Bigotryphobia: The real social evil

Like most right-thinking people, I want to come from a country where intolerance is tolerated. Live and let others not let live, that’s what I say. If tolerance means anything, it’s allowing others not to be tolerant, providing of course that I’m not the one who’s not being tolerated. If there’s one thing that’s worse than intolerance of intolerance, it’s intolerance of intolerance of intolerance of intolerance. Seriously, that’s just intolerable (providing it’s not intolerant of me to say so).

According to Simon Jenkins, writing in today’s Guardian about the vote on equal marriage, “the true test of tolerance lies in its treatment of intolerance – and we failed that test”. That’s rather damning, isn’t it? I’m not exactly sure what he’s referring to – has the Daily Mail now been outlawed in an effort to pacify the raging bigotryphobes? – but it all sounds pretty serious. Surely we want everyone to feel included, even those who won’t feel included unless other people are excluded. Of course, this then means that we can’t include everyone, hence it makes sense to include only the intolerant people. The only alternative would to include those who are intolerant of intolerance (what used to be known as being “tolerant”) and that wouldn’t be right. After all, intolerance of intolerance is intolerance squared, or at least I think that’s how it works. Continue reading


The bisexual male: Yet another must-have accessory

I tend to blame my lack of experience with diversity on the fact that I come from Cumbria. For the uninitiated, it’s that weird bit of England that’s north of Manchester and west of Newcastle and not really identifiable as anything. We have the Lake District, which is pleasant, and Sellafield, which is less so. And then there’s livestock farming, which is intermittently interrupted by disease. What we lack is cool, edgy, urban diversity. Almost everyone I encountered while growing up was white and identified, publicly at least, as straight. Perhaps it’s changed (I left in 1993, to go to Oxford University, clearly in search of a posher version of home in terms of cultural mix).

Unlike all the cool chicks from Manchester, London and New York, I have never had a trendy, über-camp yet strangely sexless gay best friend to advise me on fashion and blow jobs. Nor have I (knowingly) had a bisexual boyfriend, which, according to the March issue of Glamour, is the new Big Thing.* Apparently “more and more women” are dating bi guys (“are they naïve – or enlightened? And would you go there?”). There then follows a personal story from a female writer who’s married to a bisexual man, plus – in case it still all feels a bit icky – a nice feature on “Celebrity bi guys” (which sounds like a game show to me, although I’ve not yet worked out the rules). Continue reading

Feminism: Is it okay to be a bit crap at “the sex bit”?

This morning I find myself reading yet another review of Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A New Biography. It’s really quite compelling, not because Wolf’s ideas seem terribly novel but because, if Jenny Turner’s reading is accurate, the work seems so monumentally bad. And I’m tempted to believe she’s right – not only due to that notorious “cuntini” extract, but also because of a rather more positive review from Sarah Vine in the Times (sample quote: “[Wolf] argues, with really quite commendable courage, that being fulfilled as a woman means being treated like a lady. And if that isn’t a radical feminist message I don’t know what is“. You’re right, Sarah. You have no fucking idea what a radical feminist message is).

Obviously Wolf’s work isn’t the only feminist – or “feminist” – engagement with the cunt, and thank heavens for that. Turner’s Guardian review mentions a ton of other books about vaginas, none of which I’ve read (although apparently they’re way better than this current “effort”). The fact that I’d never heard of these books does disconcert me a little. Am I still a proper feminist despite this obvious lack of interest in the political implications of feeling horny? I mean, it’s not that I’m not concerned about efforts to suppress female sexuality and expression. But when it comes to my orgasm and what it means, I really can’t be arsed. Or vagina-d. Or whatever. Continue reading