In 2004, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson famously said in a leading article in The Spectator that Liverpool, the city where I grew up and which houses the majority of my family and friends, was a “city hooked on grief.”
They … see themselves, whenever possible as victims, and resent their victim status, yet at the same time they wallow in it.”
He isn’t the first nor will he be the last to make a sweeping generalisation of a city with a population of nearly 500,000.
Recently in what would a laughable move if it wasn’t so distasteful, a casting company issued a call for actors with northern accents to feature in a campaign for the supermarket giant Morrisons specifying that “nobody from Liverpool” should apply.
Fellow scouser Jamie Fahey from The Guardian summed it up perfectly when he said: “The anti-scouse barb is undeniably crass, but the deplorable language used to stereotype different types of “working class” people is arguably more invidious; it’s straight out of the divide-and-rule school of snide, dishonest class-based discrimination.”
It has always been modish to take the piss out of Liverpool and it’s inhabitants.
But really, seriously, why is this okay?
I lived in Liverpool for 24 years before doing a stint in the Big Smoke and then settling with my husband and children in his native city of Birmingham (another city that is not immune to the jeers of others).
Growing up I remember my mum and dad literally shaking their fist at the radio in despair for weeks after the tragic murder of two-year-old Jamie Bulger in February 1993. It was like the city was on trial along with Jon Venables and Robert Thompson.
My dad, still traumatized by the events he witnessed at Hillsborough four years earlier and the horrific backlash against the club and its fans, would often remain silent and brooding as he listened to these attacks from the national press whilst my mum, in a strange reversal of personalities, would rant and rage.
The Times hit a particular low point with its headline “The city with a murder on its conscience” and the question “as James Bulger was led to his death, what were the people of Liverpool doing?”
A question as ridiculous then as asking what the people of Walton-on-Thames were doing when Milly Dowler was abducted.
Fact, Liverpool is an amazing city – culturally and historically – and like any large city it has a diverse myriad of people at its core. It would be as ignorant and naive to suggest that all scousers are “sound as a pound” as it would to smear a collective for the crimes of a few.
With three years at university at Leeds and then 10 years in London, I’ve lived and worked with people who hail from across the UK and indulged in acceptable regionalist banter with the lot of them. And it would be fair to suggest that the jokes about my hometown can be a bit closer to the knuckle than any of the cockney coldness wisecracks.
But you know we take these taunts in good grace, as mostly the intent is mischievous rather than malicious. That said, if I had a pound for every time someone “joked” about me stealing their hub caps, I wouldn’t have to steal so many hub caps (boom boom – see how funny we are from Liverpool).
Q. What is the difference between a battery and a scouser?
A. A battery has a positive side.
Sometimes though the jesting can have a spiteful streak.
This was evident yesterday when national newspapers resumed their merciless sport of ripping into the women that attend Ladies Day at Aintree – an event that takes place each year the day before The Grand National.
It made my blood boil to see that these everyday people were once again the butt (and the boob) of the style jokes simply because of where they dwell.*
*Actually, race goers come to Aintree from all over the world, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good ridicule.
Fair enough, we’ve all sniggered at a “worst and best dressed” feature at some point – it is a tabloid favourite after all and no one is exempt from Oscar super stars to the Conservative Party conference gals. But the Aintree coverage seemed to come with a special dose of viciousness and venom.
None more so than an article in the Daily Mail written by self-declared etiquette expert William Hanson who came out with sneering gems in his commentary like: “Aintree ain’t Ascot. There’s no point pretending it is. Sure, it’s in the same family but it’s the Uncle Gary to the demure niece” and “wasn’t much Donna could have done to hide her tattoo on her neck, but her ruby pendant necklace and matching earrings were a distraction for a little while.”
It was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but it stank of plain meanness.
I don’t think it is particularly classy to trash ordinary women – who’ve done nothing to put themselves in the spotlight other than get dressed up for a day out with friends. Especially if it is to satisfy the tut-tut generation of cantankerous old farts who sit in judgement in the Lladro-laden living rooms that haven’t seen a visitor for 15 years. The type that are outraged at young girls holding *gasp* wine glasses in public and who are still getting hot flushes from flash backs of that time that Billy Berkeley touched their boob at the local barn dance circa 1968.
The article though that broke the camel’s back was one littered with bitchy captions on photographs of women in a bevy of poses (probably prompted by the photographer) and others caught in unbeknownst unflattering angles. It caused such a fury that it incited an online petition calling for the The Daily Mail to “apologise to all the beautiful ladies at the Grand National” – a petition that at the time of writing had over 4,000 signatures – and for one woman to write an amazing open letter to the newspaper.
Enough was rightly enough.
To those scoffing from aside that there is no such thing as a lady at lady’s day, I say define “lady?”
If it is ladylike to belittle people to feel better about yourself and revile others simply for wanting to look their very best, even if their best does not match up to your exacting standards, then I never want to be a lady.
Most of those girls would have saved for months, worked hard and looked after their bodies in the run up – just so for that one day they could march out of their doors feeling like a million dollars.
Only to be made fun of by people who should know better.
The funny thing is these women aren’t dressing up to impress the tabloids or to attract men. They are doing it for themselves. They are doing it to feel empowered. It is an exercise in self-confidence, self-worth and self-esteem. And in a time when anxiety and depression are rife among our younger generations, this can only be a brilliantly positive thing.
It is especially upsetting that all this shaming of women happens in the same month that the wonderful Caitlin Moran’s letter to teenage girls goes viral. A letter in which she states: “You were not born scared and self-loathing and overwhelmed… Because what you must do right now, and for the rest of your life, is learn how to build a girl. You.”
Not every woman at that race track yesterday would have been feeling über confident about the way they looked. I used to go every year in my twenties and for every time I thought I had nailed it, there was the same number when I’d stand around finding myself lacking.
Those featured could have been going through personal trauma, have historic hang ups, could be suffering from already debilitating eating disorders – who the hell knows. Can you imagine how those girls slammed in the article – and many were just girls – felt to wake up to see images of themselves splashed online mocked at by seemingly millions.
Really, is this still a thing?
You know what else I thought as I flipped through all the gorgeous pictures of the LADIES in their finery at Aintree? I am so over my mumdrum frumpdom. I’m taking a steer from my scouse sisters. Today I put on a tan towel, painted my nails and pulled down the Slimming World books.
Because it is nice to try to look nice.
Everyone should take the time to get freaking fabulous.
Life is short and we should all live it like we are off to the races tomorrow.
So stand proud girls. Stand proud.
Thanks to Milo and Me blog for the title inspiration.
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