Thanks to Amanda Kooser at c-net (and to my sister for sending me the link), for alerting me to this fantastic tumblr. ‘Des Hommes et Des Chatons’ does what it says on the tin and juxtaposes photos of hot men with pictures of cats/kittens in very similar poses. I don’t think the concept warrants much analysis, it’s just cute, funny, and clever. Unlike a recent artist’s project, ‘Men Ups’, which seemed to be saying men trying to look ‘sexy’ are laughable, this tumblr celebrates (metro) sexy men in a humourous way. I give it the paws up. What do you think?
Tags: Ally Fogg, feminism, Graunwatch, misandry
Ally Fogg is not a feminist, allegedly. But maybe he is worse than that. His apparent attempts to be ‘reasonable’ and ‘balanced’ and separate from the battling factions in the gender wars are increasingly unconvincing. I can see the benefits, to Ally, and to feminism, of his fence-sitting stance. He avoids the personal cost of being a ‘male feminist’ and never pleasing the sisterhood enough (see Hugo Schwyzer). And the feminists get an – um- ‘ally’ who speaks feminism, acts feminism, supports feminism, but lets the girls rule the roost. The Guardian** (as an outpost of feminism) also benefits, as they have a man writing about gender to wave around as an example of their ‘diversity’. But a man who says exactly what any feminist woman journalist would say.
Fogg’s latest offering to the feminist goddesses is particularly awful. He starts by anticipating and undermining any criticism, and implies it will come from unthinking, crass individuals. I guess he’ll file my response as a ‘hit blog’. He writes:
‘ This is an article about angry white men and their galloping sense of aggrieved entitlement. It is at least partly inspired by feminist theory and analysis of structural racial supremacy. Before I’ve finished my third sentence, I’ve probably already contributed to a minor epidemic of hypertension among a certain section of Comment is free readers. I can anticipate the comments, the hit-blogs and the hate-mail already: by even mentioning white men, I am the real racist. I am the real sexist. Why doesn’t the Guardian take a pop at the angry brown men over here or the angry black women over there instead?’
Ostensibly, Ally is reviewing a book by someone who does own his identity as a ‘male feminist’ – Michael Kimmel. I am not a fan but what I think is troubling is how Fogg hides behind Kimmel’s brand of misandry. Fogg doesn’t say he supports everything Kimmel says but quotes him uncritically. So Kimmel’s comment that
‘the penis should carry a sticker saying: “Warning: operating this instrument can be dangerous to yours and others’ health.”‘
is given ‘airtime’, not challenged, and is a juicy bone thrown to Graun feminist editors and readers.
The article gets a little confusing as it progresses. Fogg mentions Kimmel’s criticism of ‘angry white men’ and puts the examples of ‘the men’s rights activists of cyberspace’ and ‘the high school spree shooters of parental nightmares’ next to each other in the same sentence. He then says ‘the thesis can only really be made to work by means of tortuous logic’ , but adds ‘nonetheless there is more than a jingling ring of truth to his argument’ and goes on to agree with Kimmel enthusiastically. Fogg supports Kimmel’s notion that white men are responding badly to social change and growing gender equality, due to their sense of ‘entitlement’ and an inability to move with the times.
This is a clever ploy in a way. If men’s rights activists, for example respond angrily to Fogg’s article, he can say ‘I told you so’ and cite their sense of ‘entitlement’ again. Fogg’s article also ignores the ‘angry white women’ of feminism, who don’t like it up ‘em. He fails to mention how feminism has always celebrated ‘female’ anger. Sometimes that anger gets violent:
I don’t think I am angry with Fogg. I have got to the point of being jaded and a bit depressed by his collusion with a politics that belittles and demonises men, their problems and their opinions. Ally is a ‘white man’ too. I don’t like the implication that he is somehow ‘better’ than the men he derides, more ‘enlightened’, ‘nicer’.
It’s business at usual at the Graun. But it’s a rather nasty business. And any challenges to this type of misandry are in my view, more than needed.
* ‘going native’ observation by my twitter pal Ben
** I’m putting this at QRG Blog rather than Graunwatch which is on a brief hiatus.
Tags: Gareth Bale, metrosexual, pink boys
This week in America (where else?) a 13 year old boy has been suspended from school for wearing a handbag.
The boy, Skyler Davis said: ‘It expresses myself. Everyone else can wear it, so I can wear it as well’
Well quite. It astounds me sometimes that even in the uber-metro 21st century, whilst girls can wear anything from doc martens to tutus, boys are treated as gender non-conforming and therefore suspect, if they go ‘too far’ from a so-called ‘masculine’ norm.
The bag, from designer Vera Bradley, is quite ‘tasteful’ and, going over the shoulder, practical. It’s difficult to see how it could be seen to violate school rules.
Metro-anxiety is not limited to the States though. In the summer, footballer Gareth Bale made the headlines in the middle of transfer season, not for signing for Arsenal or Man U, but for daring to wear pink!
But metrosexuality is not for turning. Any disapproval or attempts to ‘ban’ young men’s flamboyant self love will ultimately get washed away in the tide. Boys can be beautiful too. The gender police are fighting a losing battle.
above clip from Hal Hartley’s film, Trust (1990)
Trust is a funny thing. Every morning as we are forced from sleep into consciousness, we trust that the world is not too different from how we left it the night before. We trust that we’re not going to fall downstairs before even our first cup of coffee, that there is milk in the fridge, that the electrics haven’t blown. Even in a simple morning routine we put our trust in strangers – the postman, gas companies, engineers, the people who made the kettle and the toaster, the rubbish collectors, farmers, supermarket staff, cows. Human life relies on trust.
But sometimes trust between people breaks down. It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment it happens, the precise cause of the splitting of the seams. But the effects are clear enough. Someone says something and you pause, sceptical about their words and the motives behind them. Your lover mumbles in their sleep and you wonder if they’re dreaming of someone else. The sunny weather that started the day looks like it could let you down any minute and turn to rain. Buying a paper in the newsagents you check your change twice, expecting the worst. That person who smiled at you on the tube must not have meant it.
Maybe your heart has been broken more than once. Maybe someone who posed as a friend turned on you, fast. Perhaps your parents didn’t protect you well enough when you were a child. You might have good reason not to trust.
But living without trust must be scary. Monsters loom behind every corner. Those people and organisations you once relied on now look like thieves and fraudsters. A hand held out to you could just as easily slap you in the face.
Some might find me naive, but despite of all the evidence mounting up to justify wariness, I still think it’s worth it, to trust. I still believe someone, somewhere, will catch me when I fall.
Tags: Martha Wainwright, Music
…whoever you are
‘I’d like to drop my trousers to the queen’ – The Smiths ’Nowhere Fast’
‘To define is to limit’ – Oscar Wilde A Picture of Dorian Gray (in Kemp, 2013:71)
‘Hocquenghem argues for anal pleasure not as a specifically homosexual activity, but as a way of undermining all sexual categorisations’ (Kemp 2013: 8)
Punctum Books, an independent open access publisher, describe their work as ‘spontaneous acts of scholarly combustion’. The Penetrated Male by Jonathan Kemp certainly lives up to the billing. I am already a fan of Kemp’s work. His debut novel London Triptych, about masculinity and (homo)sexuality in three different eras, is well worth a read. This time Kemp, who also lectures at Birkbeck university, is exploring similar themes in a more academic format.
The book consists firstly of a literary analysis of some interesting modernist texts. These include Schreber’s Memoirs of My Nervous Illness (1903), Baudelaire’s 19th c essays collected in The Painter of Modern Life, Genet’s Querelle of Brest (1947) and Ulysses by James Joyce (1922). But what makes the book ‘pass’ the PhD test of producing ‘an original contribution to knowledge’ is the way Kemp both applies and critiques ‘Queer Theory’ (e.g. Foucault, Bersani, Deleuze, Barthes). In doing so he presents ‘the penetrated male’ body in representation as a radical way of dismantling the well-worn assumption that a ‘penetrated’ male body is necessarily ‘feminine’. Here I am going to look briefly at Kemp’s commentary on Joyce’s Ulysses. Because, as Kemp says, ‘if Genet buckles that metaphor [of the penetrated man as 'feminine'], Joyce will be seen to tear it to pieces’ (Kemp 2013: 164).
‘Ulysses is a prime example of how the body, when it emerges within discourse, often does so in explicitly or scatalogical ways. It is as if these two functions were, by virtue of their supposedly secretive or private nature, outside of the public law of language; as if out of sight is out of mind held true for the body. Or, as if the tabooing of certain words not only excised them from so-called decent or proper language, but excised the very body parts and functions to which they refer. To refer to them thus implies discursive impropriety or indecency’.
Ulysses was published in the early 20th century to the horror of many. I am reminded here of Anthony Burgess’s marvellous book of Joyce appreciation/criticsm: Here Comes Everybody (1965). Burgess describes how Ulysses was first thought of as a ‘dirty’ book. Although it is now considered a literary ‘classic’, Kemp’s observations about certain words, topics and expressions being ‘taboo’ is still relevant in 21st century, ‘sex obsessed’ culture. Nowadays some heterosexual people are enjoying anal pleasure, for example. But is this kept ‘secret’ on an individual level? In my article entitled We need to talk about bumming, I described feeling unable to discuss my own adventures in (hetero) anal with my straight friends. And, whilst gay ‘liberation’ has moved on in leaps and bounds since Joyce’s time, it can be argued that contemporary ‘gay’ culture, which validates ‘respectability’ via e.g. marriage and parenting, reinforces some sexual taboos and puts actual (homo)sex back in the shadows.
Maybe this is partly why I found Kemp’s unearthing of Joyce’s ‘dirt’ so refreshing. He says:
’Joyce does not present his characters at stool, or micturating, masturbating or copulating, simply in order to shock, but to present life more fully as it is lived. As Joyce himself remarked, ‘if Ulysses isn’t fit to read, life isn’t fit to live’ (cited in Ellman, 1982:537)’. (Kemp 2013: 171)
I think Kemp takes the view that one of the ‘radical’ aspects of Joyce’s Ulysses in the context of sex and the body, is that it presents humanity in all its glory, and does not sanitise sex or elevate it from other bodily functions. This is in part what made the book so unpalatable when it was first released, even for literary types.‘The disturbing quality of what HG Wells called Joyce’s ‘cloacal obsession’ is indicated by most critics’ dismissal or avoidance of it, as if to talk about shit were tantamount to playing with it, as if there were no space, no difference at all, between words and things. Carl Jung called Ulysses the ‘backside of art’ (cited in Heath 1984) while Ezra Pound urged Joyce to remove most of the scatological references. John Gross avoids the subject altogether, claiming ‘at this hour in the day there is nothing new to be said on such a topic’ (Kemp 2013: 172)
I love this notion of the way people can treat words as if they were the thing they represented. It goes quite a long way to explain why we have all got so screwed up by ‘gender’. Words such as ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘male’, ‘female’ have been somehow taken and treated as accurate, whole ‘signifiers’ of whole populations of hugely complex and diverse human beings (and indeed animals). No wonder we’re in such a mess!Kemp discusses elegantly and clearly why Joyce’s Ulysses can be seen as a ‘way out’ of this bind of gender, and gendered language. In refusing to automatically ascribe ‘femininity’ to the penetrated male body (specifically Bloom’s body in the book), Joyce uses it as a symbol of something different, something new, a departure from the binary. Kemp identifies this ‘departure’ as being possible in and expressing ‘Modernism’. He says:
‘Joyce’s modernism allows for a certain queering of masculinity that doesn’t try to avoid or erase the body’s penetrability; but rather uses it to critique gender dimorphism in interesting ways’ (Kemp 2013: 172).
This ‘modernism’ does of course evolve and morph into ‘postmodernism’ and many of Kemp’s ideas, that emerged from reading Ulysses, are still relevant today in the fully fledged postmodern era. You will have to read Kemp’s book (and ideally Ulysses itself – I confess I only managed up to about page 40 when I tried) to find out more about those ways in which Joyce ‘critiques gender dimorphism’!
Tags: autobiograpghy, Morrissey, mozism
Tomorrow – allegedly – Morrissey’s autobiography, all 480 pages of it, will be published by illustrious outfit Penguin Classics. In the Indy a few days ago a rather waspish Boyd Tonkin criticised this turn of events. His main objection was that Morrissey was being given special privileges in the publishing world as the grande dame of Literary Pop. He wrote:
‘Penguin will next week publish the first edition of Morrissey’s Autobiography – which almost no one outside the company has yet read, let alone formed a fashion-proof judgment about – as a Penguin Classic in the familiar black livery. Well. “The Queen is dead,” sang the quixotic melancholiac of Davyhulme, so long ago. Penguin Classics, as a noble idea of affordable, accessible enlightenment, has certainly died this month. The verdict has to be suicide.’
I tend to agree with him:
I think Moz demanding to be a ‘Penguin Classic’ highlights some of the contradictions in the star: he likes to drop his trousers to the queen on some days, on others he is clamouring to be accepted by and honoured by the establishment. His fans just thought the hoo-ha was a storm in a fine china tea cup and were amused to see the ‘literati’ were feeling Rick-rolled by their hero. But my favourite commentary so far on the forthcoming book, and on Moz as just a tad self-important, is this suggestion for the front cover by a Guardian reader (click to enlarge the ego):
Barbs aside, Moz showed his more cuddly, democratic side recently when he saved a brilliant tumblr from the ‘copyright bullies’ at Universal. This Charming Charlie mashes up Smiths/Moz lyrics with Peanuts cartoons to wonderful effect. But has the ‘tumblr generation’ overtaken the 50 something popster in creativity, wit and verve?
I am pretty sure I am not the only Moz fan worrying that could indeed be the case. For, Moz didn’t wait a while after the demise (or triumphant close? – we wish) of his musical career before pondering on life, love and of course hate in an autobiography . Instead he has careered straight from almost collapsing on stage and cancelling all his gigs, with no more new material in sight, to producing what he seems to be presenting as a stately, magesterial, definitive memoir. I think Gore Vidal played it a bit more stylishly.
Morrissey has deliberately caused some hype around his forthcoming book – or if not hype, then at least plenty of whispered, and shouted, catty gossip. I want it to live up to all expectations and be a Vauxhall and I of a tour de force. But I’m not holding my breath. (well I am, but don’t tell anyone!)