Friday, 11 July 2008

For a Ginger Lady

The incidents I'm about to describe happened over a month ago, but still infuriate me - and I want to examine why.

I also want to make myself feel better by posting a passive-aggressive rant about someone I don't like - well, why do y'all think they invented the blogosphere?

So, I have a good friend whose name is Kim (she's doing the best she can with Kimberley Leeanne - and no, I'm not giving her a pseudonym, because she has nothing to be ashamed of, and is awesome in every way).

In many ways, she is an ideal of 21st-century womanhood. Both attractive and smart, she refuses to take shit from anyone - but she's still nurturing and caring (yeah, personally, on that coach trip, I would have moved seats away from the girl whose face threatened projectile vomit, not looked after her...). Kim also has a strong County Durham accent and insatiable curiosity.

Most of the people doing my degree don't have regional accents. The department - heck, the university - is full of public school alumni, who seem to specialise in saying clueless things about people outside their arenas of experience.

Anyway, the godly Martin Carver (eminent archaeologist is eminent) was talking about the African Burial Ground in NY. It seems that some authorities fought some rather more ethical authorities over the remains therefrom, and the remains themselves got moved around quite a bit. They even spent a while stored in the World Trade Center.

When this was mentioned, Kim asked (I remember this verbatim) "But the whole thing over the bones was quite recent, wasn't it? Were they still there during 9/11, confusing the firemen?"

Whereupon one girl took it upon herself to tell everyone, loudly, how OFFENSIVE that remark had been and how HORRIBLE and OFFENSIVE she found it.

After the lecture, when she wasn't *supposed* to be sitting silently, she strode up to Kim and shouted at her. Whereupon, I said (verbatim) "Who is it offensive to?"

She then said, "*my old name* I wasn't talking to YOU!"

Having realised that I was dealing with a person who thought she could choose who replied when she spoke I started shouting back :-D

Then she proceeded to tell Kim that, by disagreeing with her, Kim was removing her freedom of speech.

During the next few days, I heard this girl
1) Call someone a "retard"
2) Sit there saying nothing while someone else used "retard" repeatedly
3) Laugh when someone compared his fieldwork experience to "a concentration camp"

And I spent as little time with her as possible. I wonder what else she found funny?

So, y'know, it becomes crystal fucking clear that this girl's vendetta against Kim doesn't come from a desire to uphold standards of decent human behaviour. It comes from her DARING to be working-class and wanting to make something of herself, DARING to have a regional accent and to STILL WANT HER VOICE HEARD, and DARING to argue with her "betters".

I wouldn't be upset if this girl was just one lonely asshat. In fact, however, we found Kim crying that next Monday - it seemed that everyone on the course found her offensive.

Not everyone, exactly - everyone with the same level of privilege in their background, who had never heard somebody from the ACTUAL REAL WORLD say ACTUAL THINGS before.

And they still laugh at her when she doesn't know a long word, at a dyslexic woman who grew up on a council estate.

And they talk about her in terms designed to denigrate all "mouthy" women. I wish I could revoke all their rights when they do - guess what, "gobby" women, women who weren't nice, "appropriate" young ladies - earned them.

Kim had tried so, so hard to come to university. She had worked more than any of them could even imagine. She is as strong as anything. And these people had reduced her to tears - something all kinds of abuse rarely managed.

I was angry at these people for another reason, too. Hasn't anyone who knows anything about American politics noted the reason for their national oversensitivity? Their ridiculous insistence that everything said, everything, has to be beautifully patriotic?

Their politicians want us to forget the children without health insurance; the elderly people, many veterans, starving in their homes; police and other official brutality towards people who have dared to be poor or black; the fact that millions of people are living in third world conditions in a First World superpower. Yes, actual third world conditions. Where running water is an unobtainable luxury. Those kinds of third world conditions.

How about they stop contributing to that culture of silence? No, but as I know by your treatment of Kim, those people are obviously less than people to them.

Hmm. I guess I know why I'm angry now.

edit: this post seems to be mainly about teh womens - I'm not letting the other guys get off scot-free. I was the only guy chivalrous enough to stand up for a woman who was very obviously being bullied. I don't care how many rugby medals and penises you have, I might revoke your right to self-define as men...


Daphne said...

I haven't met Kim much but she's one of those people who is very obviously a Good Thing. It's worse when people who've had going to university very much laid on a plate for them have a go at people who have REALLY had to work to get there.

Kim said...

thank you my dear, you put it better than i ever could (y'know being dyslexic and all). mind you i did have to get a dictionary out :p

funny thing is, that upset a guy at work (not the actual American mind you, who then thought it was fine to call someone in a wheelchair a retard, i actually got offended, and thats difficult.

This whole thing was stupid and to be honest id love to know what Martin Carver said after he chased her down, after she shouted at me, you forgot to put down that she refused to listen to me and kept interupting, and im the rude one!!!!

thanks hun, you have made me feel sooo much better