Saturday, 31 July 2010

ooooo you are awful.....really really awful.

"In my view some members of the gay community need to stop regarding themselves as having a special victim status and behave like any other sensible group that is accepted by society.

"Not having a privileged status means, of course, one must accept occasionally being the butt of jokes. A person's sexuality should not give them a protected status.”

This is how the editor of The Sunday Times, John Witherow, responded to BBC presenter Clare Balding’s complaint about an article written by AA Gill. Gill, reviewing Balding’s new TV series about cycling around Britain, described her as:

“The dyke on a bike puffing up the nooks and crannies at the bottom end of the nation."

As you will agree an absolutely HILARIOUS way to start a piece of writing! BECAUSE BALDING IS A LESBIAN! “CRANNIES!” Makes you think of vaginas! And who likes vaginas? LESBIANS! Oh Gill, you absolute hoot. One can only imagine this is what went through his mind when he wrote this piece [of turd]. He certainly wasn’t thinking about the possibility of offending anyone.

I find it utterly shameful that a newspaper, a highly regarded one at that, thinks it’s permissible and a “joke” to describe someone in such a derogatory fashion. When I read it for the first time, my jaw on the table, I couldn’t stop imagining Witherow as some fat, sweaty, cigar smoking arse guffawing all the way through Balding’s complaint. But that’s my own personal prejudice right there; I’m sure not all fat, sweaty arses are smokers.

As Balding herself has said “no-one would dream of introducing Stephen Fry as “The faggot from QI”, yet the introduction: “the dyke on a bike” can be written, edited, printed and dismissed as a “joke” when it’s offensive nature is eventually pointed out. According to The Sunday Times anyone who is offended is simply owning up to not having a sense of humour. A ridiculous statement as anyone who has watched Balding on Have I Got News for You will know, she can knock about with the best of them.

But not being able to take a joke seems to be the get-out clause of all ignorant comedians on stage and in the pub. You need look no further than the hideous creature that is Frankie Boyle. A man it seems who is hell bent on morphing, unapologetically, into this generations Bernard Manning. His humour is neither clever, nor witty but is just the drivellings of someone desperate for attention. Boyle will say anything he thinks will be shocking enough to make a name for him. And unfortunately it has worked.

Comedians like Boyle are making it “ok” for everyone else to act like rot. I have lost count of the times that people have made racist, homophobic jokes around me, or quipped about people with disabilities. People who don’t know me, who couldn’t possibly know if they are offending me or the people I love. They either truly don’t care or don’t believe that people who are gay, disabled or black actually exist. I had the misfortune of sitting not too far away from a work colleague for longer than was sanitary, who spent most of his day belittling any form of human that was not white, male and good at football. It wasn’t so much what he was saying, he lacked the imagination to come up with any jokes I hadn’t already had the misfortune of hearing, it was just his sheer and utter lack of shame when saying them. He saw nothing wrong with what was spewing out of his mouth, and like Witherow scoffed at and dismissed anyone who pulled him up.

I felt for anyone who had the bad luck to over hear this wretch, anyone who may have been more personally affected than I was. It upsets me still to think of the people I know and have known who have felt it necessary to hide who they are. I know someone isn’t DEFINED by their sexuality and some may feel, quite rightly, that perhaps this world doesn’t deserve to know all about them. But I am lucky that I can go to work and talk about my other half. I have never had to refer to a date as “them” and “they”, careful not to let slip a “she” or “her”. But I know people who have had to do this, people who have been the most intelligent, the wittiest and the sharpest person in a room, yet have felt it necessary to hide what they love for fear they will be deserted.

These people aren’t asking for a “protected status” as Witherow would claim, all they want I’m sure is to live in a society where they have the basic human status offered to everyone else - that of being allowed to be who they are. When we have that society, and I hope it comes soon, THEN I will be laughing.

Sunday, 11 July 2010


I have just finished watching the Channel 4 book group thingy, a programme I find confusing but compelled to watch due to my current working situation. Jo Brand aside, who picked that panel? Watching Dave Spikey and that woman from……um, well that other woman makes me feel very odd. I want to appreciate the differences Channel 4 are trying to convey here, namely: class, sex, age and ethnicity and put their odd casting down to good intentions gone wrong. But it just upsets me, it’s like eating dumplings and cream – enjoyable to some people served separately, but together? And what happened to Gok? Were there just too many social bases covered last series?

The fat funny woman – check
Sexy young woman (though not afraid to appear intelligent) possibly from a non-European background – check
Northern, middle aged man of the people, salt of the earth, not going to intellectually intimate the boyfriends and husbands forced to watch the show – check
Chinese feminine man/boy whose contract stipulates he will be given opportunity to front non-clothing based show – check

I’m guessing viewers found this cultural spread a little hard to digest and producers cut loose the one presenter (Jo Brand aside) who they knew would be ok on his own. They spend each show discussing books that I would never think to pick up from the shelf and probably have never been sufficiently interested by to flip over at work. Not a bad thing at all, afterall there isn’t much point trying to get people to read books they would happily find by themselves. However, after this odd ball bunch have finished discussing said book I’m still not interested, so much so that I am nervous about tomorrow in case I find myself holding the book by accident, what if someone sees me and thinks “she saw that programme last night and was encouraged by that weird, bizarrely cast panel! What a loser, she must have NO MIND OF HER OWN”. I do however always make a mental note to have a look at Jo Brand’s autobiography (now available in paperback).

So whilst the rest of the planet watched the world cup final I tried to crowbar some inspiration from The Channel 4 book group. And oddly enough, I did. But not about the book on discussion but a book written by the subject of their “Bluffer’s Guide to…” segment. The author was James Joyce (a man who most of those featured in a “do you know who James Joyce is?” voxpox did not know who James Joyce was) the book was Ulysess. I grew up thinking this book was a Greek play or epic poem, which having watched the informative “Bluffer’s Guide to …..James Joyce” I feel confident enough to say probably is a bit. I remember being pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't a greek tragedy. That it was actually written in my own language and was a book that I MAY be able to read. But then you hear the horror stories. The boy presenter (for he looked younger than I have ever been) did nothing to dampen these terrors. He hammered on about how difficult it is to read, how people have gone mad just looking into its covers. He may be right. I’m looking at my copy now, the paperback edition first published in 1961 (the reason I bought it) and find just a single corner turned over to mark its previous owner’s attempt. My Ulysses ancestor stopped on page 8, and there isn’t any indication that that journey included any of the forewords. This is a worry. But the way it was described grabbed my attention, I like the idea of reading something written in numerous different genres (afterall, this is how Channel 4 present their shows); a book that’s impact and looming presence hasn’t waned over the years. People are still scared of this book and I would like to know why. I also don’t want to be one of those people that just buy books because they look good on a shelf and have a cool retro cover. I would like to crush the next person who goes “ahh Ulysses! Cool cover, but I bet you haven’t read it!” with an informed, just patronising enough touché. As an English literature graduate I find it only right that I should at least give it a go and while the world watches “22 millionaires ruining a lawn”( – Charlie Brooker) I feel enough alone in the world to open up that book and let it make me go a bit mad without damaging those I love. It will also be better than answering “what classics have you read?” with the meek response “weeeeell I did Mary Barton at Uni…..”

Ill let you know how I get on, keep your fingers crossed I make it passed page 8…..
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