Hello dear friends, flakes and passers by. I’ve been rather neglecting this blog in recent weeks, what with this that and the next thing. I’ve got a few things brewing that may become a post or two in the near future, but for now, here are a few of the things I’ve been up to in recent weeks.
Capitalist producers and public consumers have a symbiotic relationship. Each plays their role in creating demands to be supplied, manufacturing needs to be met. At a crude level, marketeers and advertisers will only produce such guff because enough of us indulge their campaigns with our custom. Our purchases add up to our public personae, and of course our gender is a key component of our identity. As autonomous adults we can choose the extent to which we want to play along with such constructions. It is rather more troubling when companies like Argos start prescribing gender roles to infants with strictly demarcated Toys for Boys and Toys for Girls.
Meanwhile I had a bit of fun over on Comment is Free with the pressing question of whether or not men should sit down to have a pee.
At my primary school, we boys vied for pecking position via the traditional routes of fighting, football and fabricating extravagant fibs, but there was something else. Lined up afore the trough urinal in the toilets, we discovered a crucial test of manhood: the ability to pee skywards. The class weaklings could barely defeat gravity. I was proud to occasionally reach the words “Armitage Shanks” while a few warriors could clear the porcelain and decorate the tiles.
And then there was Phillip. Phillip was no ordinary Scots wean. He was a superhero, a god amongst miniature men. Phillip could squirt a volley which would rise a good six feet in the air before arcing with exquisite accuracy out of the open window. It was spectacular – I swear he must have mastered top spin. That is how the boys learned: there is direct route from bladder to masculine prestige, and the girls learned not to loiter by the big bins at playtime
Still at Cif, I picked up on David Cameron’s bizarre use of the word ‘butch’ in attempting to insult Ed Miliband at Prime Minister’s Questions.
The linking of political competence with masculinity is rather problematic. Feminists will be rightly annoyed by the implications – our political class is less healthy for its uniformity and throwaway jokes like this only reinforce the perception that parliamentary democracy is a club for boys. Men too should be perturbed that the prime minister thinks masculinity is a function of hierarchical status – real men don’t fetch coffee. Actually Dave, yes we do. Men who carry coffee, make coffee, work for a boss or unthinkingly volunteer to conduct routine chores for ourselves and our colleagues are no less manly for that. Elsewhere on Comment is free, Sali Hughes rightly castigates the media for using the phrase “real women” to validate some female physiques over others, but the “real men” trope is in many ways as harmful and, in fact, far more pervasive (definitive proof here). If “real” women are expected to conform to specific physical ideals, “real” men are expected to adhere to a constricting and damaging gendered model of behaviour and lifestyle – domineering, aggressive and, of course, strictly heterosexual.