Tagged: media

New rule: hands off chins

Frank’s post on Shearer’s resignation used one of my least-favourite images of the man (actually worse than those damned dead fish), and has inspired today’s New Rule: get your sodding hand off your sodding chins, gentlemen.

It doesn’t make you look thoughtful or deep or serious or whatever the fuck your publicist has conned you into thinking.  It makes you look like you’re desperately trying to look thoughtful/deep/serious/whatever the fuck.

Proof:

shearer chinkey chingarner chin

You all look like total hankies.  Slightly-confused, total, hankies.

And Duncan, that goes for fingers too.  You’re making Espiner look positively grown-up in comparison.

garner chin 2

Homework: 200 words on why the hell people keep doing this to themselves in orchestrated photo shoots meant to make them look good.

Don’t forget – #voteWTF tomorrow at 8:30pm, TV3

A few of my closest pseudonymous Twitter pals and I will be live-tweeting TV3’s The Vote, asking hard questions like “can’t we just keep bashing parents and ignoring the shitty situations they’re living in due to ongoing neoliberal economic fuckups?”

Tune it to #voteWTF tomorrow night for good wholesome rage.  Warning:  contains Bob McCoskrie.

#voteWTF – Wednesday 19 June, 8:30pm, TV3

On this coming Wednesday’s episode of The Vote – our monthly break from the awfulness that I hear is 3rd Degree – a very angry-making important moot is to be discussed:

Our kids – The problem’s not poverty, it’s parenting. Do you agree?

I first heard of this on Twitter, was informed of this, and the fact that one of the “debaters” is to be Bob McCoskrie, on Twitter.  Then I visited the webpage for the show and found out who the rest of the debaters are.  On the side of “shitting on poor people”:

  • Bob McCoskrie
  • Hannah Tamaki
  • Christine Rankin

On the side of “acknowledging that poverty is a thing”

  • Celia Lashlie
  • Dr Russell Wills
  • Hone Harawira

Oh my god.  This is going to be a fucking trainwreck punctuated with occasional moments of beautiful Hone smackdown.  This totally calls for live-tweeting.

If you’re not already hanging on my every word on the Twitterz, you can follow #voteWTF.  I cannot promise lulz.  Only capslock.

(And if my usual Twitter account gets blocked for excessive tweeting, catch me on my jail account.)

If you want to do some homework before the debate, I recommend r0b’s Poverty Watch posts at The Standard.

Infantilizing complex issues for pageviews – Rebecca Kamm feat. the Good Men Project

Another week, another unthreatening-yet-just-threatening-enough-to-stir-up-plenty-of-pageviews column about “ladies’ issues” (sexism doesn’t count if it’s ironic) from Rebecca Kamm in the Herald.

This week, that most troubling of questions, the issue which all other feminist work should be put aside so we can properly focus on it:  can men be feminists?

The comments … I can’t even, but Megapope on Twitter provided all the commentary necessary on that front.

Thing is, it’s just another Rebecca Kamm column.  Very little original content, lots of hip links to other sites (which, you know, I should probably be thankful for, given how the Armstrong types still like to pretend that they’re working only in print) …

And then she goes and quotes the founder of the “Good Men Project”.

Tom Matlack, founder of the The Good Men project, is also unconvinced [that men can be feminists]. But not because men don’t “get it”, or because – like Celie’s Revenge – he suspects falsity. He strays from the term because he’s experienced firsthand the furore it sparks:

“I am a feminist of the kind my mum was, and is,” he tells me via email: “She raised me in the 1970s with the idea that the Equal Rights Amendment to our constitution was just a crucial as the Civil Rights Act.”

Yet, “modern cyber feminists”, as Matlack puts it, “tell me, through heated and personal attacks, that I have no right to discuss gender because I don’t understand what it’s like to be a women who is oppressed.

Gee, Rebecca, sounds like Tom’s had a rough time!

Or maybe he’s received a lot of flack because he helped create a “project” which is so antifeminist that Hugo fucking Schwyzer resigned from it, saying “It was not ethically possible for me to remain silent while the site with which I am now best associated took an increasingly anti-feminist stance.”  (You can google the original post if you like, I ain’t linking to that creepfest.)

A project which delights in publishing pieces justifying rape if the rapist is enough of an OK dude or if it ~highlights~ the ~struggles~ of being a man in the modern world surrounded by slutty bitches.

Maybe Tom Matlack has no right to discuss gender because he’s a fucking misogynist pig.

But that conversation might be a liiiiiiiiiittle bit too radical for the readers of the Herald.

Game of Thrones spoiler rant

Warning:  spoilers for EVERYTHING GAME OF THRONES RELATED.  Seriously, don’t read unless you’ve read up to Dance With Dragons, because … well, if you read the post you’ll figure it out.  And be horribly spoiler-ed.  

To put it bluntly, this post will be deliberately upsetting for people who haven’t read the books.  It’s not for you.

I write this on a Monday evening, having not yet viewed this week’s episode of Game of Thrones.

But I already know what happens – in two ways:

1.  I’ve read the books multiple times, so nothing in the series is really a surprise, though they may not follow the exact same method to get the same results

2.  People cannot fucking hold themselves back from using in-joke-y hashtags and posting about their very specific feelings about the episode.

You may very well say, “but you totally knew the Red Wedding was going to happen, so what’s the problem?”

The problem is that if I took that point of view for everything, why the fuck would I bother to watch the series?

I also know precisely who’s going to be dead by the end of this season, but I can still be interested in how their story and development is shown, I can still enjoy the acting and amazing production values and direction.

Part of that, however, involves forcing a little bit of selective amnesia on myself.  Yes, I know the Red Wedding is coming, and I know Balon will die and Mance will die and Jon will (possibly?) kill Ygritte and I know who kills Tywin, who saves the Night’s Watch from the wildlings, and why Cersei is going to be forced to do a naked walk of shame through King’s Landing.

I briefly suspend most of this knowledge each week in order to enjoy reliving that story all over again.  And because the plot is so vast and there are so many characters to cover, it actually is enjoyable seeing whose story gets advanced this time and who we catch up with and whose fate is still left hanging in the balance.

There are also interesting divergences from the novels.  The Battle of Blackwater Bay was amazingly done in the series, but very, very different from the books.  And if someone had ruined that awesome explosive climax by Tumblring an animated gif of it before I got to watch the episode, I would have felt rightfully pissed off.

The cherry on my self-righteous cake is that I feel I deserve to watch Game of Thrones without spoilers.  Because – up until this clearly-warned post – I have been absolutely rigorous in not spoiling things.  Not saying “boy, I can’t wait to see how Peter Dinklage pulls off that scene where _________” or “since they’ve eliminated the Edric Storm character, I bet Gendry’s going to ________” or “yeah, don’t get too hopeful about _____ and _____ living happily ever after, I reckon they’ve got until the end of season 2, tops.”

Everyone I know who watches Thrones but hasn’t read the books was gobsmacked when Ned got the chop at the end of season 1.  Because a whole fucking generation of nerds were polite enough not to spoil that (I can’t speak for 4chan or Reddit, but come on.)  And that’s only where the series starts to throw totally pantshitting plot swerves at you.  The Burned Prince?  Asha’s batshit uncles? Zombie Gregor Clegane?  If you haven’t read the books – and seriously, I hope that means you’re not reading this post – you don’t even know the kickass shit that’s coming your way.  Because fans – despite the annoyance of years of nerd-ostracisation suddenly being erased because the mainstream wants to jump on the latest bandwagon – have not spoiled it for you.

Is it too much to ask that we get our moments of surprise and wonder too?

Fuck off Jezebel: Quvenzhané Wallis is too good for your shit edition

This post was prompted by a series of tweets from @graceishuman about the general silence of white feminists – especially white feminist institutions – on the mistreatment and slagging-off of Quvenzhané Wallis at the Oscars.  Not only the silence, but, in one instance from Jezebel which I’m mainly going to address here, downright coming out and saying that it wasn’t that big a deal because [insert white lady problems].

This post shouldn’t need prompting, but it did, because it really is a lot easier for people like me to read a few blogs by women of colour, retweet some of their commentary, think “they got this”, and continue to auto-unfollow anyone who uncritically tweets Jezebel into my feed.

The shit of publications like Jezebel has to be called out, and it has to be called out by white feminists, and yeah, we’ve got to do it before we’re prompted by more marginalized women.

That being said, white feminists also don’t get to ride in on chargers carrying beautiful flowing banners which just coincidentally block the faces of all the women of colour who are speaking out on this shit.

So, first:  the linkage.  Go read these, then come back.

A Love Letter to Quvenzhané Wallis from Moya at Crunk Feminist Collective
Let Me Explain Why The Onion’s Quvenzhané Wallis Tweet Was so Hurtful by T F Charlton (@graceishuman) at Bitch Magazine
Apparently, People Have Beef With Quvenzhané Wallis by Arturo at Racialicious
Where Were White Feminists Speaking Out For Quvenzhané Wallis? by Kirsten West Savali at Clutch magazine

ETA: Once I’d drafted this, I saw Jessica Luther’s On Quvenzhané Wallis at Shakesville, which covers a lot of the same threads as this post.

Now, to Jezebel.  Jezebel, which on top of all its previous crimes against social justice decided that right now, right after a young black girl was called a cunt by The Onion, was the perfect time to post a big ol’ article about how cunt isn’t a bad word, it’s a word we should reclaim, woo yeah girl power right on.

They ain’t getting a link from me, but slap this into your address bar if you must: http:// jezebel.com /5987317/ cunt-is-not-a-bad-word.  There are those on my Twitter feed who will understand what I mean when I say “trigger warning for white feminist quoting Audre Lord”.

The only things you really need to know about the article:

First off:  Katie J M Baker gets eight paragraphs in before saying “It’s impossible to talk about the c-word this week without talking about the Onion‘s Quvenzhané Wallis tweet.”  You know, with a harsher editor and a smaller wordcount, you probably could’ve managed, Katie.

And:  Katie J M Baker thinks the real problem is

Focusing on the word “cunt” is a distraction; for example, the Onion debacle kinda overshadowed how sexist the Oscars were overall.

Apparently Katie J M Baker’s feminism will be non-intersectional and it will be bullshit.  She only manages to mention Quvenzhané’s race when referring to another writer’s reaction to the tweet.  The whole tone of the piece is basically a pissant STFU to those bloggers who have objected to the tweet – not that Baker’s going to link to anyone she disagrees with.

Baker thinks we should “take advantage of [the word “cunt”‘s] true awesomeness”.  I would really love to know how she’d work that into an explanation to a nine-year-old black girl of why a Twitter account decided to call her a cunt to its 4.5 million+ followers.

The overarching question, of course, is why this kind of shit gets published in Jezebel.  It’s not a difficult question.  It’s basic, simple, instinctive, ingrained racism, mixed with the kind of self-centredness which is the equivalent of tattooing “I AM PRIVILEGED” on your forehead (while living in a society where face-tattoos on white people denote high status).

It simply does not occur to the writers and editors of Jezebel to think about Quvenzhané’s feelings, or situation, or circumstances.  They cannot consider that she is black, that she is NINE FUCKING YEARS OLD, that this is (hopefully) the first in an inevitable, ongoing series of humiliations and aggressions which she will have flung at her for her entire life.

Katie J M Baker and the team at Jezebel just hear “The Onion called someone a cunt” and the immediate reaction is “Me.  What if someone called ME a cunt?  What would *I* do?  What response would best exemplify MY amazing feminist cred? ”

The real irony is that I couldn’t find Baker’s article by searching for “Quvenzhané”.  I had to search for “cunt”.  Because when you search for “Quvenzhané” on Jezebel you actually get a big long list of posts which purport to celebrate her achievements and awesomeness.

Take that list.  Compare it to Baker’s post, her complete lack of disregard for Quvenzhané Wallis.  Now consider:  what’s Jezebel going to do when Quvenzhané – and Willow Smith, for that matter – stop being adorable little black dolls which the comfortable white feminists can coo over?  What happens when they start saying things that make the comfortable white feminists less comfortable?

New Zealanders in the audience may like to think back on when Keisha Castle-Hughes, Maaori Doll-child of the Nation, got knocked up at 16.  I’m recalling the popular response being less that positive.

This is 2013.  You can’t Helen Keller people any more.  There is going to be some ugly shit when Quvenzhané gets old enough that her “use my name, douchebag” routine becomes less “adorable little minx” and more “bitchy”.  And I hope I and other white feminists will fucking stomp on that shit when it happens.

If only people felt like they could TALK about the obesity epidemic!

Seriously, that’s the take-home message from this article on the Herald about how terrible it is that children are fat.  You don’t need to click through to find the balanced, definitive science on this, because what more could you possibly need to know than the identity of the first person quoted:

The director of SureSlim New Zealand, Phil Pullin

A scientist and a gentleman if ever there were one.

A major issue I have when I get into arguments about THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC with otherwise critical, analytical people is this:  how do you not see the ridiculous, head-desking contradictions which abound in all “reporting” on this “problem”?

The article starts off talking about putting children as young as 6 on commercial diet programmes – and even Weight Watchers thinks that’s a silly idea, for context.  But then of course there’s the handwringing:

[Phil Pullin, man who runs a programme which puts 6-year-olds on diets] said weight problems among children was an increasing trend.

… [Spokeswoman for Fight the Obesity Epidemic, Dr Robyn Toomath, said “It’s much more that we don’t appreciate the extent of obesity.”

Yet a mere 9 newspaper paragraphs later:

Good Talks speaker on body image Rachel Hansen said children were bombarded with unattainable messages from the media, peers and even their parents that girls should be thin and beautiful and boys strong and muscular to be accepted by society.

“I’ve seen children as young as 3 and 4 saying, ‘I’m too fat, I can’t eat that’.”

Ah, yes, three-year-olds rejecting delicious food.  A clear sign that “we” don’t “appreciate” how terrible a lifetime of fatness is.

And yet so many otherwise-analytical people will immediately jump up to say “oh yes that’s a problem, that’s terrible reporting, that’s a contradiction, but obesity is still a problem.”

It’s like someone’s adapted the script of a terrible sexist two-dimensional sitcom mother:  “Oh sure you like living alone and you love your apartment and your last relationship ended horribly and you’re trying to get comfortable with your own identity, but don’t you think it’s time you found a man?”

I henceforth dub myself Lady Taboo

So, before we get into the meat of this story, here’s apparently what it takes to get a paid gig in the Herald:

  1. Quote the New York Times
  2. Quote the Huffington Post responding to the New York Times
  3. Make some Shelley Bridgeman-esque comments which show you don’t understand the concepts being discussed
  4. Quote Jezebel responding to the New York Times
  5. Name-drop Charlie Brooker and Caitlin Moran to establish cool cred

Really?  At least John Armstrong has to look like he’s working.

But the matter at hand is of course the overblown, overplayed, overhyped issue of Ladies Swearing.  We have to say “ladies”, not “women”, because it emphasises the terrible naughtiness of the bad words.

And that’s only the start of the bingo.  One quote says “I may get my bra-burning card revoked for this”, which is secret code for “look at me, boys, I’m not one of those feminists” but actually, to anyone who knows basic feminist history, just makes you look like a snivelling tryhard.  Author Rebecca Kamm nails #3 with this musing:

First of all, isn’t swearing odd? We open our gobs and emit an ultimately arbitrary sound – it should be harmless. Yet what comes out can feel like a slap in the face, splashing dark paint over all the other innocent words.

Shit!  The sounds we make with our mouths have meaning assigned to them by others?  Meanings which are actually arbitrary?  This is amazing!  I’m going to call this brand-new concept speech.

But that’s okay, it just proves Rebecca is totally above all that societal stuff, which is why she’s qualified to tell us that actually swearing is gross, but real feminists understand that it’s gross no matter who is doing it.

UNLESS THEY’RE A COOL, CLEVER PERSON LIKE CHARLIE BROOKER OR CAITLIN MORAN OF COURSE.

I mean, I’m not even going there with Caitlin Moran, and will instead refer you to this most excellent parody Twitter account.

But that last little bit there?  Pretty much sums up my fucking problem with hand-wringing pearl-clutching discussions of swearing.

It’s classist.  It assumes that swearing is something low, dirty, uneducated people do because they don’t know how to express themselves like Proper Gentlefolk.  (See also:  similar “all I’m saying is I don’t like it” criticisms of non-standard forms of English.  Especially those used predominantly by people of colour.)

Oh, but if you’re a clever person, if you’re somebody which has been handed a Cool Edgy Clever Celebrity licence, then saying fuck is totally edgy and radical and thought-provoking and it makes you kind of sexy and dangerous.  Because people already know that you’re not a dirty uneducated poor person, so your swearing is ironic.

My swearing is not ironic.  I swear because it adds emphasis.  (In some contexts, I swear because Mythbusters totally proved it increases pain tolerance.)  I swear because I like playing around with words.  I definitely swear because it challenges people’s preconceptions about me as a middle-class, varsity-educated white girl from a Good Family.

And I also swear because I’m a fucking New Zealander, and swearing is pretty part-and-parcel of our particular brand of English, and because the people who most often write about how uncouth and vulgar Those Young People are getting are in fucking denial.  I’m sorry, people, the Toyota “bugger” ad came out fourteen fucking years ago.  No one complained about the “where the bloody hell are you” ad in 2006 because it was dirty, they complained because it was fucking naff (and would have had far better rhythm if they dropped the “bloody”).

Of course, I’d probably swear a lot less if we didn’t have a mainstream media containing items like the Herald, happily publishing columns like this one (and don’t start me on Shelley Bridgeman) which … honestly, I still don’t actually know what Kamm’s point was, or why it couldn’t have been conveyed far more clearly in a tweet.

The ethical responsibility to step in

Kiwiana (inked) put up a really thought-provoking post about the Bystander Effect – specifically looking at the case of a photojournalist who chose to keep taking pictures while a violent assault was committed in front of her (trigger warning for both Kiwiana’s post itself, which discusses domestic violence, and links to the violent images in question.)

I agree with her that there’s just something seriously squicky about a person, whatever their professional or philosophical calling, using a kind of “greater good” argument to justify not stepping in when someone is screaming at and choking their partner.

There’s something else, though, in the photojourno’s own description of what happened, which stood out to me:

I knew I had to stay with the story and document it in all of its ugly truth.

This dovetailed with a series of tweets by @leonineleft on Twitter about reporting on the Steubenville gang-rape (and associated cover-up):

Read a Fairfax report on the sexual violence against the victim in Steubenville & explicit details of what happened to her was UNnecessary.

You can still talk about the dehumanising of rape victims or survivors without going into explicit and pornographic detail re: her body.

Like in Bumiller’s book, it’s as if presentation of the body-espec. explicit-is needed to PROVE that any form of sexual violence happened.

(Links to tweet 1, tweet 2, tweet 3)

This made me ask the question:  why did Sara Naomi Lewkowicz say she “had” to “stay with the story”?  Why did it need to be “document[ed] in all of its ugly truth”?

(There’s certainly the practical argument in this specific case that her photos serve as proof of the assault – though I would dearly love to see the reactions of the attending police officers when told “oh, by the way, this woman stood by taking pictures of the whole situation”.)

But why do these images have to be taken, have to be published, have to be available for the world to see?  Do we really need graphic depictions of real-life assaults – in the case of Steubenville, graphic descriptions of rape – in order to “get” that they’re serious?  In order to “understand” that domestic violence is violence (for Steubenville: that sexual assault is assault)?

The depressing answer, I conclude, is yes.  People don’t really believe domestic violence happens.  They don’t really understand what domestic violence is.  The fact that we’ve appended the word “domestic” to it illustrates how we treat it differently from other types of violence – it emphasises that it’s private, personal, not our business.

In any semi-decent society, it should be enough that a person says “my partner assaulted me”.  That should be the line that we don’t let people cross.

But because we do treat domestic violence – violence predominantly committed by men against women – as different, as lesser, and because we do downplay acts of violence if they’re in a domestic context, and because we do immediately start asking victims of domestic violence questions like “was your partner drunk/jealous?” or “did you make your partner angry?” …

Yes.  It seems we do need the occasional photojournalist to be on site, to keep taking photographs while another person is violently assaulted* in order to have something we can point to so we can categorically state, “domestic violence is serious and needs to be treated seriously.”

How fucked up is that?

~

*Note that Lewkowicz did make sure someone else was calling the police while she took the pictures.

Bloggers and ripping off content

Felix Marwick, in comments at Public Address, raises some concerning behaviour:

I was trying to draw a distinction between what I regard as genuine blogging; opinion and news gathering involving individual research vs blatant plagiarism dressed up as opinion/news.

Forgive me if I get a little pissed off at people who help themselves to my work and that of my colleagues, slap it up on their site without so much as a “please” or a “do you mind”. Journalism costs. You want to take our work? How about asking first? How about making a contribution even?

I don’t mind quotes and links. Fair use is fine. But lifting whole articles is taking the piss.

Completely fair point.  It’s not just taking the piss, it’s plagiarism – and even where attributed, copy-pasting another author or site’s whole work basically means, if you or they are making money off onsite advertising, that you’re stealing from them.

(Obviously this doesn’t apply to consensual cross- or guest-posting, but duh.)

Here’s what I find super-interesting: Felix, as a member of the mainstream media, has talked about this issue as being about bloggers – and others in the PA comments have a few suggestions of who specifically might have that accusation levelled at them.

But you know who I immediately think of when people start talking about lifting whole articles and placing them on other sites to boost their own currency / activity / pageviews?

Bob fucking McCoskrie.

Evidence for the prosecution:  the Protect Marriage website; the Family First website.  FF’s website is particularly hilarious for the way all the posts are by the author “Bob” yet are nothing but copypasta from the mainstream media.  (Or occasionally, totally-anonymous-honest “satires” about how funny gay teenagers killing themselves is.)

Oh, sure, they’re attributed, they even have a link to the original story at the end, in case you find it so fascinating you want to re-read it in a different font.

But no one writes off Bob McCoskrie as a blogging parasite.  No, he gets TV interviews and mass media coverage of every twisted, inaccurate factoid he tries to create moral panic over.  All the while, basically stealing shit from that very media to make his sites look active and relevant.

I’ve no doubt there are blogs out there which just churn through other sites’ posts, and that’s shitty and uncreative and goddammit go away and leave the Google rankings to us original-content creators.  But at least you can snort derisively when it’s a blogger doing it.

When it’s the Moral Guiding Hand of the nation, it’s just a bit pathetic.