Monday, 4 June 2012

Easy PC

Greetings once more, my five glorious readers! Our numbers have almost doubled since my last blog post - what a triumph! - though I'm afraid to say that such late to the party readers will be sorely disappointed with my future offerings and we are sure to dwindle once more. To those who expressed their delight over my Chinese take-away based quips last time and are expecting more where that came from, do note that such references to my oily past will be sporadic from here on in, if not entirely non-existent. I'm a serious person with serious things to say about serious issues; I will not be reduced to a one trick lemon chicken. Number 80, £4.60.

I won't bother apologising over my abominable efforts to regulate my blogging. I am wholly irregular. One must accept these things in life, much as I have come to accept (though by no means approve of) menstrual cramps, suede, people who breath loudly and queue jumpers. But you are in for a treat: I have been storing up this rant for a very long time. I'll make a 'bold' statement to get us started: I love political correctness. And I shall tell you for why.

I work in a popular pub in Southampton, frequented predominantly by locals but with the odd spattering of students during prime nacho/pre-drink hours. I have become hardened to the racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic rhetoric I so often have the displeasure of overhearing from those that sit at the bar, but every once in a while I hear something so vile a glare of contempt simply won't suffice. The "enraged feminist psychopath" in me was beyond all realms of riled when I was conversing with one such regular punter, a middle aged white fellow with a penchant for Stella Artois. On requesting his drink of choice, I kindly complied. He took a sip and muttered "Mmm, I love a good wife beater". Now I'm not so far removed from mainstream culture to be unaware of Stella's unfortunate colloquial re-branding, so I casually shared my disapproval (of the name generally, not his specific usage) with the drinker:

Chloe: What an unfortunate nickname for a beer, eh?
Punter: Why is it unfortunate?
Chloe: (pause) Because 'wife beater' is hardly an image you'd want your brand to be aligned with, surely?
Punter: (looks confused) Why not?
Chloe: (slightly perplexed) Because domestic violence is ... really unpleasant, isn't it?
Punter: (starts to smirk) Is it? I've got no problem with it. (laughs)
Chloe: Domestic violence is appalling, I think you're being rather insensitive.
Punter: Oh heeeeere we go, am I not allowed to say anything 'politically incorrect' in here?
Chloe: (dumbfounded) Excuse me? I think it's a fair request that you don't mock domestic violence. It's certainly not funny.
Punter: What's it to you?

This absurd conversation has since been playing heavily on my mind. Who was the bad guy here? Of course I'm biased, but I have to say that all my observations point me to the conclusion that I reacted as a perfectly normal human being in this scenario, while he was a complete f*ckwit. The evidence is conclusive and undeniable for an abundance of reasons, but his pejorative reference to 'political correctness' has to be the most convincing and represents a prevailing and infuriating trend in the usage of the phrase.

The concept of political correctness came into public consciousness throughout the backlash of America's New Left against the staunchly traditional, conservative values of the Republican party during the second half of the twentieth century. Though often ironically used within leftist communities, the notion was that language and ideas and behaviours should concern itself with equal opportunities. Political correctness was an instant way of calling bullshit on someone's bigotry and a way of trying to cope and tackle that bigotry: a giant umbrella protecting people from a never ending shit storm of discrimination. Thus, political correctness is inherently excellent. However, it was adopted, reappropriated and warped by the political right in the 1990s due to the perceived Culture Wars, a societal dance-off between the two groups of ideologically opposed citizens and their collective senses of morality. The argument from here can get pretty academic and since I've now finished my degree, I must let go of such discourse. However, in simple terms: it makes bugger all sense that when somebody makes a discriminatory statement and somebody else is offended by that statement, 'political correctness' becomes the scapegoat. Somehow it is not the offender's ignorance, insensitivity or reckless cruelty that is to blame, but the very existence of the offended themselves. Those selfish bastards. Rather than the offender being held to account for outdated ideas of women, black people, homosexuals et al, they can instantly trump the oncoming outrage by playing the card of "political correctness gone mad". This mind-numbingly stupid phrase therefore renders the offended as someone who "can't take a joke" or "takes themselves too seriously": it silences people who are already alienated and sublimated within society. Make a heartless joke about domestic abuse towards women after centuries of fighting for equality and safety within our own homes and funnily enough, I refuse to be apologetic for taking that seriously. It's no coincidence that the most infamously bigoted and slanderous newspaper around, The Daily Mail, is actually responsible for the catchphrase 'political correctness gone mad'.

I recognise that some people will occasionally get a little overworked about not offending people and the results can be rather silly. People not being allowed to wear religious garb, or Cbeebies' Rasta Mouse coming under attack from a lot of whiny white mums, spring to mind. But that shouldn't be deemed the work of political correctness: that's just outright fear. Fear has gone mad. Being terrified of offending women, black people, homosexuals et al and therefore treating them as awkward aliens, I'd argue, illustrates just as much ignorance as shameless hate speech. I champion social sensitivity and that is what political correctness, by definition, is. Unfortunately, just like Stella Artois, political correctness requires a dramatic re-brand.

If you're not convinced, feel free to take me on. But I warn you: I am right. I wrote part of a novel dedicated to fictionalising this rant and did my dissertation on homophobia, and while they may have been inane, self-indulgent undergraduate ramblings, I am super well versed in this argument. Alternatively, trust in the wise words of Stewart Lee. I don't think he wrote a blog about it, but I'm pretty sure he's legit.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Chandler's Victory Dance

Well, dear readership, it would appear that I didn't keep my New Year's Resolution that I pledged in my last blog. The one about blogging regularly, not the other one. That one I certainly kept. All I can say is that I must have slipped into some sort of time/space vacuum on posting my last offering and have only just now been returned to the living, breathing blogosphere that is normality... or something. I think aforementioned vacuum is locally known as 'third year'. Diabolical lapse in efforts, I realise; I can only apologise and rather than promise to keep you posted on all future inane thoughts, tell you all now that I'm horribly unreliable and any commitment to this blog is commitment best committed elsewhere. I hear challenging and pleasurable reading can be had on various internet sources and point you in the direction of those, namely 'Wikipedia' and 'Jezebel'.

Many a metaphorical bomb has been dropped since my last post, all the way back in 2011. Ah, the good old days. That was before my dissertation was a tangible brain-munching shitstorm and existed to me only conceptually, like DisneyWorld Florida - I refuse to believe that's a real place, it's too perfect and simultaneously too appalling. That was before KONY 2012 reared its morally questionable head and then promptly retreated, tail between suspiciously attractive legs. That was before the American presidential race really kicked off, before I knew what 'Santorum' really meant. I advise you google it if you remain in the dark. And speaking of political races - if I really have the gall to call it that - that was before the SUSU elections, the annual churning out of six top notch soon-to-be-graduates who will attempt to handle the wild beast that is 22,000 unruly students. Who would be stupid enough to take on that responsibility, eh? ... I'm guessing that 99% of readers (Harri, Mike Fisher, my Ma) know the punchline, but just in case you have stumbled across this blog by mistake while searching for reviews of Britney Spears' latest album: I would be that stupid. Old muggins over here. The one wearing the daft grin with the ridiculous hair and absurd mole count. And in case anybody was wondering, that album was dire

I'm still in a state of perpetual shock, confusion and incredulousness. Though with a vocabulary that allows for atrocities like "incredulousness", it's no wonder I'm not relying upon my English Literature degree to find me work. Of course I'm terribly chuffed; I actually get to do a job I'll enjoy next year. If I didn't get elected my other option was to head back to Dorsetshire to reclaim my job alongside a dozen fourteen year old girls working in my local Chinese take-away for £4 an hour. You may laugh but that's what got me to university and that's what would have been greeting me on my somewhat dismal return. Forget a street party with a massive paper dragon, I would have been given a packet of prawn crackers and a slap on the arse: it would have been like I'd never left. For that alone, I thank those who voted for me. From the bottom of my chow mein ridden heart. Number 9, £4.80.

But seriously, I'm not quite sure how this has happened. When I retrace my footsteps, I can only feel like some mistake has been made. Year one was spent being praised and condemned - in equal measure, I may add - for my rather unprepared and inarticulate run-in with PM-to-be DC; off to a good start with the liberal voters but despised by the majority of Southampton students. Go figure. Year two was full of KitKat bashing and feminist ranting; my potential voters must have been quartered, the haters thoroughly and justifiably now running amok with scorn. Year three was quiet, I was biding my time, behaving myself and now this? What madness. I have no idea how a hairy-legged socialist feminist with a penchant for ethical tirades and ovaries has won what is essentially a popularity contest. I feel like that day was a good day: for me, for feminism and for the world I hope to one day live in. There is hope for us yet. The apathetic masses - and various others - will disagree I'm sure but the voters have spoken. Cue Chandler's victory dance.

Life goes on: books need a'reading, essays need a'writing, gay porn needs a'watching. All for academic purposes, of course. Currently Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things is keeping me up well into the wee hours, that and the thought of the representation of queer identity in AIDS narratives from 1988-1995 ... It's a long story.