Men

The kissing cam is over.

The kissing cam is over. Drawing Luke Hockley.

The kissing cam is over. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

Last night I went to the football.

Sure, take a moment to take that in.

This is not the kind of thing I do very often. My family has an annual pilgrimage to a particular match between two particular teams that represent a long-standing rivalry between my Dad and one of my Sisters.

I go because, well I can, and it's a whole world I never really visit. It is a spectacular, a theatre experience really.

At quarter time the people stop running around chasing the ball and 80,000 people go to the toilet or buy another drink or sit and check social media while the players chat about what happened and what they want to happen next.

To entertain those who are lost in the internet they do this thing they call the “kissing cam”. They go around the audience and pick a man and a woman (always a man and a woman) and they pressure them to kiss each other.

I was shocked.

I couldn't believe that this is really a thing. That this is still a thing. I can see how light it is meant to be. How people look at it and get a laugh. And mostly it is just people who are married or dating or have been together for a long time having a laugh and kissing on screen for an audience of thousands.

But there is this other edge that I found disturbing.

If there was reluctance from the two people on the screen, then the camera would linger on them and the man on the voice over would apply some pressure.

There was one particular man and woman who were extremely uninterested in kissing. I’m pretty sure they were not at the game together and had never met. So, maybe a producer has made a mistake and picked a couple who weren’t a couple…it’s what happened next that I found unacceptable. They lingered on them and said…

“We can’t start the next quarter until we get a kiss…”

The woman sat there stony faced (which I read as a silent plea to be left alone) and the man pointed off camera to his left at his unseen partner to indicate he was happy to give a kiss in that direction (one that would be, we assumed, consensual). Finally, the producer picked another two victims and the awkwardness abated, momentarily…because they kept coming back! Two more times they visited these two strangers and pressured them to kiss. At this point I realised this was all part of the script the producer was running. Find the reluctant pair and pressure them over time, create the tension and finally get a win when at least one of them gives in.

On the third visit to them (at which point the producer could easily have selected the man and his actual partner to get the kiss they felt they needed) the man reluctantly invaded the woman’s personal space and kissed her on the cheek without her consent.

I know some people would think this isn’t really worth thinking about.

That nothing happened, just a harmless joke on a couple of strangers at the football.

I think that view downplays the incredible power that ‘football’ has as an author of our culture. What was this ‘story’ saying to the men and boys in that stadium?

To me it was saying real men do the thing everyone is pressuring them to do, real men get the girl, that its ok to keep pushing until you get the thing you want (or that you are being told you want) even if the woman seems reticent or openly reluctant, that once you ‘get the girl’ the crowd will cheer and pat you on the back.

And what was it telling the women and girls in that stadium? I think it is telling them that if you say no to a man then you are wrecking things for everyone else, that you are letting the team down, that a man’s needs (or what he is being told he needs) are more important than yours and that everyone will appreciate you just giving in and letting him do the thing he wants (or thinks he wants) to do. I think it’s saying that your personal space, your body, isn’t really ‘yours’ its ‘ours’ and if we want you to ‘share it’ then who are you to say no?

I felt deeply for this man and this woman.

What was he thinking? I wished he’d had the courage to just look at the camera and shake his head or at least lean out of shot and kiss his actual partner. What did he want to happen? How did he feel about being placed in this position? Being asked to take something from someone he didn’t know?

I wondered what she was thinking. I felt offended on her behalf. Angry at this uninvited invasion of her life. I wondered what she really wanted to do? Did she want to give the camera the bird? Did she want to turn to him and say “kiss me and I’ll call the police”? Did she just want to walk away? Did she want to turn to the camera and shake her head?

I may have misread this whole situation. Maybe they were both totally into this ‘game’ that was thrust upon them…I don’t think so though.

Regardless, I think this kind of stunt sets up the culture that means men aren’t allowed to be kind and respectful in front of their mates and women aren’t allowed to be in charge of their own bodies.

The kissing cam is over.

It was never ok, but now it has run whatever course it had to run.

It’s time to stop this kind of rot.

Now.

Love

Luke

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Day 1,201

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Five men at a table.

Five men at a table. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Five men at a table. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

This morning I sat with four other men and had breakfast.

Most of them I hardly knew.

It was a pleasant conversation. Light and easy.

Then someone asked me about what I do…and I told them about the live art work I made last year – listening by hand, where I sat and listened to women talk about their experience of the world…and an incredible conversation unfolded.

The men were all kind hearted, generous men, but they had a broad range of experiences as ‘men’ and differing opinions about how ‘fair’ things are for women and men in this world.

I noticed in these conversations how hard it is for me to listen to perspectives that are different to my own.

I saw how valuable it is for men to be able to say out loud the things that they think about ‘equality’ and have other men listen to them without necessarily agreeing with them.

Mostly I was amazed that these men, who I really wouldn’t have imagined would be interested in a nuanced conversation about gender equity, were absolutely interested.

There weren’t really any earth-shattering changes in any of us.

Afterwards I thought to myself, that for men, this conversation (which has been championed by women for a very long time) may have finally begun.

And that gave me hope.

Love

Luke

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Day 1,187

Show your support for Dear Self by becoming a monthly supporter of my work or by buying some stamp money. Your support means I can keep doing the things I do to make the world a better place.

This guy.

This guy. Drawing Luke Hockley.

This guy. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

This guy, sitting next to me on the plane, takes up more space than he is allocated.

Only ever so slightly more.

But more.

He is very tall. And quite broad shouldered.

And I think he maybe thinks that he is taking up the amount of space he needs…because he is quite tall and all of that.

But he’s not.

He is taking up ever so slightly more than he needs…how do I know that?

Because I am tall and reasonably broad shouldered…and I manage to fit myself into my seat without encroaching on the space of the people beside me.

This guy kind of annoys me because he thinks his comfort is more important than all of ours.

And it’s not.

It’s just not.

Love

Luke

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Day 1,184

Show your support for Dear Self by becoming a monthly supporter of my work or by buying some stamp money. Your support means I can keep doing the things I do to make the world a better place.

My hard edges.

My hard edges. Drawing Luke Hockley.

My hard edges. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

There are spikey parts of me.

Parts that are less pleasant and are very uncomfortable to look at.

I’ve got a hard and sharp edge that will cut you if you come at me the wrong way.

I saw this yesterday in a telephone conversation I had.

My hard edges were in response to someone not being straight with me about something.

I go all quiet and cold. I give nothing away.

Because I’m trying to get my feet back underneath me. Trying to get my bearings. And while I can’t feel my feet and I don’t know which direction is north I don’t want to move.

Truth is I probably just want to run away and hide for a moment. Think about what is going on, formulate a response, but I don’t feel like this is an option. Running away feels like a failure.

But it’s not running away, or failing, it’s just taking some time to think. And I reckon just calmly stating that and doing it is going to be better for everyone.

In yesterday’s conversation I feel like I did slightly better. Ever so slightly better than I have in the past. I had a sense that something was going on and I (a little too late) just asked for some more time to think everything through.

A little progress is better than no progress.

Isn’t it?

Love

Luke

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Day 1,072

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Love and friendship.

Love and friendship. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Love and friendship. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

It’s complex.

Getting around as a human.

There’s all this finding food and water and shelter and all of that to stay alive.

That’s tricky enough.

Then there is love and friendship and family – and that’s a whole new level.

The people bit of being a human has a lot of complexity to it.

Just when I think I’ve got the hang of it…turns out I don’t.

How do I feel frightened and hurt and simultaneously show love and compassion?

That just seems like too big a reach for me.

But if I don’t find a way to do it I’m worried that I will hurt the people I love because I feel unsafe.

That just seems like too big a cost for me.

Getting around as a human.

It’s complex.

Love

Luke

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Buying some stamp money is a way to say thanks. A way to show your love and appreciation for the things I make and share.

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Day 1,064

It's nice to be back.

It’s nice to be back. Drawing Luke Hockley.

It’s nice to be back. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

I just sat for two hours and sewed the bottom hem of my new shirt whilst listening to an audio book.   

I felt the practice of making my clothes come back to me. For a while now it has eluded me. I’ve felt bored or even frustrated by the idea of hand sewing.  

But just now it felt like a luxury again.

A pleasure.

A small gift that I can give myself as a way of refilling the well.

The thing that changed was I stopped worrying (once again) about the finished thing being perfect (it’s handmade - that’s the whole point!) and just enjoyed the process of sewing.

It’s nice to be back.

Love

Luke

 

Responsibility.

Responsibility. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Responsibility. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

I am responsible.

As much as I might like to transfer that responsibility to someone else, I can’t.

That wouldn’t be fair.

I am responsible.

That’s all there is to it.

Love

Luke

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Day 1,044

The boatman’s call.

The boatman’s call. Drawing Luke Hockley.

The boatman’s call. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

Over the last few months I have been on an odyssey.

Alone on a boat witnessing the magnificent and the unspeakable.

I’ve had radio contact with the world.

But getting the boat back to shore has been my sole responsibility.

I chose this sea voyage, I wanted to take it and feel proud of myself for making it home again.

On the voyage I have met many incredible women who are navigating their boats with such skill, I’m in awe.

Taking this voyage has been uncomfortable, risky and sometimes has even felt dangerous. So, why did I want to do this?

I thought it might help change something that needs to be changed.

I thought, maybe, that other men would be inspired to get in a boat and join me. Men who really need to step off the safety of shore and experience the world from the perspective of the wild and untamed ocean.

When I was at sea I did my best not to ask the women I saw to take responsibility for me. But I saw them help each other, in a way that I’ve not really been helped by men in my life.

And I realised why it was important for me to get back to shore.

To ask men to help each other have the emotional strength to get in their boats and sail with me.

Last night a small group of men answered my call. That, in their own ways, they have been venturing out into the ocean too.

Now I’ve got more than radio contact, I can see them on the ocean with me and I know, if I need them, they will be on the ship with me, helping us get safely back to shore.

And, for me, when I experienced this, the healing began.

Love

Luke.

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Day 1,043

Gently, gently.

Gently, gently. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Gently, gently. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

Walking through a minefield…the only tip is to go gently, gently.

Otherwise something might go off.

And that would be no good at all.

Love

Luke

Luke

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Day 1,037

It’s not quite right.

It’s not quite right. Drawing Luke Hockley.

It’s not quite right. Drawing Luke Hockley.

Dear Self,

All my sewing and knitting projects are not quite right at the moment.

I’m up to the toe of the socks I am knitting and, well it’s all quite technical, but the toe is not shaping up the way it’s meant to.

I have been putting the collar onto my shirt for at least 6 weeks now (I know, that is slow progress even for me) and it has been, at every stage, incredibly slow and tedious work. And the results are extremely unsatisfying.

I love the handmade nature of my shirt (and the socks). I love that you can see the stitching and that the stitching is imperfectly perfect. But this is beyond that. It feels unloved.

I’ve realised that I’ve actually sewn the collar on in the wrong order…which is why it looks so rough.

What I have been doing, whilst I sew this collar on and whilst I knit these socks is dismantling the patriarchy. It sounds grander than it is. It is a very small pocket of patriarchy that I have been slowly taking apart.

A small but important pocket. In my heart.

For the last month I’ve sat, and I have listened to women talk about their experiences of being a woman.

As I have listened I have been sewing.

The idea behind the sewing was to have a physical representation of my ability and willingness to take responsibility for myself in the world. Domestically, emotionally, financially, physically.

It has not escaped my notice that during this month of listening I have demonstrated some of my worst sewing and knitting. My incompetence at being able to sew and listen, to be able to take care of myself and create space for listening to women, is, surely a tragic metaphor of some sought.

I’m acutely aware of how inadequate this work is as a response to this deep and insidious problem.

But when my mate Matt said to me “Why aren’t you commenting on #MeToo posts on Facebook to show your support for your female friends?” and I started seriously thinking about how I could act to address this injustice…well it's the best I could come up with.

Its small, its flawed and it’s not quite right…but it's a hell of a lot better than doing nothing. It's a step. One that I’m taking with the right destination in mind. Which is a start. And we have to start.

So, I started.

Love

Luke

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Day 1,036