Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Medusa's daughter and the golliwog

In the league table of personal insults, calling someone a ‘golliwog’ ranks about on a par with calling them a ‘muppet’. Even as a racial insult, it’s not quite the sort of epithet that you hear bandied about at BNP meetings (though they do sell golliwogs in BNP t-shirts at some of those meetings, apparently).

Nevertheless, if Carole Thatcher had said it on air, I don’t suppose there would have been much disagreement about her being taken off air as a result. Nor do I think there can be much disagreement with The One Show presenter Adrian Chiles, Jo Brand and others for picking up Medusa’s Daughter over her use of the word during an after-show conversation in which she blabbed out her ‘off-the-cuff remark made in jest’ to describe a tennis player in the Australian open.

(Why the widespread coyness, by the way, in naming the tennis player concerned? I couldn’t find one mainstream news outlet prepared to say who Thatcher was talking about. Didn’t any of them think it might have been instructive to get his opinion on the subject?)

I don’t think it suggests any degree of sympathy for the use of racially-based epithets, however, to feel that the reaction to Thatcher’s foot-in-mouth has been just a little OTT. When the Beeb doesn’t have the bollocks to broadcast a Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for Gaza, it feels a mite disproportionate to start acting all macho over an ex-prime minister’s gobby offspring.


Fiona Osler said...

I think it's a case of 'apples and pears' to compare this to the BBC's lack of guts in refusing to run the DEC appeal.

And can't quite believe I'm agreeing with Janet Street-Porter when she says in today's Indy that 'you have to be downright dim not to know that such language is offensive in contemporary Britain.'

As Chiles wrote recently 'Ms Thatcher had said: 'You also have to consider the frogs. You know, that froggy golliwog guy.'

She apparently added: 'Ooh, if I was Prince Harry I'd get shot for saying that.'

And that Jo Brand was 'aghast' by her comments and challenged her about using the word 'golliwog'.

'"Yes, well, he's half-black," Carol explained, waving her hand in front of her face,' Chiles said in The Sun.

This is the kind of insidious middle-class racism that so hard to challenge.

And as to no comment by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, seems he has:

'Tennis player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has reportedly claimed that he was hurt by Carol Thatcher's comments referring to him as a "golliwog".

According to The Mirror, the star called his mother when the incident made the news and told her that he was "deeply hurt and upset".

Tsonga said: "I tried to escape the fuss but I'm astonished about the attack. Why me?"

His mother Evelyne commented: "Nobody deserves to be called a golliwog, least of all my son.

"Carol Thatcher should be deeply ashamed. The only consolation is the BBC acted swiftly to fire her.

"She's a high-profile figure and if she uses nasty terms like golliwog it sends out a message for everyone to do it."

She added that Thatcher's remark was unsurprising considering her background and that it brought shame on Britain.'

Yep, she certainly hit the nail on the head in that last paragraph.


Steve Platt said...

You might be right: maybe we should burn the witch. But I just can't get myself worked up about it.

And I still don't understand why it took the media several days before they told us who Little Ms T was talking about.

Fiona said...

I'm not keen on burning witches, in ye olde witch burning days, for various reasons I wouldn't have survived for long.

It puzzles me too as to why the media didn't disclose Tsonga's name for so long, it was doing the rounds on various uk press/pr lists from much earlier.


journo said...

For once we were conducting ourselves with restraint. It wasn't until his mother spoke on the record that most papers took that as the red light to publish the name.