Not an Odalisque

Posts Tagged ‘campaigning

Stone Butch Blues, Today

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I have been reading ‘Stone Butch Blues’. When I first saw the title—browsing the library catalogue for books on butch/femme identity and trans issues—I thought it was a musician’s autobiography; I had to go all the way back to the library when I realised my mistake. For those of you as ignorant as me, it’s the story of a butch lesbian in 1960s America, and it’s full of oppression, systemized violence and rape. Her lovers are prostitutes and the gay bars are danger zones. It’s a story about being on the fringes of society, and, for some characters, losing grip on society’s tassels entirely.

I have a sense that this experience should speak to me, as part of lesbian history. The freedom I have now, to kiss a girl in the street, was won by people like her returning to the gay bar, night after night, in the knowledge that if the police come—and one day they will—she’ll be beaten and raped. In a sense she did it for me, yet her fierce identity, her need to refer to all lesbians as ‘butches’ or ‘femme’s (nouns, not adjectives), her intensity, alienates me.

Reading Emma Donoghue’s ‘Passions Between Women’, on the other hand, which explores lesbian identity in eighteenth century Britain, I have a sense of fun, a sense that, in those circumstances, I would form a ‘romantic friendship’ and pen pastorals to my love. I would marry a woman dressed as a man, or do many of the numerous, ingenious things women who loved women did to make room for their passion in a restrictive society. The penalties for such behaviour were not heavy. Female husbands, for example, were generally tried for fraud (as the ‘male’ partner, they owned the wife’s property). In 1694 one was sentenced:

She was ordered to Bridewell to be well whipt and kept to hard labour till further order of the court.

Donoghue notes that,

The punishment, too, sounds mild, in the context of the period, when pickpocketing and rape were hanging matters….there is no record of executions in Britain or America. When British female husbands received any punishment, it was typically a matter of six months in jail and a symbolic exposure.

Adjusting for the harshness of the era (with a lack of subtlety that probably has Foucault spinning in his grave), British lesbians of 300 years ago were afforded more self-expression than American lesbians 50 years ago, and if they wore a suit they did it to create a private space for their love, rather than to slot into an inflexible butch identity. That freedom may be why I feel more affinity to eighteenth century lesbians than I do to the Stone Butch crowd.

I didn’t grow up in a world where lesbians were seriously oppressed. My mother’s cousin used to come to visit, wearing black trousers and doc martens, she leant me tomes on feminist theory, and lived with her best friend. My school had an openly lesbian head teacher, in addition to the obligatory P.E. coven. The head teacher was terrifying, respectable, and given to reading out long passages by Julian of Norwich on Monday mornings. She was in no way transgressive.

Did I find it difficult admitting I like women? Sometimes. Have I played the pronoun game? Absolutely. I’m not worried about retribution, though, I’m just overcome by the weight of misunderstanding.

In my forays into mainstream society, the assumptions about me are so great and so many that I don’t know where to begin changing them. I’m a woman, so I must be obsessed about my weight, elated when complimented on my looks, scared of strange men, reassured by the protective presence of male acquaintances. I must demand monogamy, probably against the instincts of my male lover, I must prefer sweet white wine to real ale, I must want a desk job, and refuse to consider one that involves lifting files (thanks, recruitment agent, for that).

Not everyone makes these assumptions, but enough people do, often enough, that fighting it feels futile. When someone says, “you look good, you must have lost weight,” I could say, “I looked good beforehand, and in any case I have no interest in weight as a measure of beauty, given the socio-economic factors determining both,” or I could be polite and change the subject. When I say I have a date and everyone assumes it’s with a man, or when I say my partner has a date and everyone assumes it’s with a woman, frankly, there are bigger things I’ve let slide.

Which is all to say, the world hasn’t recognised my sexual identity and given me a card and some balloons, and I’m ok with that. In this particular kettle of fish, my sexuality is a sardine to the giant tuna of other aspects of my life. What of ‘Stone Butch Blues’? Well, I’m glad they did it. Maybe it’s because they fought so hard that I’m able to put my energies into frying bigger fish. Maybe I’m missing something important, about how things were different in America, about what it means to be lesbian and working class, and maybe I’ll learn those things if I keep reading. I’m curious, though, about how everyone else feels about our history. Do you feel some affinity for their pain, or are we so far beyond it, that the historical lesbians we identify with have to be the ones with pluck, breeches, poetry and cutlasses?

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Written by Not an Odalisque

July 15, 2012 at 12:48 pm

The Politics of the Collar

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This article appeared in the Guardian this morning, about a midwife who was dismissed from work for wearing a silver collar. The collar symbolises her status as a (willing) slave in a loving relationship. At an employment tribunal, she argued this was discriminatory because the collar, as a symbol of her beliefs, is equivalent to a religious symbol. I don’t know the details of her dismissal, which may really be about who makes the tea or whether she tends to tell bad jokes, so I won’t go into the rights and wrongs of it. The politics of the situation interests me, though. Should I, as a fellow fetishist (albeit not a collar-wearing type), see her as a kinky crusader, or another person determined to make us all seem a bit, well, odd?

The most ubiquitous relationship symbol is the ring. We all know what it means, and almost all married people wear them. And marriage is the dominant relationship form. Wearing a wedding ring is telling the world, “My sexuality isn’t strange or threatening, it’s kept within bounds. There’s no need to be frightened, I’m just like you.” It is literally legitimising. And although we all know that there are married people who have affairs, sometimes with people of their own sex, visit prostitutes, whip serving girls, etc, it is noticeable that heterosexuality and monogamy are almost universally expected of the married couple. Your friend who likes to take drugs and have unprotected sex with strangers in dark rooms is a riskier dinner party invitation than the married one. The married one might, nowadays, have a male partner, who spends time with him making gourmet food in their granite-surfaced kitchen (yes, you’re learning a bit about my background), and legitimisation explains a lot about why so many want gay marriage. That man, when he settles down, wouldn’t mind the symbol that shows he’s part of your club.

The problem, though, is that the more we contribute to the idea that marriage is the norm, the harder we make it for everyone else. In my day to day life I find it absolutely infuriating that everyone assumes I’m straight and monogamous. People around me make jokes about dykes and transsexuals, ask if I have a boyfriend, never a girlfriend, and take the answer as an indicator of my availability. And if the monogamous masses assuming I’m one of them is annoying, it’s nothing in comparison to the pressure when I do get involved with a man. Suddenly everyone assumes I’m on the road to monogamous wedded blissness. You can fight that among friends, but your commitment to your lesbian lover probably isn’t something to bring up with the boyfriend’s family over Easter lunch.

The prevailing assumption of heterosexual monogamy legitimised by marriage makes life that little bit more difficult for the rest of us. The teenager who thinks he’s broken believes it partially because he don’t know of anyone who likes boys, or non-consent, or polyamory, he only sees a monolithic wall of marriage obscuring the true variety of relationships. It creates an atmosphere in which any public figure’s non-monogamy or visits to a pro-domme are titillating news. People have to hide who they are, so it’s a self-perpetuating system of pain and fear. And not the good kind.*

Sharing our kinky identities would normalise alternative relationships. We’ve come a long way with homosexuality just by going on about it until people stopped being shocked. So should we wear our collars with pride?

Even though it is one of the most prevalent symbols in the BDSM community, the collar is only meaningful to a very small group of people, those participating in a Domination/submission dynamic to a peculiar degree. A brief search brought up a large number of symbols pertinent to my situation which I’ve never come across before. Since I’m a (kind of) bisexual seeing a polyamorous married bear, in a relationship with D/s elements, do I need a charm-collar to show all my proclivities to the world?

Heaping importance on the collar surely invites the proliferation of symbols. It may be terribly important to me to express that I’m a queer promiscuous pansexual bottom as oppose to a bisexual polyamorous submissive, but only people already in my community will know what I’m on about. And people get so terribly het up about symbols. Whenever I begin to think they’re harmless I remember that the Holy Cross school trouble, which involved adults shouting swear words and throwing stones at primary school children (and ended with a pipe bomb), started with a dispute over the location of a flag. Yes, it’s an extreme example there’s no tool to rouse emotion like a symbol.

I can’t help feeling that symbols are ultimately divisive. So we legitimise your relationship by recognising your collar, and the girl who wants her princess dynamic recognised through her tiara is left out in the cold. How many do we have to accept before we’ve given everyone’s identity the recognition it deserves? In my perfect world symbols would proliferate until they lost all meaning, or the dominant ones would lose their ascendency. It would be lovely if wedding rings, like gifts of lingerie, declarations of love or promises of beatings, made a personal, not a public, statement.

I don’t feel any political allegiance to the woman with the slave collar. I do hope, though, in the interests of increasing the amount of freedom and happiness in the world, that she wins her appeal. Surely she’s been through more than enough to be allowed to wear that collar.

*You might be reading this thinking “But I’m extremely happy in my heterosexual monogamous relationship and I don’t see what’s wrong with making a lifelong commitment to my man, throwing a big party and making our friends buy us a lot of expensive kitchenware.” Well, I suppose there isn’t, although I think you could give something back and buy a single friend a nice dinner service or some Le Creuset. Just be aware that you’re contributing to others’ difficulties by using the system that suits you so well. You can do more than wring your hands about it. Ian Goggin and Kristin Skarsholt refuse to participate in inequality from their position of privilege. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12046624

Written by Not an Odalisque

August 17, 2011 at 1:34 am

Confessions of a Feminist

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I feel the need to come out. There’s something I haven’t told you about myself. You may have made assumptions, if you read this blog, because I’m feminist, I’m pro-sex and I’m always prepared to get angry with men who don’t let me have my way, but here it is: I don’t believe in abortion. I think abortion is wrong. Very wrong. In the same category as rape and murder. Mostly because I think it is murder.

I can cope with the fact that the world disagrees with me. This is hardly the first area in which I have maintained a belief in the face of public opinion. I’m a feminist. I’m a vegetarian (something many meat eaters seem to regard as a personal insult to them). I wear a white poppy for Remembrance Sunday. I don’t particularly like ice-cream. I hardly shy away from making controversial statements; it’s different, though, with abortion.

There are communities I rely on to cater to my beliefs, sometimes literally, with hommous sandwiches, groups of people who respect diversity and value every individual. It’s just lovely. Whether I’m socialising or reading a blog, it is comforting to know that people share core beliefs, that I don’t have to be constantly defensive as a woman, was someone who sleeps with women, or even as someone who chooses not to eat meat. That feeling isn’t something I get in mainstream culture, but I find it among feminists, kinksters, campaigners and other groups. They accept me, and all my quirks, except this one.

Take this discussion at The F-Word, for example. Anyone who expresses an anti-abortion viewpoint is likely to get responses like this:

“stop pretending you’re a feminist. Anyone who supports a blastocyst/embryo/foetus over an actual living breathing woman is not a feminist. There is no anti-choice argument which does not eventually lead to: shut up and get back in the kitchen because God Said So.” (Politicalguineaupig)

Or this:

“Please don’t call yourselves ‘pro-life’ or feminist because you are neither. Condemning a woman to give birth to a child even if it costs her her own life is not pro-life. It is anti-woman and anti-feminist. […]Pro-life is all about taking away the rights of women. That’s all it is about and that’s all it ever was and will be about. […]shut up, go away and don’t make other women’s difficult choices even more difficult with your cruel, stupid, judgemental behaviour.” (Paula)

You can see why I didn’t persist after my one, feeble, contribution. So here I am, in my space, giving an explanation.

First of all, let’s clear up some misconceptions. I’m not religious. I was not brought up in a religious household, and I am not currently under the influence of any religious nutters. I don’t believe in God. So my objections to abortion do not originate with a pronouncement by the Pope or deep-seated repression. If, however, you thought that I must be religious because anyone who disagrees with you must be convinced through faith, rather than reason, then you ought to be mightily ashamed. Religious people do great work, and are as much possessed of rational faculty as you are. I know some pretty dumb atheists, too. I, on the other hand, have a degree in philosophy, which included in depth study of ethics. I am not irrational, I am not uninformed.

I think women are great and I think sex is great. I think that sex with women is great fun, too, but that’s another matter. I certainly don’t believe that women should be defined by their reproductive abilities, and I think that you could come to that conclusion very quickly by scanning through other posts on this blog. I don’t disapprove of sex, or believe that it should be punishable by babies. More sex would be good, actually, if you’ve got any to offer, do get in touch.

Are you convinced yet? Do you acknowledge the possibility of an irreligious, feminist, sex-positive woman who has come to the considered opinion that abortion is wrong?

I’m not on a moral mission. I haven’t joined any campaigning organisations, I don’t picket outside clinics or berate teenagers who want abortions. You have to pick your battles and I’ve got other issues to get angry about. Since we’ve got this far, though, I’ll tell you what I believe.

Killing people is wrong. Choosing an arbitrary moment when something ceases being a thing and becomes a person is ridiculous. I know that it is wrong to kill a baby at birth. How long before that is it right? Is there a magical moment, is a switch flipped? No. It is human life from the start, and killing people is wrong.

I recognise that some people think killing people is right. They support the death penalty, join armies, become arms dealers, they get elected and start wars or roam the streets looking for victims. I’ve met many people in the armed forces who I respect, who are trying to do good, but I have no problem with saying that we disagree. It’s a personal belief, that killing people is wrong. Lots of people agree with me, though.

That’s why I don’t believe in abortion. It’s that simple. I’m not unaware of the pain and suffering that pregnancy can cause. Getting pregnant is one of my worst nightmares, and I have advantages many others don’t. I have a lot of sympathy for women who don’t want to be pregnant, just as I have a lot of sympathy for people caught up in conflicts. That doesn’t make their actions right, though. No one is born with an urge to harm others, that is a product of circumstance. I can empathise, but I can’t agree.

I’m not trying to get into an argument on abortion rights, there are plenty more unambiguous villains than pregnant teenagers which we can agree to tackle. While we’re doing that, perhaps you would be good enough to recognise my existence. I’m feminist and anti-abortion. Get over it.

Written by Not an Odalisque

June 30, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Primark, Padding, Porn and Pumpkins

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This week another story about the sexualisation of children hit; Primark has been selling padded bikinis for seven year olds. These outrages come around every now and again. Previously, Tesco gave us the pole dancing kit for children to “release the sex kitten inside,” and even now, shops help little girls store their phallic signifiers in Playboy pencil cases. This week, a Guardian researcher dug up a “Future WAG” T shirt for three year olds and some high heeled shoes in small sizes.

My main thought after finishing the article about the bikinis was not “save our kids from paedo Primark!” but, “how do you make a bikini for £4?” Is there some poor child making these in a Bangladeshi sweatshop? It seems unlikely that anyone is being paid a fair wage. None of that is pertinent, however.

I’m often shocked by what kids wear. I’m shocked by what a lot of adults wear, too. Perhaps I’m just easily shocked. Children in heels and make-up, children in bikinis and push up bras, trouble me. They worry me in the same way that little boys playing with toy guns do. We are teaching children their role and giving them little chance to escape it. But I really don’t think that we can blame Primark.

I don’t like big multinationals. I knit my own jumpers and I think tofu is delicious. When I think of Primark I think of slave labour, environmentally destructive cotton growing and transportation, a wasteful culture in which clothes are considered disposable, and ugly, scratchy, garments, cheaply made out of synthetic fabric. I’m a snob. I am, however, a snob whose father works for a multinational. While the activists rail, I hear from the other side, too. It’s surprising how often the other side is rather reasonable. “How can you still be selling baby milk in X, after all the harm you did there?” I ask. “It was designed to save children whose mothers don’t produce milk. You think we should let them die?” he answers. More recently “Why are all your ready meals full of fat, salt and sugar?” “ Because when we stopped putting them in, people stopped buying them.” Oh. Good point.

Culture is powerful and children are infinitely suggestible. However, Primark wouldn’t be stocking padded bikinis for children if no one wanted to buy them, or, at least, they wouldn’t be stocking them for very long. The grownups are spending the money. The grownups are in moral paroxysms about the products. The fuss is getting so great, though, that I can’t help thinking that there is more to it than worries over the failure of feminism to release women from objectification. I’ve seen the handful of people who turn out for Object’s rallies. Women’s objectification doesn’t seem to upset more than a few feminists, who nonetheless shave their legs because it isn’t socially acceptable not to. So why the fuss when it comes to children?

I think that the language of the article in the Sun gives a valuable clue. With accusations that Primark’s bikini encourages paedophilia as “little girls wearing them would be sexualised and made attractive to predatory perverts,” and the coining of the term “paedophile pound” it invokes the threatening figure of the sexual predator. There are two objects of incontrovertible hate in our society: Nazis and paedophiles. They are the big bad wolves of our culture. The fact that most children suffer at the hands of family members doesn’t influence our image of the paedophile, lurking behind the bushes to drag away little girls for rape and murder. The paedophile has to be absolutely, uncontrovertibly other. He cannot be like us, he is not one of us. His life can’t even be allowed to resemble us. Why? Because we don’t want to admit the truth, and if we saw our similarities we would have to. This is the truth: we fancy children.

There, I’ve said it. I hope you’re shocked. Even if you are revolted and angry, stay with me for a moment to examine the evidence.

I started with the Sun, hoping to be able to make a point about the fact that they like to publish pictures of young women, as if it were impossible to be attractive over the age of thirty. But what I found was an article about how a twenty-seven year old celebrity is a “cougar”, because she finds a teenage boy attractive:

“She said: “I love Justin. I think he’s gorgeous.

“It’s kind of that you feel wrong for fancying him. I’m 27. His songs are amazing. I’d be a cougar for him. But it is wrong,”

Comedienne Shappi Khorsandi, – also on Monday’s BBC1 show – joked that men must have felt the same about fancying Billie when she was a teen pop star at just 15.”

Do you think that men felt uncomfortable about fancying Billie Piper? I don’t. Do you think that we’d feel the need to come up with a special name for a man who fancies younger women? No, I think that “heterosexual man” pretty much covers that base.

Our society is obsessed with youth. We sell it in bottles and surgical treatments, and we ogle it everywhere. Female TV presenters are sacked when they get to a certain age, because their function is primarily sexual and their sexual value has a sell-by date. Why do you think that the American high-school film has become a hugely popular genre? Could it possibly be because we get to ogle teenage girls for an hour and a half? Many of the beauty regimes we grown women follow to make ourselves attractive to men also make us resemble children. Why do porn stars shave off all, or almost all, of their pubic hair, in addition to the rest of their body hair? Are the rest of us expected to do that, too?

Dan and Dan sum up the situation excellently with “Bring back capital punishment for paedophiles; Photo feature on schoolgirl skirt styles.” I think that pornography holds the key to the issue of our obsession with paedophilia. Pornography is fantasy, a repository for desires we don’t admit to. It also influences desire, especially now that it is universally accessible—in fact unavoidable—online.

A couple of years ago I picked up five porn magazines at random in a motorway service station. None of them have pictures of mature women, although one youngster is labelled a “Mother I’d Like to Fuck.” There are numerous pictures of young blondes with pigtails and white cotton underwear, advertising sex lines with captions like “I’m 18, I really am, why would I lie?” and “I’m not so innocent.” One photo series set in a classroom lets us share in a Japanese schoolgirl’s “self-exploration.” Props include a teddy bear, a lollipop, plastic animals and, weirdly, a Halloween pumpkin. Youth is clearly at a premium in pornography (winter squashes less so).

I think I’m fairly open minded. I might laugh at your sexual fantasies (you on Fetlife with the yellow cagoule, I’m talking about you), but you’re welcome to them. Nevertheless, I saw red when I came across the feature “Fancy a Lolita?” in Sexscape. It begins by singing the praises of underage girls, and then provides a handy guide to fucking them, because “inexperienced dolls with lovely slim bodies are agonizingly attractive to middle aged and older guys. What are you waiting for?”

Apparently fast food restaurants and cinemas are the best places to find ‘Lolitas’, and older men are sure to get a good response because they are more exciting than homework. They should be sure not to give out their address, though, for fear of retributions from angry fathers. The risks are worth it, though, because her beauty, her innocence and her inexperience combine to make her the best sex object around. She’s more easily turned on than adult women, and apparently even tastes better. Like Brita-filtered water, I’m sure.

So this is what I know: there’s a group of people who are very angry about little girls wearing clothes which they perceive as the markers of sexual availability, and there’s a group of people who think that girls are sexy precisely because they don’t act or dress like adult women, and haven’t been sexually available to other men. It sounds to me like they are both on the same side.

I’ve never been tempted to sleep with a child. I have been attracted to people who were under eighteen, mostly when I was under eighteen, too. I’m twenty-five, and now and again I notice a beautiful teenager. I wouldn’t want to get involved with one, independence is an important quality in a lover, and teenagers don’t (or shouldn’t) possess it. But every time I buy into the culture which sells us young flesh, in the form of a face cream, a bikini wax or an album by a teenage pop star with a raunchy music video, I help it along a little bit.

I think that we all need to do a little bit of soul searching. Let the children be.

Written by Not an Odalisque

April 18, 2010 at 10:51 pm

My Imaginary Lap Dancer

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I write stories. I try to tackle the issues people debate in the abstract with a personal approach. One of my characters has decided that she’s going to work at a lap dancing club. I hadn’t planned it, but it seems like an interesting path. Feminist writers and bloggers have a lot to say on the topic, as do campaign groups like Object. It is much harder to find the views of the people who work in the industry, or the clients. My personal experience is limited to seeing some pole dancing once in a lesbian club in Soho.

Why am I writing about something I haven’t experienced? If I don’t, then all I will ever produce is my autobiography. I think it is going to be interesting in terms of understanding gender construction, objectification, power relationships and sexuality, all of which are my area. We’ll see what happens.

I need more input. Have you ever worked doing lap dancing or pole dancing? Have you ever paid for these services? I want to hear from you. I realise that the experience is not uniform, the people, their motivations, what goes on at work all varies. Nonetheless, my character is a representation of people who seem to be talked about more than heard. If I have more information she can be a better representation.

I will take anything I can get. How did you get into it? How do you spend your time at work? What are the good bits, which bits don’t you like? Do you feel that it changes other people’s perceptions of you? How do you feel about your employers and the customers? Anything you want to tell me will be welcomed.

For the customers, I would love to know what your time at a club is like, what you enjoy about it, how the experience makes you feel, or whatever you want to share.

I don’t need anyone to tell me “lap dancing is wrong because…” I already know those arguments. If your story ends with “boo” or “yay” that’s great, though.

You can post in the comments section or email me at not.an.odalisque@gmail.com. For this, I offer you my everlasting gratitude. Many, many thanks.

Written by Not an Odalisque

April 3, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Ethical Procrastination

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Good procrastination skills are essential for wannabe writers. Productivity may be decreased, but bemoaning low word counts is a bonding activity, almost a ritual, initiating one into the brotherhood.

That is why I dedicated a significant portion of my day to expanding my procrastination base. If, like me, you feel bad about not saving the world, but not bad enough to go to hot places where you could build orphanages or stand in front of tanks, online activism is worth exploring. Amnesty International has been kind enough to take all of the difficulties out of campaigning, by drafting your email, addressing it, and creating a neat online form so that all you have to do is click send. You can do your part for women in Iran, human rights activists in China and victims of domestic violence in the UK, all within ten minutes without going out into the cold for so much as a stamp. It would make you feel all warm and glowy if only there weren’t another 79 causes to get through.

When you tire of Amnesty Actions, which I am sure you will, because there’s only so much human suffering you can read about in one sitting, you ought to go back to work. You may, however, be tempted by 10 Downing Street’s Petition page. This should surely be a campaigner’s dream, as anyone can propose a petition, the Prime Minister will surely come to know of it and anyone browsing his page can add their support. Spread the word through Facebook and Twitter, and very soon your good idea is becoming law.

My purpose on the site was to express my opposition to the proposed Digital Economy Bill, the demerits of which are the subject of many more engaging rants than mine. The petition is worded thus:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to abolish the proposed law that will see alleged illegal filesharers disconnected from their broadband connections, without a fair trial.”

I can understand how the comma ended up there, my commas creep around in the night, too. Sometimes I wonder if they are distant cousins of socks, given their similar behaviour. It was the phrase “abolish the proposed law” which defeated me. How is the Prime Minister to abolish something which does not yet exist? Should he do his best to make sure the bill passes so that he can abolish it as soon as it becomes law? 6,048 people have signed the petition, five hundred of them while I was typing this paragraph. If anyone can solve the abolishment conundrum for me, I’ll sign it, too.

There are some other petitions with interesting wording. I’m not sure whether the 12,739 people who signed beneath “We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to use funds from the NHS budget to undergo trials for Low Dose Naltroxene” think that Gordon Brown has multiple sclerosis, but I suspect that some of them think he would make a better guinea pig than leader. My favourite is the petition asking the Prime Minister to “recognise in some form the town of Wootton Bassett.” I have images of him with a line up of different towns, eyeing their church steeples and duck ponds, eventually letting out a whoop of delight as he says “yes, I know this one, Wootton Bassett! So good to see it again.”

There are some scarey ones. Matthew Banner wants a compulsory National Youth Movement for people aged 9 to 18. Adam Kent thinks the government should sell the motorway network. I would, support Michael Westgarth’s suggestion that roll over internet adverts be banned, and Stephen Murray’s that we should open mental homes for non-smokers. Even if non-smokers aren’t utterly mad, being locked up would prevent them from chittering about cancer and waving imaginary smoke out of their faces. Those only have one signature each, however, which doesn’t indicate great popular support.

On the whole, even the most popular petitions cause me a little unease about the range of our concerns. Rather too many ask for a St. George’s day holiday, or the flying of more English flags. Britain cares about post offices, road names, phonebooks, horse taxes, dog quarantine and the Union Jack, but the only mention of Human Rights among the most popular petitions is in the context of defending Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

The only conclusion I can come to is that the internet is populated by the same people who call radio phone-ins. People who just can’t help but tell you their opinions, no matter how absurd they are. We just never knew they couldn’t spell until the internet was invented. Since I’m coming to the end of a blog post, all I can do is conclude that they are people like me. I’d better go, for fear of becoming an illiterate fascist

Written by Not an Odalisque

November 22, 2009 at 6:01 pm