If you’re British, you’ve heard of Jackie Weaver. If you’re not British but spend too much of your life on the internet, you’ve probably also heard of Jackie Weaver.
Weaver was drafted in from the Cheshire Association of Local Councils to host a Zoom meeting of the Handforth Parish Council’s planning and environment committee and act as clerk in the regular clerk’s absence. The council has a history of toxic procedural arguments, and the meeting was called by two committee members, not the chair. Should we speculate and guess that the chair wasn’t happy about that?
He told Weaver she had no authority. She threatened to remove him from the meeting and he said, “You can’t. It’s only the chair who can remove people from the meeting. You have no authority here, Jackie Weaver. No authority at all”
Zap. He disappeared. She’s removed him from the meeting. You can hear someone else saying, “She just kicked him out.”
“She kicked him out,” someone echoed.
I waited for a chorus line to come in, full of sequins and doing high kicks, singing, “She kicked him out,” but parish council budgets are tight, so no chorus line. No high kicks. Local government’s like that. You should see parish council meetings in my village. For a long time, they didn’t even have heat.
When two more members of the meeting shouted and blustered, she tossed them out as well, so they could get some work done.
“This is a meeting called by two councilors,” Weaver says. “You may now elect a chair.”
One of the people who was still in the meeting proceeded to complain that the chair had been calling himself the clerk.
“There is no way of stopping him from calling himself clerk,” Weaver said. “Please refer to me as Britney Spears from now on.”
No one would have known any of this if a seventeen-year-old politics student, Shaan Ali, hadn’t watched it. He’s fascinated with local politics. All the power struggles. All the arguments. All the technological disasters.
“You know, old men struggling to use Zoom, fun arguments–there’s always something fascinating going on.”
He tweeted it and it went mad. Weaver became an overnight sensation, interviewed on TV, written about almost a month late in obscure corners of the internet. What she did resonates with every woman who’s ever been bullied or patronized by a man, which is to say 116% of us. It may be on the very mildest edge of our collective revenge fantasies, but the thing is that it actually happened. That’s better than flying kicks, although I’d still like the chorus line.
It’s appealed to plenty of men as well, helped along, I expect, by the cartoonishly stuffed-shirt quality of the chair. He’d patronize anyone he wasn’t sucking up to. He couldn’t help himself. You can find a clip here.
Predictably enough, as soon as she became a hero, she started receiving online abuse, which the police are investigating, for whatever good that’ll do.
The council’s getting its own share of abuse. At the next meeting, members of the public joined the Zoom call and shouted lines from the more famous meeting, turning the thing into chaos. I’m sure I should disapprove, but I love the idea of a meeting being disrupted by random strangers shouting, “You have no authority here, Jackie Weaver.”
I’m sure it’s a character flaw. It’s one of my favorites.
But let’s leave Handforth on a more peaceful note. An internet baker (who knew there was such a thing?) named Ben Cullen created a Jackie Weaver cake. Lockdown does strange things to people. I won’t say he flattered her exactly, but he says he’s had a great response.
The last word, surely, has to go to Weaver. Someone asked if she had any advice for Zoom meetings.
“Don’t wear pajamas,” she said.
You’ve probably heard that the head of the Tokyo Olympics committee resigned after saying that women talked too much and made meetings too long.
What you probably don’t know is that in 2019 Montreal city councilor Sue Montgomery started knitting in red when a man was speaking and in green when a woman spoke. The piece she produced is almost entirely red. And it’s a lousy piece of knitting.
I say that as someone who’s not very good at knitting either, but I can knit a straight scarf. Never mind. I never knit anything that made a point as neatly.
The council’s divided fairly evenly–31 women and 34 men, and it’s not, she said, that the women don’t speak, it’s that they tend to use their time more efficiently. “Some of the older men tend to go on and on,” she said. “Some of them can’t be bothered to gather and organize their thoughts before speaking.”
Another Zoom meeting goes to hell in a handbasket
The entire board of a California elementary school resigned after thinking they were holding a private meeting when in fact they were being live-streamed.
“Are we alone?” one of them asked.
Oh, yeah, absolutely, someone or other said.
And they believed it and let loose. Parents just wanted the school to babysit their kids, they said. Parents wanted the kids out of the house so they could take drugs. Parents complained, the school board members complained.
All while they were being live-streamed into the parents’ ear canals
Seven thousand people signed a petition calling on them to resign.
You’re never alone.
Art news from Italy
Italian police found a stolen painting–a 500-year-old copy of a Leonardo da Vinci–and returned it to the museum that didn’t know it had lost it. The museum had been shut for months. After all, in the middle of a pandemic who goes around counting frames to make sure all the paintings got back on the school bus at the end of the class trip?
How did the police happen to find the painting? Haven’t a clue, but it was hidden in what a British paper called a bedroom cupboard. I think that’s what I’d call a closet, since I tend to keep my cupboards in the kitchen, where I keep my cups. But, as I often say, I’ll never really understand this country. As a general rule, the police aren’t running in and out of here making sure I haven’t hidden a 500-year-old painting behind the (empty) sugar bowl in the cupboard, so I’m going to guess the guy they arrested did something that called attention to himself.
The Smithsonian didn’t mention the cupboard but, not to be outdone by a British paper, mentioned that in the picture Christ has corkscrew curls. They were still popular when Shirley Temple was making movies. If that doesn’t put you off them, I don’t know what will.