There were three stories in the press last week that got me thinking about how we deal with taboos as society.
The first one was the story of three year old Mason Houghton from Hull. Mason was in a Sainsbury’s supermarket with his mother who invited him to pick a Kinder Egg as reward for doing well in his potty training. Mason picked a Frozen themed egg in pink wrapping rather than a Marvel themed egg with blue wrapping.
The cashier at Sainsbury’s commented that he’d picked up a girls’ one.
So what’s the logical thing that the mother would do? Go on Facebook and complain of gender shaming.
The next problem was with a British Army tweet of a soldier in the jungle in Belize.
“Being a #soldier in the jungle requires a robust sense of humour,” the tweet read, showing a troop pulling a face while wearing dark face paint and pointing a gun.
The tweet was removed minutes afterwards after a storm of criticism. Apparently trying to avoid being shot in the head is now racist. And the worst bit for me? The army apologised.
Mid week, Radio Five Live did a feature piece on homosexuality in football. It was described as “the last taboo” with commentators noting that no top level footballer has come out as gay while playing.
This, to my knowledge at least, is true. I can’t remember the player, but there was one who retired because he was worried about what would happen when he came out, but then began playing again in Major League Soccer after society was supportive.
The crux of the discussion was that, if a top level player did publicly announce that he was gay (and I say “he” because all of the discussion I heard was centred on the Premier League) it would break a perceived stigma around it.
I can understand this, but the problem I have is that the conversation became a type of hunt for a gay player. There were phrases like “We need a player to come out as gay”. When questioned about whether there actually are any gay players, the reply came that there “must be”.
All three stories do have their good points. It would have been better for the cashier to say nothing, not least because Frozen is great. Should the Army not have thought there might be a misinterpretation of that image? Probably. And, rather sadly, footballers do have a lot of influence on society.
But why are we so hypersensitive that we now go looking for instances of a social “taboo”? It feels like people think they have to sit atop of a moral high ground and draw attention to something that, in reality, might not even be there.
Sometimes I think people want to align with a cause because they think they should, because the cause is morally correct in a larger sense. But because they back it, they then actively go looking for a way to work at it. I’ve said it before with feminism and how I think that that cause is now confused because of the evolutions it has gone through to maintain relevance against a general search for equality for all.
If we go looking so hard to turn things in to something they aren’t, are we not simply perpetuating something that might not me there anymore?