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A sign of our moralistic times: outrage over a shirt

Sun. 16 Nov. 2014

The news that one of the leading scientists involved in landing a spacecraft on a comet – what is proving to be a significant step forward in the knowledge of the Universe for our species – broke down in tears while apologising for wearing a particular kind of shirt comes across to me as quite a significant event. It would be very easy to ignore this event, or to dismiss it as insignificant – after all, it’s only about a shirt, isn’t it. A storm in a teacup, perhaps... much ado about nothing (as Billy Shakespeare might say).

That’s precisely the point. It is a ridiculous hullabaloo: but it is this very fact – the ridiculous pettiness of the occasion – that underlines its significance, and its seriousness. That’s right, the fact that such vehement outrage, almost hysteria, can be summoned, stoked and pressed home over a shirt demonstrates how far that bullying, repressive moralism has come, and how serious the threat that reactionary, puritanical “correct-thinking” has become to the advancement of an enlightened, civilised and free society. The moralists would probably argue exactly the opposite: that (in the case at hand) “offensive” shirts represent the threat to an enlightened, civilised society. Now, I do realise that we don’t actually live in an enlightened, civilised and free society, but I also know it’s not because of people’s choice of shirt that we don’t (I could go on and on at this point, about what really needs to be re-thought in this society, but I’ll keep it about shirts).

What is this shirt, then? No, it's not an SS blackshirt with swastika and portrait of a smiling Adolf Hitler proclaiming he’d do it all again. Rather, it looks to me like prints from a 1950s graphic novel – brightly coloured, cartoon-like characters – emblazoned across the shirt. It looks pretty tame to me; I have a shower curtain, bought from Asda, that displays similar prints and that I have in my courtyard at the door to my studio. None of my clients or other visitors have accused me of being sexist; in fact, all the comments I’ve had on it have been ones of admiration, and that includes from women! But Dr Matt Taylor’s shirt is, apparently, beyond the pale, an unacceptable display of male-chauvinist barbarism, a damaging affront, indeed threat, to society.

We’re talking about a shirt here. Think about it: a shirt. And one that by any reasoned process of thought is not particularly offensive. Or perhaps that’s the point: whether someone finds somebody else’s shirt offensive is entirely, completely, subjective (and that should be patently obvious). Again, we are talking here about a rather mundane, mainstream shirt, so “offense” boils down to the level of “Oh, he likes shocking pink and I can’t stand it.” There is no better illustration of how serious the moralist threat has become in dictating how an entire population should think.

Here’s a link to an article in the Guardian that provides the basic information (presumably the Guardian cropped the pic so as to not offend society further by reproducing too much of Dr Taylor’s shirt): Rosetta scientist Dr Matt Taylor apologises for ‘offensive’ shirt

And here’s my shower curtain (I’ve uploaded a bigger pic of it just for this occasion!): A retro surprise for my studio visitors

And finally, here's a link that will take you to my previous News items on sexual politics, for those who are interested in exploring further: ‘Extreme porn’ and internet censorship

Mistress Geo


PS: Important reminder

I am travelling overseas at the end of this year, and my last day for taking sessions for 2014 will be Christmas Eve. I will be away for around six weeks, and will be back in Bristol and ready to resume normal activities in both my Studio and Domestic Room in the second week of February 2015.

Geo Pinch, professional Bristol mistress