Belfast Telegraph

Dolce's IVF comments are totally over-the-top, but so is Sir Elton's boycott

By Lindy McDowell

How do you tell if your child is synthetic? You check with the designers who created the label. A volcanic row has erupted this week between leading fashion duo Dolce e Gabbana and singer/international treasure Sir Elton John, over, of all things, IVF.

Mr Dolce lit the fuse with comments in an interview about whether he himself (he and one-time partner Gabbana are gay) would ever consider having children.

"You are born and you have a father and mother," he said. "At least it should be like that."

Describing infants born by the IVF process as "chemical children, synthetic babies," he added: "I am gay. I cannot have a child. I don't believe that you can have everything in life."

Unsurprisingly stung by his comments was Sir Elton, who has two gorgeous little boys with his husband David Furnish. Elt was onto Twitter faster than a catwalk model downs lunch.

"How dare you refer to my beautiful children as 'synthetic'," he raged. "And shame on you for wagging your judgemental little fingers at IVF - a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfil their dream of having children."

D&G's "archaic" thinking, he added, was as out of step with the times as their fashion (ouch!), and he launched a Twitter hashtag urging a boycott of the label.

Immediately piling in behind Elton with supportive tweets were Victoria Beckham and a phalanx of stars.

Back in Italy, however, a leading member of what looks like the Italian version of Ukip compared the singer to the Taliban and referenced the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris and the right to freedom of expression.

This rapid escalation of hostilities took place within a few short hours. By the end of the week, Nato may well be involved.

So who is in the right and who is in the wrong? If you ask me, it's all of them, really. Domenico Dolce has made the point that he comes from a conservative Catholic Sicilian background. Whether or not you agree with his views - I don't and certainly not with his language - he has a right to express an opinion (in that respect the Italian politician is also right).

But Signor Dolce has to be aware that he is a man of considerable influence and so should have chosen his words more carefully, more sensitively.

You do not have to be a parent yourself to know that to hear their sons and daughters being referred to as "synthetic" and "chemical" was bound to be deeply hurtful and wounding not just to Elton, but to the thousands and thousands of people all over the world for whom IVF has been the miracle that allowed them to have the children they longed for.

We tend to bandy the word "offensive" around a bit too freely sometimes.

This is one occasion where it is almost an understatement.

So you can certainly understand Elton's rage. That angry tweet was the response of a protective father cut to the core by the slight on his two little boys and all those other children so cruelly, carelessly labelled.

Yet Elton also knows he wields enormous influence and would be aware of the enormously damaging impact his call for a boycott could have on the Italian design team's business. Boycott is a brutal, nasty weapon.

Back here on Planet-Down-to-Earth, this clash of the pop and fashion Titans might seem far removed from our own lives. But, in many ways, it's a mirror to how quickly and viciously the rest of us allow ourselves to be herded into intransigent camps too.

How quickly debate these days over the big, crucial issues, such as abortion, gay rights and religious belief, disintegrates into a slanging match. Particularly here in Northern Ireland.

Name-calling replaces discussion as liberal fundamentalists clashes with religious fundamentalists, and nobody can see anybody else's point of view. Ever. So we have little room to sneer at Dolce e Elton - we're all much too OTT.

All headlines are made in Chelsea

Oddly, Chelsea fans seem to be hogging the headlines lately. And not for the best of reasons.

First, there was that shameful racist episode on the Paris underground.

Then there was the story of the three jihadi brides off to join Isis in Syria.

You may have noticed in news reports where their relatives appealed for their return, one had left behind her teddy bear. Wearing its Chelsea shirt.

And now Jeremy Clarkson, at the centre of his latest row with the Beeb, taking time out from the furore to watch a Chelsea game. The Chelsea shirt — Top Gear for headline-makers?

By rights, we need to be wary of labels 

To listen to news reports, there seems to be a recent upsurge in what is termed human rights lawyers.

They deal specifically with human rights legislation, I know, but I always feel this is an odd description.

Whatever your views of the legal profession, surely it would be reasonable to assume that they are all, to some extent, involved in what could be called human rights work. Singling out some for the “human rights” tag seems to suggest otherwise.

Similarly Fairtrade produce. Are we to assume that items which don’t bear that label have not been fairly traded? Should they be labelled unfairtrade?

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