jo brand's week

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The Independent Online
The Daily Mail nailed its misogynist colours to the mast once again this week with its sensitive and caring treatment of Mo Mowlem. In its usual nasty little Home Counties way, it laid into Ms Mowlem because of a weight gain and doubtless because it was another opportunity to have a go at a Labour woman, one of a species, who, in Daily Mail land, inhabits dungarees, has girlfriends, and looks like a plumber's mate. The particularly lovely thing about the Mail is that the misogyny does not issue forth from the pens solely of male writers, vitriol spews forth in equal measure from its female journalists as well. And as for Linda Lee-Potter, throwing abuse around about looks, given she looks as if she's had a narrow escape from running in the Grand National because of a bomb scare, the woman has the most incredible cheek, or no mirrors in the house. Of course Ms Mowlem's weight gain was as a result of being prescribed certain drugs, following the discovery of a brain tumour. Despite everyone then feeling immense sympathy for her because of her illness, the fact is that the Daily Mail shouldn't even be indulging in this sort of trivial and vicious abuse in the first place, whether the woman has a brain tumour or not. As a sufferer of Not-Looking-Like-A-Supermodel syndrome, I have received plenty of this kind of hypocritical judgement myself and maybe it's time the Daily Mail turned the critical spotlight on the majority of its female readers - the unlubricated, bitter, blue-rinse brigade from the Home Counties. Not many lookers there, I suspect. Of course this is unimportant, but we should bear in mind the more important issue, which is that the milk of human kindness leaked away from these dried-up old baggages a very long time ago and that really is grounds for an attack.

I wonder how it would feel to be a black member of staff at the BBC, knowing that the corporation was involved in producing and showing a party political broadcast on behalf of the BNP. Pretty similar, perhaps, to being asked as a woman to make a party political broadcast on behalf of a party that wanted to legalise rape. It seems so ridiculous, in an age where we have laws to prevent certain moronic individuals inciting racial hatred, that it's perfectly OK to broadcast such opinions on the screens of millions of viewers. The BBC is protesting that its hands are tied because of election rules, but it withdrew a broadcast by the National Front in 1983, so a precedent has been set. If the corporation shows this particular nasty rant, they will be letting down their staff and setting back the cause of so many people who have attempted, for many years, to combat the bigotry that infects a handful of very small minds in this country.

"It's all gone pear-shaped" has entered the language as a way of describing how things have gone disastrously wrong. However, it certainly has not gone pear-shaped for the pear-shaped, as this week the usual gaggle of medical experts produced a report on the subject. Apparently, if you store fat in your big end, as opposed to round the tummy, it is much healthier. So at least that's some consolation for women who have to buy trousers that are two sizes bigger than tops. The report fails to describe the consequence of having a big bottom and a big tummy. Oh well, I'm sure it's not good news.

One of my biggest regrets in life is that, as a 17 year old working in a residential home for adults with learning difficulties, I let my suspicions about a member of staff be ignored by the head of the home. Having noticed that a charge nurse appeared to be behaving inappropriately with female residents, I complained to the head of the home, who pointed out that the charge nurse in question had been in the job for years and I had been there a few months and it would therefore be best if I left. I did. But now, when I read news items like the ones this week about a couple who ran a private home and are charged with running a cruel and abusive regime, I wish I had stuck to my guns and taken the matter further. We now know that it tends to be those staff who have become as institutionalised as their charges who commit these terrible acts. As a failed whistleblower, I just hope that there are people out there who are less naive and more sure of themselves than I was.

Bureaucracy is a terrible curse. I was attempting to find out this week whether I was eligible to vote in a particular area of London or not. Having telephoned the local election registrar, I was informed that no questions could be answered on the phone and I had to write. I did. About four days later, I received a form offering me a postal or proxy vote, neither of which I wanted. Still, rather than wasting more time writing back, I requested a proxy vote. This elicited an incredulous phone call asking me to call. I did. I explained myself and was advised about my eligibility and the location of the polling station, which was what I wanted to know in the first place. Good job I didn't have a really complicated question.

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