Breeding is an “essential function” – for whom?
“Women shouldn’t be punished for performing an essential function,” say the Women of Tumblr (not an official group, but they might as well be), referring to pregnancy.
It’s clear that becoming pregnant gets in the way, variously; discussions about the glass ceiling and maternity / paternity leave rage on.
Wherever society can reduce this burden, it should, in the interests of general social justice, but also in the interests of equality, since it is currently true that in order for human beings to be made, women have to be pregnant. Otherwise, “Where’s the foetus going to gestate? In a box?!”
That said, I have a problem with this “essential function” term of phrase. Essential for who? Not planet Earth, certainly, which trundles on regardless of our presence on it, and in many ways would be healthier without us. Of course, we mean essential for the continuance of humans.
Not currently existing humans, just hypothetical humans of the future. The reason we have children is so that those very children we’ve had can enjoy the privilege of existing; perhaps because if they never got to exit, they would regret it somehow – or we would, even though we’ll be dead and we won’t know either way.
Everyone, take cover! We’re facing an epidemic of “But I couldn’t help wondering if…” documentaries.
Through no fault of his own, Louis Theroux has a lot to answer for. Since his documentaries have become cornerstones of the British view into international social issues, an avalanche of similarly-aged, male journalist-presenters have started copying his style to the letter. Evidently, they think his way is the best and only means of extracting information from a willing interviewee and engaging a critical audience. In reality, there are as many different journalistic styles as there are people.
The Theroux Technique is to put on an “everyman” persona. Now, if there was a calculus by which we could fit people into the category of “everyman”, no doubt Theroux would fit in it better than Stephen Hawking… But not by that much. He is an intelligent, knowledgable, engaged, critical, experienced, educated professional. Not to say that he’s a pretender; his everyman face is nothing more forced than basic courtesy and affability, which allows him to talk to his interviewees without coming off strongly as an aloof intellectual. Even with his valiant efforts, it is all too clear he’s a cut above the average Joe in the brain department. Nevertheless, you can’t fault Theroux for being Theroux: he can’t be anyone else.
His copycats can, though. They can be themselves, and stop pantomiming Theroux by asking lofty yet culturally biased rhetorical questions in voiceover. What drives me mad is that I know they’re doing that in post-production, not on the fly. They already know the answer to the question – which would be fine as a narrative device, provided the question was about to be answered. But frequently, it isn’t. The very next filmed sequence turns up vague and inconclusive answers, because people are vague and inconclusive.
Yet, that doesn’t stop the presenter from attempting to simplify real people down to cardboard cutouts, the better to come up with A Conclusion within the hour. The whole feature is peppered with the comment: “But I couldn’t help but wonder if it was having more of an effect on them than they realised… I couldn’t help wondering if it would soon take a toll on them…” May I make a suggestion? Next time you “can’t help” wondering (aloud), try. Because those aren’t wonders – those are prophesies of doom; the heavily meaningful nods passed between conservative grandparents who Know How It’s Bound To Turn Out.
We’ve all noticed that TV and film features are often announced with the warning that they “may contain scenes which some viewers may find upsetting.”
This incredibly useless comment is designed to do nothing except acknowledge that different people have decidedly different sensitivities – for whatever this acknowledgement is worth. But it is incomplete. I have never watched an advert that warned me that it contained scenes of dismembered animal parts.
For the majority of people, there is no significance to the pork chop on the plate. Yet, show the same people a pig’s head with an apple shoved in its mouth, and many will be repulsed.
For the most part, those wishing to sell a product or create an appealing quality avoid graphic representations of animal death and butchery, but for people properly engaged with the reality of meat-eating, this is not enough. A steak may not look like a cow, but there is no getting around the fact that it is, and we all know it. Surely, it is the reality that matters, not the visual representation.
Racists do not always fully appreciate why they shouldn’t be. After all, it’s always the fault of the minority that annoyed the racist in the first place. The minority started it, by being the thing that they supposedly did wrong.
The virulent racists of the world rarely criticise the appearance or fixed attributes of their despised racial groups. They may do in passing, such as calling someone darker “dirty”. But when asked why they dislike the group, the answer is always about behaviour: because they corrupt our culture, because they’re criminals, uncivilised, drug dealers, etc.
White power racists are some of the least rational people in the world, and yet because of the culture we live in, even they understand that it is unjustifiable to hate somewhat for what they are born, as opposed to the things they do; therefore, even though their particular racism most certainly is about the essence of each race, the arguments are framed to focus on actions.
I have a flow chart at the bottom of my bag, which I have never yet had the nerve to show people, though I have had substantial cause. The chart reads: “Veganism explained: Does it contain animal products? Yes → Don’t eat it. No → Eat it.”
In case you were thinking about it, my dad has already made the joke about the flowchart compelling us to eat bits of moss and small stones. But do feel free to follow suit. Wilful misinterpretations of simple concepts I happen to agree with are a type of wit of which I never tire.
But as you can no doubt see, we’re really making fun of people who don’t quite get it. I think the problem is not that people don’t know what veganism is, and not that people don’t know what their food contains, exactly; if pushed, I think people do know that mayonnaise contains egg.
The problem is a lack of day-to-day application of this knowledge. What this tells me is that our level of engagement with food is at an all time low. We don’t consciously think what’s in it and thus forget what’s in it at the time of consumption.
Part of the reason may be that we know the content of our food is unappetising, either in concept (bits of animal, or things that come out their bums) or in practice, such as rabbit bone, chicken feet and other barely edible bits making their way in to processed food.
This, unfortunately, causes problems for me. It extends to everything from obliviously slipping me a bit of egg to serving me some of the least well thought-out vegan meals I’ve ever come across.
Here is a list of my favourite “suitable for vegans” bloopers from my life, to be added to over time.
*Warning: exceptional middle-classness ahead.