‘The first man was small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features. Every part of him was defined: small, strong hands, slender arms, a thin and bony nose. Behind him walked his opposite, a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, and wide, sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws. His arms did not swing at his sides, but hung loosely.’
John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
When you have a sex blog, even a sort of sex blog, there are some things you should probably never write about. Politics is one of them. And yet, somehow, here I am writing about Michael Gove, and it’s not even the first time.
Ever since last Thursday’s referendum, and more so since yesterday when he announced he was planning to run for leader of the Conservative party, Twitter is, mainly rightly, I think, out to ridicule him.
And that’s fine. Ridicule him for having no charisma. Ridicule him twice as hard for *admitting* that he has no charisma. Wonder why the fuck someone who has repeatedly said that he has no desire, and none of the necessary qualities, to be Prime Minister, has now entered the contest to be just that. Hate what he did when he was Secretary of State for Education. Hate what he did in Justice. Laugh at the fact his wife implied that sex with him was no less of a chore than putting out the bins.
But poking fun at the way he claps or the way he drinks a glass of water? Can we just not?
The joke, most often, is that his ‘human suit is slipping.’
So far, so not so terrible. This man is awful, it says, this man is not a person, he’s an animal, or a monster, or something else entirely. But you know what? I think that maybe, just maybe, liberal Twitter is just looking for a socially acceptable way of saying ‘Doesn’t he look, y’know, a bit … special?’
Because personally, I think that when you mock the way a person does something physical – the way they walk, clap, drink, sit – you’re straying dangerously close to ableist territory. I don’t know why Michael Gove claps the way he does, and I’ll agree that yes, it looks pretty silly, but it also looks like the kind of thing I’d do either in a desperate attempt to stay awake, if I was drifting off in a boring meeting, or because I couldn’t clap like a ‘normal’ person (I can’t, as it happens).
The women among us especially hate when the media does this to female politicians. When their looks, dress sense etc. etc. are criticised. Not fair, we say, not fucking relevant. Because it’s not.
In Of Mice and Men, the book Gove tried to have removed from the GCSE English syllabus during his time as education secretary, Steinbeck paints his characters in a way that allows you to make judgements about them as people based on their physical characteristics. But it’s a story. In real life, not everyone good is gorgeous, and not everyone bad is physically unattractive with odd mannerisms.
Most of us are appalled at the surge in attacks on vulnerable people following last Thursday’s vote, a surge which seems at least partly the fault of narcissistic idiots like Mr Gove himself. But as a disabled person, the mockery around the video above made me supremely uncomfortable.
Tear into his policies, his beliefs all you like. It’s fair game. But let the weird physical stuff go. Because believe me, it’s probably the least of your worries.