While we’re on the subject of crappy things to do with gender, the second half of the two-day event we could call “heterosexual parenting and conventional gender role celebration day” is upon us: Fathers’ Day. I think we can thank the febrile minds of advertising executives for the top quality definitions of fatherhood that we see every year. As I sit in front of the television in a stupor of an evening you can sense Fathers’ Day is upon us when there is a sudden increase in Mitre 10, Bunnings, and Repco ads about the perfect gift for dad. Mitre 10 has a range of gifts for Fathers’ Day. This looks good.
But I think the Repco catalogue nails it:
I reckon it’s the breathalyser which is this catalogue’s defining moment. A bit expensive, but maybe the kids and mum could all pitch in together. What a touching scene when the kids run into the bedroom on Sunday morning with a clumsily wrapped breathalyser. We know how you like drinking, dad, and we know how you like driving….
Which brings me to The Block NZ. I watched an episode. The contestants were told they had to build a garage. It’s almost as if this show – which is actually a coordinated series of advertisements – decided to run its garage build in conjunction with Fathers’ Day. So, let’s think of the garage existentially. What, if we really think about it, is a garage?
We want to make it the ultimate man cave.
[We need to win] to boost his manhood.
How would that boost my manhood?
Because it’s a garage! It’s a man place!
Our garage doesn’t actually have to be just a man’s place. It could be a gardener’s place where she stores all of her pots and stuff.
I don’t understand design…. I’m a typical guy. I like hammer and nail and go at it. The garage could be my thing.
Women like bathrooms and kitchens and stuff and the man’s going “nah, I can’t afford it” then he goes in the garage: “sold! I love the garage”.
To summarise, a garage is:
- a man’s place, a cave, an ultimate man’s place
- men have money and ultimately decide if they’re buying a house
- women like kitchens, bathrooms and gardening
- men like drinking in garages and watching TV (with other men)
That’s some pretty refined thinking on the nature of architecture and gender. It sort of reminds me of that stage where girls and boys at primary school pretend they can’t stand each other. This is generally a phase, but some people don’t seem to grow out of it they just become more offensive about it. Privately.
You know what I’m talking about now. Cameron Slater and Jordan Williams’ comments on women. When I read this type of thing I am always kind of stunned because I have never had this kind of conversation with another man, or been in a room where this kind of conversation has happened, and – although most of the influences in my life have turned out to be female – most of my friends at school and uni were male. It’s not just that I can’t imagine saying the kinds of things that Slater and Williams say, it’s that I can’t imagine anyone I know saying those things. Some people can apparently.
Maybe it’s because I don’t have a bar in my garage. Maybe if I had a bar in my garage I would be able to talk like this. Actually, let’s be honest, I don’t have a garage at all so I’m probably not even a real man.
In the battle of ideas over gender (or anything) it’s not actually a single thing that creates the norm it’s a thousand little things that form a mosaic. If you object to one thing, one piece of the overall picture – “bloody Repco flyer” – you just look like a dick (“jeez, it’s just a Repco flyer, get a grip”), but the cumulative effect of all these little things does the damage. Sexism is always trying to normalise itself. John Key has consistently tried to normalise the tone of Slater’s email and Facebook exchanges:
I’m sure they do have a robust conversation, and probably if I looked at your emails to Patrick Gower they might be pretty rough too.
See? We’re all at it.
Here he is trying to normalise more bad behaviour:
So, if a left-wing blogger went around and found out that there was a situation where the security had been taken off [the National Party website] and went around and told – I don’t know – someone who works in David Cunliffe’s office, would they potentially go and have a look? The answer is yes and that would be totally fine.
Firstly, the whole “everyone does it” line doesn’t fly with me. It’s not that I think no one does it, whatever it is – playing dirty politics, spouting misogynistic garbage – but because some people do it doesn’t mean you can say everyone does it.
Secondly, even if everyone did do it would that be ok? “Every” black person was a slave in America once. Many of the people who wrote the Declaration of Independence were slave holders. We hold these truths to be self-evident, all men (
white men, white rich men, please note we actually do mean men and not mankind)… ah, f*&k it.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men want a man-cave-ultimate-man-space-garage with a TV and a bar where they can talk smack about b*%tches with their other manly man friends.
Could we have a different fathers’ day please? And a different mothers’ day? How about we just have a tumultuous, confusing and awesome gender identity day? In fact, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to do it tomorrow. I’m going to hang out with my family, and I’m going to tweet three men who I admire and make me feel good about being a man. You could do the same. For, you know, your gender, and what it means to you, not what the media thinks you are.
Happy tumultuous, confusing and awesome gender identity day tomorrow.
Good luck coming up with a hashtag for that one.