lifestyle

BEC: Since when has THIS been an insult?

Rebecca Sparrow
Rebecca Sparrow

By REBECCA SPARROW

I’ve spent the past 10 years as a novelist and as a newspaper columnist… which naturally means I’m quite accustomed to people insulting me and ridiculing my opinion.

(The first hate letter I ever received was just two words long; the admirably succinct: “You’re shit.”  Whilst the longest piece of hate mail I’ve been sent was a 2-page missive on why I’m going to burn in hell for eternity because I used a swear word  -shit – in one of my teen novels. [Thank you, Mr D Blackburn of Missouri, USA who fears for my soul. Just quietly God rang and She told me She thinks you’re a fu*k-knuckle.])

But I’ve noticed in recent months there are two new insults that all the cool kids are bandying about.   And they’re insults designed to immediately shut down and dismiss an opinion (or a person) as worthless or trivial.

The first is: “You’re so middle class.” Heard that one, have you? It’s the favoured insult online right now. You could be asking for advice on a forum about how to make a decent roast.  Or whether or not it’s worth signing up a three year old to soccer classes.  Or  you could be commenting on a topic. Anything from a post about the sexual assaults of women in India to your thoughts on Paid Parental Leave.  The topic hardly matters because fo’ shizzle some anonymous person will reply to your question or comment with “Yawn. Just what I’d expect a middle class white person to say …”

Ouch.

The second popular put-down is of course the accusation that you’re “mainstream” which will be leveled at you should you make the rookie error of revealing in public that you enjoy something that is also enjoyed by the filthy, stupid masses.  You big loser, you.  You watch the manufactured visual abomination that is The Voice?  Or Packed To The Rafters?   You like Bruno Mars?  Or read Dan Brown novels? You watch the news on a commercial network?  ARE YOU DEAD?

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You’re supposed to be watching Q&A or that show on the ABC featuring Stephen Fry. Or better still, NOT watching TV (TV is soooo mainstream) and instead be spending your days reading The Atlantic or The Onion and then repeatedly mentioning articles you’ve read on The Atlantic or The Onion on that big echo-chamber that is Twitter.

Or, you know, not.

The thing that bugs me about these two separate insults  is that they’re a lazy way to shut someone down. And to belittle them. Naturally,  I’ve had both insults leveled at me this year. Of course, I have.  Look at my author photo.  It screams “MIDDLE CLASS MAINSTREAM WHITE GIRL PRETENDING TO DRINK TEA!”

Well guess what?  I am in fact middle class.  Congratulations for noticing. You win all your parent’s love. But here’s the thing, unless you believe in the technology that was “Hot Tub Time Machine” and think I can go back in time and change the environment into which I was born or the circumstance in which I currently live, there’s nothing I can do about, you know, being middle class.

Except what I am doing (and what the majority of decent people do) which is trying to behave like a human being. Having empathy. Showing compassion (except perhaps to Mr D Blackburn of Missouri). And always working hard to understand the realities faced by other people. Since I first read The Great Gatsby as part of Year 11 English back in 1988, I’ve held the opening sentences in my head:

.

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

It’s human nature for people to view issues from their own perspective and experience. And being middle class doesn’t make you some kind of morally bankrupt person (in the same way that being working class or Brynne Edelsten-class doesn’t automatically mean you should be pitied or pilloried.).

We’re all unique. We have different backgrounds, life experiences, challenges and traumas. Regardless of family income we’ve each grown up with either functional or dysfunctional families, we’ve endured challenges, tragedies, disappointments and experienced advantages.  And we’re actually allowed to have different opinions.  Remember?

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To shut someone down  – particularly online when you really have NO CLUE as to who you’re talking to – with the insult, “Typical middle class perspective”… is lazy.   It does nothing to help a debate. Nor does it encourage someone who may hold biased or uneducated views to try to see an issue beyond their own personal experiences.  All it does is make you look a tiny little bit like an arrogant twat.

And as for ‘mainstream’?  I’m going to out myself right now and say that I’m so mainstream I make your Nanna look edgy.

I like The Voice.  And Offspring.  And The Block. And MKR.  And on Friday nights – sit down for this bit – I often watch Better Homes and Gardens in my pyjamas drinking tea.  (I’m not sure if that makes me mainstream or just terribly, terribly uncool that I’m home on a Friday night).

Taylor Swift
“My iPod is full of Taylor Swift.”

My iPod is full of Michael Buble and Taylor Swift and, okay, a bit of Air Supply.

I have never eaten quinoa because I don’t know how to pronounce it.

I shop in chain stores.

I’ve never been to a music festival because, well, portaloos OBVIOUSLY and also more often than not I have NEVER HEARD OF THE BANDS.

And I like Julia Roberts movies.

Happy?

Probably not.  You may well be disgusted by my middle class, mainstream taste. But that’s okay.  I’m not hurting anyone. You get to like what you like. And I get to like what I like. Just stop expecting me to apologise for it.

Do you consider yourself mainstream or alternative?

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