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PJ Kirby: Gossip needs a new PR manager
Image / Self / Advice

Arman Jose Galang

PJ Kirby: Gossip needs a new PR manager


by PJ Kirby
09th Jul 2024

Queer writer, performer and podcaster PJ Kirby has long been a collaborator at IMAGE and we’re delighted to welcome him here as our new columnist where you can read his musings monthly on IMAGE.ie.

Whether it’s an omnipresent texter exposing the inner workings of the Upper East Side and diabolically signing off with an XOXO or desperate housewives whispering about each other on Wisteria Lane, the media of my youth has painted gossipers as conniving, mischievous creatures that can’t be trusted. This in turn led me to believe for most of my life that gossiping of any kind is bad. Even with this in mind, I still spill the tea with my friends and have on occasion been known to utter the words “but who are we to judge” at the end of a story to cleanse our souls of the filthy sin that is gossip. However, as time goes on I ask myself, if gossiping is so bad then why does everybody do it?

Gossiping wasn’t always demonised. In the late Middle Ages, people hosted friendship meetings where they would share information and have a little kiki. Everyone was having a ball until women began to do this on their own and the men got worried that women would gain too much social capital and freaked out. Men created this horrific device called a scold’s bridle to punish women caught speaking to each other and if they’d no grounds to punish them, they could always just accuse them of being a witch. Simpler times. It’s akin to when Ken took over Barbieland but if Ken was absolutely unhinged and had access to a medieval torture device. Excuse the short history detour reader, I just needed to highlight that yet another thing was ruined by the patriarchy.

Misogynistic meddling aside, gossiping can actually save lives. Sharing of information can help warn your friend if their new love interest has cheated in the past, or worse, if they’re known to play Wonderwall at the afters. Gossiping, when used correctly, can take the power away from people who rely on you not disclosing information to each other. In my old job, for example, a few after-work rosés turned into a few “did you hear’s” turned into “how much do we all earn?” turned into me finding out I was getting paid much less than my coworkers. Armed with the knowledge from my gossiping session (and a slight hangover from the rosé) I marched into the office the next day and ended up getting a raise. Gossiping: 1 Gatekeeping: 0.

If you find yourself violently tapping your keypad, illuminated by your phone screen at 2am as you make assumptions about somebody you don’t know on Tattle, I fear you may need to go outside and touch some grass.

Men are not immune to gossip. Everybody does it. In Ireland, the mammies are usually the ones painted as the gossips, a bunch of hens clucking away, but have you ever sat on a high stool at the bar full of fellas? If a bunch of hens are bad, they’re a full coop. People will never stop gossiping. It helps us build bonds and deters poor behaviour. People are far less likely to be mean to somebody if they feel like someone will tell people about it. In short, gossiping holds people accountable.

Gossiping, like a lot of things, can be abused and an exchange of information can quickly become a character assassination. There’s definitely a line and when crossed a person can become wide-eyed, practically salivating at the opportunity to knock someone down a few pegs. I leave these conversations feeling dirty, like I’m no better than the witch hunters mentioned earlier. For this reason, I feel we all need to have strict boundaries with ourselves when it comes to gossiping. If you find yourself violently tapping your keypad, illuminated by your phone screen at 2am as you make assumptions about somebody you don’t know on Tattle, I fear you may need to go outside and touch some grass.

For the most part, I think gossiping is good and if we take it back to its original intention we’d all feel a little less guilty for doing it. The Gossip Girl reboot may have been a flop, but I think with a better PR manager, gossiping could shed its villain era and have a successful second season.

Photography by Arman Jose Galang, @arman.jose.galang.

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