Friday, 21 February 2014

Public voices

This is Mary Beard talking about the public voice of women. It is an interesting article about the bad things that happen to women who try to speak in public (in public being broadly defined), although with no real answers.

One thing she says in passing is about people who say disgusting things to her on Twitter:

"When I’m feeling charitable I think quite a lot comes from people who feel let down by the false promises of democratisation blazoned by, for example, Twitter. It was supposed to put us directly in touch with those in power, and open up a new democratic kind of conversation. It does nothing of the sort: if we tweet the prime minister or the pope, they no more read it than if we send them a letter – and for the most part, the prime minister doesn’t even write the tweets that appear under his name. How could he? (I’m not so sure about the Pope.) ... Women are not the only ones who may feel themselves ‘voiceless’."

This brings me, in perhaps a rather forced way, to this, a House of Commons Library paper on current MPs related to other current or former MPs. The Benns, Milibands and Soameses are well-known, but there are lots more: did you know that Malcolm Rifkind and Leon Brittan are cousins, for example?

Laura Sandys MP (yes, that Sandys family) has a public voice. But she says that a "wide range of family demands" mean that she "cannot combine the level of dedication and service needed for the constituency with [her] growing personal responsibilities to those closest and dearest to [her]" and so she is stepping down at the next election. I don't know what Mary Beard would say about that.

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