Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The off-side rule

I recently had a rather public run-in with an old school friend. She had posted a photograph on Facebook of a mother and child behaving in a way that most of us would find socially inappropriate. But the exchange of comments on the photograph offended me far more than the subject matter of the photograph. The implication was that, as members of a different racial group, these people were in fact, subhuman, which explained the behaviour. I guess I realised that some people still held onto those archaic, offensive and unfounded views, but I was surprised to find them among relatively intelligent people. People I thought I knew. And stated publicly, to boot.

I expressed my objection. My son asked me why I didn't just leave it and 'walk away', but what you tolerate, you endorse, I reckon. I have since walked away, but I simply had to make an opposing view heard first. I thought I was being the voice of something closer to reason, but I was advised by the old school friend that I was making a fool of myself, and indeed, much mockery of me ensued, including invitations to try to live with people who behaved in this way.

Then we find ourselves dealing with outdated sexist remarks about female officials in sporting contests. The online discussions abound, ranging from shoulder shrugging, to outspoken objection from women to 'how can you judge an offside from the kitchen' (I kid you not).

The original comments were actually rather laughable in the light of the fact that the English women's football team enjoys far greater success than their male counterparts. The women's rugby and cricket teams have also shown themselves to be forces to be reckoned with.

When I posted a link on my Facebook page to the newspaper article linked to above, one Facebook friend mentioned his own objection to a current advertisement from Boots. The ad shows two women with streaming colds meeting in the street. They update each other on their incredibly hectic schedules and then one explains that she's just had to pop out and get some medicine for her husband who is in bed with a cold, poor thing. They part company on this note. Back to their superwoman routines. It seems this advert may have gone one step too far for male viewers, and I can't say I blame them.

The campaign started a few years back with the theme tune 'Here Come the Girls' and it took a humorous look at the different approaches of the two genders to things like the office 'secret Santa' and Christmas party. Now that it has spread into life in general, and the men aren't being painted in a very flattering light. I guess Boots has identified that their customer demographic is overwhelmingly female and has decided to play to that.

This is what has been called 'reverse discrimination' (which is in itself a discriminatory term, in my view). And it helps nobody's cause. Having been subjected to discrimination for so very long, one would hope that people would not subject others to treatment they found unpleasant. But it seems we have a long way to go before we acquire the sort of grace shown by Nelson Mandela on his release from prison and his appointment as President.

I guess we're still off-side. We still have a lot to learn.

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