Rant

We’ll Miss EU

Yesterday, the UK voted to leave the European Union. It has been a while since anything made me so very, very sad. I’m profoundly ashamed of my country – of our politicians, our media, but mainly our electorate – and I am anxious and pessimistic about the future. I won’t bother outlining why I voted to remain, or indeed why the majority of my compatriots decided that they did not feel the same way; we voted. We fucked it. We will leave. Much as I may hope that a technicality means Article 50 cannot possibly be enacted, or a minor electoral misdemeanour scandal forces a second referendum, or London strikes out on its own as a renaissance style city-state with Sadiq Khan as it’s Muslim-Medici prince, the reality is that my country has made a decision that disgusts me and now we all have to live with it.

However, I did discover that nobody I associate with was a passionate Brexiteer. It’s hardly surprising considering the demographic split of the vote that my Facebook newsfeed was devoid of #VoteLeavers; age, geography and education converge to mean that the overwhelming majority of my friends were statistically likely to vote the same way as me. But it’s not the validation of my own views and the affirmation that I respect the politics of my nearest and dearest which has been the silver lining of this shitstormcloud – instead, it’s the way that those I know have reacted to news they were so deeply unhappy with that has been the glimmer of hope in this horrible mess. The myriad exclamations of despair, disbelief, anger and sorrow that have filled my communications channels for the last 24 hours all deserve sharing, but my friend Henry’s response rather succinctly expressed the stage of acceptance that I hope we can all reach in our own time:

“This is the saddest confirmation in my lifetime that we live in a totally divided England, separated by education, wealth and age. Immigration has been made a scapegoat for the failings of a struggling welfare state. Still, a majority has spoken. Now what the hell do we do next?”

I’m proud of us, even if I’m ashamed of what has turned out to be the majority of my country. And my favourite reaction is still the first text I received post-results:

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PALO_ALTO

What a load of wank. In James Franco’s masturbatory ode to youth, weed, and partying it up with attractive high school girls, he’s  managed to make life imitate art onscreen with a sleazy Lolita love story starring himself as Humbert-the-gym-teacher-Humbert. Equipped with the perfect director to peddle his pretentious autobiographical tales of growing up in suburban California (in the form of the latest Coppola to network her way into the industry), the whole thing is so up its own arse it probably can’t even hear the indie synth soundtrack. Eff off Franco, no one likes you.

2/5

Sometimes I aggressively review films in 100 words, and sometimes I tone it down for other publications. You can check out my more measured review of Palo Alto on the Oxford Film Journal.

We Should All Be Feminists

Yesterday I read We Should All Be Feminists, a shorthttp://instagram.com/p/u8LNKXIRzJ/ and sweet essay by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie based on her wonderful Ted talk. Like everything she produces it was beautiful, accessible and succinct, and I’ll be gifting it to my 15 year old cousin this Christmas alongside some of my less enlightened male – and female -friends. It summarises perfectly why feminism is a cause that’s still both relevant and necessary and one that we must all rally around, whilst rubbishing many of the myths and “but what about…?”s that surround the word and the movement. Do read it yourselves, it’s very short, but I thought I’d quote my favourite page:

“Some people ask, ‘Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?’ Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general – but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It woudl be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem should acknowledge that.”

The Altar of the South

During my first stateside flight I sat next to a southerner who told me that the American male sees his car as the ultimate accessory; an expression of personality and individualism “much like how women like to wear different shoes from each other”. During my last flight, I sat next to a northerner who told me that the American male has but two topics of conversation: sports, and the weather. “They all take such pride in their cars so they have one more discussion point before conversation runs dry.”

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The further we travelled, the more towns we stayed in and the more people we met, the more apparent it became to me that the real altar at which America worships is not found within the pretty tin-roofed churches lining our routes. It is the God of the Automobile that rules the south with an aluminium fist. It may be true that one of the few fully pedestrian-planned towns in the country is the most expensive property in the whole of the state of Florida, but for the south at large the SUV and the four wheel drive are as essential to life as food and air con. Even in the cities – perhaps especially in the cities – pedestrians on the sidewalk are a rare breed, and those that we do manage to spot from our fortified Range Rover do not look to be the sort of characters you want to find yourself within a foot of. Without a child lock and an egregiously tinted window in between. And this unbelievable reliance on having a vehicle is not even just a unfortunate necessity; the very idea of investment in public transport is seen as a direct attack on personal freedom (the most important thing in this country, don’t you know). “When I sit behind my wheel I feel like I can go anywhere, do anything, get to any part of the country I want as long as there are gas stations between here and there,” is a sentiment expressed by almost everyone with which I have broached this subject. “Why would I sit with my face in a stranger’s armpit when I could cruise along in my air conditioned SUV?” A damning indictment of train travel, and one that rings like blasphemy in ears of railway-loving Englanders.

Admittedly these arguments, like many of those alien American arguments, political and otherwise, that I at first scoffed at unashamedly, have gained credence the further our journey took us through the southernmost states. The south is its own nation built on and for the car, its (second) booming highpoint synchronous with that of the invention of the automobile and its roads specifically constructed for streams of individuals in cars large enough for eight. It’s a land that has had industry from so comparatively close to its conception that to structure itself around the pedestrian and not the 4×4 would have seemed absurd to the city-expanders of the early 20th century. Its towns are built around never having to leave your car and step into the brutal southern heat; there’s drive-thru food, drive-thru banks that shoot a capsule of money down to you through a vacuum tube, drive-thru voting polls, and, most incongruously, drive-thru liquor stores. There is a painful artificiality to the giant southern metropolises in which you can go a whole day without stepping a foot outside. From your living room to your garage to the parking lot to your office to the parking lot to your garage to your living room. An endless chain of air-conditioned artificial exteriors, a reality where it’s almost too easy to never have to see another human being save through the barrier of your windscreen or the glass of a drive-thru booth.

I’m so not into it.

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#NewMayDays Day 22: DEMOCRACY

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetToday I got to vote in my first election. When it comes to university politics I am completely unengaged – my diary of absenteeism this week alone includes failure to vote in the NUS referendum, our college presidential election, and the recent JCR committee selections – but though I’m perfectly happy to allow other people to shoulder the responsibility and the blame for those decisions my attitude to these European elections is rather different. When it comes to having a say in who we send to represent us outside of our self-obsessed isle I refuse to trust a population that allows the existence of such lunacy as the English Democrats (“not British, not EUropean, but English!”) and the Harmony Party (“zero immigration, anti-EU, pro-jobs”) with the future of our voice on the continent. I mean, it really takes seeing this rubbish in black and white taking up half of my polling card to believe it. Of course the real horror of this election is the monstrous joke-become-a-nightmarish-reality of UKIP and the human turd that is Nigel Farage… but right now it is 1am and I won’t go into why I relished my suffrage today in not voting for any of the isolationist far right that have ridden the crest of the recession wave to an absurd position of unearned legitimacy.

But seriously Farage, go and fall down a fucking well.

“It’s not fair”

A pretty conservative Facebook friend recently posted this article about the BBC’s decision to boost gender representation on its airwaves by getting rid of all-male comedy panel shows. It elicited some interesting comments from many different angles, some calling the move “patronising, populist drivel”, and others arguing that it was a solid demonstration of systematic attacks on discriminatory power structures – the lines were not entirely drawn according to gender, but I have to say that it was entirely predictable who fell into the anti camp. I followed the debate feeling quietly exasperated by those white males whose comments about positive discrimination being just as bad as the negative sort were a fairly obvious veil for outrage that they might one day miss out on a job because of their gender – but it wasn’t until this commenter chimed in (at 3am) that my blood began to boil at the wilful ignorance on display when it comes to issues of representation:

People who would support superficial representation (i.e. having more women on a panel show just because there are more women in the population) are the real discriminators. You’re saying you would deny a male his meritocratic right just because he was born a male rather than a female. Just think about that for a moment. It’s basely unfair and in every way antithetical to the principles of equality you’d presumably support. Seriously, “we can’t know we’ve achieved [equality] until we implement equality of outcome (i.e. quotas)” … what?! You can’t know you’ve achieved equality until you do something which flies so blatantly in the face of equality that any sane person would be able to tell you you’re defeating your own aims? Bullshit at its most profound.

Also, people are saying media where there is a lot of a certain type of humour skews your perception of humour?! Only if you lack the self-control and awareness to not find funny that which you judge not to be funny? Which, by the way, you can’t. It’s an oxymoron – “I find this funny now but really I should be offended by it”. How illogical can you get? If you’re in a position to judge it to be not funny, then you’re in a position not to be influenced by seeing a lot of it. The state should not be disadvantaging people who have, by all accounts, worked to get their positions on television shows just to appease your particular sense of humour. There’s no suggestion that these male comedians are by-and-large doing anything which contravenes any reasonable moral stance and so, if the viewing figures are high enough now, why should the BBC or any other broadcaster pander to any specific view of humour, which is all the quota-advocates here can claim to have. 

There is no “power structure” against you here. No conspiracy. No establishment conniving to put on less-funny but more-male shows. Why would they do that?! They’re after viewing figures and would therefore put anyone funny enough, male or female, on TV, because it’s in their interests. To say “this is not about statistics” about a policy wholly concerned with statistics is nothing but a lie. It may be many other things (for me, viz. wrong, counter-productive, illogical, populist etc.) but “about statistics” it undeniably, 100% is.

The obvious thing to do after reading something as blinkered as the above is to righteously command the poster to check their privilege – someone did, and was greeted by another white male commentator mocking the very concept of privilege (yuck). I’m not going to list everything that is wrong with this Facebook comment essay, as lots of people have already attacked the issue and really who has the time to dismantle the patriarchy in a blogpost? My feelings were succinctly summarised by a subsequent comment: “I don’t know who you are but I think you are deeply wrong.” 

I find it deeply embarrassing and deeply depressing that within my social circle and throughout my university people can and do hold these types of views as absolute truth. That a man can feel perfectly justified in expressing outrage that he might be skipped over for a position on the basis of his gender alone, when the entire history of Western civilisation is a catalogue of everyone who isn’t a straight white man facing exactly that. That someone can exist in our society, where the gender pay gap stands at 20%, where boardrooms are overrun with men, where sexism and racism are historically institutionalised, and still scream that we live in a meritocracy. That someone can be so blinded by their own privilege that they don’t even acknowledge that it exists. I have taken the liberty of condensing the above comment into what I think OP really means – because it’s my blog and I can make things as simplistic as I like:

I’m a white male and the suggestion that the popular media supports my privilege and should recognise the existence and cultural relevance of other groups OFFENDS ME

I’m personally not sure whether I agree with this BBC policy. I think it’s a shame that we need systematic measures to achieve diversity on the telly – but I do accept that it’s probably necessary, and ultimately defer to what one enormously articulate commentator had to say on the matter:

“It’s true that equality of opportunity (ie. hiring) is the true measure of equality, but sometimes we can’t know we’ve achieved it until we implement equality of outcome (i.e. quotas).”

I can respect those who think it’s a step too far and consider it patronising, even if I do not share their opinions. But what I cannot respect is people who are so against a policy like this, so against having to accept that they have been dealt a weighted hand in life and live with the advantages of that, that they refuse to believe the endemic inequality present in our society stretches to every aspect of life – including who is hired to sit on a comedy panel. Lets not pretend that sexism is over. Lets not pretend that discrimination isn’t insidious and omnipresent. And I’m certainly not going to pretend that as a white middle-class female I have been offered the hardest lot in life. But I will NOT listen to white heterosexual men preaching that we’re all on equal footing and it all comes down to talent, and that ability is the only factor at play. This isn’t a question of “are women funny” or “should quotas stretch as far as 8 Out Of 10 Cats“, it is a rather larger question and one that needs a decidedly more complex answer than “quotas are reverse-discrimination, end of debate”.

And to be perfectly honest, as soon as someone expresses an opinion like that all I hear is “but I’m a man and it’s not fair it’s not fair it’s not fair”. Yes, it isn’t fair, and you can fuck off.

You can read a far more articulate analysis of this particular issue (specifically relating to women in comedy) over here