Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Free speech with responsibility 3

One person's impassioned response to my post yesterday on newspaper cartoon portrayals in the British press shows how careful one must be not to offend, even when the post itself isn't directed at the person or group offended. It has only to contain a word or phrase or notion that might be picked up. My post did; and it was picked up. Whether I was a worthy target for attention is another matter: but there were the offensive words, and there was the rebuke. I acknowledge the justice of the rebuke, and apologise to all who read what I said and felt irritated, even if they didn't feel strongly enough to comment.

I suppose my post was a good example of how not to write. In which case, it can serve as a lesson in the kinds of mistakes one can make when writing on a public platform. I will take greater care in the future.

As for the post itself, I wanted to say that historical characterisations of a set of people (for instance, 'the English' as no-nonsense John Bull types, or 'the Americans' as go-getting Uncle Sam lookalikes, with whatever else these hoary mental images conjure up) are usually nonsense and outmoded, but if they are well-planted in a nation's subconscious then the political cartoonist can draw upon them to make his point. And that in the case of trans people, there is no such historical background, no unmistakable stock image, too much of a diverse identity, and this makes the cartoonist's job very difficult.

It was a curious matter that interested me, considering how it has been the habit of the British press to sensationalise trans people in any way they can. A habit that now seems to be resurgent, despite the Leveson report that included shocking examples of privacy-invasion and insensitivity where trans people are concerned. If there can be a regular outpouring of words and photographs prejudicial to trans people in national newspaper articles, then why are there no cartoons as well?

On that resurgence aspect, I heard a warning yesterday that a TV company is currently targeting known British trans people for a daytime confession show, and that one should be very careful if approached.

Indeed yes: why would one wish for this kind of public exposure? It would involve on-screen manipulation, confrontation, probing questions of a highly personal nature, embarrassment, and no reward for the individual concerned except a certain kind of publicity. No thanks.

1 comment:

  1. Barge poles spring to mind. Anyone taking on the challenge could not only do themselves harm but the entire trans community too...........Oh no no no don't go there!

    Shirley Anne x

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Lucy Melford