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Forest in the beautiful mountains of British Columbia, where I recently returned from holiday
Hi there, and welcome back to the Missive. It's in a slightly different format, mostly because I am trying to retrain myself to write in a longer and more focused way, and all the stuff I am interested in tends to be thematically linked anyway. You can save anything in her to read later in Pocket, and email me at sophie@sophiebenjamin.com. 

ON A THEME


MEN, WOMEN, RESILIENCE AND SOCIAL CONNECTION
My workplace is mostly staffed by women, and is focused helping to connect people with breast cancer to each other, support services and their communities in order to create a  better and more supported journey through and after active treatment for breast cancer. I've found that women quite naturally gravitate to joining support groups to help each other in a way that men with male cancer diagnoses don't. It's got me thinking about why this is, and why men tend to be so useless at this. In Mark Greene's piece Why Do We Murder The Beautiful Friendships of Boys? he hypothesises:
 

"In America, men perform masculinity within a narrow set of cultural rules often called the Man Box. Charlie Glickman explains it beautifully here. One of the central tenets of the man box is the subjugation of women and by extension, all things feminine. Since we Americans hold emotional connection as a female trait, we reject it in our boys, demanding that they “man up” and adopt a strict regimen of emotional independence, even isolation as proof they are real men. Behind the drumbeat message that real men are stoic and detached, is the brutal fist of homophobia, ready to crush any boy who might show too much of the wrong kind of emotions.

And so, by late adolescence, boys declare over and over “no homo” following any intimate statement about their friends.

And so, there it is, the smoking gun, the toxic poison that is leading to the life killing epidemic of loneliness for men, (and by extension, women,) look no further. It’s right there: “no homo.”

The "no homo"/male loneliness thing goes deeper too. In Judith Shulevitz's 2013 essay The Lethality of Loneliness, she cities research that found that men who became HIV positive during the AIDS crisis were more likely to develop full-blown AIDS and die if they were closeted than if they were living as openly gay men and had the support of a community behind them. 

Closer to home, Landline presenter (and beloved figure in country Australia and a personal hero of mine) Pip Courtney drew gasps from the audience at a Women In Agriculture event when, in her keynote speech, she said:

“I am just stunned when farmers brag to me about not being members of the one organisation that can represent them. The image of the stoic, fiercely independent farmer is seen as a positive part of our culture, it’s celebrated in poetry, in literature, in art, but there’s actually a downside to it.  This not-joining nonsense disempowers you all, your industry and your communities. 

“Unity is everything when you’re in the bush. You don’t have the numbers so unity is all and I truly believe that women who in general are more collaborative than men and are joiners, can get this unity thing happening ... Many of the drivers of these projects [of change] are women at the council, on farms, in the kitchens and in the dark room.”

Lydia Burton's great online feature about three women who manage sheep and cattle farms bigger than European countries on their own after the untimely deaths of their husbands is in keeping with this. They've been able to do this thanks to the support from their communities, spread across vast geographic distances. Penny Button is one of the women profiled in this article. Her husband was killed in a plane crash and recently her son Hugh moved back to his mum's with his wife and child. From the article. 

Hugh Button cannot imagine living anywhere else. 

"I just love the adventure of the country life. I love the adventure and the freedom of it and getting out and about in the wide open spaces … every day is so different," he said.

"The support network in the bush — it just says so much about the bush.

"People stick together through the good times — and they celebrated the good times crazily — and when times get devastating they all stick together and get amongst it."

 

MARRIAGE EQUALITY, PLEBISCITES, BOYCOTTS
First up - if you are Australian and have not made sure you are on the electoral roll at your correct and current address, stop what you are doing right now and DO IT. For my non-Australian readers, we are having to vote on a non-binding plebiscite on whether or not to make marriage equality legal -- which means that even if the majority of Aussies vote that they do want marriage equality, the govt does not have to do anything to make it a reality.  It is some real bullshit, but you should not boycott it. Kara Schlegl has written about how Hungary held a similarly shit plebiscite last year, and what happened when people boycotted it. Over at Junkee, Osman Faruqi has detailed all the questions about how this plebiscite will work that remain unanswered. The seeds of this shit show were planted back in 2004 when then-Prime Minister John Howard moved to change the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act from "between two people" to "between a man and a woman" -- but why did he do that in the first place? Jacqui Tomlins explains here. It's so petty and heartbreaking.

YARNS ARE PEOPLE TOO
When I was a baby journalist in journalism school, one of my lecturers summed up a semester-long subject on ethics in journalism by saying "you should never strip your subject of their dignity" and "you should be able to sleep and night and not be ashamed of yourself or your conduct". Still, with time pressure and deadline pressure, people's scruples can dissolve. Brisbane writer Andrew Stafford writes about the media coverage of his own disappearance last year, and how media portrayals of people experiencing mental health crises really need to be kinder and fairer:

"This is not to say that journalists as a group lack empathy or consideration: “I think we get an incredibly bad rap when actually we really, really care about getting it right,” says Guardian Australia's Melissa Davey, and it’s obvious that she does. The point, though, is that a journalist’s first duty is not to our subjects. It is to our readers. I am no different."

In her most recent email mailout, Buzzfeed US journo Anne Helen Petersen writes about how she feels so much more aware of the crime in her new home in Montana than she did in New York City, even though NYC almost certainly had more crime. Why? Well, maybe because she reads so much media coverage for her job, and crime reporting is cheap copy for news media:

The amount of crime/accident coverage is also a symptom of budget cuts. Reporting on crimes can involve original reporting, but the majority of stories that are flashing past me on my feed require none — just someone to transfer the details from the police department into a post, slap on a stock photo or mug shot, and post it to social media. Some require attending a press conference, but here in Montana, where three of the major newspapers are owned by the same company (Lee Enterprises), it's easy to rely on one reporter to attend that conference, then crosspost across papers.

ELSEWHERE

  • Jim of Jim's Mowing (and Jim's Bookkeeping, Jim's Car Wash etc etc) is an evangelical Christian who has used his fortune to fund research into epigenetics, and how genetic sequences can be re-programmed to change human behaviour. Seriously. 
  • Here is how hardline social justice warriors are behaving more like hardline religious fanatics
  • A Texas city tried to have a libertarian model of city governance and it was a huge disaster
I've been a big fan of Jen Cloher's for years, both her music and her I Manage My Music workshops. I went to one myself a couple of years ago, and it's the only music-industry related thing I have ever been to that didn't make me wish I was dead. Her new self-titled album is her best work, and I love the song Regional Echo and its film clip (above). This interview with her in the Guardian about her music and managing jealousy and expectations is good too. My fave quote:

Over time Cloher realised the workshops were more about helping people to manage their expectations than their careers. “People in the tradition of rock’n’roll kill themselves, and there’s a reason for that. There’s a lot of self-loathing, high expectations and a need to be approved.”

Copyright © 2017 Sophie Benjamin, All rights reserved.


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