John Walker's Electronic House

Rum Doings Episode 127: Heaven High!

by on Jan.22, 2013, under Rum Doings

A belated episode 127 is pretty much all about offence. For once not our being offensive, but rather discussing when we’re offended. This begins with a grilling of John for his new-found puritanical ways, and a grilling of Nick as to why he’s so debauched.

There’s unanimous celebration of the snow, as Nick revels in his joy about the weather. We walk dangerously close to the topic of gender once more, condemn those who’ve made their mind up about all manner of complex matters, then Nick describes the birth of a new racial stereotype. And we make it clear that Miranda is not funny.

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30 Comments for this entry

  • Ryan H

    This is a historic moment. Listening since before Judy was born, and now she can speak on the podcast. I feel emotionally invested.

  • mister k

    I feel like we’ve heard from Judy before?

    Amusingly enough, you have discussed gender essentialism beforehand on the podcast, in the context of why its fine to “condemn” a black person (say) bleaching their skin to become white but not a man changing their gender.

    The simple answer is that the purest form of gender essentialism doesn’t hold water. There are fundamental biological differences between men and women. These fundamental differences are then correlated with all sorts of behaviours. While we can’t point to one particular thing and say “thats a thing women do” we can talk about generalities. Reading various comments during the whole transgender thing, I saw an argument (have done no research, so don’t know how substantiated this is) that transgendered people tend to have something in their brain that durings its formation simply did not produce enough of the male/female hormone, leading that individual with a fundamental feeling of otherness.

    Its also of note that gender essentialism can give people transitioning troubles, as indicated by the #transdocfail on twitter. For instance, some doctors want people transitioning to act in stereotypical “male” or “female” ways, including in some cases not believing that someone could transition and be gay.

    On Miranda, I’m going to undermine my credibility all the more by defending it. Its a show which embraces its style very clearly as pantomime comedy. Now its not for everyone (not really for me!) but its not lazy, unlike much of similar broad comedy put in that slot. Its lively and inventive, and I honestly have watched episodes and laughed at multiple points.

    I do like things other than the BBT and Miranda by the way….

  • Pasco

    This was one of your more disturbingly liberal and academically aloof episodes yet.

    You have the right to be offensive, and then I have the right to not like that, and seek to do something about it. No-one says you can’t conflate violence and sexuality, but if you do so, you should expect to be roundly criticised. At that point you either ignore the criticism and face the consequences, or you realise you did not intend to promote violence against women and change your behaviour. One of these things makes you a shit, the other a contrite shit.

    But offence isn’t even the issue, harm is. The normalisation and sexualisation of violence against women leads to more women being beaten and raped. It leads to a culture where women are afraid to walk at night on their own, where predation is accepted as a hazard. Transphobia leads to men and women being abused and killed (that reminds me, don’t call someone ‘a transexual’, unless you would also call me ‘a gay’).

    I wont go into your wishy-washy views on abortion and euthanasia, except to remind you that the truth is not always in the middle and all opinions are not equally valid. Some opinions are correct, other opinions are controlling, hateful, damaging nonsense.

  • John Walker

    “disturbingly liberal and academically aloof” should be our description on iTunes.

    Can you explain when it was you believed we were conflating violence with sexuality, and promoting violence against women?

    Also, if you know, it would seem very helpful for you to divulge the correct opinions to be held about abortion and euthanasia. We’re both very keen to find out.

  • NM

    I too am confused, Pasco. You’re making a number of allegations there without actually mentioning what it is we said. What I think I said was that anyone with a dogmatic and settled view on abortion or euthenasia was likely to be deluded, because one could easily create a case that problematises their comfortable certainty.

    As for transsexuals, I was merely pointing out that there is a contradiction in liberal thought concerning eschewing essentialism on the one hand, and necessarily embracing it on the other. Which there clearly is. I don’t draw any moral conclusion from this about transexuality: merely that reactions to it are mediated by lots of conflicting and interesting cultural currents.

    As for violence and sexuality: I am really not sure the point you’re trying to make. I will say that you need to be careful about your statements of causation there: the “normalisation” and “sexualisation” of violence “causes” violence? What do you mean? The artistic portrayal of violence? Violent pornography? Because, actually, countries where this stuff is banned (Saudi Arabia etc) have terrible problems with violence towards women, whereas Japan, which has one of the lowest incidents of rape, has terribly violent Hentai porn.

  • Sam

    Hi,

    RE: the Christmas Special.

    I was probably feeling hypersensitive about the job issue when I listened and posted.

    Death of the Author and all that.

  • mister k

    I totally forgot to address the whole offensiveness issue. Surely what was offensive about that item was the intent behind it. John perceived it as something designed to appeal to base desires, an item which deliberately objectifies women too make sales. That sounds pretty offensive to me. Obviously one can argue about the intent of the artist all day, but I think its reasonable to make a guess.

    I think of someone creates a beautiful piece of racist propoganda I can be offended by them, and by the content of it. Give it a century and the propoganda will have lost is strength, and you can admire the aesthetics, but at the time those messages are raw and painful. Context is obviously important.

  • Pod

    Hi,

    I’ve never bothered to listen to these past the very first one, but, I’m wondering about this:

    >We’d really love it if you left a review on iTunes. Yes, iTunes is hideous, but reviews on there are what get podcasts more attention. After 100 free episodes, we’d love you to return the favour by writing a quick review.

    Why should we do this? What’s in it for us :) Or: What’s in it for you? Do you just want more people to hear you guys? Do you get money per listener or something?

    ps: I’m tempted to listen to this simply to know that someone else other than me thinks Miranda is anti-funny.

  • Nick Mailer

    “I’ve never bothered to listen to these past the very first one, but, I’m wondering about this”. Listen to Episode 10, Episode 20 and Episode 63.

  • Xercies

    i agree with Miranda and also Sarah Millican sometimes they are both sooo unfunny and I have no idea why some people seem to like them.

    But I think neither of them is as bad as that Canadian woman who seems to be on panel shows which is billed as a comedian but I generally doubt she is because she just seems to talk about celebrities and stuff in those women magazines which are not funny and very annoying.

    As for the woman and men thing is does seem that a lot of times the difference is in testosterone really and you could argue that the difference between men and woman is how much they have of it, but obviously you can get men with lower testosterone giving them the more “female” attributes and the other way around.

  • John Walker

    The more reviews we get, the more iTunes features it, so more people can find it. That’s it. We get absolutely no money from Rum Doings – in fact, it costs us a fortune.

    Also, why not listen?

  • Callan McGill

    If Nick really cared about the podcast he would have got on the bus with ethnic litterer.

  • Callan McGill

    I should add that I believe Pasco’s comment is in reference to having the player kill the zombie with breasts or similar (there was a lot said about this with regards to a Hitman trailer for example). I am unsure to what extent this normalises violence against women and would treat it similarly to the clamour that Call of Duty et al (please replace by Texas Chainsaw Masacre if such crass entertainment clouds judgement) are responsible for the latest school shooting.

  • pod

    I’m not really a podcast person :) I can’t have them on in the background whilst I work, as I either focus entirely on them or just miss everything they say. and if I do have free time then sitting around focusing on podcasts, which are generally just people talking away, doesn’t seem like a great us of time.

    I guess my brain isn’t wired for the multitasking required to get any enjoyment out of them :) (same goes for he radio)

    I do listen to Adam and Joe 6 music show, but that’s an exception and suffers all the same problems.

    Why does it matter to have more listeners when you already have excellent and rabid comments such as these?

  • Sam

    @Pod

    Two best podcast listening situations: Driving. Washing Up.

  • Pasco

    “Can you explain when it was you believed we were conflating violence with sexuality, and promoting violence against women?”

    You guys weren’t, but the ‘offensive’ statuette was. Your reduction of the problem to one of ‘offence’ rather than harm is the problem.

    I do not care that the statue might offend some people, as was argued in the episode and in my original comment, but rather of the very real effects it may have.

    (Patrick Klepek over at Giant Bomb has an interesting article on this, soliciting the views of women in the industry, and while many of them do touch on offence, they all raise the harmful potential http://www.giantbomb.com/news/eight-women-eight-responses-and-one-dead-island-riptide-statue/4527/ )

    “Also, if you know, it would seem very helpful for you to divulge the correct opinions to be held about abortion and euthanasia. We’re both very keen to find out.”
    “Anyone with a dogmatic and settled view on abortion or euthenasia was likely to be deluded, because one could easily create a case that problematises their comfortable certainty.”

    I may have been inelegant with my phrasing here, but these issues are (not particularly good) examples of issues with extremely strident opinions being held at either end of a wide spectrum. The liberal resolution of these issues is to find a ‘middle’ position, a compromise, but this is problematic and dishonest.

    A woman’s right to choose cannot be reconciled against a baby’s right to life, the positions are irreconcilable, therefore an arbitrary and indefensible line is drawn. The honest solution would be to choose a position, to decide what right is right. In this case, it’s a woman’s right to choose. Similarly, euthanasia should be legal.

    I invite you to call me deluded, or shake my comfortable certainty :)

    “I don’t draw any moral conclusion from this about transexuality: merely that reactions to it are mediated by lots of conflicting and interesting cultural currents.”

    I want to say that I wasn’t accusing you (or John) of transphobia (not that I think most trans* people would give a fuck about any ‘moral conclusions’ you came to about them, or what it was that ‘mediated’ the ‘reaction’ of someone decapitating them).

    I was using it as a contemporary parallel to the ‘violence against women’ point, in that trans* people are often accused of being needlessly ‘offended’ at articles in the papers, as opposed to confronting the reality of trans* people being beaten and killed due to societal transphobia.

    “the “normalisation” and “sexualisation” of violence “causes” violence? What do you mean? The artistic portrayal of violence? Violent pornography?”

    Yes. A cultural acceptance and endemic expression and conflation of sex with violence has lead to a culture where sexual violence against women is acceptable.

    Victim blaming, slut shaming, “no means no”, ‘date’ rape, etc. This culture is reinforced by media artefacts such as the Dead Island statuette, Hitman’s bondage nuns, etc.

    “Because, actually, countries where this stuff is banned (Saudi Arabia etc) have terrible problems with violence towards women”

    I would contest that the societal attitudes towards women in the Middle East are problematic for a different, but similarly identifiable, reason.

    Problems can have more than one cause.

    “whereas Japan, which has one of the lowest incidents of rape, has terribly violent Hentai porn.”

    Rape is under-reported in all cultures, and Japan is believed to have one of the highest incidences of under-reporting. Obviously, unreported statistics are hard to measure, but using official rape statistics is a hiding to nothing.

    My only and original accusation is one of liberalism, which I would be further guilty of myself without confronting (I’m already a horrible enough 9th type). Love the show.

  • Pasco

    Fucking hell that’s a long comment for a podcast featuring two guys warbling at each other over rum (and occasionally Skype).

  • Nick Mailer

    And highly reactionary. You’re basically Mary Whitehouse waving a different pendant. Thank God you’re not in charge.

  • Steve

    “Yes. A cultural acceptance and endemic expression and conflation of sex with violence has lead to a culture where sexual violence against women is acceptable.

    Victim blaming, slut shaming, “no means no”, ‘date’ rape, etc. This culture is reinforced by media artefacts such as the Dead Island statuette, Hitman’s bondage nuns, etc.”

    This raises some questions for me but the only one that really matters is “Is this statement true?” Is there any evidence that this kind of imagery leads to an increase in violence?

    I feel like a cause effect relationship would be pretty hard to establish in this case. (And in the social sciences in general).

  • Nick Mailer

    No. It’s not true. Any more than “video games cause violence” or “King Lear encourages people to pluck eyes out”. It’s a simplistic, censorious and downright sinister analysis of mimesis which plays into the hands of every repressive, oppressive, paternalistic force.

  • Jambe

    That was a concise distillation of the transgender issue. The fact that there’s no answer or resolution (and that it seems like there can’t be one) reinforces the importance of tolerance, I think. The same logic makes the case for tolerance of (some) anachronistic moral systems and religions.

    Should government’s role ever go beyond enforcing tolerance, though? Should the citizenry be left to directly combat e.g. entrenched hatefulness of the transgendered? I see these issues through a very American 1st Amendment lens; is it a common sentiment among the British that censorship of hate speech is ethically positive?

  • Steve

    Last year in Britain someone was arrested and ultimately imprisoned for using racial slurs on twitter. So, I guess yes?

  • IcyBee

    Do you think you guys could try to spend more time telling us what you like (and why), rather than simply dismissing mass-appeal entertainments that you don’t?

    If not, I’ll declare that Rum Doings has lost it, and by your own logic, can never be good again, nor was ever probably any good in the first place. Anyone who disagrees is simply “showing off”.

  • Xercies

    i don’t know i find it kind of pleasurable when something is popular and everyone you know seems to like it and you think its crap to get some other people out there talking about how they think its crap as well.

  • mister k

    Jambe, the UK has less of a tradition of valuing freedom of speech above all as the US has, certainly. We do have laws which criminalise certain pieces of hate speech. That said, I am by no means a fan of those at all. There is a difference between wanting to ban something unpleasent and wishing someone had not made the decision to publish something in the first place.

    This is the battle that political correctness is all about, is it not? I’m entitled to use hateful language, but maybe I’ll choose not to?

  • Steve Eustice

    I am genuinely unsure whether I properly understand what “offensive” means. I honestly can’t think of a time when I’ve ever been offended by anything. Insulted, sure. But offended? I don’t know.

  • Nicholas Feinberg

    Fundamentally, I think the philosophical-reductionist angle is the incorrect way to approach transgender issues. The situation is: we have some subset of our population who say, “I was born in a body that’s all wrong, and it’s ruining my life.” If we allow them to, they can go through years of therapy, hormone treatments, and surgery, and eventually end up much healthier and happier, at a negligible cost to society. The matter of the pronoun involved is simply a matter of politeness, to a group of people who suffer a great deal of hate for something that should really involve no controversy at all!

    If you really must, you can argue from the anti gender-essentialist perspective: “You don’t REALLY feel like you’re a woman in a man’s body, your brain chemistry is misaligned with your gross physiology and gender has nothing to do with it!” This resolves the contradiction you observed, but in a way that’s somewhere between “needlessly pedantic” and “pointlessly hurtful.” So, actually, now that I think about it, it’s right up Mr. Mailer’s alley!

  • Nicholas Feinberg

    Me too.

  • Nicholas Feinberg

    Just wanted to apologize for my previous comment. I’d only listened to half the podcast, and literally within 30 seconds of the point I’d paused at, Nick came to more-or-less the same conclusion I did, phrased slightly differently.

    So – sorry! I shouldn’t have gone off half-cocked on you like that.