CORRESPONDENCErnLetter FromrnEnglandrnby Christie DaviesrnI.D. Cards for Menrn”I don’t want to have to carry a handbagrnall the time” was the way an aggressivernBritish opponent of the compulsory carryingrnof identity cards (as proposed byrnseveral members of the British government)rnyelled it to me recently. In fairnessrn1 should add that this defenderrnof supposed civil liberties was svelte andrnfemale. She lacked the kind of bulkyrnclothing equipped with capacious pocketsrnin which middle-aged males suchrnas myself still automatically carry thernBritish National Registration IdentityrnCard issued to them during VVorid WarrnII. Mine still carries the distinctive signaturernof my father, since I did not learn tornwrite until I was three. Even at the age ofrnone month I carried that card to prove Irnwas not a German spy, and today I stillrnwave mv card with its British royal mottornHoni soil qui maly pense on the front atrnthe French customs officials, to provernthat I have nothing to do with France either.rnFor men the carrying of identityrncards is a belligerent proclamation of ourrncentral collective identities, whether asrnpatriots or riotous supporters of a footballrnteam, and it carries our NationalrnHealth Service code number so that inrncase of injury we are entitled to socializedrnmedical treatment.rnBut why should the British governmentrnin peacetime in 1996 want to forcernwomen to carry identity cards? Womenrndo not rob banks, mug elderly victims,rnstart fights in bars, steal Porsches, vandalizernphone boxes, or commit sexual assaultsrnon sheep, and it was the rise in thernincidence of enormities such as thesernthat led the British Home Secretary,rnMichael Howard, to favor the introductionrnof identity cards. It is fundamentallyrnunjust that the civil liberties ofrnBritain’s women should be confined andrninfringed in order to curb a male populationrnwhose criminal tendencies havernexploded out of all control. There is nornneed for Britain’s peaceful, honest, andrnlaw-abiding female population to possess,rnlet alone be compelled to carry,rnidentity cards. Why should they have tornbother their pretty little heads aboutrnsuch things, or be forced to disturb thernimmaculate line of an expensive blousernwith the ugly oblong outline of a piece ofrnplastic, or to stop wearing tights? Therncommon Danish female alternative ofrntattooing her personummer (a universalrnidentity number that instantly identifiesrna Daness, right down to her DNA code)rnin some unmentionable place is equallyrnoffensive to British traditions and sensibilities.rnWorse still is the German Arbeitsbuchrn(work document), a bulky documentrnlisting a German bundesperson’srnentire employment history and ethnicrnancestry unto the tenth generation,rnwhich can only be elegantly carried withrnany degree of concealment by a womanrnwhose excessive degree of bust developmentrnis abnormal even by Teutonic standards.rnBritish women could never sustainrnsuch an imposition, and no Britishrnmale would be so unchivalrous as to demandrnthat they do.rnThe only just, chivalrous, and affirmativernsolution to Britain’s identity cardrncontroversy is to compel men alone torncarry identity cards, while leavingrnBritain’s female citizens free of any suchrnimposition. For men, the proclamationrnof identity on and by their persons is anywayrna standard and expected part of theirrnway of life. My British neighbor, RussellrnMoy-Williams, travels to work in Londonrnevery day wearing an old Silurian tie,rna Hemlock Gollege scarf, and an EssexrnPioneers regimental blazer. On one lapelrna small fish proclaims his religious sympathies,rnand on the other a tiny red buttonholernreveals that he has acceptedrnsome obscure honor from the Frenchrngovernment. The watch-chain that encirclesrnhis comfortable stomach carriesrnan elk’s tooth and the symbols of severalrnother fraternal and esoteric orders. Hisrnteenage son is much the same butrnprefers T-shirts and plastic badges thatrndeclare his allegiances to the TorontornBlessings ice hockey team, a pop grouprncalled “Irish Weddings,” and a commitmentrnto S & M pride week expressedrnthrough the slogan “Black and Blue isrnBeautiful.” His left eyebrow is penetratedrnby a medallion carrying a portrait of arnfamous Mongolian military leader, becausernhe wants to be the only personrnreally to the right of Genghis Klian.rnGovernment-designed identity cardsrnfor British men are only an extension,rnthen, of the kind of identity cards theyrncarry anyway. The men of Britain willrnadd them to their existing badges andrnwear them openly like conferencernnametags as a proud proclamation of arnuniquely masculine identity not availablernto women. As for those who don’trnlike it—^well, they can always buy a handbag.rnChristie Davies is chairman of thernsociology department at the Universityrnof Reading, England.rnADVERTISINGrnPOLICYrnChroniclesrnmagazine acceptsrnadvertising fromrnreputable bookrnpublishers andrndistributors and fromrncompanies sellingrneducational and culturalrnproducts compatible withrnthe magazine’s purposernand standards. Althoughrnwe try to verify claimsrnmade by advertisers,rnpublication of an ad doesrnnot in any way constituternan endorsement.rnChroniclesrnADVERTISING DFPT.rn934 N. MAIN ST.rnROCKFORD, IL 61103rn815-964-5813rnJULY 1996/35rnrnrn