Posts Tagged 'bigotry'

BNP, Racism and Acceptance

“Right Winston, you’re about to get cooked. Anything to say? Says he ain’t a drug dealer. He thinks he’s not black. He’s charged with being black. Now get on there”. The words spoken by a twelve year old girl as she threw a golly doll onto a fire at the BNP’s so called family fun day.

The fact that a child of twelve is being brought up with these views and toxic beliefs is the complete contradiction of an autonomous, intelligent society. The decisions of parents are mandatorily inflicted on children in a way that gives them no other choice but to adopt the same attitude. Who teaches children that being black is somehow a crime or that homosexuality is indecent? They are never allowed the opportunity to make the choice for themselves because any individual thought is inhibited.

I find it impossible to grasp the concept that a human brain can manage to believe that the colour of someone’s skin can make them inferior and that being white automatically makes a person supreme. I believe in superiority but a superiority determined by morality and the choices we make and things we do, rather than by factors we have no control over, such as skin colour. One person can be superior to another by wilful decisions. A man who hits his wife, for example, is in my opinion inferior to a man who doesn’t. The man who believes women are inferior to men is by that means, inferior himself. Arguably, the bigot automatically becomes inferior as a result of deciding to hold hateful opinions of other humans. How can a person truly believe that another human being is sub-human, inferior simply because they have a different skin colour or a different sexuality?

If a social group is justifiably guilty of being culpable of a reprehensible act then it is fair to make judgement. As a hypothetical example, if 90% of people from Scotland were found to be guilty of throwing eggs at Edinburgh castle then one could rightfully presume that Scottish people are more than likely to be egg throwers. However, if an egg had never been thrown then how could one assume that they are likely to throw eggs without any substantial evidence? Worse, how can one assume that a group of people are guilty of something which cannot even be defined? There is no tangible crime or physical act for which blame can be apportioned or even presumed, simply that a social group is somehow beneath another in some indefinable way, as a result of something completely beyond their control.

The attitude embodied by the BNP is one which transgresses logic. The rational belief, for example, that Britain is being detrimentally flooded with illegal immigrants and asylum seekers is one which many reasonable people share. Though we share it however, our agreement stops at a certain point. As much as I feel resentment that so many asylum seekers are entering Britain and that it should be prevented, I do not in any way see myself as superior to one of the individual people. As a human being, the only things which distinguish me from another human being are the things I choose. Therefore, I feel resentment towards the asylum seekers but if I were face-to-face with one I wouldn’t feel that they were inferior to me as a member of humanity and flesh and blood. Both he and I are human beings, differentiated only by social factors.

Similarly, I find it difficult to understand the attitude of people against same sex marriage and the people who baulk and wince at the first gay kiss on Coronation Street. The fact that two human beings are being married or kissing should not be altered by the sex of the individuals. Two consenting adults are no different whether they are men or women. If asked to define precisely why two men kissing is different from a man kissing a woman, would they be able to justify their disapproval? What exactly makes it different?

Society would benefit immensely from a greater acceptance that human is human. Beneath our skin, what is different? There should be no disparity between two people, other than the conscious path we take morally. How can the BNP logically define the difference between black and white? If a black doctor saved a person’s life, are they less a hero than a white doctor? If a black man is homeless and penniless, are they less deserving of help than a white man? What exactly is it that they believe makes us so different?

Comedy: The Death of Heroes

 

Comedy: The Death of Heroes
Vikki Littlemore

In the infancy of the BBC and Television’s wholesome and repressed roots, comedians dared not offend the British public with profanities and sexually explicit vulgarities and were instead confined to traditional and trusted bigotry and Mother-in-Law jokes which form the culturally safe backbone of our nation. In the familiar paradigm best exhibited by thoroughly British comedian Jim Davidson, comedians voiced the thoughts and feelings of the nation when it came to recently introduced cultural phenomenon such as ‘black people’ and ‘the gays’. The average bloke on the street took the Rising Damp stance of ‘don’t bring your voodoo over here’ and ‘eh-up lads, backs to the wall!’ and this is precisely the voice heard through the mouthpiece of Britain’s comedians. Racism was safe, familiar and acceptable, it’s what the public trusted. It is unfortunate that Television’s puritanical attitude towards the mention of sex or anything deemed unsuitable for family, pre-watershed viewing did not extend to the policies on bigotry.

Since those days comedy has subverted, inverted and transcended all those well-established boundaries and has formed as many new identities and levels of acceptability as Madonna . Riding the new national atmosphere of cosmopolitan tolerance and understanding, comedians fought against the rules on swearing and sexual openness and simultaneously challenged the boundaries of racism and homophobia. As open displays of insularity were rebuked in favour of open-mindedness, the stuffy, tightly-buttoned shirt collar of the proletariat underbelly was loosened and swearing and sexuality became more acceptable. A more open-minded, liberated generation of comedy emerged which embraced all of society’s diverse components and allowed itself the freedom to behave on stage/television as one would in ‘real life’. The new-age attitude allowed comedians to speak to their audience as they would their mates in the pub, with swearing and honesty. Over time the old generation of comedians became fodder for satire and risible artefacts of a by-gone, intolerant age. The new, fresh comedians washed away the ‘gay’ jokes and the sub-sudo-sub-textual innuendoes which became sinister and dangerous in their forced repression, and brought in a new age of ‘f words’ and ‘knob gags’. A little further down the line and both the ‘gay jokes’ and the ‘knob jokes’ had both given way to a more enlightened comedy which was both free of prejudice and repression and also free of the adolescence of rebellion and its innate prosaic crudity and caustic spit. Now came a spiritual, new comedy, comedy which inspired its audience and talked people down off ledges. Then new comedy was able to reflect on the repression of the early television generation and its closeted, buttoned-up stuffiness, and also the teenage rebellion which followed, comedy had now evolved into an adult. It could swear but not aggressively, talk about sex maturely and be understanding of all sexes, races and sexualities. The comedy of the new millennium is intelligent, satirically sophisticated and understanding of every part of society, comedy which steps up to the challenge of our social diversity but resists the ‘PC’ madness which has replaced the old repression.

Britain is a naturally obsequious nation. We don’t like controversy and this is no bad thing, except when it prohibits freedom of speech. We are a nation which stands back while people push in front of us at the supermarket checkout, we don’t like a fuss. By nature Britain is an unconfrontational sycophant and when it comes to anybody but hard-working British people our current burden is not upsetting anybody who isn’t white, middle/working class and employed. Television has gone beyond PC to a ridiculous extent but comedians have resisted, somehow maintaining the balance between understanding and freedom. It appears to be because comedians are able to handle subjects with more intelligence, charm and understanding than any television producer is able to. Rather than worrying whether something will offend or upset, comedians face a subject head-on, challenging pre-conceptions and delicately balancing the subject so that neither side of the fence are offended. This does not mean ‘sitting on the fence’ but means that they are able to discuss a subject with understanding and compassion which satisfies both the party which is subject and also the party which is audience. Where Television steps back from controversy, comedians smash it up and piss on it. They don’t offend people because they have the intelligence to show empathy and actually understand the subject, rather than being frightened of it. Comedians get their hands dirty and are rewarded for it.

Sadly the new generation of comedy is under threat. The older generation are still attached to the old days of no swearing and ‘black’ jokes. Yes older people are equally entitled to enjoyable entertainment, but sadly they feel the need to eradicate anything they don’t understand and so instead of changing the channel or making an effort to comprehend a new way of thinking, they complain, meaning that the new comedians are soon going to be forced down the repression route of old.

A recent (and frankly exhausted) example is Sachsgate. We’re all aware of the who’s, where’s and what’s but are we aware of the cost of the incident to our cultural freedom? A rapacious listener of The Russell Brand Show, I willingly surrendered my Saturday nights to my radio and was educated, enlightened, entertained and simultaneously had my eyes opened to new experiences and knowledge and also brought to tears with laughter. The programme was intelligent, hilarious and in my opinion extremely valuable. The programme offered listeners a unique experience which combined internationally top-draw comedy (improvised live, unscripted), truly intelligent and remarkable discussions on diverse subjects from Darwinism and David Icke to the dispute between China and Tibet. Listeners were also integral to the show and contributed by phone, text, e-mail and also largely featured in the conception of the regular items. It was a fantastically unique experience enjoyed by a vast and loyal following. While no defence for what was said to Andrew Sachs is offered because it was categorically wrong, the point should be made that much of this event was orchestrated by the media. One key fact often missed is that Andrew Sachs was booked to appear on the radio show that night to be interviewed. It was not a random prank call, it was arranged. I am not suggesting that Brand and Ross were right to say what they did, they weren’t, but it should be clearly understood that on the night of the radio show (broadcast between 9.00 pm and 11.00 pm, well after the watershed) only four people phoned to complain (out of a listening audience of two million). It was two weeks later, following a feature by the Daily Mail, that the thousands of complaints were received, most of them by people who hadn’t even heard it. In fact there was one final broadcast of the show the following week, before the event even hit the news, when the Daily Mail were present, compiling their case.

What happened to Andrea Sachs was wrong and reprehensible but my point is that a radio show which was enjoyed by many people ceased to enlighten their lives because the BBC was frightened of controversy. A metaphorical slap on the wrists would have sufficed, purely for the offence caused to an individual grandfather. In fact an apology was made and fully accepted. I understand why it would cause offence to people listening but is it really fair to curtail a cultural cornerstone and immensely enjoyed weekly event simply because some people object to the use of a certain word?

If comedy and free speech are restricted, confined and suppressed then so too is the freedom of thought and speech which enable us to function as intelligent human beings. I understand why my own grandmother dislikes hearing swear words on television (despite using them herself in private), but my argument is that if television does not reflect a true representation of real life then our thoughts and opinions are being forcibly squeezed out of us. If comedians are prohibited from speaking to us in the same way they would if they met us in the street then they are not being themselves and are suppressing their own thoughts and views, which are precisely what I enjoy about comedians. They are human beings and should be allowed to behave as such. I do not advocate anything which intentionally hurts or offends people, by which I mean something aimed directly at another human being with the intention of causing offence (for example gay or black jokes), but I do feel passionately that freedom of speech is what makes human beings better. It educates and improves us and through it we grow. If all of that is repressed and we go back to bigotry and the ridicule of people who have no control over the colour of their skin or their own sexuality or physical disability (the stand-up material of Ricky Jervais for example), then how are we better people?

The Wrong Blonde Joke

The Wrong Blonde Joke

Vikki Littlemore

 

‘A blonde cop stops a blonde motorist and asks for her driving license.  The Motorist scuffles around in her purse and can’t find it. She says to the cop, “I must have left it at home officer.”  The cop says, “Well, do you have any kind of identification?” The motorist scuffles around in her purse again, and finds a pocket mirror.  She looks at it and says to the cop, “All I have is this picture of myself.” The cop says, “Let me see it, then.” So the blonde motorist gives the mirror to the blonde cop, who looks at it, and replies, “Well, if I had known you were a police officer, I wouldn’t have even pulled you over. You can go now.”’.

For every joke that exists about an Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman; there is one about a blonde woman.  A simple internet search reveals a wealth of material aimed at blondes and one website advertises itself as; ‘One of the largest collections of dumb blonde jokes on the internet! The Queen Mother of all blonde jokes sites’.  The image of the ‘dumb blonde’ is as familiar as the dim-witted paddy but does however transcend the boundaries of humour and harmless one-liners when it becomes a vitriolic prejudice in everyday life. 

I encountered my first taste of this preconceived axiom when I was fifteen.  The class was debating media and marketing in relation to blondes and brunettes and one particular girl; the self-righteous, self-regarding mouth of the class, stood up and declared very clearly that blonde women can be identified by the fact that they ‘put make-up on with a trowel’.  I wish now, all these years later, that I had stood up to illustrate that I (being blonde) was wearing not a stitch of make-up and she (brunette) was wearing considerably more.  Sadly I didn’t but it has grieved me ever since.  I find it incredible that this unembarrassed ignorance and chauvinism towards blonde women is completely acceptable and familiar when every other form of bigotry (such as homophobia, racism and sexism) is now firmly unacceptable.  Why are women with blonde hair expected to accept vehement abuse and ridicule when people of varying ethnicities and sexualities no longer have to?  There are laws and regulations in force in the work place to prevent against almost every form of prejudice and discrimination and yet having blonde hair still apparently makes a woman fair game.

I was astounded while watching a recent episode of Come Dine with Me when the narrator; commenting on a female contestant who was behaving in a slightly giddy and ditsy way, jibed; ‘Are you sure you’re not blonde?’.  I was dumfounded.  If the contestant had been behaving differently, would the narrator have been allowed to ask; ‘Are you sure you’re not black?’ or ‘Are you sure you’re not disabled?’.  Those forms of racism and bigotry are completely unacceptable and contemptible and would be met with shock and outrage, so why is the question; ‘Are you sure you’re not blonde’ met with chuckles and light-hearted joviality?  The programme, aired on Chanel 4 on weekday afternoons, is sadly only a representation of a common and expected attitude the world over.   

On the social networking site Facebook, members can participate in quizzes with names like ‘Are You Blonde?’ and the nauseating and repulsive taglines; ‘See how stupid you are’ and ‘Find out if your blonde or normal’.  As I try to comprehend how a distinction between ‘blonde’ and ‘normal’ can be made and the fact that they are even offered as two opposites, I’m sickened by the acerbic and malicious odium behind apparently flippant and innocuous sentiments.  The caustic negativity towards blonde women is masked by humor and playful banter but statements like the above examples contain rancorous and barbed derision and seem to passive-aggressively attack the subject rather than mock.      

As a naturally blonde woman I find that I’m defending myself on a daily basis, having to assure people that I’m not an idiot and remonstrate my own common sense against their assumptions of my stupidity.  People either assume that anyone with blonde hair must unquestionably be a ‘bimbo’ or if not, feel that they have the right to make jokes to the same effect at your expense.  I agree completely that the many young, attractive women who dye their hair blonde and morph into tanned, plastically enhanced Barbie dolls to compensate for their lack of intellectualism, while not making them any less deserving of defence, does give women who just happen to be born with blonde hair a bad press.  I agree that there are many women who would fall completely within the bounds of the ‘bimbo’ stereotype, which is unfair but true.  There are many unintelligent blonde women, just as there are many unintelligent brunette women.  It doesn’t make them bad people, they just mould themselves into a particular typeset.  Unfortunately for the rest of us, all blonde women become tarred with the same brush, as it were.

The fact that I was born with blonde hair, a result of having two blonde parents, does not automatically make me a ‘bimbo by default, in the same way that an Asian man would defend his right not be assumed to be a terrorist, or a German defend their right not to be categorized as a Nazi.  Stereotypes exist but are not without exceptions.

The film Legally Blonde and its subsequent sequel are based entirely on the premise that it is incredible and remarkable that a blonde woman could successfully be accepted to study law at university and, shock of almighty shocks, graduate!  An entire film based on the belief that a blonde woman couldn’t possibly study law, how preposterous! I’d love to make a list of all the blonde female lawyers and partners in law firms I’ve worked for and send it to the people who made those films, but then they wouldn’t believe me, I’m blonde, and the film does after all have a very nice ending where the blonde girl lives happily ever after in spite of her blonde hair.

Caustic prejudice and ignorant mockery of any person based on a physical quality they have no control over should be as unacceptable and deplorable as derision based on skin colour, gender or anything else.  The vitriol between the lines of blonde jokes and the aggressive, bigoted attitude towards blonde women is abhorrent, offensive and hurtful and blonde women should be given the same protection and understanding as any other group subject to prejudice.  Blonde should be a status deserving of respect, just as any race or sexuality is.  No two blonde women are the same, just as no two homosexual people are, or any two black people.  Why do we allow other groups understanding but still condone and accept outrageous and unabashed degradation of blonde women? 

A quick internet search reveals the second entry to be a Wikipedia page with the title ‘Dumb Blonde’.  It is the initial reflex reaction; the caveat to the image of blonde hair.  I find it difficult to comprehend why this prejudice is still allowed to flourish and feel exhausted on behalf of every intelligent woman in the world who spends her entire life proving and insisting that she is ‘not a bimbo’.  Perhaps one day someone will see past the blonde hair and actually listen to what we’re saying.


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Sylvia Plath said; "Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences". My aim in life is to find things and people to love, so that I can write about them. Putting words together is the only thing I can see myself doing. This blog is an outlet, and I hope you enjoy reading it. Please feel free to comment on posts, or contact me by the special e-mail I've set up (vikki.littlemore@live.co.uk) with your thoughts.


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The New Remorse, Oscar Wilde.

The sin was mine; I did not understand.
So now is music prisoned in her cave,
Save where some ebbing desultory wave
Frets with its restless whirls this meagre strand.
And in the withered hollow of this land
Hath Summer dug herself so deep a grave,
That hardly can the leaden willow crave
One silver blossom from keen Winter's hand.

But who is this who cometh by the shore?
(Nay, love, look up and wonder!) Who is this
Who cometh in dyed garments from the South?
It is thy new-found Lord, and he shall kiss
The yet unravished roses of thy mouth,
And I shall weep and worship, as before.

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Music I Love (In no particular order, except that The Smiths are first)

The Smiths,
The Libertines,
The Courteeners,
Nina Simone,
Oasis,
Pete Doherty,
Gossip,
The Kills,
Amy Winehouse,
Arctic Monkeys,
Rod Stewart,
The Doors,
The Rolling Stones,
Etta James,
Babyshambles,
T. Rex,
The Jam,
Morrissey,
Guillemots,
The Kinks,
Jack White,
The Deadweather,
David Bowie,
The Winchesters,
The Cure,
Kaiser Chiefs,
The Kooks,
The Twang,
Kings Of Leon,
Pulp,
Blur,
The Housemartins,
The Ramones,
James,
Robots in Disguise,
The Klaxons,
Kate Nash,
The Raconteurs,
Regina Spektor,
Aretha Franklin,
Stereophonics,
The Contours,
Dirty Pretty Things,
The White Stripes,
New York Dolls,
Yeah Yeah Yeahs,
The Clash,
Style Council,
Velvet Underground,
The Horrors,
The Cribs,
Reverend and The Makers,
The Subways,
The Wombats,
Foals,
Elle S'appelle,
The Troggs,
The Beatles,
Echo and the Bunnymen,
Florence and the Machine.

Olive Cotton, Tea Cup Ballet, 1935

Olive Cotton, Tea Cup Ballet, 1935

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Will it ever be alright for Blighty to have a Queen Camilla?

One less tree from our window each day


Vikki's bookshelf: read

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
1984
Twilight
Of Mice and Men
Pride and Prejudice
The Hobbit
The Da Vinci Code
Lolita
Tipping the Velvet
Wuthering Heights
The Picture of Dorian Grey and Other Works by Oscar Wilde
Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Irish Peacock & Scarlet Marquess: The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde
The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman
Moab Is My Washpot
The Bell Jar
The Other Boleyn Girl
On the Road
Brideshead Revisited
Revolutionary Road



Vikki Littlemore's favorite books »

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