Monday, 13 December 2010
They decided to get on a bus.
No, I'm not joking. Pictured above are Dani Graves and Tasha Maltby, a young Goth couple from West Yorkshire. Granted, the couple's relationship is unusual by mainstream standards - Miss Maltby is both Dani Graves's fiancee... and his pet. Hence the dog lead. But, as she has mentioned in several interviews, this is 'her choice and her culture, and is not hurting anyone'. (Dog leads or chains, as I've mentioned before, are a reasonably common sight at Goth fests... wearing one in day-to-day life is not a circumstance I've seen before, and possibly quite inadviseable - I wonder if Miss Maltby has considered the fact that her leash could possibly be used to harm her should the couple be attacked by the same kind of disgusting yobs that set upon Sophie Lancaster and her partner?)
Nevertheless. I could possibly understand if Miss Maltby had politely been asked to remove the lead before boarding a bus: as bus company Arriva states, "It could be dangerous for the couple and other passengers if a driver had to brake sharply while Miss Maltby was wearing the lead." Fair enough. But what actually happened was quite different. The couple were insulted, and Mr Graves was physically assaulted. For trying to get on a bus. And not just because of their choice to use the leash - because (yeah, you guessed it) of how they were dressed.
As they attempted to get on the bus, an off-duty bus driver, who had verbally abused the couple before without provocation, came over to them. He called them 'freaks' and 'dogs' and then grabbed Mr Graves's t-shirt and physically pushed him off the bus - yes, that's assault. Understandably, the couple made a formal complaint. But the story doesn't quite end here. Over the next few weeks the media made a laughing stock of them - from (metaphorical) raised eyebrows in high-end papers such as the Guardian to an outright insulting piece in the Daily Mail's Littlejohn column (by Richard Littlejohn), entitled 'It's barking to support this pair' which I have quoted in full below.
'Much hilarity at the tale of the woman who describes herself as a "human pet" and her keeper, thrown off a bus in Yorkshire for being weird. Tasha Maltby - runaway winner of this week's Here We Go Looby Lou award - is led round the streets of Dewsbury on a dog chain. My Geordie mate, Black Mike, would take one look at her in her absurd "Goth" outfit and remark: "Gi' us a stick and I'll kill it." When her owner - er, fiance - Addams Family lookalike Dani Graves tried to take her onto a bus, the driver' - may I just point out here that it was not the driver of the bus they were getting onto that harassed them, it was an off-duty driver who had been standing nearby - 'stopped them, saying: "We don't let freaks and dogs like you on." The couple complained that it was a "hate crime". Tasha says she always behaves like an animal and enjoys having her tummy tickled. Let's hope she's house-trained. But just as it's their prerogative to play One Man and His Dog, so the driver should have the right to decide whom he wants, and doesn't want, on his bus.'
And there I thought it was PUBLIC transport... anyhow.
'What the hell were the bus company doing apologising? "We take any allegation of discrimination seriously," said a spokesman, who really should stop reading the Guardian in his tea break. Where it really ceases to be funny is when we learn that the couple live in a council house, on benefits, spend all day in the pub and plan to start a family - maybe that should be a litter - which we will be expected to pay for. Why should the taxpayer support their soppy, self-indulgent "lifestyle" - let alone pay them to bring puppies into the world. She should be spayed.'
The couple's lifestyle not withstanding (because it seems to be perfectly all right for 'normal' people to booze all day, pick fights, shoplift, smoke endless spliffs and breed like rabbits whilst on benefits, ending up on the Jeremy Kyle show - as a commentor on this article about Dani and Tasha in The Sun says, "Once again the British public reveal just how narrow-minded they can be when faced with anybody living their lives differently. People, this lifestyle makes *them* happy, and who are we to judge? Yes, it's not terribly good that he is jobless and on benefits, but last time I checked there were a lot of people out there in the same situation - 807,700 to be exact. Are we annoyed because he's claiming benefits, or are we annoyed because they wear a lot of black and have a particularly unconventional relationship?" - but never mind that), how offensive is it that a national newspaper published such comments as 'she should be spayed' and 'Gi' us a stick and I'll kill it' about a nineteen-year-old woman?! Personally, I think that's disgusting and out of order.
To judge from the articles and interviews I have read, including the one in The Sun above (I love Tasha's outfits...) they seem like an intelligent, articulate and rather sweet couple, rather than 'soppy' or 'freaks', and I certainly don't think that they deserved to have the piss taken out of them in tabloids, broadsheets and blogs nationwide, especially when they were the ones insulted to begin with. Top marks to the bus company for taking their complaint seriously - however, would it have been wise to take further action against an employee who feels he has the right to physically push people around because of their lifestyle and clothing?
Listening to: This Hollow World - Johnny Hollow