CATALUÑA: The principal - and triumphalist - cheerleader for independence, President Mas, is reported to be opposed by 70% of voters in his attempt to keep his job. That said, his biggest worry is probably whether he'll be the next arrestee in the scandal of the 3% paid to the Catalan government on just about everything contracted by it. Vamos a ver.
FREE SPEECH: This treasure - for which many have died - is losing its lustre for those to whom being 'judgmental' in our multi-victim society is a hanging offence. See the end of this post for a Times columnist's view on the latest sad manifestation of repression.
ENGLISH WORDS: In their relentless quest to make women feel even worse about themselves, the admen have introduced a couple of new conditions. Or, rather, old conditions with new labels - belly bump and sensitive bladder. The latter, of course, is a euphemism for a leaky urethra. Last year it was dry ankles. Next year? Ugly nostril linings? Unhappy scalp?
SPANISH WORDS: It fooled me for 3 seconds - 'rocanrol'. How about you, forewarned as you are?
FINALLY . . . THE MUSICAL BARD: Up in Barcelona, there's been a much-lauded song-and-dance production of Much Ado About Nothing. I do hope this comes to Galicia, even if it is in Catalan.
Say what you like about Germaine Greer, it takes guts to criticise the transgender community, when they are backed so zealously by the “progressive” enforcers of the left.What you can’t say, not accurately anyway, is that she’s got balls.
I know this because I once sat across a sofa from her where she was holding forth to rapt feminists with her legs confidently apart — and she was not wearing knickers. Had she been a man in trousers it would have been “manspreading”; as it was, she was in a skirt and I got an eyeful.
So yes, Greer is fearless and she likes to shock. Anyway, the Ozzie crone — don’t worry, she has proudly called herself this and worse, including “a hag” — has caused a giant rumpus in politically correct circles by questioning Caitlyn Jenner’s status as the world’s favourite woman.
Jenner, a former Olympic gold medallist and stepfather to all those Kardashians, announced her gender transition only in the spring and has already made Glamour magazine’s list of “women of the year”. Greer wasn’t having it.“Just because you lop off your dick and then wear a dress doesn’t make you a f****** woman,” she snorted last week. “I’ve asked my doctor to give me long ears and liver spots and I’m going to wear a brown coat but that won’t turn me into a f****** cocker spaniel.”
Unkind? Yes. Unsayable? Well, isn’t it up to her? She was particularly riled because the students’ union women’s officer at Cardiff University had just whipped up a petition with a couple of thousand signatories calling for her to be banned from giving a campus lecture on the grounds of her alleged “transphobia”.
Controversy is catnip to Greer, so we needn’t worry too much about her health and wellbeing. She has been making waves since the publication of The Female Eunuch in 1970 — which, come to think of it, shared a similar interest in castration — and can look after herself. It’s the threat to freedom of speech that bothers me.
British universities are becoming serial offenders in this regard, as ever following America’s lead.
Condoleezza Rice, who was in London giving a talk at Chatham House last week, has been barracked and dissed for years. Last year Rutgers University bowed to student protests over her role in the Iraq war and disinvited her as a guest speaker.
When she addressed Boston College in 2006 professors and students actually turned their backs on her. It was a breathtaking act of disrespect towards America’s first black female secretary of state. I’m guessing — from the photographs — that the audience was predominantly white.
The “coddling of the British mind”, to borrow a phrase about US campus wars, has arrived here. One cowed academic whispered to The Spectator magazine last week in reference to the Corbynmania sweeping through his faculty: “It’s like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers here.”
The ridiculous groupthink and fear of saying the wrong thing are not confined to universities. The row over the status of transgender women is just one manifestation of a wider assault on freedom of expression.
Greer said very specifically that people going through a sex change deserved to be supported. She is not in favour of banning anyone from doing anything, let alone stopping people causing offence.
The same isn’t true of her detractors, who hounded the left-wing writer Suzanne Moore off Twitter when she remarked that the ideal body shape for women appeared to be that of a “Brazilian transsexual”. When her friend Julie Burchill stepped up to defend her in her own inimitable style in The Observer, the newspaper took the article off the internet after protests. Now that’s censorship.
Newspapers have their own worries about freedom of expression this week when a new law comes into force that will in certain cases compel them to pay punitive damages to an injured party— on top of a libel payout.
This dual penalty will affect only those newspapers — and for the moment, I’m pleased to say, that’s every single one of them — that have refused to sign up to the Press Recognition Panel, a body set up last year by the government and created by royal charter in response to the Leveson inquiry.
It’s bad enough that newspapers will be fearful of exposing the truth, such as the extent of MPs’ expenses claims, with the threat of doubly sky-high legal bills hanging over them. But the new law is also explicitly designed to bully newspapers into accepting the statutory regulation of the press — which would end at a stroke three centuries of freedom from interference by politicians.
Who is more thin-skinned — transgender people (or, to be fair, those purporting to speak on their behalf) or politicians? It’s hard to say. I wouldn’t like to entrust our freedom of speech to either group.
Because the very thing that makes Greer so transgressive today — her utter lack of regard for causing offence — is what made her an exhilarating feminist when many women were still trying to find a voice. Should she have been banned from universities then?
Incidentally, all the brouhaha over Jenner may have been misplaced. It turns out that she wasn’t Glamour’s “woman of the year”, as Greer seemed to think, just one of many women on its list.
And, plus ça change, the cover star for the group was America’s favourite ditsy blonde, Reese Witherspoon. She is letting it be known that she’s keen to film a third Legally Blonde movie, with Elle Woods becoming the first female president. I suppose that’s progress.