We think of the fashionable constant contrived offence-taking, mainly by attention-seeking young women, as a modern phenomenon. In fact that’s only true in a scale sense where seemingly now it’s a daily occurrence but it’s been going on, initially in America, for some decades.
This came home to me last week when re-reading Kingsley Amis’s amusing 1984 novel Stanley & the Women and I recalled the reaction at the time.
Consider this paragraph early in the piece which set the tone of what was to come. This is Stanley speaking.
“My mother-in-law’s SAAB, with a fresh scrape in the rear door, was parked across the road. In the quite recent past I had watched her have two minor accidents while driving at walking pace, one with a stationary furniture van, the other with a brick wall, both in excellent condition of visibility”.
That’s vintage Amis.
Stanley is a divorced London newspaper executive and the plot revolves around his adolescent son who appears to be slowly going mad, and the various women, all neurotic including his ex, who are in Stanley’s life.
Worried about his son, Stanley consults a famous Australian psychiatrist in Harley Street who grills him about the women in his life and in particular his ex-wife and mother of the son.
“How mad is she?” the psychiatrist abruptly demands and Stanley, taken aback, splutters vaguely.
The psychiatrist interrupts declaring that all women over 18 are stark raving, and so it goes.
The novel was well received in Britain but not so in America where hordes of madwomen, wailing about misogyny, in the process justifying Amis’s fictitious psychiatrist’s madness comments, threatened to burn down any bookshop stocking the book.
Of course the novel was misogynous but that was all part of its fun and to be expected from Amis. All of his comic writings honed in on one group or another, the most famous, Lucky Jim, poking fun at academic conceit and stuffiness which was certainly revolutionary thinking back in the 1950s when in ignorance about the reality, academics were viewed as Gods.
Mickey-taking is a constant and conspicuous characteristic of British life and why I like the Brits so much. Last week in Glasgow, walking past a bric-a-brac shop we encountered the proprietor sitting sunning outside. “An interesting piece of installation art”, I remarked to our Glasgow office manager, pointing at the chap. Without blinking an eye-lid the fellow responded, “Everything’s for sale. Make me an offer”, a typical British exchange and age-old.
Consider Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” essay nearly 300 years ago. It was well received for both its humour and underlying political message (the harshness of the English towards the Irish peasantry).
Swift’s “modest proposal” to solve the Irish poverty problem was to eat the poor’s children. Cooking options were out-lined, and so it went.
It was like that here until recently, after all think of the wonderful Billy T James’s relentless piss-taking, specially of maori. Billy had me on it in diverse roles.
Not long after Billy’s death, back in the 1990s Jeremy Wells in his Eating Media lunch series, borrowed from Swift and proposed farming and eating maoris. It went down well, indeed I think may have been part of it as I did a series with Jeremy on that show in which we acted out old curmudgeons moaning straight-faced about bloody women drivers etc. Jeremy secured television’s permission for us to sit smoking cigars and polishing off a bottle of red wine as part of the act, both alcohol and smoking being verboetim on TVNZ, but they readily entered into the spirit of it.
Now it’s all changed. Do that today two decades on and bet on it, encouraged by the media, or some of them at least, a hitherto unknown show-pony young female will pop up crying she was so shocked she couldn’t sleep all night.
Much of this behaviour is copycat. When the Me-too nonsense emerged in America, predictably days later it was in full steam here, promoted by a lesbian of all things. Thus we learned that seemingly every lawyer in the country were ravishing their office girls daily. And that is the salient characteristic of these attention-seekers, namely gross hyperbole. But not for a minute do I believe they’re typical of women generally, particularly older ones who in my experience these days share men’s piss-taking pleasure.
“Me too” shrieked a well-known broadcaster seated next to me at a dinner party recently when I tapped her hand to make a point; therein reflecting her contempt for these excesses.
So too when I walked past half a dozen elderly folk living out their last days, bed-ridden in a death doors ward. Older folk recognise me. There they lay eyeing me.
“Right you bastards”, I shouted. “The game’s up. Enough of this bloody shirking so all out. The holiday’s over”.
I thought I’d killed one old maori lady when she laughed so much she began to choke.
Recently in North Carolina a highly respected women’s basketball coach, Sylvia Hatchell, was drummed into retirement for offending her young black girls team. Her sin? In urging them on in breaks she used such expressions as “they’re going to hang us out to dry”, this nonsensically being deemed racially offensive as a reference to lynching, so too her charge they were playing like “old mules” being interpreted, God knows how as a reference to slavery.
These girls were young late teens and already imbued in victimhood, a modern fictitious development.
So what to do about it? The answer is age-old, namely fight fire with fire.
Henceforth every time one of these abominable joyless, attention-seeking offence-takers pop up, pour all the scorn you can muster on them through letters to the newspaper, radio talk-back and social media. They deserve no less than our contempt.