Our Cheap Dirty Traveller Embarrassment

The My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings TV series has left us all feeling dirty and used,  says Jake Bowers

No one can smell a rat like a Gypsy. After centuries living on waste ground I thought we knew all about vermin and how to avoid them, but it would seem moving into houses has blunted our senses. If the first programme in the My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings is anything to go by, unmarried Gypsy and Traveller youth of today had better wise up. As a happily married man, a Gypsy and a journalist I’d  have given those thinking of taking part this advice: “getting into bed with those determined to use you and abuse you always ends in trouble. Marry who you like, but never ever let a television film crew come to the wedding.” A wedding night should be full of love and tenderness. But after watching My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, most of Britain’s 300,000 Gypsies and Travellers feel cheated, dirty  and abused.

I was on a train at the time My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings was aired, but by the time it was over my phone was in meltdown at the rage and the fury. We’ve never heard of “grabbing”, yet apparently it’s a time honoured tradition of ours to allow young men to sexually assault young Gypsy women in car parks. Most of us aren’t catholic at all, yet apparently all Gypsy girls prepare for their wedding
day with a holy communion. Oh and apparently we often allow toddlers to go to  church alone in a limo pretending to be drunk. For most Gypsies, the Channel Four series has simply given the old myths about Gypsies being immoral, flashy thieves a glitzy TV make-over. We’ve become trailer trash versions of the Flintstones there for your TV entertainment.

But perhaps the greatest problem is with the programme’s name. Call me old fashioned but I believe that the label should reflect what’s in the tin. The programme should have been called My Big Fat Irish Traveller Weddings, because it’s largely Irish Traveller culture that’s in it. Romany Gypsies come from India and our culture reflects that. We respect our elders and women, cherish  our children and would rather die than shame our family. Blurring the difference between Irish Travellers and Romany Gypsies is about as useful as confusing
Dublin with Delhi.
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