Each week in ‘What am I meant to do with my time?‘, Christopher Hocking turns to a famous figure to see if it can tell him how to live a digitally native life in 2013. Today, it’s Hannah Rosin, who’s coming to Festival of Dangerous Ideas to tell us all about the end of men.
Dear Hanna Rosin,
I hate to harp on about Poltergeist (haha who am I kidding I will harp on about Poltergeist to the grave)(my swimming pool grave) but it was while recently watching Poltergeist with The Lady that I was particularly struck by the scene where the mother – played so well by JoBeth Williams, oh boy, have you seen Poltergeist? – is alone in her room when the titular poltergeist attacks. I’m not much for feminist readings of films (something something dominant male gaze something am I right) but it is pretty g.d. glaring that up until now the ‘geist was sexless and just really into throwing furniture around and manipulating meat (ho ho) and now that it is a Woman Alone In A Room it is trying to pull her shirt off and get all up in her business against the ceiling.
On the spectrum of ’80s horror films treatment of women it is for sure more on the harmless side, as compared to say your Nightmares On Elm St, your Hills w/ Eyes or even your Howlings I-IV. But there is something in that notion – a young mother, a strong female figure, a woman who is not afraid to be stoned in her bedroom while there is a storm raging outside, now helpless in a t-shirt and panties being dragged across the ceiling while her husband is out, I don’t know, drinking a beer? Drinking a beer in the pool? Drinking a beer out of a skull in the swimming pool? It’s not just horrific because ghosts or rape but also that it is a mom – someone who is meant to be all-powerful and in some way sexless herself? As I said, I am not heaps into feminist readings. But it definitely touches my mind, the filmic portrayal of a woman as a victim.
Aside from Poltergeist I am not heaps interested in writing things about pop culture, but I did recently watch the new Robin Thicke video and wow uh is anyone keeping tabs on this guy? Have the correct authorities been notified? What is going on? Is he in jail yet or no? I don’t understand who died and left Brett Easton Ellis in charge of the cockpit, but please someone take over for him because he is not doing well. The Robin Thicke video hit me so viscerally, so bodily that I’ve re-watched it four times since just to verify it – just to look again into those blood-sweltered blue eyes and feel that primal response, “You are a danger to me.” Though I will probably never meet Thicke (but if anyone has his number I do have some real quick questions for him) I still think he is a very real danger to me and anyone else who is just a normal guy trying his best to just get through the days. Because what about all The Other Guys, the ones who would see the Thicke thing and think it is just OK – “Yes, that is a normal and good thing and I aspire to a life like that.” What about all the guys who are going out right now to buy samplers and aviators and are probably already hash-tagging their own last names in the dust with their piss? I’m deeply concerned about them. OH and also about Robin Thicke himself and his relationship to women and his relationship to reality.
But then, I feel like I am a product of an anti-’rape-culture’-culture – a heightened awareness and sensitivity to anything sexist. As I’m writing this, I’m scrolling through posts on everydaysexism dot com, really just basking in it – basking in the outrage and self-loathing. I am reminded of the stories I have heard first-hand; friends being asked to give oral sex on their way to gigs (“How’s about a blowjob?”), being offered lifts from real helpful men in cars. Who are these faceless men? Where are their dicks at? The same goes for stories from real life – they make me feel vile and a deep guilt, a guilt at being on the other side of the story. Ugh, please, I’m sorry, I’m sorry that I’m male, I know that we’re terrible but I’m On Your Side.
On the inverse, earlier I was scrolling through a Facebook group called Men Know Why, hell of yelling about how awful the nonsense on it was. Something about bacon. Something about guns. Something about motorcycle helmets with skulls spray painted on them. Something about a beer in a cleavage. THERE’S A NAME FOR PEOPLE WITHOUT BEARDS…WOMEN. Everything in bacon. Bacon in everything. There is not a bin wide enough to put all these terrible things in. As I’m thinking about these men – These Men – I imagine them reading this and what they would say, how they would tell me to grow a pear or eat a peach or something and then go and run the country. That is a little bit of Political Humour there for you ha ha help we’ve actually got some big problems because one of the Blokes is ruling the country now. How long until I’m conscripted into a national game of footy? How long until I’m sent to Papua New Guinea on two counts of being a Princess and a Suspected Nonce?
It is a man’s world, it is a man’s sport, either get in the scrum or get in the kitchen. At work I have been criticised for drawing hearts in latte art because “it’s embarrassing to send that out to blokes.” Because if I was sending them out to women, that would be fine? Because it’s totally 100% OK to try to hit on women via their coffees and only not OK because Blokes. “Don’t tell me you’re hurt by the criticism,” grow a thicker skin, because that’s what men are meant to do. My manager is a Baby Boomer and a woman. In the battle of the sexes I just want to forfeit. Everybody please be quiet, you’re being gross. It is not cool to degrade someone and it is not cool to be cool with being degraded. I am not interested in a joke about my being ‘house-trained’ and I am not interested in a joke about having my girlfriend make me a sandwich.
At the same time, I am not interested in feeling emasculated because I keep a clean house or make a bed or can cook a dinner for myself. I don’t want to be revenge-objectified or belittled, I don’t want to hear about how anyone sucks in bed, don’t tell me about how all the guys who hit on you just have little dicks. Turn down that Kesha, please. It makes me Uncomfortable. There’s an awful call-and-response that goes on between the sexes where it’s like we’re expected to act a certain way so women expect us to act that way and then the acting becomes further entrenched or who knows what, so that at a gig when a girl says something like, “Hey you look like John Lennon wanna come home with me and watch Videodrome?” it’s considered Incorrect to turn it down. What do you mean you don’t want casual sex? What do you mean you don’t want to join in this rape-banter? What’s wrong with a Facebook page about bacon and boobs? Why can’t a woman be called a bitch?
On one of my repeat viewings of Blurred Lines I couldn’t bear to hear the song again, so had it on mute – just taking in that potent imagery of a man in a suit dancing with naked women. In the background, Neil Young’s Don’t Cry No Tears somehow syncs up with the imagery in a way that I wouldn’t hesitate to describe as “hauntingly beautiful”, even “beautifully incisive”.
“There’s nothing I can say
To make him go away
Don’t cry no tears around me”
Emily Ratajkowski and Jessi M’Bengue and Elle Evans dance around Thicke and our #BEE piloted plane is going down because nobody is qualified to take the wheel.
Later at work, warshing dishes (women’s work ha ha h) and thinking over this letter, I realise that if I were to choose a side in the gender war, I would side with the ladies – the side of the moon-cult, the side of dark nature. The side of witchery. The side of JoBeth Williams. The side of Grimes. I have sensed the deep connection between women, I have seen the power of tides. I have walked into the Wiccan section of the gothic arts store and seen the pentagrams on the drop-earrings and felt the cool hush of the Ladies.
“What about the boy’s club?” The boy’s club is dead and dumb. The boy’s club is for jerks.
Christopher Hocking is an Adelaide writer who has been published on Scum Mag and rejected by McSweeneys, Voiceworks, Stilts, Bumf and more. He hopes to have better luck at running a cafe and perhaps will with yr help.
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(Top photo by Prairie Kitten)