A Social Experiment (or Fear & Loathing on Planet Earth)

Over the last twenty years, my faith in humanity has slowly been chipped away and my faith in the strength of our civilisation has been steadily eroded.  With each year that passes, new atrocities grace the planet and, more beguiling to me, our reactions to these events grow ever more habitually naive and ludicrous. As we try to find sense and protection from the horrors in the world, we close all the shutters with fear and lock out all sense and reasoning — and keep away all those who dare to be different to us.

With the recent headlines of our trusted national papers like The Daily Mail emblazoned forever in my mind, I decided I should conduct a social experiment, just to see how very much exclusionary, racist, xenophobic, homophobic and sexist our world had actually become.  The results of this experiment shocked even my hardened heart.

The day began just like any other.  I decided to get out of bed, look in the mirror and marvel and how truly wonderful I was.  Me; a white male.  Middle class and thoroughly proud of my British heritage.  The fact that I am a little bit brown, a bit camp, only middle class because I live near a Waitrose and have just a half of my genes that I can attribute as British are facts that are neither here nor there.  At least they weren’t here at the start of the day, nor there after I cleaned my teeth.  I looked on blindly and decided: “Today, oh beautiful one, you will get a job!”. But, I didn’t want to make it too easy on myself.  Today, I would get a job as a woman!

Sexism in the workplace is part of everyday news.  We see it on the headlines when some major male celebrity announces that they will match their wage with their female counterparts or when a minor female celebrity takes up equal pay issues, to less of a fanfare.  Aw, bless! 

I thought the time was right to prove to myself that this attitude could not possibly prevail in today’s society by getting myself a highly paid job in the City, with my employer under the impression that I was a female. Boy, was I shocked!  Sorry, getting into character…mmm, mmm, girlfriend (sassy, snap of the fingers in front of my awkwardly bobbing head), was I shocked!

Presenting the illusion of femininity was the easiest part of the process.  After all, as briefly touched upon previously, I’m fairly camp in nature and in touch with my female side. I’m also fairly hefty in frame, so the boobs are pretty much dealt with. So, I didn’t feel it necessary to go the full hog and engage in prosthetics and hours of make up and speech therapy to convince an employer that I was a woman.  All I needed was a wig and a make-up gift set from Argos for £14.99.  Within 30 minutes, I was ready to fool even my mother.

Within five minutes of stepping outside the house, I could already feel the burgeoning awkwardness that all women must experience on a daily basis.  As I walked down the street, pursing my lipstick engorged lips at passers by, I could see their unease.  Children on their way to school, laughed at my femininity — seemingly just because I was a woman.  I persuaded myself that this had to be a local thing.  Living in the suburbs, what more could I expect than a backward attitude to the grace and elegance that I was exuding with my divine femininity?  The long and arduous train ride towards London proved me wrong.  

Sitting opposite what can only be described as a football hooligan, I truly felt at my most awkward. The leers and stares as he undressed me with his eyes not only made me feel insecure and worthless, they made me feel terrified for my life.  He sat there in his Chelsea football top, looking at me from head to toe. Working his way over my bare legs (which I kind of wish I’d shaved before I had left), up over the Mighty Meaty sandwich, precarious placed on my groin, over my burgeoning, bare bosom tops (again, regrettably not as hair-free as I now desired), across my now over-pouting lips and beard and into my sultry, smokey eyes.  I had picked up quite a few make-up tips from an actress called Jenna Jameson, whom I haven’t seen much on TV, but she’s all over the Internet — so I knew I looked really sexy. But I made myself sexy for me, not the pervert sitting opposite me. Enough was enough, I wasn’t going to put up with this misogynistic, chauvinist and passive-aggressive bullshit. So I stared directly back at him and told him in no uncertain terms to fuck the fuck off. The power of woman fought back and won.  He looked up at his young dad who was sitting next to him and burst into tears. Feminism 1 : Sexism 0!

After I was kicked off the train, I figured that perhaps I was too convincing as a woman and my tactics needed to be changed to ensure the social experiment that I was conducting wasn’t going to be too easy.  After all, I needed something to write about.  So, I stopped off at the nearest Asda to find me a new disguise.  Today, I was going to get a job. Not as a woman; but as a dwarf.

Dressing up as a tiny person was as easy as it gets. After all, my formative years were emblazoned with little people on the television, so I had plenty of material to chose from. Tattoo from Fantasy Island, all the Time Bandits, that chap inside R2D2, Snow White’s mates, the creepy little woman from the exorcist, the even creepier killer dwarfette killer from Don’t Look Now.  My inspiration was pretty much endless. However, I couldn’t see a common dress code between any of them — so I opted for one and decided to dress up as him.  Wee Jimmy Krankie from The Krankies it was to be.  I would convince my employer that I was a dwarf by dressing in the traditional dwarf outfit of a 10 year old Scottish schoolboy.

Now, having been kicked off the train and told I couldn’t return to the station either, I had to change my plans a little.  The big job in the city would have to wait, I would need to find employment in the environs of this store. I would also need to be assured that, if I didn’t get offered the job, it was only based on my dwarf-like characteristics and nothing more. So, having purchased and pimped myself out with the shorts, shirt and blazer, I marched directly to the nearest primary school.

Sitting in the headmaster’s office brought memories flooding back.  The incredibly tight shirt, the now buttonless shorts (which had by then fallen around my knees) and the eyeliner from the previous experiment slowly running down my face caused recollections of youth to fill my mind and brought tears to my eyes.  I knew, as I sat there looking at all the pictures of smiling children on the walls, that this was a place that I could excel.  As Head of Year 2, I would be in my element — even as a dwarf.  The police were not so convinced.

As I was escorted into the patrol car, the memories of school-day bullying came flooding back.  Just because I was a little person, I was being forcefully ejected from the school.  I tried to put on a brave face as they drove me off the premises.  Pressing my face agains the window and waving at the small children I had tried to befriend in the playground, offering free sweeties for inside advice on the job, before I was marched to see my potential employer. I could see that they were crying too.  They were obviously equally as appalled by the discrimination they were witnessing. I could feel the pain of all those small people across the world children and dwarfs.  I was one with them, drowning in inequity but flying so very high in solidarity.  

Today was proving to be more of an eye-opener than I thought.

After I had explained my science experiment and plight, I was finally released from yet another station with just  a caution. I decided that I needed to explore what other discrimination could possibly be flung in my direction if I took on the role of another minority. Whilst trying to fix my now clown-like mascara with my reflection in a camping store window, I found my next cause.  There, adorning a bobble-hatted mannequin, was a fine example of a red & black chequered lumberjack shirt.  With my soiled make-up and that shirt, my next task was thrust upon me. I was going to get a job on a building site as a lesbian.

As I had already known before I turned up for the interview, I wasn’t going to be made welcome.  The foreman was less than polite when I arrived and I loudly proclaimed that “us sisters had every right to work on a house build as much as the next man and could do so equally as well, ball-sack or not”.  Initially he was dumb-founded and couldn’t muster the worlds to combat my prevailing sense, intelligence and clarity; oh, but this mask soon fell when I told him not to worry about me using the same lavatories as his male workforce because I liked a bit of fanny, not builders’ cocks.  Despite my equal strength, my aptitude for the job and my unmatchable work ethic, I was beaten shitless.  All because I was a lesbian.  I could barely believe it.  As you can by now imagine, my view on the world was fast becoming jaded.

Bruised and battered and looking like my day was to end jobless, I retired by taxi to my local Irish-themed bar, O’Neill’s to nurse my wounds with a well earned pint of Guinness. Needless to say, within seconds of sitting at the bar, I was out on my arse.  Despite my now mixed status of a heavily beaten, transvestite, dwarf with lesbian tendencies — the bouncer made me feel truly unwelcome.  Why? Because I wasn’t Irish perchance? Strange indeed, as the evening’s live band were playing a Foreigner track quite loudly.  Xenophobia was alive and well in my home town and the anti-English anthem was blaring loudly from the Home Counties.

I had learned my lessons and learnt them hard. If I was a minority group, I would have to pay the price of total exclusion from general society.  The tutorial was hard, the education taken was hurtful and my learning was painfully complete.  Or was it?  

Wiping my tears clean with a discarded front page of one of Britain’s most revered and educational broadsheets, The Sun, I realised this master of disguise had one more minority to thrust upon the world.  Religion was my last target.  I would get my job, but this time as a Muslim.  But how could I convince a stranger that I was a devout member of said flock if I knew none of their teachings to prove myself?  I reached for the rest of the newspaper in search of a clue on how to pass myself off as a true follower of Islam.  

Dressed in a burka and a suicide belt, I knew from The Sun that this was exactly how all Muslims dress (at least 1 in 5 anyway).  The burka helped to cover my bruises and emotional scars.  I’m still not convinced that the bomb strapped to my waist did much for my hips, but I thought I could still get away with it.  I am writing this essay in the full knowledge that I did indeed get away with it and get away with it good.

Reflecting on my experiments, overlooking the prison yard, I can ponder and contemplate that perhaps my application for the position of Archbishop would have been better placed in writing than during evensong prayers at the crowded Cathedral, shouting in mock-Arabic tones that I had picked up from the news. But, this gave no excuse to the fact that I wasn’t even considered for this appointment, out of hand.  Just because of my religious beliefs.  Even an institution as free from disgrace such the Christian Church proved itself to be intolerant when it came to equal employment opportunities.  I was dismissed under the full force of a SWAT team, simply because I was a Muslim.

My experiment started as one of hope.  I desperately wanted the exclusion and intolerance I had heard about to be a fabrication, enforced by the media in an attempt to sell papers and news stories across the globe.  But the truth is there.  The conclusion was clear. Be you gay, female, small, foreign or religious — you are an outsider and will never fit in.  They kindly let me keep my wig, make-up kit, school boy uniform, burka and lumberjack shirt but, due to the obvious bigotry and prejudice of the warden, my suicide belt was confiscated.

If it wasn’t for enlightened publications like The Sun, I would be blinded to how horrific this world can sometimes be and I would probably be walking the streets — free, but dumb to the real world.  Perhaps I wouldn’t now be the play thing of Frankie “Face-Fucker” Fairchild if I hadn’t read the painstaking researched articles that they print on a daily basis, but I would be happy in a blissful cloud of ignorance. Who could possibly want that?

I sign off knowing that maybe you will read and learn from the hardships that I, as several minorities, experienced. As the heavyset and erect shadow appears at my prison cell door, I urge you to continue reading papers like The Sun and The Daily Mail and learn. Learn from their teachings and know. Know that everyone hates you and wants to kill you, whoever you may be.

About the Author

Benedict Francis

Benedict Francis

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