Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Inside the British Mindset...

I recently picked a fight with a blogger* (although I think we might have reached a detente now.)

I don't often do this. Normally, I make friends with other bloggers, since blogging interaction is an important part of this self-expression we call blogging - sometimes the friends we meet on the 'blogosphere' are the only people who actually read our blogs!

But this blogger pushed my buttons!

The blogger in question is actually a very fluent and compelling writer and her blog is written in a great 'stream of consciousness' style. I just hated it because her blog clearly illustrates the mindset of some Brits I've met. She is the sort of person I moved away from Britain to escape!

Her writing represents every judgemental, negative character trait traditionally associated with a miserable minority of British people. For example, when it comes to 'my kind':

"Red-headed men are surely the most unattractive male specimens on the planet at the best of times, but they look even worse with their horribly pale, freckled skin... "

Thanks, lady. Us gingers can't hear that enough.

Of course, I find this comment offensive - but I don't sweat it. Yes, I know that British men are considered unattractive in the UK. That's the basis behind the Militant Ginger blog!

Fortunately, in more civilised places like France or America, red hair can be seen as attractive, so I don't take her stupid comment to heart. I think this blogger says more about herself with that nasty opinion than anything about redheads.

Still, I guess it could be worse. Since our blogger's rants are blissfully anonymous, she could just of easily have really rocked the boat and written: 'Black men are surely the most unattractive male specimens on the planet,' or 'Asian men look even worse with their horrible yellow, hairless skin...'

She probably just doesn't want to be labelled as a judgemental, vacuous racist. So she winds up just being labeled judgemental and vacuous instead.

Still, I guess everybody's entitled to their own opinion - and as far as opinions go, she's got lots more of them. One of the others that got up my nose was:

"It's strange the way that I still get a shiver of repulsion down my spine when I hear a certain kind of English accent, normally a Southern one. I immediately think to myself "Wanker!" When I hear a southern accent, I immediately assume the person is culturally arrogant and more privileged than me, without knowing anything about them."

Since I've got a received-pronunciation English accent (what a Scottish bird might easily identify as 'southern') I took this comment personally too (just like I did with her opinion of redheaded men.)

But it's just as vacuous and judgemental as the previous rant, so I shouldn't lose any sleep over it. It just makes me sad - another typically negative 'Brit' stereotype from our opinionated blogging pal.

I think it was George Bernard Shaw who famously said: "It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him." Our blogger's clearly a proponent of that theory. Somebody speaks - so she judges them based on how their voice sounds.

One of the most refreshing things about moving to America is the absence of this 'accent assumption.' I think it's a curiously British obsession with class that immediately makes Brits judge somebody by their accent (and assume this new person is either socially inferior, 'one of them' or 'stuck up.')

This blogger's judgemental attitude illustrates one of the major difference between Brits and Americans.

For the most part, Americans are more or less confident about who they are and what their place is in the world, no matter how humble their upbringing.

A dirt poor, gun-owning, truck-driving Pennsylvania resident might feel out of place at a multi-million dollar Hampton's yacht party, but certainly wouldn't feel 'inferior' to the WASP'y guests (the Van Der Beeks and the Chuffington-Herberts.)

Instead, in Britain, we get taught to have an unhealthy obsession with how other people perceive us. There's no such thing as the 'working class' any more, but some people still have a 'working class' chip on their shoulder.

Likewise, the middle-class scramble desperately to keep up with the Jones, while their children descend the other way. Public schoolboy Charles Smythe goes to University, adopts an estuary accent and becomes 'Charlie Smith' - at least, until his parents pick him up in the Volvo at the end of term.

Whatever class niche we're born into, far too many Brits spend their lives making an upward or downward scramble out of it. It all rather sad, really.

Reading this blogger's rants and opinions, it just reinforced how pleased I was to be shot of the dark and dreary mindset of Brits like her. In the vast majority of blogs I've read, one invariably comes to like and sympathise with the author, even if you don't agree with them.

She manages to achieve the almost impossible - becoming more and more unlikeable with every blog post she writes. I find it quite astonishing really. Almost compelling. Part of me wonders, if we met face to face, whether she'd be just as unlikeable in person or whether we'd actually get on (as bizarrely sometimes happens in this sort of situation.)

In any event, I'd just like to let North American readers know that our friendly blogger is NOT typical of my countrymen (although not nearly rare enough, either.) For some much better British blogs, check out the list of links I have on the right hand side!

* her blog is here, but be warned that it is targeted towards adults and somewhat explicit in nature.


Tequila Mockingbird said...

sounds like it's time for a christpunch to the taint!

gingers are the rarest there are.

i for one, am a proud ginger.

Enemy of the Republic said...

I've had a few fights myself in blogdom--don't like to do it, but sometimes it needs to be done.

Kirsty said...

Well said. I am judged so often on account of my northen, working class accent. People often expect me to be lacking in intelligence, or manners and seemed surprised to find out this is not the case. Grrrr!
P.S My boyfriend is all pale, freckly skin and gingerness and he is by far the most attractive man I've ever met!

Meghan said...

Gingers are awesome.

Male or female, I think we could take over the world really :P

Slutty McWhore said...

Hmmm, I'm a bit confused by this post. I didn't even realize you'd written it until several seconds ago when I checked to see who'd linked to me. The last I heard from you was a comment you left on my blog (apparently on the same day?!), extending an olive branch. I didn't respond to that - not because I was pissed off with you or anything, or because I
I'm rude, but rather because I was too busy finishing off my Master's thesis, and hardly responded to any comments that month. I fully intended to, though, as I thought your "olive branch" was sweet, and so I'm surprised to find this post now.

I have to say that I'm a bit confused that you would write something so vitriolic and post a conciliatory comment on my blog on the same day. I don't understand what was going on there. I also don't understand the need for personal attacks on other bloggers. Surely your post was more vitriolic than anything I ever wrote, especially because it was targeted at a specific person, something I've certainly never done (yet!)

I'm not angry about any of the things you said about me in this post (everyone is entitled to their opinion) but I am pissed off because I feel that you have not taken the time to read my blog properly. It seems to me that you have just read certain entries, without bothering to read others, which would have given you a more balanced impression of me and my blog. I do think that I write a lot of stuff that pisses people off, but my long-time readers come back because they've taken the time to look beyond the polemic.

As regards the comment about ginger-headed men. Well, what can I say?! I'm genuinely just not attracted to red-heads. I've definitely come across a few ginger men who were attractive, but this is just not a look I personally have been attracted to. If it makes you feel any better, I don't like blonds either. Admittedly, I could perhaps have phrased my comments about ginger men in more, um, delicate language, but, c'mon, give me a break. I was being ironic! I can't tone down my language or opinions just because it might offend some random person out there in the blogosphere. That would make for some pretty dull and turgid writing. It seems to me (and I know that you're going to hate me for saying this) that your problem with my views on "gingers" is more to do with your own insecurities than my views. Why should it bother you that I don't find ginger-headed men attractive? There are plenty of women out there who do! Hell, you're married to one, so it's not like you're a lonely, lost soul. Also, you seem to forget that I'm Scottish, so I can hardly be accused of "racism" towards red-headed people, given that the ginger gene comes from the Celts.

Secondly, the accent thing. No, it is not nice that I have a problem with certain English accents but I'm far from being the only Scottish person who feels this way. After all, the Scots were colonized and oppressed by the English, so it's hardly surprising that we sometimes feel resentment about that. AND IF YOU HAD TAKEN THE TIME TO READ MY OTHER POSTS, you would have seen that I actually comment on how narrow-minded it is of me to judge somebody because of their English accent.

You say that my post is "typical" of the attitude of British people and that you left the UK for this reason. Again, I repeat: I am Scottish. I do not consider myself British, and I think I come from a place that is quite culturally distinct from England. Therefore, my views are hardly typical of all British people. I find it curious that you should talk about what is "typically" British, anyway, because wasn't this over-generalizing the very thing you got upset about in my blog?! I don't like the term "British" because it flattens out the differences between all the countries in the UK. It is also worth noting that only an English-person would ever refer to himself/herself as British. Most Scottish people would never do that.

Finally, I remember one time that you left a comment on Emma K's blog defending Americans, and saying how much you liked them and the country. This is your opinion, and I'm glad that you've had a good experience here. Can I remind you, though, that you live in New York City (which is filled with liberal, open-minded, wordly people) and are married. I live in the South where I'm sure I've been exposed to a lot more narrow-minded, arrogant, chauvinistic, culturally ignorant Americans than you ever have. I'm also single, and came here all by myself and, despite Americans' initial friendliness, I've found it really hard to make meaningful, lasting friendships here. I don't think I'm unusual in thiss, as I've heard many Europeans/other immigrants complain about the same thing. I don't know if you were married when you arrived in the US, but, regardless, you need to realize that your marriage gives you an opening into American society, and a comfort, which I just don't have. Why do I have to like the US if I've not had that good a time here? I don't hate it or anything, but I don't think it's an easy country to live in, and I do tend to think that the average European is far more interesting and culturally aware than the average American. This is the experience I've had, and I don't see why I can't write about that. It might be wrong, but it's my truth.