A young woman recently wrote this: “Today, I texted my College boyfriend to tell him how terrible I felt about cheating. He replied saying he was so relieved because he’d been cheating on me with the girl in his dorm. I was talking about my maths exam.”
I’m guessing their relationship didn’t survive!
It goes to show how much damage a wrong word can do.
That’s the problem with texts, or emails, or even posts on Facebook. Sometimes when I read social media rantings, I wonder if people have either been on the sauce or maybe not even realised that the whole cyber world is reading their irrational thoughts.
Texts and emails don’t have any tone so the fact that the wording is limited often means the recipient takes a very different meaning than we intended. And add to all that, the fact that people will take offence very easily nowadays.
And mere white, straight male old duffers like me find modern PC terminology an absolute minefield. Particularly when talking to or about women!
So, I hesitate – then jump right in to wonder about the spat this week following Arlene Foster’s description of her rival party leader, Michelle O’Neill as “blonde”. This was in response to a journalist’s promptings, and the DUP leader hesitated before answering.
Oh dear, another controversy. Relatively fresh from her “crocodile” row, Mrs. Foster now finds herself accused of sexism. Helpfully (not) her party colleague Sammy Wilson goes on the BBC to say “Michelle O’Neill IS blonde, unless she’s dyed her hair since the last time I had the misfortune to see her on TV.”
Sammy rarely calms troubled waters, and this was no clumsy attempt to mansplain; rather it again reveals the personal contempt that many in the DUP have for Republicans, with a little sneering misogny thrown in.
There is some irony in Arlene being accused of sexism, considering some of the personal abuse she’s taken and, indeed, as a woman who made it in politics, early in her career she told a journalist from this newspaper at a meeting “I’m not here to make the tea!”
Weeks after her handshake with Michelle O’Neill at the funeral of Martin McGuinness was regarded as symbolic and significant, Arlene’s “blonde moment” appears to do little for the political process.
Looking at her follow-up comments, it could be argued that Arlene was actually being complimentary, pointing out that Michelle was attractive, presents herself well. You never see her without make-up and her hair perfect.
A compliment? Heck, how would I know. I don’t even know if you can address women as “ladies” any more, or if you’re allowed to say nice things about their appearance.
But I suspect that Arlene wasn’t in gushing mode for the beautiful sisterhood. And, of course, the comments were seized on by many in Sinn Fein, some of the reaction over-the-top and a tad ironic from certain sources who remain unmoved by the brutal personal references to the DUP leader in recent months.
More measured were the reactions of people such as Clare Bailey, of the Green party, who suggested that politicians should talk ideas and policies, not hair styles and make-up. It’s a fair point, no? Yet, many in the media love to reduce coverage of women in power to this level (remember Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon pictured recently under the headline “Never mind Brexit – who won legs-it?”)
While it was a journalist posing the question, we can’t really blame the media on this occasion for what Clare Bailey calls a faux-pas by Arlene Foster.
In this context, there seems little excuse nowadays for such slip-ups by politicians; much work is always done by their backroom spin doctors, PR and marketing teams about staying on message.
How many times have we heard Mrs. May and her fellow Tories get the phrase “strong and stable” into the conversation, and for good measure she points to her opponents forming a “coalition of chaos.”
Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand, constantly refers to the Labour mantra at this election: “For the many, not the few.”
They’ll all be hoping for the success that the Donald had with “Make America great again.”
Slogans have always been part of elections, but it seems to be the norm nowadays to keep repeating these lines ad nauseum until they get into the voter’s head.
Politicians are adept at staying “on message”. Some years back, I was involved in a very controversial story, which involved interviewing politicians. At one point, under Freedom of Information, I managed to secure a ream of correspondence about the interviews and discovered that before a Minister met me they would get a lengthy and detailed briefing paper about the subject, which must have taken her civil servants many hours to produce. The briefing included advice for the Minister on “lines to take” during the interview.
As frustrating as that is for journalists, many politicians still go off message. Despite even using the “strong and stable” line in her recent interview on BBC’s One Show, Theresa May softened a little alongside her husband, Philip.
Mr May admitted he was the one who put the bins out, which conjured up a nice image for me of him heading down the back of 10 Downing Street looking confused as to whether to push the blue or green wheelie bin down to the road for collection. I can never remember.
A smiling Theresa admitted that in the May household there are “boy jobs and girl jobs.”
While the notion of that in 2017 may horrify some, I suspect that in many households there is still the traditional division of work. Women are far better at organising Christmas, aren’t they, and take it to a whole new level.
The founder of Mumsnet, Justine Roberts is a strong character, but recently she revealed that she made a spreadsheet of domestic tasks and those of her husband. She had 65. He had five.
Sounds about right! Although, five might be stretching it in our house, and I’m not sure if me making the porridge in the morning is a boy job or not.
Increasingly, it seems, it’s a girl’s job to run a country. By all means discuss hair and make-up, shoes and who takes the bin out.
But I’d like to hear more about herself’s plans to bring back fox hunting or what she’s doing about helping people struggling to pay the bills. And why the parties at Stormont, men or women are faffing about while our health service struggles from one problem to another.