New Statesman | It’s revealing that there is so little public debate over what makes you a “real man”

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I’ve never tried being a man, but the writer Norah Vincent did in a year-long experiment for her book Self-Made Man, and she found out two things. Firstly, that people were amazingly eager to accept her as a man on the basis of a bound chest, a flat-top haircut, masculine clothing and some ersatz stubble. Secondly, that while it was easy to get classed as a man, living in that class meant being subject to constant scrutiny: “Someone is always evaluating your manhood […] everybody is always on the lookout for your weakness or your inadequacy”. In the end, Vincent suffered what she calls a “crack-up”, attributing it to the pressure of her restrictive alter-ego.

The best way to think about gender is as a kind of hell. Men occupy the narrow centre, with various degrees of “non-men” expanding outward in concentric circles, every region bristling with demons ready to prod deviants back into line or cast recalcitrants into the outer darkness. A man who falls out of manliness can only fall so far. A woman who fails at femininity, as Glosswitch describes, has failed doubly by gender’s underworld logic: first of all to be male, and secondly to be a woman, a low enough condition on its own even before you get banished to the far fringes of the inferno.

Read the full post the New Statesman

No one likes to be called a racist

Not even the BNP. Which is why they’ve wrapped up their race hate message in a tissue-paper parcel of culture wars speak (with some BNP material aimed exploitatively at children) and done it so successfully that even some of their own candidates didn’t realise quite what they signed up for. Corinne Tovey-Jones, a BNP candidate in Worcester, says she was persuaded to join the BNP after her husband was made redundant, but after having her electoral statement rewritten to criticise the “anti-social behaviour” of “an unruly minority”, she has tried to withdraw her candidacy and is now asking people not to vote for her. She says:

I don’t want people thinking I’m racist when I’m not. My sister’s married to an Italian – how could I be? My mum and dad are religious – they don’t need the upset.

Of course, it’s a lot easier for people like Tovey-Jones to remain ignorant if the reporting they’re exposed to is the uninquisitive fluff I looked at last week rather than the sort of work the Manchester Evening News has been doing. MEN editor Peter Horrocks says:

We took the decision to expose more details on their policies and, when we tried to speak to the deputy leader, Simon Darby, to confirm the BNP’s manifesto in 2005, when it wanted all non-white Britons to leave the country, he essentially said ‘Yes’ but refused to talk about the issue any further. When you think about that, to try and suggest that in multi-cultural Britain we in effect ‘repatriate’ society, it’s just an outrage and we felt it right to bring details like that to our readers’ attention.

The BNP really don’t like having that sort of thing brought to anyone’s attention. In fact, they’re so unhappy with it, they’ve attempted to orchestrate a campaign against the  MEN’s advertisers. From the BNP’s email to supporters:

If enough people do this, the companies in question will moan and groan to the Manchester Evening News’ business directors, forcing a behavioural change vis-à-vis the editorial team and journalists. We are calling on all genuine British Nationalists to heed this call and complain to one of the companies.

The BNP knows that its views are unacceptable. They recognise that “racist” is one of the most dismally pejorative labels anyone can pick up, and they’ve made a distinct rhetorical choice to explicitly deny being racist while expounding policies based on tortuously-defined ethnic groupings. And in turn, that’s why it’s so important that journalists aren’t satisfied with the simplistic point and counterpoint journalism which lets falsehood glide through under cover of “balance”.

Obviously, I agree with the MEN’s stance – but more importantly than that, what they’re doing is good journalism because it gives their readers information they can’t get from the official source. Hopefully, the MEN’s advertiser’s will recognise the value of that, and the perfect worthlessness of bending to a marketplace of bitter bigots.