Why the Daily Mail?

So thanks to everyone who read and commented on my post about the Guide uniform. It’s been lovely to hear your encoragement and to hear that so many people share my experiences. Shout out to the Sisterhood – you guys are amazing 🙂

I’m also intrigued. I know that the Guide Mafia is far ranging, but 3000+ views to a post on what the Girl Guides are wearing this September seems like quite a lot. The other post with 1000+ views I’ve written was in response to the Daily Mail too.

And I get that. I’m going to try to be polite here, though those that know me well can probably guess my real thoughts. But it’s fair to say that the DM writes stories to their own agenda. Which, naturally, all papers do – we know them as right wing, left wing, whatever. But the DM agenda seems to be one I have the greatest of difficulties identifying with. I’m on their website now, and today’s top stories include Kim Kardashian’s wardrobe, why Border Control is a disaster, benfit cheats, assylum seekers, scary Muslims, and why women can’t handle stress as well as men (it’s all in their brains, the poor dears). Before anyone jumps in, yes, there are other stories. But all the above fit into the general Daily Mail persona – the world out there is BIG and SCARY – and if you’re a woman, better stick to cute dresses in case your head explodes.

Gonna be honest – not the sort of thing I read. But despite those of us who love to mock it, people do read it. The readership is declining, but it’s one of the most read papers in the country. And though it’d be tempting to dismiss everyone who reads it as slightly simple, the figures don’t suggest that. So why does it still exist?

I wonder if, on some level, it’s comforting. Because when the world is reduced to “them” and “us”, and when the “them” is a shadowy, facless entity hellbent on the destruction of all you hold dear, it’s easy to feel you have some control. You may not understand the world, but your “us” is right. That gives you a lot of bolstering in an unstable and ever changing world. I wonder if people read it because it’s easier to hate the other than to truly engage with them.If we can rest in our own superiority, then we don’t have to engage with that which scares us.

Which terrifies me, actually. I remember working once with a group of Rainbows. Gorgous (insane!) 6 year olds. On my waiting list was a little girl called Harriet. Harriet is severely disabled. She communicates via sign, she eats through a tube, and her movements are jerky and unpredictable.

I rang her mum, Rachel, to offer Harriet a place. She was shocked – she’d never thought Harriet could ever be involved. She worried about the other girls, about us, about the whole unit. Did we really want Harriet?

Harriet came to Rainbows. And of course, the other girls loved her. They would include her in all their games and activities, and delighted in winning a smile from her. Harriet was a part of that unit just as every other girl was.

Try that experiement with a bunch of adults. Introduce someone who is obviously different. I would almost guarantee that in most, though not all circumstances, there would be awkward silences. Panicked faces. Confused glances.

Because we’re scared of that we don’t know. We all are. It’s in our nature. We want to run to that which we feel comfortable with.

And it’s ok to be aware of that. But it’s not ok to do the Daily Mail thing. It’s not ok to stay in our sheltered enclaves, dismissing everyone with a different view, a different background, a different religion or viewpoint or sexuality – or, well, whatever it is. Because we miss the excitement, the joy, the wonder of life when we do that.

What terrifies me even more though is that we’re passing this on to our children. And I don’t know how we tackle that. I do believe we have to find a way though. Because our kids are going to inherit a scary, messed up world one day. And if they’re too frightned to get out of their comfort zojes, too entrenched in their views of the “other”, too unwilling to hold their hands across the gap in the desperate hope it might be grabbed from the other side – they’re going to miss out on the fact that the world is beautiful, too.

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