Tuesday 29 November 2016

Three for the Price of One | The Media, In/Equality, the 'Deserving' and the 'Undeserving'

Three different bits of writing here. The first draws on an academic piece I published 13 years ago, the second is a short piece of fiction I wrote recently and the third a poem written by a friend. All of these connect in some ways to issues of in/equality.


In 2003 I published a chapter looking at media representations of those accessing medical support to help them to conceive. My argument was that the mainstream media (often drawing on similar words and terms from politicians), identified specific individuals and couples as 'deserving' or 'undeserving'. Hopefully the following will clarify this:

Following low level infertility treatment in 1996 - a prescription of metrodine and pregnyl costing £36 - Mandy Allwood became pregnant with octuplets. Mandy was in a relationship with Paul Hudson, the father of her babies. They each had a child from another relationship and Paul was maintaining two personal relationships including the one with Mandy. The tabloid press, led by The Sun, launched an attack on the couple heavily criticising their life choices and their parenting ability and labelling their medical treatment as morally irresponsible. Included in one article was the following:

DO YOU KNOW MANDY OR PAUL? If you know Mandy Allwood or Paul Hudson, or                     anything about them, call The Sun on [telephone nos]. Don't worry about the cost - we'll                 pay you.

In my chapter I noted that the discourse of 'deserving' and 'undeserving' has a long history of use in the attack on welfare and support for those in need. Just compare Allwood/and Hudson's experience to the Conservative Government's campaign in the same year to 'root out' social security 'scroungers'. Huge
posters all across the UK encouraged us all to report people we suspected of 'cheating' the system.

Letherby, G. (2003) 'Battle of the Gametes: Cultural Representations of 'Medically' Assisted Conception' in S. Earle and G. Letherby (eds) Gender, Identity and Reproduction: social perspectives Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan

Not much has changed not least with reference to many media (and some political) references on refugees, those in receipt of disability and social security benefits, in terms of who is entitled to medical and social care (including infertility treatment) and so on and so on and so on. 


I wrote this short story a couple of weeks ago:  

Hold the Front Page: TIEGATE

'Not good enough, not good enough Frost. We need something catchier, more sensational. Our sales figures have been down recently and this is hardly going to improve them.' As he speaks the newspaper's editor in chief tosses aside the piece his junior colleague has been working on for two days. 

He continues, 'Celebrity break-ups and royal babies just don't do it anymore sadly. The great British public want more, demand more, these days. Having said that there seems to be quite a bit of attention for our latest piece on Brexit, Toberlone and Marmite. What else have you got, anything?'

'Yes, in fact I do.' Frost clears his throat nervously and continues. 'The new figures on child poverty and homelessness are out today and I've also got an idea for something about the human rights agenda and of course there's the recent NHS cuts and creeping privatisation story.' 

'No, no, too depressing and doesn't really portray the country in a good light now does it?' I know you're new Frost but I expected better. This doesn't really cut it in terms of your personal key performance indicators. Haven't you been to the company values induction session? I can get someone else to take over this assignment, if you're not up to it.'

'No chief no. I've got something else. The leader of the opposition has just made some really interesting comments about the US presidential election. I could easily put together a piece with some facts and figures to support his concerns and write something detailed on the Left's position on the similarities of some of the issues facing the UK and America and maybe something on how our 'special relationship' might be from now on.'

'For f*&k sake, are you serious? I really am losing patience now. The PM has already made a speech, everything's going to be fine, and even if it isn't our readers don't want to hear that. Surely it must be clear even to someone as stupid as you that we're not interested in what any of the opposition has to say. What do you think our job is; to educate people? Huh!' He laughs. 'If you'd got in first with a piece about the size of his poppy or his poorly tied tie. Now that would have been a little more acceptable. Look, I guess I'd better do the job for you. Just write something about the refugee issue, we haven't published anything on that for a few days. If you can't think for yourself just rework the usual. Be sure to emphasis the cost to the country and the taxpayer's purse and words such as surge, swarm and scrounger are always good for copy.' 

'But, but...' 

'No time for buts I'm busy and you've taken enough of my time. Just get on with it. It's the annual Children in Need fest next week so your next assignment can be something on that and the goodwill and generosity of the nation, blah, blah.'  


Finally, my friend's poem: 

Austerity Waltz

Round and round and round we go
Travelling across the floor
Who will be most challenged
Those with plenty rise as ever
Poor will fall some more
Can we stem this anguished flow
Does anyone really care
The streets are filled with homeless folk
Shelter ought to be there
Food bank queues around the block
Empty shelves occurring now
Behind their curtains the haves peep out
Staying in hold of such precious wealth
Whirling and whirling with giddy guilt
Then sense kicks in - its their own fault they say

That justifies it all.


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