19/01/2011

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding - New series, disturbing concept..

Off of the back of last year's one off that attempted to give the country an insight into traveller culture, Channel 4 have a new series. Last night's episode reaffirmed the fact that, despite being clad in outfits that a self respecting lap dancer wouldn't even sniff at, gypsy culture dictates that girls remain chaste. They are fiercely religious and extremely traditional in their view of male/female relationships, (with a husband not beating you, being a criteria for a good marriage...) with none of the girls aspiring to a career. Instead many are taken out of school early - no point educating a girl - and are desperate to be married by 16.  On last year's one off, a 22 year old bride only stopped short of declaring herself an old maid. Worryingly, you got the feeling that she was marrying out of desperation rather than love and her telling comment about making your own bed and lying in it, did nothing to dispel my misgivings...


Last night's episode, which introduced the concept of 'grabbing', was far more disturbing.  'Grabbing', is required as Cheyene, one of the young girls in the spotlight this week, explained, as girls are not allowed to approach boys. Instead they have to hang about and wait to be approached - generally whilst half naked if last night's show was anything to go by... The approach is via this grabbing ritual, which was essentially boys forcing girls to kiss them whether they like it or not.  A refusal often resulting in some form of physical abuse until it was no longer a refusal...So in the non traveller world, ABH and/or a sexual assault???? Cut to Cheyene being subjected to some grabbing. Her summary of the situation being:  'It wasn't violent, I've had much worst than that. It's not nice at all, but you just got to live with it.' Really??? So basically, given the fact that a girl can get a 'bad name' at the drop of a hat, whether she actually did anything 'wrong' or not - Girls feeling pressured to give in to avoid malicious boys making up damning stories. Not an aspect of gypsy life to be admired...

All of the above begs the obvious question as to why there is no intervention? If an 11 year old was removed from school (as per one young girl in the documentary - to help look after her EIGHT younger siblings) in the non traveller world, the authorities would be all over the family in a heart beat. Why are traveller girls not afforded the same degree of protection? 


The real point of the show though appeared to be to highlight the bizare and extremely outlandish dress sense - pole dancer outfits asides, they tend to go for the most over the top creations known to man for any major event (e.g. Weddings, confirmations). Principle dressmaker to the the Travelling community being Liverpudlian Thelma Madine, who has over many years won their confidence and changed her opinion of them to the point where she is now fiercely overprotective.  Talking to the paradox of the hooker dress sense vs their high morals she said:  'When I first saw them… They did look like prostitutes … you wouldn’t let your daughter walk around like that... But when you get to know them, their morals are so high, you would say they are definitely stuck in a time warp.'

All of that said, I already have a very different view of the community than I had before the original documentary was shown, so I guess there must be something good about it. I will continue to watch with interest and unease.

4 comments:

  1. There's a lot about this show in the podcast at http://bit.ly/i91osH
    The show was amazing. It was like a mix of Babestation, Jeremy Kyle and Love Thy Neighbour.

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  2. Lol! More Jeremy Kyle than I would have like unfortunately...

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  3. Very true. I certainly didn't expect much of what I saw. Can't wait for Tuesday's next episode.

    Sorry you couldn't get the podcast to work. I've added it to a different server now to try to fix that.
    http://somenews.podomatic.com/entry/2011-01-22T19_48_36-08_00

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  4. That link worked - it's funny, listen to it!

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