21 September 2009

Musical modays: Treaty

I heard this song a lot when it first came out. I was in primary school and my mum was passionate about Indigenous Australian's rights and played it a lot. Being a kid I had no idea what the lyrics meant, I mean I understood the general idea I think, but watching the video and listening to the song again, as I have been a bit this week has been a very different experience.

I keep getting this feeling that something is very wrong with this country. I feel like some people ware their appreciation of Indigenous art like a fauxgressive badge designed to distract (white) people from their deeply held racism. But most people don't give a shit. Most people don't even bother with the pretence becasue they're that racist. I know that's my privilege to have only just realised this, but it's infuriating to realise that fuck all has changed in the collective attitude of white Australia from invasion to now.

14 September 2009

Musical Mondays: From little things (a bit late)

From little things, big things grow- Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly (with John Butler here)

Scientifically certified orgasm actually patriarchaly certified orgasm

Excelent news from the twiterverse today! A new study of (abut 1000 individual) female('s) orgasms conducted by someone in a white coat and sensible shoes from The University of West Scotland has found that vaginal orgasms are more frequent when a woman's partner has an unusually large, quivering member! Call me a shrieking feminazi, but I think this sounds kind of familiar? Also sorry about the run-on sentence.

As my beloved, pinko ABC points out there are criticisms that various Australian scientists have of this study (fancy that!) Including worries that the methodology (participants self-reporting) isn't the most scientific thing ever and that pressure from pharmecuical companies means that studies of human (especially female) sexuality is rarely unaffected by corporate pressure to pedal female viagra etc. But my favourite part of this article has to be the following gem:

The study also claims that women who have experienced vaginal orgasms "have a greater satisfaction with their sex life, mental health, relationships with both partners and friends, and life in general."

But Associate Professor Rosemary Coates, also of Curtin University of Technology and president of the World Association for Sexual Health, believes that such assumptions are "reverting back to Freudian assumptions about female sexual responses," saying that "some form of clitoral stimulation is almost always required to trigger orgasm."

The study authors dismiss this view as "clitorocentric" and blame it for the "destruction of human pleasure."

The destruction of human pleasure? Seriously? Women who experience clitoral orgasms exclusively and don't get on the vaginal stimulation of a cock are somehow responsible for the misery of the human race now? To call a spade a spade: this is just patriarchal policing of women's sexuality dressed up as a scientific study. Women ought to be sexually passive and the penis is of ultimate importance during sexytime. If a woman's orgasm isn't the accidental by-product of male orgasm then it is EVIL! Labelling women who achieve orgasm clitorally as sad, mopey bitches is old-school. Cry me a fucking river, study, because you're destroying human pleasure by perpetuating a hierarchy of pleasure and trying to make women who don't achieve orgasm through your heteronormative, phallocentric Approved Method feel insecure.

Give a girl a chance, obscure scientists! Not only do we have to battle the slut-shaming if we're not appropriately coy in seeking out sex (hint: you can never be coy enough, girls), and the cultural norm of objectification and rape influencing the sex we do have, your study implies that if we do get off (difficult considering those last two factors) it has to be a man who brings our passive, frail lady bodies to orgasm. Not us actively stimulating ourselves! Oh no that's so obviously about orgasm, and ladies have to pretend that that's just a side-dish and that the main course is the "emotional intimacy" of holding our man close. Not us actively, unabashedly communicating what feels good to our partner. Heavens! That might make a d00d feel bad and give him the impression that we're better at getting ourselves to orgasm than he is! No, the one, Scientifically certified mode of achieving orgasm is dick penetrating vadge. Clitoral stimulation is selfish.

Thanks for clearing that up, medicine man!

Join me next week as I write a letter to The Enlightenment to break the news that science & rationality didn't actually deliver us from ignorance after all!

27 July 2009

Musical Mondays: xKingdomx

More screaming, angry ladies for your listening pleasure.

The drums in the intro are worth it, and if you really can't stand hardcore (or whatever sub-genre this is) then once again, skip to the breakdown at aprox. 2:25.

26 July 2009

I'm so angry 'Violent Femmes' is already taken. By dudes!

Just so you know, this one isn't so much gin & tonic as break-your-arm-in-the-mosh-pit & break-someone-else's-trying-to-get-out. Which is great if you like that sort of thing. Which I do. I love it.
If you don't just skip to about 2:30 for the breakdown.

I found Walls of Jericho while compiling my Hottest 100 Women list this week. I've been going out of my way to find and include female-fronted hardcore and metal bands. Not just the punk Riot Grrrrls (that I love), but bands who are making music now or have been in the past few years.

I love this kind of music. I love bands like Parkway Drive, Norma Jean, Gallows, Carpathian, Refused and Enter Shikari. I love the shows they put on (when I can be fucked to get to them). I especially love the aggression and energy these bands bring to songs that are technically complicated and require a lot of leet skilz (oh, I went there!) While it's not something that ever made me feel unsafe, this scene is pretty dude-heavy and often actively marginalises female fans and musicians.

I think it's due largely to physicality and aggressiveness still being seen as not ladylike, or something that women can't pull-off convincingly. In my experience there's an assumption amongst the people who listen to this music that girls who go along to shows are primarily interested in dressing up and catching themselves a boy with lip piercings and a fringe rather than the music.* It's not exactly an innovative to try an exclude women by telling us that we're fundamentally incapable of appreciating or participating in an activity. It's the same excuse that's been used historically to dismiss women from engineering, maths, formal logic and, yep, Triple J's Hottest 100 of All Time. Neither is it surprising that female screamers are dismissed as poor substitute for a person with a big, swinging dick. Our society has a proud history of telling women to fuc of back to the kitchen and let the boys deal with things. I'm not suprissed, but I am angry.

I wanted to find more angry, screaming front ladies for a couple of reasons. One- contrary to a lot of the excuse-making that went on just after the Hottest 100 list was released, women don't just make pop music and cutesy indi love songs. Women rock the fuck out. We've got a lot to be angry about and that anger ought to be listened to and honoured, not caught at the 'bitch filter' or dismissed as over-emotional crap.

- Telling women to sit, waiting for the opportunity to catch a husband, on the side line of any activity is not on. Ever. The heteronormative, narrow definition of womanhood restricts us all even if we don't adhere to it and every single person we interact with knows we don't adhere to it. In our world, our sex and gender precede us and shape our experiences. It doesn't matter if we manage to escape it as individuals, it' still there on an institutional and systemic level.

- Telling women to play by a different, more restrictive set of rules than the boys becasue we're wired differently or need protection is not on. Ever. As a young woman I'm insulted when I hear people saying that I don't have the brains or balls to appreciate or participate in something because I'm too fragile/ vain/ passive (which would be that pesky sex/gender thing preceding me, btw). There are some things I need protection from, like rape and unconscious bias or systemic inequalities in hiring practices. I don't, however, need protecting from my own taste in music, or from my anger.

I fully appreciate that some people (male or female) won't be into this noise. I get it. It's all loud and confusing and the vocals are basically (well controlled) screams. that's cool. I'm not saying women who rather heels to hardcore are dupes of the patriarchy. I'm saying that drawing the line between people who can appreciate hardcore and metal and people who can't along gender lines is sexist, problematic, annoying and makes me wanna front my very own aggressive metalcore band.

*As an aside, the implication that hardcore dancing is used as a way for girls to pick a dude is kind of disturbing. The undertones of ye olde "women like a violent man", whether intentional or not, don't help the fight against rape culture. Especially when there's an attitude, from some, that girls ruin the pit and ought to hang back an be eye candy/ groupies.

20 July 2009

Musical Mondays: Nellie McKay

May I suggest a gin and tonic with this one?


19 July 2009

MasterChef Australia (& I baked cupcakes)

This show has been on my mind this week. As Chris, who was the favourite to win, was eliminated from Masterchef the final is going to be between two women over the age of thirty-five. It's not a reality show that's determined by audience votes, so I'm not about to claim that this reflects any shift in the Australian culture towards the appreciation of women, but I think the way this was been marketed is really telling. Astoundingly, and happily, there hasn't been any mention of a catfight or any attempt to manufacture hostility between the two women. Hooray! Someone at Masterchef seems to have gotten the message that female competitiveness isn't a deviancy of some sort that needs to be fetishised and trivialised. Obviously I celebrated this by making cupcakes:

And yes, I totally made those and took about 50 photos. Cos I'm just that narcissistic. Anyway, I saw an interesting column about MasterChef in the sun-herald today which wasn't on the interwebs and which I'm going to retype in full. Cos that's the sot of time-wasting, article-thieving lass I am:

The Winner is... talent and, oh, a woman
Macho antics have been left on the backburner , writes host Sarah Wilson.

Is it interesting that whatever the outcome tonight, Australia's first MasterChef will be a woman over 35? I reckon it is.
And, please, I'm not straddling some haughty feminist hight horse. Surely we're beyond that.
Women don't win reality TV shows, at least not in the first season. I viewer-determined contests, the voters are mostly young women (a complex phenomenon, but true).
And women 35-plus? They certainly don't win reality TV shows.
But here we are, about to be delivered s winner in either Julie, a 38-year-old mum from NSW's central coast or Poh, a 35-year-old artist of Asian descent who cooks with stink beans.
People like this don't tend to make it to TV. But, as everyone I've spoken to this week has said- on radio, TV and that barometer of right-nowness, Twitter- they represent an aspect of Australia that is very right-now. Precisely because they're not what we've come to cynically expect.
This is interesting. And a bloody relief.
Now I could wade into a discussion about how Poh and Julie's victory is all the more poignsnt because they won a cooking show. Men dominate public culinary displays. Women cook (at home, behind the scenes); men chef. the Ramsays and Pierre Whites of the world theatrically create dinning experiences with fancy ingredients, propped up by cookbook-kitchenware-TV show empires. And they swear and behave like their privates have been too close to a hot burner for too long. I could wade, but I won't.
Because what's more interesting is that tonight's result celebrates a "right now" shift. It's a shift to more boys cooking at home, behind the scenes. It's a shift to new relationships with diverse role models. kids loved Sam, mum's loved Poh, my surfer mates loved Julie, tough radio jocks loved Chris, young women loved Justine.
It's a shift away from snarky, low forms of human behaviours we all ache to escape.
Julie of Poh win based on merit. I promise you this. It's a true, simple, emotionally relatable result. Nasty popularity-determining antics, that bring out regrettable behaviour in audiences, contestants and critics, were not required.
The best person wins and in the process a bag of ideas about men and women have been deemed defunct. Which is more than just interesting don't you think?

I think there's a good summary of why this show has been so popular at the end, but more importantly the first two thirds outline a pretty solid feminist analysis of the (heavily gendered) Chef/cook binary. Which is why I found Wilson's throwaway "feminist high horse" comment so perplexing, (and annoying becasue intelligent and critical women aren't on a "high-horse"). True she wasn't too critical of the show, and I have no idea what she was trying to get at with the shifting relationships argument. I'm not sure if she was thinking of shifting relationships in society or on the show, but I think word limits and editors got the better of her there.

I'm not surprised or angry that the host of the show is selling it, it's her job after all, but you could be far more critical of MasterChef. I had a discussion with a friend recently about how the mystery ingredients in challenges are usually very Western which marginalised and probably disadvantaged the contestants of non-Western decent. Which is an excellent example of institutional racism, where the game is set up to benefit the "neutral" white subject, and telling of Australian society in general.

And there's the question in the back of my mind that Poh and Julie might be escaping the cat fight treatment becasue they're both acting acceptably feminine by being amiable and non-combative. In the end though, I don't think that is central to what's going on here. As Wilson said MasterChef owes its success to the likeability of the contestants and the apparent lack of manufactured snark (see Big Brother for a counterpoint). The show is compelling partly because of the drama set up though the lighting, music, constant ad breaks etc., and partly becasue the people are all lovely and seem to really like each other and enjoy what we're watching them do. Poh and Julie weren't any more deferential, nice or vulnerable on screen than the other contestants, male or female, so I doubt it was acceptable femininity that got them to the finals so much as talent and acting like a mature human being.

If you think I'm missing something important though feel free to call me out. It wouldn't be the first time I went easy on something becasue I liked it.