Monday, February 27, 2017

The mother of all men

Jeannie and Jim Gaffigan
Jeannie Gaffigan co-writes and produces her husband's comedy shows, including most recently the Jim Gaffigan Show for TV, which they have just stopped making after the second series to spend more time with their kids - they have five under the age of 12.

I was a fan of the Gaffigan even before I read this statement of his on the measure of manhood (now I want to marry him; move over Jeannie. Kidding, sort of). He is generally a very funny man, but his meta appeal is that unlike so many male (and some female) comedians, he doesn't mock and degrade women in his comedy.

In fact when I found this statement and podcast from Gaffigan I had just come from listening to two stand-up comedians, like him, played on our local RadioNZ (public broadcaster). One was from Bill Burr, the other from Ali Wong and both shamelessly mock motherhood as non-work. Wong does this while she is heavily pregnant with her first child so not really in the know yet as to what motherhood entails, and Burr does it because he doesn't need to be a woman - or even a parent - to know how pathetically easy motherhood is, he just uses his all-seeing, not at all man-biased, eyes.

Burr says it's not work if you can do it in your pyjamas. But he's wrong about that, because I can give a blow job in my pyjamas, and that's work; the clue's in the name 'job', Bill. Wake up, buddy.

Wong says feminists have ruined everything for women - while she's enjoying the rewards of feminist battles fought for her freedom to earn on a living on the stage (heavily pregnant) - because before feminism women never had to work (she actually says those words) and now they do, and that the reason she got pregnant was so she could put her feet up and relax and not have to work.

Good luck with that, Ali. I wonder if you will pay a woman (or a man as it always used to be when women didn't work) to help you raise your child and do the housework? Most 'career' women do, though not all. The key is we now have the choice to work at home for no money or on the stage for a lot of money, before we didn't. Stuff feminists for giving us that choice. The bloody bitches.

Indeed Burr and Wong are altogether so right and astute in their commentary on the state of our world. I mean what the world clearly needs is for women and motherhood to be respected less, because what's gone wrong so far is that women's 'work' throughout history has been way overvalued and men's work (golf) has been way undervalued. Clearly Donald Trump doesn't think enough of himself and doesn't get enough credit or power or success for all the WORK he puts in; that's clearly the problem.

The online backlash of comments from men to Gaffigan's podcast in which he expresses the above, deeply controversial sentiment that if men don't respect women and what they do they are not true men, is so telling of men's need to define themselves as better than women. Without that innate superior status, they're just people, like women - yes, women are people - and many men can't live with that. Here's just one of the comments in response to Gaffigan's radical feminist (not) statement:

‘Well in most developed countries a third to a half of men are not even interested anymore in chasing women and the number will keep rising. Men has realise it is not worth the effort anymore. In two/three generations only a small portion of people will marry/have children, wake up grandpa.’ 

Men really are so astute, factual - and grammatical.

It is no surprise to learn that Bill Burr, who is nearly fifty, has only recently (2013) married for the first time and that his fans are outraged that he married at all. This from one of them:

'I don't care if people get married or who they marry, but when your entire career revolves around making fun of marriage, gold-digging women, the unfairness of divorce laws, and then you end up marrying a pc woman with an attitude it just seems like a bad decision, lol. I also read that he said he doesn't have a pre-nup, he's worth around 4 million dollars, and if she divorces him, he'll just give her everything.'

Sure he will.

But he has a point. Burr's comedy career has been built on belittling women, so why marry one? His fans naturally see this as hypocrisy and they're right, to a point. But the simple truth is that the man, at 45, has finally grown up and seen the light beyond his cheap and nasty prejudices, just as Gaffigan did, only rather sooner on in his life. Gaffigan, a bit younger than Burr, married in 2003. Before that his comedy was less respectful of women, too; though it was never as shamelessly sexist as Burr's.

There's a pattern forming, folks: men need to love and respect (not merely lust after) a woman to figure out what it means to be a man, at least het men do. Gay men seem to know anyway; they typically respect their mothers a whole lot more than het men do, which no doubt makes a significant difference to their attitudes towards women.

Women, on the other hand, most of us at least (don't know about Ali), already know the importance of love and respect and family, etc, we don't need a man to teach us that. We just need men to let us teach them, and to do that they need to respect us enough first to be prepared to learn what we've got to teach them about the important things in life.

It's a Catch 22: many men can't learn respect for women without loving a woman and they can't really love a woman without first respecting us. No wonder there's so much domestic violence, divorce and cheap sexist comedy. It's something of a miracle it ever works between men and women.

So when it does, as in the Gaffigan case, it's an occasion to celebrate. I'm glad Gaffigan has five kids. If only he and the other guys capable of respecting women could father all the kids; the world would be fixed in no time at all, and we'd have better comedy to boot.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Skinny Mic Night (Raw Quest heat)

So my heat for the 2017 Raw Quest is done - hoorah!! Now I've just got to wait through another seven heats to find out if I made it through to the semi finals and then the finals in May. Who knew there was so much waiting in comedy? Not me. It's possible I'm too old for this shit.

I was first on in the second half, a position the guy who owns the club and places the acts told me is good. I wasn't so sure, I'd never been on first (second) before. It means you're on straight after the pro MC doing his own set, so you're being compared with him, which could be a disadvantage depending on how good he (or she) is. He in this case - and not all that good, though he was funnier in his second half than his first.

The upside to being in the second half is that those audience members who have stayed after the break - only about 80%, usually - know what they're getting in for and have decided to stay, so they're probably quite keen to laugh.

There were about forty people remaining in the second half after a fairly lacklustre first half, so that was pretty good considering. And although the MC was funnier in his introductory bit in the second half, which put the pressure on me a bit, it did warm up the crowd for me so that was good.

The MC formula seems to be to meet and greet the audience in the first half, then tell your own story in the second half and comment on the individual comedians along the way.

The meet and greet seems the hardest part, as they've got to ask direct questions of the audience who often don't want to go public with their life stories - and fair enough. Although when it's done well, as I've seen it done a few times now, it's very effective, as the audience gets carried along as if they are part of the show and everyone has a rip roaring good time.

But if it's not done well, as it was not on this night, the 'How long have you been together?' standard question of couples gets a bit awkward when asked of those who are clearly not ready to 'come out' as couples. It seems quite a lot of not-quite-couples go to comedy. Perhaps that makes sense.

Anyway, we got there in the end and my set went pretty well. I think it was a good spot for me all said and done. I started with a joke about looking fat standing next to the mic stand, which was new and got a good laugh. Hopefully it's not pinched.

I didn't get as many laughs as when I performed that set (different beginning and ending) as my first ever stand-up back in October, but the audience was very different that time and had been well primed by the veteran pro Brendhan Lovegrove. Still, it went well enough and the applause kept going well after I had walked off, which is a good sign (unless they were happy to see me go).

The others in the second half were generally funnier than in the first half and the last guy was really very funny and probably the funniest on the night, although his main joke was that he was 18, which I didn't find all that funny. I should tell them my age, now that would be funny.

But I think I was second funniest on the night and definitely the funniest 50-year-old, so there's that. Hopefully the guy choosing the semifinalists is looking for age range.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

In the beginning, ballet: Coppélia 1982 (Sydney)

A tense moment in the wedding ceremony (Act III)
Me and the mad professor - a good fit (Act II)
Oops (fortunately there was nothing to pop out)

The moment of truth
And they all lived happily ever after
(Thank you, the Sydney City Ballet)
Butterfly lift to close the ceremony - and why not!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Black and What? American Crime Story

The good guys (mostly) in the film. The public and media
generally disliked and derided District Attorney Marcia Clark throughout
the OJ trial. 
We've just finished watching the Netflix dramatisation of the OJ case and trial The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story that won a bunch of Emmys earlier this month and deservedly so; it's seriously powerful TV.

And what a story! You could never invent it and yet it is so telling of the human experience, especially in America. But somehow we, those who write stories that try to be realistic, cannot quite bring ourselves to admit that there are no actual heroes, black or white, and so our stories lack that truth edge that makes this series so gripping, and, too, so very sad in reminding us what a deeply prejudiced world we live in - like we needed reminding. Actually, incredibly, it seems we still do.

I remember the trial well and how seeing the footage of the hordes of 'Not Guilty' protesters before the verdict, especially the women, made my blood boil, and I think pushed me down the road to writing a PhD on domestic violence and homicide, which I began the year after the trial (and which nearly killed me).

Spoiler alert: The fact that the mostly black jury came back with their not-guilty verdict in record quick time - they were expecting it to take weeks and it took four hours - was also a shattering blow for me at the time, and I expect for any woman who feels that our lives (and brutal deaths) have always mattered less than the lives of men, whatever our skin colour, though Ron Goldman's family felt the series didn't do his life and death justice. But Ron was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The case wasn't, to be fair, about him. Whereas it was about Nicole, who had been a victim of OJ's violence for many years and had run to the police on many occasions terrified for her life - which was all on record - but they never did anything to punish OJ and so he killed her, as she knew he would. So the racism of the LAPD was not in full force through all those years then, it seems. And Nicole's story is the battered woman's story the world over, black and white, rich and poor, but still we keep letting it happen, though it leaves children without mothers the world over, surely the worst outcome for everybody.

But for black women the OJ case was clearly much more about racism than sexism, or the leaving of two young (half black) children without a mother. I am not black, so I can't relate to that and the case was clearly about sexism and its devastating consequences for me. But perhaps that is my prejudice. I don't think it is but I guess it's hard to be sure. All I know for sure is that I am a woman and that I want to stand up for those women of all races who get a raw deal when it comes to male violence against them.

But the trial wasn't about sexism or gender. The trial was about race and racism, which the series shows well. The extent to which black men and women (in the general public, on the jury and on the defence's legal team) identified with OJ was clearly enough to systematically sabotage the trial to make a point about the racism of the LAPD and the USA more broadly. It was also aimed at making sure a clearly guilty black man didn't go to prison for a brutal double homicide (of a white woman and man), even though that rich black man had way more friends in the police force and rich white community than he had in the black community.

Watching this trial in 2017 and knowing what has happened since, I can't help thinking that this framing of the case did not do those in the black community in the US any favours, although maybe it helped politicise them, which in turn might have helped elect Obama, which was clearly a good thing for the black community - and many others. Maybe it even politicised Obama (along with the Rodney King trial and riots, which Netflix shows footage of at the start of the series); I don't know. I would really like to find out what he and Michelle, both lawyers, made of the trial and series.

Bottom line, I think we all need to see ourselves as clearly and honestly as possible and this series does that as well as any I've seen. We, humankind - as symbolised here by the people of all skin colours who live in the country known as the leader of the free world - are clearly profoundly racist and sexist and they/we don't have to be. I think the series shows us this too, and in this way gives us all some hope that we can be better - and we must.

Certainly, it seems very timely.

Thmerican Crime Story

Sunday, February 12, 2017

While whales beach

1 day ago
While more than 400 pilot whales beached themselves in a remote part of the South Island of Aotearoa - named, ironically, Farewell Spit - and as many human volunteers rushed from all over to try and save them, only for another pod of more than 200 to beach nearby two days later, with more than 300 whales lost in total so far, I have been busy beaching myself on the dry shores of my own self pity about problems that seem bigger than whales to me, but to others are no doubt not even the size of a slug washed up, after a long life well lived, on the back porch in the shade. Just as well those whales weren't counting on me.

Some problems are whale sized, others are slug sized or smaller, and it doesn't hurt to put your slug-size problems into perspective now and then. And when whales beach themselves in your neighbourhood, that's not a bad time to set aside your personal slugs and do what you can to help, even if it's only writing a blog about it instead of the woe-is-me blog you had in mind to write instead (I'll save that for later; I'm sure the woe will keep).

So for now I want to wish all power to those women and men who are still fighting to save the whales up north and thank you for the long hours of time given to making our world a kinder, bigger-hearted place.

PS: No slugs were harmed in the making of this blog or suggestion made that slugs are in any way less valuable than whales, just that they are rather smaller - and slimier.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Pussy power

It's my birthday and I can celebrate pussy power if I want to.

Last week's TIME cover delivered Trump air fisting - that eternal symbol of peace and love - so I am glad that the cover in my birthday week is one more fitting and less fisting.

The whole reclaiming of 'pussy' as a term of women's empowerment and unity rather than denigration by sleaze balls like the pussy grabber and fister in chief, and as neatly symbolised by a pink 'pussy hat' - because it is pink after all - fills me with a sense of sisterhood that I can honestly say as a feminist I have not felt in my rather long lifetime before.

So happy birthday me, thank you TIME, and pussy power to one and all!

And if you're wondering what to get me for my birthday, even if it is summer here, please feel free to take the hint. Purr, purr... (I can't knit).


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Facebook "feminism"

So a woman who calls herself The Kitsch Bitsch posted this newspaper article from 1963 on Facebook two days ago and since then it's had over 800 shares, a friend of mine among them, which is where I came across it.

Cultural causes of/responses to domestic violence was one of the subjects of my PhD thesis but only up to 2007, so not quite capturing the phenomenon of 'Facebook "feminism"' which has taken off in the last decade. I could have found this article though, pity I didn't. It's fairly telling.

I qualify "feminism" here because most of what gets posted and discussed on Facebook tends towards making light of the problem raised and at worst, openly mocking it, which perpetuates anti-feminist thoughts and deeds, however innocently intended, and cannot really be called feminism - that which works towards reducing male privilege by strengthening women's voices, rights and freedoms - unlike this article.

The KB herself states in response to some of the angrier male comments to her post that her Facebook page 'is a place for fun and escape from politics' and this was merely intended as a retro look back for purposes of amusement. Many of the ensuing comments, by women, said how amusing they found the clipping.

The few responses to my friend's share of the clipping were in this light-hearted vain, so I posted this comment: 'In the English common law practised in all English-speaking countries until relatively recently, husbands had the right to 'discipline' their wives with a stick provided the stick was no thicker than a man's thumb (pretty effing thick).'

My friend and another female friend of hers responded with disbelief (in brief) then a male friend of hers (Adam) responded thus: 'I soo want to comment on this thread... but I'm a scaredy pants so I won't'. Suspecting he wanted to make fun of my comment I replied: 'You just did', because that sort of comment says a lot - as he well knew - which then got my friend and her female friends goading him coquettishly - 'come on, we won't bite' - to make his comment and him replying again 'I am so tempted...', then more goading, until he finally mentioned BDSM.

Then followed a fun little exchange between them about spanking and BDSM, which ended with our original man Adam exclaiming 'Nurse!!!!' I'm sure he's a natural born comedian.

I didn't respond again but thought hard about telling my friend that taking the male point of view to be cool in the eyes of men at the expense of making light of violence against women is a very powerful anti-feminist force that has been feeding misogynistic sentiment and violence for centuries, but didn't. I went to bed instead.

This morning, when I took another look, someone (a woman) had mentioned Russia decriminalising wife beating so I looked it up and sure enough! So I posted this article on that subject, which is sadly all too true, on my friend's page and then on the original woman's page with the comment: 'Not history, not fun'. On my friend's page I posted 'If he beats you it means he loves you', a quote from the article.

So much for always wanting to be Russian. So much for Facebook changing the world - for the better.