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 …”
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?
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.