Monday, March 04, 2019

brexit: it's all getting a bit hairy now

One of the reasons I don't do as much blogging as I used to, in addition to the various reasons already mentioned elsewhere, is that the current political climate in both the US and the UK is pretty much anathema to the blogger who might want to make some facile but vaguely satirical points about current affairs. It's been said before, but the current political climate has rendered satire effectively redundant. Brexit is a jaw-droppingly stupid and self-destructive idea? Trump is a moron? Well, duh, as the kids say.

So while this post is tangentially Brexit-related, it's really mainly about other things. I was listening to the Today programme the other day in the car and there was a bit where John Humphrys was interviewing a woman about Brexit-related matters. Nothing out of the ordinary there, you might think, and you'd be right if it were not for the fact that she was sitting in the studio naked. This sort of stuff doesn't come across especially well on the radio, but it was apparently for real. Dr Victoria Bateman's point, as far as I can gather, is that "Brexit leaves Britain naked" and the best way to illustrate this is to turn up on various media outlets literally naked (or, alternatively, in a big coat which can be removed at the right moment) and with slogans daubed on one's torso to make that point.

Now obviously Dr. Bateman (a perfectly respectable academic economist at Cambridge University by day when she's not doing naked protests) is right about Brexit in a general sense (a lengthy lecture wherein she sets out her arguments is here, though you should be aware that she delivers most of it naked, so it's obviously NSFW), but of course being right doesn't automatically lead to you getting your own way, otherwise we'd never have got into this colossal mess in the first place. It might also have occurred to Dr. Bateman that this sort of thing has a distinct air of upper-class types horsing around about it, which might give you pause for thought after reflecting that one element of the Brexit vote (among many others) was a frustrated and self-destructive swipe at a perceived "elite". Imagine how a naked protest would be received if it were a working-class woman doing a tour of betting shops in Sunderland in order to get her kit off.

It should also be noted that Dr. Bateman has a certain amount of previous in this area; as far back as 2014 she was in the news for posing for a fairly mundane full-length nude portrait, the most interesting thing about which was that it was at the centre of a sex discrimination case brought against the company her husband James works for, partly as a result of old Jimbo enthusiastically showing it to people at work. Which is mildly ironic, since the point of the portrait, and indeed the thrust of most of Dr. Bateman's protests, is the objectification of women's bodies. Which is a fine and admirable thing to protest about, but there is just a suspicion - and maybe this is unduly cynical, I don't know - that the Brexit thing is just a convenient vehicle to keep her profile up.

Anyway, that lengthy preamble is really just by way of scene-setting: the thing that really struck me about all this was how the media chose to cover it - the "respectable" outlets did their best to be all groovy and unconcerned about it, while pixelating the hell out of various key areas for TV purposes. Some amusement can be obtained by seeing how people like John Humphrys, Owen Jones and the legendary Richard Madeley react at having to interview a naked woman. At the other end of the scale, you can imagine how the tabloids reacted. Interestingly, while the Daily Mail adhered fairly strictly to the rules regarding acceptable terminology (modesty = fanny, broadly speaking) the Daily Express went off the rails completely:
Dr Victoria Bateman took to the stage in her modesty last night
Hard to imagine what they thought that actually meant, although to be fair they did go on to say later in the same piece:
She then blasted UKIP in Cambridge for criticising a prior naked performance for lacking incredulity
That's even harder to parse; I assume that the last word is meant to be "credibility", but evidently the leering hack was too busy furiously wanking to proof-read his own article. Most of the rest of the reaction on the internet focused on her refreshingly laissez-faire attitude to pubic topiary, apparently an anomaly worthy of mention in these waxed and shaven times. Perhaps it's an ironic commentary on the amount of fannying about, beating about the bush, etc. etc. which has gone on in the Brexit negotiations.

In entirely unconnected news it should also be noted that Dr. Bateman has a book coming out fairly shortly. If only there were some way of getting some advance publicity.

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