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” [Scarlett Woman 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.

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

  1. Pingback: Event: Evolution of the Bookshop at the Wheeler Centre. « The Early Bird Catches the Worm

  2. Pingback: On the Net: “Cultural Talking Points”—How Does Jackie O’s “Bad Parenting” Relate to Hunting? « The Early Bird Catches the Worm

  3. Pingback: Newspaper Clipping of the Week: Man Up. « The Early Bird Catches the Worm

  4. Pingback: Book Review: Mia Culpa—Confessions from the Watercooler of Life by Mia Freedman. « The Early Bird Catches the Worm

  5. Pingback: Event: The Blogging Economy. « The Early Bird Catches the Worm

  6. Pingback: In the News: It’s Not Easy Being Green—The Latest Trend in Discrimination. « The Early Bird Catches the Worm

  7. Pingback: Event: Melbourne Writers’ Festival—A Long Long Way to Go: Why We Still Need Feminism. « The Early Bird Catches the Worm

  8. Pingback: Event: The Catholic Church Is Not a Force For Good in the World. « The Early Bird Catches the Worm

  9. Pingback: Event: Should Meat Be Off the Menu? « The Early Bird Catches the Worm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s