Can men stop being violent? Uncoupling masculinity from the massacres.


On March 22nd 2017, Khalid Masood drove a car on to the pavement of Westminster Bridge, killing four people and injuring 50 more, then fatally stabbing a police officer outside the Palace of Westminster before being himself shot and killed.

Exactly two months later on May 22nd, Salman Abedi walked up to the entrance of Manchester Arena just as a pop concert ended and exploded the bomb in his backpack, killing himself and 22 others.

June 3rd, Khuram Butt and two accomplices drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge before randomly attacking members of the public with kitchen knives. By the time they were shot dead by police, they had killed eight people and wounded 48 more.

June 19th. Shortly after midnight, Darren Osborne drove a van into a crowd of Muslims outside Finsbury Park mosque before being restrained by worshippers. When emergency services arrived, one person lay dead, 11 injured.

On the morning after the Finsbury Park attack, the Twitter account @WomenDefyHate asked a question that always echoes in one form or another in the aftershock of such atrocities:

“Seriously, for fucks sake, can men stop being violent? I’m no prissy, no feminazi type. But men have to stop this violence. Men.”

It is an essential question that demands an answer and, tragically, the answer is certainly no. Men cannot stop being violent. At least not all of us, not all the time. Not the way we are raised, socialised, instructed to behave, taught to react. Not for as long as we are raised to believe that a man’s worth and value as a human being is inextricably tied to his capacity and willingness to both inflict and tolerate violence, aggression and brutality.

With very few exceptions, our global human society, our cultures and our global economic systems are steeped in militarism, in warfare, in violence. Perhaps the most profoundly symbolic moment of the recent General Election campaign came during the live TV leader interviews when Jeremy Corbyn was harangued by not one, not two, but no fewer than nine different middle-aged/elderly men over his anti-nuclear weapons beliefs. Each of these men seemed to become more red in the cheek than the one before, each more furious, more indignant that a candidate for Prime Minister might express reluctance to authorise the instant slaughter of hundreds of millions of innocent civilians in a first strike nuclear attack.

What we saw in that exchange was not a debate about military strategy or the wisdom of mutually assured destruction. What we saw was a vivid unfolding of blunt masculinity politics (a game which, of course, female politicians are also expected to play and some whom play very well indeed.) Corbyn was being held over the coals, superficially for the politics of relative risk appraisal, but at an emotional and psychological level he was having his machismo tested and (in the eyes of his inquisitors) he was coming up short and they despised him for it.

There is a marvellous essay covering this by Raewynn Connell (writing then as Robert W Connell) in a book published a while back by UNESCO. (Chapter 1 in the pdf here.) As I read it again this morning, something leaped out at me that places one final piece in the jigsaw of awfulness that has made up our summer of 2017. You might not think there is much in common between recent terrorist atrocities and the unimaginable horrors of the Grenfell Tower fire. Connell provides the link, identifying the profoundly masculine gender processes involved in neoliberal economics and globalised politics.

World politics today is increasingly organized around the needs of transnational capital and the creation of global markets. Neo-liberalism speaks a gender-neutral language of ‘markets’, ‘individuals’, and ‘choice’, but has an implicit view of masculinity. The ‘individual’ of neo-liberal theory has the attributes and interests of a male entrepreneur. Institutionally, the strong emphasis on competition creates a particular kind of hierarchy among men.

Meanwhile the increasingly unregulated world of transnational corporations places strategic social power in the hands of particular groups of men. Here is the basis of a new hegemonic masculinity on a world scale. The hegemonic form of masculinity in the new world order, I would argue, is the masculinity of the business executives who operate in global markets, and the political executives and military leaderships who constantly deal with them. I call this ‘transnational business masculinity’, and I think that understanding it will be important for the future of peace strategies.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying neoliberalism caused the Manchester bombing and I am not saying economic conditions drove a van into worshippers outside a mosque (nor would Connell, I’m pretty sure). I am saying that a society where hundreds of human lives can be risked to save a few grand on refurbishment costs, a society which fetishizes risk-taking and competitiveness, where the pursuit of profits can excuse the systematic demonization of human beings for being poor or black or Muslim or disabled or on benefits, that is a society in which the most twisted, damaged and dangerous minds on the fringes will will inevitably and necessarily be enabled, nurtured and inspired toward acts of appalling violence.

If we genuinely seek to understand the behaviour and values of those at the margins of society, we must understand the links to behaviour and values at the very heart of society. Going further, if we wish to alter and adapt the behaviours and values of those at the margins of society, our only hope is to alter and adapt the behaviours and values at the very heart of society. Hegemonic masculinity does not drive individuals to murder and maim innocent men, women and children, but it is certainly one crucial ingredient in a toxic stew of behavioural motivation.

I would like to turn around the question asked on Twitter. The question we need to ask as a society is not “can men stop being violent?” The question we need to as a society is “how can we, together, stop men from being violent?” That is a question that can be answered, albeit maybe easier said than done.

We can think less about preventing radicalisation and more about preventing brutalisation.  Ending or reducing terrorism should not need to be the justification for building a society that offers everyone purpose, self-worth, self-actualisation, social welfare and mental health care, but it would certainly come as a bonus. It is no revelation that those who who trigger acts or random mass violence are almost invariably damaged, isolated, sad, broken men and yes, we need to find ways to prevent such people erupting into hateful vengeance, but we also have to ask ourselves how we have ended up in a society with so many damaged, isolated, sad, broken men in the first place.

We can learn, as a society, that masculinity can be an asset not a curse. Connell suggests framing peacebuilding in masculine terms as an active, constructive challenge – framing peace and security as more than simply the absence of violence.  We also need to uncouple the very best of traditionally masculine traits – courage, selflessness, strength etc – from the language and concepts of violent conflict.

John Donne was not lying: No man is an island. It is ultimately futile to tell men to stop being violent. The ones who need to hear you will never be listening. When all is said and done, if we have really had enough of violent men, we need to stop making men violent. That is a job for us all.

Comments

  1. redpesto says

    Fogg:

    You might not think there is much in common between recent terrorist atrocities and the unimaginable horrors of the Grenfell Tower fire. Connell provides the link, identifying the profoundly masculine gender processes involved in neoliberal economics and globalised politics.

    It’s the same argument that views ‘homo economicus’ as ‘male’ (e.g. no ties or dependencies, ‘rational’ economic decision making). It’s why, despite her gender, there are so many Ayn Rand ‘fanboys’. It’s also why you get the assumption that capitalism (like neoliberalism) is something ‘men’ do.

    As for the initial question, there are men who want to stop (other) men being violent – the man who held down the Finsbury Park attacker until the police came; among the police who shot dead the Borough Market attackers; the men (in general) who for want peace rather than war. Other masculinities are available, though I don’t think they’re the ones implied by the rhetorical call from a ‘non-feminazi’ woman and they can’t just be summoned out of thin air.

  2. Carnation says

    @ RedPesto

    “there are men who want to stop (other) men being violent – the man who held down the Finsbury Park attacker until the police came; among the police who shot dead the Borough Market attackers”

    I agree. However, there are two very different forms of masculinity at play. Whilst applauding the police action, and being somewhat in awe of their professionalism, police marksmen are immersed in a highly macho culture where emotional detachment and extreme violence (toxic masculinity?) are not only tolerated, they are essential, understandable and desirable.

    The brave men at the Mosque protecting the scumbag murderer represented something of a metaphor on masculinity – wise, elder, devout, community minded men reigning in the hot-headed, violent (if understandable) actions of an enraged group.

    @ Ally Fogg

    “We also need to uncouple the very best of traditionally masculine traits – courage, selflessness, strength etc – from the language and concepts of violent conflict”

    Again, I agree. And most people, including “hard men” can agree that walking way makes one the “bigger man.” But it is so, so intensely hard to do. Society has a sneaking (and not so sneaking) regard for men who dispense violence that has a sheen of righteousness to it.

    Can the uncoupling of masculinity be done without ceding ground to femininity?

  3. redpesto says

    Carnation #2:

    Re. the police – that was precisely my point.. However, ‘police marksmen are immersed in a highly macho culture where emotional detachment and extreme violence (toxic masculinity?) are not only tolerated, they are essential, understandable and desirable’ is no use when it comes to split-second decisions on taking a shot. Also, at some point the issue of gender parity among armed officers (rather than ‘marksmen’ [sic]) will have to arise – and I’m reluctant to go down a ‘how female armed response officers will dismantle the macho culture because women’ route since ‘feminisation’ is not their job.

    Likewise with the ‘brave men at the Mosque’ – though the bravery might have been as much for protecting the attacker from the crowd as for stopping him in the first place. How far that’s seen in terms of ‘gender’ is another matter: I recall Jane Martinson from the Guardian tweeting about how it was admirable/signifcant that it was women who talked to the murderers of Lee Rigby until the police arrived, as if the men were either cowering in fear or expected to behave like Batman.

    Can the uncoupling of masculinity be done without ceding ground to femininity?

    What models do we have outside/beyond that binary? It’s not as though we have new/different conceptions of how ‘masculinity can be an asset not a curse’

  4. Ally Fogg says

    redpesto
    What models do we have outside/beyond that binary? It’s not as though we have new/different conceptions of how ‘masculinity can be an asset not a curse’

    I disagree, I think there are plenty. Firefighters the most obvious & immediate example.

    But more subtly, I think if you were to back 30/40/50 years, you would find that express homophobia was considered an essential component of masculinity. That has very largely diminished. I don’t think it is too impossible to imagine the active violence being marginalised from models of masculinity.

    carnation

    Again, I agree. And most people, including “hard men” can agree that walking way makes one the “bigger man.” But it is so, so intensely hard to do. Society has a sneaking (and not so sneaking) regard for men who dispense violence that has a sheen of righteousness to it.

    Agree. By coincidence I just this moment read this blog here https://allearssite.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/masculinity-and-violence-in-schools/ which makes similar points very well.

  5. Amalec says

    [quote]
    As for the initial question, there are men who want to stop (other) men being violent – the man who held down the Finsbury Park attacker until the police came; among the police who shot dead the Borough Market attackers; the men (in general) who for want peace rather than war.
    [/quote]

    The capacity for violence to help and to hurt are two sides of the same coin. We teach men that is right and good – that it is their duty – to kill or to die for their values. We applaud them for doing violence in the name freedom, or to protect others, or to protect their country. How can we be shocked when those with other values – religion, nationality, race – are willing to do violence on behalf of their values as well?

    Violence may be a necessary evil in the world we live in. And our society has set (young, mid-low class) men up to do the violence it requires on it’s behalf – with all the damage the act and the attitude can cause. It can hardly be shocking that men taught to do violence don’t always do the violence society wants. Until we can build a society that doesn’t require violence, or shares the load of the violence equally among it’s members, I find it hard to take any claims that violence is a masculine problem seriously.

  6. Florian Blaschke says

    It is no revelation that those who who trigger acts or random mass violence are almost invariably damaged, isolated, sad, broken men and yes, we need to find ways to prevent such people erupting into hateful vengeance, but we also have to ask ourselves how we have ended up in a society with so many damaged, isolated, sad, broken men in the first place.

    Not so fast. Like so often, you’ll find it’s more complicated than that.

    There is at least one profile of lone wolf terrorists. These are people who tend to be loners, or they’ve recently lost their social connections. Frequently chronic loners, they have some history of mental disorder, especially depression. They have a grievance. And what that amounts to is if you’re suffering from some grievance, as you see it, and if you’re suffering from some kind of psychopathology, you don’t have very much to lose in acting on your grievance.

    But not everybody who is a lone actor terrorist fits this disconnected-disorder profile. The other profile that we have suggested is a caring-compelled profile. There are examples of lone actor terrorist who have no history of mental disorder, who have good social connections, family, friends, work, but who seem to be capable of more intense sympathy and empathy than most of us. And they feel so strongly, their emotional reaction to the suffering of others as they see it, that they just feel like that they have got to do something.

    Now, this is a little hard for most people to get hold of, I admit, because it amounts to saying that there’s a potential dark side to qualities that we usually think of as quintessentially human and humane. We’re suggesting there are some people who feel so strongly, they have to do something. Anything that isn’t action is hypocrisy.

  7. That Guy says

    This is a seriously sticky problem- IMO, the best way to expunge unfavourable qualities from the concept of ‘masculinity’ is through positive role models. This sounds simple- but is actually quite tricky.

    To take Ally’s example of homophobia, you introduce role models who are strongly against homophobia. Cool, so what makes a role model a role model? It’s being a manifestation of whatever qualities you admire, in this case, masculinity.
    So appeals against homophobia then centre around re-framing whatever in terms of negative associations with masculinity, e.g., “man enough not to be threatened by someone’s sexuality”.
    By this method, masculinity eats itself.

    HOWEVER- this is a big however, violence is so deeply ingrained as masculine in our culture that it’s going to be seriously difficult to appeal to masculinity while abstaining from violence. I don’t see that happening any time soon.

    The second issue I have, is that even the most benign or admirable qualities can become harmful. To ride the second example, if we take the qualities of the archetypal firefighter as a potential ideal-

    A firefighter is/posesses: determination, resilience, bravery, self-sacrifice, physical fitness, resolve, skill, instinct, training, intelligence.

    All well and good- most of these area already masculine, nothing revolutionary here. The problem is that the weight of aspiring to resilience, determination and self sacrifice creates an atmosphere where men are less likely to develop social support networks. This can lead to an inability to deal with feelings, self-medication and suicide.

    What I’m driving at, in an overly long way, is that I’m not entirely convinced that any quality we hold as admirable in society is inherently ‘good’ or universally beneficial. Anything we put up as an ideal can have harmful effects.

    It also seems a bit weird to want to privilege certain qualities as male or female anyway- that’s going to exclude someone, somewhere, no matter how you cut it.

    tl:dr, shit’s all fucked, son.

  8. Ally Fogg says

    Florian Blaschke (6)

    That’s an interesting quote but I’ve checked the link and there is a frustrating lack of evidence or examples.

    Just about the only cast iron rule of psychology is there aren’t any cast iron rules – you’ll find (apparent) exceptions to any pattern of human behaviour because humans are weird & unpredictable. That said, I’d like to know if he’s saying half of all ‘lone wolf’ terrorists are perfectly mentally balanced & have no known pattern of social isolation & emotional damage, or is he saying that there was once an example found of one lone wolf terrorist who didn’t fit that pattern? Because those would be very different claims.

    He hasn’t left me feeling very convinced, put it that way.

  9. redpesto says

    Fogg #4:

    What models do we have outside/beyond that binary? It’s not as though we have new/different conceptions of how ‘masculinity can be an asset not a curse’

    I disagree, I think there are plenty. Firefighters the most obvious & immediate example.

    Not ‘new’. One could even argue that it’s a form of uniformed, but non-militarized, public service, allied to discourses of bravery and heroism (see also lifeboat crews and paramedics).

    But more subtly, I think if you were to back 30/40/50 years, you would find that express homophobia was considered an essential component of masculinity. That has very largely diminished. I don’t think it is too impossible to imagine the active violence being marginalised from models of masculinity.

    I’m not disputing whether ‘men’ can change. Lynne Segal made it clear that any such change is likely to be incremental, slow, and often ‘below the radar’ because it doesn’t work the same way as it does within, say, feminism. It also overlooks that men are often not ‘That Guy’ [NB: I don’t mean the commenter above] in a way that doesn’t fit models of a ‘new masculinity’. As you’ve argued yourself, it’s not ‘seen’ as a political project – or it too often takes the form of rhetorical ‘do something’ calls like the one you’ve quoted.

  10. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally

    If I had not known you so well, I would have filed this under ‘Jessica Valenti’ and stopped reading before I came to the more sensible end.

    1) Imagine someone stopped your list of examples after June 3rd, and gave the obvious follow-on: “Seriously, for fucks sake, can Muslims stop being violent? I’m no racist. But Muslims have to stop this violence. Muslims.” Would that also have been “an essential question that demands an answer”? And why is the ‘Men’ version worth taking seriously, if the ‘Muslims’ version is not?

    2) What the !”£$%^&* does ‘hegemonic masculinity’ have to do with Grenfell tower? The only logical connection I can see is ‘The fire was evil’, ‘masculinity is the root of all evil’, ‘therefore the fire was caused by masculinity’. Which, to say the least, is somewhat below your normal standard of argument. Which point did you want to make here? And, with all due respect, a sentence like “Hegemonic masculinity does not drive individuals to murder and maim innocent men, women and children, but it is certainly one crucial ingredient in a toxic stew of behavioural motivation.”sounds too much like ‘No, but yes.’ ‘Throwing the stone, and hiding the hand’, as the Italians say.

    3) The problem with Jeremy Corbyn is not that as a “candidate for Prime Minister [he] might express reluctance to authorise the instant slaughter of hundreds of millions of innocent civilians in a first strike nuclear attack”. Most people would, once it came down to it. The problem is that he is proposing himself for a leadership position in a hard, violent world where he may have to make difficult choices. And his answer is “I do not like living in such a nasty world, therefore I will ignore this unpleasant fact and act as if I was living in a nice world. See how moral you can get, when you can wish the problems away”? And if you think that is too harsh, consider his ‘solution’ to Trident: He cannot bear to disappoint his nice feelings and his friends in the nuclear disarmament campaign, nor to disappoint the trade unions who want the shipbuilding jobs. So he proposes to build the submarines and just not put missiles on them, which amounts to choosing a multi-billion make-work project of useless junk, just because he cannot face the responsibility of making a choice? In my nine-year-old daughter that would be an endearing sign of imagination, empathy, and conscience. In a grown man who fancies himself as prime minister I think it is well worth despising.

    Once we get to “We can think less about preventing radicalisation and more about preventing brutalisation.” we are back with the Ally we know and respect. That is a worthwhile thing to try, even if it has nothing to do with terrorism. Or with men. But I cannot see why we need to aim for a society of peaceful men. It would be equally effective (and equally easy to implement) to aim for a society where nobody, anywhere, was “damaged, isolated, sad, or broken”.

    As for this, to me it sounds less like a plan and more like propaganda:

    We can learn, as a society, that masculinity can be an asset not a curse. Connell suggests framing peacebuilding in masculine terms as an active, constructive challenge – framing peace and security as more than simply the absence of violence. We also need to uncouple the very best of traditionally masculine traits – courage, selflessness, strength etc – from the language and concepts of violent conflict.

    If people are to believe that masculinity is actually seen as a blessing rather than a curse, we would have to find and accept the good side of the masculinity we have. Not (re)framing the concept beyond recognition so that we can use the positive emotional charge behind the world ‘masculinity’ in an advertisement campaign to promote something entirely different. Your masculinity-and-violence-in-schools link show a man who laudably felt an urge to protect the weak against being bullied, and then quite correctly decided that the safety of his small daughter required him to back down. It is understandable both why he blames himself and why he should not, but to go from there to this great praise for the courage and manliness needed to walk away and let the bullies work in peace, or the great evil in society that anybody should ever be expected to do different sounds, if anything, weird.

    Masculinity, male interactions, as I see them are about claiming your ground and being willing to defend it, doing what needs to be done and taking the consequences, giving and expecting respect, living in a world where status and hierarchies are accepted and matter. And accepting that if you fail you have let yourself down. That sometimes leads to violence, or depression, accepted. But you do not get the heroism and self-sacrifice of the Sheriff in High Noon if you teach your children to aspire to the peacefulness and avoidance strategies of the citizens who would much rather do nothing, let evil take its course, and feel good about themselves while they do it.

  11. Marduk says

    I don’t accept the premise. Men have been remarkably successful at reducing the amount of violence in the world, particularly white men, particularly in the west. Past a certain point certainly as regards people who are fighting in wars (or believe they are whatever other people’s views of the relative legitimacy of their claim), you have to start separating masculinity from gender roles where men do violence because it is their job and women believe they should do it. In the few societies that didn’t observe these presumably outdated anti-feminist notions, such as Palestine, Kurdistan or Russia during Operation Barbarossa, there is no evidence of women being less violent at all.

    It reminds me a bit of that photograph of a protester getting in the face of a right wing thug. Suzanne Moore said the picture showed: “Female insouciance against fascism…It signals to us that we all might be braver, that we can stand up and fight, that men who cannot tolerate difference cannot tolerate being laughed at either.” I genuinely think Suzanne is so deeply privileged she could gaze at that photograph for a hundred years and not see that there are actually three, not two, people in the picture.

  12. WineEM says

    @10. Well I’m awfully glad I didn’t write that last post, Gjenganger. Think I’d be in no small degree of trouble with Ally (again). 🙂

  13. StillGjenganger says

    @12 . I was being shrill and self-indulgent, sure, even if I like to think there is a real point there, somewhere, But I hope he will not be that nasty. Anyway he is stronger than me so I am not going to hurt him, and he has a remarkable tolerance for fools. If he finds it worth his time to answer (he might well not) I could even learn something.

  14. Daran says

    June 19th. Shortly after midnight, Darren Osborne drove a van into a crowd of Muslims outside Finsbury Park mosque before being restrained by worshippers. When emergency services arrived, one person lay dead, 11 injured.

    I see what you did there. You included one white presumably non-Muslin attacker (alledgedly – he hasn’t been convicted yet, and unlike the others you name is still alive, so should be presumed innocent), just to ensure that they don’t all have “Muslim” or “Arabic” in common. They’re all male though.

    But there have been female terrorists and alleged terrorists. Suppose I wrote a blog post beginning with the same first three paragraphs as yours, and continuing as follows:

    11 May: Rizlaine Boular, 21, her mother Mina Dich, 43, and 20-year-old associate Khawla Barghouthi were charged in relation to the alleged planning of a suspected knife attack in the Westminster area of London.

    Seriously for fuck’s sake. Can Arabs stop being violent? I’m no racist, no white supremicist type, but Arabs have to stop this violence, Arabs

    Would that be acceptable to you? Or would you denounce it as the racist bigotry that it would be?

  15. WineEM says

    “he has a remarkable tolerance for fools.”

    LOL, this is, admittedly, true 😉

  16. WineEM says

    14@ Just had the same happen to me, but chances are it’s because you included a link, and the FreeThought website blocks them by default (whilst being perfectly happy to create all kinds dubious links of its own!)

  17. Ally Fogg says

    Daran – your post had indeed gone to spam. Retrieved now.

    Don’t have time to reply to any comments right now but will come back later & set y’all straight 😉

  18. Marduk says

    14.
    There are two things to this.
    Firstly, its dangerous to have one explanation for everything in the world and think you can apply it all events.
    Secondly, we normally recognise this as idiotic and as you are point out, resulting necessarily in hate speech because having only one idea about everything in the world is just another way of describing obsessive bigotry.

    For some reason this self-evidently flawed pattern of thought is tolerated in the case of some groups. My argument has repeatedly been that such patterns of thought and rhetoric should ALWAYS be resisted regardless of whatever special pleading, value judgement or liking for a particular outcome we apply in a special circumstance we enjoy. The reason they should be resisted is that when you give up on the principle, and allow such weaseling, you are dropping your defenses against people you find generally abhorrent (free speech restrictions are the same deal, I don’t insist on it so Nazis can spread hate, I insist on it so I can say Nazis are spreading hate and they are wrong). I have to say Hetpat in general disagrees with me on this but I will go on attempting to argue for memetic intellectual discipline even from my own side so to speak.

    Personally I genuinely don’t think you can get a fag paper between people with elaborate stories about how everything is the fault of “white males” and people with elaborate stories about how everything is the fault of “the jews” or “the koran” or whatever else its supposed to be.

    Yet if we can say one thing with confidence about the world, lots of things happen for lots of different reasons and lots of things happen for multiple reasons as well. Having one idea does not make you a philosopher of keen insight, it makes you an idiot by definition incapable of understanding anything at all.

    The use of the “lens” to interpret thing is supposed to be a playful, provocative and experimental mode of art criticism. It was never supposed to supplant even normative social science, let alone philosophy and definitely not escape the academy and become how real people talk about real events.

  19. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally

    If we genuinely seek to understand the behaviour and values of those at the margins of society, we must understand the links to behaviour and values at the very heart of society. Going further, if we wish to alter and adapt the behaviours and values of those at the margins of society, our only hope is to alter and adapt the behaviours and values at the very heart of society.

    Depending on what you mean exactly, I am not sure I would agree. I would argue that everyday male behaviour and attitudes are highly socialised towards managing aggression and competition in a way that avoids damaging fights. Surely that is the point of hierarchies (or pecking orders, if you prefer), that it allows you to fit into a power structure, or even jockey for position, without risking a dangerous fight to prove it – whether we are talking about wolf packs, dinner conversation, or academic debate. A loose look at young boys in a school yard can give you the impression that they are (play)fighting about half the time, yet they very rarely hurt each other. IMHO because they practice it so much. It is probably not a coincidence that the boys that tend to hurt others – and are disliked as a consequence – are those who are misfits or socially inept and so have not mastered the skill of when to stop or to pull their punches. Much like, as you point out, it is the damaged and isolated men who end up violent. And if it is already the badly socialised men who do the violence, how likely is it that we can avoid violence by socialising men, in bulk, to be peaceful?

  20. Danny Gibbs says

    I would like to turn around the question asked on Twitter. The question we need to ask as a society is not “can men stop being violent?” The question we need to as a society is “how can we, together, stop men from being violent?” That is a question that can be answered, albeit maybe easier said than done.
    Yes the answer is quite easy. Listen to men and don’t be so quick to pass judgement on us. I often find that the same people that complain about men being violent are the same people that will tease, harass, insult, and otherwise harm men for the smallest slight. People have to learn that can’t have it both ways in the form of wanting the latitude to mistreat and ostracize men and get upset when they turn to violence.

    Here’s the thing. No matter how you cook the numbers with whatever creative math you want the vast majority of men are not violent. Yet time and against when 1 man commits an act of violence his violent masculinity is propped up as the common norm as if that is the standard of masculinity across the board when it is not.

    19.
    The use of the “lens” to interpret thing is supposed to be a playful, provocative and experimental mode of art criticism. It was never supposed to supplant even normative social science, let alone philosophy and definitely not escape the academy and become how real people talk about real events.
    I do think this is a major problem. The application of specific lenses and then trying to pass off that lensed (if that wasn’t a word already it is now) view as the actual reality that is taking place alters the context of the reality thus leading to an analysis and solution that don’t really fit the reality. And in the fact of such a mismatch too many are basically choosing to force the reality to fit the lens rather than try taking the lens off for a moment.

  21. Florian Blaschke says

    Ally (8)

    Clark McCauley is a notable expert on this subject, not some random ignorant pundit; maybe he deserves a little bit of trust that he’s not basing his conclusions on a single exception, which would obviously be ridiculous. The article I linked to is a summary of the results of his research, not an explanation of how he arrived at them; if you wish to examine his research, it’s readily available on the web, just search for his name.

    The widespread assumption that terrorists – lone wolf or not – are all mentally ill has been as lazy, convenient for everyone (including the terrorists themselves, because it lets them off the hook and absolves them and everyone else for responsibility), and ableist many times before (compare <a href=https://www.coursera.org/learn/terrorism/lecture/jwgWW/3-2-assumption-terrorists-are-crazy<here). (Not to mention how it erases motivations rooted in systematic biases like misogyny or white surpremacy!) I’m surprised, to say the least, to see you echoing it so uncritically.

    Especially considering that it weakens your case unnecessarily. Because I actually agree with your central thesis. The way human traits and tendencies are subdivided into two groups – “masculine” and “feminine” – and the one mindlessly extolled while the other is equally mindlessly lambasted, ridiculed and demonised is an absolutely toxic and harmful practice (habit). By the way, neither group is limited to any gender, so “butbutbut there are female terrorists too!” is a laughable, MRA-level retort. And while terrorism is no doubt a complex problem, masculine and male supremacy certainly places a central role. And no, in a world when “peaceful” Buddhists kill “evil” Muslims in Burma, you guys up there can keep your Islamophobia.

  22. Carnation says

    @ Marduk

    What is it about the concept of “toxic masculinity” that you find so deeply threatening? You, and people like you, respond with a level of hysteria that’s baffling.

    That article is clearly a pro-male argument.

    You object to the term maladaptation, despite it being used in the context of men not seeking the help that they should. Is that not a behaviour that requires modification?

    I wonder if your outrage would have been the same if a man wrote it, say Peter Lloyd, Philip Davies or Martin Daubney?

    Somehow, I doubt it.

  23. That Guy says

    @ Carnation-

    not to nitpick, but wasn’t it two men that wrote the article?

    I didn’t think it was brilliant, (I also take exception at the claim that the increase in male fatality in suicide attempts is due to a preference for firearms- the UK is a good counterexample) but it’s a form of progress that it’s turned up in the guardian I suppose.

    Maybe some of the

  24. That Guy says

    Sorry, I prematurely posted.

    I think some of the kickback at least is due to the perception that whereas female oppression is due to ‘men’, the ‘male oppression’ is also due to ‘men’.

    Now, you can parse this in an immature way as female oppression is ‘not their fault’ whereas ‘male oppression’ is ‘their own fault’. If this is your reading, then it can seem a little insulting.

    This, however, is the wrong reading.

    I guess a healthy part of the kickback is also (paradoxically) insecurity over masculinity and maleness as a concept, where any discussion is seen as an assault on maleness itself.

    I guess. I’m not too sure.

  25. Ally Fogg says

    Right, sorry to have abandoned you but as promised, some replies, working from the bottom upwards.

    Marduk / Carnation – must admit I thought that was a pretty terrible article – partly just because it was badly written, partly because it is a specifically US perspective (the firearms explanation for suicide just doesn’t wash outside the US, where men don’t shoot themselves but still out-suicide women by similar rates). But my main one is that the article simply doesn’t engage with the evidence that you can change men’s health-related behaviour significantly by changing policies around service delivery.

    I’m not one of those who screams foul any time anyone mentions toxic masculinity but in this case I think it *is* a bit of a high two-footed tackle. It basically abrogates political responsibility onto individuals & demands they pull their socks up in a way that is really unhelpful.

  26. Ally Fogg says

    Danny (and others making similar points)

    “Here’s the thing. No matter how you cook the numbers with whatever creative math you want the vast majority of men are not violent. Yet time and against when 1 man commits an act of violence his violent masculinity is propped up as the common norm as if that is the standard of masculinity across the board when it is not.”

    Here’s the thing. The vast majority of men do not commit acts of extreme and exceptional violence of the types under discussion.

    HOWEVER all men, to a greater or lesser extent, are invested in a shared culture of violence from which the exceptional extremes spring.

    Metaphor. Imagine the individuals committing the extreme and exceptional acts of violence are the dangerous sparks which randomly fly out from a burning campfire & can do terrible damage by landing on the gusset of your tracksuit and setting your knackers on fire. So long as they remain in the fireplace no one even thinks about them being there, but when they suddenly shoot out in an unexpected direction they can be terrifying and dangerous.

    It is possible to try to catch the individual sparks using a fireguard or trying to change your fuel to one which produces fewer sparks or whatever. But the bottom line is that the bigger and more furious your campfire is, the more likely sparks are to fly out.

    The standard response from politicians & media to catching terrorists is to promise to catch the sparks before they do any damage. To monitor the fire to try & identify sparks before they suddenly shoot out.

    What I am saying is that the only real way to prevent sparks is to reduce the size & fierceness of the fire. That fire is the whole culture of violence, aggression, masculine gender norms etc. It’s not enough to say that all the fire that remains under safely in the fireplace is fine & dandy & under control. Because for as long as there is a big raging fire there, sooner or later some random sparks are going to burst out.

    My point is that if we want to reduce or eliminate the numbers of (apparently) random acts of extreme male violence, the only long term strategy is to reduce the raging fire from which they spark.

    So, parking the over-stretched metaphor. It is simply not enough for 99.99% of men to say, hey, I haven’t murdered anyone or blown anything up, so why are you laying this on me? The fact is that we all participate in the middle of the same culture which is causing problems at the extreme. If we want to shift the extremes, we cannot do it without shifting the centre.

  27. Ally Fogg says

    Daran (14)

    I see what you did there. You included one white presumably non-Muslin attacker (alledgedly – he hasn’t been convicted yet, and unlike the others you name is still alive, so should be presumed innocent), just to ensure that they don’t all have “Muslim” or “Arabic” in common. They’re all male though.

    I included one, but I could have included countless others. Thomas Mair. David Copeland. Anders Breivik. Hop over the Atlantic & there’s a near endless supply – Dylann Roof, Jeremy Joseph Christian, Timothy McVeigh etc etc etc. Those are literally just the names off the top of my head.

    We can argue about definitions of terrorism, but even if we just restrict the definition to politically-motivated acts of murder it would be literally nonsensical to pretend it is an exclusively Muslim (or Arabic or whatever) phenomenon, or that those committing crimes from a Muslim starting point are notably different to those committing such crimes from any ideological standpoint.

    (And all of that is without bringing in the likes of spree shooters, which I’d argue are a very, very similar phenomenon & to which pretty much identical arguments apply)

    But there have been female terrorists and alleged terrorists.

    There have been, it is true. There are exceptions to every rule in behavioural sciences. But there are two really important observations here.

    The first is that when we talk about gender norms & gendered behaviour, ‘masculine’ does not mean ‘what men and only men do.’ Women also participate in and are affected by masculine cultural norms. Hegemonic masculinity is the sum of culturally conditioned standards to which all boys & men are pressurised to conform. That does not preclude the possibility that some women will also behave similarly.

    The second point is that your argument (evidentially speaking) is really, really weak. Sorry but it is. The numbers of women who have ever been involved in the actual perpetration of acts of political murder (outside the most horrific warzones) is tiny. Yes, occasionally you’ll get female co-conspirators and common purpose offenders or women who apparently planned to commit violent acts, but as a proportion of the total it is literally fractions of one percent. We can have this argument about, say domestic violence or sexual offending & quite a good case can be made to say enough women are involved to contradict any simple gender-based equation. When it comes to terrorism & politically-inspired murder, it really is an (almost) entirely male phenomenon – certainly close enough to it that we can justify having this debate.

    It is simple inescapable truth that acts of politically-motivated murder are so close to a uniformly male phenomenon that it demands we recognise that & grasp the nettle of discussing why.

  28. Ally Fogg says

    Gjenganger (10)

    Most of this I would file under “Hey, so we disagree.” But I’ll pick you up on this.

    “2) What the !”£$%^&* does ‘hegemonic masculinity’ have to do with Grenfell tower? The only logical connection I can see is ‘The fire was evil’, ‘masculinity is the root of all evil’, ‘therefore the fire was caused by masculinity’.”

    No, not even close. I’ll start again.

    Gender standards pervade all of human society & interpersonal culture. Because it has always been primarily men who design & deliver the mechanics of political, civic and economic activity, our political, civic & economic activities are steeped in masculine gender norms. (Note again, for anyone dozing at the back, this does not mean it is only men involved, but it does mean that women who are involved are usually expected to behave in traditionally male ways if they are to be considered successful.)

    What are the masculine gender norms in this context? The fetishisation and aggrandizement of competition, conflict, defeating your enemies, grinding them into the dust. Particularly relevant is the worship of risk-taking behaviours, whether financial or social risk or a proud indifference to endangering the actual physical health & safety and broader wellbeing of yourself and others.

    Now, recall my campfire analogy in [28]. The point I was making is that the values I describe above are inescapably wrapped up in the Grenfell Tower tragedy and they are ALSO a major fuel of the raging fire from which the sparks fly. In the grand argument, I’m saying that if we want to reduce the fierceness of the fire, we have to examine how our political and economic systems are fuelling that fire.

  29. That Guy says

    @Ally, wrt hagonom, heago, haemo, heagonemic pervasive masculinity, is this a worldwide thing?

    Just because in the UK (and the US) there’s a very conflict oriented attitude to many things- politics being the primary one that comes to mind. Political discourse tends to be of the form “fuk u ill fite u m8” rather than “let’s constructively work towards a sensible consensus, here are some alternatives”.

    In contrast, many governments around the world manage to function reasonably well with multi-party coalitions.

    tl:dr, why are some places in the world more conflict-oriented and adversarial in the deepest layers of society than others?

  30. Marduk says

    29.
    I know you mean well but I urge you to think about people who have made arguments like that in the past, it isn’t exaggeration to say that is the logic of the Gulag. You are positing the existence of an essential imperfection in our passage to utopia that cannot be removed or purged by an individual who indeed, may be part of 99.99% who never act upon it but are still somehow complicit and guilty. You need far better evidence for this.

    I don’t believe we have a culture of aggression and by any historical or international standard we are some of the most gentle, placid people that have ever existed. What aggression does exist is practiced by men and women for primarily for emotional reasons (and appears to have very little to do with anything that could be called masculinity) and by terrorists for political reasons. Both situations and be helped but they have nothing to do with an essential part of character, they are situational. Again, good look with fixing the human condition towards perfection but it nearly always ends with the camps, the boot and the rifle butt.

    We abhor violence, we spend huge sums in trying to limit and control it, most of this is the creation of men and falls disproportionately upon men’s shoulders.

    I return you to Suzanne Moore’s description of a photograph in which it is literally invisible to her that a working class man, the only person there acting with with the full consent of our society and on our behalf, bodily separates two other people apart to prevent violence. This my metaphor for all this, you are so used to him being there, you can’t see him in the middle of the picture, but that is exactly who “we” really are. Indeed it is the ever present invisible man in the photograph that leads us to worry so much about rare and newsworthy tragedies precisely because they are not normal nor an expression of anything about us. And even then you ignore the fact that for every bomber there are dozens of people, again mostly men, running towards the danger. Fuck the men of violence for getting into your head like this.

  31. Ally Fogg says

    I know you mean well but I urge you to think about people who have made arguments like that in the past, it isn’t exaggeration to say that is the logic of the Gulag.

    It’s no exaggeration?

    Mate, tt’s no exaggeration to say this is utterly batshit loopytalk. “The people who have made arguments like that” in the past are basically a bunch of sociology polemicists and if you want to look at what was said by people who did favour Gulags or concentration camps or whatever it did tend to laud and fetishise the extreme masculinity of killing & fighting & dying for the revolution or the fatherland or whatever.

    Anyway, that aside, what is your argument, really?

    Are you saying that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds? That there will always be terrorists & murderers & so we shouldn’t make any efforts to ensure we have fewer? Everything is tickety-boo?

    Because up to a point I agree with you. By any historical or international standard we are some of the most gentle, placid people that have ever existed. We have got to this point by moving away from the militaristic violent cultures of the 12th, 18th or 20th centuries. We’ve developed much more abhorrence of cruelty, whether capital and corporal punishment, casual bullying etc etc, and replaced that with a culture of human rights, children’s rights, women’s rights etc. And if you look at he statistics, you’ll see that this is even true of political violence and terrorism – there is far less of it, here in Europe, than there was in the 1960s, 70s or 80s. We are indeed a much, much less violent society than we have been i the past and that is precisely because we have been having the type of conversation we are having here now.

    I return you to Suzanne Moore’s description of a photograph in which it is literally invisible to her that a working class man, the only person there acting with with the full consent of our society and on our behalf, bodily separates two other people apart to prevent violence. This my metaphor for all this, you are so used to him being there, you can’t see him in the middle of the picture, but that is exactly who “we” really are.

    But the man in the middle only exists (in a symbollic sense) because of the man on the right. WIthout the threat of violence there is no need for someone else to be the shield, the protector.

    Your point is eloquently made but it is basically still the same point I was discussing with redpesto above. The man who steps in to prevent violence is playing the same role here as the firefighter or the paramedic or whoever, using masculine strength & courage to prevent bad things happening. This too is part of the package of masculinities and I wholeheartedly applaud drawing attention to that man because it is a good example of peacebuliding as positive masculinity (as I described in the OP) but I think it is daft to look at the whole picture of violence, threat, resistence & intervention & declare that only one part of that is a valid representation of masculinity while discounting the huge masculine elephant in the frame.

  32. Marduk says

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s main argument is that evil is in all of us, it is all our problem and all our responsibility. Where things take an ugly turn is when we try to say that its a problem with some people, perhaps a class of people we can identify in society. That leads to trying to change society by changing or removing those people, always it ends badly because we are punishing people for the human condition.

    I think violence is situational and it is over-determined, which is to say it usually happens for many reasons at the same time annoying as this is to sociological polemicist. The main proximal causes are however fear and confusion, mostly fear. I can explain how we can we have made people less afraid and less confused as our society has progressed into greater wealth and greater education, as it has become more liberal and accepting, I can also explain ways we could help people feel even less fear and confusion and deal better with both those states when they arise. You cannot explain to me how ‘reinventing masculinity’ or whatever it is supposed to be does anything or how you’d do it without pulling your Commissar’s peaked hat on. If we have a competition to reduce violence by tea-time, I bet I win.

    Violence has not, on the whole, been successful for people anyway, individually or societal. Sparta got turned into the first theme park, Marcus Aurelius bought a ticket to see them and visited the gift shop on the way out and all the Iliad was about was that Achilles died – “he isn’t coming back and we need to be smart if we’re going to prosper lads”. Its a parable and a textbook on masculinity, its the oldest story we have and even then its basically post-modern. Homer winks at the reader all the way through, ancient people hearing about even more ancient people knew that it was rubbish, it had nothing to do with honour and Helen of Troy, it was a trade dispute. Our heroes know that, Achilles sulks because he knows that, so when did people believe in these things if they didn’t in pre-historical myths (ever notice its everyone else who believes these things, Odysseus thought this as well). We’ve been on this course for a while then and doesn’t have much to do with our feelings when all is said and done.

    So, in a society we both agreed is marked by its rejection of violence (despite this somehow being central to the identity of a hegemony which either doesn’t have much identity or isn’t really a hegemony) the question then is how we can reduce violence further. By doing more of the things I identify above, we’d certainly reduce violence if we adopted evidence-based social policy for example (although these theories tend to accord with what I’m talking about rather than what you are talking about).

    The problem now is that you’d let perfect be the enemy of good, because I do believe to the extent we can’t ultimately defeat fear and confusion in absolute terms, violence may still happen amongst the very fearful and the very confused who put themselves into extreme situations we’re unable to help. The problem for me is that, believing what I do, and you believing what you do, despite me having the practical suggestions that actually work, you’d look at the evidence of extreme isolated cases and continue to believe you could eradicate them if only society can be perfected. Which leads me back to poor Aleksandr or at least poor Alex (“I was cured alright”).

  33. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally 31 We do disagree, yes.

    Now, I’ll grant you that men have been the dominant gender for most of history, and that the kind of violence we are talking about is largely committed by men. Where I part company is when you use this to conclude that violence is something we can blame on men, basically. It does not help to start making distictions between men and masculinity (hegemonic or otherwise). Masculinity is the role and culture of men. My culture, if you like. Blame one and you blame the other. Nor does it sweeten the pill that I could be excused the blame if only I would sign up with your crusade against masculinity – repenting my sins and joining you on the paths of righteousness, as it were.

    Putting the blame on ‘masculinity’ is essentially unfalisfiable. The chain of cause of effect is entirely notional. You have no evidence of what would have happened if only we did not have masculinity. And it does not help that, apparently, women who behave in ways that you do not approve of are also driven by (hegemonic) masculinity (so that the blame for the actions of women also falls on men). Which is all a fancy way of saying that blaming violence on ‘hegemonic masculinity’ is a notion that one would only entertain if it serves to confirm your pre-existing beliefs.

    The best parallel I can think of is with the debate on Western foreign policy. It is not in doubt that the west has interfered heavily in the politics of e.g.. the Middle East., nor that the region is currently a bloodstained mess, and a humanitarina disaster. But you can not conclude (although many do) that it is all our fault, and that the region would have been a shining beacon of tolerance, peace and properity if only us nasty Westerners had stayed on our side of the Bosphorus.

    But OK, yours is a consistent worldview, and clearly sincerely held. All I can say is that it makes it rather futile for you to try to argue with, let alone convince, anybody who has not signed up to your beliefs beforehand.

    But when you start on Grenfell tower you are really going too far. The tower fire is a disaster, causing great sorrow and anger – and there is Ally to show (without any visible connection) that the whole thing is all the fault of his bugbear – ‘hegemonic masculinity’, no less – and to direct this great and justified anger in a politically useful direction. Others have similar ideas: John McDonnell also found it useful to blame Grenfell Tower on his personal bugbear, which in his case was murdering tories (he did not use the word ‘scum’). Which makes for two nice and progressive people to use the tower catastrophe for political gain – and to accuse me of complicity in murder. The nearest parallel I can think of is Jerry Falwell, who found it opportune to blame the tragedy of AIDS on the perverted and degenerate society provoking God’;s vengeance. I do not doubt that Falwell was sincere, just like I do not doubt that your are, but I cannot say that I find this kind of argument acceptable regardless.

  34. Ally Fogg says

    Marduk – I think the main point of our disagreement is right there in the first line of your comment.

    Where things take an ugly turn is when we try to say that its a problem with some people, perhaps a class of people we can identify in society.

    I’d like you to go back over the OP & my comments & point out where I have said the problem is with some people or perhaps a class of people. Where have I ever said that the problem is with “men”?

    You’ll find the answer is nowhere, I’m not saying the problem is men (although admittedly the tweet I was addressing did). I am talking about a set of shared social values which are part of the package of behaviours and standards which all men and boys in our societies are expected to aspire to. I am talking about the violent aspects of hegemonic masculinity..

    Do you understand that? Do you accept that distinction? Because if you do not this conversation is being held at entirely cross purposes.

  35. Ally Fogg says

    And Gjenganger, same point.

    “Where I part company is when you use this to conclude that violence is something we can blame on men, basically. It does not help to start making distictions between men and masculinity (hegemonic or otherwise). Masculinity is the role and culture of men.”

    No, first of all I am absolutely not saying that we can blame men, and we absolutely MUST make the distinction between men and masculinity or you are simply not understanding a word of what I am saying.

    Masculinity is not the state of being a man. Masculinity is not “the role and culture of men.” That is fundamentally wrong. Masculinity (or more helpfully masculinities, plural) are the complete set of standards, behaviours and social norms to which men are expected to adhere. THAT IS NOT THE SAME THING AT ALL.

    The way you have defined it, masculinity is simply an observed state of how men are – a passive reflection of men in their diversity. What I am saying is that masculinity is an IMPOSED state of how men are SUPPOSED TO BE. See the difference?

    And the reason it is imposed? Because society – itself a socioeconomic political construction – has specific demands of men. Traditionally those demands were a willingness to tolerate and accept the horrors of the battlefield, the mines, the fields and the factories without complaint. There’s a lot more to it of course, but fundamentally that is what masculinity is for, that is its purpose.

    When Marx wrote that the values of any society are the values of the ruling class, this is what he meant. He wasn’t saying that everyone in society will start saying “tooodle pip old chap” & then pop off to the opera. He was saying that the values which we are all expected to adhere to are the values which most suit the interest of the ruling class. The way the ruling class ensures that we do retain those values are by carefully controlling the culture – through mass media, entertainment, education systems, religions, all the other mechanisms for transferring beliefs. This is what hegemony is, this is what hegemonic masculinity means.

    Nor does it sweeten the pill that I could be excused the blame if only I would sign up with your crusade against masculinity

    Again, this profoundly misreads what I am saying. I am not on a crusade against masculinity. That would be like punching jelly. There will always be masculinity for as long as we live in a gendered society (which I suspect will be always, because humans & sex & all that.) If I’m on a “crusade” it is not against masculinity but with masculinity. I’m saying that if we want to change society for the better we have to change masculinity for the better and vice versa – if we want to change masculinity for the better we have to change society for the better.

    (I’d say the same about femininity, FWIW, while acknowledging that we have already made far bigger and better strides in reforming femininity and related aspects of society than we have with masculinity.)

    In fact I’ll get off for now, but leave you with this thought.

    When was the last time you heard a woman (in this culture) being seriously criticised for being “unladylike” and urged to change her behaviour? In all honesty, I cannot remember the last time I heard it seriously used. We now (most of us) accept that women can have their own independent lives, can do physical chores, have sex with who they fancy ,do whichever job appeals and yes, sure, they still face plenty of sexism & misogyny and we still have the Daily Mail muttering away at them every day, but by and large, I think we’d probably all agree that the ideals of femininity have changed profoundly over the past 50 years. Agreed?

    Now, imagine a world where it felt as anachronistic and old-fashioned to tell a man or boy to “man up” as it would in 2017 to tell a woman to “be a lady?”

    When people critcised & strived to reform those strict gender norms for women, do you think they were “blaming women” for liking pretty dresses and wanting to stay home raising children & cooking for their husbands? I don’t. We (correctly) identified the strictures of society and culture for imposing unwanted gender norms on women and involved ourselves in a shared project to reform those ideals and move onwards and forwards.

    So if you can accept that over the past 50 years we have collectively, constructively reimagined gender roles & gender conditioning for women, can you also accept the possibility of a collective, constructive reimagning of what it means to be a man?

  36. Marduk says

    “It is an essential question that demands an answer and, tragically, the answer is certainly no. Men cannot stop being violent. At least not all of us, not all the time. Not the way we are raised, socialised, instructed to behave, taught to react. Not for as long as we are raised to believe that a man’s worth and value as a human being is inextricably tied to his capacity and willingness to both inflict and tolerate violence, aggression and brutality.”

    I also don’t buy hegemonic masculinity, it seems to be one long circular argument that bottoms out with people analyzing John Wayne films. I think you have to put it to some scrutiny as a construct. Its rarely enacted, it is rarely accepted, it is subject to constant change and challenge, it is used instrumentally by basically everyone against everyone else (whatever subdivision we can imagine) all the time.

    I can understand the idea of an insidious thing that changes, I don’t demand that its fixed for all time, but I do challenge its claims to hegemony given even Connell is constantly popping up to tell us its different in different places, its different at different levels of analysis and its used by different people at different times. It is also constantly subverted and challenged, although the rules are not clear as to how we separate a challenge from a local change or a mere switch to another complex of masculinities.

    So what you have, in the end, are actual attributes like aggression and like dominance and we selectively label them as something else. There is no real theory there, its an empty easter egg.

    The real reason I think we are using the word hegemonic is not that it is in action or actual fact a hegemony at all, I think its because the theory’s only claim to legitimacy is based on an inherited assumption from Gramsci (it is then “hegemonic theory” in the absence of an actual hegemony, just as we could apply Marxist analysis to a situation with no classes by trying to invent some). We posit then something exists to reproduce gender hierarchies and that thing is ‘hegemonic masculinity’. At which point we’re off to the races again, because anything we infer as hegeomonic masculinity (which apparently we can detect more easily in films than in real life?) is, because its a circular argument based on using one idea to interpret everything. Does it contain violence? Well maybe. But if you read feminist International Relations scholars on this, they interpret armies refusing to kill people as just another really sly way that hegemonic masculinity works, other scholars believe its challenging hegemonic masculinity. The same applies to internationalist business masculine hegemony where both internationalism and nationalism are both ‘integral’, ‘cruical’ etc. aspects.

    I suggest that when a thing is everything and nothing at once, Aristotle said that was the sign of a thing that it doesn’t really exist and isn’t very useful. Hegeomonic masculinity isn’t “out there”, its just in the minds of sociologists so of course it morphs reflexively (reflexivitilly?), its entirely post-hoc and therefore descriptive and cannot make predictions and cannot be falsified.

  37. Ally Fogg says

    Marduk, when you say you don’t believe in hegemonic masculinity you will have to be more specific. I don’t understand what it is you don’t believe.

    Are you saying that you do not believe in the existence of socially constructed and socially transferred gender roles and norms?

    Because I would assert that the existence of such is a falsifiable hypothesis.

    Are you saying that gender roles and norms do exist but do not serve a socioeconomic function?

    Because I would assert that their socioeconomic function is a faslifiable hypothesis.

    Couple of corrections too.

    “So what you have, in the end, are actual attributes like aggression and like dominance and we selectively label them as something else. “

    Absolutely not. This is 100% wrong. Agggression is aggression. Dominance is dominance. Those are traits inherent to all human beings and most other animals. I’m not redefining those as gender roles or anything else. The gender roles determine how the circumstances under which and manner in which they will be played out. Which is why patterns of aggression and dominance (etc) play out with profound differences in differnet cultures and at different times in history.

    We posit then something exists to reproduce gender hierarchies and that thing is ‘hegemonic masculinity’.

    Again no, this is so off beam as to be almost 100% opposite.

    I’m arguing that gender hierarchies exist to cement and support economic, social and political power . They exist as a bulwark and a buttress for the status quo.

    And to an extent, from that point onwards you critique is valid, in that I am indeed asserting that our entire culture and society have evolved all sorts of mechanisms to protect the interests of the ruling class and that is a broad ideology, not a testable hypothesis. You’re perfectly entitled to reject the ideology. I’m just here to explain it;-)

  38. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally 39

    At the level of concepts I quite agree with your distinctions. Yes, masculinity is “the complete set of standards, behaviours and social norms to which men are expected to adhere”. Conceptually this may well be different from ‘ the role and culture of men’ i.e. the attitudes, practices etc. that men share and with which they identify, but in a real society the differences will be small, and the overlap hbuge. Masculinity in principle is different between different societies and different times, but in practice masculinity is reasonably consistent, both in space and time, for the societies an individual knows about. So, whatever the difference in concepts, it will be hard to keep the different aspects separate, mentally (outside of a brief scientific discussion). What you say about ‘masculinity’ will reflect equally on male culture, and on men, at least emotionally. Your non-feminazi twitterer would certainly not appreciate the distinction. Nor do I, because if you shoot into a place where I am known to be, it matters little that you were really aiming at my shadow.
    The distinction is a bit like that between the language called Swedish, and the language spoken by people in central Scandinavia. There is no intrinsic relationship between that particular set of semantics, phonems and grammar, and the land mass or the people in it – no reason why they should not speak Hungarian or Pushtu instead. But historically they belong together, so anything said about one will splash pretty equally on to all three, whatever the conceptual distinctions. So, you sound like a language reformer saying “I am not campaigning against the Swedish language, but with it. In fact, once all the inhabitants of Sweden have changed over to speaking Esperanto, the Swedish language will have been immensely improved”. Or in other words, you are not (campaigning) against men. But you are (campaigning) against masculinity, at least masculinity as we know it.

    As it happens your insistence on social roles being ‘imposed’ is misleading at best. It only makes sense if there is an individual, conscious entity to force onto you things that you already know you do not want. Social roles are socially transmitted, which means that you absorb them from your parents and classmates and the world around you. By the time your personality is formed, your social role is part of who you are and who you want to be, and something you will want to pass on in turn. Of course you can rebel against it and renounce it, much like you can renounce your family or your country, but it is not meaningful to ask who you are and what you want separately from how you have grown up to be. Of course social roles are not fixed, people try to change them in their favour, and the dominant classes will have much more success in this endeavour. But material circumstances and historical transmission would still be the dominant influence.

    So, “can [I] accept the possibility of a collective, constructive reimagining of what it means to be a man”? Not the way you are going about it, for sure. If you look at the social changes that improved the lot of women, they were relaxations of strictures that people were consciously chafing under. Each change brought more choice and freedom, individually, to women, And collectively, women were half of the population. The gains of the various ethnic, sexual, etc. minorities are more complex to think about, because we have to deal with the conflict between different groups, each wanting a society in their own image. (As I see it, a society that is somewhat optimised for the majority will have a higher total sum of happiness than one where members of majority and minority groups feel equally welcome and fitting-in – simply because minority members are always so few). But again, the changes are bringing immediate and clear benefits to individual minority members. Your proposed changes of masculinity, on the other hand are simply abstract social engineering. They are not meeting a pent-up demand from men. There is no immediate benefit to the majority of men who have to change, or even to the minority of violent men, or to their victims of today. All we have is the speculation that if we make these changes, the society of 2070 might be more peaceful and happier than it otherwise would have been. If this had been a computer game it would make sense: “Yeah, let’s dial the aggression level right down to zero, and see what that does to the long-term happiness score”. But in the real world, few will want to embark on this kind of experiment. The only exception I can see are people who have already decided that, for personal or ideological reasons, they see no benefit in keeping the current roles. If you dislike the current masculinity already, the fact that everything has to change is not a problem but an additional bonus. The normal situation would be that men see masculinity as part of their identity and sense of self, and value it positively as anybody values the culture he is part of. Of course, if you happen to be a woman, what you are talking about is coercing other people to change so that the world will fit better to you. It is always good if you can get things and someone else pay for them (as witness teh current Labour manifesto ;-)). And this is where the blaming comes in. If I identify with my culture and my culture is bad, that means that I am bad. And conversely, making people feel that they are morally guilty of causing violence is one way you might convince them to back a set of changes they have neither desire nor interest in making otherwise.

    So, if I was to ‘collectively imagine’ masculinity, I would start by identifying the central and positive parts of what is is – currently. And the interests and desires of the men who carry it. Then I would make specific and minimal changes that clearly would help with specific problems. And for the rest I would make changes to society and let masculiinity adjust, rather than remaking my culture as a tool for changing society.

    As for a world where it would be impossible and embarrassing to tell someone to man up, it would make me feel rather sad. Because it would mean that the positive and valuable aspects of expecting men to be strong and deal with their problem would be lost, and I would be a dinosaur lost in a world where it was replaced with I know not what – encouraged whining?

  39. Ally Fogg says

    Gjenganger

    Sorry, don’t have time to go through this line by line but by way of summary

    And for the rest I would make changes to society and let masculiinity adjust, rather than remaking my culture as a tool for changing society.

    But this is exactly what I am suggesting.

    Read what I actually say in the OP and everything else by me you have ever read (which we both know is a lot!). I’m not talking about banning WWE wrestling or John Wayne films (cc Marduk above) as a route to preventing terrorism. I’m talking about changing social policy & social norms so that we brutalise boys less through application or tolerance of violence to “toughen them up.” I’m talking about our excessive tolerance for the pain and discomfort for men and boys – how as a society we are prepared to shrug & accept domestic violence or abuse if they are inflicted against men or boys. I’m talking about our collective social indifference to male homelessness, to men’s mental and physical health. To male suicide. Etc etc etc.

    These are the primary mechanisms by which we brutalise and “toughen up” men and boys. And changing that requires a degree of collective recognition and shared determination to change our attitudes, but it also requires a lot of political change, change in social policy, change in political decision making & priorities.

    I’m saying all of these issues are connected, all of these issues have common shared origins in our socially transmitted gender norms. I’m also saying these issues also have unwanted and unforeseen consequences that include – at the margins – damaged, brutalised men committing acts of nihilistic or politically-charged murderous violence.

    I’m also saying that IF we want to stop that very small minority of damaged, brutalised men from committing those terrible acts then we have to look at the conditions under which they have become damaged & brutalised & change those.

    Now, what I’d really like to know is what specific things I am advocating that you think are a bad or dangerous idea. I don’t mean the things you imagine I am saying or the things I would be saying if you stretched my logic to absurd lengths. I am asking what, specifically, I have advocated here that you disagree with?

  40. secondtofirstworld says

    I’d like to address a serious problem here, that many people, even the well intentioned ones ignore, and it can be demonstrated by 2 opposing politicians, Macron and Orban. The latter leads a government, which is built on a very chauvinistic culture, with some very distinct views on what masculinity is.

    Yes, many have made remarks about Macron having a wife, that could be his mother, but go no further than the former Soviet Bloc to find, they equate the relationship to lack masculinity. Government policies, ergo not just talking points, are filled with like minded chauvinistic views, such as teaching gender studies is part of an international conspiracy aimed at destroying the nation’s character, and trans people don’t exist, it’s just gender craziness peddled by the West. I’m constantly baffled by others who claim everything is A-OK here, and those Islam believers, they can’t integrate. I’m baffled because no sane person would forget about half of the continent and the sh*t that’s going on if they actually cared. You want to see your worst fears manifested by regressed and reversed ideas? Yes, Mr. Fogg, we can look back half a century… or look east of Berlin, the same thing. Except worse, because you have this progress in danger of losing, they never had it, and don’t want it either.

    Beyond the talking, there’s action and the mental gymnastics that come with it. A politician has frequently abused his wife but on one occasion it came out, and he resigned… I’m just kidding, he blamed it on a blind dog. Also got away with it, all it took was “convincing experts” to withdraw expert testimony and to have his ex wife become his girlfriend and testifying on his behalf, while a country stood by and watched. The spectators of the Colosseum do not need to be the lion or the gladiator to see blood or murder. The culture which enables is the problem.

    So those who claim we’re the most peaceful as we’ve ever been… either you’re too focused on Anglo-Saxon relations, or not focused on anything else. Illiberal countries of Europe thrive on treating minorities as subhuman, and women are no exception. The Czech nuclear plant has decided who to hire as an intern by a bikini contest, and Univer advertised its product by praising its ability to prevent the husband from beating the wife. How do American conservatives put it? Wholesome, white Christian countries. They loathe Macron and Trudeau, but look up to Farage and Trump. The latter who endorses violence, and Farage’s guys beat each other up in Strasbourg.

  41. Marduk says

    44. This is a lot clearer and not really what I took from the OP.

    In the interests of intellectual honesty I should say I can actually think of some dominant values that are only expressed, paradoxically, in subcultures. The strongest one is probably conspicuous consumption among the poor. The middle class don’t do this, the wealthy don’t generally do this, capitalism is clearly a dominant ideology but its expressed explicitly in behavior by those least included within it. I also wonder about ‘capitalist feminism’ and the bizarre fetishisation of corporate employment while at the same time repeatedly expressing dissatisfaction at the structural issues in corporate environments. Inspirational career books for women speak of ‘leaning in’ and becoming ever more conditioned by corporate ideology even in your personal life, inspirational career books for men speak of ‘leaning out’ and getting a small-holding instead.

    In both cases it has a feeling of bait and switch. I really don’t think we live in a ‘violence culture’ in the same way but if someone did think that then I suppose one could look at the prison-industrial complex and think a similar suckers game has been sold.

  42. StillGjenganger says

    what I’d really like to know is what specific things I am advocating that you think are a bad or dangerous idea.

    Specific initiatives: None (except for your unreasonable attitude towards circumcision 😉 – but that is another discussion).

    What am I getting so upset about, then? Well,
    – Legitimisng that tweet by treating it as a sensible proposal worth discussing.
    – Blaming current masculinity specifically (if partially) for the Grenfell Tower disaster.
    – Your fireplace analogy, which suggests to me that you see current masculinity as an inherently hazardous and damaging substance, that for the well-being of society should be replaced with something of an entirely different nature – like wet ash or ice cubes, as it were.

    At best I would say it is like someonne claiming that Islam is an intolerant and violent and generally jihadi religion. There is enough of a point to it, in that case and in yours, that it could serve as the start of a perfectly reasonable discussion. But unless you are extraordinarliily careful about wording it right and putting in all the caveats (and in this case you are not), it sounds like, and hereby legitimises, what you hear from people with quite unpleasant opinions. But beyond that I am afraid that anyone calling for a ‘shared commn determeination’ to change our ‘attiteds and socially transmitted gender norms’ makes me quite nervous about what things he will feel need changing, for what essentially speculative purposees. Even if he is as sensible and practical and generally wise as you are – and not many of those involved will be.

  43. Konrad Lorenz says

    Testosterone causes both risk-taking and violent aggression (and not just for its risk-taking element).

    So there’s a legitimate connection between the fire (risk-taking) and violence. And that connection is through “masculinity,” although I’m sure the rare high-T woman is far more violent and risk-taking than a castrado. But I guess you could say she’s more masculine.

  44. WineEM says

    I think there’s also wider problem with neuro-diversity in society in general. I think this is a problem in itself, but will often affect men more, as they often tend to be wired up mentally in more extreme ways.

    Now, if we solved this problem, created a society where a very broad range of different types of minds (not just the standardised, conventional types) could fulfil their true potential, would this eliminate violence and terrorism altogether? Probably not, because there will still likely be thrill seekers who will seek out violence and extremists ideologies, since everything else in comparison seems just too dull (witness, for the example, the popularity of cage-fighting and other dangerous risk-taking sports). Who is to say that adrenaline junkies won’t turn to such activities, even if other options are freely available?

    But certainly, to quote the original blog entry, “a society that offers everyone purpose, self-worth, self-actualisation”, will surely be one where there aren’t so many inane assumptions by policy makers as to what skills and abilities humans will naturally have.

    We cannot automatically assume, surely, that everyone will be able to drive a car safely; that everyone will have strong interpersonal abilities and skills; that everyone will be able to master touch typing, or penmanship (the latter a 20th century skill that is still the only game in town in school exams); we cannot take for granted that everyone will have a fluent, strong relationship with the technology of print (no matter how many hours of effort and teaching are put in) when we have phenomena as subtle and obscure as this associated with it:-

    https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-26/edition-2/dyslexia-%E2%80%93-tune-out-time

    (Just think, for instance: could one imagine in the future, a world where people would feel at ease using their skill or ability with just one technology to assume or assert their superiority over others? Some new interface between the human mind and the world of information, which through some quirk of the human genetic code, some people would arbitrarily have great facility with, while other less so, and others still , comparitavely, very weak skills? If this suddenly came upon us, would we not question this?

    Yet today we have a world where to even question a similar assumption would be considered flat-earthism by all of the middle classes. I even heard on super-progressive ‘Man’s Hour’ the presenter say that if you couldn’t read you were finished and had basically no social worth in this society at all. Excellent.

    It’s the ‘Flat Earth News’ mentality writ large. So many unquestioned assumptions; so many MPs who seem totally incapable of thinking in terms of anything other than the dreariest of cliches. The irony is that many of them want to do good, and want a better society, but can only see in black and white binaries so much of the time.

  45. WineEM says

    Oh yeah, here’s an amusing irony I just learned from the Telegraph, (in terms of this quest to reduce male violence.)

    They’re talking about creating jail terms of 18 years for ‘negligent manslaughter’. The irony, here?

    Well, is it not, effectively, ‘negligent manslaughter’ to create social policies which massively inflate the prison population, thus creating overcrowding, thus creating ever more self-harm and person-on-person violence?

    Jesus bleeding Christ….

  46. Adiabat says

    I suspect everyone, men and women, has a point where they are willing to turn to violence in the face of a perceived threat or to achieve some ideological goal. This point is a spectrum with some turning to violence sooner than others.

    So, to answer the OP (minus the sexism and assuming for the sake of argument it’s mainly socially constructed): it probably is possible to manipulate people’s upbringing and experiences in a society so they are further to the pacifist side of that spectrum and less likely to turn to violence.

    However, sometimes those perceived threats are real and sometimes those ideological goals are just, and in those cases we may end up being thankful for people’s propensity for violence. A better approach would be to reduce the spread and effect of undesirable ideologies and reassure people about perceived threats (by showing them to be false or by taking action against them if they are real).

  47. WineEM says

    (BTW, I do feel, intuitively, I am making some inroads into Ally’s mind with this whole neuro-diversity argument, here. I strongly suspect he will be thinking to himself, ‘Yes, actually, I used to encourage my kids to read lots of books, because that was really desirable and cool and everything, but now I realise print is an elitist technology, which has become an aide to the oppressor ruling, capitalist class – and which will probably, decades from now, be shown to have caused terrible social stratification and quite unnecessary culturally mediated disability on a mass scale – and so henceforth, I shall be instructing them only to play XBOX and PS3 instead. 🙂

  48. Adiabat says

    WineEM: You’re joking but unfortunately you’ve fallen victim to Poe’s Law, as is so common when trying to parody Social Justice.

    The argument that parents reading bedtime stories to their children are “unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children” has been seriously made by a Social Justice Professor from the University of Warwick: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/philosopherszone/new-family-values/6437058

    However to be fair he does conclude that “we” should still allow parents to read to their own children anyway. Because Social Justice would be a benevolent dictator.

    You should still feel guilty about it on occasion though:

    I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally

  49. WineEM says

    @54. Yes, I was larking around a bit, but it’s not so much the question of parents and bedtime stories, it’s more of an ethical/philosophical dilemma about the whole concept of merit and social status being so bound up with just one specific form of (very recent) technology, and whether, as a society, we should be thinking a bit more seriously about this – and whether, indeed, this absolute, unquestioned faith is something we might come to regret in the future.

    I think I once posted on some blog somewhere quoting Steve Pinker about this, since he does throw up some interesting points:

    “One could make the argument that some forms of dysfunction are due to a mismatch between the environment we live in now and the one in which we evolved, so when you see figures that 30% of people have dyslexia, that cannot mean that 30% of people have some kind of neurological disease, as it’s sometimes claimed, but rather that we evolved in an environment without written language, as it’s an evolutionary novelty, maybe only 5000 years old in some parts of the world, and one could say that the brain isn’t adapted to written language in the same way it’s adapted to spoken language, and if there is a high percentage of people who don’t master it very well, that’s just a reflection of our evolutionary heritage. (There may be other syndromes which can also be analysed in terms of this mismatch.)”

    Now, obviously that 30% figure is going to be controversial, but I’ve often seen suggestions of at least 10 or 15 per cent of people having diagnosable reading disorder syndromes, and there are probably a lot more out there without diagnosable dyslexia, but for whom the particular quirks or make-up of their minds make for a significant inefficiency when engaging with this technological format, which makes it much harder than decoding human speech.

    I guess we’d like to believe, now probably (in our modern, ‘progressive’ times) that the emotional response of someone like Hanna Schmitz in Schlink’s ‘The Reader’, of preferring to suffer awful judicial consequences rather than admit to difficulty in reading, would not arise – but who, in truth, is going to readily admit to being ‘intellectually inferior’, ‘poorly educated’, an inferior class of citizen? Any takers?

    Certainly, when I’ve been listening to lectures on dyslexia from various ‘top experts’ online, they seem to suggest that there are something like 13 different brain regions, any one of which, through being less than optimal, can create some kind of inefficiency or incompatibility in terms of the neural circuitry required to read.

    So, all in all, I think it’s just a question that needs to be asked that’s we’re not really asking that hard at the moment.

    In the past, after all, it would have been hard, in physical, logistical terms, to provide other kind of formats, but with the massively powerful information technologies we’ve got now this is no longer the case, so perhaps it’s time to start revisiting the question.

  50. Carnation says

    @ WineEM

    “Well, is it not, effectively, ‘negligent manslaughter’ to create social policies which massively inflate the prison population, thus creating overcrowding, thus creating ever more self-harm and person-on-person violence?”

    Which regulars on HetPat would disagree with the above?

    Except for Mike Buchanan and his followers.

  51. WineEM says

    @55 ‘Y know, your caricature of Mike Buchanan turns out, in fact, to be somewhat crude and reductionist.

    For one example, he once penned what I thought was a very moving blog post, describing an occasion where he was physically assaulted by two youths in his home town. Once he had picked himself back up and brushed himself off (it ended with him being pushed over a wall), his reflection was not that these lads oughts to be sent to do several years’ hard labour in Victorian type conditions, but rather that they were victims of a society which does not properly value men and boys, and that had we lived in a world which had invested properly in their skills and their future, they most probably would not have behaved like this.

    So careful in your portrayal of Mr Buchanan. He is not a two dimensional character by any means.

  52. Carnation says

    @ WineEM

    Cool story bro’! You’re right of course, Iife’s way too short to read much of what MB writes.

    So instead I’ll correct what I originally wrote to “Except for Philip Davies and his followers”

    Here’s an interesting proposition; https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/12/women-escaped-prostitution-criminals-sex-trade-criminal-record-expunged

    But Carnation, I hear ye exhort, Bindel is a literal gendercidal feminzi.

    Ah, sez I, just have a think about what she’s saying. Play the roller-derby puck. not the woman.

    And expand it, maybe former addicts could have their records expunged after a set number of years sobriety etc?

  53. That Guy says

    @ Carnation, I’d be more into Julie Bindel’s opinions on expunging criminal records if she wasn’t one of the driving forces behind keeping it criminal in the first place, despite campaigning by sex workers and their advocates.

    I’m not a huge fan of her hatred of trans people, either, but whatever.

    ALLY- kind of off topic, but I saw an the twatters that you had an issue with these two articles on role reboot by the same author

    http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-politics/details/2017-07-im-done-pretending-men-safe-even-sons/
    http://www.rolereboot.org/life/details/2017-05-watched-13-reasons-suicidal-teenager/

    I scanned them both briefly, but it wasn’t obvious to me what was wrong with them, can you spell it out for me?

  54. Marduk says

    57.
    Bindel isn’t a researcher, she is incapable of it and has been previously criticised by experts in the field at home and abroad for her practices. It doesn’t surprise me then that someone who doesn’t know how to do research or analyse data is impressed by a model that can only be supported by ‘evidence’ from other people who don’t know how to do research or analyse data.

    Read this:
    http://theconversation.com/the-nordic-model-of-prostitution-law-is-a-myth-21351

    I don’t think tinkering with equal treatment under the law for special groups is a good idea. If we want to change on this issue, either change the law in a way that doesn’t offend this principle or, more plausibly, seek to change attitudes to ex-offenders.

    Part of the reason that we increasingly multiply the reasons for criminalising people is the belief that there are also sorts of vague and wet mitigations around. This is popular with Guardian readers, less so with prosecuting barristers, judges and magistrates who can’t find anything written down on the matter. The law is the law, fuck around with it at your peril.

  55. Carnation says

    @ Marduk

    The law is indeed the law, and laws are made and changed on a fairly regular basis.

    Laws exist regarding “spent” convictions, maybe opening that up so that convictions can become “spent” faster in certain circumstances could be a good idea?

    You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one…

  56. Marduk says

    @WineEM A famous version of this argument was made by Lord Young and I think you both have a point here actually.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rise_of_the_Meritocracy
    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2001/jun/29/comment

    @Carnation
    Well like I say, I think we start by resisting new crimes multiplying on the statute books, particularly where we have existing laws. Its usually an end-run around the standards of evidence. A good giveaway is when someone insists it will, of course, only be used in the most serious cases. Its an assurance that isn’t written into the law itself nine times out of ten. In practice they then get used for what might be called ‘village nutter’ purposes, a group I’m particularly concerned about. They’ve (we’ve?) been scapegoats for thousands of years, its only now we have quality ways of locking them up for being weird using legislation we were promised was only applicable to international drug cartel kingpins or whatever it is.

    The problem with spent convictions is that they don’t apply to violence and sexual offenses. While both are common parts of an addict career, I’m not sure that special circumstances apply. I also don’t really believe the story in Bindel’s piece, I don’t see how its technically possible to bar someone from a school gate over a solicitation charge, it isn’t actually a notifiable sexual offence, its a public order thing. I suspect either its made up, she did commit an actual sexual offence in the course of her work (underage client, it happens) or else we’re reinterpreting some other kind of stricture (perhaps a magistrate has banned her from a postcode rather than a ‘school gate’). Teachers are in any case a lot more urbane than Julie invites you to imagine them being and parent who is a prostitute and escorts her kids to school is basically a model citizen relative to what most routinely encounter.

    I really think attitudes to offenses are where the action could be. As a society filled with social media, camera phones and permanent databases, in general we are going to have to have to both embrace forms of diversity we didn’t know existed and also start forgiving and accepting a little more. Social mechanisms are going to need to be found. I’m not a great optimist but I don’t think society has much alternative.

  57. BobBobberson says

    Hold on, if neoliberalism and globalization are “masculine” political disciplines, then why are they primarily voted for by women and against by men?

    When a feminist documentarian makes a movie drawing attention to and demanding a call to action about men’s issues, I don’t see Hegemonic Masculinity coming around to protest screenings, calling everyone in it including the woman who produced it evil, and harass venues into removing it. That’s Feminism.

    So we have a force in the world for women, built by women, supported by women, and yet somehow men are at fault for it.

    Can someone explain this to me?

  58. Marduk says

    62.
    In the UK women consistently elect right wing governments opposed to human rights, workers rights and social protections. Internationally, governments that declare war are more likely to have been voted in by a majority of women. You can predict wars from large movements of women voters. In 2010 more men voted Tory than women for the first time since the universal franchise but the coalition and not a Labour government was the choice of women overall.

    The only newspaper created specifically for women and today read mainly by women is the Daily Mail.

    If women had not been given the vote, there wouldn’t have been a single Tory government post-war.

    I don’t know what hegemonic masculinity is supposed to be, but empirically femininity isn’t as a liberal and left wing as people would like you to assume.

    Don’t take my word for it, even Polly knew this was true when she worked for someone who’d let her say it:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/do-women-deserve-the-vote-1361756.html

    Despite having 65k members, WEP candidates were beaten in the seats they contested by the BNP and Raving Loony Party in the last election. Virtue duly signalled, in the privacy of the voting booth even their members dropped them when there was a Tory candidate available.

  59. Carnation says

    @ Marduk

    “The problem with spent convictions is that they don’t apply to violence and sexual offenses. While both are common parts of an addict career.”

    What are you basing this on? In the interests of honesty, I don’t believe this to be true.

    “In the UK women consistently elect right wing governments opposed to human rights, workers rights and social protections. Internationally, governments that declare war are more likely to have been voted in by a majority of women.”

    What are you basing this on? I don’t think it’s true, but I’m open to being proven wrong.

    “Despite having 65k members, WEP candidates were beaten in the seats they contested by the BNP and Raving Loony Party in the last election. Virtue duly signalled, in the privacy of the voting booth even their members dropped them when there was a Tory candidate available.”

    This is fantastical gibberish. How can you deduce that WEP members voted Tory?

    I’m also not convinced by the 65k members – that’s more than the Greens. Again, what are you basing this on? The ever deluded collection of cretins at F4J base their numbers according to Facebook, for example, I wonder if the WEP source did the same?

  60. Marduk says

    64.
    1. Not sure what you are disputing. Violent and sexual offences are not subject to being spent. I also believe it isn’t controversial to say that drug addicts tend to be more likely to commit those offences all things being equal. My point is that being a drug addict isn’t as such that criminalised in and of itself (“three strike” states in the US differ markedly in this regard), its everything that goes with it that is the problem. So if you start changing the rules for drug-related offences, you are really treating a group charged with other quite serious crimes in a special way. I think I’ve been pretty consistent in pointing out that DV and IPV are not unconnected to substance abuse in a fairly clear manner although in that case we ordered to believe they are only caused by patriarchal systems of social relations. Unfortunately helping people with a drink or drug problem isn’t taken seriously enough and we only get excited about the secondary consequences.

    2. Beatrix Campbell “Iron Ladies: Why do women vote Tory” (1987). This was back in the days when feminists had serious discussions about whether Maggie should actually be considered female or not. Sort-of quoted by Polly in her piece (its where she gets it from anyway). Although today women are still slightly more likely to vote Tory than Labour, breaking this historical pattern was a key part of the New Labour success story (and which necessitated a rightward move). This is again in stark contrast to the US where, interestingly, women have always voted Democrat and basically tracked it from being a deeply racist party to being the party of Barack Obama.

    3. I’m basing membership on what WEP says on their website. They received 3,580 votes out of 32,196,918. According to the Guardian they should have at least an equal say to the labour party as part of a ‘progressive alliance’. They were also beaten nationally by the Christian People’s Party and The Yorkshire Party. They did however get 91,000 in the London assembly, although that was STV you have to wonder where they went…

    IMHO its actually a rather sexist and false assumption that ‘sugar and spice’ ‘women-are-wonderful’ ladies are progressives of any stripe by virtue of their gender alone (these sorts of outdated assumptions are another regressive consequence of identity politics). Turns out in reality many women vote like any other adult based on what they think about politics, the candidates, national interest, the pound in their pocket etc.

  61. Carnation says

    @ Marduk

    “1. Not sure what you are disputing. Violent and sexual offences are not subject to being spent. I also believe it isn’t controversial to say that drug addicts tend to be more likely to commit those offences all things being equal.”

    I would be surprised if drug addicts were overrepresented among sex offenders. Violent criminals, almost certainly, although alcohol addicts would be the greatest perpetrators of violent crime (possibly a slight overrepresentation in sex offenders).

    2. So you’re basing your assumptions on a 30 year old article and a 21 year old newspaper piece?

    3. “IMHO its actually a rather sexist and false assumption that ‘sugar and spice’ ‘women-are-wonderful’ ladies are progressives of any stripe by virtue of their gender alone… Turns out in reality many women vote like any other adult based on what they think about politics, the candidates, national interest, the pound in their pocket etc.”

    Who’s disputing this? I pointed out, accurately, that you can’t prove that WEP members vote Tory. You’re coming back with the type of imaginary thing that Mike Buchanan gets his y-fronts in a knot about.

    “According to the Guardian they should have at least an equal say to the labour party as part of a ‘progressive alliance’”

    I must have missed this… Citation, please? I’d like to see the editorial that confirms this as the Guardian’s position.

  62. Marduk says

    66.
    Yes, I’m basing my assumptions about the 20th century upon analyses done towards the end of the 20th century, I don’t think there is much wrong with that.

    And just google “guardian progressive alliance womens equality party”. I only read Guardian leaders for entertainment purposes these days to work out who wrote them and whether or not they are going to delete them later on or not (they seem to have a high rate of redaction for some reason). I based my views on simple weight of repetitious articles saying the same things over and over again.

  63. Carnation says

    @ Marduk

    What you are saying doesn’t make sense. You have made sweeping generalisations, I suspect to reiterate the inane and asinine “false assumption that ‘sugar and spice’ ‘women-are-wonderful’ ladies are progressives.”

    The political scene and voting trends are in such a state of flux at the moment that your sources are easily out of date.

    You have completely failed to link WEP members to voting Tory. The honourable thing to do would be to accept this point and move on.

    Likewise you have completely failed to justify your claim that the Guardian believe the WEP “should have at least an equal say to the labour party as part of a ‘progressive alliance’” Again, the honourable thing to do would be to accept this point and move on.

    You have also completely failed to show a link between drug addiction and sexual offending. Once again, the honourable thing to do would be to accept this point and move on.

    “The only newspaper created specifically for women and today read mainly by women is the Daily Mail.”

    Citation please?

  64. WineEM says

    Ooh, I was gonna express surprise, Ally, that you were not joining up on social media with the progressive Twitterati to express gleeful triumphalism about the new Doctor Who – but maybe that would have been to speak too soon! 🙂

    Yet it cannot be denied that he (used to be, at least) a very good male role model regarding a pacifist approach towards aliens, etc, etc.

  65. Ally Fogg says

    Do you want a hot take on Doctor Who, Wine EM?

    Go on then.

    The people who have been getting in any way aerated, irated, enraged, annoyed or even surprised that the Doctor has regenerated as a woman are hands down the most hilariously pathetic, insecure, snivelling invertebrates I have ever encountered. They make the Gamergaters and the “Oh-Noes-Female-Ghostbusters” walking semen-stains look like the very model of reasonable, mature common sense in comparison. Anyone who even thinks it is an issue that a woman has been cast as the Doctor is so overpoweringly sludge-stupid that they should really have all access to digital communications, writing materials and sharp objects confiscated for their own safety until they have grown up.

    Think that just about covers it.

    Hope this helps

    A
    x

  66. redpesto says

    Fogg:

    Anyone who even thinks it is an issue that a woman has been cast as the Doctor is so overpoweringly sludge-stupid that they should really have all access to digital communications, writing materials and sharp objects confiscated for their own safety until they have grown up.

    Yeah, Ally – but what do you really think? 😉

    More seriously, there have been plenty of people who think it’s ‘an issue’ to have been insisting that the Doctor be played by a woman until it’s finally been done – unless they and the Whiny Numbskulls from Planet Dumbass really should take up something less spoddy than agonising over a sci-fi TV series.

  67. WineEM says

    @70. Ally, the BBC is a deeply misandrist institution, whose political corruption with regard to its treatment of gender issues has real world consequences (see, for example, my post from last month where I talked about BBC news running yet another piece about the importance of improving conditions, but only for women prisoners – whilst, rather bizarrely, using a stock photo of what was clearly a young man gazing out from behind bars).

    It’s not the significance of the series or the role which is important (yes, it’s for teenage kids F.F.S.) but what is utterly, fucking, unbelievably stomach-churning is Auntie Beeb holding herself up, implicitly, as this great beacon of progress, social justice and virtue (by making such a big thing of this story), whilst practising discrimination and double standards such as the one that I’ve described, on a consistent basis, week in, week out.

    That you and your progressive Twitter chums don’t see why this might be a bit sick-making is not that great a surprise, as you’re all very nice, but not always completely attuned to such ironies! 🙂

    But just think to the manner in which Chairman Mao held himself up as a symbol of social enlightenment and virtue, and a great visionary with regards to the undeniable ‘greater good’ ,
    and you might just get an inkling of what I’m on about here.

  68. Marduk says

    I think Anne Perkins new article has pushed me across the line from easily annoyed to actually scared (triggered, as the kids say).

    She describes the advertising standards agency now extending its powers of censorship as “an unexpected beacon of liberal values”. A policy of “aggressive policing” is described as “hardly radical” and a defence of “core values” (whose is left unspecified). She finishes the article complaining, in a fairly angry way, that it does not have significantly wider powers she’d like to see in the field of censoring political speech.

    This from “the leading liberal voice” in our media. How many alarm bells have to ring. Anne may never get her army of Commissars but the fact she feels this emboldened to call for things that are an anathema to normative liberal values (and presumably not to get to get called on it) is terrifying. How some of you can deny these people are a legitimate danger escapes me.

  69. Carnation says

    @ Marduk

    Gender voting trends – vaguely supports a watered down version of what you’re saying, but not to any great deal.

    Guardian/Prog. Alliance – did you read that article? Nothing in it supports what you alleged.

    WEP website – ditto, nothing in it supports your claim.

    Addiction claims – you’re conflating drug misuse/abuse with addiction (to be fair to you, this is quite common), and incidentally confirming what I already believed to be the case – that sex offenders suffer disproportionality from mental health disorders, but addiction to illegal drugs is not seriously overrepresented.

    Daily Mail claims – the newspaper was set up in 1896. You’re seriously claiming it was aimed at women?

    I think, Marduk, that you’ve had a bit of a free reign on HetPat- you haven’t been robustly challenged enough. I might just start to do that.

  70. David S says

    Well I, for one, welcome our new female Time Lord and World President.

    The icing on the cake would be if she keeps the West Country accent from Broadchurch (yes, I know she’s really from Yorkshire, but she’s an actor!). It miffs me somewhat that people with Scottish accents can get taken seriously as international super spies, or shape shifting aliens, or whatever, but those of us from the opposite corner of the country get relegated to roles as rustic figures of fun.

  71. Ally Fogg says

    Been trying to keep tabs on this exchange, but there’s a really, really important point raised by the post from Bob Bobberson at 62 which seems to have sent everything a bit skewiff.

    It’s really fundamental to all of this.

    In this theoretical context, “Masculine” DOES NOT MEAN “things that are done by men.”

    “Feminine” DOES NOT MEAN “things that are done by women.”

    Masculine and feminine (in this context) means the behaviours, expressions and performances that our prevailing socio-cultural norms (including all those we have carried with us from hundreds of years of social history) expect men and women to aspire to and adhere to EVEN IF IN PRACTICE THEY DO NOT.

    So in a practical example, boxing or serving in the military are the apotheosis of masculine behaviours even though most men in our society will never do either.

    Similarly, needlecraft or being a stay-at-home housewife are the apotheosis of feminine behaviours even though most women in our society rarely do either.

    When we talk about masculine & feminine norms in the political & economic spheres we are absolutely NOT saying that this is how men will vote and that is how women will vote. It’s actually entirely irrelevant to the point being made. HOWEVER we can identify masculine and feminine gender norms within political movements (of both left and right) and from there define some political positions as being more in keeping with traditionally masculine or feminine values.

    When I say neoliberal capitalism is a predominantly masculine position, I mean that it fetishises risk-taking, competitiveness, frames economic brutality as ‘toughness’ or ‘courage’ or ‘strength’, it despises and undervalues compassion, co-operation, sensitivity.

    I am not saying it appeals primarily to men or women. That would be a categorically different claim.

    For what it is worth, according to YouGov slightly more women than men voted for Labour over Conservatives in 2017, and we know that far more men than women voted Trump, but those are redundant facts from my POV as far as this debate is concerned.

  72. Ally Fogg says

    And just to pick up on the Anne Perkins piece yesterday. I honestly don’t see what your problem is with it, Marduk.

    Her position seems to be that the ASA is a bulwark for civilisation in this country. I tend to agree with her. It’s what has protected our culture from the worst kinds of dishonest & corrosive advertising that have happened in the US & many other countries over the past 70 years or so. I’m quite happy that it is continuing to move with the times & recognise that what was acceptable or appropriate in the 1970s is not necessarily acceptable or appropriate now. I’m quite happy that they say they’ll take a tougher line on the ‘men are so useless in the kitchen’ bants & other lazy gender stereotypes.

    She’s also grumbling that the ASA is not allowed to protect us from the outright lies of politicians on buses and billboards, which I also agree is worth a grumble.

    But the bottom line is Anne Perkins is one comment pundit amongst hundreds, not even a particularly prominent or influential one. Agree or disagree, but she is no more of a threat to the fabric of the nation than any other journalistic gobshite.

  73. WineEM says

    @77. Not being an expert on rural accents, but just wondering, is that by any chance the same accent that they use to say the words ‘the greater good’ in Hot Fuzz, ’cause you just feel that might somehow be very fitting! 😉

  74. Marduk says

    79. My problem with it is that is actually quite a sneaky piece of writing. Nobody objects to the ASA discouraging dishonest or plainly offensive advertising but that isn’t what we’re talking about. We’re entering the realm instead of the “insidious shaper of social standards”, “subliminal messaging” and so on. Positions for which there is not one shred of credible evidence despite entire academic disciplines and political programmes devoted to hunting it down (this is known as the ‘media hypothesis’) but opens up a rather large area of activity because who is to say where these things start and end.

    I agree with the ASA that sexism is bad, I do not agree with them it has any causal connection to media and they provide no evidence that it does. It is very important that we do not confuse (and this is relevant to ‘hegemonic masculinity’) analysis of adverts with evidence of harm from adverts, their per-ponderance of evidence all comes from the former camp and not the latter. This is the same brick wall the video nasties ran into, the same brick wall that corrupting rock & roll ran into, the same brick wall the ‘murder simulators’ (computer games) ran into and the same brick wall the Meese Commission ran into and the same wall Gail Dines ran into, hard, to the point where she ended up rejecting “science shit” as having any relevance to her concerns, twenty years into repeated claims she had vast and weighty scientific evidence on her side but it wasn’t her job to tell you what it was.

    And whose “core values” that have legal implications for even aesthetic choices, who defines them, who gets to change them, how do I vote them out? This matters in a secular multi-cultural society whose “citizen of the world” intelligentsia claim actually has no recognizable culture of it own.

    Liberals should oppose this, not welcome it, I can’t think of anything in liberalism that would lead one to think a state regulator of communications should be acting like this. Either I’m right and the ASA is groundlessly interfering in speech it has no business interfering in, or Perkins is right and the ASA has assumed the mantel of literally regulating the culture and its thought according “core values”. Either way, its not good. This is some seriously right wing shit, just like this week’s other “liberal” forward stride into adopting Putin’s Russia as our actual model for how this porn censorship thing is going to work (this is literally true, google pornhub and Putin, I can’t right now but you’ll see that its Russia we’re getting our new model from instead of the milder, but still ludicrous, suggestions made at the time of the bill’s presentation).

    And there was no lie told on a bus. The fact that people think there was tells you a lot though. And Michael Gove never led a war against expertise either if you allow him to finish his sentence (he was actually right, the triple letter agencies predicted wrongly). I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire, he is a vile little man, but if this is our starting position, I think its all too obvious where this would end up.

  75. WineEM says

    82 “adopting Putin’s Russia as our actual model for how this porn censorship thing is going to work”

    Oh no, you mean we’re not gonna get Green Dam Youth Escort? What a letdown! 🙂

  76. Adiabat says

    WineEM (73): While the culture of the BBC is ridiculously out of touch with the values and views of most of the people it gets its money from, especially outside of London, I think the pushback against the new doctor (which as far as I can tell is mainly from female fans of the show) is much simpler than that:

    Many fans of popular media (whether TV, movies, comic books etc) have long learnt that the adoption of progressive identity-politics fluff is usually an indicator that the storytelling and general quality is going to go downhill. Not every time, but often enough for it to be a recognised pattern. So when changes are made that appear to be pandering to it they get worried, as they don’t want the same to happen to something they like. It’s an understandable position imo.

    I’m not sure why people feel justified to abuse these fans expressing a concern about something they like, but the level of hate and elitism from social justice types against anyone who doesn’t share their warped views should be expected by now.

    Ally (78): So what’s your process here? Do you find something you don’t like and just try and think about ways that it is somewhat similar to a stereotype you have of masculinity? And once something is declared “masculine” then what? What’s the precise message you are trying to convey?

    If you think companies should be more compassionate then why not just say so, preferably with a decent argument? Why all this messing about with cartoonish caricatures of what you imagine masculinity was in ye olde times? I really don’t see the point.

    From the outside it looks like there’s just no consistent method or practice. It really does look like you just make it up as you go along to suit your own prejudices.

  77. Marduk says

    82.
    The original bill, when discussed in the HoL, was mostly focused around the government’s provision of identity servers and the belief that a third party ecosystem of them would come to exist (apart from Facebook, Google et al. which can’t be part of the conversation as their servers are outside the UK’s own jurisdiction).

    This infrastructure has however not arrived. In the Lords, m’learned friends discussed the issue quite extensively and concluded that credit cards were no way to do it and a massive security risk. But May’s got a floundering government with a deadline they can’t meet on the books and has plumped for the credit card methods created for Putin. He has enforced this on users of VK (Russia’s premier social networking platform which functions as a point of access to Pornhub et al.). MindGeek incidentally love this legislation (the owners of most porn sites, both free and paid). I’ve spoken to people who work there and they’ve had the infrastructure in place for years of increasing frustration at the slow pace of legislators and are waiting to switch it on. It going to make them the monopoly pornographers to Great Britain and kill off all remaining competition, this is a massive coup for them. Think about this, they will sell the advertising on 30% of all internet traffic in the United Kingdom from next April. It will be very interesting to see if they’ve used any proxies for lobbying, its not unknown for them to get involved at that kind of level.

  78. Marduk says

    Reminder that the Perry Review found that 70% of people prosecuted for non-payment of TV licenses were women, resulting in 68% of people paying fines being women. While the Perry Review concluded there was no evidence of systemic sexism at work, its generally viewed as a consequence of Capita’s suggestion of high-pressure tactics through their bonus structure.

    But apparently that isn’t the real scandal at hand, its that Laura Kussenberg “only” gets paid a quarter of a million pounds.

    Never let it be said that the incestuous media elite don’t cover for each other.

  79. That Guy says

    @ David

    It miffs me somewhat that people with Scottish accents can get taken seriously as international super spies, or shape shifting aliens, or whatever, but those of us from the opposite corner of the country get relegated to roles as rustic figures of fun.

    I’d much rather that people with Scottish accents (IRL) got taken seriously as politicians, scientists, or honest to goodness normal people rather than some kind of heroin addled proto-sepratist Sawney Bean tribe.

    But you know, having a guy with my accent pretending to be a magical space alien on the telly kinda balances that all out

    🙂

  80. StillGjenganger says

    @Carnation76

    I think, Marduk, that you’ve had a bit of a free reign on HetPat- you haven’t been robustly challenged enough. I might just start to do that.

    Please don’t.Those discussions are generally rude, boring, and uninformative, all insults and ‘Citation for this!’, ‘Citation for that!’, as if you were marking our homework, or trying to bullly us off the pitch. Marduk got a bit imprecise and sweeping there, and if you had chosen to address his points instead of hammering on citatoins you could actually have have triggered quite an interesting discussion. And won some argumetns as well.

  81. Marduk says

    “But the bottom line is Anne Perkins is one comment pundit amongst hundreds, not even a particularly prominent or influential one. Agree or disagree, but she is no more of a threat to the fabric of the nation than any other journalistic gobshite.”

    Well she is erstwhile leader writer actually. Access to the media is an immensely difficult thing to get and I think its very frustrating when people who move in these circles think it counts for absolutely nothing (Suzanne Moore often plays this game… to an audience of millions). You can’t seriously believe this or you wouldn’t do it and the elite certainly wouldn’t guard it so jealously from outsiders.

  82. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally 79
    I am with Marduk on this one. If you have a standards body to decide what can be said in public (advertisements) it really has to stick to banning either what causes demonstrable harm, or what is very widely disliked in society. Giving it a free hand to ban speech that ‘nice people like us’ think is moving in the wrong direction is a non-starter – unless you are sure that your friends will always be the one with the power. Imagine for a moment that the person proposing to enforce the correct pulic opinion – to great acclaim among the culturally dominant classes – was Donald Trump, or Nigel Farage, or anybody who had a problem with ‘promoting homosexuality’, ‘killling unborn children’, or ‘subverting the natural differences betweeen men and women’.

  83. Marduk says

    Ah, can’t resist this. Told you so.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/20/porn-warps-culture-credit-card-footprint

    And so what we were told was purely a child protection issue is actually now about manipulating adults using shame because to protect, once again, “the culture”. Christina can’t explain how “the culture” is affected but she talked to some people who self-report having problems and that is enough for her.

    “Oh, and users may be asked to give credit card details, and perhaps even be charged a small fee. A fee that might appear on a bank statement that might, for example, be seen by your wife. These things will be for a regulator to decide, but the thing is this: your porn habit will now have what tech companies like to call a bigger “footprint”, and one that might well make some users think twice.”

    Christina is actually crowing about the government interfering in the sexual practices of its citizens on the basis of shame. At this point I have to point out the construction of this scenario is itself masturbatory in tone and I think Christina’s fantasies are much worse than those she complains about.

    “And I can’t wait for the day when we’re all a little bit less free.”

    You are evil.

    So the question becomes, what to do? The “leading liberal voice” (which assures us it is our only hope) is cheering on the collapse of our freedoms, there is nobody left.

  84. Ally Fogg says

    Not sure what the ‘told you so’ is about here.

    Every time there’s a story relating to porn in the news the Guardian commissions pretty much that precise article from a nice middle class white lady who thinks it is all a bit yucky and people should be ashamed of themselves.

    They’ve been doing this since the 1970s to the best of my memory, probably a lot longer.

    What’s your point?

  85. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally 92
    The obvious thing to note is that the long-running campaign to use child protection as an excuse to get that yucky stuff under control and pushed back can finally register a modest success. Is it unreasonable to assume that the campaign has (in part) caused the result, and that continued campaigning is likely to gain more successes in the future? I find it a little surprising that such a campaigning person as you is so totally dismissive of the idea that political agitation actually leads to consequences.

  86. Ally Fogg says

    Oh of course political agitation leads to consequences. That is what politics *is*

    But I genuinely don’t understand what the premise is to this debate.

    Is it that columnists regularly talk shite? Because you won’t get much disagreement from me.

    However, if the premise is that (nominally) liberal-left columnists at the Guardian are shaping our politics and society in a way that all their opposite numbers at the Mail, the Times, the Telegraph, the Spectator, The Sun etc etc etc are not, then that is clearly arrant nonsense.

  87. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally.

    I think there are some differences. ‘Progressive feminism’ (or whatever you want to call it) is a fairly amorphous movement. It does not live in a specific organisation, but it has (and has had) quite a lot of influence. You can argue whether these columnists are shaping politics or rather are reflecting what movement people think (probably not worth spending too much time on the distinction). But if you want to find out what ideas and plans we should expect from this quarter, where else would you look? If a fairly mainstream commentator (not Julie Bindle or Jessica Valenti) in the Guardian (not the Socialist Worker) is so openly and unashamedly happy about nudging? coercing? people away from politically undesirable pornography, not to speak of bemoaning that there is no authority (staffed, of course, by nice progressive people) that can censor electoral propaganda, that does suggest to me that there is a fairly strong and quite illiberal current here, and that we might expect some successful forays into political censorship from Corbyn or some of his friends. I think it especially notable that this kind of comment is clearly seen as not at all controversial.

    In the immigration debate in many countries, people have been shocked and worried by the kind of aggressive anti-foreigner statements that were clearly seen as normal and acceptable to large parts of the population. I am similarly worried by the kind of incipient thought control that is seen as normal and acceptable to Guardian readers.

  88. Marduk says

    94 & 95. What he said.

    The thing I find confusing is why its ok to justify laws, regulations and grand projects of social transformation (which I think your OP aspires to) on the basis of tenuous and unproven ideological views which emphasise subliminal and, to the uninitiated, undetectable influences on invisible constructs shaping society and and culture from the media.

    Really sit down and think what the ASA thinks its doing, regulating not the content of adverts (“Buy Persil, it gets the egg stains off your ties”) but their presentation. Its beyond silly and dangerous that we’ve got the world’s first semiotic and possibly even hermeneutic regulator of communications.

    But when I say I’m concerned about the implementation of actual laws, actual state regulators and actual explicitly stated views in newspaper columns, there is nothing to see here. The explicit is without meaning but the implicit spins the world round? No.

    The Guardian has long opposed pornography, I agree, although in the 90s there was a period of sex positivity too. But that isn’t what the article is about, it is welcoming the shaming and violation of privacy of people engaged in a form of sexual expression. The paper I remember reading had no time for people who’d defend that kind of thing. It also used to be against regulators of the media valorising one view of personal identity and family over another. In fact, in the same issue today it ‘celebrates’ a film about masturbation to the internet (see if you can guess what makes this different) and in its own sex guide talks about the role of pornography for people struggling with sexual identity. Which is a nice idea, but we’ve got a law now that one of its leader writers is jubilant will humiliate lots of people. I wouldn’t mind this incoherence but its barely covered this act which puts the UK into an elite group with China, Russia and no other western democracy in terms of its censorship of the internet. How comfortable do we really feel about this? Haha, no boobs for you, is hardly the way we should be looking at this. Thanks a lot ‘liberal icon’, ‘leading liberal voice’, ‘liberal beacon’ and whatever else it describes itself as. The Scott Trust should start funding the Independent instead.

    I think we’ve traded post-modernism for reality. I find this stuff intellectually interesting myself but really, its recreational, not real. A tank is smashing through our house and we’re saying “yes, but what are you really trying to say?”. I’m bothered about the tank.

    I said told you so because I’ve said all along the DE bill was a big deal, was a problem and would end up like this and the Guardian would put a trivial agenda before values in failing to hold it up to scrutiny. I see Jacob Rees-Mogg is the bookies favourite to take over from May. He hates homosexuality and thinks his soul is at stake in the fight against it, but I’m sure he won’t be tempted to use the tools now available to him to do anything about it. Honest.

  89. Carnation says

    @ Marduk

    Except, of course, that Christina Patterson is no more a leader writer for the Guardian than Julie Bindel is. She’s a ” freelance writer and broadcaster” and I would hazard a guess that she’s been commissioned to write a piece on this subject precisely to get the type of reaction that you’re giving her.

    Our own Ally Fogg has written a similar number of articles for your arch nemesis, and about a similar number of topics.

    Your passionate disdain for the Guardian seems to fog your judgement.

    Now, I have a range of issues with the Guardian, but in the grander (and not so grander) scheme of things, giving a limited voice to feminists with provocative views on issues is basically a non-event.

  90. Ally Fogg says

    Gjenganger [95]

    If a fairly mainstream commentator (not Julie Bindle or Jessica Valenti) in the Guardian (not the Socialist Worker) is so openly and unashamedly happy about nudging? coercing? people away from politically undesirable pornography, not to speak of bemoaning that there is no authority (staffed, of course, by nice progressive people) that can censor electoral propaganda, that does suggest to me that there is a fairly strong and quite illiberal current here

    imma stop you there. The business of ‘nudging’ has been around a long time now & the ethics & morality of it have been fairly well debated. You may recall the bestselling book called ‘Nudge’ and that the New Labour government introduced a “behavioural insights” unit to do exactly that, but it is mostly a soft-right patrician conservative kind of approach. Basically it is the idea that if something is considered socially harmful (eg littering, unhealthy eating, smoking, whatever) it is more effective to dissuade people from doing it by influencing their behavioural choices than trying to ban or criminalise it. This is how we have ended up with all cigarettes & tobacco being sold in these black packets. Now, the rights & wrongs of this are always up for debate and we can have specific debates about whether or not watching porn should be counted amongst those socially undesirable behaviours, but there is nothing happening here & now that hasn’t been practised for years or decades.

    In the middle there, you also talk about ‘censoring political propaganda.’ This is an entirely different issue.

    British elections and politics have always been amongst the most heavily regulated in the world. We have all kinds of electoral law, which is why we have things like civil service purdah, regulated party political broadcasts, restrictions on political advertising etc. The Advertising Standards Authority mostly doesn’t involve itself in political advertising because the whole business is heavily policed within the Representation of the People Acts & suchlike.

    Now, by and large the ASA is pretty strong on truth & disclosure. In the UK it is illegal to advertise a food product by saying it will lower your cholesterol (or whatever) unless there is a real genuine consensus that it will do so.

    In the UK it is illegal to advertise a product by making a factual claim about what it contains unless it does actually contain what you say.

    Also in the UK, we have broadcast standards for all types of TV & radio, saying things like you’re not allowed to pipe offensive materials of various types into people’s homes without justification. You can’t suddenly broadcast pornography in the middle of the One Show. You can’t be overtly racist, homophobic or whatever in mainstream broadcasts.

    While everyone would disagree with specific rules or specific rulings, in my opinion it is a good thing that we have all the above in British law. It means broadcasters and advertisers can be held responsible for negative consequences of what they do. The alternative is a society more like the USA where their advertising – and especially their political advertising – is massively dishonest, corrosive and destructive and a lot of their broadcast television is unwatchably dire.

    More significantly perhaps, American politics has (more than anywhere in the world) been determined by who has the most money available to throw at political advertising. That in itself has always been a hugely negative aspect to American politics.

    Do you agree?

    However, a lot of the protections we have around product advertising do not apply to political advertising (with the exception of TV advertising, which is banned altogether)

    So, what Patterson was arguing for in that piece with respect to political advertising was a very, very, very slight movement of the groundrules. She’s noting that it was perfectly legal for the Leave campaign to run that utterly dishonest, misleading and fundamentally anti-democratic bus advert about £350m for the NHS, which in practice may have been enough to swing a referendum decision that may well economically devastate this country for decades to come. She’s identifying a very real anomaly there.

    Now, I’m not entirely sure that she is entirely correct that the best thing would be to empower the ASA to rule on accuracy of political advertising. But it is not the worst idea I’ve heard this week by a long stretch. And the fact that she is suggesting it does not strike me as in any way illiberal, sinister or out of the ordinary.

    But then you go on to add this sentence:

    “, and that we might expect some successful forays into political censorship from Corbyn or some of his friends”

    This is the most ridiculous thing you have said in a long time. Laughable.

    You might not have noticed but relations between the liberal nanny wing of the Guardian and Jeremy Corbyn (& his supporters) are not exactly healthy. They despise each other. The idea that because Christina Patterson or Anne Perkins makes an argument in a column in the Guardian this will somehow inform policy within Corbyn’s Labour – that is utterly, utterly batshit.

    In all my decades involved in politics, I don’t think there has ever been a politician less likely to be swayed on policy by opinion by a newspaper column than Jeremy Corbyn.

  91. Ally Fogg says

    Marduk

    Really sit down and think what the ASA thinks its doing, regulating not the content of adverts (“Buy Persil, it gets the egg stains off your ties”) but their presentation. Its beyond silly and dangerous that we’ve got the world’s first semiotic and possibly even hermeneutic regulator of communications.

    Do you honestly think advertisers should be allowed to be as offensive as they like?

    If I turn on the telly and see an advert saying “I buy Yorkie Bars because I’m not a poof” – should that be allowed?

    Or rather closer to home for this blog, do you have any problem with adverts saying “so simple, even a man can use it”?

    What about that advert where an abusive wife made her husband lick the toilet bowl clean? Is that OK with you?

    Are you seriously arguing that there should be no controls over this stuff? Or are you arguing that once the standards have been set they should never be changed, modernised, adapted to changing social norms and values? Because that is literally all that is happening here.

    The plain and simple truth is that since the Advertising Standards body was set up in {googles} 1961, there has always been control of the semiotics & hermaneutics of advertising, not least because semiotics & hermaneutics are among the most powerful weapons in the advertisers’ arsenal.

  92. Adiabat says

    Marduk (91):

    So the question becomes, what to do? The “leading liberal voice” (which assures us it is our only hope) is cheering on the collapse of our freedoms, there is nobody left.

    The first step, one I think most liberals on the left are already on, is to recognise that the scolds and regressives at places like the Guardian simply aren’t liberals. They’ve just taken liberalism, skinned and gutted it, and now parade around in its skin to push social engineering agendas.

    The second step is the development of some modern equivalent of Punk (or Metal) subculture, with its focus on individual freedom and anti-authoritarian views, along with a healthy disrespect for all the nonsense-theory and bullshit underpinning much of the regressive worldview. These values are already shared by the majority of Brits, but there’s simply no dynamism or energy behind it for most people, so they just get on with their lives instead of challenging the things they know are bullshit. Unless there’s some sort of change to make these people speak up, like the cultural changes that turned the tide against Mary Whitehouse and social censors of the time, the right and the left will continue to trample over people’s freedoms. We need the modern equivalent of Johnny Rotten swearing on TV.

  93. Ally Fogg says

    Adiabat – you too

    Or rather closer to home for this blog, do you have any problem with adverts saying “so simple, even a man can use it”?

    What about that advert where an abusive wife made her husband lick the toilet bowl clean? Is that OK with you?

  94. Adiabat says

    Ally: I support the watershed, but when it’s for an adult audience my answer is that all those examples are ok, and to let viewers decide. If enough people are offended, or just think they are stupid, then they will not buy the products and advertising will naturally change. There’s no need for the self-appointed morally-pure to start banning things.

    Who are you, me, or anyone to decide for other adults what they are allowed to watch, as long is it’s not hurting anyone else? Damn Your social norms and values, I want the freedom for me and my fellow citizens to create our own.

  95. Ally Fogg says

    Well for starters Adiabat, adverts like the ‘So simple even a man can use it” etc never were post-watershed, so it is a bit of an odd argument.

    Secondly the ‘let viewers decide’ argument is nonsense when it comes to advertising because I might choose which programmes I want to watch on telly but I don’t choose which adverts I get to see. Most of them are short enough that even if I actively hate an advert, I will have seen it & it will be gone by the time I’ve found the remote control.

    Thirdly, the ‘if it is offensive people won’t buy it’ argument is demonstrably bogus. Most advertisers are only actually aiming for a small minority of the audience, which is their target. Suppose a product wants to sell “White Power” merchandise to the small percentage of the population who might be interested. Should they be legally free to broadcast overtly racist slogans on TV in order to sell their T-shirts? If they are advertising during the news or Coronation Street, then everyone is affected by it, whether or not they are ever going to buy from the company.

    Finally, if we accept that ‘so long as it’s not hurting someone else’ is the principle, are you really saying that propagating hate speech & encouraging discriminatory & prejudiced attitudes doesn’t hurt anyone? To go back to one of my examples, if an advertising slogan was used “I buy Yorkie Bars because I’m not a poof” then I would argue (and the vast majority of reasonable people would agree) that this is actively harmful to gay people, it validates & reinforces the idea that being gay is not desirable.

    In fact, every single example that has been discussed on this thread could be reasonably interpreted as being unwelcome & could reasonably be banned from broadcast because it hurts people. I would strongly argue that the advert showing an abusive wife forcing her husband to lick the toilet bowl is actively hurting people in the real world by influencing attitudes towards domestic violence.

    For what it is worth, I could also put up a pretty strong case that allowing political campaigns to run adverts that profoundly mislead and misinform people is doing actual harm to millions.

    Which rather brings us back to the beginning of this discussion

  96. Adiabat says

    Well for starters Adiabat, adverts like the ‘So simple even a man can use it” etc never were post-watershed, so it is a bit of an odd argument.

    I was establishing that I’m talking about adults, to pre-empt any ‘think of the children’ arguments. You’re arguing that even adults shouldn’t see these adverts and I wanted to keep the discussion at that level.

    Secondly the ‘let viewers decide’ argument is nonsense when it comes to advertising because I might choose which programmes I want to watch on telly but I don’t choose which adverts I get to see.

    Of course you can’t pick and choose which adverts you see, but you can choose if you’ll buy that product. If not enough people buy the product then the adverts will stop.

    Thirdly, the ‘if it is offensive people won’t buy it’ argument is demonstrably bogus. Most advertisers are only actually aiming for a small minority of the audience, which is their target.

    If they have enough of an audience for a particular advert who are you to decide that those people shouldn’t be advertised to?

    Suppose a product wants to sell “White Power” merchandise to the small percentage of the population who might be interested. Should they be legally free to broadcast overtly racist slogans on TV in order to sell their T-shirts? If they are advertising during the news or Coronation Street, then everyone is affected by it, whether or not they are ever going to buy from the company.

    Your problem isn’t with adverts; it’s with people. Convince people that their views are wrong and you will see the adverts go away. Adverts that were common 50 years ago wouldn’t work today because attitudes have changed (and they changed even though those adverts weren’t banned, implying your cause and effect is the wrong way around.)

    Plus we both know we aren’t discussing “white power” adverts. We’re ultimately discussing cases like the harmless Protein World poster, which the ASA erroneously decided was sexist. Those are the kinds of people you want to decide whether something is acceptable. Why should those people get to decide whether that poster is allowed? Why are Their social norms and values given primacy and not anyone else’s? Why should my, and most other people’s, norms and values be supressed by them?

    I would strongly argue that the advert showing an abusive wife forcing her husband to lick the toilet bowl is actively hurting people in the real world by influencing attitudes towards domestic violence.

    Prove it. I’ve no interest in esoteric theories from bogus academic fields. I want established cause and effect. There has been decades of attempts to show rock music, “video nasties” or violent video games cause all sorts of things, but no-one has been able to prove any of it.

    Why shouldn’t you just be written off as another Jack Thompson or Mary Whitehouse? They could “strongly argue” too.

    For what it is worth, I could also put up a pretty strong case that allowing political campaigns to run adverts that profoundly mislead and misinform people is doing actual harm to millions.

    And who gets to decide what’s profoundly misleading? You’re simply opening the door for whoever is in power to decide what is “true”.

    If you grant someone the power to suppress something then every time they are wrong what you have granted them is the power to oppress people. With adverts you might be willing to take that risk for some ‘greater cause’, as the affect will be less significant, but in politics…

  97. Ally Fogg says

    If they have enough of an audience for a particular advert who are you to decide that those people shouldn’t be advertised to?

    Who are you to decide that I should have something deeply upsetting & potentially harmful imposed upon me against my will? If racists or homophobes want to go to their own media networks they can see any adverts that get thrown at them, but free-to-air broadcast networks are an entirely different kettle of fish. And as far as I’m concerned deeply dodgy outfits are perfectly entitled to advertise. IANAL but as I understand it a website selling horrible racist t-shirts would be allowed to run an advert saying “PLEASE COME TO OUR WEBSITE WHERE YOU CAN BUY HORRIBLE RACIST T-SHIRTS” and that would be perfectly OK. They’re just not allowed to use broadcast platforms to broadcast the actual offensive material. Quite rightly so.

    Prove it. I’ve no interest in esoteric theories from bogus academic fields. I want established cause and effect. There has been decades of attempts to show rock music, “video nasties” or violent video games cause all sorts of things, but no-one has been able to prove any of it.

    Well one of the reasons Mary Whitehouse and Jack Thompson were broadly unsuccessful is precisely because they could not prove it was harmful, because there wasn’t a consensus of evidence. I’m quite happy with that.

    The argument that exposing people to hateful opinions will lead to more people holding and expressing hateful opinions is far less controversial and far more easily proved. However I have a feeling that whatever research I link you to, from psychology, neurology, sociology, anthropology or whatever will be dismissed by you as “bogus science” so I won’t waste time.

    And who gets to decide what’s profoundly misleading? You’re simply opening the door for whoever is in power to decide what is “true”.

    Yes, this is a fair question and the reason why, all things considered, I don’t agree with Patterson that we should regulate truth in political advertising. But FWIW it wouldn’t be “those in power” – the whole point of bodies like ASA, Ofcom, BBFC & other similar organisations is that they are independent of political parties and they enforce codes which have been agreed by democratic processes in advance.

  98. Marduk says

    All your examples would already be banned and nobody has a problem with that, we’re talking about the report “Depictions, perceptions and harms” which adopts the view that gender stereotypes have a causal relationship with harms and that advertising has a causal relationship with gender stereotypes, licensing interfering with subtext, not just text. It is peppered with the language of gender studies post-modernism. Things are “problematic” and so on. On the second page they lament that they cannot ban all depictions of women using cleaning products as impractical but give suggestions of things that could tip it over the edge. But a woman doing a family wash on her own is not “hateful”. I mean, you could to do it yourself or reciprocally scrub the toilet or something, but the police shouldn’t arrest you over a rumour it happened in your house once and its forever affected your children’s sense of what they can do in life (and if the police call, they’d be led by Diana Dors in her leather hot pants presumably so look on the bright side).

    We’re not talking “white pride” t-shirts, we’re talking about whether a thin person should advertise running shoes. Because it implies beauty standards, body size norms, fat shaming etc. according to well, nobody else but there we go.

    The problem with this is its based on poor evidence, a poor standard of argument and presents a carte blanche for meddling in anything we don’t like for reasons that an ordinary person not versed in the gender studies literature wouldn’t even understand the explanation of and many reasonable thinking people wouldn’t agree with. Even if you don’t care, at least accept those are not “core values” of liberalism at work. This is another example of institutional capture, but I’ve been told before that doesn’t exist either.

    105.
    “Well one of the reasons Mary Whitehouse and Jack Thompson were broadly unsuccessful is precisely because they could not prove it was harmful, because there wasn’t a consensus of evidence. I’m quite happy with that.”

    No, this climate-change denier style wriggling. They had no evidence because no evidence existed, nor does it exist. If there was any evidence, they’d have used it and ignored the balance. But this is proving absence. What we can say more positively is that is also plenty of positive evidence that deliberate attempts to change opinions and behaviour generally don’t actually work. Even then, explicitly stated attitudes themselves have a lowish correlation with behaviour, values fair even worse. I mean, this shouldn’t really have to be argued for, the world itself is evidence enough, think how different things could be if everyone acted as they believed and opinions were that easy to change in people.

  99. Ally Fogg says

    Marduk

    I ended up talking about things like extreme racism and homophobia because I wanted to establish that we agree on the fundamental principle that it is right for society (via legal frameworks) to set limits on what is and is not considered appropriate for the advertising industry. Once we’ve agreed that there is a line, we can talk about where the lines can be drawn.

    I think you have accepted that point & Adiabat has not, so I’ll move on to your points.

    I’ve only just read the actual report right now (I’d read the news reports of it but not the pdf) – and I’m even more baffled as to what the bee in your bonnet might be.

    All it says is that they’ve had a look at what decisions they’ve made in this area, looked at their feedback, thought about what people on all sides have said to them & come to the conclusion that most of what they do is fine but they might be a bit more strict with X, Y and Z in future.

    It’s basically suggesting that there is to be a couple of slight changes in emphasis.

    Now Marduk, can you tell me what, precisely, your issue is here?

    Are you saying the Advertising Standards Authority is not doing the job that it has been statutorily obliged to do?

    Are you saying the Advertising Standards Authority & its Codes of Practise should not exist at all?

    Are you saying the Advertising Standards Authority should exist but should interpret its duties differently to how it does?

    Are you saying that you disagree with the specific changes proposed to the Advertising Code this week?

    Or are you saying that you disagree with one or two specific changes proposed to the Code this week?

    For what it is worth, my precise position is that I am glad the ASA exists & mostly does a pretty fair job. As for the changes proposed this week, I entirely agree that they should be a bit more tight on gender stereotyping because I think it is harmful. I’m entirely unbothered about naked skin (male or female) and dubious about the stuff around objectification, but much more sympathetic to the points they make about unrealistic body image which has real public health implications. However I’m also aware that everyone has got their opinion.

    So over to you. What are you actually complaining about?

  100. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally,

    This will get a bit long, to cover all the premises ahead of the conclusion

    To start with Corbyn, I tend to lump ‘all those lefties’ together, out of ignorance, so I am happy to withdraw that particular remark. I am happy to hear that we should not expect that kind of initiatives from Corbyn, McDonnell et al. I am not quite comforted, though. 1) because any Corbyn government would be a coalition with the ‘liberal nannies’, feminists etc. and 2) because I read Corbyn as a man that cares passionately about a limited number of things and little about the rest, and because I do not think that privacy or freedom of expression are among the things he particularly cares about. If he will offer several billion pounds’ worth of make-work submarine building to keep the metalworkers on side, why would he not offer the liberal nannies an internet censorship law?

    For the rest I think we are mixing together rather different things.

    – The laws governing election campaigns are about maintaining a level playing field, mutually policed by the participating parties, and have nothing to say about content. I am all for them.

    – Truth in advertising is a matter of objectively decidable facts, and is anyway limited to people selling stuff. Good and fairly uncontroversial.

    – Nudges have mostly been discussed in the context of things that are uncontroversially good, for people or society, but that do not get done. Smoking, obesity, signing up for pensions. Few people object to being gently manipulated to do things they sort of agree they ought to do anyway.

    – What you can and cannot say in prime time TV, on billboards etc. I see as a matter of protecting the sensibilities of the majority, and the majority norms for acceptable behaviour. People should have a right not to be forced to confront highly offensive material in their daily life, though this right should yield to the free speech rights of others. We could even consider banning insulting the prophet on mainstream media – but only provided you are free to say bad things about him as long as you either put it politely or keep it to media (like Charlie Hebdo) that are easy to avoid.

    But extending ‘truth in advertising’ to political campaigns is not a small step – it is a huge and dangerous one. At best it puts the civil service in charge of determining what political campaigns can be made. But even if you could keep such a crucial topic insulated from political interference – and you could not, the prize is too great – you would be left with a group of nice, progressive people with degrees deciding what politics were right or wrong. I despair about the stupid and dishonest Brexit campaign, but can you really see yet another group of elite liberals trying to tell the Brexiteers that they are basically wrong and are not allowed to put their views to the electorate? Or deciding whether Iraq was likely to have weapons of mass destruction, whether Blair was a liar, whether immigration is a good or a bad thing?

    Even worse are your points that “broadcasters and advertisers can be held responsible for negative consequences of what they do”, combined with wanting to ban things because ‘they hurt people’ by means of promoting bad and harmful attitudes. When you get to deciding which attitudes are good and which are bad and harmful, and claiming it as objective truth, you are no different from people who say that homosexuality is bad and harmful, because it objectively leads people to go to hell in the afterlife. You are imposing your own views on everybody else, without admitting it.
    Of course, everybody want to live in a society that is attuned to them, where their own way of being is supported and normal and desirable. Being weird, to one side, or undesirable is not a good place to be. But given how different people are, it is not possible to for everybody to be equally normal at the same time. If you are gay is is clearly hurtful if other people think, or say, that being gay is not desirable. But you cannot impose on everybody that they should find it so. Personally I see homosexuality in a similar way to sadomasochism. Some people are like that, it is the right choice for them, they should be able to live a good life without being barred from the rights that everybody else enjoy. But whether I find it desirable or not is my own business, as long as I am reasonably polite. And where we should set the general social norm is a matter for negotiation, bringing in both a desire for tolerance and compromise, and a weighing of the legitimately different opinions (and different sizes) of different groups. It is not a matter of saying that some opinions are objectively bad because they disadvantage some minority group that you have selected to champion, and that everybody else have an objective duty to bow to the interests of that particular group.

  101. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally 107
    I would say that seeing stereotypes as something objectively bad that needs to be fought, in order to change society is some specific direction, is highly controversial politics. I rather like stereotypes, for instance, and I think the society you desire where ‘gender is never a burden’ (because it does not make a blind bit of difference and is basically just a dress-up option for carnivals) will be not only a total break with all my culture and background, but also quite stressful and chaotic to live in. By all means fight for what you think, but you have no more right than Nigel Farage to demand that the ASA should impose your views. You can ban ads of men licking toilet bowls, or women being witless airheads, on the grounds that they are insulting according to current norms, but NOT on the grounds that they are not leading society towards the politically correct future.

  102. Ally Fogg says

    Quickly now coz I’m about to return to a life….

    On the Nudge stuff… I said upthread it is perfectly legitimate debate as to whether pornography is a social harm or not. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, I’m with you, I think the Patterson article was laughable & the idea for age checks is unworkable nonsense in the first place. My only point on that is that the fact that a columnist in the Guardian is writing prohibitionist bollocks about porn is nothing remotely new, interesting or threatening.

    On political advertising, as I said above, yes, I broadly agree with what you say & I don’t think we should regulate political advertising as if it was soap powder, again, I disagree with Anne Perkins. But the proposal she is making is nothing remotely new, interesting or threatening. It’s not even especially radical.

    When you get to deciding which attitudes are good and which are bad and harmful, and claiming it as objective truth, you are no different from people who say that homosexuality is bad and harmful, because it objectively leads people to go to hell in the afterlife. You are imposing your own views on everybody else, without admitting it.

    No, this is quite a dramatic misreading of what I am saying, almost 100% wrong.

    I am not remotely saying things like harm and offense are objective truth. I am not imposing my views on anyone.

    I am saying that the job of the ASA is to reflect and protect a changing society, and part of that is reflecting what a lot of people feel really strongly about. I think what has happened over the last 10 years or so is that they have received a lot of complaints from a lot of people, they’ve taken representations from all sides about some topics & they have agreed with some of it & not agreed with others. That is exactly how it should work.

    As I said in the comment above, I agree with some of their positions and disagree with others. I accept that none of us can get our own way when there is consensus required. But I accept that we have to have positions and I cannot impose my values on everyone.

    I think there is another really important point about the ASA. It was originally set up, and continues to be managed, by the advertising industry. Advertisers are happy that there are standards that they can all stick to because it prevents a race to the bottom on populism, taste & decency & all the rest of it.

  103. lucythoughts says

    This thread has clearly been busy and I don’t check in so often, but I’d like to come back to this one:

    63. Marduk

    If women had not been given the vote, there wouldn’t have been a single Tory government post-war

    This is simply not true. No, not even if Polly Toynbee says so. Without a single female voter, the Conservatives would have won in 1979 on men’s votes alone, increased their majority in 1983 (when they had a double digit lead amongst men) and stayed comfortably in power until 1997, which would have been a pretty much identical landslide Labour victory.

    In 2010 more men voted Tory than women for the first time since the universal franchise

    This is not so far off but still not actually true. In fact, more men voted Conservative than women in 2005, and have done so in every subsequent election.

    This is actually quite an interesting subject so for anyone vaguely interested I will put a little bit more about it in a follow up post.

    Internationally, governments that declare war are more likely to have been voted in by a majority of women. You can predict wars from large movements of women voters

    As for predicting wars in this way, it doesn’t sound very likely to be reliable, but I would have to look at the data. If you want to provide it that’s fine, if not, that’s okay too.

    More generally, I would hazard a guess that governments that declare war are most likely to do so from the position of having large majorities, which is generally the result of being voted in by a majority of both sexes. So, thinking of recent British conflicts:

    1) The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was under New Labour, carrying a 100+ seat majority from 2001 (this was a result of winning about 42% of the popular vote; with identical voting figures for men and women)
    2) Afghanistan 2001: same figures obviously.
    3) The first Gulf war in 1990, almost identical figures: Conservative government, 43% of the popular vote, made up of 43% of women and 43% of men (80 odd seat majority).

    Moreover, the implication that women vote for war-mongers seems quite a stretch; for a start I don’t think anyone voting Labour in May 2001 expected the twin towers to be attacked the following September, let alone the subsequent invasion of Iraq. Also, in polls men have consistently favoured military intervention more than women, over time and internationally, often by large margins. There is some data here but the pattern is very consistent.

    http://www.e-ir.info/2012/01/19/men-and-womens-support-for-war-accounting-for-the-gender-gap-in-public-opinion/

    Don’t take my word for it, even Polly knew this was true when she worked for someone who’d let her say it:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/do-women-deserve-the-vote-1361756.html

    That article strikes me as deliberately inflammatory and offensive, and based on “facts” about voting behaviour which are factually incorrect. Frankly, I would call it clickbait if it hadn’t been written before the term was invented. Newsprint reader bait I guess? Luckily though, the particular demographic being described in terms of utter contempt (stupid, insular, selfish, turkeys-voting-for-Christmas, don’t deserve the vote (because the franchise isn’t a right, but a gift to those who can be relied upon to vote the right way), treacherous, “sneaking off to vote Tory” etc) happens to be women as opposed to, oh I don’t know, say, working class men, or elderly Brexit voters or Trump supporters or whatever, so I guess its all good.

  104. lucythoughts says

    A little bit about the gender gap in voting behaviour for anyone interested:

    Women in the UK were more likely than men to vote Conservative from 1945 right up until 1987, when the gender gap in voting narrowed (0 – 2%, differences, apart from 1992 when it was 5%), and from 2005 onwards the gender gap reversed, with women becoming more likely to vote labour than men in subsequent elections. This broadly reflects a cross generational change in voting pattern, with younger women generally more likely to vote Labour than men of the same age, and older women more likely to vote Conservative than their male counterparts. It doesn’t appear to be a simple life-stage factor, but seems instead to reflect a drift to the left on a range of measures amongst women, which has been found fairly consistently across the post-industrial nations in the last few decades. It is believed to be associated with women’s increased economic and social freedom, fostering changes in values (this is based on the work of the World Values Survey). It was being predicted 20 years ago that a tipping point would be reached when younger, more left wing female voters would outnumber older more conservative ones, and the gender gap in voting patterns would equalise and then be reversed. That appears to be happening.

    Of course, what political party people vote for isn’t a simple left / right policy based decision, it is very much determined by the political climate, factors of perceived credibility etc. To say “women are more likely to vote Conservative than men”, is not the same as saying “women are more likely to vote Conservative than to vote Labour”. Between 1945 and 1979 more women voted Labour than Conservative in five or six (depending on the polling; one was very marginal) out of 11 general elections, but in all these elections men voted Labour by larger margins, so the gender gap was still in the Conservative direction for women. On the whole, I would say that the heyday of women’s conservatism in Britain was the 1950s, when they pretty much kept the Conservatives in power for a decade. Voting behaviour became much more variable in the 60s and 70s.

    Equally, in the post-war era, there was considerable voter loyalty to the Labour party amongst working class men, and more men voted Labour than Conservative at every general election between 1945 and 1979. Then the pattern was broken for good, and more men voted Tory in all the elections up until 1997. They switched to New Labour for 1997 and 2001 elections, were equally split in 2005, and have been more likely to vote Tory since then.

  105. Marduk says

    107.
    I’m saying its over-extending its remit on the basis of a narrow range of opinion and political ideology.

    They clearly haven’t ‘taken representations from all sides’, I mean really, children’s toy preferences (also found in rhesus monkeys that don’t watch tv) and the STEM gap (so apparently Iran sends good messages to young women about their place in the world that Sweden and Norway could learn from?). Its just the usual gender studies hokum going unquestioned.

    You know as well as I do that there is problem identifying expertise because campaigners have morphed themselves into service providers through third sector. When you go along to look at, say, DV experts you think you are going to talk to even-handed providers of services with grass-roots knowledge…what you actually get is some religious people and Julie Bindel and her radfem mates. The ASA ventured out to talk to experts on media representation, guess what they got, do you know of a media studies or gender studies department in this country that is even centrist? The other side doesn’t exist at this point.

    113.
    The point is a wider one really, identity politics sets itself up as progressive and makes a concern for the interests of minorities progressive. The big problem is the transitive assumption that being a member of a minority with self-interest makes you a progressive person with other progressive views (and it must also be said white male middle-class progressive people also exist, if under some duress of late). This is not the case but its a very common assumption and one that often stands behind much blaming of men and masculinity.

  106. Ally Fogg says

    Its just the usual gender studies hokum going unquestioned.

    No, it isn’t. If you think it is, you’ve obviously never read a book on gender studies in your life.

    And if you think gender socialisation is restricted to rhesus monkey experiments (and other exercises in experimental bias) you’ve obviously never read a developmental psychology book in your life

    I hate to break it to you, but what they are reflecting is basically reflecting mainstream opinion to a very large extent. If you disagree with mainstream opinion, that is unfortunate. Happens to the best of us.

    When I talk about all sides, I mean all sides who have bothered to make representations. And yes, it will include feminists, it will include politicians, it will include Christian societies & other religious groups, it will include charities, it will include eating disorder campaigners. It will include readers of the Daily Mail. Again, it is this myth that feminists are some all powerful illuminati in British politics & social policy is the biggest pile of paranoid hooey.

    But for all that, if your opinion is that the ASA have over-reached in their interpretation of what advertising standards should be,, fair enough. That’s an opinion your entitled to. It still doesn’t add up to some concerted assault on human rights & liberties. It’s just a very slight difference of opinion as to where lines of acceptability should be,

    If you don’t like them, get yourself organised & make some representations, to demand more sexist advertising not less. See how it looks when you’ve put it in writing,

  107. Marduk says

    115.
    Firstly, don’t accuse people of not doing the technical reading when you don’t even know what the word ‘neurology’ means if that is how we’re going to play this game, you make yourself look like a fool. I have no idea what “experimental bias” (do you mean experimenter bias?) is but make sure you haven’t confused your vervets with your rhesus. The critique everyone quotes on Hines & Alexander was written by the same team who did the latter study. I can’t actually find you on Scival, so I’d give the credentialism a rest. Anyone can of course criticise published science on methodological grounds but to randomly lash out at Kim Wallen’s lab because you don’t like the sound of it (someone I very much doubt you’ve heard of, read, let alone met) is the classic anti-science progressive move of the era.

    Secondly, you have clearly learned nothing from the last year about how mainstream certain opinions really are. They are responding to the Protein World outcry, an isolated incident revved up on social media. There have been similar adverts before, there are similar adverts now even in women’s magazines, there is no outcry. What does this tell you about the mainstream opinion.

    Thirdly, cool story bro, but there is actually a list of the people they invited to comment in Annex B. The only person I can see being against great regulation would have been Claire Fox since Martin Daubney came to Jesus.

    Finally, its disgustingly dishonest to claim I want advertising to be more sexist, that is not the issue and however deluded you think I might be otherwise, you know it.

  108. Ally Fogg says

    Haha made ya look.

    Seriously though, if you don’t want more sexism in your advertising, what is it you want? Seriously, what is it the ASA are doing which in any way impinges upon your life and liberties, because I’m really not seeing it.

  109. Marduk says

    117.
    I don’t want regulatory bodies controlling speech acting on ideological grounds. This is a terrible, terrible thing because now its in play, you can lobby the ASA and send in Fawcett’s highly paid lobbyists to get them to do things. There are two problems in speech debates, first that you find yourself defending the expression of things you disapprove of (traditionally pornography and right wing political speech), the second opposing things you do approve of in a general sense but not written into law or regulation.

    I don’t want adverts to be sexist in roughly the same way I think people shouldn’t make certain kinds of currently legal pornography which is in the same way I think abortion is a tragedy. These are debates that should occur within the culture not by nudging and trying to manipulate the culture through power. Since when was it actually considered normal that everyone with an opinion is obliged to seek legislation over other people to enforce it.

    I’ve said many times that I think if porn activists spent less time trying to prove non-existent harms and less time trying to bully the rest of us, they’d have done a lot better just telling people what they actually didn’t like about it in words we can understand. But they’ve failed to do this. Political influencing, it seems to me, is nearly always an admital you’ve actually failed to convince large numbers of people so you’re just going to try and convince the right small number of people instead.

    In my lifetime the biggest social change has been attitudes towards homosexuality, I’ve seen it go from a crime to something we were bashfully OK with to something we don’t even think about much and it seems weird to have any sort of negative opinion around. This in the face of government legislation which for a period tried to influence media and culture. Nobody passed a “being is alright, ok?” law, the culture decided and the politicians are still chasing it if anything.

  110. Marduk says

    100.
    Yesterday I would have said you were describing Milo’s manifesto which illustrates the difficulties.
    But then I read this, maybe its just a return to the social democrat left that will do it, I’m open to the idea.
    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/22/chapo-trap-house-podcast-dirtbag-left-takes-aim-at-clinton-supporters

    “In a take-down of Chapo and what is called the “dirtbag left”, the century-old New Republic magazine took issue with a phrase used by the podcast’s hosts as suggestive of a demand for an act of sexual submission by Hillary Clinton supporters…The phrase “bend the knee”, was soon interpreted through the prism of gender and identity politics – a realm into which Chapo hosts like to throw grenades.”

    Its the language of Shakespeare really but on this occasion its actually just a Game of Thrones/Stannis meme. OR MAYBE ITS ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT AND SHOULD BE BANNED, I CAN’T EVEN. Speech and prisms, what could possibly go wrong.

  111. lucythoughts says

    114. Marduk

    Okay, thank you for explaining the wider point, I understand what you are saying. I also understand that you generally dislike identity politics and are sick of men and masculinity being blamed for stuff; I fully respect that, it seems very reasonable.

    But, whatever may have been your underlying motives, what you actually wrote was a post which essentially said “woman are a bunch of nasty, right-wing, war-mongering Tories, and it’s their fault that we have wars and we ended up with Thatcher.” That is playing identity politics at its worst and most divisive. Then, you illustrated the point with an article which, if you replaced the word “women” with “men” and stuck it in the Guardian, would have had you spitting feathers, and you say, essentially “look, Polly knows the truth and the Independent are brilliant for putting it out there.”

    Okay, this is an exaggerated representation, and I hope you won’t be too offended because I have no desire to provoke a row, but I’m saying what I saw.

    So, here is my wider point: identity politics isn’t owned by progressive lefties anymore than spin-doctoring is owned by Labour just because Blair used it to exceptional effect. The alt-right and others much more in the centre use the same basic tool kit and although they might present themselves as rationalists in the face of ideological hysteria, that is absolute, unalloyed bullshit. Right across the spectrum people act the same way: they play to the gallery; they care about the evidence precisely as much as it can be used to prop up their ideological position, or lend a veneer of credibility to their latest blog-post or twitter-harangue; they apply scepticism just as thoroughly as they need to, to discredit the things they don’t want to be true, and give the stuff they’re comfortable with a free pass. That is human nature unfortunately. None of us are immune.

  112. Marduk says

    120.
    I’m just saying there is a common assumption made that isn’t really true.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%22Women_are_wonderful%22_effect

    As to the alt-right, yeah I completely agree, I’ve said this so many times. Its another example of why types of rhetoric and patterns of thought shouldn’t be used for short-term gain even if they are tempting for instrumental reasons (its agenda over-riding values again). I think we should have realised the gig was up when some US colleges started implementing segregation at the behest of ‘progressives’. And if you think this might be a bad idea you get called a racist.

    Identity politics is a bad, dangerous thing. Its now a huge problem that all the ‘progressives’ have got is to ‘punch nazis’ because they’ve robbed themselves as nominally decent people of all the other weapons of argument they could use.

    I don’t know if its human nature but its a thing that happens, its called an in-group/out-group effect. Miles Hewstone has done a lot of work into this. Generically, what an in-group thinks of itself and what it thinks of the out-group is fairly predictable and what you see over and over again. They are all the same, our group is a rainbow coalition of diverse thought. They do bad things because it is in their essential nature and need to change/do more to transform themselves, we do bad things only rarely and its because of very specific excusable circumstances. Sound familiar? Its racists/immigrants, feminists/men, alt-right/muslims, scousers/mancs etc. So for example I thought “Men Kampf” (a plug-in that changed “men” to “jews” and so on) in text made an important point as a piece of digital art but unfortunately it was banned as hate speech because once run through the plug-in, it turned your average Valenti column into a Nuremberg speech. You have to ask what the engine of hate really was.

  113. WineEM says

    Returning to the original discussion, there was a piece that caught my attention from the ‘Heil’ yesterday (‘Cmon, admit it folks, we all take a peek at the blasted rag now and again… )

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4720412/Murderer-set-brother-fire-shared-chilling-video.html

    F*cking appalling, but really it was the back story to these terrible events that grabbed my attention, which had not featured on the news.

    Two brothers, one who worked as a high flying lawyer and who had had a successful academic university career, and the other who was not academic at all, and ended up doing menial gardening jobs on low pay.

    Now, we’ll never know the exact thinking or psychology behind what occurred, but the issues around prestige and status (particularly matters around ‘intellectual status,’ as I was alluding to upthread), do inevitably jump out at you a bit.

    How this might link up at all with the concept of chest-thumping elite liberals who might pronounce stuff along the lines of ‘Ooh, just be aware you can’t have any serious or valid ideas about power dynamics in modern society until your familiar with 30 yr old works by Chomsky’, I have no idea, but this might perhaps worth be dwelling upon at some point I suppose.

    Y’ know, kings in their castles, and dirty rascals, that kinda thing …. 😉

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