Caitlin Moran Is Back And Is As Kick-Ass As Ever
The Debrief: Caitlin Moran on no-platforming, Boris Johnson and why she's swapping Twitter for Facebook
Caitlin Moran is back, dudes. And she wants a new world order. First she tackled feminism in How To Be A Woman, and now she’s tackling capitalism in the Moranifesto, cutting through political jargon to bring what’s historically been reserved for those in-the-know to the masses. A collection of some of the very best of her weekly columns for The Times, the book careers from one topic to another, covering everything from Syria to Doctor Who, from FGM to the idiocy of wearing playsuits at festivals via a pit stop at London property prices. Caitlin doesn’t only provoke thought, but advises on how we can talk about everything more effectively - both online and off - but how us, silly little us with our one vote per person every four years, can put change in action in the mean-time.
Grabbing a quick hour with Caitlin in-between her present workload of launching series two of her sitcom Raised by Wolves, beginning a new vlog, writing the upcoming How To Be Famous, adapting two screenplays on top of the two columns a week, she tells us what’s up with the world and how we can all do our bit (i.e. ‘Not be a dick’) in order to fix it.
Hi Caitlin, you’re not on Twitter that much these days. Is it because of all the zillions of things you’re doing?
It’s partly because I’m busy partly because all my friends have gone onto Facebook. It’s calmer and you can ask questions and have more conversations. Twitter has a massive problem which they didn’t attack two years ago when it was the summer of killing women. Women were getting death and rape threats and there seemed to be a campaign saying ‘If you want to go on Twitter and be a cunt, no-one’s gonna stop you.’ It was the first time I looked at Twitter and said I don’t know if I want to be there. When I was writing How to Be A Woman everyone was saying it was a brilliant site for women, but people are leaving because it’s just not worth the hassle. I don’t know any woman or LGBT person or person of colour who’s been on social media and not gone through a period of quite horrible mental anguish because of being attacked so much.
It’s a shame because sometimes the attacks can come from those who would otherwise agree...
A lot of hurt, angry people were coming onto Twitter and arguing with each other and it’s extremely unfortunate because actually they should have always been on the same side. If you write in anger people will respond in kind with the same tone and it will be bickering going round and round without solving anything. And in the time we’ve taken to have all these conversations online we could have sorted the world’s problems!
There’s also a side of current discourse which sees some people not only logging off of Twitter but no-platforming big thinkers. What do you think of the recent moves to no platform speakers?
I have sympathies with both camps. Some of the most contentious things: bigotry, difference and inequality, just weren’t on the agenda 10 years ago, but now are thanks to social media. Older people aren’t used to these sorts of conversations going on at university, so I understand they’re upset. But young people pay fees so want their SU to be accountable. If they’re paying, they want safety. They’re also so rarely no-platforming, they’re just saying ‘We won’t go and talk to them’, then the older people are saying they’ve been no-platformed when they haven’t. The thing that happens with those things is that, you can just say ‘I think they’re rude and I literally can’t be arsed to talk about it I just want to watch Happy Valley’, but instead, people are given labels: they’re called transphobic or Islamophobic or racist and as soon as that label is there, you can’t really get rid of it, you’re libelled for the rest of your life and people say. And then that libel is there first thing when someone Googles you and they can go ‘Fuck you!’. It can suck the life out of people who’ve fought all these battles and gone through this shit. You can look through the accusations against Peter Tatchell [human rights campaigner], but he’s done incredible things, he’s even had brain damage fighting for human rights and people of all religions. Don’t mess with Tatchell, man. That said, I always try to see the different sides of the same thing; even if you’re relegating someone to a label of racist or transphobic or Islamophobic, it then allows that issue to be discussed and for people to do useful things.
How would you like to see these sorts of debates about university ‘censorship’ played out?
We need these conversations without people losing their minds or being vilified. In my revolution, no one at any point is going to call anyone horrible names, even if they’ve done a heinous thing. I want Germaine Greer [second wave feminist who doesn’t accept trans women as women] and Paris Lees [trans activist and writer] talking, not on Newsnight but having an hour long conversation. Germaine would see Paris’s point. Germaine will say she’s always been on the side of women as they’ve been in her gang and she sees them as vulnerable and fucked over and trod upon. And Paris would go well yeah, it’s even worse for trans people! Look at their suicide rate, look at their mental illness rate!
A lot of trans issues seem to fixate on who gets to go to whose toilets. Does that matter to you?
I just don’t understand the toilet thing. I just think that everybody should just go into their own room and then no-one knows what they’re taking out in there for poos and wees. I love all my feminist girls but I don’t understand why it’s such an issue. My biggest problem with the toilets is the lack of clean mirrors in nightclubs! I often coming out there looking a mess, so please wipe the mirror properly so I can apply my make up properly - I care much more about that than who’s got what genitalia in there!
Moranifesto features your interview with Lena Dunham, which got a bit of flack at the time as you didn’t call her out on the lack of people of colour in Girls. In retrospect, what do you think of that?
It’s got so few people of colour in it because it’s a show about spoilt white girls. One of things you can take on, if you’re upset about the representation on TV, is find out the names of the production companies who are producing stuff. You can ask: who have you commissioned this year? Where are you going to find your talent? Have you any idea about quotas? Because if you’re putting all the burden on the artist, that isn’t their job. Their job is to bring creative ideas from their gut to put forth these characters, metaphors, stories and ideas from within themselves and then on top… we don’t ask men to do everything, we’d never put that pressure on men. When you think of feminism as a patchwork quilt, everyone will do their square. So during Kesha’s legal battle, Adele did what she could and Taylor [Swift] did what she could, and so onIy you sew it all together, along with what others are doing behind the scenes, we can build it all up. The thing about changing the world is there’s not just one thing to do. It’s like a patchwork quilt and everyone will do their square.
As for call-out culture, does it do much for us?
It’s definitely a step in the right direction, but if we bring everyone down and take everyone down with us, we’ll be left with fucking rubble man. And the men still living off the patriarchy are laughing. You never really get full revolution, I’m happy to take one win and start working from there.
But when it punches up, it works, right?
It was interesting seeing that Boris Johnson had been really shitty about gay people and voted for Section 28. Sometimes equality has to come from culture, that’s why I put so much importance on that episode of Dr Who when Captain Jack kissed another man. The next Monday at the playground boys were fighting over who got to be this bisexual hero. Culture moves faster than politics then politics catches up because it’s been made cool! And even if politicians don’t mean it in their hearts when they say they support gay marriage, fine! At least they’re being polite and not voting for antagonistic shit anymore! And children are growing up much less scared of coming out. But by the same token, ironic bigotry, like Dapper Laughs or any of Ricky Gervais’s characters: there’s no difference between someone ironically calling you a cunt and actually saying it, they’re still saying the same things to you.
Russell Brand recently tried to bring politics to the masses with his Revolution. What makes Moranifesto different?
For a year, people felt empowered to talk about politics and that book came out but then he told everyone not to vote! Let’s talk about manifestos, let’s talk about policies, let’s get these ideas out there. That’s why I’m doing the YouTube series; to get those ideas out.
Politics does seem to be revolutionising itself, with the rise of wildcards like Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, doesn’t it?
We’ve had so many older parties coming up with solutions to the problems of today, so when you have a younger party come in to change stuff, it becomes a power struggle. Clearly people want reform in parties and more than one party on the left and one party on the right.
How do you think the left’s going at the moment?
I voted Corbyn because we needed the party to go to the left for a bit. But I think all the parties in the left go into coalition so that at the next election no one will have to vote tactically. It’s a matter of Labour, the Greens, Plaid Cymru and Women’s Equality Party and the rest going ‘Are all our aims broadly similar? Why are we scrapping? We should all stick together to get a majority!’
You said you like Michael Gove because of his views on prison reform and making it so that sex workers aren’t imprisoned. What are your views?
I think sex work should be legalised across the board.
And criminalising demand [the Norway model]?
That comes later. the key thing now is: get the girls safe. Stop putting the girls on the edge of town in disused car parks in industrial areas where they can get killed. Let them be in a safe place where customers can come in and there are people around them. Later we can talk about the customers, but the immediate thing is not letting girls get killed. A few years ago when there was a spate of murders of women in Norwich I was watching the news and it said ‘Women were murdered…they were sex workers’ and part of me was like ‘Oh ok, so that’s ok, so I wouldn’t get killed’. Then I went ‘OH MY GOD, NO! These are women who’ve been in care, who’ve been sexually abused. I should care about these women MORE!’ I should have more care for women who are so vulnerable that that’s what they’re doing. People say ‘Well what would happen to sex trafficking?’ - well if sex work is legal, then people would feel comfortable going to the police when they see a trafficked girl, or about any violence against sex workers.
What do you think of the US presidential election?
I saw a man giving an interview saying ‘People don’t want Hillary because she’s scary. We don’t want her near nuclear weapons when she gets her period. It’s like ‘Ok, let’s look at the history of nuclear warfare; there’s only been one bomb and people who made it and the person who decided to drop it and the person who dropped it were all men. The only way a woman got anywhere near the nuclear bomb is that the plane was called Enola Gay, it had a girls name. If you’re worried about people who are going to muck about with those things, it’s historically the men. You can’t just go ‘Well a woman’s got the bomb, she’s going to be a nuclear maniac!’ Because all context shows that’s not correct. If anyone’s going to do that, it’ll be Donald Trump.
But people love him, don’t they?
Donald Trump’s popularity reminds me of this experiment on baby monkeys. Their mother would be taken away and scientists will construct a wire monkey that looked like the mother, and put it in the pen with them. The baby monkeys will go and hug the wire mother. Because even though it hurts and it’s bad for them and it will not feed them, they need something. And Donald Trump is the wire mummy monkey. Not many people will benefit from him, but a lot of people will want what looks like the alternative.
Black Lives Matter seems to have its kickback in Donald Trump, doesn’t it?
We need to have a reckoning about knowledge and history - so much of what’s happening in Black Lives Matter is white people having to finally think about the fact the country was built from a Holocaust. Because there are people who say ‘Well we’ve got Obama and we’ve got the hashtag so we’re fine now.’ But there’s more to be done.
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