We can learn so much from other animals. Cats, for example, will nestle in our laps, or find a variety of other clever ways to score a pat. All animals, that means humans too, need to routinely experience the physical closeness of others (see link, below). Such closeness brings out feelings of warmth and nurturing, love and safety. And, it sends a rush of feel-good chemicals through our entire body. Which is why I think that men, straight men or straight-acting gay men, suffer needlessly when they shut down not only emotionally but also physically, too afraid to accept a good hug from a male friend ‘cos that might look too queer. Or, to be closed to that closeness from a partner or other loved ones at critical life moments. I read somewhere about this cultural practice whereby men at funerals go up to the gravesite and leave the women behind, at a distance, apparently because what few silent tears they might shed must never be seen by others. That is tragic. It is precisely at those critical moments that we need to be held and comforted by the people who we love.
Plans by the French government to tag men who bash their partners as a means to detect attempts at further contact, smells like defeatism to me (see link, below). Surely at the core of stopping male violence against women is to get men to stop being violent toward women? Taking responsibility for your actions cannot be an optional extra. That 160 women (officially) are murdered by their male partners every year in France suggests that something is terribly wrong in the minds of those men who commit those murders, and the many thousands more who biff their wives and girlfriends as if that is what men do. They do not. Callous and craven, a shame on humanity, men who resort to using violence in their intimate relationships should not be categorised as an out of control class. Tagging them electronically such that they buzz like a dud alarm clock whenever their aggression sends them astray, might have some temporary effect. It will only be through long-term community education, however, and seriously challenging entrenched cultural ideals, that men will come to respect the fact that hitting women is never acceptable.
The Senate of the Australian Parliament has comprehensively rejected a bill to legalise gay marriage (see link, below), thereby re-affirming that when it comes to GLBTI rights in this country, style tramples all over substance. Gay men and lesbians can’t get married to their same-sex partners in Australia because our political leaders are beholden to the power of the religious right. Catholics, for example, make up around 30% of the population. Many politicians, lawyers and judges are practicing Catholics. Opposing gay marriage is nothing other than a populist strategy, a corruption of democracy for the sake of securing filthy votes. That is why the Catholic Church in Australia is exempt from anti-discrimination, harassment and vilification laws when it comes to GLBTI people. Any openly gay or lesbian worker can be refused employment or fired from a Catholic organisation, purely on the basis of their sexuality, even though most Catholic organisations are funded by the State. All the while, as the Catholic Church runs a never-ending hate campaign against the GLBTI community, the Australian government chooses to ignore the human rights of the tens of thousands of adult survivors of clergy abuse. It would seem that no moral price is too high to pay if it means keeping the Catholic Church on side.
Update: In most parts of Australia, same-sex couples can (or will soon be able to) register their relationships (see link below). Unlike some patsies, I don’t see this as a stepping-stone to equality but rather, as a denigration of our right to relationship equality right here, right now. Creating a phoney, third-rate system of relationship recognition is a crude attempt by government to take the heat out of the same-sex marriage debate. Besides, registering a relationship is like registering a dog, and no disrespect to any dog lovers out there, but I am not a poodle and the relationship I have with my partner is something much more than a couple of mutts bounding around the park.
Whenever I read articles like this one (see link, below), that basically slag off all men as being emotionally defective I can see that facts, truth and hard evidence are no match for pub folklore. Men find it really difficult to be emotional, right? Our brains are wired differently to female brains. And when we are emotional, we can’t find the right words to explain those emotions. Sometimes, in true dissociative style, our corporeal state is here and our emotions, completely disconnected, are somewhere over there. Maybe buying a six pack at the local bottlo’ or putting five bucks on the gee-gees. We would love to be more intimate with our partners, if we actually knew what love and intimacy were. The role of women (yup, no fags in this story) is to nurse their emotionally dead-un partners and be empathic (what’s empathy?) to their little quirks. Like hiding in the shed all day building model ships. Missing from these fascinating insights into the male brain are discussions about the critical role of socialisation in gendering our adult emotions. Men can choose to stitch up their emotions as tight as a drum and eventually go nuts or we can express our emotions and really join the business of living. So what’s it to be? More pouting and brooding ‘cos some men’s magazine told ya’ that’s normal or getting out of that shed and laughing with unrestrained joy?
Kutilda Woods, the mother of embattled golfer, Tiger Woods, has come out swinging at those hypocritical bastards who have been pouring scorn all over her free-ranging son (see link, below). And I, for one, say good on her. Since when should our private sexual behaviours become the source for such over-the-top, falsely puritanical, condemnation? As Kutilda so rightly points out, being flawed is part of the human condition. Sure, doing the skank can cause untold grief to unknowing partners, and once ‘caught out’, skank men and women deserve a good (metaphorical) boot up the arse. Off their partners. Not us. We should be minding our own business and sorting out our own many, many, many flaws. Noting that Tiger is off to Buddha for some spiritual healing, I’d suggest less golf balls would have been pelted his way if he’d been of or had turned toward the Jesu-bob freaks.
Update: Thank Jesu-bob, looks like it was a medical condition all along! Read all about it in the New York Times (see link, below).
There’s an intriguing article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald (see link, below), written by Elizabeth Farrelly. Ms Farrelly refers to a male friend complaining to her that life as a man these days is so incredibly hard. He believes that modern men should be called, ‘heroic’. That is, modern men are under so much pressure to survive, struggle, perhaps even succeed, that we all might laud their every move into the public sphere. Drunk? Someone’s gotta’ to be drunk to think such crap, right? But as always, a gush of empathy for modern men comes with the unpleasant stain that we should take something extra away from women. Like, perhaps, recognition of their struggle. Isn’t the modern woman the under-appreciated mother, partner, homemaker and worker? She must be heroic too? Or is this article just another highlighter across the thick ink of what sociologist Frank Furedi calls our perverse desire to want to appear to be the most put upon? Besides, whether it’s big business, big religion or big politics, men are still in a dominant position in our society. What would be truly heroic is for a modern man or two to pro-actively challenge the cultural practices that keep them on top of the heap. Or at least, to stop nagging that being on top is so extraordinarily ‘heroic’.
The decline in the number of male teachers over the years in Australian public schools has been met with community concerns over who then plays the part of masculine role model for boys? The answer, it would seem, are the men boys see on TV, in movies and in video games. Low pay, fear of being branded a paedophile and the common misperception that teaching is ‘women’s work’ (whatever that means) have reportedly steered men clear of this most noble profession. Now comes the long stretch of the bow that schools sans male teachers are contributing greatly to an increase in youth crime (see link, below). If the shock press is to be believed, Melbourne and other Australian cities are plagued by demonic kiddies roaming the streets, stabbing ya’ without so much as half a thought. The hypothesis goes simply, ever so simply, that getting real men back in front of the whiteboard will result in much less youth crime. A parallel hypothesis, perhaps, for the incessantly mooted thought that kiddies have become de-sensitised to violence because of video game addiction and thus feel obliged to kick anything that moves.
Update: It is hard for me to think of my home town, Melbourne, as being this violent hothouse and yet, the media now loves to portray what was a quiet, urbane city as being on the edge of anarchy. Perhaps the bigger issue, as criminologist Paul Wilson points out in the linked article (below), is why are young people so violent? He notes that Australia has ‘an extraordinarily high rate of youthful assaults’, adding that…
‘It has been a consistently high rate for 20 years. That is symptomatic, more than anything else of a cultural phenomenon in Australia, and a disturbing one where young males see drinking and fighting as a mark of their masculinity‘.
Australian men are notorious for readily getting drunk and then getting into all sorts of trouble. Their notoriety extends to even the world now, I think. But instead of looking at why Australian men get violent after they get drunk, most analysts and governments try to reduce alcohol consumption, as if that solves the violence problem. Men and whatever their emotional/psychological tendencies are the problem, not the alcohol, per se. It is simplistic and irresponsible to blame a culture of violence, excused by drunkenness, on the booze itself. Decision-makers are simply too scared to challenge Australian men directly by saying that violence is criminal and punishable. Rather, it leaves (young) men thinking that drinking and being a hooligan is quite cool – just blame it on the alcohol. You would rarely associate sophisticated men who drink wine (like the French), and who respect their women, with problems of alcohol. No, it’s quintessentially an Aussie culture of violence that has to change.
Update: The stabbing death of a young boy at school in Queensland last Monday (15 Feb 10) (allegedly by a school mate), has created much debate over what needs to be done to reverse what many commentators claim to be a surge in violence by young people. Fuzzy figure interpretation means that some Australians can huddle and diminish such problems here by claiming that things are much worse ‘over there’. For example, in the United States. However, as an article by Adele Horin in today’s (17 Feb 10) Sydney Morning Herald shows (see link, below), even such wonky cultural relativist arguments don’t hold up to the evidence. A big factor in violence by young people here is, according to criminologist, Don Weatherburn, alcohol. The majority of Australian men have been pretty much drunk since white invasion in the late 18th century. Any young man who can’t drink heaps can be trashed or bashed for being a simpish pewf. No, alcohol does not make you violent. That is a choice that the individual makes. But it is undoubtedly part of the puzzle of male violence in Australia, from which politicians and policy makers still run scared. Alcohol, after all, is mega-popular, mega-business, and so eerily enmeshed with masculine ideals as to be almost sacred. Did I say, ‘almost’?
I am interested in men’s emotions. Why we can be angry, why we can’t cry. The author of this article (see link, below) refers to cultural differences and their part in gendered, emotional expressivity. That is, that Italian men can bawl their eyes out whereas for British men, even the death of a child is insufficient reason to publicly shed a tear. What are we so afraid of? Why do we badger boys and men into shutting down, stony-faced and icy cold no matter what we might be holding back, inside? More and more we know that men fall off the twig so early and in such bad shape not because we are wired that way, as some idiots would have us believe, but because we learn to play out our gender that way, or suffer the dire consequences. Bubbling not too disguised under the surface is the sinister threat that any man who tears up is a fag and fags are something distinct from ‘real’ men because real men, of course, never cry. And then the call goes out for men to fess up to their emotional fraility!
Update: The good news contained in this article (see link, below) is that men do cry and they do love it…