Putting your arm around someone is not an ‘act of ownership’
In a recent interview with the Mail on Sunday, Dame Helen Mirren, award-winning actress and Naturist of the Year 2004, said that, ‘It annoys me when I see men with an arm slung round their girlfriend’s shoulders. It’s like ownership.’
In response to Mirren’s comments, many tried to discredit her by digging out images in which a man had his arms draped around her on the red carpet. But others came to her support. Writing in the Guardian, Lucy Mangan said that ‘it is a sign of ownership, undoubtedly… the male equivalent of the girlfriend’s hand on a man’s lapel’.
Frankly, it’s a struggle to see how either are in any way problematic. It seems like Western culture is becoming increasingly hypersensitive. From calling creepy compliments ‘misogynistic’ to accusing people of committing ‘microaggressions’ simply for not believing in race, we are increasingly obsessed with reading unconscious biases into everyday social interactions, and constantly thinking the worst of our fellows.
The intention behind what one says or does no longer matters; it is the way in which the words or actions are perceived by others that matters today. Consequently, people can be pilloried for committing wrongs they weren’t even aware existed.
It is ridiculous to read physical gestures between men and women as self-evident acts of ownership. Such constant offence-taking will only suck the fun, and, indeed, the romance, out of modern life.
Ivor Jones is a writer and student based in Brighton.