Have we reached the ‘height’ of political correctness?

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I heard the headline the other day that ‘heightism’ was being compared to racism…seriously?! This deserved to be put under the spotlight!

This is after John Bercow was described as a “sanctimonious dwarf” during a parliamentary debate. He compared this comment to mocking somebody for their disability or race.

I’m the shortest in my family and am often called names referring to my height. Admittedly it did affect me whilst growing up because I soon realised I wasn’t going to stretch beyond 5’2” and there was nothing I could do about it – apart from where towering heels, which didn’t help when taller girls would add on the inches with platforms too!

Now I’ve learnt to embrace it. I crack a joke about how short I am and more often than not people will actually comment and say I don’t ‘look’ that short because of how I carry myself. I think that’s the key – it’s all about your attitude, which reflects in your posture.

But I’m an enemy of my own kind – I really don’t like short men. In fact my ONLY physical requirement for a partner is that he is tall – knowing my luck I’ll end up with a Tom Cruise when I crave a Boris Kodjoe!

So if I discriminate against a physical attribute that I share – what does that make me?

But on a serious note – have we become so sensitive that we’re offended or hurt by virtually every joke or comment in jest?

There are some prejudices that I appreciate can be unbearable to experience and should be unacceptable – relating to colour, ethnicity, faith, disability, sexual orientation or gender. These prejudices affect day-to-day living. They impact how people are treated in work and public settings, and possibly even how they choose to live their life. Does height prejudice have the same impact?

I know there’s the age-old argument of what affects one person may not affect another – I get that. But surely we need to lighten up and rise above it (if I could tip-toe that high!)

We’re all different, and its human nature to ridicule/dislike/taunt differences. I think this says a lot about us as insecure species than anything else. But if we allow for any negative comment to affect us how can you even enjoy life?

Today its height, tomorrow it will be receding hairlines or size of hands/feet – oh hold on, men already get caught up about these!

We’re constantly evolving as a society with changing boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable, what is or isn’t politically correct. I’m from an age where we said blackboard and not chalk board, and white board not marker board. We quite happily sang “Baa Baa Black Sheep”.

I’m not saying change isn’t good. Of course it’s needed in many situations – otherwise we’d still be living in an openly segregated society. But where do you draw the line?

Embrace your differences. Once you’re confident with yourself, nonsense from another couldn’t affect you.

And in true Raj style: “just get over it!”


Is Cameron’s Cabinet more representative of modern Britain?

This week David Cameron was busy reshuffling his Cabinet members. In a nutshell, it was out with the old and in with the new – more specifically, young women. The revamped frontbenchers, according to the prime minister, are more representative of Britain. But are they?

Five women (20%) of the cabinet are now women – that’s the same number as in 2011. Although more female MPs have been appointed for more junior ministerial roles. Four out of ten have been to public schools – but have 40% of the electorate? In fact, the new Department for Education is now run by ministers who have been to private schools – can they relate to the electorate? The figures don’t quite add up Mr Cameron.

To give credit where it’s due, he has attempted to appeal to the masses by taking action relative to the common concern that Parliament doesn’t represent the people. But surely what is more important than balancing out who wears a skirt and who wears trousers is ensuring the person picked for the job is the best at it?

More importantly, I believe, the worst Education Secretary we have seen in my lifetime, Michael Gove, has been demoted to Chief Whip. This is by far the biggest outcome of the reshuffle!

Around a dozen old male politicians were cleared to make way for more women and politicians from less privileged backgrounds.

The media frenzy seemed to be more concerned about the appearance of the new women frontbenchers – the fact that they’re young (relative to most politicians!) and stylish. Is that ultimately what a woman in a high position is rated by – their appearance? Surely there should be analysis and comment on their career, ability to the job and experience – or are we just bitchy by nature?

What concerns me is that the four new female recruits have just a few years’ experience as MPs – I hope their promotion is based on ability and not a political gimmick to lure voters (or should I get real and acknowledge the latter is most probably the only truth in the matter).

We talk about feeling disengaged from politics because we can’t relate to the politicians. We accuse them of not understanding us or our daily lives because they tend to be more privileged – but is appointing people on a tick-box exercise than merit the way forward?

As a female, British Asian working in broadcast media, I have seen and heard insinuations that positive discrimination has helped people like me to progress.  It feels like a constant battle to prove yourself when you’re an ethnic minority woman that your talent is much deeper than the colour of your skin or gender.

Positive discrimination has forced employers to consider other factors when recruiting rather than focusing on the most important – ability. And this has caused resentment around others who feel they are being neglected because they can’t fill the diversity quota – and there’s plenty of hostility by Tories who have been sacked or moved elsewhere!

A cabinet that looks more like the electorate would help lure voters. But what is more important is listening to what they want, what they need and what they are concerned about. A good politician can appeal to a diverse demographic by simply listening to them and acting on their requests. Let’s face it; every constituency is made up of a diverse range of people from different backgrounds, ages, ethnicities, faiths and economic status.

MPs need to worry less about how they look and focus more on listening to their electorate. They need to demonstrate this by reacting to their concerns and taking action. Cameron’s reshuffle is a step in the right direction but let’s see more substance than semblance.