The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'machismo'
An article looking at the hypermasculine, testosterone-pumped vocabulary of Australian politics today, in the post-uppity-sheila age:
This past week, such figurative phalluses have been flying with particular prominence, with Tony Abbott suggesting that you don’t want a wimp running border protection (it is uncertain what that says about defence minister David Johnston), The Australian asking its readers to judge who is the “better man” between General Angus Campbell and Senator Stephen Conroy, and Conroy being accused of not being able to “man up” and apologise to Campbell for accusations of a cover up.
There is an element of conservative thinking that joins these dots. Professor of cognitive linguistics George Lakoff talks about the fundamental underpinnings of what he loosely defines as “conservative” and “progressive” mindsets. The conservative mindset is framed by the “strict father” model of thinking - that children learn through reward and punishment, and that the parent, particularly the father, is meant to mete out these. The idea of male, fatherly competence is central to this system of thought. It goes to the larger sense of the man as the strict, authoritative father figure, the competent provider. It goes to “adults” being “in charge”, being “fiscally responsible” and having “operations” rather than “policies”.
Manliness is no longer necessarily stoic and stolid, it must also be virile and athletic, preferably with explosions. Thus, when a naval error occurs near Indonesia, it’s a “missed tackle”, it’s why the process of dealing with desperate refugees becomes Operation Sovereign Borders, which couldn’t possibly be run by a wimp. It’s why the Abbott election pitch was all about “real action”, and the response to climate change is all about “direct action”. It is why, when a young kid gets whacked in front of a nightspot, it’s a “coward punch”, somehow implying that to punch someone square in the face is an ennobling act for all concerned.(Earlier: Australia, the steroid-soaked neighbourhood bully of the Pacific.)
Meanwhile, Australia's shift to conservatism in gender roles has extended even to the realm of ceremonial anachronisms, as Australia is the only Commonwealth country which has not yet passed amendments to royal succession laws favouring male heirs.
Russian president Vladimir Putin, it seems, has a fan base in the US, whose membership leans conservative and admires his red-blooded, two-fisted old-world machismo with perhaps a hint of envy:
There are many faux Putin fans in America—those who mock the hero worship ironically or half-ironically. But plenty of his fans are serious. Three months ago, Americans for Putin, a Facebook group, sprang up "for Americans who admire many of the policies and the leadership style of Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin" and think he "sounds better than the Republicrat establishment." The group has an eight-point policy platform calling for "a unified [American] national culture," a "firm stance against Israeli imperialism," and an opposition to the political correctness it says dominates Washington. Though that group is relatively small (167 likes as of Wednesday afternoon, ticking up every few hours), the Obama's-so-bad-Putin-almost-looks-good sentiment can be found on plenty of conservative message boards. Earlier this year, when Putin supposedly caught—and kissed—a 46-pound pike fish, posters on Free Republic, a major grassroots message board for the Right, were overwhelmingly pro-Putin:
"I wonder what photoup [sic] of his vacation will the Usurper show us? Maybe clipping his fingernails I suppose or maybe hanging some curtains. Yep manly. I can't believe I'm siding with Putin," one wrote. "I have President envy," another said. "Better than our metrosexual president," said a third. One riffed that a Putin-Sarah Palin ticket would lead to a more moral United States.
In user interface design, sometimes worse is better, as in the case of the Bloomberg Terminal, a proprietary computer terminal used by financial traders. The Bloomberg Terminal's interface, which hasn't been updated for a decade or so, is generally seen as cluttered and ugly. Proposals for more elegant redesigns have been knocked back, because the existing users like the macho ugliness of the interface and the aura of hardcore expertise it bestows on them:
Simplifying the interface of the terminal would not be accepted by most users because, as ethnographic studies show, they take pride on manipulating Bloomberg's current "complex" interface. The pain inflicted by blatant UI flaws such as black background color and yellow and orange text is strangely transformed into the rewarding experience of feeling and looking like a hard-core professional.In other words, the Bloomberg Terminal is one of a class of items whose bad design is a feature serving a higher-level social function; in this case, the function is that of being a badge of proficiency or status, and an artificial handicap to keep usurpers out. In this way, it functions somewhere between the tail of a peacock (which is expensive to grow and makes one more visible to predators, but having one (and being alive) also acts as proof of fitness) and the regalia and rituals of Freemasonry back when it was a force to be reckoned with. Of course, secrets are inherently leaky and can hold power only for so long, so sooner or later, perhaps someone (possibly Apple or Google?) will come along with a more elegantly-designed system that will demystify what it does and, in doing so, hole Bloomberg's boat below the waterline (unless they do so first).
(via Daring Fireball)
Across Mexico, hundreds of kids gather to beat up emo kids in violent riots. The emo-bashers have come from all walks of life, with other youth fashion tribes (goths, metalheads, mohican punks, Elvis-pompadoured rockabillies) and football fans uniting to whale on a common foe in a spectacularly violent fashion (the word "pogrom" has come up repeatedly in reports). And there is more analysis here:
Anger against the emos has come from many quarters: punks and goths who think emos are ripping off their culture, homophobes who don’t find emos masculine enough, and those who simply seem threatened by a group that is so different than the mainstream.
Here are a couple examples of anti-emo anger from a Mexican website: “I HATE EMOS!!! They are not even people, they are so stupid, they cry over meaningless things…My school is infested with them, I want to kill them all!” and “We’ve never seen all the urban tribes unite against one single tribe before…Emos, their way of thinking is for crap, if you are so depressed please do us all a favor and kill yourselves!”Meanwhile, anti-emo riots have also taken place in Chile, where emo kids are known, for some reason, as "pokEMOnes". They don't seem to have spread outside of Latin America, though; perhaps the explosion of anti-emo violence (rather than mere mocking comments posted on online forums) is a result of emo and "crying over meaningless things" being a particularly unpardonable infraction against the unwritten codes of masculinity in Latin American machismo?
Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. And the latest invention is a voice changer for female video gamers, allowing them to contend in the macho culture of online games without fear of harrassment or inappropriate sexual attention from prehensile, undersocialised geeks.
According to research conducted by the company, "The number of female online game players is not small", would you believe. In fact, "Many of them have reached the highest level of some very difficult games such as World of Warcraft (60th level), which is considered the game for men only."
The software comes with presets which turn lady voices into big deep Blessed-esque ones. You can also create your own new voice by mucking about with pitch and timbre settings, and other features include advanced tune and noise reduction.Given that it is adjustable, I imagine it could also be useful in the other direction; from now on, a voice call is no longer a guarantee that your new online friend "HotBiBabe18F" is not a sweaty 41-year-old man.
(via Boing Boing)
America's love affair with the Hummer, the oversized, aggressively ugly SUV that has become synonymous with everything from macho triumphalism to crass consumerism, may be over. Thanks to rising petrol prices, dealerships are finding themselves with a glut of unsold Hummers. Of course, they can't just keep them near the showrooms, because that would scare potential buyers away, so they drive them to vast parking lots, not unlike the graveyards of B-52 bombers in the desert. I wonder if they're visible from satellite photographs?
Apparently the thrill of driving Hummers back and forth between the remote storage lot and the dealer showroom wears off quickly, as each round trip requires that another five gallons of fuel be dispensed in order to ensure a complete round trip.
A Cornell University study has demonstrated that men who feel their masculinity threatened overcompensate by adopting hypermasculine stances such as homophobia, support for the Iraq war, and a desire to buy a SUV:
Willer administered a gender identity survey to a sample of male and female Cornell undergraduates in the fall of 2004. Participants were randomly assigned to receive feedback that their responses indicated either a masculine or a feminine identity. While women's responses were unchanged regardless of the feedback they received, men's reactions "were strongly affected by this feedback," Willer said.
He questioned subjects about their political attitudes, including how they felt about a same-sex marriage ban and their support for President Bush's handling of the Iraq War. "I created composites from subjects' answers to these and other questions," he said. "I also gave subjects a car-buying vignette, presented as part of a study of purchasing a new car."With this in mind, perhaps SUV manufacturers will start running ads, with no brand names on them, impugning their audience's masculinity. I can see them now: "Hey you," a crew-cut, neckless drill-sergeant type shouts from the TV, "you call yourself a man? You ain't a man, you're a big girl's blouse!" Two ads later, a spot for the Hummer or the latest ultra-macho urban assault vehicle appears. Within the next week, sales go through the roof as office drones compensate for their perceived emasculation.
Meanwhile the researchers in question next intend to measure respondents' testosterone levels and also test their attitudes to violence against women.
The Coolsie Paradox: daggy 80s top-40 (like, say, Prince or Cyndi Lauper or whoever did Eye Of The Tiger) is cooler than things like The Cure or The Smiths or the Jesus & Mary Chain; that's because everybody knows that the Smiths were cool, and so being "into" them carries little coolness points; whereas, the more daggy/trashy something is, the bigger cojones (or more highly developed sense of hipster irony) you're showing when you admit being into it.
Many years ago, I first discovered The Cure via a borrowed cassette copy of Standing On A Beach: The Singles. On its B-side, after A Night Like This, it was padded out with Phil Collins songs; a shocking faux pas.
I wonder how long until Phil Collins is officially cooler than The Cure.
The story of Stagolee (also known as Stagger Lee or Stack Lee), the 19th-century black pimp from St. Louis (real name: Lee Shelton), who became a legend and inspired every American musical genre from folk to gangsta-rap, not to mention cinema and the civil-rights movement:
The screen Cave adds to Stagolee tradition tells us more about the culture of the singer than it does of the culture of the song. Stagolee as African-American tradition is the screen that allows the projection to take place. "The reason why we [recorded it] was that there is already a tradition," said Cave. "I like the way the simple, almost naive traditional murder ballad has gradually become a vehicle that can happily accommodate the most twisted acts of deranged machismo. Just like Stag Lee himself, there seems to be no limits to how evil this song can become."
David Brin on the five memes that shaped the planet on a deeper level: feudalism, machismo, paranoia, "the East" and neophilia (which Brin terms the Dogma of Otherness). (via the Horn)
Two designers in Germany (where else?) have developed a video game which inflicts pain when you lose. Called the PainStation, the game is a two-player tabletop version of the ancient TV game of Pong, only players place their hands on anelectrical plate. An electric shock is delivered to a player when they miss a ball; it can do several sorts of pain, including heat, punches and electric shocks of various duration, and looks likely to be a big hit with the Big Yellow Shorts crowd:
"When you're playing in public against a friend with people cheering you on, it's very hard to throw in the towel without putting up a good fight. I've seen people leave the table with blood on their hands and their skin completely raw because they didn't want to back down in front of an audience."
If professional wrestling is fake, what about amateur wrestling? The latest trend among bored teenage boys in the US is amateur pro wrestling, done in suburban backyards by outfits with names like Xtreme Championship Wrestling, and imitating the carefully choreographed moves of pro wrestling. Not surprisingly, many of the participants end up injured. (via Leviathan)