Posts Tagged ‘Fag Up!’

On seeing this promo poster for a rape survivors campaign, my initial reaction was: [redacted].

But that seems to be my reaction to everything to do with masculinity these days. So I thought I’d put this one to you, dear QRG readers, and ask you what you think of the ‘real men get raped’ campaign?

Unilad, a website that became notorious this week and has now been taken down. I don’t know who spotted it first, but it quickly entered the social network sphere via women who were outraged by it. I didn’t get to see a great deal of it before it was taken down after a deluge of complaints, but what I did see warranted a few raised eyebrows, to say the least. Advertising itself as a guide to being a successful ‘lad’ in university, it seemed mainly dedicated to the degradation of women, disabled people and pretty much anyone who doesn’t conform to their masculine ideal. One of the passages I read was a bizarrely detailed mathematical analysis of how many women are sluts and how to have sex with one, and ended with the observation that 85% of rapes go unreported, so you’re likely to get away with it if you force yourself on a slut if she ends up rejecting you.
Or something like that. I may be mistaken, it’s hard to read clearly when you’re brain is trying escape through your eye sockets.
Obviously, once it became known about, a lot of people had some serious complaints about the Unilad website, and complain they did. From what I saw, the Unilad team, demonstrating reasoning skills in-keeping with their writing skills, seemingly resorted to one of 3 responses to these complaints.
1. Accuse the complainer of being a lesbian.
2. Accuse the complainer of being a feminist
3. Accuse the complainer of having no sense of humour.
Undeniably, a lot of those complaining were women. This is understandable, seeing as it was largely women who were being denigrated and degraded by Unilad. If you break into someone’s home, it’s usually the home owners who end up calling the police. Cause and effect, that is.
So, as a heterosexual white male non-feminist, non-lesbian, working class background comedian who’s been a member of a university for over 10 years, I’m clearly part of Unilad’s target demographic. And they claimed it was all for comedy, all a collection of jokes and ‘banter’. If we accept this claim at face value, then those who object to it are ‘wrong’ to do so as it’s not serious. Any criticism for it should be delivered in the context of comedy and humour, not political ideology and serious stuff like that.
So, taking this into account, as a comedian with a sense of humour, what reason do I have for not liking the Unilad website?
In a nutshell, it’s crap. From a purely comedic perspective, viewing the whole thing as one big collection of jokes as they assured us it is/was, all the jokes are very poorly thought out and lacking in any element of subtlety or nuance that elevates crude jackass level physicality to genuinely good comedy.
The argument Unilad use that those who don’t like their site lack a sense of humour seems very counter-intuitive to me. Only someone with only the most basic sense of what humour actually is could find their work genuinely funny. Anyone who has a working sense of humour and appreciation of good comedy would find the Unilad website as painful as Unilad’s theoretical targets would find the consequences of their advice.
Perhaps I’m being unfair, perhaps there are many men who found Unilad funny, but I’d imagine they’re not the sort of people I’d want to share a night out with. I’d probably prefer not to share a country with them, if that was possible, but that’s just me. ‘It’s funny because it’s a good joke’ is a very different thing to ‘it’s funny because it agrees with my prejudices’, and I distrust anyone who champions something based on the latter.
I should clarify that I’m not reflexively offended by the subject matter in principle. I’ve heard many feminist friends say that rape jokes are never acceptable, and I respectfully disagree. I see the arguments for this, but I don’t believe there is such a thing as a subject unsuitable for comedy, as long as it’s done right. Undeniably, it’s never pleasant to hear someone make crass jokes about a subject that’s emotive and painful for you, believe me I’ve experienced it myself, but a blanket ban is a level of censorship usually employed by totalitarian regimes, and it only ever gives power to those willing to make the jokes anyway. But that’s a discussion for another time.
My point was, making jokes about any controversial subject can be funny if it’s done well. Unilad, for all their bluster at being humorous and just ‘banter’, do not do it well. It’s seen as fashionable in comedy these days to be deliberately dark and bad taste, but this isn’t that. This is just bad.
The paragraphs above are the response of a great blogger to the recent Unilads furore. I had a lot of problems with the reactions overall, to this online ‘student’ forum, and its ‘misogyny’. However, I found the above blogpost and this video by bearded eloise (aka!/rey_z) more worthwhile than most of the feminist whining about  Uni Lads.  Because they are personal, measured responses and they don’t use dogma to make their points.

One of my main problems with the feminist reactions, which led to the student site taking down all its content, was that they did not seem to consider the views of the young men involved, or any young men for that matter. On twitter, Petra Boynton the sex educator/academic, made quite a meal out of how bad she thought UniLads were. She pointed out, rightly, that feminists were concentrating on the ‘rape jokes’ on the website and ignoring e.g. anti-disability comments, and posts that denigrated men’s sexuality.
But her conclusion that the site was ‘anti-men’ did not seem to be based on actually talking to men!

I DID talk to some men about Uni Lads. The overwhelming majority of those I spoke to thought the site was unimpressive, included some very nasty comments, and, as the blogger above says, its jokes were UNFUNNY. I agree with him and other men I spoke to, that ‘banning’ jokes about sensitive subjects such as rape is ridiculous and censorious. Especially when there are some very funny jokes around, about subjects including murder and violence.

Not so long ago I argued with a feminist blogger about this subject. Her view that rape jokes are always unacceptable annoyed me. Partly because, as you can see I said in the comments, as a ‘survivor’ of ‘intimate partner violence’ I have found the use of humour very cathartic. And if I can justify  using it, why can’t anyone else?

So I liked the men’s more sensible comment that when it comes to humour, being funny, or at least competent at telling jokes, matters. And Uni Lads were not funny. One of the men I talked to, who is in his twenties and a student himself, did not defend the Unilads. But he did argue eloquently that maybe we should consider WHY men make jokes in this way, especially in groups.

He said:

‘I’ve seen many people, even the usually great Dr Petra, saying that they don’t need to understand ‘banter’ to know what the ‘lads’ are saying is disgusting and awful. That is wrong in my opinion. A big part of what banter is (or at least has been for me) is saying the unsayable. I have said things in the company of other guys which I don’t believe, and would never dream of saying in real life. That is sort of the point. The aim is to get a rise out of each other, or to out do each other. It is that horribly guilty pleasure of laughing at something you shouldn’t. The main problem is that Unilads made it public, and it slots right into a ready made feminist narrative.’

It sounds a bit more complex now doesn’t it, than just being anti-women, or even anti-men humour?

This person’s astute analysis reminded me of the work of Mark Simpson. He writes about how when men are in all male homosocial groups, which could be perceived as heading scarily towards ‘homosexual’ groups, they put a lot of effort into reinforcing their sense of being ‘men’. And heterosexual men at that.

But Simpson has pointed out how this attempt always fails. He explains that machismo is in fact incredibly camp. And, inspired by his idea for using the term ‘fag’ in place of ‘manly strap ons’ (e.g. Manfood manscara manbags) I came up with the term Fag Up.

So I think the Unilads Lads need to fag up. They have tried very hard to emphasise what big MEN they are, but have just come across as slightly pathetic. I don’t know if I think they should have taken down their content. I do think people who criticised them might have been a bit less shrill, and maybe even talked to them about their site, and their writing.

The fact is the scandal meant the Unilads got thousands of new followers on facebook and twitter and I expect it hasn’t dampened their spirits at all.

But maybe if they read this they will get the hint. And maybe the feminists will learn the art of nuance.

Well, a girl can only dream.


Thanks to everyone who contributed to the discussion.

In a very recent article in the UK paper, The Telegraph, we were told that David Miliband has been railing at the Labour Party. His brother continues to bumble and fumble his way through running the opposition, whilst David follows in his true Big Brother, Tony Blair’s footsteps, and makes oodles of cash for doing not much. But he interrupted his entrepreneurial mission to write what is reportedly a rather bitter and ressentiful piece in the New Statesman (lefty) magazine. The Telegraph journalist writes:

‘In this fraternal battle royal, there never was a rule of primogeniture. Combat politics, as Bette Davis said of growing old, ain’t for sissies. If this mincing paean to metrosexual narcissism cannot get over his defeat, and knuckle down to fighting from within the shadow cabinet for whatever social democratic beliefs he claims to hold, that is his choice. It may be a betrayal of the movement he affects to serve. The averagely lachrymose 16-year-old X Factor reject may handle defeat with far more grace and maturity. And it may rankle that we taxpayers are obliged to supplement a political dilettante’s colossal income. But these are the rules, and he may play by them if he wishes.

In short, by all means let this snivelling poltroon of a fallen princeling stuff his pockets to his heart’s content, while popping along to the House of Commons every once in a while to sob into his nosegay over a crashing sense of entitlement denied. But, Lord above, let him be guided by the example of the Duke of Windsor through his long years of exile, and do it quietly. From this David, a period of silence would be most welcome – and if it didn’t end until Doomsday, that would be far too soon.’

 Now I am no fan of any of the Milibands, or Blair, or the Labour party. But metro-phobia gets on my nerves! And I call it when I see it.  David is described as:
‘this mincing paean to metrosexual narcissism’.
And it is the word ‘mincing’ that gives the game away. For ALL men politicians are ‘paens to metrosexual narcissism’ – hell, nearly all men are. But mincing? The writer has conflated metrosexuality with cliched slurs about homosexual men, just to stick the knife in. As I said in a private correspondance to Mark Simpson, not so long ago, on reading a blogpost about homophobia in sports – metrophobia is employed in the media with as much regularity as homophobia, it does the job of homophobia, and it is accepted.
The Telegraph piece compares Miliband the elder unfavourably to X factor contestants, saying:
‘ The averagely lachrymose 16-year-old X Factor reject may handle defeat with far more grace and maturity.’
which I find to be quite a clever comparison. BUT the focus on ‘crying’ and being ‘lachrymose’ seems to me to suggest that metrosexuals – and he uses the word elsewhere – are ‘sissies’. In the comments discussion on my review of Simpson’s book Metrosexy, at the Good Men Project, we discussed whether or not metrosexuality does indeed include men becoming more able to show emotion. I agreed that along with narcissism and body consciousness, men these days are changing and expectations on them are changing. BUT this doesn’t mean that being ‘metrosexual’ means being ‘soft’. There are still plenty of perfectly turned out metrosexual men who are as repressed and determined to be seen to be ‘tough’ as their fathers and grandfathers were. And those who show some emotion are not necessarily ‘weak’ in any way at all, let alone ‘mincing’!
The journo calls Miliband the elder:
‘this snivelling poltroon of a fallen princeling ‘
and well, I agree to a point. But that has nothing to do with his metrosexuality! Mark Simpson identified the ‘new metro politics’ back in 2010 and made it clear that Cameron, Clegg, Obama and the Milibands are all metrotastic, as was Tony Blair.  Maybe the only one who fell short of the metrosexual ideal was Gordon Brown, and look what happened to him!
I find metrophobia fascinating and deeply troubling.

The frankly annoyingly feminist Sociological Images referred to a recruitment video for the priesthood featured at NYPriest website.

The gender studies academics at S.I. said:

‘Usually, a male-dominated occupation wouldn’t be in need of having its masculinized character stressed so openly. However, the child sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church in the U.S. and elsewhere have damaged the image of the priesthood. Not only did many priests sexually abuse children, but many of the abused children where boys. Had the abuse involved primarily girls girls in late childhood or their teens, the public may very well have expressed revulsion and disgust, but we also have cultural narratives available, such as the idea of the sexually precocious Lolita who entices men against their better judgement, that are often used to at least partially justify or explain adult men’s sexual attraction to or abuse of even young girls’

This really got my goat for two key reasons:

1) They are using hypothetical examples of girls being abused saying if it was girls being ‘sexually abused’ by men priests, people would come up with spurious justifications for it. And yet, the main reason this sexual abuse ‘scandal’ in the priesthood has been newsworthy is that the men doing the ‘abuse’ got away with it for years and years. It’s classic oppression olympics with girls and women always winning the gold victim status medal, even when they are made up examples!

2) The feminist analysis of ‘real men’ being used to ‘sell’ the priesthood is reductive and wrong. It ignores how men don’t just compare themselves to women but also to each other, and how the manly ‘real men’ discourse is fraught with tensions around homosexuality (which is a big part of sex in the priesthood) and how machismo is actually very camp.


Oh, and 3) ‘Fishers of Men’? is that what they call it now 😀

Sociological Images have found a marketing campaign by a household decorating company, which aims to attract men to more ‘girly’ colours, by giving them ‘manly’ names.

So this ‘plum escape’ becomes ‘sucker punch’ and ‘bone white’ becomes ‘beer foam’. The saleswoman in the video shows men and women the same colours but with the contrasting ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ names, and it does seem as if the men react better to the ‘masculine’ ones. Sociological Images, whose analysis on gender I usually find awful, do make one decent point. That these ‘manly paints’ seem to be marketed to women as much as men, (the video is called ‘Ladies, for the love of men..’) with the emphasis on women persuading their blokes to use girly colours , with the manipulative use of ‘manly’ names, as if men are ‘under the thumb’ and not very bright.

This is a clear case for Mark Simpsons’s Fag Up Campaign. He points out how in America, advertising aimed at men focusses on ‘manning up’ a variety of products, from coca cola, to nachos, to cupcakes:

‘In the UK the notion of ‘manly cupcakes’ and a ‘Butch Bakery’ ‘would be a Little Britain sketch.  While compiling a list of our ‘manliest cities’ could only be a Monty Python sketch.  But in the US it’s a serious business’.

 Simpson’s answer is to swap any use of the term ‘man’ or ‘he’ to indicate a product is manly, with the word fag: fagscara, fagbags, fagcave, fagdate etc. So I suppose these paint colours would become ‘sucker fag’ and ‘fag foam’.

However I differ slightly from Mr Simpson in my conclusions. He tends to suggest that these ‘manly strap ons’ are imposed on men consumers by ‘mendacious marketeers’. I see his point, but I think men’s ‘metro anxiety’ and their tendency to seek comfort in the myth of authentic retrosexual masculinity runs deep.

As the paint video shows, men react to ‘manly’ paint names and ‘girly’ paint names in specific ways, without any prompt from the saleswoman.

I also disagree with Simpson that this retrosexual backlash only happens in The USA.  I think there are plenty of examples of it in Europe. For example this Philips ad (Philips is a Dutch company) which presents an iron as a manly power tool :

Or this Tescos  muesli ‘cereal for men’:

Personally I think everyone needs to Fag UP! And soon.

Jim Chapman, ( @j1mmyb0bba on twitter) is a youtube phenomenon.

His twitter profile tells us:

‘I’m on youtube! I run one of the biggest men’s grooming channels (and a website) in the whole wide world. Thank you to everyone who makes it so…’

From watching his video diaries I can see why he is so popular. I am a girl, but I find women or men talking about personal care and beautification, really really boring as a rule. I tend to just glaze over and nod in the right places if I can, and go off into my own little world. But Jimmy manages to make even  the technical workings of a hairdryer sound fascinating. I am transfixed!

Obviously it doesn’t hurt that he is very cute. And he has a lovely, quite well spoken but down to earth voice. And also an attractive girlfriend who sometimes does videos with him. Like this one about ‘imperfections’.

But I have one small though important bone to pick with the gorgeous Jim. Why oh why does he have to use that hateful term ‘manly’ to describe his grooming tips?? His ‘monthly manly favourites’ and his ‘man fringe’ really get on my nerves. I know men are keen to assure us that just because they wax and pluck and moisturise like women do, they aren’t, you know, girls (or gay). But the addition of the words ‘men’, ‘manly’ or ‘guys’ to any product or marketing campaign is just naff.

As M Simpson has written,

‘Manbags.  Manscara.  Mandates.  (It’s) a way of saying, yes it’s a trend, men’s behaviours are changing and that’s why it’s newsworthy – but don’t worry!  Men are still MEN!  And this isn’t about a niche! It’s about NORMAL GUYS!!

One of Jim’s youtube viewers shows how silly all this ‘manly’ stuff is when she comments:

‘Jim , I somehow always find myself watching your manly videos on how to style your hair and best aftershaves and all the rest , even though I’m a girl!! Haha maybe its because your so charming and a true gentleman !! ‘

Other products which like to think of themselves as ‘manly’ :

Sure For Men  with its ‘Fresh, masculine fragrances’.

Clinique creams, which one ‘grooming’ website has called helpfully
Polyfiller For Your Face! so men are not put off by the usually ‘feminine’ packaging and marketing.

And my current favourite manly product: Face Lube – ‘ultra masculine face care’ , which is trying to sound like a car maintenance lubricant, and just ends up sounding, well, very very gay. I know where I put lube, and it isn’t on my face.

I think my message to Jimmy, and all you ‘manly’ men out there is, I think you are great, and you are all looking a lot prettier with better skin these days. I don’t assume that because you use product or look after yourselves you are ‘gay’ or ‘women’. But when you insist on drawing attention to what ‘men’s men’ you are, and how ‘masculine’ your moisturiser is, a few doubts about your uber-heterosexual masculinity do start to form in my mind….

I mean, I have to have something to fantasise about while I am pretending to listen to you going on about your skin care regime, don’t I boys?


This Post, and a lively debate, originally appeared at Grooming Guru HQ:

This is the faggiest thing I have seen in a long while, and believe me I have been looking at some VERY faggy things lately- in particular as part of Mark Simpson’s current ingenius project, ‘Fag Up!’

‘But today, there are questions our genderless society has no answers for’… if only we were living in a genderless society. .