A sad week for Battleaxe – she de-platforms herself…..

Last week, Battleaxe had a bad week.  Firstly, I got into trouble about the last blog post, about the WI. Next, I supposedly made a culturally-insensitive boo boo at the WI Annual Meeting and got a telling off.  So, have decided to voluntarily ‘de-platform’ myself. Things did improve – we had old friend Shaun to stay over Easter… but weather was terrible.  This rather miserable post will be illustrated with lovely flowers,  cuddly cats and beautiful scenery….

Cuddly cat – Digby and catnip banana

No, it is no use you looking for the last blog post now.  I have edited it, and it has also disappeared
from the unofficial WI Facebook group page.  My defenders will
say ‘Remove? Edit?  Why? You were entitled to express your  personal
opinion and it wasn’t that controversial anyway’.
     Whatever, the lengthy ‘discourse’on the FB Page got increasingly
angry. One woman kept on and on commenting and responding
with escalating hostility (even calling me a troll?) and then says… ooh, this horrible business
will attract the attention of the press….. well, yes? I wonder why….
Indeed, I was contacted by someone from the Daily Telegraph, who said
she was interested in the strength of feeling in the FB comment
thread and wanted to interview me. I told her to go away.
      However, the group is apparently ‘leaky’ and the WI is still smarting
from a little flurry of publicity in the Daily Mail about
subscriptions….  Whatever one might think of all this I enjoy being part of the WI and don’t fancy having
to resign or be sacked because I get misquoted and distorted in the
Mail or similar vile rag. Hence the editing/deletion.
So, that was bad, and I hope the fuss about the blog post has now died down, but the other thing that happened was much worse….

Tulips at Pashley Manor

    In the previous post, I mentioned about feeling anxious about
mispronouncing difficult names when reading out the list of award winners etc from the platform at the Annual Meeting. On the day, I said to the audience, jokily…. ‘I’ve been
dreading this task all year, thinking I’ll struggle to pronounce some
of the names…but looking down the list, they all look quite
Yes, you’ve guessed it, someone complains, accusing me of racism…. Sorry, folks, I’m not buying that.
    Sure, I know the ‘It was just a joke’ defence carries no weight, anywhere,
ever – and it often does mask unconscious unpleasant intent (or conscious unpleasant intent for the likes of Boris Johnson). But sometimes people are genuinely making jokes – in my case to break the ice and to overcome  nerves – with no malicious intent whatsoever.
    Also, in this case, the difficult names could just as well have been Colquhoun, Featherstonhaugh, Cholmondeley, Menzies, or Urquhart….
I spent much of my working life in inner-city Birmingham – this name business cropped up on a regular basis. We’d have to ask people how they wanted us to say their names…. what else could we do. Yes, some names are unfamiliar. Yes it is embarrassing for everyone if you trip over them…. Is it racist to be worried about it? No.
   However, this sad business made me think. Later in the year, our WI Federation is running an event to celebrate 100 years since women got the vote, and I had provisionally agreed to talk about ‘Outrageous Women of Sussex’. I have now said I won’t do it. I’m de-platforming myself, and I don’t think I’ll do anything like that again.
   Why? In general, we seem to have a world full of eager complainers. People complain not just about their own sense of offence, but about what they perceive as slights to others who they may know nothing about. Their complaints are accompanied by self-righteous anger and a desire to punish and silence the ‘offender’. If you are perceived as having done/said something offensive, you have no recourse and no voice.  Nothing short of  an abject apology can help you, and in many cases that is not enough to prevent your credibility being ruined for ever.
   Battleaxe can give these complainers plenty of ammunition.
   Firstly, effing and blinding.. Many WI ladies get very offended by bad language and rude words. At last year’s AM we received complaints because historian Ruth Goodman uttered the word ‘Bollocks’. That would be mild for me…. Apparently, swearing is supposed to be a sign of robust mental health. I must be very sane….
    But, most difficult, is what I describe as the ‘phobia/ism’ situation. Race, ethnicity, culture, age, ability/disability, fat/thin, well/ill, social class, economic status… all potential pitfall areas to trap the unwary speaker. The ‘correct’ terminology and discourse for all these categories changes so quickly and so often…. it is so easy to use the wrong words. Battleaxe spent years at work ensuring that her terminology in all areas was absolutely right-on, lecturing others about diversity, and happily pouncing on those who got it wrong….
    But now I am retired. Sure, I read the papers and scrutinise social media, but I would’nt be described as ‘woke’. Some of my terminology may be behind the times, and some of the stuff is just too difficult to grasp… cultural appropriation and intersectionality anyone?

Poppies near Winchelsea

    Currently, of course, by far the biggest minefield is around sexual relationships, gender, sex and sexuality…. Battleaxe can just about understand the ‘#metoo’ movement, even though I come from the generations of women that put up with sexist stuff  because it was how life was.  Oh but have a look at this… apparently the Easter story is  #metoo….  Nooooo….
     To leap into the minefield for a moment, Battleaxe is a woman. Now, who or whatever you are, don’t you very dare call me a cis-woman, a biological woman, a female-bodied woman, a natal woman…. I’m a woman. I really don’t care at all what you are, and I have absolutely nothing against any of you. I know trans-people have to fight, but that is your fight. Don’t take my life experience, my biology, my spaces, the battles that have been fought on my behalf and still have to be fought, away from me. So, that presumably categorises me as a ‘transphobic TERF’, and as such, I am nothing, invisible….
     Am only banging on about this because the ‘Outrageous Women’ talk would inevitably drift into areas around sexuality. Radclyffe Hall anyone? Virginia Woolf? The Charleston set? None of these were actually trans-gender persons… (I don’t think…What is with Eddie Izzard. I thought he categorised himself as a transvestite, but it now seems he says he is trans-gender… ?) but I’d be skating on thin ice…. 
     It seems to me that whoever puts their head above the parapet puts themselves in danger. It is no wonder that so many of our politicians sound like robots, sticking to their scripts…
     Enough of this…..

Winchelsea Beach – January


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