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The Difficulty of Social Politics


Social politics is the underdog of the news agenda. These are the issues underneath the headline stories, they are the important issues more often debated in the academic worlds of philosophy or sociology than in newspapers or on the street. The types of politics that are a result of underlying social prejudices or subconscious believes; social politics are the sorts of issues we find ourselves debating about with our friends down the pub or over a coffee in the office. These include debates on things like gender, ethnicity and religion. Our news reporters tackle these issues when there is a headline grabbing case study but not before. That’s why social politics are often lead by campaigners or high profile spokes people. There is action only when it has its own international day or people rally together to make it the news.

In December a video went viral of a woman having an altercation with a man protesting outside an abortion clinic. The abortion debate suddenly became news, in the UK this doesn’t often come up and even though that lady had a hard time that day, I’m really glad the media talked about it. It enabled me to reaffirm my belief in female autonomy over your own body and the rights of things like birth control and abortion. It made me think; what would happen if the view of that protestor had gone unchallenged? It isn’t something we often talk about.

We live in a society where if you’re black you are 6 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than a white person, in some areas this even rises to 29 times more likely. If you’re a woman you have a 1 in 5 chance of being sexually assaulted in your lifetime and the main cause of death for a man between 20–34 is suicide. Young male suicide rates are 3.3 times higher than that of women. None of these things happen by chance, they are products of flaws in our society that hold prejudices against people, ignores them and makes them feel like they can’t ask for help. In 2013 cases of Islamaphobic hate crime increased by 400% in the weeks after the Lee Rigby murder, women wearing traditional Islamic dress are most likely to be victims of this type of attack. These things are facts but never get the attention of the front page news unless there is a headline ready case study to sum the problem up. Like with the Ferguson and the Eric Garner cases in the US, the front page is never going to say “The police is still racist” but 25 thousand people marching through the streets of New York and thousands elsewhere around the country certainly will.

I think we need to talk about these things more, often in the UK topics like these are left to places like The Wright Stuff, Loose Women or a debate on the sofa of This Morning. When these messages only have space in a light-hearted day time chat shows this means there is a whole section of people who don’t have access to them. This draws a line between social politics and policy politics, as if they aren’t intrinsically linked. The conversations being had on day time television are no less relevant or important than those in Prime Minister Questions at Westminster.

I often wonder what those who have power have to gain from things like underlying racism or disability prejudice. I think the sad thing is that it boils down to control. If they can control us into their way of thinking then they don’t need to serve our needs. When you see statistics about your demographic or case studies of people like you being made an example of, it creates a culture of fear. If we’re afraid of talking about these very important issues we can’t expose prejudice and certainly can’t implement social change. If we’re afraid of or at odds with people who are different to us then we can’t join together to challenge those who benefit from our fear. Be brave, be bold and talk about the stuff you see around you.

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