I dream of Christine: Mme Lagarde at the IMF headquarters in Washington. Photo: Getty
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“So much love for Christine Lagarde”: why girl crushes are a straight thing

Girl crushes are 75 per cent respect, 24.999 per cent idolatry and 0.001 per cent something nebulously sexual. It’s more about wanting to be someone than wanting to do them.

Girl crushes. Straight women have them; gay ones don’t. Confusing? Let me attempt to explain the ubiquitous “girl crush”. Women as various as Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton have been “crushed” on by straight women, somewhere. The first known girl crush was had by Eleanor of Aquitaine and it was on the lesser-known Brenda of Marseilles. Possibly.

“ZOMG,” announces @StraightChick77, on Twitter, “so much love for Christine Lagarde #GirlCrush.”

What you have to understand is that @StraightChick77 isn’t romantically interested in the besuited IMF doyenne. She wants to have skinny lattes with her and effuse about what a role model she is to all the women, ever.

Girl crushes are 75 per cent respect, 24.999 per cent idolatry and 0.001 per cent something nebulously sexual. It’s more about wanting to be someone than wanting to do them.

Girl crush recipients are usually formidable women, the kind of grandes dames who’d look at home riding panthers into battle against an army of patriarchs. Lindsey Hilsum, Oprah, Mary Beard. Either them or Cara Delevingne.

Formidable Woman transcends the world of glass ceilings and economic woe. Formidable Woman is so awesome that a small part of Straight Woman wants to achieve congress with her in the hope that she’ll consume her essence, quadruple in size and become an unfettered feminist giant. So why doesn’t @StraightChick77 just tweet “I think Christine Lagarde is extremely good”? The answer is simple: girl crushes are all about being a lesbian ironically.

We’re at a point in time and space where we do things ironically without even realising. We love Bonnie Tyler and dance furiously to “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. We eat ironically in bathos-themed restaurants such as Burger and Lobster and Bubbledogs (the one that serves champagne and hot dogs).

Sorting the lesbians from the “lesbians” does require some level of expertise. @StraightChick77 returns home from a gruelling day of doing whatever it is that heterosexuals do, to find Christine Lagarde in her bed, wearing nothing but a document on public expenditure reform and a string of pearls.

@StraightChick77 needs to clarify to her the nuances of the girl crush – and fast.

“I see,” says Christine Lagarde, putting on her clothes. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m delivering a speech on sub-national credit risk in Geneva, in 15 minutes. Maybe you should think before you use the word ‘crush’, non?”

“Wait!”@StraightChick77 cries: “Let’s do coffee! Tweet me! Christiiiiiiiiine!”

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

This article first appeared in the 01 May 2014 issue of the New Statesman, The Islam issue

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The public like radical policies, but they aren't so keen on radical politicians

Around the world, support for genuinely revolutionary ideas is strong, but in the UK at least, there's less enthusiasm for the people promising them.

You’re probably a getting a little bored of the litany of talking head statistics: trust in elected officials, parliament, the justice system and even democracy itself has been falling steadily for years and is at record lows. Maybe you’ve seen that graph that shows how people born after 1980 are significantly less likely than those born in 1960 to think that living in a democracy is ‘essential’. You’ve possibly heard of the ‘Pasokification’ of the centre-left, so-named the collapse of the once dominant Greek social democratic party Pasok, a technique being aggressively pursued by other centre-left parties in Europe to great effect.    

And so, goes the logic, there is a great appetite for something different, something new. It’s true! The space into which Trump et al barged leaves plenty of room for others: Beppe Grillo in Italy, Spanish Podemos, Bernie Sanders, Jean Luc Melanchon, and many more to come.

In my new book Radicals I followed movements and ideas that in many cases make someone like Jeremy Corbyn seem positively pedestrian: people who want to dismantle the nation state entirely, use technology to live forever, go off grid. All these ideas are finding fertile ground with the frustrated, disillusioned, and idealistic. The challenges of coming down the line – forces of climate change, technological change, fiscal crunch, mass movements of people – will demand new types of political ideas. Radical, outsider thinking is back, and this does, in theory at least, offer a chink of light for Corbyn’s Labour.

Polling last week found pretty surprising levels of support for many of his ideas. A big tax on high earners, nationalising the railways, banning zero hours contracts and upping the minimum wage are all popular. Support for renewable energy is at an all-time high. According to a recent YouGov poll, Brits actually prefer socialism to capitalism, a sentiment most strongly held among younger people.

There are others ideas too, which Corbyn is probably less likely to go for. Stopping benefits entirely for people who refuse to accept an offer of employment is hugely popular, and in one recent poll over half of respondents would be happy with a total ban on all immigration for the next two years. Around half the public now consistently want marijuana legalised, a number that will surely swell as US states with licenced pot vendors start showing off their dazzling tax returns.

The BNP effect used to refer to the problem the far-right had with selling their ideas. Some of their policies were extremely popular with the public, until associated with the BNP. It seems as though the same problem is now afflicting the Labour brand. It’s not the radical ideas – there is now a genuine appetite for those who think differently – that’s the problem, it’s the person who’s tasked with delivering them, and not enough people think Corbyn can or should. The ideal politician for the UK today is quite possibly someone who is bold enough to have genuinely radical proposals and ideas, and yet appears extremely moderate, sensible and centrist in character and temperament. Perhaps some blend of Blair and Corbyn. Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? But this is politics, 2017. Anything is possible.

Jamie Bartlett is the head of the Violence and Extremism Programme and the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos.

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