Interviews

02/02/2014

Billy Bragg, Akalal, Phill Jupitus & Tom Robinson bang on about Being A Man.



I find the whole concept of “Mens’ Rights” at best dubious, and worst insidiously disingenuous and offensively, flagrantly misogynistic. I happened to have worked with someone who writes occasional features for Femail in the Daily Mail, and his ridiculous ‘pro-male’ polemics make my blood boil. However, it is the over-polished side of the same coin, and I’m not one to turn down a friend's free ticket. Especially if it means I get to see Billy Bragg and Tom Robinson “in” as they say “concert”.

Things got off to a great start; the foyer was full of hot beardy men (later found out through twitter they’re the @ChapsChoir) singing The Book of Love by The Magnetic Fields. Sadly, that would turn out to be the musical highlight of the evening. For two hours I could never shake the feeling that a massive point was being missed, as they all took turns to ramble on and do the odd song. It was pretty unfocused, following anecdotal tangents. In the case of Phill Jupitus they were often funny and insightful, whereas the others went in a lot of circular arguments. Generally theses went along the lines of “we act blokey cos we’re taught blokey things!” or “isn’t it terrible how men/society do these things”. There wasn’t much investigation into the whys or the how-do-we-change-its. There were some really terrible suggestions from Akala, arguing that violence gave him credibility and that all we really need is a space for men to have physical fights and reclaim a bit of honour. Right.... The only point they seemed to raise made me want to have seen Grayson Perry, as they repeatedly quoted one of his statements about men being free to be vulnerable. As someone who has never aspired to masculinity, it seems a fairly obvious and uncomplicated statement to get behind. Towards the end there was another moment of clarity when they were talking about power; especially as white middle-class men. Yes, ‘giving up’ power will cause us anxiety, but there were frustratingly few steps taken towards something like sharing it. I loved it at the end when a woman behind me shouted “we’ll support you!”.

There was a musical element to proceedings, but the songs and poems didn’t do much for me, other than break up the strange forced chat. It was basically Billy Bragg hosting Loose Women as imagined by The Guardian.

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On a side note, it made me want to listen to the Mansun song Being A Girl, and wonder if they ever made a video. They did! and it's only got a bloody young bloody Danny Dyer in it! Blimey: