Dear Jeremy Clarkson,

Look, mate, we all knew you were a bit of an arsehole, but that’s why we love you. You’re a twat, but an affable twat and you make us laugh. It’s your job and you are good at it. But given the appalling number of high profile middle-aged and elderly white men saying awful things about people of colour recently, you’ve really gone and cocked things up. The BBC is considering dropping you for your thoughtless use of the N-word, and if they go through with it I won’t feel sorry for you. Top Gear could get on just fine without you.

But I’m not entirely heartless. To help people like yourself, Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling, and other privileged geniuses who think they have something to say about “the negro,” I’ve created this handy chart to help you know when it’s appropriate to say the N-word.

You’re welcome.

Explaining Privilege

The word “privilege” has gotten to be a problem because, while it is a very good word for describing the status people receive for possessing certain labels — in my culture those labels are white, straight, cisgender, male, affluent — it is a terrible word for conversations in which a privileged person is having difficulty understanding the obstacles faced by people who are not like them.

Today in a discussion about lack of female representation at the upper ranks of most companies, I engaged in discussion with a guy who recognized that women are professionally underrepresented, but didn’t seem to think that anyone had a responsibility to change it through the deliberate recruitment and advancement of women. This is a valid position, although it’s one I disagree with. Failing to keep women out of leadership isn’t enough. Unprivileged classes of people need an extra boost to get the same opportunities that privilege people have.

There are systemic obstacles to female advancement in professional settings. One of these is the lack of qualified female professionals to begin with. Historically women have been shunted toward soft fields of study like literature, which provide extremely limited and low-paying career opportunities. (This is not to say that liberal arts don’t matter culturally, but rather that they are not economically valued and make for questionable educational investments in terms of payoff.) Economically valuable fields like law, medicine, and engineering are dominated by men, who go on to shape technology, politics, and corporate culture.

This is changing, and many companies are investing in programs that encourage girls to become engineers and scientists. But the payoff of these efforts won’t come for two decades, after these girls have finished their educations and entered the workplace. It’s going to take some serious changes in the short term to be sure that there is room for these women when they arrive and expect to be equally integrated. So yes, that means some affirmative action in the short term. A company that hasn’t bothered to put any women on its Board of Directors will not look attractive to a young female go-getter. It’s possible that a company with an all male board is not actively discriminatory; mere statistics should result in a few companies with mostly male or mostly female leadership from time to time. But the lack of women leaders and low female representation among the workforce means discrimination is a possibility. Women will naturally be drawn to companies that have offered hard proof of non-discrimination through proportional representation throughout the company. The same idea applies to other non-privileged people such as LGBT people and people of colour.

None of these ideas seemed to be familiar to the guy I was speaking to. I thought things were going so well. I didn’t think I would completely alter this person’s thinking because an intelligent person shouldn’t be easily swayed. But I did hope to plant some ideas.

I think my mistake came up when I tried to explain why it is difficult for some people in power to acknowledge difficulties they have never experienced. I said that white, straight men don’t often walk into an office and notice that almost everyone is different from them. It was at this point that he exploded with a canned diatribe about how all the feminists want to do is destroy white men and turn them into castrated slaves who are no longer allowed to contribute to society as retribution for millennia of perceived abuses.

Sigh.

Ten years ago when having conversations on feminist-related topics, the conversation usually quickly fell apart. The men in the room would begin making fun of the women, who usually had a valid point to make. The women would take offence at an ad hominem attack that had nothing do do with the material point of the discussion. The men would then accuse the women of being emotional (likely because we were all on our periods) and use this as evidence that we couldn’t be taken seriously to begin with. The ridiculousness of this logic shouldn’t require refutation, but it’s a battle that non-privileged people have to have every single time the issue comes up.

Happily men have really come a long way. Overt misogyny is getting rarer in my experience, at least among my circle of friends. The lingering problem is a lack of awareness of privilege and the resulting lack of understanding about how privilege perpetuates inequality in the workplace and in society. And it is oh, so, hard to have this conversation without having it all fall apart as it did today.

There has got to be a way to help privileged people (mostly white, straight, affluent, cisgender, heterosexual men) understand that by making room for others, they do not have to surrender anything for themselves. It’s not like there is a limited supply of happiness in this world, and elevating women to the status of men will somehow rob men of their happiness or relevance. White men aren’t the enemy; they are potential allies. Straight people don’t lose anything by accepting their LGBT brothers and sisters and non-gendered siblings. They gain a whole lot. Putting down privilege shouldn’t mean loss of advantage in life; it should mean gaining a whole lot of opportunities to network with all of humanity in all of its diversity. There’s nothing wrong with being white or male or straight, and don’t let anybody say otherwise.

How can we improve the conversation? How can we help the privileged become aware of their privilege so that they can avoid stepping on others and make room for everyone? How can we discuss the abandonment of privilege as a freeing rather than limiting process? How can we do this in a way that doesn’t trigger a negative reaction or create the false perception of a personal attack?

How Not to Console a Sceptic

Someone very dear to me has recently been diagnosed with a very grave form of cancer. The condition is not untreatable, but the prognosis is poor. Five year survival rates for this condition are under forty percent. There is no reason to lose hope, but it would also be foolish to pretend the situation is not very serious. This person is from the Mormon part of my acquaintance, and in general I’ve been dealing with it better than the Mormons and other believers. I think this is because I can recognise that this tumour is just a statistical reality of the natural world. It’s horrible and it’s unfair and it’s bewildering, but it’s just random chance and my friend drew the short straw. I don’t have to go through the mental gymnastics of reconciling the Problem of Evil with the idea of a supposedly benevolent and just God. Sorry, people, but a young, decent, ethical person with small children being stricken with cancer serves no legitimate purpose for moral instruction. Any God that thinks that is a sick bastard who deserves to be dethroned as quickly as Satan can manage it.

So whilst a sceptic can come to terms with the gruesome facts of living in an impassive natural world full of death and destruction, there are a few things that make my brain boil. Here are precisely the wrong things to say to someone you know to be rational rather than superstitious when they are dealing with an already difficult situation.

1. “Everything happens for a reason.”

Everything happens for a reason? Really? I wouldn’t argue with this if those who spouted it off were just being literal. The solar system revolves for the reasons laid out by astrophysics. Bread rises for the reason that yeast digests sugars and produces carbon dioxide and alcohol as by-products. Men sometimes give their bollocks a good scratching for the reason that they have become itchy. And cancer emerges for the reason that random mutations or environmental hazards can trigger undesirable replication of cell structures. These are causes, but causes of events do not require a conscious initiator.

What I despise about this phrase is that it shows utter ignorance to something that humans really ought to be more aware of. In evolutionary history our slightly more paranoid ancestors survived better. If an Australopithecus heard a rustling in the brush and failed to react, it might turn out to be nothing but then it also might turn out to be a bloody great lion looking for a hominid hamburger. Individuals who attributed a conscious motive to every possible threat were more likely to survive because even when they were wrong about a lurking predator, they still sharpened their reflexes by running away from an imaginary threat. This has left us with a genetic predisposition to assign a motive to every force we encounter, and is likely the cause of our beliefs in gods.

Saying “everything happens for a reason” is a betrayal that you haven’t read the user’s manual on your own brain. Having the impulse to attribute a personal motive to outside forces is natural, but we now know enough about the brain to where you’re out of excuses if you give in to that primitive impulse. The universe is not a massive conspiracy theory. The phrase “everything happens for a reason” is precisely three words too long. Everything happens. Full stop. Do not attempt to sound deep by speculating about the wisdom of the universe when it comes to inflicting fatal conditions on people. Any force that would intentionally inflict cancer on a person is a complete arsehole, and therefore I have no interest in their reasons for behaving so badly.

2. Medical advice of any kind

Should you provide advice to me about my friend’s cancer? Let’s see. Are you a doctor? Are you her doctor? Are you her doctor, and have you familiarised yourself with all of the intricacies of her particular case? No? Then kindly shut up.

This problem is exacerbated by questions like “Has she considered alternative medicine?” I was told by someone today who is an unemployed clown — this is not an insult but rather a descriptor of a circus performer on the dole — that chemotherapy didn’t make sense because putting chemical poisons in a body that is already ill did not seem like a more sensible thing to do than, say, homeopathic placebo pills or acupuncture.

Let me clarify something for you, O thou genius devotee of Deepak Chopra: Alternative Medicine means something which is an alternative . . . to medicine. Medicine works because it is based on science. The alternative will not be based on science. Yes, chemotherapy is horribly toxic and often has dreadful side effects. But it works. Cancer is a civil war within a person’s body. There will be casualties in any battle that gains ground. While many aspects of the holistic movement can perhaps stave off disease through good nutrition and improved health, nothing at a natural foods store is going to kill cancer. It would be lovely if Chinese foot massages and herbal tisanes could magically dissipate tumours. And I’d like a flying pony while we’re engaging in wishful thinking. I’m not going to “teach the controversy” of Creation Science any more than I’m going to look into “alternative medicine,” because I’m not an expert and my anecdotal, nonscientific perspective is irrelevant.

3. “God has blessed us so much”

God botherers are at their most hypocritical when it comes to dealing out credit for the good and bad in life. If everything goes well, God gets all the credit for the hard work of human beings. If things go poorly, than any non-miserable factors in the equation are credited as blessings from the Lord. The horribleness of the situation must be twisted into some kind of good thing.

I don’t believe that when I moved house nearly a year ago and ended up living very close to my friend that this was part of God’s plan so that I could be on hand to help out when the cancer diagnosis came in, whatever my mother may say. In reality, I moved house because the city I moved to seemed like a nice place to live. And I don’t help my friend with babysitting and meals because I’m some kind of pawn of a sick man in the sky who enjoys watching people try to cheer one another up whilst suffering. I do it because I choose to. Because I care.

Look, believers, if your God was such a great guy, he wouldn’t have allowed the cancer to happen in the first place. Don’t skirt around that and tell me that it’s a blessing that we have oncologists and it’s a blessing that my friend has friends and it’s a blessing that my friend is otherwise healthy. None of these things are blessings. They are things that exist because real people did real work to make them happen.

4. “I’ll pray for you.”

Prayer only makes sense when you are dealing with a capricious, primitive god that is open to bribery. That’s why ancient people sacrificed goats and did rain dances. They believed their gods were just like them — people coasting through existence who were capable of momentary whims. Bribing an imaginary friend for favours makes no sense at all when you believe that your God is omniscient and that he has a plan. If it’s in his plan for my friend to get cancer, then where on earth do you get off asking him to reconsider? If your God is really so bloody smart, what does he need your suggestions for? Either God is capricious and won’t cure cancer without making you go through a song and dance to beg him properly. This would make him a sadist. Or he has a plan, and cancer is part of that plan, which would make him an arsehole. The obvious resolution is that he’s a figment of your very twisted imagination. If you want to plea bargain with your sociopathic imaginary friend, do it on your own time and don’t tell me about it or I’ll just think you’re barmy.

Fighting cancer is hard enough without having to also fight against pseudoscientific nonsense, new agey platitudes, and mindless religiosity. Some things are just random chance. We have much better odds of beating them if we accept the reality of the situation instead of falling into wishful thinking.

Stewards of the Earth

Seems as though there are some rather embarrassing Mormon-related stories in the news lately. A sadistic controlling doctor is on trial for having bullied his wife into having unnecessary plastic surgery so he could have the opportunity to sedate her to death, allowing him to continue a sordid affair without having to bother with a divorce. (I suppose I should say “allegedly” but this case doesn’t seem worth the bother.)

A slightly less evil headline regards Glenn Taylor and Dave Hall, the Mormon Boy Scout leaders who decided that professional Utah State Park Rangers were incapable of managing their own territory and that a rock formation dating back to the Jurassic simply needed to be knocked over. You know, for the greater good. Somehow this greater good involved a video camera, dancing, singing, and high-fiving. Bang-up job on taking trail safety seriously, gents.

The most astonishing bit about this story is the Scout leaders’ sincere belief that they haven’t done anything wrong. They acknowledge that knocking down the rock formation was technically a no-no, but then employ some incredibly twisted logic by claiming that they did “something right the wrong way.” No, you stupid twats. You did something wrong the right way, because you videotaped yourselves committing a crime, thus making the job of the police much easier. (Normally I wouldn’t call someone stupid, but the idiocy of this crime and signs that Taylor appears to be a lying money-grabber makes me feel justified.)

I wasn’t surprised when I heard that these numbskulls were LDS. Any idiot from any belief system could have committed this crime, but it didn’t strike me as out of character for an LDS man to do something like this. Mormon men are taught that they are literally the stewards of the Earth. God is an absentee landlord, so in his place priesthood holders have authority over all things animal, mineral, or vegetable. Is it surprising that these jolly vandals felt perfectly entitled to take the initiative despite the numerous laws of the state and policies of the Scouts that would discourage them from such destructive activity?

Let’s not forget that although geologists know that the formations in Goblin Valley are 170 million years old, Doctrine and Covenants 77 makes it crystal clear that the earth is only 6,000 years old, and that the second coming of Jesus and the attendant renewal of the globe is imminent. And the book isn’t called the Suggestions and Covenants; it’s the Doctrine and Covenants, making it rather hard to have wiggle room on this point. Strangely, BYU teaches Art History courses that acknowledge human works older than 6,000 years, and their Biology department even teaches evolution. But all religious and doctrinal publications seem to support a young earth viewpoint. To shut down potential apologists, I offer a scan of a card I was given as a teenager in Sunday school:

That copyright reads “Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” which is the legal entity under the direct control of the Prophet. Anything bearing that copyright is coming directly from the Church Office Building’s Correlation department. This places the flimsy plastic bookmark in a doctrinal category equal to the Church Handbook of Instructions. Some Mormons will quibble and hem and haw and try to reconcile modern reliable science with outdated religious conjecture, but I have to be the adult in the room when this happens and point out that it’s positively embarrassing that an argument over such a simple and scientifically settled question could even take place in any organisation that wants to be taken seriously.

But back to the stupid twats. If a person sincerely believes that the earth is only 6,000 years old, fragile ancient rock formations will seem far less worth caring about than if you understood their true age and scientific significance. On top of that, if you sincerely believe that you are Chairman of the Board God’s estate manager, you are going to feel justified in making changes to the landscape, especially if his CEO Jesus is coming back in just a few more days anyway to make everything shiny and new again. So these men may not be stupid because they are callous toward nature; they are stupid because they subscribe to a belief system that encourages them to be callous toward nature.

For now they’ve only been kicked out of scouting. Let’s hope that the police go on to make examples of Glenn Taylor and Dave Hall so that any other geniuses who fancy themselves Stewards of the Earth don’t get any other bright ideas.

Do I Need Them?

For several years my relationship with my family has fluctuated between non-existent and turbulent. I was disowned at one point, and for over a year after a fight in which my mother screamed repeatedly “you are so selfish” there was almost no contact at all. I did not come home for Christmas and while some of my siblings spoke to me occasionally, I knew that I would never be part of the family again.

Recently I’ve noticed a change in my mum’s behaviour; she calls me to ask how I am and even invited me to come spend a day with her recently. It’s a sad reflection on our relationship that I find this to be a significant change for the better, but I’m not about to rebuff it. She is, after all, my mum, and none of the ways in which she has failed me are due to her personality, but rather her devotion to Mormonism. I blame the church, not the member, for bad behaviour to apostates. My dad has been a different story. Since realising that I wasn’t going to come crawling back to the church with ten percent of my income to sacrifice on the altar of social acceptance, he’s written me off. He is not rude, but he is not interested. He treats me with civil detachment, addressing me with the same level of enthusiasm and interest that he would give to the friend of one of his children or a casual business acquaintance. I suppose it’s better than entering his house and living in fear of being whisked off to the spare room for a religious interrogation (a regular feature of life under his roof) but it’s also painful to realise that my father has decided I’m no longer worth the effort of treating like a daughter. But lack of conflict is better than constant conflict, so there it is. I’ll just have to be pragmatic when I get a birthday card signed “Love, Mum and Dad” in only my mother’s handwriting.

I am an ex-daughter, an ex-sister, an ex-niece and ex-granddaughter. Like an ex-spouse, I’m still around and people have to play nice when they see me, but they don’t think of me as a proper relative any longer. I’m not sure how to proceed. Mormonism prepares its subjects, especially the women, for a very particular life path. The skill set I was bred to have is very different from the skill set I’ve needed to operate as an unsupervised adult living outside a walled garden in the real world. I’m not helpless, but there are lots of areas where I’m simply not savvy. Just last week I was mentioning to Mr. Molly that I had realised that I’d never been trained how to think properly, and some of my biggest mistakes in my personal and professional life have stemmed from my conditioning to wantonly utilise circular logic and solipsistic thinking as well as a hard-wired refusal to change my mind in light of new information. The last nine years have been a brutal, messy self-education in learning how to think. I can’t imagine how much better off I’d be now if, in my childhood, my elders had taught me to examine the information given to me by authority figures rather than ingest it without question under threat of punishment.

The religious views of my family poisons their ability to interact with me, and I feel shackled by this. I can’t be myself around them because when I am myself and not in-character as an edited version of myself, I’ll casually refer to a million things that offend them. For example, yesterday I went to the cinema to see The World’s End (it was crap) and then to the pub for a pint and some lunch. If I’m trying to find a nice non-controversial topic to discuss with my family, a meal and a movie might seem hazard free. But with Mormons it isn’t. I went to the cinema on a Sunday1 to see a 15 movie (UK equivalent of an R-rating)2 and then went to a pub afterwards3 where I consumed alcohol4.

Every conversation I have with a Mormon has to be heavily edited, and I must keep track of every footnote in my mind. No matter what the topic, if I mention anything in the context of behaviour that makes a Mormon bristle, they cease to pay attention to what I’m trying to talk about and focus only on my sinfulness. Because of this it turns out to be better not to say anything about my life at all.

White lies may sanitise the story so that they pay attention to the events I describe and not the subtext of the ways in which my lifestyle fails to meet their approval. But lying is irksome and compromising. I’m not going to keep a lengthy mental record of the lies I’ve told to oblige people who take advantage of my tolerance by being open about their lifestyle without returning the favour. They can talk about going to the temple every week or the people they met at a church party, but I can’t tell them about a very pleasant conversation I had with someone I met at a wine tasting party. They won’t hear what I say about the conversation. They will fixate on the presence of alcohol and look at me with disgust.

So perhaps, after all, my Dad is right. Maybe at this point the most any of us can hope for our of our relationship is civil, disinterested small talk once in a while. The problem is this: without the warmth and love that comes with a familial relationship, I don’t know if there’s anything for either of us to get out of our interactions. We have so little in common that if we met as strangers it’s unlikely we would hit it off. If I met my parents now as new acquaintances I would likely come away with the impression that they were friendly but too forward about their beliefs.

I can’t invite them to dinner because, no matter how delicious the food, they would not be able to relax in the presence of a wine rack. I can’t make even casual references to current events because it triggers a suspicious reaction that I am mocking their religious and political beliefs with my liberal agenda. I can’t tell them about the books I read or the movies I enjoy because any media that features swearing, alcohol, sex, social themes, or “disrespectful children” make them angry. I’m not in a Work and the Glory book club and my blog does not consist of simpering posts about the faithful self-sacrifice of obedient women in the Bible. We literally cannot have a conversation about anything more controversial than whether gravy is more or less delicious with or without pepper. What kind of a relationship is that? None at all, it would seem.

Have any of you found yourselves in this sort of relationship purgatory? How did you mourn the relationships you used to have and which you now remember fondly? How did you come to terms with the deaths of those relationships? Do you now try to rekindle them, or do you see the charade of keeping up appearances as too much to bear?

1 – Seeking entertainment on the Sabbath is a sin, as is engaging in commerce.
2 – Viewing movies with a rating higher than a UK 12 or a US PG-13 is a sin
3 – Engaging in commerce again.
4 – Alcohol is right out for Mormons.

The State of Mormon Feminism 2013

Mormon Feminism is still, predictably, a very unfunny joke. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Mormon Feminist blogosphere is its absolute state of unchanging. In this post your friendly apostate correspondent gives you a snapshot of the Mormon Feminist web as it stands.

Agitating Faithfully

Opened in 2011, as of publishing this site has managed to get fewer than 400 signatories to their list of people supporting the ordination of LDS women. Its primary contributor is a person with the surname “Wiener” (insert penis envy joke here). Most of the sparse, undated blog entries have no comments at all, and the ones that have something resembling a discussion going have usually been threadjacked by a mainstream LDS misogynist. Despite the best of intentions, it would seem that enthusiasm for faithful agitation for women’s ordination within Mormonism is about as lackluster as one would assume it to be.

LDS Wave

Whenever I need a convenient punching bag to present to friends trying to understand the level of smug delusion that affluent white anti-feminists are capable of, I send them to this site. They even present themselves as being guided by a “board” in an attempt to sound as if they were some proper public benefit foundation instead of just another bloody website that nobody pays attention to.

Reaching its apex when one of its contributors managed to get this piece of rubbish printed in the Guardian, LDSWAVE has since crashed and burned on the rocks of reality. Profiles of the so-called “board” haven’t been updated in years and the blog itself, confusingly divided into arbitrary sections, hasn’t been added to in months. With sparse comments and a stagnant community, this site, as it did when it was launched back in September 2010, still seems better at displaying stock imagery of thoughtful-looking white women than in presenting useful information, or any information, for that matter. Given the cheap cost of web hosting it seems unlikely that the site will simply pack it in, although that would be the most sensible and face-saving option at this point.

Daughters of Mormonism

This podcast site is a venue for women to bitch about patriarchy whilst simultaneously acknowledging that being a Mormon means you simply must submit to it. The backbone of the sight is a BLOODY FORTY-EIGHT PART podcast titled “The Pain of Patriarchy.” If you need a place to talk about yourself for hours on end, by George this is the place for you. If you don’t enjoy being depressed by the sound of women who are aware of the invisible chains that bind them but refuse to break them and walk away into a freer life, give this site a miss.

Feminist Mormon Housewives

The most significant thing to report in this standard-bearer of the Mormon Feminist blogosphere is a makeover. How . . . typical. After ditching its long-standing art deco theme the site is still hopelessly frilly and unironically pink. The content is still, after all these years, full of the sort of quibbling that proves the site is nothing more than a pressure release valve for the terrible cognitive dissonance that builds up in the mind of an intelligent woman trapped in the confines of Mormonism by marriage and motherhood. Desperate to make their lives have meaning underneath the layers upon layers of utter bollocks that Mormonism heaps upon their lives, the denizens of this community offer support to one another as they find ways to neurotically cope.

Zelophehad’s Daughters

Well, done, ladies. Nothing says Feminism like naming your site after a patriarchal figure and his nameless female offspring. The most positive and useful aspect of this site is that, unlike almost all of the rest of the so-called Feminist Mormon blogosphere, there is an active community composed of both men and women who discuss a variety of topics as if they were adults. If they could just shed the hand wringing and steering clear of upsetting any doctrinal apple carts they might actually get something done one day.

The Exponent

Out of the cast of surreal characters that colours the MoFem scene, The Exponent has remained the one that is easiest to take somewhat seriously, although given that the majority of its contributors are in varying degrees of apostasy the site should more properly be categorised as a post-Mormon site rather than something that could be accepted in the mainstream.

Its latest gem is a half-hearted defence of the bubbleheaded Mormon beauty queen whose brain seemed to have asphyxiated beneath too many layers of hairspray. News flash, Exponent: Eliza R. Snow would not have wasted precious cyberspace defending a woman who had dedicated her existence to the most shallow and narcissistic of professions who was then unable to answer a serious question regarding women and the economy put to her by an articulate black woman.

Conclusion?

It is terribly easy to be dismissive and simply say that the people who cling to these online communities are fooling themselves if they believe they can come up with a way to reconcile modern secular humanist principles of gender equality with the Victorian relic that is Mormonism.

It can take some people a very long time to admit this truth to themselves. Some people never can, for a variety of reasons. The primary reason Mormon “Feminists” force themselves into a soul-crushing compromise between equality and oppression is that they have simply come to a Feminist awareness too late in life to do anything about it. They are married. They have children. They occupy positions of relative importance within their petty, insular communities. Leaving Mormonism is about as easy as pulling your internal organs out through your nostrils, and about as painful. Once a Mormon, especially a woman, is locked into the system through her husband and children, leaving is nearly impossible. A couple would have to do it together, and that leaves them twice the number of siblings and parents and cousins to fight against in an effort for personal integrity.

So I get it. You people need these sites. Your family connections and social lives are being held hostage and will be promptly executed if you don’t obey the demands of the Church holding a gun to them. It’s also unbelievably traumatising to realise that you’ve wasted so much of your life on so much nonsense. Acknowledging that Mormonism is an evolutionary dead-end in human society is just too frightening. So you putter along trying to make the best of it, grumbling quietly under your doctrinal load because you are too smart to truly believe in it. This is not the place where you will be given patronising placations congratulating you on your impressive balancing act between reality and dogma. I have transitioned beyond that. All I can say is that I understand why people do this to themselves, although I think the amount of self-harm inflicted by forcing an uneasy compromise between Mormonism and Feminism is hardly worth it.

Dear Paparazzi of the world,

Most of civilisation ordinarily would not consider addressing you, as you are mostly considered to be ranked somewhere between pond scum and sewer rats on the list of Things of Value to the World. However, something rather miraculous has happened and I feel it’s only fair to let you know that an opportunity has arisen which may allow you to move upwards in the world to be ranked just above dog turds although not nearly has highly as the clumps of hair that accumulate in shower drains.

This week The Mirror published photos of Nigella Lawson being physically abused by her husband Charles Saatchi. At first blush these images could be viewed as yet another tawdry way of enabling the slope-browed public’s voyeurism that feeds their envy and hatred of people who are better looking, richer, or important than they are, but that isn’t what happened this time. No, this time one of you actually managed to expose the horrible reality of what spousal abuse looks like. In perfect clarity you captured what a smug, self-entitled bastard does to control a woman he regards as his property. And for once the voyeurism of the public was utilised for good.

Paparazzi: there is a calling for you. Please stop badgering people simply trying to go about their lives. Stop photographing women who are guilty of nothing more than being nude whilst on private property with a reasonable expectation of privacy. Leave the widows of drug-overdosed actors to mourn in peace, and for goodness’ sake stop photographing children, no matter how famous their parents are.

Instead, you are hereby invited on behalf of the human race to stalk, photograph, and expose perpetrators of violence against women. Violence against anybody, for that matter. Turn your lenses away from people who aren’t doing anything wrong and instead become camera-wielding vigilantes able to put abusers on notice. It won’t even be hard to start building a new list of celebrities to stalk. Just start with Charlie Sheen and you’ll do brilliantly from there.

Your kind consideration in this matter is greatly appreciated.

Regards,

Molly