Darling dear

I posted on Facebook earlier today:

Argument on a thread. A man replies to a woman, beginning with “My dear lady”; in her reply she tells him not to call her that.

I, out of my profound generosity and kindness, seek to help him by telling him that “my dear lady” is patronizing at best. He informs me that “patronizing” is in the eye of the beholder.


Now I read Athene Donald’s blog.

It is perhaps the case that I am on a short fuse at the moment. I realised this when, a day or two later I had an altercation with a taxi driver. I had cycled back to my home – the Master’s Lodge at Churchill College – sadly pondering on the shocking way the trolls were after my friend and colleague Mary Beard again. Trying to stick up for some academic rigour she has been attacked by a posse of internet trolls for holding firm to the idea – and giving chapter and verse of evidence – that there were men of colour in Roman Britain.

Whilst constantly challenging Mary to produce her credentials they, the opposition, seem content to argue along the lines of, fairly literally, ‘my citation count is bigger than yours’, as if citations proved much. Or that remark didn’t smack of the school playground bully. As scientists know only too well, you can get plenty of citations for being wrong. Being wrong, is after all, sometimes more interesting than being right. But it doesn’t mean that you’re either an expert or correct after all. I’m not going to jab my finger at the twitterstorm’s main protagonist Nicholas Taleb. I admit I’d never heard of him before though I was vaguely aware of his best-selling book Black Swan. Interesting topic, made a great deal of; academic worth – no idea personally. I’m not interested in his citation count. I am interested in, or rather I am utterly appalled by, his ability to be totally vicious and simultaneously vacuous within 140 characters on Twitter. I am concerned by why he thinks this is the mark of a good academic. Why he thinks it advances the debate on whether or not the Roman army was anything other than pure white. Mary on her own blog has provided some concrete evidence, but I haven’t seen a sensible response from her detractors. But then I might have missed something.

It makes me very angry to watch her being attacked by many – although supported I suspect by many more – in ways that seem quite gratuitously unpleasant and misogynistic. No one calls a man an old bat, or tw@ or much much worse; the insults all seemed strongly gendered.

Don’t they though? Day in and day out, don’t they though?

Then she tried to help a taxi driver who was lost at Churchill College – her college – and his response was to shout at her and call her “darling.”

 Red rag to a bull, I’m afraid. On that particular day, having been pondering Mary’s plight, I threw back at him (not politely I admit) ‘don’t call me darling’. Things escalated from there with choice phrases from him along the lines of ‘you’re certainly not my darling’ (so why did he call me one in the first place?) and further abuse. It ended up with another shout of ‘darling’ as he drove off. I have complained to his employer.

It is utterly trivial yet also symptomatic of the way some men seem to think there is no need to treat women with respect. Darling in itself is merely demeaning. It’s not threatening so perhaps I shouldn’t care. But if he treats me like that, how might he treat a young female student who flagged his taxi down late at night? What respect does he show others? Tolerating such contempt strikes me as too close to giving him permission to attack the more vulnerable to a greater degree than his mere inappropriate language to me. (Was I supposed to be flattered to be called darling in the first place? What does go through their heads when they say things like that?)

The same thing that goes through Trump’s head when he vomits out his bullying namecalling garbage. Entitlement, contempt, hostility, rage.

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