Saturday, 18 July 2015

A whinge about gender stereotyping (and a nice picture)

I saw a woman with her five-year old son standing at a pedestrian crossing today. The little lad was holding a somewhat realistic replica "toy" gun which he was brandishing in the style of mini-terrorist. There was something deeply unsettling about the sight, which threw me into deep thought. My initial reaction was one of indignation: Surely if you're going to buy your child a gun, and encourage him to "play" with it, you only have yourself to blame when he finds an air rifle in a local field and mistakenly shoots you through the face with it?

Then my thoughts turned to gender stereotyping. I hear a lot from my friends with kids who tell me how they're, quite rightly, doing everything they can to encourage their little girls that they don't need to feel oppressed by a male-dominated world, but it would appear that some of these mums are doing everything possible to reinforce the very behaviour from men which makes women feel less confident. Hand a young lad a toy gun and he'll grow up behaving more aggressively, and see girls (who don't carry guns) as fragile weaklings who need to be protected by his chivalrous behaviour. Men learn from a frighteningly early age that they must patronise women. All that opening doors nonsense is part of the same issue.

In my view, boys suffer as much, if not more, from early-onset gender stereotyping. Certainly most of the men I know from my generation (particularly those who don't hail from privilege) grew up believing they would get married to a woman and provide for her whilst she brought up the children. If we were unable to provide for our families, we were not deemed proper men, and we had not fulfilled our potential. Our "role" in life was re-inforced by parents, teachers, the media, both subliminally and explicitly. It's the reason why Nathan and I still struggle to accept hand-outs.

So anyway, if you're a mother, and you're considering whether to buy your son a gun, do think twice... It helps no one! Buy him a magic wand instead.

I decided to stay home all day today to celebrate a much-needed day off after a punishing week. Poor Nathan had a wedding gig to do in Macclesfield, so was out of the house before I'd worked out who I was!

Of course, a day by the telly was never going to be something my ADHD brain would allow, so by about 4pm, my feet had started to twitch and demand that I took them on a little adventure. Fortunately at the same time I realised I was one or two pictures short for my Pepys Motet artwork. I therefore took myself on a little jaunt to the most photogenic district of London, Old Street.

I don't much like the people who hang out in Old Street - those desperate hipsters pretending to be artists and the trashy girls who think they're classy wearing ripped jeans and high heels whilst smoking outside hetty bars - but the area is visually thrilling, filled with a mish-mash of buildings built in every conceivably style and era, all of which have been decorated with street art by some of the biggest names in graffiti. Homeless people sleep under Victorian railway arches, people have set up offices and homes in everything from old grimy cloth factories to tube trains which have been transported to roof gardens high above the streets.

Anyway, I took more pictures of the placards Little Welsh Nathalie made with Pepysian shorthand painted on them. I wanted to place them in surprisingly modern London locations, thereby reflecting the very essence of the Pepys Motet, which is a massive collision of old and new. Old text, new studio techniques, the ancient art of a cappella singing against jarring and complicated modern jazz harmonies. I ask myself frequently if Pepys would have approved of the work. I suspect he would have been both flattered and fascinated, yet horrified to think the world might be able to listen to twenty performers singing the most intimate details of his extra-marital sexual adventures. On that note, I keep wondering whether the piece might actually be banned from the radio. There are countless references to pissing, cunnies and cockerels! Total filth! Legitimate seventeenth century academically-studied texts they might be, but for many years these passages were omitted from all publications. Obviously they were the first ones I set to music...

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