For all its flaws, the internet has been great at giving a voice to people who wouldn’t otherwise be heard. Indeed, in recent times there’s been one group who, silent for far too long, have finally been finding their voice. I’m referring, of course, to those who don’t give a shit about things.
In the old days if there was something about which you didn’t give a shit – sexist language, size zero models, the Sun’s page three, images on banknotes – you’d have to just suffer in silence. Obviously you could get on with other things in the meantime, albeit in a purely abstract, imaginary way (the economic downturn and female genital mutilation are, hypothetically, no longer problems due to all of this not-shit-giving). In real life and in public, however, there weren’t that many outlets for ostentatiously demonstrating just how totally not arsed you were about minor, usually feminism-related tussles. Thank god, therefore, for the Guardian’s Comment is Free site. From now on silently feeling furious that other people are feeling furious about things about which you wouldn’t be furious except you are now but only in a meta way in response to these other furious people – anyhow, that thing is a thing no more.
Of course there are people who object to some issues being raised because they genuinely give a shit about other issues and consider the latter to be more important. Personally I wouldn’t count that as true, authentic not-shit-giving (I’m a purist about these things). It’s fair enough to point out that certain issues garner a lot of attention when others don’t, and perfectly reasonable to question the priorities of newspapers that get behind campaigns against topless models but describe situations of extreme domestic violence as merely “acrimonious”. It’s true as well that the more trivial your issue, the louder you seem to be able to shout (on this blog I’ve written about rape, eating disorders, mental health and domestic abuse but the only time anything I’ve written has led to an invitation to speak on national radio the subject was makeovers. To be fair, it’s not as though I’m a world expert on any of the other issues, but still, I’m hardly Gok sodding Wan).
The thing is, though, I consider people who get annoyed about this distinct from those who don’t really care all that much about anything in particular, other than lurking around internet comment threads to see if someone else is inappropriately arsed about an insufficiently important issue. I may be being unfair – perhaps they’re on Comment is Free by day and achieving world peace by night – but that’s just my impression. And yeah, maybe I shouldn’t be getting arsed about their arsedness at other people for being arsed about other things. But alas, I am (I justify it on the basis that the varying levels of arsedness cancel themselves out until it reaches the point at which I’m actually arsed about something relevant).
Yesterday a Guardian poll on sexist language brought plenty of the not-giving-a-shitters out into the open. How dare people be bothered about gender neutral language! Haven’t people got anything better to be care about (such as having a go at the people who are still bothered about gender neutral language)? Here are a few of my favourite comments:
I’m pleased the fucking idiots haven’t anything better to worry about.
It really is remarkable that for some there is just a clear stretch of road ahead, and they have to fill it with things they don’t really care about at all, in order to have something to discuss and do.
I blame Harriet Harperson.
I love the last one in particular – I’d have been sad if that old chestnut hadn’t come up. Oh, and then there was also a piece on the fashion industry’s use of thin models and the links with anorexia. Choice not-shit-giving observations include the following:
First world problems … yawn.
I have very little sympathy for the fashion industry. The world has real issues
As a recovered anorexic, I would agree that starvation is indeed “boring”. Nevertheless, I think if the fashion industry is doing even shittier things than we thought possible and covering it up, there’s real value in bringing this to light, just in case it prevents one more irrelevant, pointless, vain girl who apparently isn’t worth much anyhow from starving to death in a boring manner. But maybe that’s just me.
Finally, there was a piece on Caroline Criado-Perez’s bank notes campaign, which is apparently bad in and of itself because the economy. The end.
I don’t know. Maybe I need to stop reading Guardian comments, but I do think this chimes in with things I’ve seen elsewhere on twitter and on other news sites. Some people are so fucking proud of how little they care about what they’ve deemed to be trivial, as though this itself counts as much as caring about something non-trivial (even though it’s a lot less effort). Yet often these issues aren’t trivial as such. They’re perhaps more media-friendly, sure, but often I think the point is that they deal with effects that aren’t measurable, which then makes them appear less challenging (which may be why they’re more media-friendly). It’s easy to look at the absence of women in the public eye and in language and to think “well, it’s not as though anyone’s died”. But even the blood and guts issues – those things that link to poverty, abuse and mutilation, those issues so often used as debating tools before being dropped again by the not-arsed-about-the-trivial leaders – are connected to perceptions of worth. I don’t think using the word “firefighter” rather than “fireman” saves the world but why not? Why the hell not? Isn’t it pretty basic? If it makes you angry is it because you don’t care or because actually, you do?
Perhaps I’m being mean. Maybe I’m underestimating just how hard not giving a shit about a particular issue in an extremely pointed manner can be. If so, I’m sorry. It’s good these people are able to express themselves. All the same, I’d like to think it won’t stop others from giving as many shits as they please about whatever the hell they like.