Sexism and Guilt

Rant to The Independent in response to this article:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/yasmin-alibhai-brown/yasmin-alibhaibrown-sexism-is-wrong-but-are-we-women-our-own-worst-enemy-2199039.html

Sirs,

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown manages to provide a whole British Rail’s worth of excuses why feminism isn’t working without actually doing anything useful like provide a solution. She provides a long list of things the Big Bad World is doing wrong to the sisterhood without acknowledging the true source of her bitterness.

Generation after generation of mothers have utterly failed to bring their daughters up to behave in the independent, free-spirited and idealised way that they retrospectively would have wanted. The ire that (to quote the fragrant Yasmin) “grizzled old feminists” point at us men is, in fact, guilt on their part for this failure.

When mothers start to bring their daughters up to know that the latest boy band are just a bunch of vacuous nobodies, that make-up does not need a shovel to be applied properly and that roaming the streets with their friends in an alcoholic haze shouting at anything with testicles that looks like it owns its own property is the last way to gain respect from anyone, THEN they might have a point.

But since none of these behaviours is in decline, might I suggest that they have work to do closer to home before they start attacking the other gender for its attitudes. Otherwise, we men might just reach the conclusion that all this feminist whining is less about a desire for equality and more a complaint about lost youth.

Paul Harper

Personal Communications Technology

A rant at The Independent in response to this article:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/philip-hensher/philip-hensher-all-alone-even-when-were-together-2197800.html

Sirs,

Philip Hensher misses several points in his missive against personal communication technology.

Firstly, he assumes that the protective shield that these devices provide is a bad thing. If random people in the street were remotely interesting, he might have a point. However, in my experience they are utterly boring and are to be avoided. The prospect of my life being so empty that I have to engage them is terrifying.

Secondly, he assumes this shield is a new idea – it isn’t. Once, if you wanted to talk to someone you had to meet them face to face. Then the telephone was invented. Once, if you wanted to see a film you had to endure the shared experience of the cinema. Then they started putting them on television. The ability to enjoy life without unwanted proximity to others has been developing for decades, and long may it continue.

Thirdly, he assumes Grindr is just a pick-up tool for gay guys. It isn’t. It’s a way of filtering out those gremlins you don’t fancy and wouldn’t say hello to in a hundred years. This is a good thing, unless you’re ugly or have no personality, of course – then you’re filtered.

Lastly, although there are many “serial friend collectors” on Facebook, using it to fill some yawning chasm in their lives, for real people (ie those with only a couple of hundred people in their friends list) it is an invaluable way of remaining sociable and up-to-date with real friends and family on a far more frequent basis than a busy life permits. Again, a good thing.

I prefer to think of the development of personal communications technology as an evolutionary step – taking humanity away from the simian requirement for social living and making it optional.

Regards,

Paul Harper

It got published on the 3rd Feb :

Naivety Regarding Muslim Issues

Sent to The Independent in response to their leader article here:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/leading-articles/leading-article-not-at-the-dinner-table-2190110.html

Sirs,

Was your leader this morning written by a teenager? I have not read such naivety and desperate political correctness for a long time.

In your mad rush to appease Baroness Warsi’s whining, you ignore any faults on the side of her community. As a gay man, I can assure you that there is plenty of prejudice out there towards me, but I fail to see why when I am considered by the Muslim community as an abomination to be eliminated, I should in any way turn the other cheek to their faults.

Muslim attitudes to gay people like me, to gender equality and to community integration are woefully inadequate. Their lack of control of their extremist elements is pitiful and telling. There will always be tolerance problems here while fundamental issues like these remain unaddressed, even unacknowledged by the likes of Warsi.

The UK is not a Muslim country, and hopefully never will be. The onus is on Muslims to fit in with local customs and standards, not the other way around. There are plenty of Muslim countries in the world if they find our ways unacceptable, and frequent flights to them.

Paul Harper

… and they printed it:

Warsi’s Misdirected Righteous Indignation

Baroness Warsi, Chair of the Conservative Party bemoaned British attitudes to Muslims, saying that it was considered acceptable dinner table behaviour to show prejudice against them. This was sent to The Independent in response:

Sirs,

With all the predictability of a miserable January morning, Baroness Warsi is once again bemoaning British attitudes to Muslims, claiming now that prejudice against them is seen as acceptable. A claim not short of irony since in a Muslim country she would not be allowed to express her views on the matter.

With the Muslim community’s medieval attitudes to gender equality and gay people, their fierce resistance to integration with their hosts and their ineffectiveness at sorting out their own extremists, I would suggest that Warsi’s righteous indignation should be directed at solving the huge issues within her own community before presuming to criticise the attitudes of others.

When Muslims are more tolerant, more equal and freer than non-Muslims, then she can stand up and complain. Until then, she has much work to do closer to home.

Paul Harper

They didn’t publish it but I had another, more successful, go the following day (see next entry)

Sarah Palin’s Excuse Video

After the massacre in Tuscon in which six people were killed, a US Congresswoman was critically injured by being shot through the head and several other bystanders were also shot, Sarah Palin issued a video saying that her, and other right-wing commentators’ hate-filled rhetoric had nothing to do with it. I wrote to the Independent :

Sirs,

Regarding Sarah Palin’s Video address to the nation about the Tuscon shootings:

Palin makes several assumptions in her video. Firstly and most blatantly, she starts with the assumption that she’s right. That her values in some way reflect the values of the entire country. That she is speaking for all reasonable people everywhere. Clearly this is not the case or the current outpouring of hatred towards her would not be occurring.

Secondly, she assumes that the verb “To Debate” is an irregular construct which goes something like : I debate; we argue because you’re wrong; you yell hate-filled rubbish. Her assumption that when she’s putting gunsights on her opponents’ constituencies, she’s engaging in high-intellect debate about important issues of the day is also demonstrably wrong.

Thirdly, she is utterly shameless about hiding behind her precious icons. She uses “our republic” several times, “our great nation”, “founding fathers”, “constitution”, most amusingly, “Ronald Reagan” and most nauseatingly, “God” as though they were salt and pepper, used to take away the bitter taste of hypocrisy from what she’s saying. Her assumption that hiding behind these false gods will shield her from her culpability in these events is wrong. If anything they highlight her desperation.

Next, she says several times that discussions have been hurtful and personal since the shootings. She fails, of course, to analyse what they were like *before* the shootings, choosing to brush over that. She says she has spent several days reflecting on the events. We know this is a lie, because she has spent several days revising her web site, Facebook page and Twitter history to try to make herself look less responsible. That we wouldn’t notice this is another erroneous assumption on her part, and that she put so much effort into editing things just adds weight to the accusation that she’s part of the problem, not part of the answer.

Finally, she says repeatedly that the events of Saturday were the actions of a lone lunatic and nobody shares any responsibility for his actions. Wrong. Nothing ever happens in isolation. Nothing. It is always necessary to analyse the environment in which events occur if they are to be prevented from happening again. There can be no question that Congresswoman Giffords’ shooting is a political event. Therefore the political environment has to be analysed – an environment where Palin, Beck, O’Reilly, Limbaugh and the other far-right motor gobs play a disproportionately large and vocal par, far out-weighing any positive contribution they might be makingt. The environment where someone kicked out of school for drug use and rejected for military service because of mental issues is able to legally buy a semi-automatic Glock pistol and several 31-round cartridges needs examining and changing.

Palin, in this pathetic piece of revisionist history seeks to remove herself, her fellow commentators and her Tea Party from any blame in setting the scene for this to happen.

Her assumption that we will believe it is the final one that she has wrong.

Paul Harper

The Planet’s Most Prosperous Third-World Country

In the aftermath of the Tucson shooting, I wrote to the Independent:

Sirs,

In the aftermath of the massacre and attempted political assassination in Arizona at the weekend, I had to sadly smile at the naïveté of the sign imploring “Don’t make this about politics. Republicans and Democrats deplore this kind of hatred and violence”.

That is an ideal to be aspired to, sure, but the reality is that this is *exactly* the kind of thing that Republican leaders and far-right commentators love. They rely upon chaos and fear to keep the unthinking masses obedient and distracted from their corruption and profiteering. They will weep crocodile tears, and wail convincingly, but the reality is that the victims are just acceptable collateral damage in their eyes. The cost of “fighting the good fight” and the losers in what they see as a dog-eat-dog world.

Until sickness like that is rooted out and stopped, the US will never be anything other than the planet’s most prosperous third-world country.

Paul Harper

They published it :


Seeing the world through Rose-tinted tampons?

A white, middle-class professional woman was murdered in Bristol, prompting a quite disproportionate outpouring of media hyperbole including Joan Smith’s piece in the Independent berating the police for suggesting that it might be safer not to wander around dark places alone at night:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/joan-smith/joan-smith-how-about-telling-men-not-women-to-stay-indoors-2175960.html

Which didn’t go unresponded-to, even if they didn’t publish it:

Sirs,

It seems to me that once again an Independent screeching feminista has completely the wrong end of the stick (Joan Smith, 5th Jan).

After the murder in Bristol, perfectly sensible Police advice which boiled down to “it’s an imperfect world, so take precautions to minimise your chances of being a victim of it”, gets interpreted as an attack on The Sisterhood. I see nothing wrong with people taking some responsibility for their own safety. Over-reliance on state agencies to compensate for rogue individuals is not just blind complacency, it’s borderline suicidal.

A sense of perspective would be useful too. Before this event, when was the last murder in Bristol? Reading her article you would think it was downtown Chicago or some other hell-hole. She is also wrong in her assertion that it has “gripped the nation”. The nation is nothing of the sort. It may well have gripped those with an agenda to push, but I can assure her that since the news on the day it happened, the nation has moved on.

Would she be making this much fuss if the victim were male? The grip that is needed is Ms Smith’s one on reality.

Yours,

Paul Harper

Sirs, 

It seems to me that once again an Independent screeching feminista has completely the wrong end of the stick (Joan Smith, 5th Jan).

After the murder in Bristol, perfectly sensible Police advice which boiled down to “it’s an imperfect world, so take precautions to minimise your chances of being a victim of it”, gets interpreted as an attack on The Sisterhood. I see nothing wrong with people taking some responsibility for their own safety. Over-reliance on state agencies to compensate for rogue individuals is not just blind complacency, it’s borderline suicidal.

A sense of perspective would be useful too. Before this event, when was the last murder in Bristol? Reading her article you would think it was downtown Chicago or some other hell-hole. She is also wrong in her assertion that it has “gripped the nation”. The nation is nothing of the sort. It may well have gripped those with an agenda to push, but I can assure her that since the news on the day it happened, the nation has moved on.

Would she be making this much fuss if the victim were male? The grip that is needed is Ms Smith’s one on reality.

Yours,

Paul Harper