Welcome to Angus Take House – a weekly column in which I will be pitting two of the wildest takes the world's great thinkers have rustled up against each other. This is your one-stop shop for the meatiest verdicts and saltiest angles on the world's happenings. Go and grab a napkin – these juicy hot takes are fresh from the griddle.
What’s the story? Marks and Spencer’s are selling hijabs in their school uniform range.
Reasonable Take: Not matter who you are, what religion you follow, everyone deserves a miserable school uniform with a sewn-on strip of fabric with your name on that will prove itself to be scratchier than a fistful of ivy.
Two Can Dine In For £12: Sharia Law is coming to Bicester Village outlet shopping centre.
Do you ever question whether this is real? Whether in fact you’re living in some sort of Truman Show experiment run by really lazy Radio 4 writers who are running out of ideas? Sometimes, I do, because sometimes the world feels like it’s doing an increasingly bad impression of itself, sleepily working its way through its greatest hits to an unlistening and uncaring audience. Churning out the same half-baked plots, week after week, month after month. That’s certainly how I felt when I read the headline “Marks & Spencer sparks online row after selling £6 school uniform hijabs for young girls” in the Sun. It’s got it all, hasn’t it? Self-made controversy, thinly-veiled xenophobia, a once-great British staple cowing to the pressures of social justice warriors and liberalism-gone-bananas. You know they call Easter Eggs “Spring Spheres” now?
Well pinch yourself, it’s happening. The story on this occasion is that Marks and Spencer’s — retailer of comfortable trousers and an under-celebrated lunchtime salad selection — are selling hijabs in their school uniform rage for £6. (The real controversy here is that price! Scandalously good value!) The news was quickly picked up by the usual suspects, with none luxuriating in their outrage more than commentator and radio host Julia Hartley-Brewer who tweeted to say “This is an abomination. This is extremist Islamism and NOT a Koranic requirement for young Muslim girls at primary school. No, no, no, no... NO!” Yes, Julia. Yes, yes, yes, yes… YES!
The tactic deployed by Hartley-Brewer – and it’s one used by many in the unscrupulous ranks of right-wing tabloids – is the feigned interest in female empowerment within the Muslim community, as though the fight to free to oppressed women is what’s driving this monologue and not, you know, that I feel a bit funny when I see someone in a burka in WH Smiths. Not only is it insincere, but it’s also a paper-thin understanding of what a hijab is, and what it means to Muslim women in the UK.
The hijab, far from the cape of oppression is often hyped up to be, is a garment of clothing. The real reasons young girls wear the hijab are as terrifying and damaging to Western civilisation as: “they think it looks nice” and “they want to dress like their mums”. The truth is boring; the truth is everyday.
Anyway, you don’t want to hear me explaining the meaning behind the hijab. I don’t have the experience or the knowledge. Why not, instead, ask someone wearing one? Then again, why would you need to, when you can hear it first hand from a woman called Julia who went to school in Bath in the 70s.
What’s the story? Kanye West visited Donald Trump in the Oval Office and suggested they replace Air Force 1 with a hydroplane called the iPlane 1. Yeah baby!
Reasonable Take: That game where you add a sentence to a story, fold it up and then pass it along. Except real life.
Intellectual Moules Frite: Oh don’t worry, we don’t have to listen to Kanye, he’s mentally ill after all.
Shall we watch the video and Kanye and Trump in the Oval Office? I know, I don’t want to either but it’ll help the next couple of paragraphs flow better. Come on, deep breath…
The most messed up thing about this video is that Trump sort of comes off well. Like, I feel for Trump. Poor old horrible Trump, waiting for the Curb music to kick in and the end credits to roll. Is this the first time in his entire life he’s thought: he’s a bit much! Watching him shrink into his chair, unable to get a word in, it’s like watching a monster truck with the handbrake off, sliding slowly down a hill.
Kanye’s delivery is suitably off-piste, veering wildly from references to Trump as some sort of father figure, to lines about liberals trying to control black people with racism, climaxing in Kanye professing his love for the president only to bound around the table and give him a hug. And all the way through this Trump is frozen, stunned, muttering “that’s nice”, like he’s trapped in a conversation with someone he doesn’t remember at a school reunion.
The meeting has, of course, engendered that sort of resigned groan that now pursues Kanye; disappointment mixed with bemusement. I say this as someone who circa 2013 was probably chewing your ear off at a party about what a totally misunderstood proposition he was, yet has now had to quietly back down from the edge, gather up my things and call it a day. And why not? Kanye is openly identifying with the hyper-macho posturing of Trump’s campaign. There’s no veil or artistry, or concept about it. He’s a big fan of Republican president and all-round rotter Donald Trump. That’s it.
Sadly however, some have taken this dreadful turn of events as an opportunity to espouse some Very Bullshit theories about Kanye’s mental health. Well, less theories and more hastily made claims backed up by absolutely nothing. Young Turks news host Cenk Uygur tweeted to say “Trump and Kanye clearly have mental issues. They need help. But what’s really sad is that about 40% of the country listen to them & think they make sense. They’re literally following people with mental health issues.” A similar sound segment ran on CNN, during which commentator Tara Setmayer said “No one should be taking Kanye West seriously, he clearly has issues, he’s already been hospitalised.” It’s a sentiment that’s proved popular elsewhere in supposedly liberal America.
If there’s one good thing that’s come out of Kanye’s recent run, it’s how openly he’s discussed his struggles with depression. He has shouted about it, in detail, and talked about it in the present as an ongoing fight. He’s mentioned meds and what they’ve done to him, explained the causes of his insecurities, and the truth that it might not get better before it gets worse.
So as much as we’d all like a neat explanation as to why Kanye has gone from “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” to “I think Trump might be my dad”, declaring his voice invalid based on mental illness doesn’t do anybody any favours. His mental state might be contributing to his current antics, but that doesn’t mean they are the same thing. Shocking as it might be, someone can be anxious and depressed, and still have valid things to say. It’s hard enough to confidently accept the realities of your own mental health within yourself as it is, without high-profile media voices describing a hugely famously depressed person as someone who “shouldn’t be taken seriously” on that basis. There are plenty of reasons not to take Kanye seriously. Why choose this supposed one?