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(no subject)

Stays away 2014
Places I stayed away in 2014 (* for repeats):

Kings Heath, Birmingham
Kingston upon Thames*
Mankinholes, Lancs
London Docklands
Billingshurst, W Sussex
Stechford, Birmingham
Halifax, W Yorks

Issues facing men
Issues facing men
There are those who say "men have it all right, why bother discussing their issues?" But just because a group isn't oppressed, doesn't mean it can't talk about what goes on within that group. See it as an internal enquiry if you like. And besides, men who are old, or black, or disabled, or gay, or poor or homeless do most certainly not have it all right. As Marin says in “Jack gets homeless, Jill gets welfare” (1991), “While it is true, in general, that men dominate both society and women, in practice is it only certain men who are dominant. Others, usually those from the working class and often darker-skinned, suffer endlessly from forms of isolation and contempt which exceed what many women experience.” And those men who are better off do not generally help those who are not. This is a core point: men do not by and large stick up for other men. In general, they ignore, undermine, and even kill other men.
However the only time the issues ever seem to be raised is when women’s issues are raised first, meaning that it’s only ever as a form of derailing. We deserve better than that and should be talking about the issues ourselves.
What are the real main issues facing men?
Read more...Collapse )

White Ribbon Day (15 June) is an International Day Against Violence Against Women and Girls. Well yes, violence against women or girls is wrong. "Every day women are killed by men and we turn to the sports pages" (a quote I can't find the source of now). But also every day men are killed (mostly by men, admittedly. I’m sure that’s a comfort to those they leave behind - not) and we still turn to the sports pages. Possibly more so. Although between two thirds and ¾ of murder victims are male, man-on-man killings don't by and large get the airtime.
Then there is warfare which is pretty much ritualised male-on-male killing but usually ordered by older men with younger men as the victims, and with the side effects of men being viewed as disposable, and stopping them making common cause with one another.
There is an entrenched culture of machismo in society which leads to men believing they can define who is ‘a man’ and who isn’t. Sorry, but you don’t get to choose. Nor is it helpful to tell other men to ‘man up’, especially when you give other men no help to do so. It also feeds into the culture of bullying at school which often includes sexual assault, and a particularly toxic offshoot of this, where men who have been sexually abused as children are feared in case they turn into abusers themselves. Some do, it’s true, but a lot don’t
What is the main risk factor for becoming a victim of violence? Poverty. It makes sense really: the less money you have, the less able you are to get away from sources of harm.

There is a great deal of violence against men who deviate from the norm – for example single men who are suspected of being paedos even though most sexual abuse happens within families, and homophobic attacks. 26% of LGBT people report violent assaults against them, with the majority of victims being either transwomen or men. Transphobia and homophobia are sometimes  described as misogynist but may actually be an example of male misandry – just because gay men are perceived as ‘not properly men’ doesn’t mean they are seen as women.
Even asexual men get gay-bashed because they aren’t overtly heterosexual, never mind that they have never shown any sexual interest in their own sex either: an example of ‘compulsory sexuality’ whose counterpart is ‘virgin-shaming’ – a male equivalent of ‘slut-shaming’. Men must be sexual and any deviation will be punished.

This leads us to identity policing, where being a 'real woman' is pretty much the same as being an adult female, but being a 'real man' is withheld. Even otherwise progressive people will call out their fellow men for not being "men" in ways that would be called misogyny if applied to women. This can be called several things: The Man Box; hegemonic masculinity; or internalised misandry.

The rate of violent assault against young black men is especially high: homicide is the leading cause of death among young black men in the USA, a distinction they share with no other group.
The concept of Violence Against Women and Girls also suggests that violence against some children (i.e. boys) is clearly not a problem. Even promising-sounding organisations like Men Stopping Violence are not concerned with assaults against boys or men. But why not? Surely it is the opposite of a zero-sum game. Educate men and boys that violence against other men and boys is wrong and they will be more inclined to reject violence against women and girls.
This article at the SAVE website gives some background to this issue.
What would zero tolerance of violence against ANYONE look like? You could have a N2V day – No To Violence Day. How can you claim interest in men's issues without recognising that all violence is an issue?
There is a World Peace Day – 21 September and an International Day of Non-Violence – 2 October (Mahatma Gandhi's birthday).

Then there is domestic violence against men. DV is seen almost entirely as something that affects women as victims, but men are often victims of violent assault either by female or male partners. It’s true to say that more women are victims of severe partnership violence, but this is not to say that men are never victims. They are, and there is also a strong social pressure to 'be a man' and not complain about being on the receiving end. Turning to non-violent i.e. psychological abuse - an element of coercive control - men are as likely to be victims as women.

Higher among young women but older men – but you are likely to find press articles which go on about suicide among young women claiming breathily that it’s ‘a higher rate than anyone except older men.’ So why aren’t you more concerned about suicide among older men? Much is said about the ‘lack of a male role’ in a post-industrial society but the defined male role in that same industrial society was constricting also, and certainly harmful to anyone who rejected or was unable to live up to the macho standard. A lot of people do feel depressed or useless once, say, the children are grown up – or if there never were children and they regret this – but women tend to support one another and are more socialised to talk about such feelings. Men, however, undermine one another on a regular basis and as they feel they cannot speak about their feelings they act upon them in a different way, whether by actual suicide or by self harm including alcohol / substance abuse.
There is an article on the subject here: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/15/suicide-silence-depressed-men. In 2012, Male suicide rates were more than three times higher at 18.2 male deaths compared with 5.2 female deaths per 100,000 population (figures from UK Office of National Statistics).

Homelessness and Social Isolation
Homelessness mainly affects  men, with many older men being forced onto the streets by divorce or relationship breakdown. Many of these have substance abuse issues and health problems which are made worse by the feedback loop of homelessness. In cases where they are ‘taken back’ by their wives they may be going back to an abusive relationship.
Underlying problems include a lack of low-cost housing but also a lack of decent alternatives to the family / couple way of life, which has become more pronounced in the last 30 years or so with increased housing prices. Co-housing does offer alternatives to the family but even here there we find projects such as OWCH – Older Women’s Co-Housing – which limits itself to women, despite men being more, not less likely to be socially isolated. Poor older men are very ill served, more likely to be homeless, alcoholic and so on. Older poor black men are worse off of all. Equally, gay, non-neurotypical or asexual men have a hard time of it. There is a stereotype that asexual men live ‘in their mother’s basement’ as if sexuality had anything at all to do with the desire for social independence. (Clue: it doesn’t).
Anyone who doesn’t fit in with the standard straight-couple-and-family setup is likely to need other ways of finding their own community; women have historically been good at this, men much less so, and need to find ways of developing their own support networks. One social support for older men in the UK and Ireland was traditionally the local public house but these have been in steep decline since the 1990s leaving men both single and married with little to do except be about the house.
You could say that we have a society that is not so much run to benefit men as to favour men in straight couples – what is often referred to as heteronormativity. This expresses itself for example in the bizarre bullying of lone men by men who are with women at the time - gender-flip that and it would never, ever happen.

Past the age of 40 men are anecdotally less likely to look after their own health, with a concomitant rise in alcoholism, heart disease and cancers such as prostate and lung cancer. Heart disease is actually under-reported in women but for something that is such a male issue there isn’t much health awareness around it. Depression in men is also probably endemic even though it is apparently seen as a ‘women’s issue’.

Forced Marriage
Not to be confused with arranged marriage in which both parties have the right to refuse until they meet a suitable boy / girl, Forced Marriage is associated with girls and young women being 'married off' very often to a man they have never met. Surprisingly it is done to boys and young men also, especially likely if they have learning difficulties or mental health issues. This may be presented as unfair to the woman or girl who has to marry them – which it is, but not only to her. This is not a zero-sum game: both parties can come off worse. It may also be invoked in the case of gay men – homophobia in traditional societies may arise from concepts of family honour where sons are expected to marry ‘well’ and have lots of children to carry on the family name.

Missing White Woman Syndrome
The perception that missing people are only newsworthy if white and female. This is less pronounced than it used to be. What if we were to be concerned about missing children? Adults, not so much. Some commentators have suggested that MWWS is unfair because it marginalises ethnic-minority women and girls. So missing boys and men don't matter, clearly (that's right, some children don't matter. Does that sound right to you? It’s not even clear that girls are more likely to be sexually abused than boys). Missing adults have quite likely run away from an abusive home of some description. They don't need to be found so much as they need support. So if you do find out where a missing adult is, don't dob them in to their family. Tell the police.
For a while I've followed two missing persons sites on FB – one in the United States and one in the UK. The US one does indeed major in white women but surprisingly perhaps a large proportion of those on the UK site are white men (escaping abusive marriages quite possibly).
http://www.thenubianmessage.com/2013/03/20/america-diagnosed-with-missing-white-woman-syndrome/ - from an African-American viewpoint, does point out that while roughly 50% of missing persons in the USA are men, "Rarely does the media cover stories of missing men, no matter their ethnicity."

Who is talking about this?
So if those are the issues, what if anything are people doing about it? A search on the Internet will turn up something called the Manosphere, which unfortunately tends to be socially conservative (see: MRAs) and united only in its blaming of women for everything. But whatever the issues are, they are not generally the fault of women.

Contending groups and phenomena
MRAs / MHRAs – Mens Rights Activists / Mens Human Rights Activists. Tend to be socially conservative and anti-feminist or anti- what they see as feminism, which is a straw man version of the kind of batshit radical feminism that even most feminists can't stand (and which could be described as the ‘paranoid hypocritical’ wing of feminism). MRAs do make valid points such as the under-reporting of domestic violence against men. However they wrap it all up in such a lot of name-calling and feminist-hating that the points get lost. They are also much concerned with divorce settlements / child access / child support. Groups such as Fathers 4 Justice are about this.
At least "Why do I have to pay child support when I'm not allowed to see my children?" is in principle a valid complaint even if it's often not that simple. MRAs tend to be straight middle-class white men, who aren't the ones facing most of the issues. Add in alpha-male-ism and Homophobia and they don't sound like part of the solution.
MRAs also have a thing about female-on-male rape (not male-on-male which possibly sounds a bit gay for them) and false rape accusations, which are real issues but not the most pressing. Compared with male-on-male violence, homelessness and suicide they aren’t really issues for men at all.
Interestingly there is a kind of ‘inverse MRA’ phenomenon among white middle-class liberal men who assume that because things are pretty much ok for guys like them then they must be so for all men and so avoid any discussion of men’s issues. This mirrors the accusations of White Feminism that went around recently – that Feminism was predominantly white middle-class women, i.e. those who least need it. (though do they? They’re the ones most likely to be hitting the Glass Ceiling – they are well educated and articulate, and ought to be able to go as far as they like, but very often can’t).
PUAs (Pick Up Artists) ought to present as sex-positive men but instead appear cynical and manipulative -- their main thread is getting women to have sex with them. Though in a climate where women are encouraging one another to show themselves as sex-positive, why, the PUAs are saying, can't men be that way as well?
MGTOW – Men Going Their Own Way. Sounds ok in principle, men who refuse to go the standard route of relationships / marriage / children. However rather than revelling in their freedom, they sit around complaining about how beastly women are to them. Much discussion revolves around the ‘status’ of women that they might / might not be in relationships with, which sounds much like the hierarchical tone of most MRA discussion. Men should be able to go their own way but are held back not only by the self-pitying MGTOWs confusing the issue but also by the way that men police other men and any 'deviation' is held up to ridicule, anger, or even violence.
What would a real ‘go your own way’ look like? What if we had the right to reject traditional romance / couple / marriage setups? A curious phenomenon from Japan may give us an idea.
Grass eaters (soshokukei) are on the surface a Japanese equivalent of MGTOW. However they are not an actual movement, more a sociological phenomenon. While MGTOW blame women for their own refusal to have relationships with women, soshokukei don't 'blame' anyone, because 'blame' implies something bad has happened, and grass eaters are happily single. They simply don't want to get involved in the relationships/marriage stuff. This can be traced to the Japanese traditional family culture which idealises parental overwork, in the form of the salaryman working long hours and probably having a heart attack at 40. Who, the grass eaters say, needs that? I like the concept of a HSM (Happily Single Man) who may not be averse to being in a relationship but doesn't see it as obligatory.
Article: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/dec/27/japan-grass-eaters-salaryman-macho
I do wish the article wouldn’t refer to ‘commitment-phobes’ though. That is an accusation better levelled at PUA-types who go from shallow relationship to shallow relationship. Grass eaters, to reiterate, aren’t playing that game at all, so how can they be ‘commitment-phobic’?

So now what?
Let's start with the perception that women should be allowed to do whatever they like, and so should men – provided it causes no harm. The same "do no harm" applies to women as well as men of course but seems to be a given in their case.
"Equal opportunity also means working toward a culture in which men have the opportunity to express emotion openly, display empathy and kindness without ridicule, to be stay-at-home-dads if that is their passion, and to practice any hobby or sport without verbal emasculation – opportunity for every man to be a “real” man."
A society which has largely offered women the sole option of being wives has also only offered men the options of supporting a woman (as a husband), or supporting the State (as a soldier). The third option – supporting the community as a priest or a monk – has had its popularity in the past but is nowadays deeply suspect due to widespread reports of abuse and possibly also due to a culture which believes that everything men do is about sex and so if there are men for whom it isn’t about sex, they must be deeply dodgy. I don’t have a name for this phenomenon, but it needs one. [not the ‘compulsory sexuality’ phenomenon, the one where men have to be husbands or soldiers.]
"Everyday Feminism" contains much that is useful. Look at
also - the way in which some men believe they can define what is a man and what isn't.
"Meanwhile, the blue-collar workers tend to be ones who feel disempowered and disenfranchised by society; they are more likely to lack popular indicators of social value such as financial success or social influence.
"As a result, they are more likely to look for alternative means of gaining respect and influence from one’s peers – physical toughness, macho behaviour, violence and aggression. [...] Every interaction between men is one of a struggle for dominance. There are no equals, only the dominant and the submissive. [...] The vision of manhood perpetuated by the hyper-masculine ideology is one where men are little better than chimps. " (op.cit.)
Every time any one of these people goes on about being an 'alpha male' I shall ask if he sees himself as a chimpanzee, a violent fanged creature given to tearing smaller creatures limb from limb. These large, powerful and very dangerous apes are the ones who have alpha males – not wolves, who despite popular belief have a more nuanced setup based on social obligation, the younger deferring to the elders, and outsiders having to prove their worth in order to be accepted – which worth need not be the ability to fight (as the alpha-male proponents would like to believe) but the ability to be of use.
http://prospect.org/article/look-inside-mens-rights-movement-helped-fuel-california-alleged-killer-elliot-rodger is a good article by Jaclyn Friedman that does mention that "...these issues deserve a thoughtful response and the force of an organized movement for address them. It’s too bad that’s not what men’s rights activists are offering."

Why can't I travel light?
List of items packed for overnight trip 20-21 June 2014 - including clothes worn at time of setting out
(number in brackets is number actually used if not full total)
Other items including bicycle, hearing aid, glasses are not counted
3 pairs socks (2)
1 pair running (trainer) socks
3 pairs pants
1 T-shirt
2 short sleeved shirts
1 long sleeved shirt (0)
1 Brompton bike cover
1 bicycle lock
1 mobile phone
1 tablet computer
1 running shirt
1 pair running pants
1 zip-through running top
1 waterproof (0)
2 pairs trousers
1 pair pyjamas
1 lightweight jacket
1 zip-through cardigan-type top
3 packets tissues only 1 of which unopened, all 3 opened by end of trip
1 washkit
1 shoulder bag
1 diary
1 paper notebook (0)
1 paperback novel
1 wristwatch
1 hearing aid case
1 bumbag
4 pens (1)
1 lanyard (found in shoulder bag)
1 pair black shoes
1 pair running (trainer) shoes

Not the best possible taste
There is something really wrong with the way things taste at the moment. I know I'm slightly intolerant of milk though not cheese so much. But this is a very odd taste and smell that has been around for a while now. Had some beer last night that may have been it as well.

I am currently RTing Tweets that relate to Hammersmith and Fulham, that council having gone Labour in the recent changes. However Kingston upon Thames has gone Tory as presumably the only way it could go with not so many people voting Lib Dem any more. Among other things the Rose Theatre will not get any funding from the new administration. Nobody seems to want the damn thing anyway which is a shame and even local arts stalwarts like Matt Rees are prepared to say 'go to Riverside Studios instead'. Yes but Matt, we could turn the Rose into a local equivalent of Riverside Studios only not now.

Honestly, you go away for a little while ...
... and when you come back LiveJournal looks different and also Firefox has a new version that looks more like Chrome and keeps giving me 'not responding' messages. I have sympathy with those who have talked about GRR Martin's use of an old-school WP package; less to go wrong. And one might keep a separate writing PC and internetting PC (my Acer tablet does the internet thing but I don't really trust it for anything that requires money to be changing hands. I am not by and large buying things online at present but rail tickets etc are an exception).

I've also moved the website/blog to Typepad and embarked on cafe reviews and what I want to call something like Midlands Book Reviews - except that it will be West Midlands, and not 'Birmingham Book Reviews' either because other WM places such as Wolverhampton, Solihull, Dudley, Tamworth, Rugby, Coventry, Bromsgrove etc will get in. This is all about writers from the West Midlands or books set in the West Midlands, including serial-numbers-filed-off ones like David Lodge's "Rummidge" series. Which are set so much here that their primary location (Birmingham University) is just over the road and I regularly make use of its swimming pool. (though not regularly enough recently).

Not doing a lot of writing at the moment apart from those reviews -- one of the writers' group members thinks it might be because I'm changing my style / methods even if I don't realise it and the transition is difficult. I suspect she is right.

(no subject)
Recently I've been to Iceland and the Pennines.

Points in common: moorland scenery, steam coming out of the ground.

Iceland: expensive but especially for booze as the Icelanders don't have an alcohol culture being more likely to drink coffee and Reykjavik is a touristy city which explains why it's so nice (although the outer 'burbs are as dismal as they are in, say, Bordeaux - I mention Bdx because I shared a flat in its cross-river suburbs for six months at age 20-21 and it was the most soulless place I've ever lived in. Resolved after that, that if I lived in a town I'd actually live in it not its outliers. Justified Kingston at the time by saying that it was a town unto itself but in the years since 2005 - really since 1998 or thereabouts - it's lost a lot of what gave it that individuality).
Iceland: also, geysers, waterfall, fermented shark. Recommended: Cafe Loki but not the Sea Baron which despite its reputation (apparently good) - a waterfront cafe restaurant it is not all that. It's ok but I don't see why the hype. Likewise the art galleries trail we went on was expensive and not as good as the small one-woman gallery near the port that we stumbled upon by chance. Whose artist reminded me not a little of my Kingston friend Hanna - her style is not the same but her approach is.
Icelandic language fascinated William Morris and JRR Tolkien if I remember correctly. Forms very long compound words.
Travelling was by A320 of Easyjet on the way out and B757 of Icelandair on the way back. Icelandair have an all-757 fleet having pre-banking fail experimented with 767s also.

Pictures are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chramies/sets/72157643665424484/
and here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chramies/sets/72157643665381533/

Pennines: too much walking if you can have too much walking without it leading to actual injury (it didn't). Walking 10 miles round trip to buy farm eggs is pushing it a bit really. New word: swithering (I think): burning heather off a hillside. This looked alarming to the point that there were panicked questions asked. Small scale swithering being done led to the steam coming out of the ground in the Pennines also.

Pictures: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chramies/sets/72157644268806435/

Power in the Blood
Someone at work mentioned Alabama3 recently. That was a bit of a surprise.

(no subject)
A recent mention of Dreamwidth was underlined when I looked for "Sonja Kristina" + "Kingston Green Fair" and found one of the results was my Dreamwidth posting from 30 May 2005. I was quite honestly gobsmacked as hadn't realised I'd been on Dreamwidth as well for the best part of 9 years. But actually no it isn't as at some point I must have imported my entire LJ!

A happy mothers* day to my Mum who I phoned this morning. Yes, she is actually my stepmother but she married my Dad when I was 17 or so, so she's been there most of my life (cf. a certain person saying "They're not your real family." They think they are and so do I). Also remembering my birth mother who in truth I hardly do remember although I have a picture of her in the living room.

*mother's because she's your mum or mothers' because it's all mothers everywhere?