“That’s Not My Name” — The Ting Tings

Photo by CardMapr on Unsplash

On one of their live videos, Katie White, The Ting Tings’ lead singer, dedicates “That’s Not My Name” to “all the invisible people”.

Sadly, in our society, that often means women, young people, people of a different ethnicity to ours and those we perceive to be of a lower social class.

Some years ago, I remember reading about a British journalist who worked as a healthcare assistant for a few shifts. When dressed in a healthcare assistant’s uniform, she because invisible, even to powerful people she had previously interviewed who passed her in the corridor.

Dressed differently, reporter’s notebook in hand, they knew who she was. Dressed as a lowly healthcare assistant, she became invisible to the very people she had interviewed.

Imagine what it must be like being a healthcare assistant full-time in that hospital…

Let’s not have a downer on hospitals, though. If we’re honest, that happens all the time in all sorts of organisations. There are too many tales of a woman saying something that gets ignored, but the same idea getting picked up as soon as a man says it. It’s often the same for minorities.

I certainly spent a lot of time in business meetings over the years noticing people who were opening their mouths but being talked over by someone else. I used to get control of the conversation so I could say something like “I’ve got something to say about that, but I know Katie was wanting to speak a few minutes ago and didn’t get a chance, so let’s hear what she has to say and I’ll pick up when she’s finished”.

As well as making an incredibly catchy song, The Ting Tings highlight the perspective of someone who is made to feel so unimportant that nobody can even be bothered to learn, much less remember, their name.

So they call them whatever comes to mind…love, chuck or darling…or even a name that’s entirely different to theirs…and expect that to be OK. As this behaviour usually comes from a much more powerful person, all most people can do in that situation is smile as best they can, swallow their pride and do what they were asked anyway…

They call me hell
They call me Stacey
They call me her
They call me Jane
That’s not my name
That’s not my name
That’s not my name
That’s not my name

What I like about “That’s Not My Name”…in addition to the powerful message…is that it’s a really simple song. It’s pretty much just a vocal with some extremely lively drums, and backing vocals courtesy of drummer, and co-writer, Jules De Martino.

Katie White and Jules De Martino carry “That’s Not My Name” entirely through the force of their energy and the strength of their message. It’s quite something to behold.

It might sound simple…almost inconsequential…but holding an audience’s attention for three minutes with just vocal and drums is no mean feat. Apart from The Ting Tings can you think of any other band which had a UK Number One single with a song structured as simply as that? No, me neither.

“That’s Not My Name” doesn’t just speak for people in the precise situation The Ting Tings sing about, though.

Their song speaks for all the marginalised, the dispossessed, the overlooked, the downtrodden, the disadvantaged. All the people who get the message every day from the behaviour of others that they aren’t important enough for the world to look them in the eye and show them the respect every human being deserves.

The Ting Tings sing for them all. And let’s face it, it’s about time somebody did…

So alone all the time and I lock myself away
Listen to me, oh no
And though I’m dressed up out and all
With everything considered they forget my name

The person who, years ago, might have cured cancer, solved climate change, or taken humans to Mars was maybe too poor, too marginalised, had the wrong skin colour, the wrong gender or the wrong belief system to be acknowledged as a human being and taken seriously by people in a position of power. So we all missed out.

They were invisible. They were the people The Ting Tings sang for.

What’s insidious about this behaviour is that it’s hard to break out the cycle when the rest of the world has spent years reinforcing just how irrelevant you are to them.

After a while it takes so much energy to keep trying to get your voice heard that I don’t blame anyone who gives up.

They haven’t failed. It’s people like me, middle-aged white men in suits, who have failed. We’ve failed those people as individuals, and we’ve failed in our collective duty to make the world a better place…

I’ll miss the catch if they throw me the ball
I’m the last chick standing up against the wall
Keep f-fallin’, these heels that keep me borin’
Getting clamped up and sittin’ on the fence now

This might be a challenging question, but who do you ignore every day?

Some years ago, I had a six-month assignment at a business, which was actually a nice business and a decent place to work.

On my last day, I went to thank the receptionist for her help during my time there and she said she’d be sad to see me go because I was the only person who made a point of stopping by the reception desk every morning on my way in and every night on my way out to say hello. Everyone else just breezed past on their way to their desks without saying a word.

There’s nothing special about me, I assure you, and I’m not asking for an outbreak of celebrations on my account. But this really hit me.

This was a nice place to work, full of friendly and pleasant people, in my experience. Yet one of our colleagues was used to being ignored by virtually everyone who worked there…so much so, she felt the need to comment when I went to thank her and say goodbye.

That affected me quite profoundly, and has stuck with me ever since. If that was a good place to work, what must the many other places people worked be like? Their baseline wouldn’t be anywhere near the level of this business. How must people who work in those organisations feel?

So, who do you see every day? How many of their names do you know?

Who never gets airtime in meetings because “the important people” are talking?

Whose ideas are ignored until someone more powerful says the same thing?

Whoever those people are in your life, they all deserve a voice. They all deserve support. They all deserve someone to make sure they get the chance to contribute their talents to the world to the greatest extent they’re able.

Starting today, right here, right now, you can be that person.

You can transform their world, and in the process you can transform your own world.

We’ll never know what the voiceless and invisible among us might say or do, or the places they could take us to, the inventions they could create or the experiences they could bring to the world, because nobody ever asks them. Unless you do…

If you want to know how much pent-up energy is waiting to be unleashed, you’ll feel it instantly from Katie White and Jules De Martino when you press “play” on The Ting Tings’ 2008 UK Number One…the defiant, powerful, impactful “That’s Not My Name”…

Without words, it’s just a nice tune. Add words — now you’ve got a song. And songs can change your world. I write about some that changed mine.

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