Archive for October, 2011

I finally got it together to publish my collection of stories and essays, Unethical Sluts.

You can buy it for the ridiculously low price of £1.07 at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Unethical-Sluts-ebook/dp/B005ZU10HW

From the blurb:

‘Short stories and essays from the sidelines of pornography’

12 stories and essays exploring the horny, the comic, and the macabre aspects of sex.

Unethical Sluts is an exciting and challenging antidote to all the demure and the dainty erotica that fills the shelves.

NB: If you have read Scribbling On Foucault’s Walls and liked it, and want to support my writing then I will appreciate it LOADS if you buy Unethical Sluts!

But even if you don’t I appreciate my readers more than they know.

QRG

x

Thanks to Graham Perrett for designing the cover. Picture by an artist whose name I forget but who gave me permission to use it!

Foucault’s Daughter was lucky enough to find a home at the wonderful, surreal and challenging house of Zizek Press, a while ago now. And she is settling in just fine.

Slavoj Zizek is a Slovenian philosopher and critical theorist, maybe one of the last remaining examples of that rare and ancient species.

Zizek Press though, is very much of the here and now. Perhaps the only old-fashioned thing about it is its commitment to original experimental fiction and its ethos of celebrating intellect, playfulness and the bizarre.

Who is Zizek?

Zixek press is a collective of fiction writers, joined by a blog and a certain esprit de corps. Marc Horne, Stavrogin, Moxie Mezcal, Django and Zasulich and Quiet Riot Girl make up the batallion. What do we have in common? How do Marc Horne’s supernatural supernova sci-fi novels fit alongside Moxie Mezcal’s tight fit thrillers and Stavrogin’s tales of debauchery and decline? Well I don’t know except there seems to be an understanding amongst the writers that anything goes, that the imagination is something to be stretched and bent, and that words matter.

Automatic Assassin

What is Zizek?

Apart from novels and short fiction, the Zizek team compose an array of startling and sometimes quite aggressive essays on the Zizek Blog. The thing I liked about the blog the most, before I was taken into the fold, was how sharp the writers are about current popular culture in the internet age. And how they appreciate it but also try and create something else alongside or amongst all the tumblrs and reality TV shows and Star Wars repeats. Something unusual and well-written. When I step up to the plate at Zizek HQ I feel like I have something to aspire to, and that’s good for a writer.

How is Zizek?
Zizek, like Slovenia, doesn’t have much money. The authors promote their books on the website, and by some more creative means, but they sell their books separately as individuals. So if I came to raid the Zizek coffers for posh lunches on expenses I’d have been sorely disappointed. Some of the books are even free! It’s insane! I have made Foucault’s Daughter free, mainly because I don’t own the copyright and I don’t want to get in trouble. It is a comment in itself on the tumblr generation that my novella which I believe to be original and experimental, is also not mine. ‘Death of The Author’ means the texts used in the book belong to a range of writers, both alive and dead, and I like it like that. I expect Slavoj would too.

Where is Zizek?
LA, Hong Kong, London, America, elsewhere, on the internet, in your head.

Why is Zizek?
I don’t know. But it feels right.

If you want to read more about Zizek and even buy our books (or just read them for free) go here NOW:

http://zizekpress.com/

‘Miss Representation is a new documentary about the relationship between the representation of women in the media and political office’

http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/10/20/socimages-contributor-caroline-heldman-in-the-new-documentary-miss-representation/

The trailer, which includes some ‘expert’ women talking to camera and some young women in group interview situations, as well as some clips from news programming, is very clear in its message. These quotes sum it up pretty well:

‘There is no appreciation of women intellectuals- it is all about the body not about the brain’.

‘If what gets put out there that determines our consciousness is made by men, we are not going to make any progress’.

‘The media treats women like shit’.

‘You can’t be what you can’t see’.

I may get accused of being a stuck record, but – what about the men? Is it just women who are presented as sex objects on TV? No. Is it just women who are portrayed as stupid, or useless in the media? No. Is it just women who have trouble achieving their ambitions in politics? No.

So there are three main things wrong with this video:

1) It suggests a causal relationship between women’s ‘objectification’ and gender inequalities that affect women negatively.

2) It ignores men’s objectification in the media

3) It denies the complex ways in which people are ‘held back’ in terms of careers and political representation.

One of our regular commenters, typhonblue, asked me recently to identify the link between metrosexuality and the ‘gender wars’ – or the arguments between feminists and non-feminists.

I think this Miss Representation documentary is a good example of how metrosexuality proves feminism wrong. Because metrosexuality shows men to be just as much used as sex objects in culture as women, and these days, maybe even more so. As Mark Simpson has pointed out, even the mainstream media has cottoned onto men’s objectification. So if men are objectified just as much as women, then feminism’s claims that women are the  ‘victims’ of the male gaze, and of men’s (hetero) predatory sexuality is obviously wrong.

Take a look at this promo for a US drama ‘Heart of Dixie’. Posing as a PSA about climate change, it is actually a PSA about metrosexual men’s love of being objects of desire.

Feminism misrepresents gendered bodies in culture and what they signify.

http://goodmenproject.com/gender-sexuality/no-seriously-what-about-the-men/comment-page-1/#comment-58222

My latest article at Good Men Project is entitled: No, Seriously, What About The Men? This is how it begins:

‘Tom Martin is becoming quite well known in the feminist and anti-feminist blogosphere. He has taken the unprecedented action of suing a Gender Studies department—the renowned LSE Gender Institute in London, UK—for discrimination against men. As Martin has said:

When “women’s studies” became “gender studies” departments, it signalled a new era of inclusion for men’s issues—a rejection of this now is a betrayal of men and equality.

In America, the situation is even worse for men, potentially, as many universities and colleges retain the subject of “women’s studies” on their curricula. I have a Ph.D in gender studies, from the UK, and my view is that no matter what the subject is called, it will always be based on extreme feminist dogma and on a misandrist view of the world. Again, as Martin has pointed out:

Patriarchy theory—the idea that men typically “dominate” women—is omnipresent, when research shows that women tend to boss men interpersonally. Texts highlight misogyny but never misandry, its anti-male equivalent.

It is in light of this bias in gender studies that I came to read Mark Simpson’s 1994 classic, Male Impersonators, and examine how and why it has been omitted from the reading lists of gender studies courses, including modules on “masculinity.”

In Male Impersonators, Simpson undresses the idea of the “natural man” and shows us how men perform masculinity, in popular culture in particular. Male strippers and drag artists, “macho” body builders, pornography, sports, the War Movie, reality television, the “men’s movement,” rock and roll. They all reveal, as examined by Simpson, the complexities and subtexts of modern masculinities. One of the many striking things about reading this book in 2011, 17 years after it was first published, is that it seemed as “fresh” and new as it must have in 1994. It’s because the subject it focuses on—men, and their representation in culture—is one that has been ignored and distorted by subsequent gender theory and by some misandrist strands of feminism.’

To read the rest, about how feminist academia has erased men from its curriculum, go

HERE!

Photo from: http://rachelrabbitwhite.com/occupy-slutwalk-a-tale-of-two-protests/#comments

‘THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE’ – the words are scrawled on this ‘male feminist’ s dare I say it rather skinny, but showing a bit of belly, very pale torso. And of course he sports a fagly beard.

But what do ‘male feminists’ look like? Who are they? And why do they identify with feminism which is so blatantly a movement in the interests of (some) women, that demonises (most) men?

I don’t think I have very sophisticated answers. Men who are feminists confuse the shit out of me, these days. So I thought maybe some of you could enlighten me.

regular commenter Stoner, reminded me of a high profile internet male feminist: Manboobz. http://manboobz.com/

We discussed whether the ‘manboobz’ of his name refer to himself, in a self-depreciating humourous way, or whether he is saying something about anti -feminist men. Do they think they are big masculine men but really they have ‘manboobz’? I don’t know! His tagline is ‘misogyny- I mock it’ so I expect it is the latter.

My distrust of men who are feminists is influenced in part by Mark Simpson’s excellent essay, A Hiding To Nothing. Here he presents feminism as ‘Miss Whiplash’ , a dominatrix keeping men in line, but without the fun of S and M. Just the pain. Using this analogy, men feminists would have to be masochistic, taking the blows on behalf of their fellow men, for the sake of the ‘sisterhood’.

Another commenter (I think it was Jay Generally) questioned the portrayal of feminism as a big bad domme.  I can see it is a bit crass. And I am also aware that feminists use the ‘S and M’ metaphor to describe women’s oppression by men. (eg Laurie Penny). And I hate to copy feminists. But I think my version – or rather Simpson’s- of ‘Miss Whiplash’ is a bit different.

I am not saying feminists completely dominate men or ‘society’ in a sadistic manner. Rather that they take a punitive approach to anyone who does not go along with their dogma. If you are not a male feminist and are not masochistic in that way, you are seen as a ‘problem’ as a man, a problem that needs punishing.

What do you think?

Is men being feminist a contradiction in terms?

Are you a man and a feminist?

Does the Miss Whiplash metaphor work?


This GMP article about the late Tim Hetherington, photojournalist (who died covering the recent civil war in Libya), reminded me of a chapter in Mark Simpson’s Male Impersonators.

http://goodmenproject.com/arts/tim-hetherington-photojournalist-giant/

I have shared this before but I am returning to it now. The caption at the top of the photo above reads: ‘The soldiers wrestle together, sing together, dance together. Die for one another. Love one another’. It might have been a line out of ‘Dont’ Die On Me, Buddy’, Simpson’s discussion of homoerotics and masochism in the War Movie. Male Impersonators  will be out as an e-book soon so you can read it in full. But here’s the extract one more time:

‘Buddy war films are gospels of masculine love that is ‘betrayed by a kiss’.  They are tales set in far-off lands in times past, about a band of boys who leave their families behind and create their own (homosocial) community. They live by love but one of them, the ‘queerest’, must die to save the others and the world from the practice of it, and also to demonstrate the proper way it should be sublimated: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man may lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13). Like Moreland in Taps and Chris in Stand By Me, ‘Father’ sacrifices himself trying to save the life of others, selflessly accepting his castration: ‘Promise me you won’t tell him’.

Death in these films is a sacrement: it makes love between men eternal by removing it from the male body; by cancelling  forever the threat of its consummation it ensures that boyish love is immortal, and that queer love, transformed into a cadaver, is buried on the battlefield':

‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.’

-Lawrence Binyon, Poems For The Fallen

 

I normally can’t bear writing advice, except for the only thing I have ever listened to from a writer whose name I forget: If you want to be a good writer, write. I have a book called ‘A Novel IN A Year’ that remains barely opened, and yet I managed to complete a (short) novel in nine months. And I doubt EM Forster or Virginia Woolf took ‘writing advice’.

BUT having said that I absolutely loved this vlog by Betty Herbert at Hope and Anchor.

http://www.hopeandanchorwriting.co.uk/2011/10/mantras-for-a-creative-life-1/

The first in a series, Betty offers us a ‘mantra for a creative life': ‘Other people do not have success at my expense.’ In other words: beware the green-eyed monster of jealousy. It can stifle your creativity and make you miserable. In the video Betty tells us very frankly how when she was getting into writing in her 20s, she physically couldn’t read novels due to her jealousy of the authors’ ‘success’. She then goes on to unpack the idea of success, which can mean very different things to different people.

In the spirit of Betty’s honesty, I’d like to admit that I have felt some envy of Betty herself. She created a brilliant blog called The 52 Seductions, about her and her husband rekindling their sex life after some years of drought, or at least, dissatisfaction. The blog was turned into a book, and so she is now one of those published authors she used to hate!

Now I write it down, I am not really sure what I was ‘jealous’ of- her publishing deal? The originality of her idea? Her happy marriage? Her ability to face her fears and make videos of herself? Her positive outlook on sex and relationships? These are all things I admire! But I did get haunted by the green eyed monster at one point. I didn’t need to watch Betty’s video to be rid of it in her case, she is far too lovely to be jealous of for long.

But her words do serve as a reminder to me, to catch myself in the act of feeling negative feelings towards other writers, when they have success. Or even just when they write something brilliant. I am continually inspired by amazing writers and I know nearly all of them struggle for any kind of recognition in this competitive era. So I try and put my own insecurities aside and celebrate when they do well, and to see it as a positive. If they can do it, why can’t I? And do I want to ‘do well’ in the same way as other people anyway?

I still can’t bear JK Rowling though. Some people take success too far!

Betty’s Blog: http://bettyherbert.com/

This comment by arctic jay, under my last post about Strictly Come Dancing, was so good I am reposting it here. Ajay was responding to a feminist blogpost about the X factor, which suggested women are much more ‘objectified’ on TV shows and in culture in general, than men. He said:

‘How can anyone deny at this point that the male chest, especially the pumped up variety, is an eroticized body part?

How can feminist honestly argue that women are more sexualized than men when bare male chests are on display for public consumption approximately 10,000 times more often than bare females chests?

Their only option is try to uphold the canard that male nudity is by default non-sexual, which is the same lie social conservatives promote due to their own homophobia’.

I agree wholeheartedly with Ajay’s comment, and would go further and say that it is not just conservatives and feminists who deny the sexual charge of men’s bodies, and the ubiquity of men’s bodies being shown off these days, but almost everyone. Men’s metrosexual displays have become the great big pink elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. Because, as ajay suggested, it would throw the whole applecart over.

I have been talking about it. And recently I have turned my attention to how football in particular, is a flagrant example of both the promotion and selling of metrosexual masculinity, and the denial of what it means, for footballers and fans alike. With footballers as tarty as Ronaldo how can we pretend that part of football’s allure for men,  is not its presentation of fit men’s bodies, to use a phrase by Simpson, ‘literally asking to be fucked’?

This is my piece about a new young metrosexual football starlet, Tom Cleverley:

________________________

The Times Sports Section one recent Saturday had a very pretty pin up on the cover. Serena Williams? No. Sharapova? No. It was Tom Cleverley, a rising star in football, who plays for Manchester Utd and is on his way to becoming a member of the England team.

Tom’s face fills the front page. His blue eyes look directly at the camera. His full lips are parted slightly, a pose all models know how to pull off, so you can imagine yourself slipping something between them – a tongue, a finger, a ….? His hair is short, fashionably sculpted and highlighted. It is not difficult to see the influence of his ‘idol’, David Beckham.

The headline on the cover reads: HE’s GOT THE LOOK! This is taken from Sheena Easton’s song ‘SHE’s got the look’. And the byline calls Tom a ‘starlet’. It might be the introduction to an article about Keira Knightley. The words and the images are feminine.


The article inside is a two-page spread, but most of the space is taken up with another photo of Tom. This time it is a full-length body shot. He is leaning against a wall, dressed casually in jeans and a leather jacket, but he is still looking straight at the camera coquettishly. You can’t take your eyes off me, he seems to be saying.

There is a cartoon inserted into the piece. It features a tattooist in his tattoo parlour, and he is on the phone. The caption reads:

‘Is that Tom Cleverley? I hear you want to be like David Beckham…’

This innocuous little cartoon sums up what The Times are saying about Cleverley: if this rising ‘starlet’ wants to emulate his ‘idol’ Beckham, he will have to match Becks narcissistic act for narcissistic act. Because Beckham is all about ‘the look’.

So has The Times done the unthinkable and ‘outed’ not only Cleverley but also football itself, as the exhibitionist, commodified, metrosexual, spornotastic display that it is? Hold the front page!

Well no, it hasn’t. Because the text of the article itself is a traditional run of the mill ‘macho’ piece of sports journalism. I couldn’t follow it all due to my lack of interest in actual football (as opposed to the imagery and masculine complexities that surround it). But it was full of phrases such as ‘midfielder…transfer…European Championships….goal scoring…early in the season…money… Alex Ferguson…class of ’92….’

There was no mention of Cleverley’s beautiful blue eyes, or the way he parts his lips, or speculation about who his really big signing will be with: Armani? Gucci? Rolex? Because the passive exhibitionism of sports stars is still closeted, even whilst it is used to sell newspapers, and underpants, and watches. The Times use metrosexual imagery, and they even knowingly wink at it, in the form of a humorous cartoon. But they don’t talk about it. That, like if  football fans actually said ‘No Homo’, would give the game away. And we can’t have that.

_____________________________

 

I recently pointed out how the popular UK TV show, Strictly Come Dancing, has been an excuse for some feminist journalists to spout a whole load of misandry.

Judith Woods for example claimed the programme is ‘sexist’ because it shows men in dominant, leading positions and women as submissive followers. When really, according to her, in real life, it is women who are leading the way, whilst ‘emasculated’ men meekly follow.

I took this question of the gender roles in the spangly Ballroom dancing TV show to Mark Simpson, unrivalled expert on men, masculinity and popular culture (if not ballroom dancing).

He made some pertinent points:

‘SCD favours women contestants because they never have to lead, and are led instead by their professional dancer partners. All the male contestants have to lead.’

This makes sense to me, as I had noticed on previous series that the men contestants often were made to look quite stupid, as if they had ‘two left feet’ and their dances (remember John Sergeant?) were often played for laughs. And so this was possible because it is harder to lead a dance, so the men were bound to slip up more than the women.

Simpson also said:

‘SCD treats men as ‘sex objects’, making the sportsmen take their tops off.’

I watched SCD last night, to see if MetroDaddy was right. And I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. Not only the sportsmen such as Audley Harrison and Robbie Savage, but also the male professional dancers were followed around by the cameras, both in training and performance, like supermodels. As you can see in the photo above it is the male dancer who is showing off full cleavage and muscular arms, not the woman.  The men are undoubtedly the ‘sex objects’ of the show, and this is emphasised by how some of the women contestants such as Edwina Currie and Anita Dobson are ‘older women’ paired off with a buff young ‘hottie’.

Considering the amount of tans, teeth, tits and abs I saw on display last night, I could be forgiven for thinking I’d stumbled across an episode of Geordie Shore. It was metrotastic!

So forget crabby feminist journalists and their claims of SCD being a nostalgic glimpse of a time when ‘men were men’. It is very much a programme of the moment. And it is all about men showing off their bodies.