Yesterday morning, Radio 4 News reported that a Syrian migrant had lost his wife and seven children including a tiny baby when their wooden boat capsized and sank off the coast of Greece. Yet another tragic tale from the current Syrian crisis and apparently a profound problem for the BBC, as they could not work out just how to tell the story. After all it was about a married couple.
The next time the same bit of news was broadcast the words had been changed to, ‘A Syrian woman drowned along with her seven children.’
I could just picture the rage in the news room when some modern feminist had spotted the terribly sexist language in the first broadcast. Mentioning a husband with a wife and children was as quaint and un-PC as someone in church announcing the wedding bans using the words ‘Spinster’ and ‘Bachelor.’
I could not picture the drowned Syrian woman, baby clutched to her breast as they sank beneath the Aegean waves, actually being without a husband, let alone a ‘partner,’ or really believe that she had made the decision for that family to make that perilous journey. Nevertheless, according to the BBC, she was her own woman, carrying out her own destiny, and they were her children alone.
This was followed by another go at the story, this time the dangerously oppressive word ‘husband’ had been put back again albeit at the back of the description. She died with her children and husband in tow, but she was the main character in the story.
It is perhaps lucky that these people in flight, fleeing from terror and seeking basic safety, cannot know the kind of silly, fad-addicted, self-hating and yet self-indulgent culture they are coming to.