Friday, November 11, 2005

Friday's Fumblings

The lobbying of MPs by police officers over the Terrorism Bill, which I complained about a few days ago, has now moved up the mainstream agenda and is going to be looked at by a Commons committee.
Last night, an audience member on Question Time on BBC1 exposed the double standards of the Government's 'the police know best' argument with a point that I wish I had thought of myself.
The police have complained strongly to the Government about the extension of licensing hours. I think some of them have called this lunacy, in view of the current levels of alcohol-related crime and disorder.
Has the Government accepted what in this instance is quite a well-argued police case? No, of course not. They've politely told them to bugger off and said the same to ambulance drivers, staff in A & E departments and other health professionals.

Incidentally, alcohol-fuelled crime is not just a problem in itself but has a knock-on effect on the police's ability to deal with other types of crime. Police officers who have spent all night dealing with drunks on the streets are not available the following day to deal with burglaries and other crimes. Like the binge drinkers, they're in bed catching up on their sleep.


I've always thought that the day I use the phrase 'political correctness gone mad' is the day I will press that Blogger button that says 'Delete Blog'.
You see, I love political correctness although the term itself is absurd and derogatory and comes from the political right. I love the idea of a society where people respect diversity and are sensitive to other people's feelings. I don't mind too much if people take a pop at my attitudes and beliefs and call me a cynical old bastard or a loony left wanker. But I'd rather not be called a queer or a poof or 'four-eyes' because I wear glasses.
On the other hand, I can't deny that there are a few imbeciles who will always take things to extremes.

I first became aware of this at university when the 'GaySoc' put on a disco. There were long and agonised discussions about what records could be played. The women in particular vetoed any song whose lyrics were either sexist or heterosexist. Not surprisingly, this ruled out almost every pop song ever written. At one point it looked as though we'd all be dancing to the Glenn Miller Band and doing the jitterbug to 'String of Pearls'. Or perhaps not.

I was so annoyed by this that at the disco, having put myself on the outside of a large quantity of Smirnoff, I asked a lesbian who was carrying a bicycle pump if she used it to pump up her breasts. When her partner turned red with rage I asked her if she was flushing because it was her time of the month. I am not proud of this and it showed a reckless disregard for my own safety. It was a large bicycle pump and made of steel. But I have an inexplicable knack of getting away with such things. People decided I was engaging in some highly amusing post-modernist irony and urged me on to even greater excesses. Indeed, one young astrophysicist who had only just come out was so impressed by this badinage that he fell instantly in love with me and that could lead to only one thing. That's right: the line 'Is that a telescope in your pocket or are you........' (Make up your own Big Bang jokes and leave me with some self-respect).

I didn't hear the interview on Woman's Hour this week but there has been a mini-brouhaha over Tory leadership contender David Davis saying that he preferred blondes to brunettes. The President of a Conservative women's organisation said it was patronising.
I assume he was responding to a question from the presenter, Martha Kearney, who is also Newsnight's Political Editor. If anything, the fault lies with her. She also asked the two candidates what kind of underwear they wore. One can't imagine Jeremy Paxman asking Ann Widdecombe about her preferences in knickers.

But try as I might, I cannot see why a man expressing a preference for blondes should be described as a 'gaffe' or why it should be described as 'patronising'. Are 'intra-gender' preferences any more sexist or patronising than saying you prefer men to women or vice-versa?
Gay men must be guilty of more '' prejudices than anybody. For if you look at gay personal ads you'll find hundreds of different preferences stated, from age and skin colour to the wearing of glasses or tracksuits. It sometimes seems that not being content with a restriction of partners to 5 - 10% of the population, gay men then want to narrow their choices even further to the kind of detailed specifications you get with a luxury car - electric windows, power steering, sun roof, 0 - 60 in 7.8 seconds.

But so what? We all have different turn-ons, from mild preferences to compulsive fetishes.
I wish I had a pound for every time I've had to switch the conversation back to football when a straight man has asked me if I'm a 'tit man' or a 'leg man'. And young women today seem to be always commenting on some male sex object's 'nice bum'. Only last night on the safe and cosy comedy drama 'Doc Martin' (yawn) a young woman was admiring the Joe Absalom character's bum. Sadly, we never saw the said bum but he smiled sweetly and thanked her. (Smiling sweetly, if gormlessly, is Joe Absalom's USP). But if he'd told her she had great tits she'd probably have accused him of sexual harrassment, assuming it wasn't edited out of the script.

I've almost forgotten what my point was and I nearly descended into the tabloid columnist's 'Why don't we all grow up?'
I suppose my argument is that a sexual preference or a sexual compliment, however ineptly or grossly expressed, is neither insulting nor sexist.
And that there should be equal freedom of expression for the goose and the gander.
And that context and intent are crucial - shouting sexual comments at complete strangers, whether male or female, is just ill-mannered.
But if just talking about sexual attraction and sexual preferences is going to produce howls of protest then it won't be long before the activity itself is regarded as sexist, patronising and demeaning and we'll just have to get our pleasure alone in one of those 'orgasmatrons' that featured in a Woody Allen film.


At 12:26 PM, Blogger Urban Chick said...

my fave david 'i was brought up by a single mum on a council estate' davis have come from the post-blonde comment ensuing brouhaha

on jeremy vine yesterday he guffawed: if you want new puritan sense of humour...!

and then on bbc breakfast this morning it had morphed into: if you're looking for modern puritan sense of humour...!*

* i sense his spin doctors' hands all over this one - betcha someone said 'no! not NEW puritan - sounds too much like NEW 'bout 'modern puritan'? hangs better with your 'modern conservatives' strapline'

p.s. i cannot a tory but even then i cannot trust a man with a signature as garish as his anyway - do the Ds really need to be that BIG, david??

At 12:28 PM, Blogger Urban Chick said...

of course, when i say 'i cannot a tory', i mean 'i cannot TRUST a tory'...

melyach = pain suffered by rotund, aged jazz singer who wears a trilby hat

At 6:30 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

UC: glad you clarified that. I wondered what the missing verb was. I thought it might have been 'shag'.

Davis never mentions there was also a stepfather there so she wasn't really a single mum.
But then he's very economical with the truth about many things. In the TV debate both he and Posh Boy posed as friends of gay parents, which is contradicted by both their voting records.

I like melyach, but isn't this word game being played in someone else's blog? Not that it matters, but at my age I'm easily confused.

At 9:16 AM, Blogger Norbert Trouser-Quandary said...

I don't know. To me, 'political correctness' has always had overtones of an Orwellian attempt to control thought through control of language, so to me it is a bad thing.
However, what you speak of not being nasty to gays, blacks and so on, I do agree with you. Although, I think this ought really to be a matter of good manners, and of being generally nice to people, rather than 'politics'.
I have often thought that some of the things that appear on my blog would bring down accusations of sexism and other forms of general 'un-pcness', but - so far - most of my visitors who've bothered to comment do seem to 'get it'.
Anyway, Tories in their underpants to me seems like the stuff of nightmares.

At 9:23 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

David: I think political language in the Orwellian sense to which you refer is as likely to come from the right as from the left (in which I include Blair). For example 'collateral damage' for civilian casualties or 'choice' as a euphemism for privatisation.

Yes, a lot of 'PC' language is simply good manners. But sadly, a lot of people are blind to the offensiveness of some of the terms they use.


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