To PC or not to PC: that is not the question...
There are several reasons I don’t listen to BBC Radio 4 in the morning.
First reason: I listen to music – either loud raucous, mid level uplifting or quiet serenity.
Second reason: I think humans are intended to know what happened in their village every day; in the nearest town every week; in the capital every month and overseas twice a year. Knowing about every flood, every mass killing, every coup, every atrocity, every nuance of a deranged president before you’ve had your oatmeal is neither normal, healthy or useful.
Third reason: the Radio 4 default methodology is “here is a professor in our Bristol studio who thinks that all recycling should be paid for by consumers, and here’s an author in our Fyfe studio who completely disagrees. Right then, off you go. you have 3 minutes to bicker then I’ll cut in rudely, interrupt you and move straight on to talk about diesel engines killing us all”
Two news items collided in front of me this week. Disney have a gay character in Beauty and The Beast; a university has banned lecturers from saying waitress, polio victim or forefathers.
You can’t have a black and white [there you go, I fucked up already] debate about either of these. It’s ridiculous for Disney to rewrite a classic 200 year old story in a clumsy attempt to make gay people feel better. It’s also completely brilliant for a 9 year old who is gay but is still dominated by received wisdom, parental bigotry and peer group ridicule to see a gay relationship and a gay hero as normal. This may well, all by itself, stave off discrimination, mental illness and isolation.
You can’t tell an academic in a university – bastions of free thought, edgy challenging art and discourse, that they can’t say ‘waitress’. Absolutely ridiculous. Cultural fascism of the worst kind, only this time from the left. On the other hand, after all these years, I’m still incredibly sensitive when a blogger or a songwriter uses the word ‘blind’ to mean stupid, thoughtless or clumsy. I’m none of those things but the persistent use of that word reinforces a negative stereotype which particularly sticks with the young.
Philosopher Isiah Berlin pointed out that both communism and capitalism are perfectly viable, realistic ways to run a country. Have you ever heard that articulated by a politician?
Anyway, enough of that. I have been reading ‘Vagina’ by Naomi Wolf. To say that Naomi is a feminist is like saying that Ken Livingston is a bit to the left or that Hitler was right of centre. The book is powerful, very academic, very well researched and uses a mix of strong evidence based material to strengthen Naomi’s view that much of the sexism still around is caused by both men and women having a weird, awkward, often negative view of the vagina. There are unanswerable facts about men in war choosing to mutilate disfigure and rape, not, according to Naomi, because men in war are all suddenly overtaken by a mass sexual violent frenzy, but because their leaders compel them to do it because the leaders know that a woman demeaned and wounded in this way will be less likely to fight. This part of the book made me angry, ashamed and depressed.
On the positive side, she evidences strongly that women who do feel good about every part of their bodies and, interestingly, who have a partner who cherishes and understands this, will be creative, powerful, effective and loving.
She puts a strong view that women are different from men! She takes us back to pre-victorian and non-European erotic literature where the emphasis is on long, strong, loving devotion to the woman, cherishing her and taking much time over sensual, adoring tittilation. She argues strongly that the availability of porn to young people has led to the received wisdom among many young men and women that cutting to the chase, straight into vigorous or even violent sex is the norm.
Something came to me. I went back to school and the lads who hadn’t matured. Their skinny hairless willies were pointed at, taunted and derided. I don’t think for a minute they ever got over it.
The friend who gave me the tip about the book added a codicil which surprised me at first. She said that in fact if more men were aware of the ‘locker room’ banter of women it might go a long way to equalising points of view… how does that square with pre-victorian prolonged gentle sensual foreplay? Then I thought about a holiday in the Caribbean with a group of friends including women in their twenties, thirties, forties and fifties. They decided to go horse riding on the beach. The horses were looked after by a super-cool, super fit white German dude with dreadlocks, a Caribbean accent and flashing eyes. As far as I could make out, every woman in the party, whatever age and political persuation, would have been delighted to have disappeared behind a sand dune with Hans for a quick twenty minutes, and I didn’t hear the word ‘foreplay’ mentioned once.
…actually can I say ‘mentioned’? It’s got the word ‘men’ in it. Sorry about that.