…for doing wrong.
None of my friends here in Castle City nor, I hope, more than a very few of my loyal and dwindling band of readers will accuse me of being much in the way of a politically-correct, pinko com-symp bleeding-heart liberal. If they did, I’d have to get my prose style fixed toot sweet.
However, I did recently find myself in a trap laid for me by the other side of the culture wars.
A charity here was doing a new and nearly-new toy collection for the poor children of Castle City. In these days of globalised trade and very cheap mass-produced and high quality toys it takes a special; almost a magical, kind of fecklessness for the non-working recipients of Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit and the super-charged (you breed like yeast so have lots more money for all those extra bedrooms) Housing Benefit not to be able to afford a brace of generic Power Rangers action figures, Toy Soldiers TM -style action figures and nowhere-brand pseudo-Barbies. From a pound shop (do they have such emporia Down South, I wonder?) a tenner will buy you ten sets of toys of better quality and robustness than the US- or UK-manufactured Thunderbirds and Action Man toys of my long-ago youth.
No doubt the children of the good and aspirational charity workers would view my choices as tatty and it’s possible their luckier kids would sneer at them for being naff themselves, and happy I am for them about that, but I work in the Bloated Bureaucracy where welfare manufactures hereditary helplessness and where aspirations for one’s children aren’t merely low; they are often non-existent. The cost of twenty cigarettes could haul their kids a doctor and nurse medical bag plus a set of green scrubs; two fast-wheeled dune–buggies; a mini-Uzi and holster and a matching pair of shiny-dressed ‘fashion-model’ dolls.
The dolls were labeled as ‘girl toys.’
I have to admit it seemed that PC paralyzed my brain for a while. I fully expect boys to go, generally, for the troop helicopters and commandos and the girls to gravitate towards the shiny-dressed blonde dolls. It seems to be the natural way to go, but still… perhaps Mrs. Northwester’s feminism has got to me a little bit, as I asked myself whether saying to scraps of things living in grey, plasma-screened and vegetable-free ‘Social Housing’ estates that these are the toys for girls might not somehow be adding a further limit to their welfare-stunted imaginations. Happy as I was to spend a few coppers letting the lads and lasses of Castle City’s Swamp Estate spend a few hours playing with tanks and semi-automatics and ground-attack Apaches, I still felt iffy about saying something that implied that a little girl’s face is her fortune and that physical beauty is her sole or most important goal. Sugar and spice and all that; as a social conservative I accept that nature has made the male and the female different and that it’s silly (at best) to treat the world as if they are exactly the same, but you’ve got to be pretty is not a message that girls need in this hyper-sexualized and rotten society of ours.
So I backed off from buying a doll; aghast that something was telling me to avoid something that I’d rant against forever if a Labour MP or fakecharity rent-a-mouth announced that it should be stopped. What if the feminist argument that glamour is not a healthy thing for girls to aspire to and the aspiration will lead them only to degradation and submissiveness to brutal men is right?
If you stand away from any anti-Semites in any political fight, you can be fairly certain that you aren’t in the worst place. That’s a general rule I’ve derived from decades of watching the say/do dichotomy of political groups and movements. Good, too, is the general rule to avoid or oppose something that might tend to sexualise children further, or otherwise erode their childhood. So no pseudo-Barbie, right?
Then I remembered this:
'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) married her when she was seven years old, and he was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her; and when he (the Holy Prophet) died she was eighteen years old.
Here is a page of arguments and counter-arguments if you care to follow them.
There are worse things in this country and our world (hold your breath before you scroll down) than little girls playing with glamourous female dolls.
So I bought a doll and added it to the sack. I can do little enough to help Aisha’s sisters, but like you I can make a start. Perhaps one little girl might have a bit of fun and grow up thinking that her uncovered face - if not her fortune - at least is not her curse.
One way might be to support this charity this Christmas.
Picture from here.