Thursday 18 June 2020

When idols topple - by Lu Hersey

It's been a month of toppling idols. Some, most of us were delighted to see go - like Edward Colston, slave trader, whose statue in Bristol Centre was brought down in a peaceful demonstration and dumped in the very harbour his slaver boats sailed from. There's justice in that (though actually he's since been pulled out again to go in the museum, complete with his new graffiti). It was a symbolic moment, part of a far greater movement following the murder of George Floyd in America, to get white people to fully understand what lay behind the whole Black Lives Matter campaign. Teaching all white people (even those who don't consider themselves racist) to shut up and listen to people of colour who've been treated as second class citizens for generations. To understand what treating one group of people as though they're inferior simply because of their skin colour feels like to those who've had to endure it.
An historic moment. Photo by Dr Shawn Sobers (@shawnsobers)
It's led to a rise in sales of own voice books as people realise things need to change, that everyone needs to have a voice and be represented fairly in literature and publishing. It's also led to a kind of battle over statues, coming to a head when rival groups of demonstrators clash. Both Gandhi and Winston Churchill were given police protection in recent London demonstrations - and strangely, a far right group felt the statue of George Eliot needed guarding at an event in Nuneaton. You'd think George Eliot an unlikely target for anyone...
(Stolen from a tweet by Helen Macdonald)

...but maybe not. Idols come in many forms, and these days most aren't made of bronze. Who could have predicted there would be a day when JK Rowling fell out of favour? Her views on trans women caused anger and grief far beyond the vulnerable trans community, upsetting much of her fanbase too. For my youngest daughter, to have her childhood idol coming out with what she considers TERF thinking, really broke her heart. All her life, at times of stress, her go-to safe place has been re-reading Harry Potter. For her, and many of the Hogwarts generation, JK's stance has effectively destroyed that safety net.

Probably the most important lesson to take from this is to be very careful what you say on social media, especially if you're famous (unless you're like Trump or Katie Hopkins and enjoy that kind of attention). Fame brings power, and shouldn't be abused.

Despite all the conflict, hopefully some positive things will come out of this time. We're all talking a lot more about very important issues, and thinking about the way we perceive others. Many of us are reading more widely to understand different viewpoints because we want to hear from those that haven't been given a proper voice. In an ideal world, after all the ranting and mud slinging is done, it might lead us to find more empathy, kindness and compassion as fellow human beings.

Meanwhile, hopefully I'm not famous enough to be trolled for writing this...

by Lu Hersey
Twitter: @LuWrites
Web: Lu Hersey


Andrew Preston said...

J K Rowling...

Would this be Twitter 'anger and grief' ?

I'm not actually a reader of Rowlings books. The condemnation of
her did, though, seem rather like the howling of a mob.

She did explain a little later why she had said what she said,
which approximated to the fact that she had been abused.

LuWrites said...

Yes Andrew, she got really slated online for her views - and part of the post I edited out was saying that whatever you thought of her views on trans women, she didn't deserve the Sun interviewing her abusive ex just to make headlines.

Moira Butterfield said...

People trying to 'cancel' the art produced by a writer because they disagree with something that author said about an aspect of their lives. It is deeply, deeply worrying for the future of all art.

Chris Vick said...

Good blog, Lu and good responses all. Agree with you, Moira. We seem to want diversity in everything right now, and that's good. But...that has to include diversity of opinion. I for one actively want to hear and read different opinions. I also rail against the idea of art being censored based on views I or anyone else, may disagree with. It's all gone a bit 1984 and intolerant.

Moira Butterfield said...

Yes, we can try to be tolerant ourselves and to learn all we can about others. This clamour to censor art plays into the hands of political regimes, who would love to see censorahip normalised as an idea among the young.