AM I HELPING?
Posted by James Dawson on October 12, 2012
Peaches Geldof and Lady Gaga saving the gays; Lena Dunham and Caitlin Moran ignoring women of colour; me writing about feminism. A busy week for equality chat. A lot of people (particularly in the Twittersphere) up in arms about all sorts of things, many of which have no obvious link to them personally. Basically, should we all shut the f*ck up and stick to talking about what we know?
This is exactly the defence that Dunham and Moran have put forward. Without rehashing the whole dreary twitter lynch-mob thing, in a nut-shell, Dunham’s ‘Girls’ has portrayed a very white New York and the characters of colour have been criticised for being one-dimensional, bordering on racist. Last week Moran upset Twitter by saying she ‘literally didn’t give a shit’ about this. It’s not Dunham’s fault that she was labelled ‘the Voice of a Generation’, when in fact she only wanted to tell her story (about middle class white girls in Manhattan). Therefore, she isn’t ignoring women of colour, she’s simply being autobiographical. As for Moran…we’ve all said stupid shit on Twitter and it seems to me that it was nothing more than a deeply unfortunate choice of words.
So should we stick to what we know, Dunham-style? On this path, however, Geldof’s extremely touching piece in the Independent wouldn’t have happened. Although (as far as we know) Geldof identifies as heterosexual, in it she talks about how growing up with her gay friends has convinced her that marriage should be equal for all. It is a thoughtful and well-written article. Lady Gaga’s relentless chat about her gay fanbase (although somewhat cynical feeling) HAS raised awareness in America, where the political Right would rather the issue were swept under the rug. As one of the most famous people in the world (and queer herself according to some interviews), Gaga’s sole voice has traveled further and louder than a hundred thousand gay men or women could achieve combined.
I believe that equality is everyone’s business. If we all divide off into our camps – the gay camp, the people of colour camp, the women camp, two things will happen. One – we end up with an Ask and the Answer like situation of ‘them and us’ but more importantly we ignore that people are wearing more than one hat. At any given time I identify as ‘gay’ ‘male’ ‘feminist’ ‘liberal’ ‘buddhist’ ‘white’ ‘northern’ and infinite others. Although I cannot know what it is like to be a Vietnamese blind woman, for example, I would want to see equal rights for her in the UK. If we start making exclusive member’s-only clubs, we risk winding up in a clubhouse built for one.
This week has seen a shit-explosion of sexism all over the internet, although this is nothing new. Check #everydaysexism for some jaw-dropping shite. Sexism makes me really mad. What also makes me mad is when people (both male and female) squint at me like I should get over it because I’m biologically male so therefore am on the ‘winning team’ by default or don’t belong with the opposition (it bears noting that for a period aged around 5-6 years I wasn’t sure if I identified as male or not – largely because of lack of education surrounding homosexuality). I refuse to pick a side. I don’t want there to be sides to pick from. How is equality EVER going to happen if we don’t let everyone join in?
There are stupid, small-minded, racist, misogynist, homophobes out there. Just when you think things are looking up in the UK, your best friend from uni gets dragged off her bike in Oxford and gets the shit kicked out of her for being ‘a paki’. It is these people we need to be fighting – not each other, and not screaming abuse at Caitlin Moran on Twitter. That isn’t helping (and I do wonder how much of the bile directed at Dunham and Moran is that most British of traits – success hating). People speaking out for equality – whoever they are, whatever hats they wear. That IS helping.