Being A Man pitch: thinking about the men in the media

Have I missed something or is the Southbank Centre being quiet on planning November’s Being a Man festival? They had a think-in in January to collect some ideas from the people who could make it to London. There’s another today and tomorrow. They’ve mentioned the think-ins on Twitter and Facebook but I haven’t seen them blog about it. There’s been no open call for ideas.

This festival was so great last time, but with room for improvement, so I’ve been blogging my ideas anyway. I wrote some thoughts about it after the Women of the World festival and have blogged a few things I’ve learnt since the last BAM. I’m lucky enough to live close to the Southbank Centre and not work Saturdays, so I’m going along to the think-in tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s an idea for a session we could do.

Hommes in the headlines: the men who’ve made the news, and why

This would be an interactive session where people can get together to talk about the men who have been splashed across newspapers and websites over the past year. It could be led by people who know about the media and gender, such as feminist academics, media researchers, journalists and campaigners. These leaders could mention a few examples of their own choosing to get things started, offering their thoughts on how ‘being a man’ has played out for these men. Then we can ask the audience for names of men they can think of, and talk about them together.

Here’s a few names and pop analyses to get us started.

Tim Hunt

Tim Hunt by Masur via Wikimedia

Poor guy. Right? Nobel prize-winning scientist says that women (“girls”) are too sensitive to be scientists, and that men and women should work in separate labs. Then he says it was a bad joke. Then there’s a media storm. Yawn. I’m so bored of this story and other people have written far better things about it than I’m about to attempt.

But I want to talk about Tim being a man. Let’s assume Tim was being serious when he stood up in front of guests at a lunch about female scientists in Korea. If he was serious, then he’s overtly sexist. Shame on him. For a man to stand up and believe those things after all the struggle of women and men for equality over recent decades is shocking. The point would be that it’s possible he isn’t really aware of the struggle. White men have the knack of being blind to these struggles. I am sure Tim knows about things like the suffragettes and the changes to paternity leave. But that’s academic.

Has he ever experienced negative treatment because of his gender (until now)? Has he marched alongside women as they’ve fought for fairer laws? Has he read any theory on how patriarchy works? Probably not. Men like Tim, who haven’t grabbed hold of how society continues to split men and women, are unaware of their sexism.

In fact, that point applies even if he was just playing for laughs. How would his words ever be acceptable even as a joke? Men have kept women out of the lab and other walks of life for centuries—yes, it is too soon to jest about that. Women are still experiencing harassment, pay gaps and prejudice today! We can’t let Tim off the hook because he said it was a joke just like we wouldn’t laugh it off if a white person stood in front of a class of black kids and said, “I want to own you all like slaves. Ahaha joking. Joking!”

So here’s what I want to say about Tim: joking or not joking, we men need to work harder to understand sexism and how society splits people based on their bits.

Tom Hopper, Adam Smith and James Pearson

The Leicester three by the Mirror

These were the three lads who played football for Leicester City before The Mirror newspaper published a video of them denigrating women. The lads were on a football tour in Thailand when they had group sex with some Thai women. They filmed themselves ordering the women around and saying horrendous, racist things to them. The players were sacked from the club.

Like most sex scandals, this story is about power. The footballers are white men who are no doubt influenced by the fact that there is a disproportionate amount of white men in power here in the UK. Historically white men have been in charge. And it remains the same in most countries; even though America has a president whose skin tone isn’t white, white people are still largely on top and doing better than non-white people in that country.

And it’s men. Football is a man’s game: it is run by men and the men playing it are seen to be more important than the women playing it. England’s women’s footie team had a huge success in a recent game but the radio sports broadcast the next day led with a non-story about how the new manager of a men’s football team hadn’t yet been announced. And let’s not forget the films we love, where men are the boss (a new Bond film this year, a new Mission Impossible…). Or the TV programmes, like Take Me Out, where men hold sway over women’s lives. Then there is porn. Porn is not a bad thing in itself. But when men only watch the kind of porn in which men denigrate women then you can guess what kind of sex turns them on in real life.

I don’t feel sorry for the three lads from Leicester City, but I am aware of all these things that swirl around our society and go into making men behave in the way they did. They’re just the ones who got caught. Society had the right reaction by pointing out their errors.
But I guess now they’re fired we’re not interested in rehabilitating them and showing them how women feel about being denigrated. I guess we won’t be talking to them about how they’ve got to stop seeing themselves as powerful men who can do what they want with women whose skin tone is different to theirs.

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