Tag Archives: Men

Of course! It’s teh girleez’ fault!

I’ve been muttering about this to myself for days, wondering would I / wouldn’t I write about it. After all, the person I am about to criticise is someone I respect, and whose work I enjoy. But really, Poneke? Is it all teh girleez fault?

A few years back, Poneke delivered an address to the Sceptics Society conference, which is now posted on his blog. It’s a fascinating piece, showing that our mainstream media is far more sceptical about Western medicine and medical science than it is about new age nonsense, like homeopathy and iridology and feng shui. I find that a worrying trend too – why on earth is all this non-scientific crap getting a free pass? So I agree with the basic concerns raised by Poneke in his post. Moreover, I choose Western medicine over acupuncture, herbalism and prayer, every time. As for psychics and astrologers and other such charlatans who prey on other people’s tragedies, don’t get me started.

It’s when Ponoke stops reporting and analysing, and starts blaming, that I get upset. Why, he says, does the MSM give this kind of nonsense a free pass?

His answer – it’s all because there’s more girlies writing these days. He starts with the women’s mags, pointing out that they are full of stories about the alleged efficacy of the various alternative charms and spells. From there, he deduces that women are taken in by this stuff, and they like it. And that leads to saying that women journalists must believe in it. On top of that, it turns out that journalism is being feminised, even in the big newspapers. So the poor silly chookies have taken their uncritical belief in witchcraft and spread it right through the media.

The trouble is, Poneke’s analysis is based on what was published between September 2003 and August 2004 in 13 daily and weekly newspapers, including all the ‘big’ newspapers in New Zealand. Whatever the gender makeup of the newsrooms, aren’t most newspaper editors men? I know that the Sunday Star Times is edited by a woman, but as far as I can recall, during the time that Poneke used for his analysis, most of the other big newspapers were, and indeed still are, edited by men. So there must be a whole lot of mennies who have been brainwashed by the women’s mags too.

Of course, there is a much simpler explanation as to why the new age stuff gets this non-critical acceptance, even in the MSM. It sells. Rather than blaming the women writers for these pieces, it might simply be better to follow the money. Who would bother publishing a piece on feng shui if you couldn’t also sell the eyeballs to the advertisers?

That of course begs the question – why does this stuff sell? There must be an audience for it, or the women’s mags wouldn’t be full of it, and neither would the pieces in the MSM be so silly.

Poneke gives one highly plausible reason; following the cervical cancer debacle at National Women’s Hospital, many women, and presumably many men too, became deeply sceptical about doctors’ “authority”. But I think he misses another plausible explanation, to do with the way that women acquire and pass on information. And it’s not by listening to words of wisdom delivered from on high by people who can’t be bothered treating you with respect. Blue Milk has some words of advice for medical specialists, enthusiastically endorsed and added to by her commenters. Here’s the thing; if doctors treat you with contempt, brush aside your questions, tell you to just believe in them and trust them, and all the while, you know of far too many cases where trust in doctors has been rewarded with on-going contempt, then just how likely are you to go to them for further information, to feel that if you ask a question, it will be answered in a way that you can understand, without at the same time making you feel that you are stupid and small. In recent years, there’s been plenty of noise about the need to get men to see their doctors more often. I’m guessing that one of the reasons that men don’t like seeing doctors is not just that they don’t like admitting to ill health, but also that they don’t like being talked down to, and patronised. Their response? Avoid doctors. But what do women do in the same situation? Talk to each other. Gossip – pass on information and ideas. And that’s exactly the function that women’s magazines serve. Women connect with each other through them, get and pass on information, in an environment of equals.

So I think we can look deeper than the silly girlies when it comes to trying to explain why the MSM is so accepting to alternative medicines. I think that the explanations lie in the money trail, and in the failure of doctors and health professionals to treat women with respect, instead of treating them as a problem to be solved.

(As an aside, I’m not even so sure that the women’s mags are full of it. Last time I read one of them, at the hairdressers’, I found it was full of diet and weight pieces. Every celeb story commented on whether the person was looking too fat or too thin. And guess what? According to the mag, not a single person was looking good. I felt quite ill reading it.)

I see misogyny lurking in Poneke’s causal analysis. I wish he had dug a little further, thought a little harder about what might underpin the women’s mags, taken the time to look at the gender of people editing papers, not just writing them, and followed the money, rather than just blaming women. Of course I will continue to read and recommend Poneke to other people; I wouldn’t bother with this sort of analysis of some of the material presented on some of the other blogs around town. And no doubt he has plenty of issues with stuff that I write. In this case, however, I think he has just gotten it wrong.

So what finally pushed me to post on this? This charming bit of misogyny from Tumeke, where a woman is reviled for daring to have a baby. No mention of the baby’s father, who might just be held responsible too. No attempt to understand just how extraordinarily difficult it might be to care for a child in this woman’s circumstances. No idea that the woman might have had the baby because you know, that’s what people do. No – she is immediately dumped on for what the writer assumes to be her motives. What a great strategy – assign a motive to someone, then attack them for having that motivation. Fantastic. And there seems to be a nasty intersection of racism and sexism here too – would the writer have had a go at a white woman in quite the same way? I find it very odd, not least because the writers on Tumeke are often outspoken about racism, and the extent to which issues aren’t issues that the world should be concerned about if they only affect brown people.

Then there’s this bit of misogyny from The New Republic, analysed on Shakesville, and elsewhere in the feminist blogosphere.

And from Poneke himself, a nasty little jab at women. Not something he said himself, but did he really need to report this tired old sexism?

On top of that, Lyn wrote a nice piece about the web as menz space. Time to claim our space in it, she says.

So all my buttons have been pushed. And indeed, the fact that I sat on it for a few days, hesitating about whether or not to comment on it says something apropos of Lyn’s piece, all by itself.

Letting the dinosaurs out to play

eatingkiwimen.jpgThe Sunday Star Times is running a survey about the state of New Zealand blokedom. The on-line article is fairly innocuous, but the Star Times has gone to town in the print edition. The teaser headline on the front page starts with the claim that something’s wrong. The headline? “What’s eating men?” So right from the start the state of NZ men is framed as being wrong.

Then on the inside, the framing gets even better. Survey figurehead Simon Barnett opines that:

while feminism had been good for men and women, women still preferred men to be chivalrous. “There is confusion among men now as to whether we are to be income earners or caregivers, sensitive or manly, smooth or rugged, to protect our skin or not be such a nancy boy, pluck or weed whack, was or grow. Women are better at expressing themselves, they seem more comfortable with who they are and the talk! Communication over emotional issues is a tough ask for men.”

Wow. What a fabulous string of cliches and pre-suppositions, with a little bit of homophobia thrown in for good measure. Just how does he know what women still prefer men to be chivalrous, given that the survey hasn’t even been done yet?

Michael King is much more SNAG in his approach, but just to make sure we don’t get too sucked in, the dinosaurs are wheeled out for their comments. Coast to Coast organiser Robin Judkins thinks that women have too much power in politics, that feminism hasn’t been good for Kiwi men, and it was a woman’s job to be the primary caregiver to children.

But best, or worst, of all, Leighton Smith thinks that feminism hasn’t been good for New Zealand men, or for New Zealand women.

That’s right! Things were just so much better when women weren’t allowed to vote, got paid 2/3 of man’s wage despite doing exactly the same job, and weren’t allowed to do some jobs at all, even if they were perfectly capable of doing them. And of course, it was much better not to worry married women with ideas of consent – it was silly even to think there could be rape within marriage. As for a bit of biffo around the house, well, it was just a domestic. It’s just so obvious that feminism has been bad for women.

Then there’s more, an editorial piece, and a look at the questions.

It turns out that only men are allowed to answer the questions. I had assumed women could answer if they wanted to, but:

Please answer this questionnaire if you are a male aged 16 years of age or older. Only men aged 16 or over are eligible to win the draw.

The draw is for one of 50 subscriptions to fab magazines like Autocar, Boating NZ, Fishing News or Truck and Machinery Trader.

Now I’m happy to admit that I have no interest whatsoever in any of these magazines. Give me Cuisine any day. But I don’t like my voice being excluded, especially when it turns out that the purpose of the survey is about starting a national conversation. In the opinion puff piece, all the framing is put to one side. The purpose of this survey is not to lament the state of New Zealand men, not to lambast feminism, but “to spark a national conversation.” No matter the survey only wants male opinions. Evidently women aren’t really part of the national conversation.

On top of all that, it’s not even a survey. It’s an internet poll – lots of fun, but no way to get an accurate account of what New Zealand men really think.

Of course, it’s not really about having a national conversation at all. It’s really about selling newspapers, and it seems that framing a survey so that women can be blamed for men’s woes must guarantee sales.

Gentle reader, don’t fall for their silly little internet poll. Just ignore it, and don’t buy the newspaper.

Father’s Day Food

We don’t care for Father’s Day, or Mother’s Day, for that matter, in our family. Or to be precise, we don’t care for the crass commercialism that surrounds them. So as a matter of policy, we have tried to develop a Father’s Day and Mother’s Day tradition of coffee and breakfast in bed, and home made cards from the girls. And that’s it.

So, I made breakfast in bed for the daddy in our house today, and our girls made him cards, saying sweet things like, “I love you, Daddy” and “You are the best daddy ever”, which is a reasonable approximation of the truth, so far as I can tell.

And just as we have an ersatz Father’s Day, I made ersatz Eggs Montreal (scroll down to the variations on Eggs Benedict) for breakfast.

Instead of English muffins, I used toasted Vogels bread. I buttered it, or more accurately, put some olive oil spread on it, and then laid slices of smoked salmon – yum yum – on top and squeezed a little lemon juice over them. I poached two free range eggs, and topped the salmon with them. Instead of using hollandaise (all that cholesterol – ouch!), I put some curls of butter over the top of the eggs to melt and added a squeeze more lemon. Then a good grind of black pepper, some parsley fresh from the garden for a garnish, and voila – Eggs Montreal a la Karori.

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Kiwi fathers

Lincoln Tan has a lovely column on New Zealand fathers in this morning’s Herald. I recommend it.

We need a wife

A few years ago, when we were both working full time, and we had three pre-schoolers, I collapsed exhausted one evening when the children were finally in bed, turned to my husband and said, “We need a wife.”

We desperately needed someone to cook, clean, mend, garden, shop for food and clothes, and care for the children.

My husband thought about this for a while, and then said, “But who would sleep with her?”

End of that conversation.

But the point remains – the sheer volume of work involved in caring for a family makes it very difficult to combine work and family. There’s no work-life balance about it; it’s all work. The nature of the work changes a little as the children get older, but all that happens is that looking after tiny bodies, and doing absolutely everything for them, is replaced by taking children to and from school, and organising their activities, which takes time, even if the activities are limited (my girls have one formal lesson each, either ballet or piano), and one informal group lesson (art or chess, both run down at the local recreation centre).

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Please explain

According to this article in the New York Times, on average, heterosexual men claim that they have had seven sexual partners, and heterosexual women claim that they have had four.

The maths don’t quite add up.

The possible explanations? According to the article:

One is that men are going outside the population to find partners, to prostitutes, for example, who are not part of the survey, or are having sex when they travel to other countries.

Another, of course, is that men exaggerate the number of partners they have and women underestimate.

Later on the article acknowledges that the prostitute effect, if it exists at all, is likely to be small. And the way I see it, saying that men may overestimate and women underestimate is no explanation at all. The data already seems to be telling us that. It would be much more interesting to know why.