Words taken out of context?
I have to admit to deeply liking Stephen Fry. Erudite, educated, highly intelligent, extremely funny, a brilliant actor, comedian, presenter and orator, a biting sarcasm, and very outspoken about things he is passionate and cares very deeply about, including LGBT+ rights and atheism, what is there not to like?
He has now come out with a statement however which one can only hope are ill-chosen words. It certainly seems like that. But if not, then he perhaps needs to take a good long look at himself. Speaking on censorship and online attitudes, Stephen Fry appeared to tell rape and child sexual abuse victims to “just grow up”.
“There are many great plays which contain rapes, and the word rape now is even considered a rape,” Fry stated on US chat show, The Rubin Report.
“They’re terrible things and they have to be thought about, clearly, but if you say you can’t watch this play, you can’t watch Titus Andronicus, or you can’t read it in a Shakespeare class, or you can’t read Macbeth because it’s got children being killed in it, it might trigger something when you were young that upset you once, because uncle touched you in a nasty place, well I’m sorry.
“It’s a great shame and we’re all very sorry that your uncle touched you in that nasty place – you get some of my sympathy – but your self pity gets none of my sympathy because self pity is the ugliest emotion in humanity.
“Get rid of it, because no one’s going to like you if you feel sorry for yourself. The irony is we’ll feel sorry for you, if you stop feeling sorry for yourself. Just grow up.”
I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, but nonetheless I am going to attempt to be charitable and give Stephen Fry the benefit of the doubt. I think I can see what he is trying to say, just that on this occasion he did not express his views as clearly as he should have.
I think what Stephen is trying to say is that rape and abuse survivors, and I count myself in this, cannot expect the world to fit itself around them. Plays, films, shows, other media and even everyday things will indeed spark of memories, but we survivors cannot expect that to change just to fit us.
Fry, who quit Twitter earlier this year, calling it a “stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous”, is referring to is that scourge of the internet which is now finding it’s way into mainstream society, the SJW – Social Justice Warrior. There are people sitting at their computers just ready to be offended by the slightest thing and to speak out against it, whether it is something which affects them or not – nine times out of ten it does not.
The SJW culture reminds me of the 1980s and my days of running with the hard-left, ‘alternative’ crowd. Every day was a verbal minefield, where I had to watch every word I was saying, because there was always some arsehole just waiting to be ‘offended’ – usually on behalf of others – and ready with accusations of racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, misogyny, or any other “ism” or bigotry they chose to dream up. And trust me dears, make them up they did. I was once accused of being “speciesist” for believing that human life outweighs animal life – guilty as charged. At times, purely to fuck with the minds of such people, I would deliberately come out with things like “That separates the men from the boys.” or “I wouldn’t want to be blackballed.” (a Freemasonry reference, and nothing at all to do with race).
SJWs are ever ready to don the shining armour and jump on the white charger to fight for others. Worse still are those precious little snowflakes who are all too ready to let others do their fighting for them; these are the self-pitying. And when they are not doing that, then they are expecting the world to change and make accommodation for them.
George Bernard Shaw once said “There are two types of men in this world; the reasonable man, who adapts the himself to fit the world, and the unreasonable man, who adapts the world to fit him. Therefore all progress counts upon the unreasonable man.”. Now, I am first to agree with that; one need only look at world history to see that on a great many occasions it has been the unreasonable, the radical, the progressive, the eccentric, the oddballs and the complete nutters who have advanced and enhanced the world for the common good (I don’t have enough money to be eccentric – I’m just plain barmy). But there are limits to that. When society bans something because a minority may be offended or may feel uncomfortable, that same society takes it away from the majority, which unfairly deprives their enjoyment. Oh, and of course, Shaw would immediately be castigated by SJWs and radical feminists for his “sexist” statement, which refers only to “men”.
How far do we take this? I am old enough (as much as I hate to admit it) to recall actually seeing Disney’s Song of the South. It’s never shown nowadays, because it was deeply racist. That’s fine – Africans are not a minority. But then, as Stephen Fry says, do we ban Titus Andronicus because of rape? Do we ban Macbeth because of child murder? How about The Merchant of Venice, which could be seen as being deeply anti-Semitic? How about Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist for exactly the same reason due to his portrayal of Fagin? Some have called for Scotland to have a new unofficial national anthem claiming that the present one, Flower of Scotland, which speaks of the army of Robert the Bruce routing the invading forces of Edward II of England is anti-English. I personally think it’s a dirge, but guess what, it’s never going to change (there is also something deeply satisfying about watching Princess Anne, Patron of the Scottish Rugby Union, singing along to Flower of Scotland with the rest of the fans). Hey, here’s an idea; as a republican and an atheist, I find the present British national anthem, God Save the Queen, offensive – let’s ban it.
Stephen Fry himself, presenting the wonderful TV show, QI, once mimicked Scots accents. As a Scot was I at all offended by this Englishman of minor gentry parodying my people? Not a bit of it. Rather I almost peed myself laughing at him because it was so damned good. He gets away with that for three reasons: one, every word he said was true; two, he was so damned accurate at it; three, he is Stephen Fry.
And then how far does it go? Ever watched Mel Gibson’s movie of Passion of the Christ? No matter how well made it is – and I will grant Mel Gibson that it is well made – it is brutal in the extreme, and many may be offended by the deeply traumatic scenes of violence in it. But then, rather than the gospels, the movie is based not upon the Bible but rather a medieval play, which attempted to place the killing of Jesus squarely upon the Jews. Also on the Christian faith, what of Jerry Springer, The Opera; an extremely funny stage show which sells out at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe every August, and which includes the role of Jesus in a nappy (diaper) saying he is a little gay and hitting a woman, and that of God singing “It ain’t easy being me”, and asking Jerry Springer to help him. It is always, and I mean always, protested when it’s shown, and given that a recent poll showed only 39% of Scots consider themselves religious, should that show be banned for offending a minority?
See how ridiculous it could get? And online that’s exactly the way it is going. There are too many SJWs and others online who have the pitchfork at the door, just ready to grab it and head out for an old-fashioned lynching. They see these issues in black and white, with no room for the many shades of grey (no apologies for what is not a racist reference). They are waiting and wanting to be offended because it makes them feel superior, when in fact their petty victories are empty and meaningless. Worse still, they are actually detrimental to the very people that those who are offended claim to be defending.
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I have to live every day with what was done to me, and it can indeed take the slightest thing to kick that off. I hear or read stories of other kids being abused, and suddenly I am right back there. If I read a novel, watch a movie, a show, or a play with that subject matter, then it affects me deeply and can indeed be deeply traumatic. As an adult, I read up about paedophilia in an effort to understand it (there is no understanding it – it is not a mental illness, it is just sick selfishness), and that was bloody hard for me to do. But it was important for me to do so. Just as it is important for me to face news stories, books, movies, and shows in which paedophilia is part of the plot line, because as disturbing as it is, like all society should, I am facing the fact that it happens. If I did not face that fact, I would indeed be self-pitying, and would still be seeking pity, and because of that, I would still be a victim. But I am no longer a victim – I am a survivor.
And this too is important, for all too often the ‘newspeak’ of the internet is to not use the word ‘victim’ at all, but to always use the word ‘survivor’. I could not disagree more. There is a distinct difference between victims and survivors of abuse, any abuse, and only we survivors fully understand the enormity of that distinction. To try and lock things away from us, to protect and shield us, so that we may never see things that may upset us does not help one victim. Keep doing that and the victim will always be the victim.
Certainly, where things are deliberately and intended to be abusive, they need to be challenged and shot down. But the same cannot be said where things are not intended to be directly offensive. Whether you be a rape victim, abused, a racial or ethnic minority, LGBT+, physically or mentally disabled, elderly, young, female, whatever, don’t go looking for your “safe place”, because there are no safe places. And as long as you continue to seek one, as long as you attempt to lock the real world out, you are continuing to make yourself the victim – you’ll never move on to be a survivor.
That is what I believe Stephen Fry was attempting to say but unfortunately went about it in an asshat way, and could have chosen his words a little better. Ironically, Stephen is now coming under fire for his words, from the very people he was talking about and with exactly the same attitudes he was referring to. And no doubt I shall receive flak for exactly the same.
Of course, I could be very wrong about that. It’s not the first time that Stephen Fry has come out with a highly controversial and asinine comments. On an edition of QI once, whilst supposedly speaking about the larynx, Fry stated “Basically, a good ladyboy can imitate almost anything female, in terms of how they hold their legs and you know…anything like that.” and “A dainty ladyboy can easily fool and often has”. Needless to say, the LGBT+ community was up in arms about Fry’s comments. But hold on, was he actually speaking of transgender people, or merely those who are androgynous? Again, I think it was taken out of context. He did indeed say “ladyboy” and may well have meant just that, s transgender people were never once mentioned. Hands up here how many trans / genderfluid people here identify as a ladyboy? Nope, thought not. He concluded the segment “The truth is, without undressing them or testing their DNA, you can’t be sure what sex someone is. So be careful out there.” Well, ain’t that a fricking truth, and one which all of us who are either transgender or genderfluid are all aware of. But if there are people going to be so upset, perhaps the Edinburgh Fringe should ban another of it’s sell-out shows; The Ladyboys of Bangkok, which is a revue show made up entirely of Thai drag queens (who are all stunningly beautiful, by the way).
Even if he did mean everything he said, guess what peoples? Stephen Fry is a human being, with human failings just like the rest of us. If there’s anyone here who has never said and never does say anything foolish or ill-chosen, then being so bloody perfect and superhuman, you alone have the right to criticise others. But even then, nobody will like you, because you’ll be an arrogant prick – and a boring bastard no doubt. Also, as intelligent and well educated as Fry is, and a celebrity does not make him superhuman, nor would he ever claim or wish to be. Another disturbing aspect of this is today’s cult of celebrity, where people hang upon every word of the rich, the famous, those in the media, and expect them to be perfect, when they are anything but. Some people need to take the message from the Strangler’s song No More Heroes, which is you shouldn’t have heroes, as being human, they will only let you down.
Fry’s work were indeed ill-chosen and illustrate he has no idea just how traumatic childhood sexual abuse and rape are. I don’t need to “grow up” as Fry puts it, I grew up a long time ago, while I still should have been enjoying my childhood. Do not ask me to recount my childhood because my mind has blocked out most of it – it is lost and gone forever. And no, that’s neither self-pity nor seeking pity; it is merely illustrating just how extremely traumatic it can be. It can indeed take the slightest thing to remind you, to set you off, or put you back into that dark time, and that is not for today, not for tomorrow, it is for your whole life, which is precisely why moving past the victim stage to become a survivor is so important. As long as you let it affect you, your victim is still ruling your life; moving past that removes that power and puts you in control.
But then, if there is anyone who should realise that, it is one gay English actor who happens to be bipolar, and who once had a West End show which received so many poor reviews that he basically spat the dummy, stormed off in a huff, and petulantly locked himself away for weeks.
Now, who was that again?
Oh yes – it was Stephen Fry.