Mehdi Hasan’s article on how being pro-life doesn’t make him “any less of a lefty” precipitated a predictable explosion of rage all over the Sunday internet.
Honestly, guys, this is the third weekend in a row where I’ve woken to find that some privileged bloke is explaining how it’s his personal view that we need to abolish universal suffrage or similar. I fear I am a member of the monstrous regiment of women who persist in viewing the pontifications of those who “never felt the wound”, in the words of Romeo, with something of a fishlike eye.
It’s getting to the stage that I’m afraid to get into the shower on a Sunday, lest Jeremy Hunt pops up and slaps a nationalisation order on my lady-parts.
Where to begin with his article is a tricky one as it is just so wrong that it’s almost tempting to see it as trolling. Not least because of his denial that his life experiences have nothing to do with his conclusions on abortion is intellectually disingenuous. It would be like me saying that my view on the merits of woman’s right to choose has nothing to do with me being a woman, and that I would feel the same if I were a man. I obviously cannot make this call because my views are inextricably bound with the fact that I am female, do have periods, will probably get pregnant at some stage, and I assume that all these things do influence the way I feel about people trying to legislate on how, when and if I give birth.
If I had wedding vegetables instead, my approach to offspring-production would be completely different. I have no idea how I would feel, and to claim that otherwise, as if I were Moses descending from Mount Sinai bestowing some sort of divinely inspired moral code on a grateful nation would make me, frankly, a bit of a nobber.
We’re all a confused mash of prejudices influenced by our experiences, tempered occasionally by empathy and education. And this is true even of New Statesman columnists.
But, dear reader, it is not the subject of abortion on which I plan to assail you with my ramblings today. It is, instead, the term 'lefty' and how Hasan’s article magnificently demonstrates that terms such as 'right wing' and 'left wing' currently mean bugger-all, if they ever did.
I loathe the terms 'lefty”' and 'progressive' for the reason that Hasan is probably right, according to his own definitions, as to what these have come to mean. I would consider myself left wing: I have reasonably conservative economic views, but socially I’m pretty liberal. This is, however, tempered by a solidly-socialist love for banning things; sometimes I lie in bed at night and dream of all the things I’ll ban when I become Commander in Chief of the Entire World. Happy times. Anyway, aside from the latter point, however, this does not make me markedly different from most of my Conservative friends, who would self-identify as right-wing.
'Lefty' means what, exactly, then? Darth Vader could, by Hasan’s definition, be a 'progressive' on the grounds that he was a trailblazer for disability rights in the early days of the galactic empire. Lucretia Borgia: an early-day 'lefty' as a powerful woman in Renaissance Italy?
Essentially, 'lefty' when used by those who consider themselves right-on, is code for, 'I am a nice person who likes nice things like unicorns, rainbows, and the smiles on little children’s faces.' That’s what Hasan was basically saying: 'I may be out of step with the moderate orthodoxy on this one, but I am still on the right side of the Force and therefore my arguments have greater weight than right-wing commentators because I am a better person.'
The predictable response to Mehdi was neither 'smearing' nor 'demonising' him. Wading into a debate on a hugely emotive issue and assuming that you have a carte blanche to say whatever you like unchallenged because you consider yourself a good person (or 'lefty') is completely and utterly ridiculous. As an incubator ... sorry 'woman', myself, does Hasan really think he can get away with 'Yes, a woman has a right to choose what to do with her body – but a baby isn’t part of her body' and not receive a load of tweets saying, 'Um, really dude? Like, really?'
Malleable adjectives such as 'lefty' add no weight to the merits or lack thereof of anyone’s argument, nor do they act as any form of protection upon chatting out of your downstairs set of cheeks, and being called on it.