A friend of mine, a research scientist in a Cambridge lab, told me about a pre-Covid encounter he had in his faculty building earlier this year. He saw two female colleagues coming out of the loo, and greeted them: “Hello, ladies.”
But, before he could go on his merry way, looks of thunder were fired at him and he was told off for having called them “ladies”, and – as is so often the way now – slapped with a lecture about his presumptuousness, patriarchy and offensiveness.
My friend is no dunderhead when it comes to politically incorrect bloopers, so the mistake baffled him. Being a gentleman, he apologised – but was left shocked, deflated and uneasy.
Welcome to the brave no-longer-so-new world created by the people now controlling what can and cannot be said, written or thought. It’s mean-spirited, dreary and frightening.
But there’s something especially intolerable about their regime now. It was bad enough before Covid. At least we could ignore them and go to the pub with friends (remember those people from other households whose company we like?) and bitch about them.
But now we are being constantly bludgeoned by the PC police, who – instead of worrying about more important things, like people’s livelihoods, or China – are busy enforcing lunatic rules that change by the day.
People are battling isolation like never before in this crisis and, on top of that, the woke brigade is causing a deep sense of alienation. Our culture and language are fast becoming unrecognisable.
I was particularly struck last week by the strangeness of the new things added to the verboten list. In what might have been a ray of light in the gloom for her many millions of fans, it was announced that Gal Gadot, the beautiful Israeli star of Wonder Woman, had been cast as Cleopatra in a forthcoming film about the Egyptian queen.
But the cultural bullies lost no time in crying racism and Israeli imperialism. Twitter poured forth responses like this one from Sameera Khan, a broadcast journalist and former Miss New Jersey who has 65,000 followers: “Which Hollywood dumb— thought it would be a good idea to cast an Israeli actress as Cleopatra (a very bland looking one) instead of a stunning Arab actress like Nadine Njeim? And shame on you, Gal Gadot. Your country steals Arab land & you’re stealing their movie roles… smh.” (Which, if you were wondering, stands for “shake my head”.)
It was quickly pointed out that Cleopatra was not Arab; she was Greek with Persian heritage and therefore Gadot was entitled to the role (the anti-Semitic jibe about Gadot being Israeli was left aside as just business as usual).
What got lost, of course, was the fact that whatever Gadot’s ethnicity, she should be able to play Cleopatra if she is the best woman for the part. Roles in art don’t “belong” to certain ethnicities, with the possible exception of Othello. But who has the energy to point that out?
In another ludicrous little tantrum by the PC police, it was made clear that the term “sexual preference” is now offensive. In Tuesday’s confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill, Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett used it in reference to a legal case concerning same-sex marriage.
Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono wrote a lengthy admonishment, which has since been applauded by thousands.