Before Friendship

It probably comes as a surprise to none of you reading this that my opinions earn me just as much ire as they do respect. For every feminist that stands at my side or ME sufferer that applauds the awareness I raise, there is another person willing to call me an over-sensitive wuss or accusing me of ignoring the struggles of men. Don’t be mistaken, this blog doesn’t get the traffic necessary for anonymous hate mail and when I do receive that, I can shrug it off as easy as anything. No, far more often, the people waiting to the sidelines to jump in with snide comments and putdowns are friends and family. My usual response is try to talk to them one to one to explain my point of view but if they’re gonna be pig-headed or, heaven forbid, insulting, that’s that and their name is quickly scratched from any Christmas card list I have going. I’ll never back down on my morals, I just can’t, morals define who we are, our codes are unique and we must not let others force us to against them or we lose ourselves. I won’t deny it can be disheartening but I won’t ever compromise on that aspect of myself. That said, here are some common arguments I want to lay to rest:

1. “That’s just your opinion”

I will not cut you out of my life for having a different opinion to me. I will not cut you out of my life for following a different religion or voting differently to me (Unless you support a party such as UKIP or Britain First). I understand my friends will have different opinions to me, I have friends who think minions are adorable, that Transformers are dull and that Dynasty Warriors is a braindead button-mashing experience but I don’t unfriend people over that. Opposing feminism isn’t having a different opinion to me, it’s an entire viewpoint away from mine, a whole different set of rules and values that just aren’t compatible with my own. Using feminism as an example, if you’re anti-feminist, then there a whole host of views that you may or may not fall in line with – victim blaming, slut shaming, the ‘place’ of women in society, friend-zoning, supporting such views is anti-feminism and opposing them? Pro. You might not wear the label but if you believe a woman shouldn’t deserve to be abused because of what she wears, that’s a feminist belief. Opinions are singular, you can look past those, what I am talking about is so much more than “That’s just what I think”, it’s “That’s what I deem to be morally correct”

2. “You’re refusing to hear what you don’t want to”

I think it’s fair to say that in this day and age of technology and viral videos and such, burying your head in the sand and ignoring the world around you is harder and harder to do unless you exclusively use the internet to do your Tesco food shop and watch porn and even then there’s probably going to be some crossover. We have the right to speak, the right to listen and the right to ignore, it’s a big deal with free speech. In all fairness, I’m not so much rejecting the viewpoint, I have to accept that such views exist and I am constantly aware of it, that’s why I do what I do, what I’m rejecting is the association of friendship between people like that and myself. I am AWARE of Donald Trump, that doesn’t mean if we met I’d have to have him added on Facebook to know that he is a racist orange gibbon.

3. “Refusing to talk to people with different views is cowardly and proof you can’t beat them in a debate”

This, I hear a lot, a sort of “If you don’t fight your case, you’ve lost” deal, like I’m on trial every time I put a link to a Laci Green vid in a status. I’ll start by saying that flat out refusing to talk to someone just because they’re right-wing or such isn’t how I start, that’s certainly a buffer I have up against new friends or partners, if a date makes a joke about Poland being full of cut-rate builders ruining the British economy by taking our jobs, I know I won’t need to bother asking her out on a second date. I do try and talk people around and I find, more often than not actually, it is not me that first resorts to personal attacks. Granted, in the past, I’ve had a tendency towards dismissing my opponents as imbeciles but more recently, it is often my critics that come forth with harsh barbs. A wide belief is the first to resort to such, is out of actual intelligent points to argue. I will try and talk someone around but if they’re being unpleasant or mocking me or such, I have no obligation to listen to the rest of what they might say

4. “What about Echo Chambers?”

Echo Chambers, for those who are unaware, are the idea of having a social media account that is loaded with nothing but people who agree with everything you say or do and as such, you become both big-headed and narrow-minded. I mean, if a hundred or so people are telling you on a near daily basis that you are very clever, attractive and morally righteous, surely it stands to reason you might one day believe all that to be fact? Well, aside from my hilariously out-of-hand anxiety having the power to keep any sort of ego of mine in check, not all my friends agree with me on everything I do and we are all capable of critical thinking. Dangerous as it is, I will always peruse the comment sections of news articles and videos, to see different views being expressed beneath. Largely, I’ll admit, it is people making vulgar remarks and such but there are a broad spectrum of opinions represented in these places, some fact-checked, some not, and I will take my time to mine the internet for comments actually worth reading. However, beyond that, on something like Facebook, can you blame people for wanting to be surrounded by people that like them a whole bunch and tell them nice things when we as a society are so readily prepared to pull one another apart? If you want an Echo Chamber, go ahead, you can always self-administer some doses of reality by watching the news or going outside, you don’t need a quota of dickheads on your Friends list to water down your self-confidence.

5. “You won’t win anyone around to your way of thinking by unfriending them”

Err… I’m sorry, when did that become my obligation? When did it become my job to try and win the hearts and minds of every person I meet? No, you see, the BLOG is where it’s my job to defend my viewpoints because that’s all this is, this is literally a website full of me saying shit I think and believe. My Facebook is just my day-to-day thought journal and means of contacting friends and sharing dumb photos I like because penguins are in it or it contains a pun or something. In my daily life, I have every right to just tell someone to piss off because Jacob Wolfe needs his space, Old Man Wolfe, on this site, is the guy doing the debating and lengthy arguments and such and if I need to illustrate my point, I can just tell Facebook friend “Go read this thing I wrote THEN talk to me”. I’ll defend my beliefs at any point in life, sure, but a highlight of the digital age is that if someone is an annoying wanker, you can click a button and they no longer exist in your radar, why would that not be a feature I would make use of?

Well, that’s that then, feel free to use these points in your own rebuttals when you have to explain to your parents why you blocked Aunt Carol on Facebook because she won’t stop sharing anti-vaccination posts on her profile. Your media, your choices, you don’t have any obligation to argue with people if you don’t want to and your beliefs are more than just opinions, they make you who you are and if people can’t accept them, they can’t accept you and that’s not on. Tolerance is all well and good but it’s a two-way street so don’t just put up with nonsense for the sake of being a good person, you have to let yourself break away from toxic influences. Just keep up to date on the world affairs and you won’t lose sight of reality behind rose-tinted glass (And hey, fuck reality once in awhile, take an evening a week or something or an hour of the day to just forget David Cameron is in power and go play a game or watch a film). Remember that you are no less for wanting to spend more time in the company of people like you and that it is a clever move to remove people from your life who will only cause you harm or upset. Okay? That’s all.

Really need a sign off phrase…

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It’s Not Unusual

One thing you always have to account for is the shifting attitudes of the times – what was once normal and acceptable within society can become frowned upon or even illegal and similarly what was once thought unnatural or immoral can find acceptance in a more enlightened society. With that in mind, I present to you the case of Tom Jones, yes the famous singer, has come under fire from social media users for revealing that when he first broke into the music industry, his first producer was homosexual and this made him uncomfortable at that time. The responses to this news have been polarised and whilst it might not make headlines, it has generated some hype around it so I’m going to weigh in on the issue, if only for an excuse to use the title “It’s Not Unusual”

In an interview with The Big Issue, he said: “I was ready for most aspects of the music industry but when I met the producer Joe Meek, that threw me off a bit. Because he was a homosexual. I thought, wait a minute, is the London scene, the people who run British show business – are there a lot of homosexuals involved here? Because if so, I’m going back to Cardiff.” Apparently he continues, his first manager wanting to talk to Tom in private and Tom fearing that he was being solicited for sex in order to get a record deal and then realised, no, that’s not the case – this is a legit record deal, no sexual payments required, his manager just happens to be gay. Tom Jones admitted to a paranoia he held onto at the time and since then, he’s grown up and moved past it, accepting homosexuality and homosexuals in general as being just like everyone else, not a creepy cult conspiracy forcing people into sex through misdirection. Good on you Tom, good on you.

However, the backlash came from his tweet in which he said he realised “most people were normal. Well, I shouldn’t put it like that. Homosexuals are normal, it’s not that they aren’t normal. It’s just that they are what they are.” Ok, so not the best wording ever and I’d wager he probably still has a lot to learn about sexuality and the diverse range of sexual identities people class themselves as but Tom Jones got unfairly savaged by someone for his ‘outdated ideals’. He KNOWS they’re outdated, bear in mind he was establishing his fame in the 50s/60s, homosexuality was still illegal in some places and regarded as a mental health disorder in many psychological and professional circles, there wasn’t as much of an LGBTQIA community presence then as there is now. Jones didn’t have much information available to him to learn better, the media stereotype of the gay man was of an overly flirtatious weirdo that needed to be steered clear of and with doctors and preachers and news coverage calling homosexuality abhorable, it’s understandable he had a paranoia about them, the media image was not positive. Today, Tom Jones realises that these people are no different from him and that’s something he deserves commendation for.

Now, bear with me, the liberal minded of you out there might go “Well duh, of course gay people are just like us, why does he deserve credit for realising that?”. I’ll tell you, he deserves it because he had the gall to put up in the public space an admission that he WAS a homophobe and since then, he learned better through interacting with actual homosexuals and respecting them. Well done to him for that, it is not easy to admit to having held onto wrong belief systems and I stand by him – truth be told, when I was much younger my own belief of homosexuality was “I don’t mind them as long as they aren’t doing it where I have to deal with it or to me”, as if I had to lay down some ground rules with the LGBTQIA community or else be swamped with gay sex pests. I’ve changed, he’s changed, nobody is perfect from the start. For him to expose himself like that takes guts. Furthermore, it is an important realisation, sure it might only seem like a start to some but a starting point is something. You would say well done to a friend if they even committed to taking part in a marathon wouldn’t you? If people hold beliefs like “being gay is unnatural and immoral”, we have to give them credit when they get as far as “Okay, it’s not immoral, I can see that… but I’m still uncomfortable”. Fine, that’s okay, we can work with that – what we can’t do is shout people down for any misconception they have or they just won’t learn.

The pressure to be politically correct, such as it were, I can actually understand. I of course encourage everyone to keep trying to learn to be more acceptant of others but that works both ways, we have to be acceptant of those that are learning. I had a friend, who will remain nameless, but they accepted that people could be gay and that’s not inherently bad but they still thought it weird and gross. Now, I could have told them to not be such a privileged twat and many would have laughed and applauded me but I’d have just embarrassed someone who could have potentially become an ally in the fight for equal rights, someone who was at least trying to learn. So instead, of course, it was a matter of explaining why it isn’t all that gross and even if it were, how is it any more gross than straight sex? Outside of the fun of being a part of it, sex is really pretty frickin’ gross, a hot sweaty mess of stains and genitalia smashing together, what does it matter what goes where as long as those involved are okay with it? We have to accept that changing your views on things such as sexuality, politics or feminism are slow processes of constant learning and if you want to win someone round, you’ll catch more flies with honey over vinegar. So let me finish by saluting the Welsh legend, you did a brave thing indeed Sir Jones!

Privilege Check

Trigger Warnings – None

So would you believe it, my attempt to lighten the mood by writing an article about comic books seems to have gone down just as well as being the only lepper in the swimming pool, not too many people want to get too close and so as it happens, yesterday was a flounder on the site stats. Lesson learned I guess. Anyway, moving on, I haven’t done anything political in a while, let’s do that shall we? Sorry America, this isn’t going to be about casting your ballots, although do do that, but I want to talk about a common argument of the left-winged amongst us that always falls short, and I apply the term argument generously.

Ever heard the term ‘check your privilege’?. Basically put, it demands that someone shut up and consider how lucky they’ve been in their life and what they have going for them in terms of gender/racial/socio-economic factors that play to their advantage before they make comments such as “The reason poor people are poor is because they don’t work hard enough” or “Women only rally to feminism because they hate men”. Granted, these are stupid comments and are usually attributed to rich white heterosexual men, but telling said individuals to check their privilege is not the way to enlighten them to the struggles of a working class Joe or a lesbian denied her rights to marry. Check your privilege sounds good but it is, in a way, a form of racism because it basically tells your opponent “You are wrong because you are white and rich”. Ok, so what you’re saying there is that they are who they are because of where they come from and certain people from certain walks of life are just stupid? Remind me what we’re fighting for again?

Of course, not every white straight male is a privileged one and whilst I do have to admit I can enjoy some male privileges such as walking around topless if I so please or being more likely to get a job than someone called Stefano just on the basis of my Anglican name, I don’t consider myself all that privileged – working class roots, a life of living on the bread line and despite my advantages, the job market is still not embracing me with a big hug and promoting me up the ranks like it was going out of fashion. If you didn’t know me and told me to check my privilege in an argument, you’d have to make a lot of assumptions – that I’m straight, that I’m cisgendered and so on and so on. Not a great move, you know what they say about assumption, you make an ass out of you and me (Read it aloud, makes sense). You shouldn’t make assumptions about someone’s past and have that be your basis for an argument and you certainly shouldn’t reduce someone to a product of that background, they are, despite what you might think, still human and human hearts can be turned if you know the art to it

I might be the wrong man to make this point but is telling someone to check their privilege not just a horribly cynical point to use in an argument. You hear straight white male and immediately roll your eyes? Well fuck, that’s me and I’ve used this blog to make points for mental health, left-wing politics, sexuality spectrums, I’m only a few piercings and some green hair away from a modern day hippie. Your opponent in an argument is always a human being, I should hope, they have fears, traditions, values, interests and if they don’t believe in something you do, they have a reason, perhaps a flawed reason or one they don’t even realise but a reason. If you want to win an argument, by which I mean win them over to going “Oh yeah, you’re right…” then you have to find the reason they don’t agree with you and work with it, don’t just dismiss them because of that reasoning. I’ve had friends who’ve seen my flawed views and instead of going “Well you would say that, you’re a guy”… Ok, some have said that, but some have instead taken the time to challenge my views and help me achieve a broader understanding of feminist issues or sexuality issues or so on. You cannot assume someone will not empathise, or they won’t, and demanding they do with three small words is as effective as slapping them and then asking for a hug. No, fuck your hug, you slapped me

You have to realise, we can’t look at someone with a reasonably comfortable life and just tell them they don’t understand. Make them understand, duh. You should also note that even those who might understand what you’re going through won’t fully empathise because nobody is going to understand what you’ve been through quite as well as you do. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, we need allies, not enemies, wouldn’t it be great to get more rich white guys to say something on behalf of the minority groups out there? Idealistic dreaming, maybe, but not impossible and certainly worth trying as it has happened, remember that Texan sports presenter who defend the coming out of an American football player? I don’t remember names and probably should look them up but everyone saw fat, well-paid, white guy from Texas and assumed “He’ll call him a fag” and then instead the guy admits he’s uncomfortable around gay men, not out of hatred but out of a lack of understanding but he’s not against learning and he certainly doesn’t make the player any less of a man. I was impressed when I saw that, as was Ellen DeGeneres, who had him as a guest. If you want people to agree with you and understand your point, treat them as human beings, don’t dismiss their inherent humanity. I know it’s hard, they might be really ignorant but you have to try before just giving up on them or nobody will ever learn anything because very few people change their opinion on something overnight and they certainly won’t if you just flip them off

Remember what the goal is – to promote understanding, acceptance and equality and as such you must understand, accept and revere your opponents as equals so that you might make allies of them. I’m not the perfect example of this, I can make assumptions like any human being but we should make an effort and never just ignore someone on the grounds of their income or their race or we’re just as bad as the elitists. Reverse elitism, that’s it, check your privilege is reverse elitism