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A Clean Sweep For Team Woman – Guest Post by redpesto

August 7, 2012

I am still on blog holiday – honest! But redpesto has kindly penned this post on the Graun’s gold medal performance in the gender olympics. Enjoy!

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While everyone else has been enjoying London 2012 and supporting Team GB, Guardian Woman’s page editor Jane Martinson and other Guardian journalists have been cheering on ‘Team Woman.’ In case you’re wondering who they are, here’s one explanation, by way of a comment on a piece by Martinson about ‘media savvy’ Tory MP Louise Mensch:

What we have here is a fluffy puff piece that at some point merges into a more serious article about representation. For me what it does is expose the fallacy of representation (as if Maggie and Palin weren’t enough). Given that Mensch is part of a government currently inflicting untold levels of suffering upon the female population (according to Jane’s pieces on it, given the monicker I assume you’d disagree but there it is) who is [it] that ‘the women’s blog’ should really be giving time and promotion to? The media isn’t a neutral player here, who you profile has an effect on the success of their agenda (this being the thesis of the article itself!).

I think we see the faultline here yet again between the issues that matter to feminism and a rather more crudely uncritical ‘Team Woman’ approach. Someone out there is a junior MP trying to get a bill in that is far more pro-woman than anything Mensch has ever bothered herself with. That MP may well be a man. Who is on which side here?

The International Olympic Committtee (IOC) is concerned that men and women race in separate events (much to the frustration of transgender and intersex sportspeople), but ‘Team Woman’ is pretty sure biology is all that matters. Even if some bloke goes on a couple of cycle rides, and some other bloke wins a tennis match, for Martinson and the Guardian it’s all about the women.

So at just over halfway through the Games, how is Guardian Team Woman doing? Sadly, Alexandra ‘Lexy’ Topping was disqualified for a tweet (subsequently deleted) complaining that the women’s football tournament started before the Olympics. Others noticed that the men’s football tournament also started before the opening ceremony, in order to ensure that all the matches could fit within the Olympics itself. So for jumping the gun in such an outraged – or rather outrageous – fashion, Topping’s Games was already over.

Despite such a poor start, a bronze medal goes to Jane Martinson for reducing the entire opening ceremony to a headcount of women and an appearance by a group of suffragettes, plus the misleading claim that all countries had sent at least one female competitor – yes, even Saudi Arabia.

In fact, neither Barbados nor Nauru sent any women, but who’s counting (apart from Martinson)? And she clearly missed her chance of a better medal by ignoring the appearance in the opening ceremony of James Bond – usually denounced by feminists as a reactionary misogynist killing machine – as part of how Britain presented itself to the rest of the world. But maybe she was distracted by the appearance of feminist icon Elizabeth Windsor in a cameo role as Queen of the United Kingdom.

The silver controversially goes to Owen Gibson for this on-message argument: ‘British women have dominated the medal haul so far, leading to predictions that they will beat the men in the final tally for the first time.’ Yes, the real medal race is between the boys and the girls – sorry, between the menz and Team Woman – even though they don’t actually compete directly against each other unless they’re astride a horse. Curiously, if you look up the medals for Britain at Beijing 2008, you’ll discover that Team GB’s men didn’t win a single individual track and field gold, whereas Christine Ohuruogu won gold in the women’s 400m. Moreover, one wonders what the Guardian does when one day’s gold medals are all won by men, as happened on Day 6 and Day 9 of London 2012. Short answer: get a kicking.

However, as doubtless anyone on Team Woman at the Guardian will probably tell you, the only reason that men and women compete in separate events, and that the women’s 100m world record (10.49s) doesn’t equal the men’s (9.58s), is of course because of the patriarchy, and the fact that the women wear the wrong sort of clothing. But Team Woman is all about showing up the men as the whiney losers they are, not building a better national squad. No men’s synchronised swimming? That’s just ‘mansplaining.’

Finally, and in a highly unusual move, the gold medal goes to Jane Martinson for this observation on Jessica Ennis’ gold medal-winning performance:

Know this not biggest achievement but having finally seen medal ceremony Jessica Ennis gives hope to shorter #women and girls everywhere

Sports fans may know that there isn’t a single Olympic event where contestants are categorised according to height, rather than by weight in sports such as weightlifitng, boxing or judo. Even when height matters (see basketball), bigger does not always equal better, but it sure helps. And anyone who has ever lined up for a race on a school sports day would know you can’t judge the competition by how big they are – as anyone other than Martinson who watched the men’s (let alone the women’s) 10,000m finals could have told her.

An honourable mention must also go to Martinson for her attempt to tell her son that a female heptathlete is a greater sportsperson than a male 100m runner. Even in Fruit Ninja, apples don’t fight oranges. Someone show that kid some YouTube clips of Daley Thompson and call it a draw with Jessica Ennis before he thinks that the London 2012 slogan is ‘You Go, Girl!’ rather than ‘Inspire a generation.’

But overall, it’s a clean sweep for the Guardian and Team Woman at the London 2012 Olympics! Bravo!

Suzanne Moore Fails To Get Gore

August 1, 2012

Gore Vidal has died and the world is a poorer place today. In amongst the tributes, the re-runs of his best one-liners and the anecdotes, Suzanne Moore tweeted a quote from Vidal’s gender-bending novel Myra Breckinridge. I have to say I was a little bemused at her gall.

Vidal’s leading lady is a damning indictment of the gender binary, and people’s fixation with who is a man and who a woman. A fixation Suzanne Moore displays herself.

Not only is the Guardianista still, in 2012, attached to the hackneyed essentialist Victim Feminism that I know and hate so much, she is also a promoter of the myth of the ‘natural woman’. Her article from a while back, that I discussed under the heading Human Impersonators was full of prejudice about women who are not REAL WIMMINZ. Whether you have had botox, plastic surgery, or gender reassignment procedures, be sure that Moore disapproves. Suzanne also has been known to question my ‘authenticity’ as a woman, an attempt to undermine me that only served to make me more proud of who I am and what I stand for.

So I don’t think she should be quoting such an iconoclast who consistently stuck two fingers up to gender, as Vidal.

And I am saying this now, not because I am feeling particularly inclined to mention our Lady of the Manor again, but because I am going on a blog break. And of all the people (of which there are quite a few) who have tried to stop me from writing Graunwatch, I’d say Suzanne Moore has most obviously, nastily and pointedly shown her desire for me to STFU.

Unfortunately for her, once I have recharged my batteries and had a rest, I’ll Be Back. And writing with as much verve as ever.

So I will quote one of MY favourite Vidal aphorisms as a reminder to Suzanne Moore and her cronies that sometimes it is best to bide your time, for the last word can be sweet:

‘The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so.’

- Gore Vidal, RIP.

Cowboy Reporting and the Fight For Shared Parenting

July 31, 2012

Back in May this year, Ellie Mae O’Hagan at the Graun penned a typically biased – against men – piece about proposals to introduce ‘shared parenting’ as a principle in UK Law. A Family Law firm said she was doing ‘cowboy reporting’ due to her level of bias, and general slip shod approach to the facts.

http://fladvice.org/blog/2012/05/02/cowboy-reporting-by-the-guardian/

I noticed these articles as I am currently writing up an interview with Colin Riches, a campaigner for shared parenting and equal access rights of fathers.

I will write more on this soon but first I urge you to sign the petition he will be presenting to Government:

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/23102

My interest in this case, apart from my general belief that gender equality is not just about teh wimminz, is personal. I come from a ‘broken home’. Though both my parents were incredibly decent to each other, and I was able to stay with my Dad regularly (whilst living with my mum and stepdad), I still think my life would have been ameliorated if I’d have known my Dad was able to be a full parent to me. It took me many years to realise he hadn’t ‘abandoned’ me but was rather fitting in with the social norm of children living with their mums.

My Dad is an amazing parent. Even as an adult it has tended to be him who has helped me out of scrapes and been there for me through thick and thin. He is here for me now as I type, and as I find myself in yet another ‘scrape’.

But more of that anon. Please sign Colin’s petition and spread the word about the campaign to give children all the parents they need!

Mary Poppins and Penelope Pitstop talk FEMINISM and MEN!

July 23, 2012

http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/07/23/how-should-we-talk-to-men-about-sexism/

Mary: You’re so clever Penelope, and so pretty. I wish I could be like you. I’m not a LAYDEE though. It is harder for LAYDEES to be FEMINISTS you’re so brave and strong!

Penelope: GET AWAY FROM ME WITH YOUR STRUCTURAL VIOLENCE!

Mary: Oh I completely understand your point. Men are such bastards. I love laydees. Why are men so nasty Penelope? (I’m not I’m nice).

Penelope: PATRIARCHY PATRIARCHY PATRIARCHY!

Mary: Exactly. Gosh you’re clever.

Penelope: WHAT DO YOU KNOW? YOU ARE BLINDED BY YOUR MALE PRIVILEGE!

Mary: I know. You should see it up close. My male privilege is MASSIVE. Do you want to touch it Penelope?

Penelope: RAPIST! RAPE CULTURE! RAPE!

Mary: Um, sorry if I am missing something but are you trying to get me into bed?? Well I’m up for it if you are. I only fuck feminists of course! I’m NICE!

Penelope: ROMANTIC INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX! RAPE!

Mary: Er. Sorry my male privilege has gone a bit… soft. You’re shouting a bit Penelope. Is that because in male-dominated society women are silenced? by Misogyny? Is your only power sexual refusal? Well that turns me on!

Penelope: OBJECTIFIER!

Mary: Golly gosh Penelope you’re right. I am an objectifier. I am a 21st century man, stuck with a 20th century education. I blame FHM and NUTS. I want to learn how to be a good man, a good feminist, a good shag. Can you help me Penelope? PLEASE? I want you to teach me.

Penelope: I AM FIRM BUT FAIR.

Mary: Golly. Can I be Robin to your Batman? PLEASE Penelope.

Penelope: ON YOUR KNEES, BITCH. LET THE TRAINING BEGIN.

h/t @white_mischief @mattlodder

Freud Is On Mine

July 14, 2012

http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/2012/jul/12/teaching-psychology-science?INTCMP=SRCH

This week an article about perceptions of the discipline of  psychology was used to bash Sigmund Freud repeatedly, over his long-deceased head. It seems to be a common pastime these days.

In a rather alarming opening, the author who teaches A level psychology, lumps the great 20th century theorist in with ‘pop psychology and self-help manuals’ :

‘I already know that I’ll spend the first week or so dispelling the many myths that surround my discipline and, as a result, at least a few of my new students will realise that psychology isn’t really what they thought it was and will decide to go and study something else.

Ask many people to name a famous psychologist and they will invariably say Sigmund Freud. This perhaps exemplifies some of the main problems with psychology today, in that the public has been raised on a sugary diet of pop psychology and self-help manuals.’

This rejection of and even demonisation of Freud has been going on since well, since he was alive and first developing the theory and practice of psychoanalysis in the early 20th century! But now it seems completely accepted that the Austrian writer and doctor was some kind of ‘crank’. I attribute this situation to the triumph of positivism, the philosophy of knowledge that says that ‘rationality’ and  ‘empirical evidence’ is everything and nothing can be left to the imagination. As a writer myself, including of fiction, I am not happy with this narrow minded state of affairs!

Although this article is supposedly one which ‘debunks myths’ about psychology it actually reinforces some along the way. One is based on a No True Scotsman type position, suggesting that there are ‘authentic’ psychologists and then there are pretenders:

‘While the BPS has the power to confer chartered status on its members, the public and the media rarely recognise the difference between a psychologist and a Chartered Psychologist (or a psychologist, psychotherapist or counsellor for that matter).

This is perhaps one of the reasons why people conjure up an image of Sigmund Freud when they think of psychology – and why our students get so confused.’

So using this strict definition of what a psychologist is or isn’t, Freud is struck off from the profession. This is justified by emphasising the ‘biological’ elements in psychology:

‘A-level psychology contains more biology than many may assume with students looking at neurotransmitters and hormones and the way in which they influence conditions from stress and sleep to schizophrenia and depression.’

But even using a biological, medical model of psychology, the rejection of Freud’s contribution to the subject is not valid. He had a respected career as a scientist and a physician, before developing his school of psychoanalysis. So Freud’s  ‘science’ credentials are much stronger than people allow for.

But, like many others, the author of this piece is determined to slam Siggy. He writes:

‘So what about Freud? First of all many in the profession would dispute and even reject outright his psychological credentials – he was a psychoanalyst (which isn’t the same as a psychologist).

Second, he wasn’t really a scientist because he didn’t gather and analyse evidence in an objective or scientific manner (most of his theories were based on a small sample of middle-class Austrian women).

Finally, if you choose to study psychology you may perhaps only catch a glimpse of Freud – and even then perhaps only in order to compare his unscientific methods to those of the more evidence based cognitive and biological ones.

Now, think of a famous psychologist? With Freud out of the way, it’s a more difficult question.’

But is Freud actually ‘out of the way’? If he were, why would psychology teachers still be arguing for him to be discredited in 2012, over a century after he began his work in the field? Possibly because his work has had a lasting impact, not only on academics and practitioners, but also on the wider, popular, what a psychoanalyst  might call the ‘collective consciousness’.

In the two days following this article, Freud was mentioned in the Guardian three times, in very diverse contexts. The first was in a piece giving accounts of workers in the financial sector, the second in an article celebrating the life and work of artist Gustav Klimt, and the third in a review of a a book about vegetables.

So maybe Freud is not quite dead and buried yet!

One of my concerns about this article is not limited to what it says about academic teaching of the subject of psychology. I think the Guardian is happy for Freud to be dissed because the Guardian itself, especially its feminist columnists, display attitudes that can be uncovered and criticised using a ‘Freudian’ approach. Journos such as  Suzanne Moore and Julie Bindel seem to want to cast men as powerful, and ultimately as bad. This has ‘oedipal’ parallels, with feminist concepts of ‘patriarchy’ echoing Freud’s ideas about the symbolic ‘Law of the Father’ and the child’s desire to destroy its parent(s). If feminism is actually in part a psychological response, maybe it should not be given such political or moral status.

Also at a very basic but often unacknowledged level, Freud offered love and compassion to men. Something that feminism is not very amenable to! He also developed a theory that everyone has the potential for bisexual response. This rather goes against the ‘gay’ identity politics that the Guardian espouses.

The ‘born this way’ model of innate, fixed sexual orientation, that fits so well with sexual ‘identity politics’  is gaining ground in our culture as a whole. In a recent book by gay academic Mark Mccormack, for example, I found a scant, inaccurate and to be honest quite insulting ‘critique’ of Freud’s more socially situated models of sexuality. Mccormack, who advocates the very worrying ‘sex science’ of Simon Le Vay and Michael J Bailey, also managed to make some digs at Oscar Wilde while he was there:

‘Wilde became a symbol of effeminacy at the time, linking same-sex desire and effeminacy in cultural understandings of gender and sexuality – an association that found intellectual support in Freud’s (1905) theory of childhood sexuality.

Freud’s theorizing started from the position that sexual orientation was not innate but structured by one’s upbringing. Living in Vienna, Freud witnessed this mass expansion of cities, and he simultaneously noticed an increase in sex between men. However, Freud misattributed this to the absence of men from child-rearing, leading to overly feminized boys (Anderson 2009)…

Irrespective of the veracity off his theories, Freud’s notions of sexuality and gender provided academic respectability to the cultural understanding  that femininity in men was indicative of homosexuality. Although Freudian theories of homosexuality are no longer directly used in gender scholarship, his pioneering work left a lasting imprint on gender scholarship throughout the twentieth century, and his theories still hold traction in some parts of the media today. For example, fears about the feminization of education are ultimately rooted in Freudian concerns about boys not having proper male role models (see Lingard, Martino, and Mills 2008).’

Apart from the total disregard for Freud’s work on not only bisexuality, but also the oedipal complex, the importance of the subconscious, transference, sadomasochism and ‘everyday’ anxiety and neuroses, Mccormack seems determined to associate the Austrian writer with ‘prejudiced’ perceptions of gay men as ‘screaming queens’. As gay culture and politics becomes more and more ‘assimilationist’ and ‘establishment’ it is convenient to find ways to dismiss those who have stood out from the crowd, and who have in some ways ‘problematised’ homosexuality. Also missing from Mccormack’s account is how Freud actually problematised ALL sexuality!

I accept that in some ways Sigmund Freud was a man ‘of his time’. His work is not always a perfect fit for the 21st century. But to throw him in the trashcan, in favour of ‘progress’ and ‘science’ and ‘biologically produced sexual orientation’ and ‘gay rights’ is a foolish, and I think nasty thing to do.

You can have your empirical data analysis and penile plesmographs on your side. But you lose.  Freud is on mine.

Top picture of Freud by Warhol: http://culturexy.blogspot.co.uk/2008/03/warhol-and-his-rare-art.html

‘Sex As Work And Sex Work: A Marxian Take’ By Laura Agustin

July 4, 2012

http://www.lauraagustin.com/sex-as-work-and-sex-work-a-marxian-take

One of the key themes explored here at Graunwatch is the ‘conservative’ ‘anti sex’ and ‘anti sex work’ feminism espoused by the Guardian ( and others). So I thought it was about time we featured the work of Laura Agustin, whose groundbreaking work on migration, trafficking, sex, gender and sex work has influenced many, annoyed some and inspired quite a few, including me.

Agustin works outside the ‘establishment’ of academia and I think her work is more interesting for that.

One of Agustin’s key concepts is The Rescue Industry. That is, the organised and sometimes lucrative activities of those who campaign against sex work across the globe. This creates some ‘strange bedfellows’ from ‘radical’ feminists such as Julie Bindel to Christian fundamentalists to right wing politicians.

Talking of bedfellows with a commercial, transactional element to their liaisons, Laura has recently published an essay on ‘sex as work and sex work’. This looks at how not only ‘prostitution’ but also many other forms of sex and even romance and ‘love’ involve labour, money and contracts. I am delighted to have received permission by the author to reproduce an extract here. It begins with a joke…

‘An army colonel is about to start the morning briefing to his staff. While waiting for the coffee to be prepared, the colonel says he didn’t sleep much the night before because his wife had been a bit frisky. He asks everyone: How much of sex is ‘work’ and how much is ‘pleasure’? A Major votes 75-25% in favor of work. A Captain says 50-50%. A lieutenant responds with 25-75% in favor of pleasure, depending on how much he’s had to drink. There being no consensus, the colonel turns to the enlisted man in charge of making the coffee. What does he think? With no hesitation, the young soldier replies, ‘Sir, it has to be 100% pleasure.’ The surprised colonel asks why. ‘Well, sir, if there was any work involved, the officers would have me doing it for them.’

Perhaps because he is the youngest, the soldier considers only the pleasure that sex represents, while the older men know a lot more is going on. They may have a better grasp of the fact that sex is the work that puts in motion the machine of human reproduction. Biology and medical texts present the mechanical facts without any mention of possible ineffable experiences or feelings (pleasure, in other words), as sex is reduced to wiggly sperm fighting their way towards waiting eggs. The divide between the feelings and sensations involved and the cold facts is vast.

The officers probably also have in mind the work involved in keeping a marriage going, apart from questions of lust and satisfaction. They might say that sex between people who are in love is special (maybe even sacred), but they also know sex is part of the partnership of getting through life together and has to be considered pragmatically as well. Even people in love do not have identical physical and emotional needs, with the result that sex takes different forms and means more or less on different occasions.

This little story shows a few of the ways that sex can be considered work. When we saysex work nowadays the focus is immediately on commercial exchanges, but in this article I mean more than that and question our ability to distinguish clearly when sex involves work (as well as other things) and sex work (which involves all sorts of things). Most of the moral uproar surrounding prostitution and other forms of commercial sex asserts that the difference between good or virtuous sex and bad or harmful sex is obvious. Efforts to repress, condemn, punish and rescue women who sell sex rest on the claim that they occupy a place outside the norm and the community, can be clearly identified and therefore acted on by people who Know Better how they should live. To show this claim to be false discredits this neocolonialist project.

[...]

The sex contract

Even when love is involved, people may use sex in the hope of getting something in return. They may or may not be fully conscious of such motives as:

  • I will have sex with you because I love you even if I am not in the mood myself
  • I will have sex with you hoping you will feel well disposed toward me afterwards and give me something I want
  • I will have sex with you because if I don’t you are liable to be unpleasant to me, our children, or my friends, or withhold something we want

In these situations, sex is felt to be and accepted as part of the relationship, backed up in classic marriage law by the concept of conjugal relations, spouses’ rights to them and the consequences of not providing them: abandonment, adultery, annulment, divorce. This can work the opposite way as well, as when a partner doesn’t want sex:

  • I will not have sex with you, so you will have to do without or get it somewhere else

The partner wanting sex and not getting it at home now has to choose: do without and feel frustrated? call an old friend? ring for an escort? go to a pick-up bar? drive to a hooker stroll? visit a public toilet? buy an inflatable doll? fly to a third-world beach?

People of any gender identity can find themselves in this situation, where money may help resolve the situation, at least temporarily, and where more than one option may have to be tried. Tiring of partners is a universal experience, and research on women who pay local guides and beach boys on holidays suggests there is nothing inherently male about exchanging money for sex. That said, our societies are still patriarchal, women still take more responsibility for maintaining homes and children than men and men still have more disposable cash than women, making the overtly commercial options more viable for men than for others.

We don’t know how many people do what, but we know that many clients of sex workers say they are married (some happily, some not, the research is all about male clients). In testimonies about their motivations for paying for sex, men often cite a desire for variety or a way to cope with not getting enough sex or the kind of sex they want at home.

  • I want to have sex with you but I also want it with someone else

This is the point in the sex contract many have trouble with, the question being Why?Why should someone with sex available at home (even good sex) also want it somewhere else? The assumption is, of course, that we all ought to want only one partner, because we all ought to want the kind of love that is loyal, passionate and monogamous. To say I love my wife and also I would like to have sex with othersis to seem perverse, or greedy, and a lot of energy is spent railing against such people. However, there is nothing intrinsically better about monogamy than any other attitude to sex.

If saving marriages isa value, then more than one sex worker believes her role helps prevent break-ups, or at least allows spouses to blow off steam from difficult relationships. Workers mean not only the overtly sexual side of paid activities but also the emotional labor performed in listening to clients’ stories, bolstering their egos, teaching them sexual techniques, providing emotional advice. Rarely do sex workers position clients’ spouses as enemies or say they want to steal clients away from them; on the contrary, many see the triangular relationship – wife, husband, sex worker – as mutually sustaining. In this way sex workers believe they help reproduce the marital home and even improve it.’

—————————————

Laura Agustin’s essay was originally published by The Commoner (2012). It has also appeared at Jacobin and Libcom. You can read it in full here (copyright Laura Agustin 2012).

More from Laura Agustin’s blog including this fascinating piece on the ‘sex wars’ and ‘extremist feminism’: http://www.lauraagustin.com/satanic-sex-on-sunday-gunilla-ekberg-sex-war-and-extremist-feminism

Laura Agustin’s book is available to buy at Amazon: Sex At The Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and The Rescue Industry

Charlie Brooker’s ‘Noble Savages’

July 3, 2012

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/01/geordie-shore-noblest-people-in-britain

Charlie Brooker this week has dragged himself away from his computer games and his natural habitat – the liberal corner of twitter, to turn his lofty attentions to reality TV. And specifically Geordie Shore. His piece is entitled: ‘The cast of Geordie Shore are the noblest people in Britain today’.

You will not be surprised to hear that Brooker, dazzling intellect and highbrow critic that he is, doesn’t like Geordie Shore. And he really doesn’t like the people in it. Not only that he assumes that everyone else watching doesn’t like them either. He writes:

‘There’s a reason the show isn’t called Cleverclogs Corner. You’d have more chance of decent conversation if you sewed a larynx into a lamb shank and asked if it’d seen any good films lately. They communicate using facial expressions and farts, with the occasional howl of rage thrown in for good measure. ‘

Presenting reality TV contestants as stupid seems a bit cruel to me, and very Guardian. ‘Cleverclogs Corner’ is actually possibly what the Guardian staff call their place of work in private. This is yet another example of the Graun’s snobbery towards popular culture and ‘trashy’ genres such as reality TV and celebrity gossip magazines. But in true Guardian style, they can’t just leave alone what they don’t like. They have to fill column inches with the same salacious material they claim to be above. They just do so in a detached, ‘ironic’ way.

But apart from the sniffy, faux-ironic tone of his article, the thing that disturbs me about it is the way he uncritically employs the concept of  The Noble Savage. Literature and art are full of images of simple, lower class (traditionally ‘indigenous’) folk, being scrutinised, ruled over, and objectified by white middle class people. Brooker, as other purveyors of the genre have done, even compares the cast of Geordie Shore to animals:

‘There are a lot of shuddering duvets: sex is depicted beneath-the-covers, in a locked-off wide shot, night vision style, just like a wildlife programme about rutting bison, but less romantic.’

But, as with imperialist discourses of the ‘noble savage’, Brooker is not simply asking the nice well-educated Guardian readers to hate and laugh at Jay, James, Sophie, Holly and the others. He wants readers to patronise them, and use them as a way of diverting their general malaise onto willing ‘victims’. And, apparently he thinks we should ‘respect’ that Fall Guy role they play in our culture:

‘People no longer simply aspire to be famous. They aspire to be hated. “Authorised media hate figure” is now a valid career. Which brings me to the curious sensation I mentioned at the start. I realized that maybe we need these people. Maybe we’re all so angry and disappointed and bewildered, we need a free bunch of people to look down on and despise: they’re a handy vessel. This is a noble public duty they’re carrying out. They’re our stress balls. Our punchbags. Our ballbags. If it wasn’t for the cast of Geordie Shore, and countless others like them, you’d be killing your neighbours with your bare hands.’

In fact, Brooker’s ‘clever clogs’ diatribe is a good example of what I have termed concern porn. The Guardian  often takes whole groups of society and prostates them before the liberal ‘twitterati’ classes, to simultaneously despise and feel sorry for them. And, ultimately to feel superior to them. I guess ‘concern porn’ is just the logical, 21st century, mediated conclusion to the ‘noble savage’.

And yet, although I hate this article as much as Charlie wants us all to hate Geordie Shore, there are a few accidentally pertinent points in it. In taking the piss out of the bronzed, plucked, groomed cast of the show, he does describe metrosexual masculinity in quite an evocative way:

‘one or two of the men look … well they don’t look real, put it that way. They’ve got sculpted physiques, sculpted hairdos, sculpted eyebrows, and as far as I can tell, no skin pores. They’re like characters from the Japanese fighting game Tekken – which, if you’re not familiar with it, is not noted for a documentary-style slavish adherence to realism. The most unsettling of the Geordies is a man called James, who looks precisely like a terrifying vinyl sex doll version of Ricky Gervais. Or possibly a CGI Manga impersonation of a young Ed Balls. I’ve been to Newcastle. There’s no way James is from Newcastle. He’s from space. Deep space. My guess would be he’s actually some form of sentient synthetic meat that crudely disguises itself as other life forms, but only to an accuracy of about 23%. ‘

It is true. Metrosexuality, in our mediated, reality tv world is indeed ‘hyperreal’.  The transexy bodies and characters we see on telly and down the shops and in the mirror, are larger than life, constructed, commodified.

But it is that mirror that is giving Charlie Brooker a problem. Just as his colleague Stuart Jeffries did in the past, Brooker insists on talking about contemporary masculinity in a way that suggests he is immune from the trend. He is better than that. He has more class.

And that, again, is part of the ‘noble savage’ schtick. If we need to hate the characters of Geordie Shore and we need to do so by turning them into specimens at the zoo, brought to us for our entertainment, is it not because we actually don’t want to admit that we are just the same as them really?

Tits, tans, moisturiser and all?

 

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