For days now, I have been reading piece after piece about this guy’s shirt. The latest from a magazine called “The Verge” has annoyed me immensely. [No, I will not link.] All it says to me is: we shall gloss over the instant and apparently earnest apology, because we had already written 400 words and need clickbait for our advertisers.
Of course, I do see the interconnectedness of it all. There are absolutely legitimate grievances against objectifying images. It is mind-boggling that nobody thought to stop him from appearing in something so tasteless. The equivalent of a titty calendar on the wall of the Rosetta offices is a symptom of the domination of sciences by men and, perhaps, a marginal contributor to its perpetuation. What is lacking is a sense of proportion. It seems to me that everything on social media has to be ERRMERRGERD THAT’S THE WORST THING THAT A HUMAN BEING DID EVER LOLZ.
“This is the sort of casual misogyny that stops women from entering certain scientific fields”, the piece claims.
Really? This idiot’s shirt does that? Not the fact that in countries with population representing more than two-thirds of the world educating girls is either frowned upon or illegal? Not the fact that we, as parents, buy girls pink plastic kitchens instead of chemistry sets to play with in our millions? Not the fact that university faculties are run by old grey men who overtly discriminate against female scientists?
No? It is this guy’s shirt? Wood. Trees. *searches The Verge for ANY article on female genital mutilation; finds none*
There are big ticket items and superficial stuff and I just get frustrated with keyboard warriors’ unerring ability to obsess about the latter while ignoring the former.
We’re all xenophobes; hardwired to fear the “other”, the “different”.
Some understand this and engage their brain to fight instinct with reason. Some deny it, dress it up with pretty little bows and call it something else.
I’m tired of bows. I’m tired of those too lazy or too frightened or too rigid to engage their brain. That is it and that is all.
I want to put something short in plain English, so that every time some troll with “the genocide of the whites” in their biog or a St George’s flag over-laced with some islamophobic logo as an avi rants at me, I can simply say: “here you go” before I block the bejeezus out of them.
While I don’t have time for giant idiocy, I do not for one moment doubt your democratic right to support gigantically idiotic parties or pursue gigantically idiotic policies. Trying to talk to you, to convince you otherwise, has proved largely unfruitful because your fears are irrational and your allegiances emotional. Therefore a presentation of calm facts does nothing. It is, as someone said recently, like trying to play chess with a pigeon. The pigeon will shit all over the chess board and still strut around as if it won the game.
What I do, however, expect of you is this: To not behave as if you express the feelings of the majority – you do not. To not behave as if, somehow, your glorious leader has already won the election, got into power and enacted the bigoted policies you espouse – he has not. If and when he does, you may live out your fantasies of “sending me home/to prison/to Syria/to a gay cure place” while wanking into your special sock. But no sooner.
I have exercised the very same reciprocal right that your uncle did when he retired to the Spanish coast and, while I understand that you think he is an expat and I am an immigrant, that distinction exists only in your head. You may fantasise about and pursue parties and policies which could make me an interloper, but that doesn’t make me one. I am in this country quite lawfully, just like you.
I hope you can find a space in your heart and mind that is clean and kind and at least file this information until you are ready to consider it.
There is no reason for me to get involved in the Gaza debate. I am neither an expert nor directly involved. I am a very worried observer trying to make sense of the images I see and the feelings they give rise to inside me. Since many people I know are the same, you might find my thoughts useful in some small way.
Two enemies, let us call them A and B, are at an impasse. A is stuck inside an armoured vehicle with his family. It has an assortment of weapons, including a mounted rocket launcher. B has taken refuge inside a school. He is pinned there. He has a pistol. There are roughly a hundred children in the school. B keeps shooting at the armoured vehicle. It is bulletproof, but only 99% effective, so there is a small but real danger to A’s family.
An examination of how they got there is possibly relevant, but not directly pertinent to the situation in which they find themselves. Maybe A terrorised B for decades, has stolen everything he had and occupied his house. Maybe B has always wanted to obliterate A because he hates his race deeply and A has only acted in self-defence. Maybe A has given B countless chances to stop shooting, but B doesn’t trust him enough. Maybe even B has gone into the school with the express purpose of using the children as a human shield.
A fires a rocket at the school blowing B up. He aims it carefully, so that only thirty children are killed and another thirty lose a limb.
In the inquest that follows, what questions would you ask? Would you investigate whether there were any other options, whether the reaction was proportionate, whether a smaller weapon could have been used, whether an external negotiator could have been brought in, whether the small danger posed justified the loss of thirty innocents? Would asking these questions indicate bias against or even a hatred of A or are they legitimate? Or would you just say: “A was in the right and that is all there is to it”?
It is not Israel’s actions that I am struggling to understand. I may not agree with their reaction, but I understand why they have chosen it. Nor can I say with any certainty what I would do in their position. It is their apparent lack of any remorse at the loss of innocent life, any compassion for the human misery it causes that I struggle with. It seems to have been totally replaced by a cruel and almost maniacal desire to say “we are in the right”.
If I saw even a single Israeli official on the news, genuinely sleepless and affected, saying: “This is an impossible situation. Believe me, we do not do any of this lightly. We have struggled with our conscience. The images of those dead kids will haunt me for the rest of my life.” maybe I would have more sympathy. But all I see are people who appear to believe that the rights and wrongs of how A and B found themselves at an impasse, somehow make the moral dilemma disappear. That the circumstances absolve Israel of responsibility for every rocket they fire from now on. That “they started it” is an impenetrably blame-proof defence for all that follows. I see an absence of humanity which can never contain any sort of peaceful solution.
I wish people on both sides, who understand that there is no such thing as “only thirty children”, all luck and courage in wresting the solution from the hands of those who are simply preoccupied with being right.
While today’s front pages are – entirely justifiably – the source of great anger and symptomatic of wider sexism, there is a danger of missing the full picture.
The more we zoom into a thigh the less we see of the wider context. The more energy is expended on Esther McVey’s skirt – whether through lust or outrage – the less energy is expended on Gove being sacked after wrecking the education of an entire generation of children. The closer we examine their bags, the less likely we are to notice the total absence of any working class, black, LGBT and disabled representatives in the cabinet.
It is true that yesterday’s reshuffle was treated predominantly as a superficial photo opportunity by a right-wing sexist media corps. Let that not soften our focus on the fact that yesterday’s reshuffle was organised predominantly as a superficial photo opportunity by a right-wing sexist party.
With a few months to go and this government’s legislative programme already closed, shoving a few women to the front was always a cynically cosmetic exercise. Its treatment by the media was not unforeseen consequence, but intended result.
I’ve had a tiny pebble in my shoe all day. It has annoyed me since ten o’clock this morning. And yet I only just took it out. The pebble has wounded my foot. Just like the thought that next time I visit the home where I grew up, Mum may not recognise me, wounds my heart. It shifts around, sometimes it hobbles me, sometimes I feel it less, but it is always there. It is the price I pay, every day, for choosing to be bold and pioneering, back when home was boring and parents indestructible.
I sit here alone in my flat now, holding the minuscule monolith in my palm, sobbing a bit. I love this pebble. I brought it from a beach in Mykonos all the way to South Bermondsey. You should have seen how breezily I marched through the “Nothing To Declare” aisle, knowing that in my shoe I carried a tiny piece of smuggled salted sunshine.
If it weren’t a thoroughly irrational thing to do, I’d put it right back in my shoe tomorrow morning.