Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Watershed


    It's not often that you have the feeling of having been present at a watershed moment. Of course, such moments are usually something you only realise were watershed moments after the event.
    But looking back from the end of a rather busy year I think I was privileged to witness such a moment, though it certainly didn't seem like it at the time. On a rather dull day at the end of March I was among several hundred people who stood on a West London pavement for a couple of hours outside the offices of the Daily Mail. We had gathered to hold a vigil for a woman called Lucy Meadows who had committed suicide shortly after the Mail had published an extremely vicious piece by columnist Richard Littlejohn questioning her suitability as a trans woman to work as a teacher.
    We stood there in the gloom, held a silence, listened to a few speeches and were glowered at by a few Mail hacks leaving the building Then we dispersed - I went to the pub with an ex-boss who I was pleased to find was also there, I'd always harboured suspicions that she might be like me but was never able to ask.
    At the time, it seemed a futile gesture. Leveson had delivered his report a few months before and precious little had happened, then Julie Burchill had penned a disgraceful piece about us for the Observer which despite a storm of protest from our community seemed to result in very little censure.
    And indeed, it seemed to have little effect on the Mail. Same editor, same star columnist. Same bile, currently directed at immigrants from Romania. Why did we bother!
    We were never going to change the Mail through standing on a pavement. But it's only in the last few months that I've come to the conclusion that the Lucy Meadows vigil was a watershed moment. In itself it was a minor step, however while before that moment it was considered acceptable to publish pieces like Littlejohn's or Burchill's, afterwards it most definitely was not. I sense the atmosphere changed after that chilly evening on a West London pavement, the momentum changed ever so slightly in our favour. It would be foolish to say that there will be no more Lucy Meadows moments or unfortunate advertising campaigns, but there is the sense that henceforth they will be fewer and we will no longer have to work to persuade people that they're in bad taste.
    Maybe this has been our year, the year everything changed. It would be nice to think so, however I guess we'll only truly know in a decade's time.
   

5 comments:

  1. Not sure that there will be a defining moment but in the recent past it has felt like the arduous climb up a hill has found uncrossing some hummocky uplands with glimpses of a rich fertile valley just over the next rise...

    I live in hope.

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  2. I sincerely hope you're right, but sadly I don't trust the Mail any further than I could throw a copy into a headwind. When the panic finally dies down about Romanians and Bulgarians flooding over our borders and pinching all the farm jobs from the Lithuanians, they'll go for some other undeserving group or individual. The Mail makes its money by pandering to the brain-dead and money is what its all about.

    I realize that's very negative, whereas you are commendably full of hope as a new year dawns. Tell me I'm wrong in a few month's time and I'll happily plead guilty. In penance, I'll even buy a copy.

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  3. I find that generally individuals are more accepting than I expect, however I do still worry that it will be as difficult to break the societal prejudice as it has been to break down institutional racism. As with so many things the first step is the recognition that a problem exists that needs to be dealt with

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  4. Watch this space............watch it long enough and it will change. I think the media in general have it all their own way but Joe Public has no such privilege. They can say what they like but we have no real platform from which we can have our say. Well not as yet........watch this space.

    Shirley Anne x

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  5. It would be nice to think that this year may be a watershed, I'm not sure if it will be but I have a feeling that things are going to change in the next few years as more of us reach the point where we aren't going to put up with all the hassle we get from the media and those that seem to think we're fair game and say "no more".

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