Wednesday 30 December 2015

Did you know? I write a blog.

How do you know someone writes a blog? Don't worry, they'll tell you. Probably more than once. In fact, in order to write a blog, you have to be perfectly comfortable with the sort of self-promotion that Tony Blair would be proud of (Rule Number One: Have no shame). Or you have to write good articles. Anyway, 2015. It's nearly over. It's the perfect excuse to write a blog (Rule Number Two: never miss an opportunity to write a blog) and hope people are too caught up with the "10 things we learnt in 2015" type articles that, frankly, bore the Hell out of me (I mean, I hope I learnt more than 10 things in 2015, but potentially not), to notice the post.

This is not a year in review. Or, at least, I am not going to bore you with countless irrelevant anecdotes and I am not going to go through a list of amusing things that happened this year, to me or to other people. Rather, I am going to use this blog as an opportunity to shamelessly repost my blogs of the past year (Rule Number Three: Use present blog posts to quote from past blog posts) and make tenuous arguments for reposting even older blogs (see rule number one).

The year, as it always does, began in January. For me it began with a post on Anti-Semitism. Curiously enough, I was writing one of my more sobering pieces on my mother's birthday. She probably asked me to write a post in honour of her birthday as I had done the year before but, instead, I wrote about anti-Semitism. A belated Happy Birthday Mother. I hope I wrote you a card this year.

I wrote about how it has not gone away. I wrote about how we have failed to learn the lessons of the Holocaust despite being faced with Holocaust deniers who claim to want the next one. I wrote about how Jews, condemned to suffer anti-Semitism are equally condemned to be told we "complain" about anti-Semitism too much and have the right of defining what constitutes anti-Semitism taken away from us. Rarely do I write something that I believe has as much importance as this. A year on and I strongly believe my post rings as true as ever. Just over a month ago, the world was shocked by events in Paris. Twitter, meanwhile, was busy finding ways to blame the Jews. If you are ever having an especially good day, say your faith in humanity has been restored, twitter search 'jews' followed by a tragedy that has just occurred, whether it be a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. Somehow, somewhere someone will have found a way (or, ways) to blame the Jews. Anti-Semitism is alive and well and we continue to ignore it, downplay it and - worst of all - partake in it by telling Jews that they overplay anti-Semitism.

Given I began the year in sobering fashion, it seemed only fair that I write what has become one of my favourite pieces in February (Rule number Four: Lists are always an easy way to write something). I had a dissertation chapter to write and if I remember correctly a deadline was looming, so it seemed only natural to have a short rant about elections at Warwick. Student politics is insufferable. In fact, the only things more insufferable than student politics itself are the election campaigns that accompany them. A week of avoiding anyone with a leaflet, any major areas of campus and generally keeping your head low out of fear of being ambushed and implored to vote for someone whose policies only differ from their opponents because of the colour of the font on the online manifestos. I look forward to passing on my advice for next year's election week (Rule Number Five: Anniversaries are as good an excuse as any to repost a blog).

In March, I flew to Israel to vote for Bibi. As an Israeli citizen, I exercised my democratic right to choose my leaders. My mum and sister, both - would you believe - women, also voted. My uncle, born in Iraq, also voted. One of my uncle's employees, who happens to be Muslim, not that it matters, also voted. Naturally, I wrote a post about why I voted for Bibi, a choice more than slightly controversial. It has a stupid football related title, that I do not think anyone actually understood, but I stand by the argument. Criticise the Israeli electorate all you want, but at least they have the opportunity (usually fairly often, given Israel's political system is - somewhat ironically - seemingly modelled on Weimer Germany's) to exercise a democratic right so lacking in the region. It's also one of my most read posts of the year. (Rule Number Six: Annoying people will lead to more read posts).

I then did not write a post for a few months. Three to be precise. Rule Number Seven: Always leave people wanting more. Labour then decided that it would be a load of fun to put Jeremy Corbyn on the ballot paper in the leadership election. I wrote a post. Truthfully, I do not think it is much good, but I'll link it here anyway. I still agree with the central premise, that there was nothing inherently good about increasing the options on the ballot but I suppose the less said about the article the better.

Unlike the period in the year before, I did not write a post over summer. Partly because I was busy making sure kids did not jump into a lake or try and roast marshmallows with their hands but also because Israel and Hamas did not have the sort of military skirmish that has become all too common recently. I wrote about Israel and Palestine at length the year before. I wrote about the tragedy of it all, perhaps most painfully summed up in this post. There's plenty more. (Rule Number Eight: If you write about Israel-Palestine, you will be able to repost your posts, unfortunately, on a regular basis and pass them off as new material. Rule Number 10: Learn to count).

I did eventually write about my summer. The post is a bittersweet memory for me, because I wrote about the bad points as well as the good points, as I felt obliged to do. Having said everything, and despite the very strong feelings I had and still have, Tel Noar was an incredible experience, one I will genuinely treasure and, in moments of nostalgia I convince myself I want to have again. I would happily do the eight weeks again. Alas, life gets in the way.

I then went to university again. Over the deafening cries of my mother asking when exactly I planned on GETTING A JOB, I began a Masters in Philosophy and proceeded to tell (and show) everyone who would listen (and read my facebook messages) that I had a blog. Mainly to distance myself from their preconceptions of Habs Boys. I probably told them about muck up day as well. That place really does follow you around. (Rule Number 11: Write about Habs).

Which pretty much brings us to December. I wrote about sexism (again). (Rule Number 12: Learn how to end your blogs well).

Happy New Year!

Friday 18 December 2015

Jose Mourinho, Sexism and Jeremy Vine

Jeremy Vine has written an open letter to Jose Mourinho. It's the sort of emotive tosh that passes for good writing nowadays and I cannot say it is particularly worth reading, but you can find it here if you so wish. It had no impact on me until I read the paragraphs on the club's former doctor, Eva Carniero, which I quote in full here:

"And then something utterly unhinged happened. I had to explain to my young daughter why you had exploded at the popular team doctor (one of the most prominent women in the Premier League) and I could not give her a decent reason. You did not just demote her and cause her to leave, you humiliated her. You should not have done it and I believe the players were also at a loss as they tried to explain it to their young daughters."

I have not made any comment on the Carniero case, but I thought it was pathetic at the time and I think it is pathetic now. I do not believe for a minute Jose criticised her because she is a woman. In fact to suggest as much is ridiculous - Jose criticised a male member of the medical staff at the same time and in his post-match interview said everyone had to understand the game and it did not matter who you were. I do not think Vine is suggesting this, but rather is telling us that for some reason he could not explain this criticism to his daughter, as if somehow women are incapable of suffering and dealing with criticism, or indeed, should not ever have to.

Vine states she was "One of the most prominent women in the Premier League." I do not doubt this. However, I hated the fact she was one of the most prominent women in the Premier League. I hated it because she was one of the most prominent women in the Premier League because a good number of male football fans are sexist wazzocks. I hated it because she was known as Chelsea's "fit" doctor, defined by her looks. I hated it because she was used to explain why Drogba liked to fall over and pretend his groin was hurt. I hated it because she was a prominent woman not because she was good at her job, which I assume she was, but because she was a woman who seemed to care about football and was, apparently, 'fit'. 

But this is not the issue. The issue is that it is completely irrelevant that she was a woman. It is completely irrelevant that she was a prominent woman in a male dominated industry where it was only a few years ago that two of the most prominent men in the industry questioned and joked about a woman's ability to understand the offside rule. Her sex is not relevant. Her ability to do her job is relevant and is all that should be relevant. We all know why Mourinho criticised her (and, for what it is worth, a male member of the medical team as well) and that was to deflect attention from another poor result - and it worked. However, whether or not we agree that she was or was not wrong to run on to the pitch, the fact that she is a woman should not enter our consideration. 

Imagine the paragraph read as follows:

And then something utterly unhinged happened. I had to explain to my young son why you had exploded at the popular team doctor (one of the most prominent men in the Premier League) and I could not give him a decent reason. You did not just demote him and cause him to leave, you humiliated him. You should not have done it and I believe the players were also at a loss as they tried to explain it to their young sons.

We would think Vine ridiculous. Why are we treating women any differently? Why do women need to be protected as if they are weak and vulnerable and unable of looking after themselves? Mourinho's reaction to Carniero's running onto the pitch was motivated solely by the running onto the pitch, not by her being a woman. Our response to it should be to criticise Mourinho for criticising the running onto the pitch or to criticise the running onto the pitch. To respond by complaining that we cannot explain Mourinho's actions to our daughters is absurd. It simply does not matter that Carniero is a woman and by treating her differently because she is one, by suggesting she should be immune from criticism and Mourinho's overreaction (something we would never do if it were a man), we are suggesting women need to be protected and looked after, because they cannot do it themselves. 

So perhaps, Mr Vine, you could tell your daughter that sometimes people overreact, that sometimes they do stupid things. Maybe you could tell your daughter that in life you may get an incredibly emotional boss who says what s/he is thinking without qualification. Perhaps mention that life can suck and sometimes your boss will suck too. You could even tell your daughter that sometimes she will make mistakes and pay a heavy cost for those mistakes but that is okay. Please, I beg you, do not suggest that women need to be treated differently from men, that women need to be protected or looked after or somehow are worthy of a different reaction. You become part of the problem when you do that.