glitzfrau: (sophie)
Dear Grauniad,

I am disgusted to see that what passes for 'comedy' these days has sunk so far that Armstrong and Miller traduce the memory of Flanders and Swann by dressing up as the classic duo in order to give their cheap, unfunny misogynist songs the patina of humour. Funny, isn't it, how Flanders and Swann never saw the need to make insulting fat jokes about women, and yet their parlour songs kept people convulsed with laughter in the golden days of BBC entertainment?

Yours,

Disgusted of Manchester

___

And the worst of it is, this is a true reflection of my feelings.
glitzfrau: (sophie)
Dear Grauniad,

I am disgusted to see that what passes for 'comedy' these days has sunk so far that Armstrong and Miller traduce the memory of Flanders and Swann by dressing up as the classic duo in order to give their cheap, unfunny misogynist songs the patina of humour. Funny, isn't it, how Flanders and Swann never saw the need to make insulting fat jokes about women, and yet their parlour songs kept people convulsed with laughter in the golden days of BBC entertainment?

Yours,

Disgusted of Manchester

___

And the worst of it is, this is a true reflection of my feelings.
glitzfrau: (Default)
We live right on the edge of glitzy New Labour Manchester, here. Five minutes to the south, Harvey Nicks, the Gomorrah that is the Printworks, Selfridges and the cathedral; five minutes to the north, Strangeways and a mass of rag-trade warehouses, empty parking lots with forbidding barbed wire surrounding it and armoured loudspeakers that bark 'Caution! Car thieves operate in this area!'. It baffles me, coming as I do from Dublin, where the inner city dissolves into tightly-packed working class villages, then redbrick villages, the suburbs and finally the industrial wasteland, three to ten miles out. Out of my window, which is situated on the very edge of the inner city, I should be looking down on a lively working class district like Leonard's Corner or Inchicore, not on... nothingness. It baffles me.

One time, driving into the city through the wasteland, I saw a sign for the Manchester Jewish Museum, and this grey moody Sunday I decided to visit. It's in the old Sephardic synagogue, ten minutes' walk north from here; full of relics of a lively Jewish community, complete, in that very British twentieth century fashion, with a flurry of self-improving organisations: schools, charitable organisations, amateur dramatic societies, working men's clubs, all the trappings of a lost community life.

But Jewish Manchester hasn't gone. I am sadly used to wandering around the Scheunenviertel in Berlin and its equivalents in other European cities, stumbling over the Stolpersteine and realising the extent of the lives and communities destroyed by the Nazis. Manchester, though, is still one of the Jewish cultural centres of Britain. So why was this area - Red Bank and Strangeways, as it is properly called - so devastated, so triste and empty where once it was full of working-class Eastern European Ashkenazis, Sephardic lords of industry and Gentile Mancunians besides? The guide at the museum explained that it had been designated a light industrial zone after the war, so the dwellings were pulled down.

"Didn't the Jewish community feel attacked?" I asked, the forced resettlements and ethnic cleansings of Europe on my mind. "Oh no," she said breezily, "people were upwardly mobile, and most of them had moved to the leafy suburbs already." The same story, then, as with Dublin's Little Jerusalem, full of Ostjuden in 1900 who had mostly become middle-class and moved to Terenure and similarly salubrious pastures by 1930. No tragic tale, then, just... rezoning. But Little Jerusalem is still an immigrant district, boasting Ireland's first mosque, full of halal southern fried chicken shops and callshops and African hairdressers. One set of immigrants moves up in society, another moves in; it's the multi-cultural urban dream, right? And the energetic clash of cultures and influx of new citizens keeps areas alive? Whereas this utter abandonment of a district within ten minutes' walk of the city centre to shabby warehousing, import-export businesses and decaying surface carpark is baffling to me.

Armed with a map of the old Jewish Quarter, I wandered around the district, and realised that it's not dead at all. There's the Sikh temple, for one thing, and the erstwhile Red Bank is now brimming with independent businesses - car hire or storage warehouses, but mostly the rag trade, with Asian names and hard-nosed discounts on the signs stacked up on the frontages of a wild array of disreputable buildings. These range from corrugated iron shacks, brave 1990s one-story brick buildings to mouldering palaces of industry of indeterminate age. And among them are the lost Jewish buildings: that is, those that remain and haven't been used and re-used until they've been condemned and replaced. I'm still bewildered by the mentality that sternly deems the area for industry only, not for dwellings or heritage or art or leisure, but that's the learning experience of emigration for you. Andere Länder, andere Sitten. And hey, there's always the inexorable onward march of buy-to-let apartmentland to revive the area, right?

traces )
glitzfrau: (executive lesbian from sinsense)
Brenda Power, interviewed on Liveline (roughly paraphrased, but not by much): "We have a huge problem with abortion in this country, and it doesn't help when young single mothers that were being encouraged to give their child up for adoption rather than have an abortion would think twice if they thought the baby might end up with Miss Panti and her boyfriend".

Question: That crazy hatefilled logic, weaving together homophobia and anti-choice thinking and patronising misogyny into a toxic parcel, was all about when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s. (In fact, those of you who have known me long enough will know I got sucked into it for a while.) But now? Is Power a lone offensive voice, trying to carve out a shock-jock niche in the Irish media? Or do people really still think like her? [livejournal.com profile] ideealisme, I know you would say that Power is more widely representative of the New Ireland than I think, but is she really that representative?

On the good side, the Irish queer community really seem galvanised by this. I'm still not about to thank Power, though.
glitzfrau: (executive lesbian from sinsense)
Brenda Power, interviewed on Liveline (roughly paraphrased, but not by much): "We have a huge problem with abortion in this country, and it doesn't help when young single mothers that were being encouraged to give their child up for adoption rather than have an abortion would think twice if they thought the baby might end up with Miss Panti and her boyfriend".

Question: That crazy hatefilled logic, weaving together homophobia and anti-choice thinking and patronising misogyny into a toxic parcel, was all about when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s. (In fact, those of you who have known me long enough will know I got sucked into it for a while.) But now? Is Power a lone offensive voice, trying to carve out a shock-jock niche in the Irish media? Or do people really still think like her? [livejournal.com profile] ideealisme, I know you would say that Power is more widely representative of the New Ireland than I think, but is she really that representative?

On the good side, the Irish queer community really seem galvanised by this. I'm still not about to thank Power, though.
glitzfrau: (executive lesbian from sinsense)
Annoyed at 1., Brenda Power's hatefilled article in the Sunday Times. But more, actually, annoyed with the Times for publishing it. Brenda Power and the Iona institute churn out ignorant, homophobic bile to order, bile of a low quality and with a gratingly sickly sauce of Christian tolerance poured on top. They don't represent anyone except themselves. And yet, the Irish media constantly turn to them to provide 'balance' in their Punch and Judy idea of a debate on gay marriage. Publishing Power's article just gives the homophobic arguments she peddles legitimacy. The Irish media should know better.

Annoyed also at 2., an illadvised viewing session of a puff documentary on Sacha Baron Cohen on Channel 4 on Saturday night. This showed a brief clip from Brüno, in which Baron Cohen performs a camp cheerleader dance in front of a vast crowd of American sports fans. The crowd, faces twisted in hate, roar "Faggot!" at him, as he beams beatifically and cartwheels on. The clip can't have lasted more than thirty seconds, but it was terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. I'm trying to figure out how to read it:

  • According to Baron Cohen's adoring friends and admirers, featured on the programme, Baron Cohen is a passionate liberal trying to unmask prejudice. If so, then he thinks that this stunt is revealing the true extent and ugly face of homophobia to a world that would prefer to think that it doesn't really exist, while simultaneously celebrating joyfully silly high camp and unabashed gay sex. That's a noble aim, and I completely support it.

  • But. This film is made in a context, and that context is a homophobic one. I don't know how many of you read the lengthy Guardian article by gay journalist Philip Hensher, trying to prove that the film really wasn't homophobic and that he, Hensher, was in on the joke, but it was a profoundly disturbing read.
    Brüno describes, with great care, what may be termed the "homosexual body", and describes what may be called envisaged homosexual sex. Neither of these, it seems to me, are intended to have anything at all to do with the bodies, or the real sexual habits, of homosexual men. They are delirious external fantasies.
    So Hensher is suggesting that it's OK to laugh at Brüno, because he's a parody of heterosexual fears. Real gay men, as he goes on to say, are mostly straight-acting and bourgeois and dull. But that's not quite OK, because Power's article shows that part of the homophobic case against gay rights is built on fear of the shrill and the camp:
    Homosexuals insist that their nature is an inherent, essential reality, and not a lifestyle choice. But if we were to judge by the get-up and carry-on of some of those in the Pride march last week, that’s hard to believe. Some are definitely choosing to pursue a way of life that is quite alien to the majority of married heterosexual parents in this country, indeed deliberately and defiantly so.
    Power suggests that if we want our demands for marriage to be taken seriously, we shouldn't have an outrageous tranny like Panti as our spokesperson. Now, Baron Cohen may well be on Panti's side. He may be a fan of genderqueer performance and of viciously funny, bitingly intelligent activism. But if a gay reporter can argue that the film is saying that it's OK to poke fun at high camp and transgressive behaviour, a pro-Panti messsage is not the message viewers of the film are necessarily going to hear. And the final paragraph of Hensher's article was heartbreaking:
    And yet there is the audience. Towards the end of the film, Brüno tries to marry his faithful assistant, Lutz, who turns up in a wedding dress. The audience laughed as if they had never seen anything so funny in their lives. As it happens, I married a man last month.
    I found this desperately sad, and again, terrifying: I cannot imagine how scary it would be to sit in a cinema, next to my civil partner, with that homophobic laughter baying around me. (Which is why I don't think I'm going to see the film.) This paragraph suggests that poor Hensher is trying so hard to prove that he gets the joke and isn't a humourless bitter old queen that he's swallowing his fear and anger. Baron Cohen may well be meaning to satirise heterosexual fears about homosexuality. But if his satire is effectively granting the public permission to mock gay marriage, Baron Cohen might want to rethink his strategy. The joke may be on the audience, but they don't seem to give a toss. The message I am hearing from Hensher's report is that Brüno says that it's OK to dismiss and hate campness, and demand that queer people conform in order to be accepted; and that it's OK to laugh at queer marriage, because sure don't we have all the rights now. That's a pretty dangerous idea to promulgate.

  • Or, alternatively, Brüno will simply publicise homophobic acts and provide lots of useful incitements and models for bullying and hating gay people. (Just as Walliams's Lucas's "the only gay in the village" sketch provides a good stick to beat gay people with, because the joke's on the silly pink-rubber-clad self-obsessed gayer, isn't it, now stop whinging.) In which case, Baron Cohen has made a fortune by endangering the safety of queers in schoolyards and streets and families across the world, and he can fuck right off, so.

I'm not sure what to think. I know that Baron Cohen's humour is that tiresome thing, 'edgy', which sits between cringe and 'political incorrectness' and the boundaries of acceptability, and that it's designed to provoke exactly this kind of uncomfortable reaction in bourgeois prissy me. Even if 'edgy' comedy isn't homophobic (which it so frequently is), I don't enjoy it. With Brüno, though, it seems to me that Baron Cohen might be ramping up the stakes to a scary degree. But I do know I'm not paying Baron Cohen £7 in cinema ticket fees to find out exactly how subversive the film is, if finding out means sitting in the midst of a cinema filled with homophobic hilarity.
glitzfrau: (executive lesbian from sinsense)
Annoyed at 1., Brenda Power's hatefilled article in the Sunday Times. But more, actually, annoyed with the Times for publishing it. Brenda Power and the Iona institute churn out ignorant, homophobic bile to order, bile of a low quality and with a gratingly sickly sauce of Christian tolerance poured on top. They don't represent anyone except themselves. And yet, the Irish media constantly turn to them to provide 'balance' in their Punch and Judy idea of a debate on gay marriage. Publishing Power's article just gives the homophobic arguments she peddles legitimacy. The Irish media should know better.

Annoyed also at 2., an illadvised viewing session of a puff documentary on Sacha Baron Cohen on Channel 4 on Saturday night. This showed a brief clip from Brüno, in which Baron Cohen performs a camp cheerleader dance in front of a vast crowd of American sports fans. The crowd, faces twisted in hate, roar "Faggot!" at him, as he beams beatifically and cartwheels on. The clip can't have lasted more than thirty seconds, but it was terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. I'm trying to figure out how to read it:

  • According to Baron Cohen's adoring friends and admirers, featured on the programme, Baron Cohen is a passionate liberal trying to unmask prejudice. If so, then he thinks that this stunt is revealing the true extent and ugly face of homophobia to a world that would prefer to think that it doesn't really exist, while simultaneously celebrating joyfully silly high camp and unabashed gay sex. That's a noble aim, and I completely support it.

  • But. This film is made in a context, and that context is a homophobic one. I don't know how many of you read the lengthy Guardian article by gay journalist Philip Hensher, trying to prove that the film really wasn't homophobic and that he, Hensher, was in on the joke, but it was a profoundly disturbing read.
    Brüno describes, with great care, what may be termed the "homosexual body", and describes what may be called envisaged homosexual sex. Neither of these, it seems to me, are intended to have anything at all to do with the bodies, or the real sexual habits, of homosexual men. They are delirious external fantasies.
    So Hensher is suggesting that it's OK to laugh at Brüno, because he's a parody of heterosexual fears. Real gay men, as he goes on to say, are mostly straight-acting and bourgeois and dull. But that's not quite OK, because Power's article shows that part of the homophobic case against gay rights is built on fear of the shrill and the camp:
    Homosexuals insist that their nature is an inherent, essential reality, and not a lifestyle choice. But if we were to judge by the get-up and carry-on of some of those in the Pride march last week, that’s hard to believe. Some are definitely choosing to pursue a way of life that is quite alien to the majority of married heterosexual parents in this country, indeed deliberately and defiantly so.
    Power suggests that if we want our demands for marriage to be taken seriously, we shouldn't have an outrageous tranny like Panti as our spokesperson. Now, Baron Cohen may well be on Panti's side. He may be a fan of genderqueer performance and of viciously funny, bitingly intelligent activism. But if a gay reporter can argue that the film is saying that it's OK to poke fun at high camp and transgressive behaviour, a pro-Panti messsage is not the message viewers of the film are necessarily going to hear. And the final paragraph of Hensher's article was heartbreaking:
    And yet there is the audience. Towards the end of the film, Brüno tries to marry his faithful assistant, Lutz, who turns up in a wedding dress. The audience laughed as if they had never seen anything so funny in their lives. As it happens, I married a man last month.
    I found this desperately sad, and again, terrifying: I cannot imagine how scary it would be to sit in a cinema, next to my civil partner, with that homophobic laughter baying around me. (Which is why I don't think I'm going to see the film.) This paragraph suggests that poor Hensher is trying so hard to prove that he gets the joke and isn't a humourless bitter old queen that he's swallowing his fear and anger. Baron Cohen may well be meaning to satirise heterosexual fears about homosexuality. But if his satire is effectively granting the public permission to mock gay marriage, Baron Cohen might want to rethink his strategy. The joke may be on the audience, but they don't seem to give a toss. The message I am hearing from Hensher's report is that Brüno says that it's OK to dismiss and hate campness, and demand that queer people conform in order to be accepted; and that it's OK to laugh at queer marriage, because sure don't we have all the rights now. That's a pretty dangerous idea to promulgate.

  • Or, alternatively, Brüno will simply publicise homophobic acts and provide lots of useful incitements and models for bullying and hating gay people. (Just as Walliams's Lucas's "the only gay in the village" sketch provides a good stick to beat gay people with, because the joke's on the silly pink-rubber-clad self-obsessed gayer, isn't it, now stop whinging.) In which case, Baron Cohen has made a fortune by endangering the safety of queers in schoolyards and streets and families across the world, and he can fuck right off, so.

I'm not sure what to think. I know that Baron Cohen's humour is that tiresome thing, 'edgy', which sits between cringe and 'political incorrectness' and the boundaries of acceptability, and that it's designed to provoke exactly this kind of uncomfortable reaction in bourgeois prissy me. Even if 'edgy' comedy isn't homophobic (which it so frequently is), I don't enjoy it. With Brüno, though, it seems to me that Baron Cohen might be ramping up the stakes to a scary degree. But I do know I'm not paying Baron Cohen £7 in cinema ticket fees to find out exactly how subversive the film is, if finding out means sitting in the midst of a cinema filled with homophobic hilarity.
glitzfrau: (executive lesbian from sinsense)
Hello! I posted this to Facebook, but still feel enraged, so thought I could share my ire with you lot too. From the Grauniad 'Family' supplement yesterday, also, of course, known as the Grauniad 'Smug Middle-Class Heterosexual' supplement, the first article in years that I can remember that actually deals with a queer issue:

Gay godfathers rule

"David Waters is a godfather four times over. Why is he so popular? Well, he makes a mean fruit crumble, he's got great taste (for presents), has plenty of money (for the inheritance) - and no kids of his own
...
Dave is solvent. He's in a stable relationship with Jaye, who's also great. They have two homes - a neat flat in central London, for educational museum and gallery jaunts, plus a picture-book cottage by the sea - the perfect bolt hole for part of the summer holidays. And Dave works in the fashion industry so he has good taste, ensuring that all his gifts are likely to be a) expensive, though he will have bought them with a discount card, so we won't need to feel guilty, and b) tasteful, so it won't be a quick dash to Baby Gap but something unique and special, perhaps even from Tiffany. Also, Dave isn't likely to be distracted by his own children as - brilliant! - he doesn't have any and nor is he likely to at his highly advanced age. I bet he's barely fertile."

This written without a trace of irony. Who is this self-hating gay man? Two points: one, contrary to the gay yuppie cliché, recent research in America shows that in general, people in same-sex relationships are far less socio-economically privileged than people in opposite-sex ones.
After adjusting for a range of family characteristics that help explain poverty, gay and lesbian couple families are significantly more likely to be poor than are heterosexual married couple families.
- Notably, lesbian couples and their families are much more likely to be poor than heterosexual couples and their families.
- Children in gay and lesbian couple households have poverty rates twice those of children in heterosexual married couple households.
- Within the LGB population, several groups are much more likely to be poor than others. African American people in same-sex couples and same-sex couples who live in rural areas are much more likely to be poor than white or urban same-sex couples.

And secondly, even if we queer people are not rolling in pink cash, not in stable relationships, don't own chic property portfolios, don't have fabulous jobs, are not arbiters of taste and do have children, we are still valuable members of society and still can be loving godparents to children. Rather than being patronised as 'add-ons', tolerated on account of our slightly excessive wealth (so unlike the worthy poverty of hard-working families, another New Labour phrase I loathe, detest and wish to scorch from the lexicon. It makes me think of austere Victorian prelates preaching to ragged Victorian families that they should be poor but honest, let the three-year-old handle the child care and the six year old go up the chimneys. Or of a smug heterosexual middle-class New Labour viewpoint that refuses to imagine people as dignified citizens and valuable human beings if they are not married, procreating and engaged in taxable labour.)

So yes. Thanks for the toxic clichés, Guardian! Way to fulfil your progressive mandate!
glitzfrau: (executive lesbian from sinsense)
Hello! I posted this to Facebook, but still feel enraged, so thought I could share my ire with you lot too. From the Grauniad 'Family' supplement yesterday, also, of course, known as the Grauniad 'Smug Middle-Class Heterosexual' supplement, the first article in years that I can remember that actually deals with a queer issue:

Gay godfathers rule

"David Waters is a godfather four times over. Why is he so popular? Well, he makes a mean fruit crumble, he's got great taste (for presents), has plenty of money (for the inheritance) - and no kids of his own
...
Dave is solvent. He's in a stable relationship with Jaye, who's also great. They have two homes - a neat flat in central London, for educational museum and gallery jaunts, plus a picture-book cottage by the sea - the perfect bolt hole for part of the summer holidays. And Dave works in the fashion industry so he has good taste, ensuring that all his gifts are likely to be a) expensive, though he will have bought them with a discount card, so we won't need to feel guilty, and b) tasteful, so it won't be a quick dash to Baby Gap but something unique and special, perhaps even from Tiffany. Also, Dave isn't likely to be distracted by his own children as - brilliant! - he doesn't have any and nor is he likely to at his highly advanced age. I bet he's barely fertile."

This written without a trace of irony. Who is this self-hating gay man? Two points: one, contrary to the gay yuppie cliché, recent research in America shows that in general, people in same-sex relationships are far less socio-economically privileged than people in opposite-sex ones.
After adjusting for a range of family characteristics that help explain poverty, gay and lesbian couple families are significantly more likely to be poor than are heterosexual married couple families.
- Notably, lesbian couples and their families are much more likely to be poor than heterosexual couples and their families.
- Children in gay and lesbian couple households have poverty rates twice those of children in heterosexual married couple households.
- Within the LGB population, several groups are much more likely to be poor than others. African American people in same-sex couples and same-sex couples who live in rural areas are much more likely to be poor than white or urban same-sex couples.

And secondly, even if we queer people are not rolling in pink cash, not in stable relationships, don't own chic property portfolios, don't have fabulous jobs, are not arbiters of taste and do have children, we are still valuable members of society and still can be loving godparents to children. Rather than being patronised as 'add-ons', tolerated on account of our slightly excessive wealth (so unlike the worthy poverty of hard-working families, another New Labour phrase I loathe, detest and wish to scorch from the lexicon. It makes me think of austere Victorian prelates preaching to ragged Victorian families that they should be poor but honest, let the three-year-old handle the child care and the six year old go up the chimneys. Or of a smug heterosexual middle-class New Labour viewpoint that refuses to imagine people as dignified citizens and valuable human beings if they are not married, procreating and engaged in taxable labour.)

So yes. Thanks for the toxic clichés, Guardian! Way to fulfil your progressive mandate!