its not always the big things…

Just where does one draw the line when it comes to humour?

I know that there are some in the trans community who will simply say “no”: that any joke at our expense is a joke too far. Equally – and I’ve seen this recently in respect of a debate on drag acts – there are those who would say that a little gentle humour does no harm.

Contrariwise, in fact: if we take umbrage at every little sleight, seeing something we call “transphobia” in what is recently an innocent faux pas born out of naivety, we run the risk of losing potential allies – of looking like a bunch of humourless politically correct outcasts, and losing many of the gains made over the last few years.

OK. I’m not going to come down one side or other right now. Just relating a tale of something that caught my eye a couple of weeks back. Castle Bytham is a small relatively affluent Lincolnshire village. On 19 June, they held a midsummer fair – nothing grand: the sort of thing that attracts morris dancers and bouncy castles.

Actually, it was pretty good stuff and kept a small boy very pre-occupied for a good couple of hours (which has to be a good thing!).

However, it was the quirky brochure for the fair that caught my eye. Because inserted here and there in the small ads along the edge were some oddities. Ads that were ever so slightly out of kilter and, I realised, not really real.

It took a moment to spot them and for one short moment, I thought I’d found something useful. I’ll explain.

One ad went “Stuck for a pressie? Marsupials by post”. Er, no: a postal service for marsupials is probably a step too far. Likewise an ad promoting a website called “pinkandwobbly” – and selling blancmange mixes.

However, the real killer – and I’ll confess to a semi-second of being taken in – was an ad selling outfits “for the taller woman” and shoe sizes to 11-and-a-half. Yes!

But no. The illustration alongside the ad was the worst sort of Les Dawson frumpy dress: the website to which punters were sent was the charmingly titled “justaskfordoris”.

Was I amused? No. Offended? A little. Offended enough to cause a fuss? Not sure.

Anyone else got any views?



12 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    andrea said,

    “Anyone else got any views?


    I can’t imagine you joined for the uniform?

  2. 3

    I’m never sure about causing a fuss (very unBritish) but I’m increasingly sick of people objecting to the offence that others take and lecturing them as to why they shouldn’t. As if free speech is always about what the bully wants to say, and the victim has to laugh along.

    If something hurts you it hurts you – what, if anything, you want to do about it should be taken against the measure of that hurt.

    • 4

      janefae said,

      hmmm. in the best of all possible worlds, what i would like to happen is i drop a polite line to the bods behind this, explaining that it is mildly offensive…and asking if they were aware it was so. Then leave the ball in their court.

      If i was firing on all cylinders right now, i would, because in the scheme of things that’s not a big thing to do.

      What tends to do my head in are the twonks who then get all defensive. Basically, i can see its meant to be funny. It didn’t amuse me and, maybe, ever-so-slightly offended. I wouldn’t ban it: i would ask them to think.

      Marsupials probably don’t mind being the butt of a joke. I do.


  3. 7

    Carka said,

    Small things like that can leave me feeling a bit isolated, as you just have to swallow what you see and hope that your friends (a) don’t internalise any more of that kind of image, and (b) don’t notice, work out that you’ve deliberately not reacted, and quietly pity you.

  4. 8

    SophieH said,

    I couldn’t agree more, ‘marsupials by post’ is in rather bad taste. Poor little things. I Imagine if there had have been any marsupials at the above mentioned summer fate they might take great offence at the cruelty of sending lively and intelligent animals through the post. I mean, the Royal Mail is a lottery at the best of times! I suppose what I’m saying is that jokes and whether or not they are in bad taste seem to come down to the intellect of the person writing them. I would assume that the publisher/ writers of the brochure were people of a certain sensibility and themselves assumed that it would only be read by people who shared their sense of humour. I really can’t say whether or not we should be offended and rather hope that people could distinguish between the Les Dawsonesque parody and real life. There’s optimism for you.

    As for the drag act controversy, well over the last couple of weeks it was just another small part of ‘the straw that broke the camels back’ for me. I stupidly made the error of writing a small comment to the article in the Pink News. While I did say that they (drag acts) ‘weren’t really my thing’ as in not a form of entertainment I enjoy I went on to explain that, personally I am not in favour of the notion of banning them and hopefully change perceptions of intrinsic ‘difference’ by education. The follow up comments were to say the least vitriolic personal attacks which seem to be the way of any attempt at grown up discussion within the LGB and T worlds. I am deeply sad to say this but I have completely withdrawn from any involvement in so called trans rights activism. I feel as has been mentioned in your blog before there is an element of being po faced and offended by ANYTHING that does not tow the party line. I have read the views of one particular clique who constantly bemoan the discrimination they ‘suffer’ from straight people, gay people and their special hate figures, transsexual women whom they seem to regard as traitorous. As a result I have made a point of withdrawing my support of almost all trans groups to concentrate on working with women’s groups where I have found the discourse to be of a higher level and the aims and ambitions more cohesive.

  5. 9

    Pat Beese said,

    By way of introduction, Jane, I signed off the design of the leaflet so if you’re going to throw dingbats then I guess you’ll chuck them at me. To be honest the spoof adverts were a sort of joke at the expense of people who place adverts. But you know what they say…there’s no such thing as bad advertising!

    • 10

      janefae said,

      just so people are aware: i’ve responded to Pat offline, explaining that i wasn’t having a go (or throwing dingbats) but that the ad in question touched the nerve of what is a sensitive community issue. I’m not condemning, nor asking for a ban: just drawing a discussion to his attention and letting him and Castle Bytham make their own mind up for the future.


      • 11

        SophieH said,

        This is actually the approach that works, well done Jane. I do think many forms of activism, not just trans, have perhaps got the reputation of ‘spitting their dummy out’ at the slightest thing. One small group of people will now hopefully sit down and talk about the issue and not think a gang of gender Nazi’s have jumped on them from a great hight. Perhaps better attitudes might go viral in the end. Rights and recognition of the need for sensitivity, in the UK at least, seem to come from momentum rather than shouty outbursts.
        Still don’t think I’ll ever go back to the wider trans activism thing though, I’ll just keep on writing my own quiet letters as I believe I have achieved more in that way.

  6. 12

    Jane B. said,

    LOLz @ Andrea , that cracked me up … ;P

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