Thursday, 19 December 2013

Me, My Selfie and the World

The Holy See's himself
It's a worldwide phenomenon that has catapulted many to the front page - from former unknowns (who is probably now missing that anonymity) to the President of the United States of America, the Prime Minister of Denmark, and a man with the paranoid delusion that he runs England. All are united in being condemned for partaking in what is increasingly seen as the adolescent masses' most narcissistic act yet - the Selfie.

Except that it isn't the new Moral Panic the papers are making it out to be - first prize, of course, must go to Dacre's gutter-press rabble rouser, the Daily Mail - headline:

A photo that makes me tremble a little for the future of the Free World
I'm not linking to the story, of course. Who wants to feed even more clicks to the biggest news website for the most despised newspaper? The point is it's a nothing story. Selfies are just 'MySpace' profile shots redone for the 21st century - and the only thing MySpace has been a danger to is Rupert Murdoch's accountants.

Neil almost always looks like this
Selfies are just annoying, facile pieces of jetsam that clog the Internet pipes, and only gets noticed by the mainstream media because it's jumped the generational gap and adults have started doing it.
Notably, famous people - because it fits so well with Twitter for building a one-to-one relationship with fans, like Lady Gaga persistently tweeting pictures of her in bed relaxing after a gig. Clearly we have different definitions of relaxing, but at least it keeps large sweaty alarming men called Barry from climbing her walls to peer in her window. Now he can do it safely from his parent's basement.

Except of course, I'm a humongous hypocrite. I nearly went into fan overload when cherished counter-culture author (who also wrote a naff Doctor Who episode but we'll let it slide) Neil Gaiman tweeted a selfie of him and supernaturally young-looking antipodean rock renegade Nick Cave. Between Gaiman's atypical 'Englishman abroad' look of adorkable perplexion and Cave's stock expression of pensive, universal malaise it's a beautiful and hilarious and unique moment for fans of both, of either, or of clever individuals in general.

Ground Control to Major Tim
The selfie, ironically, cuts two ways - for every smouldering expression that brightens your partner's mobile, there's a duck-faced pout that ends up shared on 4chan. It's a surprisingly persistent piece of internet nonsense, and I suppose it fills the blank spaces of the world's media that we'd only be wasting on more wars in the Middle East, more corruption in America's boardrooms, and more taxpayers money avalanching into ramshackle banks.

Because the real threat to the future is an annoying social-media trend...

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Victory for Feminists in Leeds - But the War's not over

Leeds' Mezz Club has licence suspended over 'rape' ads

This is an excellent conclusion to a very disturbing concept - of appealing to misogynistic tendencies in promoting a night out. The original video which promoted a student-orientated night in Leeds city centre is no longer available, but this early article from Leeds Student Online gives an upsetting synopsis of what is envisaged as appealing to student punters.

Clearly, only the male punters however - female attendees at this night are presumably on a par with the music or the drinks, merely an attractive feature. What I found even more disturbing was this line in the Leeds Student article on the closure of the club:

Among the issues raised were reported cases of severe overcrowding in the 400-person space and their conduct on social media.
To me, that indicates that this club night, for all it's disgusting attitude towards gender equality, has been quite popular. Indeed, Tequila UK - the night at the centre of the controversy - will instead be held at Halo nightclub just beside university campus. No doubt it will be very popular with students celebrating at Christmas. I hope some enterprising journalists ask the women at this night just what they think of the promotion - and what that means to them, or about them.

 I am heartened that a vocal backlash has been co-ordinated by groups like the Leeds University Union Feminist Society. Victories like this are great cause for celebration, but the bigger picture must be considered - and I salute the effort to challenge complacent opinions on equality and freedom from violence and sexual abuse.

The great campaign "I Need Feminism Because..." is a great idea because rather than just an open-and-shut battle with misogyny like protesting Tequila UK, the hard truths about the dangers women can face at any time are being openly discussed. Beliefs need to change, and the best way to do that is a long and protracted campaign of education.

Students are here to learn, and I certainly hope they're going to learn more from FemSoc than they do from a night that endorses shocking attitudes towards women.