Tuesday 12 November 2019

Ciara O'Connor: 'Photo of Queen Elizabeth with her hands in her pockets is the tonic we didn't know we needed'


The queen
The queen
Baned emojis. Stock picture

Ciara O'Connor

In a time when public perceptions of the royals are deeply divided, as are the royals themselves, it's difficult to imagine how to begin reuniting the people, bridging the gulf: you're either Team Kate or Team Meghan. Or Team why-are-we-pitching-these-women-against-each-other?

As a rule, the millennials are more forgiving of Harry and Meghan and their relatable emotional incontinence. We respect Meghan's love for a low-key kinky leather skirt, we find her terrible coats endearing.

Gen X, just older than us, admire Kate's long sleeved dresses and disciplined thinness. We all look to the duchesses' personal styles for hints about their inner worlds.

With such emotional and sartorial polarisation, the task fell to one 93-year-old woman to bring us all back together and on-side.

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The Queen did it with a single, devastating photograph. She used the most potent symbol of female solidarity there is, the one thing guaranteed to join hands and hearts across the divides: pockets.

The full length portrait of the beaming monarch, hands in her white dress's pockets, was the tonic we didn't know we needed. On her face was a look of pure elation, the likes of which Her Majesty has thus far reserved only for the Grand National or the sight of some lovely cows - it was a look which every woman recognised as the primal euphoria of finding a dress with pockets.

Any woman who has ever had someone compliment their outfit and replied, ''Thanks, it has pockets!''

The Queen, obviously, is not political, and yet there was something undeniably radical about the photograph. The sexist history of pockets is muttered about in pubs, is urgently slurred into stranger's ears at house parties by millennial conspiracy theorists: the dearth of pockets in women's clothing is a reflection of our lack of access to money and property; it was to stop us carrying revolutionary political leaflets; it was because we were supposed to stay at home. Having gained our reproductive rights and equal pay legislation, pockets are the battleground on which feminism is fought in 2019.

The beaming Queen with her hidden hands and casual stance, apparently living a ''secret wish'' to be photographed in a way no one had seen her before is sending a message loud and clear: women, pull together; leave Meghan alone; leave Kate alone; my generation did not fight for your right to leave the house so you could pull this nonsense.

She'd probably deny it, like how the ''EU flag'' hat she wore (blue with little yellow flower details) for 2017's state opening of parliament was ''unintentional''. But we knew what she was doing then, and we know what she's doing now. The woman truly is, in the millennial sense of the word, a queen.


This week's Sisyphean Medal for Pointlessness goes to Facebook and Instagram, for banning the use of ''sexual emojis'' in an effort to cut down on content that ''facilitates, encourages or coordinates sexual encounters between adults''.

The aubergine, peach and water drips have been targeted by the social media giant's ban; the new guidelines state that they cannot be used to depict sexual activity and nude body parts can't be covered up with the symbols. It remains to be seen how the algorithm will determine aubergine emojis used to decorate baba ganoush tutorials, or if that same baba ganoush tutorial featured a cheeky hint of cleavage.

The internet is baffled by the heavy-handed move, given that calls for the platforms to clamp down on racism, hate-speech and Neo-Nazi propaganda have fallen on deaf ears The blacklisting of the aubergine leaves the way clear for other emojis to finally step into the limelight: the banana, the lipstick, the carrot, the corn, the chilli, the cucumber, the mushroom (all bodies are good bodies, people) the French stick, the hotdog, the panko prawn (all bodies, people, all bodies).

Indeed, just last week, there was a new emoji drop, including an absolutely obscene oyster and a ''pinching hand''.

Honestly, the wonderful thing about humans is that we will find a way to make anything - anything - dirty. Our capacity to see willies in even the most pedestrian of objects is arguably what sets us apart from animals.

Internet-talk is a rich, living language, it changes and evolves, it ducks and dives. If the peach is taken away, more bummish emojis will rush in to take its place.


We thought Ireland was ready for hummus. We'd even managed to persuade those same grandmothers who'd sooner die than buy a blanket for a baby that hadn't been born yet, to give it a go - and indeed they conceded that some of this new foreign food was alright. 

And then those babies were born, and weaned on hummus, without a pureed carrot in sight. It became a cultural touchstone - flavourful where avocados are not, comfortingly beige, and a symbol of all that was good and right in millennialism. 

Then, last week, the FSAI had to recall certain batches from supermarkets due to the presence of salmonella. Didn't they tell us that it would all end in tears? Did you ever hear of anyone getting salmonella from a potato?

Exactly. They should never have trusted us. On behalf of millennials, I can only apologise.

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