Saturday, 7 January 2012

Cutting some slack

    Plenty of outrage in the news this week, a couple of  celebrity gaffes.
    There was a bit of it from an acquaintance of mine on one of them yesterday. Professor Stephen Hawking said something about not understanding women, and she took offence at that. For her it was a feminist issue, and worthy of railing against.
    I have to say, I don't see it. It was a little old-fashioned, maybe ill-advised even, but offensive? Not really. Just a slightly silly off-the-cuff remark from a 70-year-old academic. And septuagenarian academics are not exactly known for being in touch, are they.
    The whole thing got me thinking. I cut Professor Hawking some slack, not because he's famous or because he's in a wheelchair, but because he's getting on a bit. His world view was formed in the 1950s. It's a bit like your slightly embarrassing elderly aunt who comes out with well-meant pronouncements that were what passed for politically correct politeness when she was a girl in the 1930s but sound ever-so-slightly racist in 2012. There's that rather awkward silence round the dinner table, nobody wants to make a fuss because the poor thing's out of touch and obviously didn't mean it in quite the way it slipped out, but nobody knows quite what to say.
    I think my acquaintance didn't show herself in the best light by her reaction. There are battles worth fighting and there are others which merit little more than a humorous rebuttal. When there is so much real hate speech in the world it's perhaps as well to concentrate on that rather than fire off on the silly.
    There are times when I wish more people thought a little before speaking. When everything we say contributes to our image and credibility, best to make every word count.

8 comments:

  1. ... and before anyone says so, that final paragraph is *so* gonna come back and haunt me some day! :)

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  2. What image Jenny? RALOF. I think Steven's life has been so centred around his academic world that the real world has become obscure to him. He simply isn't in touch. As for your acquaintance, she ought to be less touchy. If we cannot laugh at ourselves from time to time it is very sad indeed. It's funny though, certain things are taken to heart by some and yet others will see things differently. It depends how one is raised and mixes with others. Now that I have to make every word count.......where is the rubber?

    Shirley Anne xxx

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  3. I'm sending my thanks into the universe to all who cut slack on my behalf. Even this little phrase required some thinking and I'm not sure that it came out right but I know that you know what I want to say, Jenny.

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  4. Thinking before speaking, what an original and inovative idea, do you think it will catch on?

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  5. In touch or out of touch I'm failing to see the insult.

    He said he can't understand women, I don't see that as either hateful or derisive.

    Stace

    PS I'm sure we can help make that final final sentence come back for you at some point :)

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  6. I forgot to mention that my children always tell me that I could have said THIS in a better/nicer way. Yes, but I like to be spontaneous - no time to think.

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  7. I don't think any of you have anything to worry about with respect to choosing your words.

    It's funny, I have to conclude I don't understand women either. Not quite in the same way as Professor Hawking meant it though.

    I've spent a lifetime as a scruffy bloke with a brain from the girl parts bin studying everything female. Even if I go full-time female, hormones, GRS, the works, I don't think I'll ever graduate. There will always be something new to learn.

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  8. To be fair, the aunt at the dinner table is a different thing to the well-respected man in the international media. I don't necessarily find what he said offensive, but damn right it makes me think less of him and less of his intellect.

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