.

Jezebel chronicles “The Evolution of Moms” from Soccer Mom (Mater Adidas) to a future robot-mom who encompasses all the admirable features of stage and helicopter mothers alike, with a special focus on the parent Sarah Palin made famous, the Mama Grizzly.

Memo to Lady Gaga: leggings are not pants. Nor, more to the point, are leotards.