Archive for July, 2012

 

It is with some trepidation that I write this. In the two years plus since I have been blogging, I haven’t gone more than a few days without posting something.But I have decided to go cold turkey, I mean take a break in August. Sometimes it is just good to step back and assess what your purpose is in writing and interacting in public. And sometimes being QRG gets pretty tiring!

I’m not going to promise to stay away for a whole month! If something gets my goat so strongly that I can’t sit on my hands and bite my tongue anymore I’ll blog. But I am giving me, and you, dear readers some time out. Have a beer, kick back, enjoy the sports on TV, or don’t. Read a book! Go swimming! Find another blog to read and come back and tell us about it!

Meanwhile here are some articles and blogposts that come with my hearty recommendation.

Matt Lodder ( @Mattlodder) sent me this article Live Through This, about someone’s experience of having been sexually assaulted. She rejects feminist dogma about ‘rape culture’ and ‘victims’ in a way I find very refreshing.

This week there is in the UK an Extreme Porn Trial where a (gay) man is being tried for viewing S and M porn. When consensual sexual activity and porn consumption makes its way to a criminal trial it is worth having a closer look at the circumstances and issues involved.

My piece for Words On Music telling muso journos to STFU is worth another plug!

And over at Kernel Mag Mic Wright (the inimitable @brokenbottleboy) has written a rousing defence of Freedom Of Speech against the incoherent positions of the ‘liberal twitter mob’.

I am currently supporting Colin Riches ( @Riches_C) Shared Parenting campaign and at Graunwatch I urge you to sign his petition asking UK Parliament to give fathers’ equal rights to access to their kids as mums.

Finally, last but by no means least, Rick Powell ( @homo_superior ) has written a great post stating that QRG is a radical, not a troll! Well, how could I disagree?

The main thing I have learned from running QRG (and Graunwatch which is also lying low in August) is that blogging is interactive, collaborative and communal. Without you this would be a lonely and pointless business. So thanks to everyone for reading, commenting, suggesting and writing posts and just being the brilliant and invincible #QRGMassive !

see you soon, for as my friends and foes no doubt know, I’ll be back.

QRG xxx

The most metrotastic moment of the Olympics Opening Ceremony last night wasn’t Becks in his boat, or Daniel Craig and his Bond routine, it was the entrance at the end of the athletes’ parade of Team GB.

The 500+ strong team, with cyclist Chris Hoy bearing the flag at the front, entered the stadium in a sea of white and gold. Their tracksuits were retro-metro stylie, like something Ali G might rock up in!

 

With the TV camera often lingering on Tom Daley, the young high diver with a perfect tan and winning smile, metrosexuality finally seemed to be taking centre stage as it should. Actually, Danny Boyle’s extravaganza seemed a bit more dowdy and old school in comparison to these sporno heroes. Paul Mccartney and Kenneth Branagh are not exactly pin-up hotties these days.

But there were two nice links between the contemporary metro imagery of Team GB and the music, film and pyrotechnics. One was that the tracksuits the athletes were wearing (with men and women all wearing trousers unlike some of the other countries and their ‘traditional’ gendered fashions) reminded me distinctly of rap culture, which WAS featured in Danny Boyle’s show.

 

Kanye may not have been there to outdress and outbling the British sports stars, but Dizzee Rascal’s performance of Bonkers was great, and showcased urban rap, youth and pop culture brilliantly. Also the song Bonkers could be seen as a bit of a ‘metrosexy anthem’. Because he is singing about being a young man doing what the hell he wants, regardless of how ‘society’ and other people see him.
Some people think I’m bonkers

But I just think I’m free

Man, I’m just livin’ my life

There’s nothin’ crazy about me

The second link between the metrosexual styles of the British team, and the spectacle of the Opening Ceremony is the technological and ‘social media’ phenomenon they both display. All through the parade, athletes were taking photos and videos of themselves(!) and the stadium. The video at the top is TV footage taken on someone’s phone from the comfort of their living room, and uploaded onto youtube within hours of the ceremony finishing. And in Boyle’s set there was a tableau featuring young people and their relationships being played out on facebook and mobile phone technology. Not to mention the fact that Tim Berners Lee, the ‘inventor of the world wide web’ also had a cameo role in proceedings.

So, my verdict is that the Opening Ceremony WAS a showcase of metrosexual talent. But it was the fashion-conscious and self-loving athletes who really made the metrosexy grade. Team Italia were indeed decked out in Armani, but the sheer bling and bravado of Team GB means MetroAuntie awards them GOLD.

This morning it was announced that Paul Chambers who had been convicted of making a ‘menacing’ tweet under the 2003 Communications Act, has had his conviction quashed. He was found innocent of all charges by three Appeal Court judges.

To most people reading this the news is not only brilliant for Paul, his partner Sarah (@crazycolours) and their families. It is also a victory for freedom of speech and expression, especially online. So it is with extra joy that the news was first reported and now is being celebrated on our favourite social media platform.

Without detracting to much from Paul’s big day and the wonderful feeling of relief and sense that justice has been done – at last (his case went on for over two years), I want to ask a question.

Does everyone who is celebrating today support freedom of speech – FOR EVERYONE?

One of the things I have done in recent years is heartily piss off some academics. By criticising their work and their political positions in the area of sex and gender. Of those academics, three have tweeted support of Paul Chambers and his great verdict today. But I want to know if they actually believe that people – including me – have the right to express our views freely, on twitter, on blogs, by email, in ‘RL’.

So I ask Petra Boynton whose writing on sex research I have critiqued recently, and who I hear is not very happy with me and my ‘behaviour’, if she supports freedom of speech for all?

I ask Mark Mccormack who had my (critical) review of his first book on ‘declining homophobia’ taken off a sociology website a few months ago, if he supports freedom of speech for all?

And I ask Chris Ashford, a gay academic who on twitter told his academic colleagues taking part in a conference using a #hashtag that ‘This Is A Troll’, this meaning me, and who thinks I should be ‘ignored’ on twitter,  if he supports freedom of speech for all?

The following academic has not tweeted support of Paul Chambers today but I want to ask him too:

Finally I ask Ian Rivers another gay academic and an expert in ‘bullying’, particularly ‘homophobic’ bullying, who is a senior colleague of Mark Mccormack and who did not challenge him taking down my review of his book from the internet, and who also seems to be disapproving of me and what I say online, if he supports freedom of speech for all?

I think my questions may be answered soon and I will be sure to report the answers on twitter, if I am allowed to that is.

UPDATE: apparently The Spectator got it wrong and Nero has NOT been nominated for what they call ‘bigot of the year’. I am leaving this up though as others have called him a homophobe (and me). And as I don’t trust Stonewall!

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/steerpike/2012/07/homophobe-of-the-year/

According to The Spectator, Stonewall have nominated Milo Yiannopoulus, who tweets as  @Nero, as ‘homophobe of the year 2012′. Apart from the questionable ethics and purpose of holding such a competition in the first place, I think their nomination is stupid and actually pretty cruel.

Sharp witted readers will remember that I have criticised Nero in the past, for his slag-off of Johann Hari‘s adventures as a porn writer. 50 Shades of Gay might not have been the bonkbuster of the year, but I support people’s right to express their sexualities and opinions. Even Johann the Librarian.

And that is why I am defending Milos now. He is openly homosexual, and openly opinionated for example against the principles and practicalities of gay marriage. Stonewall’s conformist gay politics mean that to challenge the sanctity of gay marriage is to be homophobic, even if, as Milos is, you are gay yourself.

This is just replacing one fault, one wrong, with another! Picking on individuals who disagree with you, who live their lives in a way you don’t endorse, in a way you don’t understand, is what ‘anti gay’ ‘bigots’ do!

As gay academic Mark Mccormack has written, now that LGBT sexualities are more normalised in our society, the stigma has shifted. Being labelled ‘homophobic’ is actually as socially unacceptable as being homosexual was only decades ago. And adding to that stigma with ‘homophobe of the year’ competitions may not be such a cool move.

There are also issues here around  freedom of expression. Writing in the Guardian recently Suzanne Moore pointed out:

‘The terms “misogyny”, “anti-semitism” and “homophobia” may be useful but too often are used to shut down rather than open up online debate. This is why free speech is so difficult. ‘

So Stonewall’s nomination of a gay man who has spoken out against gay marriage as ‘homophobe of the year’ could be seen as an attempt to devalue that position, and to shut up people who hold it. Gay, straight whatever.

But the fact Milos identifies as gay/homosexual himself makes this a particularly sour tale. To start making examples of ‘your own’ and attempting to shame them in public seems pretty low.

Some gays oppose gay marriage, Stonewall. Get Over It.

Oscar Pistorious is a paraolympian runner. I am not an athletics expert, but I have heard of him, because he is also a metrotastic model.

Currently Oscar is the face and body of Thierry Mugler A*Men Perfume‘s  Pure Shot range. Pure Shot is known in the trade as a ‘sports fragrance’ which, if I have picked up the ‘notes’ correctly, is supposedly more manly and butch than regular perfumes.

According to this reviewer:

‘Pistorius is the 25-year-old South African 400-metre runner who has been called “the fastest man on no legs.”* Pistorius was born without a fibula in either leg; his lower legs were amputated when he was a baby and he’s been using prostheses since he was 13 months old. Pistorius’ J-shaped carbon-fiber prostheses look “dramatic” and futuristic, and they play a big part in the A*Men advertising campaign (especially the video).’

There are a number of things worth noting about Oscar’s advertising campaigns, which also include ads for BT, one of the Olympics sponsors.

One is obvious: that Pistorius is a man with disabilities, but is being ‘objectified’ and treated as a ‘sex object’ just like fit, able-bodied metrosexy sportsmen are. In a culture where physical perfection is fetishised, it seems anomalous that someone with NO LEGS of his own is a model.

But another aspect of the ads featuring the athlete gives us a clue as to the reasons for this unusual occurrence. That is, they seem to be playing on the ‘futuristic’ aspect of prostheses, and the technology that enables Oscar’s incredible achievements. As The Sun newspaper, who named Oscar amongst their Top Ten Hot Shots of metrosexy men olympic athletes, say:

‘The South African double amputee has earned the name ‘Blade Runner’ for his incredible pace on prosthetic legs.

After winning gold in the last two Paralympics, the 25-year-old qualified to run for his country in the able-bodied races, becoming the first double amputee to run at the Olympic Games.

And the hunky runner will compete in the 400 m and the 400m relay’.

So the aesthetic that seems to be enabling Pistorius to be a model alongside Beckham, Ronaldo and Nadal is a posthuman  one. I am reminded of Donna Haraway’s Cyborgs, and the discussions of apocalyptic landscapes and cyberpunk style adverts at Nathan Jurgenson and PJ Rey ‘s Cyborgology project.

However I think it is worth noting that inspite of or rather because of his lack of leg muscles, Oscar has a very well developed upper body. This makes him quite ‘conventionally attractive’ in metrosexual terms. The torso is (almost) everything for metrosexy modelling. Also, his torso shows how the lines between an ideal ‘human’ and ‘posthuman’ body are blurred. In Transexy times, ‘pneumatic’ tits and abs show how even without prosthetics, the metrosexual body is ‘hyperreal’ and augmented.

I haven’t seen any disability activists celebrating Pistorius’ modelling career. I wonder if like feminists are, they are conflicted about metrosexuality. Because metrosexuality puts into question some of the assumptions around  objectification and victimhood  that disability and feminist campaigns rely on. I mean if Oscar Pistorius enjoys being objectified, and profits from it, maybe objectification is a bit more complex than we have been led to believe?

MetroAuntie is not conflicted. I think Pistorius’ status as ‘sex object’ is great. But I am intrigued, and maybe a tiny bit disturbed by the shift in visual culture to cyborg and posthuman imagery. I doubt it is going away though. So we may as well explore this brave new metrosexual world.

I was delighted to be asked to contribute to the Words On Music blog, part of a project to investigate the state of rock journalism, which is currently  ‘missing, presumed dead’. Words on Music is the brainchild of Simon Spence, whose new biography of The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses – War And Peace looks well worth a read. My piece argues that ‘pop music journalism’ has been engulfed by the digital world, and that this is no bad thing.

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I am a writer. Sometimes I write about music. At one point in history, I was even some kind of ‘music journalist’; I used to write for The North’s independent muso rag Sandman Magazine.

So why am I here to defend a remark I made recently on twitter that was pretty damning about music journalism? During the Words On Music live discussion event I tweeted:

#wordsonmusic it is time for music journalists to STFU and to let the music, and the technology, and the young people speak for themselves

Apparently my comment was picked up and retweeted by quite a few people, maybe in agreement, maybe in disgust. But it certainly, excuse my metaphor, struck a chord.

I stand by the sentiments expressed in my tweet because I think music journalism is spectacularly slow to cotton onto the social media revolution that is happening around it. And that has been happening for quite a long time! Whilst musicians and fans have been eagerly taking up the opportunities for sharing, promoting, discussing and making music provided by platforms such as Myspace, spotify, garageband, youtube, and bandcamp, writers have seemed to resist change. Maybe they resent the ‘democratisation’ that comes with new media, because anyone can be heard writing and talking about pop music now. This reduces the status of journalist ‘experts’ and completely removes their role as ‘opinion leaders’.

The last time I remember buying an album due to a review in a newspaper was when I read about The Decline of British Sea Power in The Guardian in 2003. Nine years on, I rely solely on word of mouth recommendations, online chats with twitter muso pals, random youtube discoveries, friends’ spotify playlists and, viral music videos to switch me on to new bands and artists.

For me, any arguments about loss in ‘quality’ or ‘depth of knowledge’ of trained, experienced pop journalists are overshadowed by the sheer breadth and variety of voices, styles and perspectives that come with twenty first century music discourse. In a piece in which admittedly I did protest too much about my annoyance with Manchester’s Master of Miserablism, I wrote: ‘I hate Morrissey because listening to middle class white men analysing pop music was already boring enough’.

For example the list of people involved in the Words On Music live stream discussion event this year seems to include about twenty men, two women, most (or all?) of whom are white.

But, having spent some years completing a Phd on gender inequality in the creative sector, and then running a social enterprise training women in the music industry, and having grown weary of feminist rhetoric, I am not going to sit around asking where are the women? Or where are the ethnic minorities? Or indeed where are the young people? In pop music and journalism.

Because I know where they are. They are online, in their studios, at gigs, on Logic and Ableton, on the ball, on form, in tune, on time, in synch, out there, at work, outperforming the old guard.

The future is already here, and we may as well join wise cats like Tom RobinsonCornershopand – yes – Lady Gaga, and get with the programme. There is still a place for words on music, but those words have to take into account the changing culture, technology and times we make music in. This is no country for out of touch hacks.

British hope Tom Daley, the metrotastic diver, is splashed across billboards in next to nothing- again, in the run-up to the Olympics. In a rather apt choice of slogan Adidas are commanding young Tom to ‘take the respect’. Of course MetroAuntie can’t let these ads pass us all by without remarking on just how ‘submissive’ and ‘sexual’ the connotations are: is Tom being told to ‘take it’ like a good ‘bottom’ should?

Apart from the suggestive tone of the text, the main thing to notice about the posters what a ‘passive’ pose the medal-winning diver is in. He is not seen here demonstrating his athletic skill, but rather standing still, looking down, holding one wrist with his other hand. His torso is the main ‘object of desire’.

And a man’s torso also features heavily in this short film by the Guardian celebrating the olympic body through history. Again, rather than showing sporting motion, this film just displays the man’s upper body as if it were a mannequin turning slowly in a shop window. It oozes metrosexuality and  sporno aesthetics.

These two examples of metrosexy bodies put paid to the feminist belief that in visual culture men are presented as active subjects, women as passive objectsEven Lego has been accused by feminist critics of promoting this oppressive, binary opposition, which contributes to a situation whereby the objectification of women is more widespread and more damaging than that of men.

Writing in the Guardian recently, Sarah Ditum (the original ‘mumsy cupcake feminist) did at least admit that sportsmen have been ‘pin ups for decades’. But she still suggested that women’s bodies are scrutinised and policed more than men’s.

But really it is just that men’s objectification is policed in different ways from women’s. The underplaying not just by feminists but by most people, of the  sheer tartiness of contemporary men, is one way of denying the homoerotics and deep self-love involved in metrosexual masculinity. A self-love that can never be entirely ‘straight’.

So,  in 2012, whilst feminists are STILL campaigning against the ‘objectified’ images of women on Page Three, the Sun publishes its list of  Top Ten Hot Shots (sexy Olympian sportsmen who are sex objects in their own right), without so much as a murmur to be heard from the feminists. Here’s David Boudia one of the top ten hotties, looking ready for… uh, anything.

There is no hiding fit young men’s  rampant narcissism, it takes the gaze wherever it can find it. And Tom Daley is a champion in his field…

h/t @zefrog for the Top Ten Hot Shots!