Protest oppression any way you like. But if you want a pat on the head and the seal of establishment approval, ask nicely and always know your place.
BY JANE FAE
Is it really only six weeks since the Daily Mail went all in with a hit piece on DIVA’s “left-wing remainer” publisher, Linda Riley? Apparently so: though in a year whose every day seems to bring a week’s worth of bad news, you’d be forgiven for imagining it was much longer ago.
Still, even six weeks is a long time in politics. Has the news agenda not moved on? Have you not better things to write about, Jane? I’d like to say yes. More recent events, though, have provided perspective: have highlighted how this attack was not aberration, but par for the course. It is how the powers that be respond to attack.
First comes the shock, the horror and the denial.
Assimilation follows: there are issues, but these are the fault of a “few bad apples”.
And finally, back to business as usual, as protest departs the front pages and those still asking questions can be corralled into a box labelled “awkward” and “uncooperative”.
This is the anglo-saxon establishment, and not the Borg? Sadly so. Any similarity is pure coincidence. Or is it?
At any rate, the story the Mail had its teeth into was all about poor Mr Charlie Shakespeare, allegedly a “friend of Farage and Toby Young” and erstwhile promoter of Virtual Pride 2020.
Linda’s crime, according to this piece was that she was a “political bigot”. To be fair, she declared herself proud to be so on Twitter, declaring that her brand, DIVA Magazine, will not be associated with anybody who supports Toby Young and Nigel Farage.
Apparently I’m a ‘political bigot’ because @DIVAmagazine has withdrawn any support of #VirtualPride as one of the organisers supports @Nigel_Farage & @toadmeister For clarity any #LGBTQ event which supports the likes of these, will not have my support #proudtobeapoliticalbigot 😡— Linda Riley (@LindaRiley8) May 12, 2020
That seems an odd hill for the Mail to die on. After all, one assumes it is a fan of the free market and one fundamental building brick of that edifice is that businesses must curate their brands. Any company that did not would, ultimately, be failing in its duty to staff and shareholders. So why the issue here?
One clue turned up in my Twitter this week on an altogether different topic.
This was the Telegraph puffing a piece about why the BBC had banned Black Lives Matter badges on air and explaining how “high-profile” organisations are forced to distance themselves from Black Lives Matter as they say organisation has been “hijacked”.
Really? “Hijacked”? Or just not buying into the cuddly cosy neo-liberal #AllLivesMatter narrative and daring to get uppity?
This in turn reminded me of a personal choice I made earlier this year, to work with a business organisation coordinating plans for a first ever Pride a few miles down the road from where I live. I had my reservations and expressed them at the time. The fact that the organising group was significantly straight and – hilariously – missed all manner of references to actual LGBTQI culture. The topic of bears, I seem to remember, came up in committee, putting smiles on the faces of LGBTQI folk present – and blank looks to the rest.
But that was window dressing. More serious was the insistence on making the event family friendly. Pretty obvious then that we weren’t even going to debate the question of whether Gay leather puppies had any place in the parade. Because obviously they did not! There was the centring of police at the event: worst of all, a tendency to treat the day as one big spectacle where the straights could come and learn about us peculiar queer folks.
It reminded me, too, of a recent instruction from a (cishet) editor, after I included reference to trans campaigners in a piece I wrote for them. Could I also, she asked, explain that I only supported the good campaigners and not the nasty extremist Trans Rights Activists (TRAs). Which was an odd request because I really don’t know any extremist TRAs: though I am aware of a few, mostly younger trans folks, who, under extreme pressure from the current anti-trans campaigns have snapped and responded unwisely, heatedly, to online provocation.
So yes: pull those together and slot the DIVA experience into that context and there is a common thread. It’s okay for big commercial interests to set down conditions on Pride to protect their brand perception. But woe betide any LGBTQI folk who try to do same.
As for standing up for minority rights, whether fighting racism, homophobia or any other–ism the mainstream message is clear. Do it nicely. Do it respectfully. Or don’t do it at all.
To which all I have to say is: to hell with that and pass the bricks!