21 April 2010

That David Mitchell guy

I hadn't read David Mitchell's Observer column in weeks when a FB friend attracted my attention to puzzling David Mitchell "soapbox" clip in which he takes an utterly unnecessary pot shot at Gaelic languages. Never mind. The man is entitled to his opinions and most of the time I agree with him.


Back on the Observer site, I found Mitchell in great form this week with a column about the Cambridge University debating society offering pole dancing lessons to its female members. Mitchell rightfully attacks the society's spokeswoman who uses the word "empowering" in reference to the classes: "having stumbled upon the word "empowering", which can be deployed under so many circumstances – I use it about charging my phone – they've let it trick them into thinking that they've framed an argument," he writes.

Mitchell very perspicaciously adds that at 20, from the vintage point of a Cambridge college, a young woman may have little idea that the world is a misogynistic place.

"Pole dancing is grim and I don't see anything empowering about learning it". And any look at youtube clips under that heading will make you feel simply horrible about the state of human kind. But that is not the point of this blog.

Mitchell goes on to talk about the backlash against feminism and the pity that some men demand nowadays. Last week, I saw a headline about a Men Studies programme at some university somewhere with a sub-headline about men being a minority these days. It's sad enough that young students pull a pole dancing stunt to get in the papers but the level of cynicism that leads a university to create a reactionary curriculum to garner publicity (and boast applications) is beyond depressing. Really, I'm so sad that only 498 men are the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. I weep for them on a regular basis. But, again, I digress.

So this guy, David Mitchell, is not just a columnist but the creator of a television show which just finished it's third season, That Mitchell and Webb Look. He also stars with Webb in the hilarious, and hilariously cruel, Peep Show which after became a hit after Ricky Gervais called it the best comedy of television. After six seasons, Peep Show shows no sign are wavering. He also hosts those incomprehensible British game shows, but since Stephen Fry does them too, I guess it comes with the territory.

In the soapbox clip about Gaelic languages, Mitchell makes half a convincing case questioning the artificial revival of languages. He states that Scottish Gaelic has not been spoken in the Lowlands since the Middle Ages. If he's right that's certainly a little tidbit that Lowlanders have been keeping on the down low. On the other hand, one wonders whether the English crown did not do its best to eradicate the language and if it did Lowlanders (am I making up a word here, Lowlanders? Outlander exists, Gabladon says so) are entitled to take taxpayer money to re-acquaint themselves with the old tongue if they so deisre. The amount of resources outlaid for such a reinstitution of languages is part of Mitchell's argument. 

Nevertheless, Mitchell's Sunday Observer columns are definitely worth a look. In this week's one about pole dancing, he diverges into a discussion about women in politics. He ties his column back to pole dancing only alluding to a point that needs making. All this stuff about pornography, prostitution, and female chauvinist pigness being a form of empowerment is a complete load.

And you and I, reader, will have to have this discussion one day. In the mean time, here's a nice, single man who also happens to be a feminist.

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