Recently there was a storm of protest online when the ethereal Adele performed her set at Glastonbury, which was telecast on the BBC. The reason was that Adele, while on stage, swore thirty three times in her 90 minute gig. People were really annoyed that their children heard their idol make swearing cool. Adele herself seemed slightly abashed at her ‘potty mouth’ as she called it and said that the BBC had warned to keep it clean.
What I was struck by was not Adele’s swearing (I mean she’s Adele, she can do what she likes) but by the reaction of the people who did not take too kindly to this criticism. There were howls of ‘oh silly fuddy duddies’, ‘kids shouldn’t be up at that hour anyway’, ‘what nonsense she was cool, maybe slightly drunk’… So the problem, as far as many many people were concerned, was not Adele swearing but the people who objected to it.
This is an interesting trend.
I was thirteen when I heard the F word for the first time and we had no clue what it meant. So I did what I always did (well until I was thirteen at least!) when things puzzled me, I asked my grandfather. To my utter surprise he, a man usually quite open to all sort of discussions, turned purple in the face and said to me sternly ‘You are not to use that word ever again.’ He did not hesitate to tell me what it meant though – his objection to my using the word was because ‘it’s a swear word and people from our sort of homes don’t swear.’ No I was not to the manor born – we were more like church mice but a fine pedigree none the less. (My grandfather never confused money with class.)
This sort of stayed with me as I grew older. Of course we all swore, at the right place and time – but never casually, as with friends or with family.
Ten years later though my grandfather and these inhibitons both were gone. Swearing became more and more acceptable – then came the rise of Gangsta rap and that sort of finished it really. It became acceptable to call women ‘bitches’ (what do feminists have to say about that one?), men ‘dawgs’, many varieties of ‘f@@@@ers’ started getting included into song lyrics.
With this increased acceptability of swearing in society, came the rise of intolerance of people who were not okay with it. We had to sort of smile foolishly, gulp and bite the bullet or be called prudes.
I remember seeing an episode of Mum (BBC one, excellent series btw) where the mother of one of the characters kept on calling the main character (the mum in Mum) ‘bitch’. And the main character just flushed, sort of twittered a bit and raised her eyebrows but never said anything. It reminded me of so many of us who just stand there in parties while another person calls us all sorts of names.
I find it really bizarre – how the world has turned on to its head. Now the abused is supposed to be the bad guy for not taking it like a good sport.
However I feel it’s time to stop being such good sports. Recently a friend of mine, who has problems with one eye and can basically see with only one, was called a ‘one eyed bitch’ in her own house during a dinner party. Of course like all of us she was supposed to just suck it up. However, being French, she is made of sterner stuff and she cut that person out of her life.
I think, eventually, this is the way it has to be. Life is too short to keep on smiling when you’re raging inside. Swearing, specially if it’s personal, is not funny – it is abuse. Let us make it unacceptable in society again.