What its really about

Sometimes, we can get far too high falutin in our politics. So while the current outcry over the Libra ad is focussed very much on the clever rights issues involved, sometimes what matters is much, much simpler.

Sometimes what matters is nothing more than simple human empathy.

I started to write the following in response to Rebecca, who was herself posting some very sensible stuff about the Libra ad. One comment she made, which struck a very real chord, was how she has cried herself to sleep many times over the fact she cannot be a mum.

Oh, Rebecca: i so feel for you!

I started to write…and then thought it was worth preserving, because although its a dimple point, its an incredibly important one.

Once upon a time, i was pure livertarian on things like offense. I was also very young. Something an activist said to me a few years back, which made perfect sense, was that while i was probably “correct” to uphold the right to speak as one wished, sometimes it was nothing to do with liberty…everything to do with politeness.

Sure, i uphold, in principle, the right to use words like “spaz” or “cripple” or worse….but can i ever think of an occasion where i would honestly use them other than, perhaps, as part of a debate on language and etymology? Would i ever call someone by those words, simultaneously insulting and reminding them of what they do not have?


In amongst some very angry, “bolshie tranny” reaction to the Libra insult, what may be missed is the fact that these sort of commentaries/ads actually hurt. They focus in on the point that is already a source of massive grief – and then twist the knife.

I really have little time for phrases like “real woman”: rather, i focus on the practical and the concrete. Whether i am a real woman or not is a matter of definition and semantics.

Whether i can ever be a biological mum is a matter of cold hard fact.

It is also a source of tears and even self-hate. I know i am not alone.

So, clever marketing people, before you come up with another witty ad that mocks an entire group’s frailties, think that it is not just about rights – your right to write, our right to protest. Sometimes it is about rudeness and politeness and having the decency to respect other people’s grief.


P.S. It seems like not a bad time to reprise something i wrote back in 2010. Its a poem (eek!). And its about grief.


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Rebecca Shaw said,

    Thanks hon! I’ll read the poem later. This resonates so much now because I’m finding myself deeply involved in a submission to the Home Office about asserting freedoms of expression in a manner that causes distress to others in the context of a Home Office consultation document. I’ve learned through the exercise that there has to be balance: A’s right to freedom of expression is no more or less than B’s right not to be distressed or upset by what A has to say. Only problem is, sometimes it doesn’t quite work like that! B x

  2. 2

    misswonderly said,

    I like your blog, Jane. What you call ‘impolite’ and I call ‘gratuitous nastiness’ … I think it’s the same thing although I’d say this does come down to respecting each other’s human rights. I also like the admission of a previously held essentialist libertarian outlook. I’d go with the US Declaration of Independence on this regarding the ‘Right to Happiness’. I know many people think happiness is too nebulous a term to justify an argument. I’d profoundly disagree although I used to have some sympathy with this viewpoint before I experienced unalloyed happiness. This is perhaps something that those of us who are fortunate enough to experience a reasonably untraumatic transition have to teach the rest of the world. If you have never truly appreciated your good fortune in contrast to deep unhappiness, is it possible to respect the right of other’s to pursue happiness … and not to make light of belittling their attempts to do so?

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