Tag Archives: Masculinity

Karl Stefanovic is not the hero men have been looking for

Trigger warning: the following article will address themes of gender based violence and self harm.

Don’t get me wrong, he seems like a well-intentioned guy – and along with his Today co-host Lisa Wilkinson (whose takedown of 50 Shades of Grey will go down in television history) have created a really heartening voice in the maelstrom of commercial TV recently landed in hot water over Karl’s arguably racist quips (this article was in edit by the time Karl made his initial comments).

In November Karl announced that he’d been wearing the same suit on air for a year in order to highlight the double standard in the appearance of TV presenters. After the stunt, Karl donated the suit  which was auctioned off for $10,000 for White Ribbon, an Australian campaign to stop violence against women.

But it’s an article in Sunday Style on March 22 Karl Stefanovic talks weed, women and why he’s bringing back the bloke that raises red flags that Karl might not be the role model men need right now.

”I think they’ve gone soft,” Stefanovic says of Australian men in his interview. “I think they’re confused. I think their idols, a lot of whom are only in their twenties, are confused and male identity is being watered down.”

Karl continues to present a list of things he doesn’t think are quite masculine enough including shaved chests, pre-mixed drinks, and not gambling (responsibly). ”I lament that down the pub these days guys are drinking Vodka Cruisers – I mean watermelon Cruisers? Give me a break.”

Unwilling to accept the truth that people of all genders drink Malibu and pineapple juice because it’s fucking delicious, Karl continues to make his boldest statement.

“I just think that over the last decade we’ve become so preoccupied, and rightly so, with trying to ensure that women are OK with us and that we’re OK with women, but I think we’ve done that now. Yeah, there’s still a long way to go for women in this country, in this world; but I think as men, well, you don’t have to give up being a man, or give up the elements of being a man.”

Actually, Karl. I think we do. According to Destroy the Joint, 24 women have already died to violence throughout Australia in 2015. White Ribbon (the same White Ribbon to whom Karl Donated his suit) state that intimate partner violence is the leading contributor to death, disability, and ill-health in Australian women aged 15-44.

According to the organization,
“One common cause of men’s violence against both men and women is in the way we currently express masculinity – rigid masculine norms promote and excuse aggression and this has the potential to damage and limit both young men and women.”

When you take ‘being a bloke’, and strip out all of the parts that make for ‘good people’ generally, you’re only left with negative, or arbitrary attributes. Yet from an early age we teach our boys that men shouldn’t be emotional, should always be in charge, and should not stand lightly by if their honour is impugned. Centuries of arbitrary re-enforcement have led to a point where in 2012, men accounted for 75% of all suicides. It’s possible that if those men felt like they were able or allowed to seek help, that more of them would be here today.

Our idea of masculinity sits at the heart of so much human suffering in Australia. And that’s why it’s so disappointing to see well-intentioned-Karl sticking up for ‘blokedom’ in such a dismissive way. While the feminist movement has revolutionized the way Australian women live, there has been no popular equivalent movement for men. In fact, the most common complaint about feminism from men is that it’s not inclusive of us, or doesn’t directly stand for our betterment.

If we want to really start a change in men, we need to do it ourselves and utilize our intrinsic male traits inherent human traits of determination, perseverance, bravery, and grit. All it takes is for us to realign our thinking. Let’s do good things not because we’re men, but because we’re good people. Conversely let’s stop feeling negative about not being a ‘good man’ if it’s anything beyond ‘being a decent human being’.

Change as a gender will never come unless we’re willing to embrace new ideas in our daily lives — these changes can be as small as drinking a delicious piña colada at the pub or as courageous as calling out sexist or abusive behaviour among male friends or in the workplace. We should cherish the women in our lives, and make sure that we concede the space for them to act, speak, and express themselves fully.

Karl hasn’t turned out to be the inspiration that men need right now — Instead, we need to find the inspiration within ourselves, and a vision of a better world for everyone.

Abbott calls for action on binge drinking

….“We need to tackle this issue in a comprehensive and considered way. We don’t need knee-jerk reactions and stunts that give the illusion of action, but don’t make any real, lasting difference,” wrote Tony Abbott in his open letter to the nation shortly before stating the the matter was “in the hands of state and local governments.”
….“Boxing taught me many things, including the power of a single punch… we all want to see the courts absolutely throw the book at people who perpetuate this kind of gratuitous, unprovoked violence,” Abbott continued, unaware of the damage George R. R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords can cause when hurled at the back of someone’s head on a busy Saturday night.
….Elsewhere in his magnum opus Abbott compared the outrageous drinking habits of ‘youngsters’ to the healthy manner in which the older generation drinks. “… there’s a world of difference between having two or three drinks a night and occasionally a bit more on a Sunday night and this new binge drinking culture which sees young people drinking nothing from one week to the next and then, when they decide to have a drink, not knowing when or how to stop,” the Prime Minister wrote.
….It is indeed a mystery how a new generation could turn something so healthy as 14-21+ drinks a week into something so ugly as a dozen drinks on the weekend.
….At the same time a recent spate of marijuana fueled violence has failed to draw comment from the Prime Minister.
….“I just said that I was a big fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Books and I had a backlog of other things to watch,” said one man who preferred to stay anonymous.
“He proceeded to quite slowly wail on me, stopping only when he momentarily forgot what he was doing,” he said.
….Spokesperson for the Australian Association of Weedaholics, Saweet Sativa said that she was not surprised by people’s actions. “Some people are predisposed to violence with certain substances,” she said. “It’s a shame but it’s also a fact of life that some people are just biologically predisposed to become hyper violent while hitting a bong in their parents basement. Luckily these have had a lot of success drinking alcohol instead. Honestly we’re just lucky they have the choice.”

Behind the Satire
I have to admit I felt a little guilty writing this piece. That is to say despite my attitude towards satire as a constructive force in itself I felt compelled to write an afterword. While reading articles connected to Abbott’s open letter I came across tragic stories of violence that have left lives and families shattered.
After a night of drinking a man punches another man in the back of the head. Tomorrow the headline reads, teen binge drinking epidemic. It’s a very neat way of squaring the blame at the younger generation. These kids have just started drinking to excess for no reason whatsoever. Alcohol just necessarily leads to violence.
Or does it?
In the six months I’ve been living in Laos (Southeast Asia) I’ve not seen one fight. Not one punch, not one push, not even one burst of profanity. It seems pretty far away from Hindley St in Adelaide where walking down to your favorite bar is like doing a slalom around guys beating the living shit out of each other.
And that’s not to say that the Lao don’t like getting drunk. They definitely do. But their ‘binge drinking culture’ just doesn’t have that violent aspect to it.
Blaming drunken violence on ‘binge drinking culture’ is an easy way to avoid the painful truth that it’s not binge drinking that’s the problem. It’s us.
It’s our conception of masculinity in Australia that is driving violence on our streets, not alcohol. In many ways men drink heavily because they think it’s a ‘manly’ activity. In a society where our Prime Minister instructs us, for our health, to only have three drinks a night plus more on the weekends every person with a predisposition for alcoholism will surely feel its pull.
What does it mean to be a man? What exactly do we tell our boys from a young age? How does mass media, popular culture and I think most importantly Australian culture inform the way that males behave?
A man is ‘supposed’ to not cry, or accept insult, or be beaten in a contest of bravado.  An Australian man is meant to be no-nonsense, he’s meant to be ‘blokey’ he’s meant to be crass and tough.
If a man is beaten in a contest of bravado, if someone shows up his machismo, then he is less of a man and more of a woman. It’s almost impossible to argue that being seen as feminine in mainstream male Australian culture isn’t undesirable.
The only way for the man to correct the grievance, to reclaim his rightful masculinity, is to display his dominance and perform an act of violence.
Don’t get me wrong, the mainstream idea of what it is to be feminine is equally absurd, but there are plenty of wonderful and far better versed feminist writers and activists who talk about this issue that I won’t go into it here.
The phenomenon of binge drinking has encompassed the public discourse because it allows us to distance ourselves from our own culpability.
Again, what makes a man want to punch another man over some minor grievance? What makes him think that nothing less than striking a perfect stranger will keep the respect of his friends? What makes him think that the kind of respect that requires violence is worth having?
Until we face the cold truth that we have become a society that values the transformation of men into monsters imbued with a violent code of conduct we will never stop our violent ‘binge drinking epidemic’.