Hell in a Handbasket: Thoughts on Order, Chaos and Control

Looking back, I’ve written a number of posts that take aim at the comments sections of online news articles. In the back of my mind, I know that the Internet is riddled with hate-spewing trolls, but I still find myself drawn to them. I guess I’m hoping for that one comment that falls under the banner of honest debate – the “Holy Grail” of comments. It can be quite fun poring through the randomness that is troll logic, but it’s also quite concerning that others will see the volume of troll posts and believe they represent a consensus; adopting their views rather than engaging with them.

When I shared a link to my John Lewis article on Twitter, a couple of fellow musicians replied. Within their short discussion, it was asserted that, when things change, people don’t feel in control; however, nobody has control – it’s just an illusion created by civilisation.

It’s funny how something as simple as a tweet can inspire complex thought. Do we really have no control over anything? Beyond our own absolute position in time and space, I don’t think so either.

Think about time in terms of order and chaos. The past, I believe, represents order. In computing terms, it’s like a file that lacks random write permissions: it can only be read from or appended to. The future, on the other hand, is chaos: a vast void of uncertainty. We have knowledge of the past to inform and help plan for this future based on probability but, morbid as it may seem, we are always aware that the future holds just one certainty: we will die at some point in the future; we just have no control over when. With this in mind, the future can be frightening.

This fear of death is not necessarily physical – one can fear a social death where inflexibility leads to irrelevance, invalidity and isolation. When non-trolls proclaim that the world’s going mad or the world’s going to hell in a handbasket, I believe what they are referring to specifically is a possible future with little to no precedent to base it on – a future they either can’t envisage or a worst case scenario. Going back briefly to the subject of gender, by replacing the long-held concept of a monochrome binary with a more colourful alternative, we are causing chaos in the form of incompatibilities with whatever we built upon it – hence the hostility over things like sports, bathrooms etc. Because we have no control over the future, those who lack the flexibility to adapt to it become defensive, fighting for their own social survival.

But remember: there are no guarantees. This worst case scenario could be one of a billion possible outcomes with equal probability. You can, however, address the incompatibilities and stack the odds in favour of a more acceptable outcome. How you do so is up to you: do you reject any responsibility and insist the other party just “deals with it”, or do you collaborate on a more inclusive solution?

The answer, I believe, lies in how far you’re willing to go outside of your comfort zone; to open a dialogue you cannot control with those you perceive as a threat? It’s a gamble, but life is full of gambles.

Every once in a while, a small bet on long odds leads to a big payout.

Rant in B-sharp: Interfering Wowsers

Last night, in the few minutes between getting into bed and falling asleep, one question wafted into my mind:

Why do some people believe it’s okay to interfere in, criticise or control the lives and choices of others?

In Australia and New Zealand, they have a brilliant word for such people: wowsers. People so prim, proper and moralistic, they suck the fun out of everything. People so easily-offended, freedom of choice and freedom of expression is a scary prospect to them.

Thinking about it further got me more than a little wound up. I’ve been on the receiving end of a fair share of criticism over the years from people who saw themselves on the moral or cultural high ground and saw it as their right to pass comment on others. Therefore, this post may get rather ranty, a bit sarcastic and perhaps a little satirical too. We all need to vent sometimes.

I’d been watching a video on the sexual double standard. If you’re not already familiar with the term, it’s where having many sexual partners is regarded negatively for women, but virtuous for men. From what I gathered, it’s an anachronistic and conservative throwback to the days before contraceptives, where promiscuous women were seen as potential harbingers of venereal diseases… so don’t go there! As such, a woman with no, or few, previous sexual partners was seen as appropriate; however, a man with a similar history must have something seriously wrong with him. How on earth is this still relevant today, and what right do we have to criticise others for what they get up to in the bedroom anyway? If you’re happy and healthy, who cares?!

The same goes for those who believe conversion therapy works, and either encourage, pressure or force their friends or family members to undergo such treatment. What’s the matter? Is the shame of having a gay person in the family so bad that you’ll gladly chip away at your loved ones’ mind through extreme, Clockwork Orange-style therapies; just so you can sleep a little easier? I’m sorry, but if you’re only willing to say “I love you” after you’ve had their nuts wired to a car battery, then you’re the one who needs to seek help.

And while we’re on the subject, stop lobbying your representatives in Government to legally remove the rights of others based on your personal religious views. The same goes for international religious lobby groups too. If you want the freedom to practice your religion without discrimination, then keep your nose out of civic affairsFreedom of religion is a universal human right, as is freedom of conscience, which applies to all and not just your little collective. Freedom from offence is not a human right… so put the placard down and move along.

And finally, here’s a list of a few more things people publicly criticise others for that really pisses me off:

  • Their physical appearance.
  • Their wardrobe choices. There’s a reason Trinny and Susannah aren’t on the air anymore.
  • Their gender identity. Is that stranger over there confusing you because they don’t look quite right? If I were you, I’d go home and take a couple of paracetamol if thinking is making your head hurt.
  • Their diet. Are you a doctor or a nutritionist? No? Then shut up!
  • Their political beliefs. There is no right and wrong on the political spectrum – contribute to the debate or go back to your right-wing safe space on the Daily Mail forums!
  • Their mental health. No, we can’t just “cheer up” or “snap out of it”.
  • Their possessions. Am I making you late for work by not driving a faster car? Sue me.
  • Their personal tastes. I quite liked Pink Floyd’s Endless River. Deal with it.
  • Their accent. I’m sick of hearing how disliked or “unattractive” the West Midlands accent is, or how it makes us sound unintelligent! Yow can bugger off, arroight!

Rant over.

How the Broadchurch finale got me thinking about sexism in print

If you’ve been following the ITV crime drama Broadchurch and haven’t seen last night’s finale, you might want to come back to this post later once you’ve watched it. Alternatively, close your eyes and scroll past the next paragraph. There may be spoilers ahead!

For the benefit of those who weren’t following the show, or are in countries where it’s not shown, the third series centred around a rape investigation, and in the finale, it was revealed that the rapist was a 16 year-old boy, groomed and pressured into the act by an older male who had committed several unreported rapes previously. In his police interview, the older male, Leo, explained his motivations in the most blasé manner imaginable: “it’s just sex”. The scene cut to the steps outside of the police station where DS Miller was sitting, distraught at what she’d heard in the interview. Her colleague, DI Hardy, in his usual bitter, Scottish tones, explained “we’re not all like that – he’s an abomination”.

While it is a fictional crime drama, it’s not without its realism. I will admit that, after watching the finale, it sickened me a little to think that there will be men out there with similar attitudes – that men are just a slave to their sexual urges, motivated by feelings of power and domination, and a woman’s body is a mere plaything to be used as they see fit. Okay, such people are a very tiny minority, but where do they get such attitudes from?

I watched one YouTube video presented by the late Christopher Hitchens disassembling the ten commandments, who took aim at the commandment against coveting your neighbour’s ox, ass or wife – noting that a man’s wife was mere chattel and of similar value to his livestock (he also noted that this was the only one of the ten that condemned one’s thoughts rather than one’s actions). Obviously, this command was handed down to a culture many years and many miles from our own, but the devaluation of women is still an issue today despite many significant progressions.

Today’s media aren’t exactly blameless. You only have to look at the likes of Page 3, lad’s mags and other such publications to find examples of where women have been reduced to such base levels, all in the name of marketing. I don’t read such publications myself, and I’m not against any woman who appears in such magazines of her own free will, but my main concern is for their readers and their interpretations. Yes, the female body is a beautiful thing, in all shapes and forms, but where do we draw the line between the harmless and the harmful?

Let’s say, for example, in the centre pages of a magazine is a photo of a Size Zero model (Size 4 in UK), clad only in underwear, draped over the bonnet of Lamborghini supercar. Of course, the marketing department want you to believe that if you were to drive one of these cars, you could attract a woman of similarly-desirable aesthetics. Looking and admiring in a complementary way is okay – no harm done to anybody. Concern for her health and welfare, even better. Shaming her for her chosen profession – not exactly helpful. If you start seeing this picture as a minimum standard for all women to follow, and it’s affecting your relationships, that’s when attitudes start to cross the line into objectification and obsession.

The attitudes towards men in such publications is also somewhat questionable – at their core, are men are just hyper-masculine alpha meatbags, interested only in sex, sport, cars and booze? Imagine if everyone’s expectation of the opposite sex was defined by such magazines?

One article published in the Telegraph opined that men have evolved to become more feminine as a result of increasing female influence. Men and women in relationships are no longer the separate entities of “provider” and “home-maker” from recent history, but a co-operative unit. There will be a few that see this as progressively emasculating, taking away the status associated with the man’s traditional role, but fail to see the real-world positives that an equal partnership brings. Relationships are more open, tolerant and, for want of a better word, cooler: when both husband and wife share the load, tempers between them are less likely to become heated.

I strongly believe that, once men stop resisting their feminine side, and stop criticising or shaming the “feminine” traits in other men, we will start seeing a reduction in sexist attitudes and behaviours.

By all means, admire the beauty of the female body, drool over the sleek and aerodynamic curves of the Ferrari, cheer on your local football team and have a few lagers afterwards if that is what genuinely interests you… just don’t forget the difference between fantasy and reality.

Simon 1 – 0 Captain Paranoia

There is a follow-on story to the one I posted earlier this week. Late last Sunday, long after I’d shut down any attempts at going out-and-about in a kilt, my wife made a suggestion. She said I may be better-served by going for a skirt designed for women. Same purpose, just lighter material and no pleats. I will admit, I wasn’t sure.

Fast-forward to mid-week, after I’d disassembled and re-evaluated the problem, and I felt it was worth a try. After a bit of research, I felt the best first-step was with an A-line denim midi-skirt; it would have the same flare as a kilt, the same length and in a unisex fabric.

Four days later, one arrived on my doorstep. When my wife saw it for the first time, she commented that it looked a lot better than my kilts. I must admit, it felt a lot more casual than my kilts – closer to the skirts worn by men in Asia and the Pacific Islands. Besides, it has a zip and a button at the front so, considering it’s not marketed as “unisex”, it’s still rather convenient when nature calls.

With today being Mother’s Day here in the UK, we ventured out to visit my in-laws. They’re very easy-going, and had seen me in my kilts several times last year, so I knew it wouldn’t be an issue. When we arrived, my wife noticed that her nan’s car was parked outside. Just to paint a picture, she’s close to 88 years old, a regular church attendee (and former church warden) and lives in the Tory safe-seat of Sutton Coldfield. Her reaction was, contrary to expectation, minimal. My wife said she gave me a rather odd look, but I hadn’t noticed – I give my kids rather odd looks when they do strange things or spout random nonsense, but it’s just a sign that they’ve got a good imagination.

The only comment came from my four year-old niece, who said I looked “weird” in a skirt. I took that as a compliment – after all, our culture would not be what is is today without the weirdos and oddballs of the past to stir things up.

Where I take victory from this is the fact that I didn’t talk myself out of it at any point – and there were more than a few opportunities to do so. I feel real progress has been made, and a lot sooner than I’d thought. My wife set me a challenge to wear skirts every day when we go away for the weekend in a month’s time – with the penalty of “wimping out” being not going to a local pub that serves delicious rotisserie chicken.

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The Menswear Liberation Movement

I’ve written before about the progress of, and the resistance to, blurring gender lines – I’ve also written about how men’s fashion should be allowed to cross the same lines women’s fashion has in the past 50 years.

This has been an area I’ve been researching and learning more about – I’ve also been rather keen to embrace, albeit rather apprehensively. It’s quite encouraging to see free-thinking and creative men discarding the traditional notions of gendered clothing and developing their own individual styles, but for it to actually become less of a ‘taboo’, I believe there needs to be more inspiration coming from those whose business it is to inspire.

This would work…

I’m a member of a group on Facebook called “Men’s Fashion Freedom”. I don’t really need to tell you what it’s about – the clue’s in the name. The men in this group wear whatever they feel comfortable in, regardless of where in the clothes shop it’s come from. I’ve scanned through a lot of the historic posts, and the pictures its members have posted of themselves, and there there are a lot of practical and creative ideas flowing through the group, ranging from the simple to the extravagant, but everything works for the individual. They’re not chiselled catwalk models either – they cover all ages, all builds and all walks of life.

… considerably better than this

Switch to similarly-minded posts on Tumblr and Pinterest, and it’s a different picture. On here, I saw a lot of gender-blurring ideas that were coming off the catwalks – ideas that are, supposedly, where men’s fashion is heading. Not wanting to criticize their ideas, but Nuno Gama and Marc Jacobs aside, there were a fair few ideas that looked like costumes out of a Sci-Fi movie; think The Fifth Element meets The Hunger Games rather than the skirted tunics seen on Star Trek; all very well and good on the streets of Soho, but rather out-of-place in Sutton Coldfield unless you’re performing some Gilliam-esque street theatre.

For those who agree that menswear should be less restricted, I feel the fashion world is doing the cause more harm than good by presenting ideas that are too radical to be accepted by the general public; there needs to be many smaller challenges and short-term goals rather than looking too far ahead. Encouraging men to break into their pre-defined “masculine” programming and re-code it for themselves may take away those “traditional values” many still treasure, but it also allows us to bug-fix, reconfigure and optimise for our own architecture. (Sorry for the software engineering analogy)

Opening up a new market for men’s skirts and dresses needs a movement in order to be successful. A movement moves – it does not leap. Designers need to inspire, support and, most importantly, be patient; rules are best broken down one-at-a-time as opposed to broken all-at-once. To many people, seeing a man in a skirt is radical enough without being so bold in the design.

 

The Normality of Niqabs and Drag Queens

One of my friends shared a video on Facebook concerning reactions to an image that went viral. The image showed two people sitting on the Subway in New York: one of them a Muslim woman in a niqab, the other a drag queen. The video interviewed a small handful of New Yorkers to gain their reaction to the photo, and they all seemed rather blasé about it. They’d lived in New York long enough to know how diverse its citizens are, and this was nothing out of the ordinary.

what_liberals_wantThe video also showed the conservative reaction via a tweet that showed the picture with a heading of “This is the future that liberals want”. Can’t argue with that – two people sitting peacefully side-by-side on the Subway… who doesn’t want that?

Okay, I get the idea that they were stating that niqabs and drag queens would not be welcome in a conservative future. I can also understand why, to a certain degree, but am still confused as to how they can harp on about their freedoms whilst simultaneously protesting others. Why are they free to wear a crucifix around their neck if they want to, but the niqab should be banned even for those women who choose to wear it? I can see how a drag queen can confuse those who see the world in monochrome, but if they’re out having fun and harming nobody in the process, what’s the big issue?

Before anybody says “it’s not normal”, I’d argue that there is no such thing as “normal” when it comes to people – our collective diversity is both “normal” and “natural”. There are statistical likelihoods, but that is all. For example, I am one of less than 0.004% of Brits that bought Steven Wilson’s latest single – does that mean my behaviour is abnormal, or am I just expressing my taste in music? 90% of the UK population live outside of London – does that mean all Londoners are “weird”, or is it just a meaningless statistic?

Being part of a minority does not imply you’re some freak of nature – the fact that you can think independently shows just how natural you are

Besides, aren’t we all part of at least one statistical minority, and if so, why are some so intolerant of those minorities that they have to abuse or lobby against them?

UPDATE: I’ve just found out that the drag queen in the image goes by the name of Gilda Wabbit. When everything is so Disney or Dreamworks, it’s good to see some love for the old Looney Tunes classics!

Dresscode Discrimination: Weighing in on the “High Heels” debate

This week, there’s been some coverage in the media calling on the British government to add further protection for women in the workplace. It was highlighted that some firms required their customer-facing female members of staff to wear high heels as part of the company dress code, with reports of some women being sent home without pay if they didn’t. Following a successful petition, the issue will be discussed in parliament and responded to.

When stories like this emerge, social media gets worked up into a frenzy, and this was no exception. Fortunately, for every tweet complaining about whining Feminazis, there were dozens more in support.

You don’t have to be a genius to work out where I stand on the issue. While Companies are well within their rights to a specific dress code policy, and their employees are bound by those policies as a condition of employment, they still have a duty to provide a conductive working environment for their employees. That also works in the company’s best interest: comfortable staff = productive staff. I can’t say I’ve spent days on end, constantly on my feet wearing high-heeled shoes, but I do at least have a point of reference: whenever my wife has worn heels at a wedding, she always carries a pair of flat shoes in reserve when all the standing-around gets too much (why do wedding photographers always have to be so perfectionist?!). Forcing a woman to wear painful or uncomfortable shoes as a condition of employment, based on nothing more than an anachronistic view of heels as both “sexy” and “powerful”, is demeaning at best and oppressive at worst.

I’m no legal expert, but if an employee becomes physically unable to wear high-heeled shoes, and the company is unwilling to make a reasonable adjustment, they are in breach of the Disabilities Discrimination Act of 1995. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

In fact, company dress codes can be bad on both sexes for archaic and impractical reasons. Although I wasn’t in any physical pain (so this pales in comparison), there have been occasions when I’ve had to wear a full suit in the middle of summer, on a day close to being the hottest of the year, on the grounds that it looks “successful” and “professional”. I certainly didn’t feel very professional with beads of sweat dripping off my forehead, and I probably didn’t smell all that professional either – even antiperspirants boasting “24-hour protection” have their limits. Likewise, a woman wearing a pair of heels that are killing her feet is not going to feel all that professional or empowered either. If I was a potential customer being given a tour of a company, and my guide was grimacing with every laboured step, I’d find her a chair and go speak to whoever’s in charge. What use is privilege if you’re blind to injustice?

I was having a discussion with another Twitter user who had weighed in on this subject. Their initial tweet had diminished the oppressive aspect on the grounds that there are far greater oppressions abroad. True, but it’s pure sleight-of-hand: draw your attention to one big oppression so that you’re blind to the hundreds of little oppressions that carry on while you’re not looking. One greater oppression does not excuse the hundreds of smaller ones – they all need to be dealt with, so it’s better to pick a battle where you can influence and make a difference, however small that battle may be. These little wins all add up.

The discussion quickly turned to appearances vs. qualifications. My friend (as Jeremy Corbyn would put it) argued that you need to ‘look the part’ when you’re at work; after all, you wouldn’t entrust your savings to a bloke in a track suit, would you? Well, if you were that superficial, no you wouldn’t. I asked them if they would trust me with their savings if I was wearing an expensive, tailored Italian suit, to which they replied “more than if you were wearing anything else”. Well, you know what they say about fools and their money, don’t you?! Whether I’m wearing an Armani suit or my birthday suit, you should never trust me with your savings: my degree is in computer science, not investment banking. Looks can so easily be deceiving, but it’s hard to fake a qualification.

I’d have loved to have kept the discussion going, but when I brought up the legal implications should a woman become medically unable to wear heels during her employment, they dismissed these as infrequent and was not worth changing policies for “a couple hundred deformed”. At that point, I knew the conversation had crossed the line and wasn’t going to go anywhere constructive, so I politely took my leave.

I do agree that clothes say a lot about you, but like any other art-form it’s open to interpretation. It should always be our attitudes, our aptitudes and our behaviours that speak louder. I personally believe that a relaxed dress code at work, particularly for non-customer-facing staff, encourages freedom of expression and creativity. Dress-down Fridays where I work feel more relaxed, conductive and informal, so I don’t understand why we can’t have that every day. I also think it’s time this superficial view of professionalism was done away with – are first impressions really all that important?

These days, if someone approaches me wearing a suit, I’m initially quite wary of them – particularly salespeople. Any trickster can throw on a suit and look far more trustworthy than they actually are – when you look formal but act informal, my brain tells me something’s amiss. Put on a pair of jeans and a company-branded polo shirt, and you might find me a bit less defensive.

What are your thoughts on the whole debate? Do you think employees are right to protest when company dress codes cause severe discomfort, or do you believe that should be their cue to find work elsewhere? Do you think company dress codes are too traditional and formal? Do they even contribute anything? Let me know in the comments section below.

I didn’t know what an “SJW” was either.

During my weekend YouTubing, I watched a couple of videos that appeared to be ragging on so-called “Social Justice Warriors”, or SJWs. Like the term “special snowflake”, it’s not one I’ve come across until recently – it might just be more prevalent in the US than over here. Rather than continue in blissful ignorance, I looked it up.

The opening paragraph on Wikipedia describes the term as “a pejorative term for an individual promoting socially progressive views including feminism, civil rights, multiculturalism, and identity politics”. Okay, so basically anybody whose politics leans to the left. It continues: “The accusation of being an SJW carries implications of pursuing personal validation rather than any deep-seated conviction, and being engaged in disingenuous social justice arguments or activism to raise personal reputation, also known as virtue signalling.” So, by that definition, an SJW is someone who expresses left-leaning political views to serve their own reputation and not out of conviction. Is that right?

The way these videos were describing SJWs, you’d think they were trying to create a new world order by censoring and arguing with everybody who has less-progressive views than them. This actually sounds a bit extreme to me, and I doubt such actions are applicable to most progressives, whether they class themselves as an SJW or not. However, by such definition, it’s not all that different from a vocal Brexit voter shouting down anyone who wants anything but an immediate, hard Brexit. I’m also willing to bet that it’s these extreme fringes that get the press attention and, with simplified black-and-white thinking applied, we all get tarred with the same two brushes.

I hold rather progressive views – I make no apologies for that – but while I’ll express them here and on social media, I don’t insist everybody agrees with them. I’m all for civil debate, but I won’t get involved in a flame war.

I do also hold feminist views, but I’m somewhat more relaxed compared to how feminists are described in those YouTube videos. Again, I make no secret of my feminist views, but you’re more likely to find me acting upon them than preaching about them – it’s called “leading by example”.

In the whole debate about identity and gender politics, while I’m not all that keen on labels personally, I now understand how a lexicon of identities, labels and pronouns is important to those exploring and defining their identities – if a definition already exists, there’s at least one other person who identifies the same way. You’re not alone! I still maintain that all this exploration around gender identities adds vibrancy and colour to what is traditionally a strict monochrome. There does need to be some accommodation on both sides though, especially around the use of pronouns like “xe” and “hir” – it’s easy to add new nouns or verbs to your vocabulary, but as pronouns are woven into the fabric of the English language, new ones take a lot of getting used to, especially to a native speaker of almost 40 years. The singular “they/them/their” comes a lot more naturally.

The way I understand it, activism is a bit like driving a car. Those at the extreme ends have their cars in low gears with the needles on their tachometers constantly in the red: their engines are noisy and angrily revving away, but they’re not going anywhere fast and are likely to be doing more harm than good. The rest of us cruise along in higher gears at a more relaxed pace and make good progress.

I could sum all of that up in just two words…

Calm down!

Why shouldn’t we let boys wear skirts to school?

Last night, I read an article by Glosswitch, published on the New Statesman website. The article mused about why we should let all boys wear skirts to school. If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, I’m sure you’ll already know my response would be “why not?”. As the article already points out, a number of schools in the UK have already unified their uniform policies and, so far, it hasn’t caused any deaths, economic crashes or biblical apocalypses.

The article doesn’t have any comments section (just as well) – but I can imagine the response if it did. If you discount the attention-seeking brain-farts of the ultra-conservative trolls, the majority would be supportive. Parents today are getting wise to the ways in which their children are being rigidly gendered – particularly by marketing departments keen to reduce the number of “hand me downs” eating into their profit margins – and the success of the Let Toys Be Toys campaign is testament to how this practice is in decline. I can, however, see some valid concerns being raised.

What if my son doesn’t want to wear a skirt to school?

There always seems to be some confusion between a “right” and a “rule”. Your son may have the right to wear a skirt to school if they want to, but nobody’s forcing them to. It’s an additional freedom – it’s yours whether you want to make use of it or not.

What if it makes them go… well… you know…?

And so what if it does? They’re still your children. You might not like the idea now, but you may find you react differently if they do. They’re just clothes at the end of the day – what you wear on the outside has no effect on what’s on the inside, but if they do have some symptoms of gender dysphoria, I reckon it’s better for their long-term health if they express it rather than repress it.

Won’t they get bullied?

I don’t know any parent who would disagree that bullying is part of a larger, unrelated problem. Bullies will target anyone different to them, whether that difference is visible or not, but we have to remember that we’re talking about primary school children here. Children are far less prejudiced at that age and look to their elders for guidance – that’s where the school’s culture has a lot of influence. If they see another boy turn up to school in a skirt, they may think it’s a bit extraordinary but, if they see no negative reaction from their teacher, it’s likely they will accept it. They will take this acceptance with them.Parental attitude also has a lot of influence too, and it’s important that parents work with the school to ensure any kind of bullying does not go unpunished.

Schools are there to help give our children the fundamental knowledge they’ll need to get on in life. When they grow up and enter the workplace, they will be required to work with others regardless of such arbitrary characteristics; most companies take a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination and harassment, so it helps our children in the long-term if such social skills are instilled in them at an early age (Glosswitch’s article refers to this as “the indoctrination of non-indoctrination”).

The Bathroom Debate: A British Perspective

Previously, I briefly mentioned my views on the whole ‘bathroom’ debate, so I’m going to go into a little more detail.

To reiterate what I said before, I can understand why women would get rather defensive if a man – or someone they believed to be a man – walked into the ladies’ bathroom. It’s obvious there are some serious trust issues and men – or, to be more accurate, patriarchies – are largely to blame for them. A major change of attitude is required, but a sense of perspective is required too.

I have read some comments where some women have, in exceptional circumstances, used the men’s bathroom – usually when a queue has formed outside of the ladies’ bathroom and they just can’t wait any longer. Needless to say, these weren’t “risky” places like pubs or football stadia, so they came out of there completely unscathed. Whether or not there were any men in the room at the time is unclear, but had I been in the room at the time, they’d be perfectly safe – and I’m no special case. Why is that?

I’ve learned from writing some of my recent posts that there are still some pockets of American society that still believes men have power over women, that men have to be the strong, dominant and decisive ones; while women must be submissive and obedient. This is largely absent in British culture. Here, the overwhelming majority of men, whether they call themselves feminists or not, at least know how serious a crime sexual assault is. We wouldn’t wish it upon anybody, least of all our friends and family, and we certainly don’t defend anybody found guilty of it. We have a few “lads” and “players”, but there is a very solid line between promiscuous and predatory behaviour. Victim-blaming rarely goes unchallenged.

Rather than go on my observations and assumptions, I’d like to hear your opinions on this.

Let’s say, for example, we’re in a supermarket and the men’s toilet is closed for repairs. The only toilet available for men is a single disabled toilet, and a large queue has formed outside because the inconsiderate bloke occupying the toilet has taken in a copy of the Daily Mirror. He’s not going anywhere for the next 10 minutes. Under those circumstances, would any women object if any of the following broke away from the queue and went to use the ladies’ room, or would they feel threatened or unsafe? We’ll assume they did the polite thing by knocking first and asking rather than barging in.

  1. A father with an infant child who is in desperate need of the toilet and is screaming the place down
  2. An elderly gentleman with a weak bladder
  3. A man with Cerebral Palsy accompanied by a female relative or carer
  4. A boy aged between 10 and 12
  5. A man wearing motorcycle leathers
  6. A man with a non-threatening appearance

Please feel free to leave your comments or opinions below.