Day Five: ‘Tone’ and pissing statues

I wonder if you can guess the author of the follow quote.

‘Inside every comic there is a politician longing to be free’

You can guess (Oscar Wilde? Mahatma Gandhi? Marlin Monroe?) but you won’t get it. It was me. To be fair, that quote is the sort of pretentious trash that someone has probably said before, but this time I said it. Not some man ‘o the suit, but instead I made it and formatted it so you thought someone clever said it instead — what cheek!

Maybe, I wanted to sound like I might be the sort of person who had memorized clever things; because that is itself a measure of how clever the memorizer. Quotes really do two things; one, they whisper into your ear ‘look how clever this person is’ and bellow into the other ear ‘look how clever I am for knowing remembering it’. Being able to Google shit you half recall from flicking through non-fiction at Waterstones is actually about as impressive as taking three vitamin C pills, dancing like you’re hooked up to a car battery and calling your mum in the morning saying that you’re going ‘cold turkey’.

That all said, I do think that quote is true and there’s the rub (you can’t help yourself? — ed). Inside each jester who writes ‘entertainment’ on a ‘serious’ matter, there is a speech writer who dreams of standing ovations from old white people wearing oversized lanyards. There are so many jokers so longing to be taken seriously; John Stewart, Eddie Izzard and Jeremy Hunt to name just three. On this project there is an acute danger of turning serious. We’re trying to write an interesting exploration of being a man but over and over my fingers find themselves typing out nuisance sentences that mainly serve to demonstrate what an educated and clever little so-and-so I think I am.

This desire to appear important drives a great deal of the negative behavior during conversations about gender. Instead of being able to laugh about what is funny, we have all parties decrying the type of petty crap that we should giggle at. Through their damnings they find a warming sense that they matter; this boring comfort blanket is far more about the speaker than the listener and generally adds nothing but obfuscation and the risk of offence to a conversation. A pair of examples stick in my mind from recent weeks; one, a chap telling me about the ‘disgrace’ that in Sweden, allegedly, boys are told by their teachers to sit down to urinate; the second, hearing about the ‘aggression’ I was committing by ‘delegitimising’ Anaconda as a ‘Feminist Anthem.’

In both cases, we could have all had a little laugh and moved on, but instead I found myself indulging bad habit, going home and working on an eight slide presentation with full citations, about how the lyric ‘Fuck the skinny bitches in the club … Fuck you if you skinny bitch’ really is just a little hateful towards women.

This is not to say that people are wrong to be sincere. While I accept that some things don’t need a silly quip (making me redundant), there are so many more things out there that don’t need the earnest condemnation they receive. Honestly, I couldn’t care less what people feel is important, I just wish they wouldn’t care about it around me given how contagious that mental virus is and how vulnerable my immune system is to important words, thoughtful gazes and humourless explanations.

So, I’m imposing a ban on myself on taking sincere tones. I will mock, joke and ridicule my way through this because I am not a scholar and neither are you. 
 —

That all said, I have something very important to talk about; what statues of pissing children say about society. In Brussels, there are two statues of pissing children. One is the symbol of the city and markedly marked on every map — a little boy. The other, a girl, is hidden down an alley with an iron grating in front of it, as if to stop this dirty girl from escaping and pissing everywhere.

The Manneken Pis, this little boy, can be purchased from most good tat shops in Brussels in a variety of different forms, all as compelling and as essential as the last. A pissing child wine stopper, a pissing child paperweight, a pissing child corkscrew (guess where the screw goes) but there doesn’t seem to be quite the demand for the female version.

The reactions of the audience (both statues draw a crowd) are quite different. While schoolgirls and their balding teachers laugh and joke about the male statue (they were German so I’d imagine the piss was funny enough without a joke), at the statue of the squatting girl visitors recoil and no one dares take a picture. I thought about taking a photograph myself and realized the reason I didn’t dare. We were all worried about being imagined to be one of the lowest of the low — a statue pedo. Well, second lowest as a person pedo is quite considerably worse. I certainly worried that some Belgium Bobby would stop me and ask if I was related to the bronze girl and, if not, why I was taking pictures of her.

All this does speak to something about western European attitudes about urinating women. Despite the fact that it’s one of a handful of things that literally everyone does, we recoil at the idea that women and girls do actually expel fragranced water rather than just go to the bathroom and do something called ‘urinating’ which is quite different to pissing — maybe it just means paying CandyCrush and fixing makeup? We’re okay with the concept of women pissing but not the reality. Across the city we see the opposite, men encouraged to piss freely in public and an enjoyed representation of the physical act of urination.

As a so-called “Millenial’ and someone with a penchant for rhyme I can think of only one answer to this silliness: we all tweet with the hashtag #FreeTheWee. Then, and only then, will we have truly solved this problem and it won’t just be the hockey team tryouts and grannies pissing in the street but it will be the CEOs, the MPs and athletes (Paula Radcliffe not included).

Does that all make sense? I hope so.

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