Thursday is, according to the word on the twitters, #trollday. I’m not really sure what that means. At first I thought it meant that we should post troll-y things on teh twitz or on our blogs or on the faceplants. In the sense that they should be deliberately inciting furious debate.

Then I thought it meant that we should be responding to troll-y posts by other people, getting full of the righteous fury. Or shouting “troll!” and pointing at said troll. This is where we all (once a-fucking-gain) shout at Andrew Bolt. Geez, am I the only one who’s had a gutful of that fuck? Surely not.

I’m not really keen on that second approach to trollday. My most successful methods for dealing with trolls in public forums has involved:

a) Posting a streaker to derail the flamefest started by a bit of trolling. I’m not sure how well-known streaking is beyond the British empire, but there’s a long tradition of streaking at major public sporting events here in Australia.

The effect of a streaker is, essentially, to stall the normal course of events. Posting a picture of a streaker in the middle of a nasty online shitstorm is a very effective tactic. It’s difficult to continue a thought when you’re looking at someone’s bits in the middle of a sports match.

b) My other method for dealing with trolls is to ignore them. I delete comments on my blog if they’re nasty. I unfollow twitterers who repeatedly say things that upset me or give me the shits. I unfriend sexist fuckwits on faceplant. Just like I hang up on prank callers and I walk away from dickheads in conversation (though I admit – I will give a dickhead a serve in a conversation. If I’m feeling my oats.)

I’ve found this approach very useful. For a while there on the Australian swing dancing discussion board I was getting some pretty nasty hate mail/private messages/etc. The moderator(s) were utterly useless on this front. So I had to deal with it myself.

You know what I did? I deleted them, I blocked them, I ignored them. Suddenly, no more harassment (sexual, verbal, you name it). And by geez did it make them crazy with the rage! But you know what? If an idiot can’t figure out why I’m cranky with their genderfail, I’m not going to buy into their attention-seeking rubbish by helping them get their learn on by responding to their inanity. That’s their issue. And there’s a pill for that.

I’ve heard some talk lately on teh twittz about ‘echo chambers’, and how not following people you disagree with (or who post opinions you disagree with) is like being in an echo chamber, where you only hear your own opinion echoing back at you.

You know what? I’m ok with that. Because it’s not like there’s a shortage of opinions with which I disagree everywhere else in the mainstream mediasphere. Or on the streets of my city. Or in the conversations of people I meet. I quite like the thought of setting up my own little counter public sphere (thanks Nancy Fraser and all the sisters who’re down with that action). I like the thought of fostering debate and discussion which is both respectful and supportive of feminism, socialism and all the other isms I dig. Because, despite the impression Paper Giants was trying to give, Ita Buttrose and mass-circulation ‘womens’ magazines do not represent me and my ideas about women and feminism*.

After all, the best response to a bit of trolling is to ignore it.

Easier said than done. I’ve had no end of trouble trying to convince people in online arguments that women have a right to, oh I don’t know, make their own decisions. Look however they please. Wear what they like. Think their own thoughts. Express those thoughts. Be treated with respect in public discourse. And do all that action on the dance floor – bring their jazz steps (or not), say no to rough or disrespectful dance partners**, actually lead rather than follow.

This has resulted in far too many late nights until I realised that there were better solutions. Yes, the ‘ignore them’ thing works online. But in the world of bodies, the best way to convince some dickhead that women can be excellent leads, is to get my arse up on the dance floor and be the best bloody lead that I can be. The best way to convince people women can DJ is to get up and DJ. And to keep doing all these things until you get good at them. Or as good as you can be. I figure, eventually, I’ll be dancing in an echo chamber – there’ll be just as many women leading as men, all around me on the dance floor. Wouldn’t that be nice?

So, on this trollday, I suggest we embrace the echo chamber, and rather than rising to the LOLBolt bait once again, we turn our attention to the interesting, clever people amongst us who do have things we should be reading or listening to.

* Right here, I have to say: if the only way you have of defining a woman’s power/lessness is through sex, sexuality and childbirth, you’re doing it wrong. Cleo, its publisher and its content do not represent my idea of woman-positive discourse.

** Here it is: if some guy has hurt you in the past or looks rough, say ‘no thank you’ if you don’t want to dance with him when he asks. Say ‘no thank you’ to dance invites from drunks at live gigs. Say ‘no thank you’ if the guy asking you has been rude or unpleasant to you in the past. Say ‘no thank you’ if you JUST DON’T WANT TO DANCE.

pop culture, jazz and ethnicity.

NB: I’ve done some edits on this post for the shocking grammar/mistypes. Apologies.
In the 1930s and 40s – most particularly the 40s – jazz was mainstream music. It was popular. Though it had been discussed in a range of specialist magazines and periodicals (including Down Beat and Metronome) for years, the mid-40s saw mainstream publications like Life, Look and the men’s magazine Esquire publishing stories and photos about jazz and hiring writers to produce jazz reviews. I think it’s worth noting the point that Esquire was a men’s magazine, that almost all the jazz promoters and managers were men, and that almost all jazz instrumentalists were male.
(Norman Granz from the Verve site)
This mainstreaming of jazz is interesting. It was also a challenge for jazz afficianados who were committed to raising the profile and status of jazz musicians as artists. Reading about Norman Granz, I’ve come across this discussion:

Beginning with the first jam sessions he organized and extending through two decades of JATP concerts, tours, and records, Granz applied three rules. The musicians he hired would be paid well; there would be no dancing at his events; and there could be no segregation on either the bandstand or in the audiences. The first of these rules responded to exploitative club owners and promoters. The second institutionalized a trend that was already familiar from other attempts to establish jazz as an art, a concert music. The third rule was most important, because it recognized the limitations of previous efforts to mix the look of jazz- efforts that had relied on an optimistic trickle-down theory of cultural-social change. Granz’s third rule attempted to ensure consumption as an act of resistance to racist conventions; it tried to direct attention both to the relation of individual consumers to the producers of the music they consumed and to the relations between individual, and perhaps different consumers of the same musical product (26).

It’s interesting to see how Granz’s efforts to raise the status of jazz as art coincided with his anti-segregation and anti-racism efforts. The popular served as ‘low’ culture, and low culture is where black musicians were situated. It’s this equating of segregation with popular culture which I find really interesting. I’m also paying attention to the way jazz is ‘artified’ by various discourses.
Today jazz in Australia has been thoroughly canonised, stuffed into the ‘elite’ or ‘art’ category. It is not popular music. ‘Modern’ jazz is ‘difficult art’, ‘classic jazz’ is daggy and something for old white people. The issue of race works in a different way: there are no black artists in the jazz bands I see at Australian dances, besides the occasional female singer. This is in part because Australian multiculturalism works in a different way to American. But I also think that these efforts to ‘artify’ jazz has effectively distanced it from anyone other than white musicians and white jazznick fans.
This is just a first thought, so please don’t take it as any final argument or position. But it’s making me wonder about ethnicity and class in Australian jazz. We were, after all, segregated as well. And we did have a White Australia immigration policy. I haven’t begun any work on Australian jazz, but I’m wondering how the contemporary jazz landscape looks, in terms of race and gender?
It’s also important to note that there’s a general undercurrent in much of the critical work on jazz that I’m reading (critical in the ‘theorised’ sense rather than ‘reviewing records’ sense) that bebop was far more challenging and engaged with race politics in America than swing. There’s also some provocative stuff about masculinity and black masculinity in the literature on bebop).

(another Gjon Mili photo from his Life magazine series)
Additionally, I’m noticing that the ‘jam session’ is acquiring mythic status throughout all the jazz literature. This is where jazz musicians (regardless of colour or class) could come together and just play, for hours or days, in ‘safe’ clubs or back rooms. The implication is of course that in jam sessions musicians were ‘free’ and in staged performances they were ‘caged’ by social convention.
My spidey sense is tingling. If these jam sessions were so free and liberal, where are the sisters? Who’s home looking after the kids or grandmothers so these uncaged tigers can jam the blues all night? You know, of course, that this brings us back to the role of gender in jazz, and in jazz journalism. And to my central research interest: the relationship between different media within a community… or in constructing community.
Knight, Arthur, “Jammin’ the Blues: or the Sight of Jazz, 1944”. Representing Jazz, ed. Krin Gabbard. Duke U Press: Durham and London, 1995. 11-53.
An earlier post on magazines and jazz
An even earlier post on magazines, jazz and masculinity