Outside the marginals

A commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010, 2015 & 2017 elections

Dog Whistles

Normally “dog whistle politics” refers to senior politicians making possibly inflammatory remarks to get their supporters to come happily to heel.  For the Tories it is “immigration control” and “repatriation of powers”; for Labour it is “redistribution” and “public sector”.

However today I think we saw the dog whistler-in-chief react to a dog whistle.

Hilary Mantel in an academic lecture (Royal Bodies, London Review of Books 21 February 2013; online (for anyone who wants to read what was actually said) at http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n04/hilary-mantel/royal-bodies) mainly about the ability of Tudor women to procreate and they way that they were essentially viewed as breeding bodies, drew some modern-day comparisons.

… It’s rather that I saw Kate becoming a jointed doll on which certain rags are hung. In those days she was a shop-window mannequin, with no personality of her own, entirely defined by what she wore. These days she is a mother-to-be, and draped in another set of threadbare attributions. Once she gets over being sick, the press will find that she is radiant. They will find that this young woman’s life until now was nothing, her only point and purpose being to give birth. …

Apparently this is a vicious attack that (according to the BBC) “Mantel comments overshadow Duchess of Cambridge visit! (BBC News Website 19 February 2013).  Nicholas Witchell reporting:

She’s roughly four months pregnant now and behind those clasped hands there is certainly evidence of a more rounded stomach than before. The pregnancy sickness of early December has passed, yet Catherine is still taking things carefully.  …

OK, he did not quite say she was “radiant”, but.

The Daily Mail however in slagging off Hilary Mantel, managed to live down to the latter’s criticism of the media.  On its website it reports (“Kate puts her baby bump on parade”):

… Kate returned to work today with the merest hint of a baby bump.

Looked tanned after her recent holiday in Mustique, Kate braved a chill morning in London wearing only a grey patterned wrap dress by upmarket High Street range Max Mara. …

‘At least the sun is out,’ she said as she readjusted her dress.

As she chatted to clients and staff, however, Kate made no attempt to disguise her gently swelling stomach, standing with her hands clasped under her bump.

And as if to prove their interest in her baby-making abilities and the grey patterned wrap dress by upmarket High Street range Max Mara they include 15 pictures (“Kate’s pregnancy bump could just be seen as she entered the charity’s HQ”, “The Duchess made no attempt to disguise her gently swelling stomach, standing with her hands clasped under her bump”) and three videos (“The Royal bump. Kate’s pregnancy shows as she tours charity”, “Duchess shows off more curvacious figure and new baby bump!… “)

David Cameron (in India) then wades in (BBC News Website: Cameron defends Kate over Mantel comments 19 February 2012) with:

Prime Minister David Cameron has defended the Duchess of Cambridge, saying author Hilary Mantel was “completely wrong” to compare her to a “shop-window mannequin”

I get the impression that he has not read Mantel’s lecture – which ends:

It may be that the whole phenomenon of monarchy is irrational, but that doesn’t mean that when we look at it we should behave like spectators at Bedlam. Cheerful curiosity can easily become cruelty. It can easily become fatal. We don’t cut off the heads of royal ladies these days, but we do sacrifice them, and we did memorably drive one to destruction a scant generation ago. History makes fools of us, makes puppets of us, often enough. But it doesn’t have to repeat itself. In the current case, much lies within our control. I’m not asking for censorship. I’m not asking for pious humbug and smarmy reverence. I’m asking us to back off and not be brutes.

I guess he (or his apparatchiks) have read the Daily Mail and are responding to its dog-whistle?


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4 thoughts on “Dog Whistles

  1. To be fair to the Daily Mail I ought to also report that in another article (“Duchess of Cambridge dresses tiny bump in £298 MaxMara wrap dress for official outing… but dazzles with a diamond necklace that costs TEN TIMES as much”) they concentrate on her appearance and her baby-making abilities – almost describing her as radiant:

    The Duchess of Cambridge returned to the day job after a relaxing holiday on the island of Mustique today – and she looked the picture of health this morning as she attended an official engagement in London, her tiny bump highlighted with a flattering wrap dress.

    The Duchess, making her first appearance since returning from her break last week – and for the first time at an official engagement with a baby bump – chose a black and white MaxMara Studio dress from the 2011 collection, decided to forgo a coat, despite the chill in the air, and accessorised her look with just her £60 House Of Fraser court shoes and a light tan.

    The Duchess, who was reported to be dismayed after photos of her on the beach in a bikini were published in an Australian magazine earlier this month, looked cheerful and relaxed as she chatted to staff at Hope House, a residential centre in Clapham set up to help recovering addicts.

    At four and a half months pregnant, she is still remarkably slender apart from her tiny bump – clearly Kate hasn’t been eating for two.

    Plus another 14 photographs of her in that dress (“Picture of health: The Duchess of Cambridge looked relaxed as she attended an engagement for one of her charities, Action On Addiction, at Hope House in London today, though at times she seemed protective of her bump, clasping her hands in front”, etc.) complete with “Fashion Verdict”, “DRESS YOUR BUMP LIKE KATES! FEMAIL’S PICK OF THE BEST GRAPHIC WRAP DRESSES “, “Hair Comment”.

    They really do need to read Hilary Mantel’s lecture.

  2. Kate Williams commenting on the lecture rather than what the press thought or wanted the lecture to have said. (BBC Website 19 February 2013 Kate Williams: ‘Hilary Mantel has a point’)

    It’s a very long it’s a very lengthy piece, all about the intellectual representation of consorts down the ages. Essentially what the press the public view what we do to the Royal Body. And she is actually trying to defend Kate. She’s saying, We should not look at them like they’re animals in the zoo we should see them as whole people. And what she’s trying to say is, we treat them like manikins we treat them like dolls. …
    It is simply not the venemous attack it has been made out to be …
    It is about the tragic consort, and she has a point. Consorts, women marry into the royal family and life is very difficult because they are scrutinised particularly nowadays in the world of the global media. …
    It is almost like being back in the time of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in which the consort is gigantically endlessly scrutinised … your body was a subject of obsession. We know that is very true of Kate. The media has covered her figure her body her appearance with endless attention.

    Why have some of the press been caught out by this lecture – or is it a case of not letting the truth get in the way of a good story? And not seeing that the lecture was about them rather than a young mother=to-be?

  3. Once she gets over being sick, the press will find that she is radiant.
    Hilary Mantel in “that lecture”

    Britain thinks Kate is great -THE Duchess of Cambridge looked radiant yesterday and seemed rightly proud of her emerging baby bump.
    Today’s Daily Express! (20 February 2013)

    They need to remember the quote of their former editor Derek Jameson: “Do they mean us? They surely do!”

  4. Pingback: News Values | Outside the marginals

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