I have never really lived close to London. In fact, I have never really lived in the South (the West Midlands doesn’t count, as southerners are very keen to affirm). Reading the broadsheets and perusing the BBC news website, however, I sometimes feel like I should be.
There is a common syndrome that affects Londoners, and quickly infects anyone who moves there: the Everything Happens in London Syndrome. For EHLS sufferers, London is the limit of their imagination; beyond the Home Counties, there are some vague grey shapes, and something called The North, but apparently it’s all a bit grim there.
Unfortunately, if you work for a major broadsheet or for the BBC, the chances are you’ll live near London (although the BBC are trying to set up camp in Manchester – let’s see how much grumbling we’ll hear about that). Therefore, news stories have a tangible London-centricity, with events affecting anywhere else labelled as ‘regional.’
I notice this occasionally, but it has riled me recently because of the reporting of the Slutwalks which hit British shores last week. I attended both Newcastle and Manchester’s Slutwalks, both of which attracted large crowds, especially the latter. The Newcastle event was not reported on the BBC website; Manchester’s received one paragraph. But guess what? London’s Slutwalk yesterday merited a long analysis and feature report.
It’s the same story on the Guardian, Independent and Telegraph websites (let’s take it as read that the Page -3-toting tabloids aren’t going to add to the Slutwalk debate meaningfully…) In some ways I understand – the event in London is the biggest. But most reports only briefly mentioned the widespread nature of the marches, or failed to do so at all.
But one of the most fantastic things about Slutwalks are their grassroots nature. They have sprung up across the UK independent of one another; wherever you live, there WILL be a Slutwalk nearby over the next month or so. It would be great to see the media emphasising this, instead of reinforcing the tired old view that Everything Happens in London.
It’s even more pertinent, in my view, for local feminist and women’s groups to support local Slutwalks rather than just flocking to London. Building bridges and showing solidarity with your nearest groups is always immensely useful and a reminder you’re not alone – Slutwalks are the perfect chance to do this.