Grow Up Chaps

BY FRANK HAVILAND

Welcome to another edition of ‘World’s Most Offended’, where celebrities battle it out for woke points in a desperate bid to stay relevant. Congratulations to last week’s winner, Will Young, who takes away a year’s subscription to the Guardian, and as many vegan sausage rolls as his pockets can carry.

The former Pop Idol star became incensed last week at the latest Grand Tour episode (Jeremy Clarkson’s Top Gear spin-off), which he deemed ‘repulsive’ and ‘homophobic’. In particular, Young objected to the insinuation that the Wrangler Jeep is gay, that gay men wear pink shirts and ‘ventilated chaps’, and are overly-concerned with their appearance.

Here is Young in his own words:

However offensive you find them, stereotypes usually bear the ring of truth. Gay cars are apparently a thing, and the Wrangler is up there. Pink is not only considered gay, but is embraced by the LGBT community as a symbol of gay pride.  And gay men really do take care of their appearance – all of which is why marketers target the ‘pink pound’. I didn’t know what chaps were, so I’ll leave it to another tweeter who summed it up nicely:

Clarkson isn’t really my cup of tea. I’m not remotely interested in cars, and have not found him particularly humorous in the odd clip I’ve seen. I’m certainly happy to concede that he is a bit of a boor, but so what? He obviously appeals to a certain market, and more importantly – despite the parallels Young wishes to draw – he isn’t calling for gay men to commit suicide (though there are certainly those who do, should Young want to get his hands dirty).

Young appears to have fallen into the Owen Jones’ trap: believing that he and he alone is allowed to speak for the gay community. That’s the problem with special interests – they’re exclusive and divisive, the very opposite of inclusion.

Think for a moment what Young missed this week in his crusade for gay protection. He missed the first UK prosecution for FGM – over three decades overdue, despite 9,000 cases per year. He missed genuine misogyny, as a UK school prevents girls from eating lunch until the boys have finished. I also didn’t hear a peep out of him when it was Gillette branding all men lazy, mansplaining, would-be rapists. That’s what happens when you focus myopically on identity politics rather than genuine problems

While the UK police would almost certainly be happy to upgrade this to a hate incident for him, I have a feeling Young is on a sticky wicket. Meanness is a part of life. Men malign each other’s masculinity – it’s how they bond. It’s not even anti-gay, though I accept it may be mistaken for that.

If we’re banning group bonding, what exactly is left to say? Has Young never heard women talk about men? Remain voters talk about Brexiteers? Liberals talk about conservatives? And if he seriously thinks gay men don’t speak disparagingly about straight men, I’d suggest his LGBT card ought to be revoked

Being offended is fine. Attempting to ban something when your social media pile-on fails to come up roses, is where we must part company.

Forget the bromides, this is what diversity actually means: putting up with things you don’t like in the interest of free speech. As the old Niemőller line goes ‘First they came for the Top Gear fans…’

Where you draw the line on issues of good taste must be a matter for the individual, rather than the State. Personally speaking, I think Bernard Manning is the greatest comedian Britain has ever seen, while Russell Howard is offensively unfunny. Neither of them deserve to be banned.

This is a key question right now, because while the right dithers over the boundaries of acceptable speech, the left is busy erasing the line altogether; it simply wants to ban everything. That’s why right-on comics aren’t funny, and why our vocabulary becomes evermore infested with meaningless (yet inoffensive) phrases like ‘diversity is our strength’.

If we’re playing the game of who screams ‘victim’ loudest, the gays are not going to win. Moreover, Young is perhaps perpetuating the worst stereotype of gay men – their hypersensitivity. Wait till Clarkson gets wind of that, he’ll have a field day.

The fact that both Young and I are no fans of Clarkson, is precisely the reason he should be kept on the airwaves, if such a demand exists. We all need to be offended regularly, it ought to remind us of our insignificance and perhaps even humble us. Young may want Clarkson to leave right now, but I suggest he has a little grace. Instead of being offended, how about getting a sense of humour?

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