Oliver Hotham: The sordid tale of how I was censored by Straight Pride UK

Originally posted on Soupy One:

[Reprinted from Oliver Hotham’s blog after threats from the Straight Pride UK group. I would suggest that other bloggers do the same, as a direct counter to this attempt at censorship and intimidation. Soupy]

Oliver Hotham writes:

“A few weeks ago, when thinking of interesting things I could write for this blog, I remembered a weird organisation that gathered some attention on the internet a month or two ago.

The organisation is called Straight Pride UK. It’s a strange group which believes that the tide of Gay rights has gone too far, and that now heterosexuals have become the oppressed minority. Essentially their philosophy is spun from the same reactionary cloth as “Men’s Rights activists” – the notion that, having essentially run Western society for most its existence, progressive demands that Christian white straight males share some of their total grasp on power is somehow a removal of their…

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Man Of Steel Review

Warning: minor spoilers

First off, let me state I’ve never read a comic book, so I have no idea how Man of Steel fits into or compares to the wider Superman universe. That said, I love the superhero genre, and we’re currently living in a golden age of superhero films (with some, or should I say Four, notable exceptions). I’ll be comparing Man of Steel to Superman 1 & 2 which I consider to be the only films worth watching (yes, not even Kevin Spacey could salvage the mess that was Superman Returns).

Man of Steel is a very worthy addition to the recent canon of serious superhero films – it has the grittiness and brutal realism of the Dark Knight (Nolan’s influence is clear), the spectacular clashes of the Avengers, and the emotion of Iron Man, but yet still retains the core of what makes Superman Superman. It ‘s a great re-interpretation of the character, played to perfection by Henry Cavill – and his history. He captures Clark Kent’s inner turmoil and sense of not belonging, without turning him into a walking pile of angst like Batman; he also puts the steel in his incarnation as the Man of Steel.  I will say this, however: Cavill has a lot of work to do on Clark Kent’s ‘hiding in plain sight’ act at the Daily Planet, which Christopher Reeve nailed. It’s ridiculously obvious he’s Superman.

Amy Adams is a Lois Lane for the 21st century. Gone is the woman who throws herself off waterfalls to provoke Clark into proving she’s right about him being Superman; she figures out who he is very quickly and is considerably wiser in how she acts on this knowledge. She’s almost a sidekick as well as a love interest, proving to be far more of a help than a hindrance. Kevin Costner also revealed hitherto unsuspected acting skills as Pa Kent. Costner is an actor I have been singularly unimpressed by in every movie I’ve seen him in – notably Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, where the only thing he managed to outact was Sherwood Forest and that was by being more wooden – but here he brings the right emotional depth as Superman’s adoptive father, and you can see and believe the deep influence he’s had on Clark’s moral and emotional development.

Superman’s true father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) plays a far more active role here than he does in the previous films, while not altering the key means by which he communicates with his son. Crowe turns in a performance vastly superior to Marlon Brando’s phoned in effort. Of course, Brando making no effort is still better than many an actor giving it their all, but the Jor-El of Superman 1/2 still serves purely as an expositionary figure rather than a fleshed out figure connecting us (and Superman) emotionally to Krypton.  A far greater level of importance is attached to Superman’s origin story this time around: Jor-El’s status as a heretic and his reasoning behind sending young Kal-El to Earth are what set up the key conflict between Superman and General Zod.

Right, on to said villain of the piece. While Superman calls General Zod a monster. He does indeed do monstrous things, but just how much choice does he have in the matter? Zod is the literal creation of a society where your sole purpose in life is determined by geneticists, and you are basically stored in a test tube until Krypton needs you. Zod was made to be a soldier, so while what he does is heinous, you can see why he does it. To him, Jor-El and Superman are taking his raison d’etre away from him, therefore he must stop them by all means necessary. It makes him a serious villain with understandable motives, a far cry from the General Zod of Superman 2 who took over Earth for kicks and was soon bored to tears by how easy mankind was to subjugate.

With regards to the film as a whole: the fight scenes were great; my only complaint would be they went on a little too long, and I found myself thinking “when the hell is Superman going to defeat these guys?” They don’t go lightly on the destruction either – the joint really gets wrecked here. On a meta level it was hilarious watching a virtual parade of characters from my favourite TV shows appear one by one – why hello West Wing’s Toby Ziegler, Elliot Stabler of SVU, Boardwalk Empire’s Nelson van Alden, Hannibal’s Jack Crawford and Doug Stamper from US House of Cards!

All in all: Man of Steel is both a fantastic movie and a really great reboot which should do for Superman what Batman Begins did for Batman.

Privilege Is One Hell Of A Drug…

…it makes people comfortable to the point where they aren’t aware they are privileged, it allows people to exert their privilege to claim the concept of privilege is nonsense, and can lead those who are allies and aware of their privilege to abuse it.

While I disagree with a lot of what Louise Mensch says in this piece on feminism and checking one’s privilege (especially the casual dismissals of ‘cis’ and ‘intersectionality’ as being essentially too unnecessarily complicated and boring for words)  it’s the reaction to it which I find infuriating. And unsurprisingly, it’s mainly from the exact people who do need to check their privilege but naturally lack anything remotely resembling self-awareness, such a Labour MP Tom Harris (who responded with mockery), and Independent columnist John Rentoul (who responded by adding ‘check your privilege’ to a list of banned phrases in a manner that made me want to reach through the screen and punch him).

The worst offender was the Telegraph’ Dan Hodges (who claims to be a Blairite but really plays the same role for a right-wing media outlet that ‘Democrats’ Pat Caddell and Kirsten Powers do on Fox News in the US), who was self-admittedly completely unaware of what was meant by ‘check your privilege’  up to this point, proceeded to write a glib, snarky, staggeringly ignorant post mocking the whole concept of privilege and concluding, after having missed the point as badly as John Terry missed this penalty,  boasting that he’d go out of his way to act like a complete arse to spite the Privilege Police.

Apparently, if any of us wish to comment on a particular issue we have to first “check our privilege”. It’s like a sort of moral entry exam. Before expressing a point of view we must first establish our bona fides. So for example, if you want to talk about an issue such as welfare reform, you have to consider whether you are middle-class or not. If you are, then sadly you fail the test. You can’t comment. Or if you do comment, then your point of view is in some way invalidated.

Ah yes, the ‘they’re trying to shut us up’ fallacy, the close relation of ‘I’m the real victim here!’ ploy. Here Hodges’ ignorance of what feminists/minority groups mean by this is glaring. No, Mr Hodges, we’re not telling to you shut up. We’re not telling your opinion is invalid. Nor are we telling you what to think about subjects that don’t affect you. We are asking, very nicely, to bear the experiences of the people it does affect in mind and compare them to your own when formulating that opinion. That’s what allies are – people who do not belong to a specific group but support their aims, empathise with them and recognise that they can use their privilege for good by helping combat the issues the group faces without hijacking their struggle  (as in the case of anti-racism crusader Tim Wise).

Sufficiently briefed, I sat down to give myself a comprehensive privilege MOT. White: tick. Male: tick. Middle-class: tick. Public school education: fail. Able-bodied: tick (well, half a tick. I’ve only got one eye. But you get two for a reason). Heterosexual: tick, (though never say never).

OK, Dan, I’m going to sit you down and explain what exactly privilege is as you are no more informed now than you were when you first asked what CYP is: it is not merely being a member of a certain demographic, as you seem to think with this list: it is the consequences (or rather lack of) and benefits which come with being part of said demographic. It’s not an insult, nor do we hate you for being privileged, it’s merely stating a fact. Privilege is being paid more on average because of your gender. Privilege is not having religious institutions and assorted groups dub you subhuman and campaign to deny you rights because of your sexuality. Privilege is not being thought more likely to commit a crime purely due to your skin colour and being stopped by the police for this reason. Privilege is being able to write a facetious lot of tripe about a serious hindrance to progress in a national newspaper read by thousands.

For a start, how do we actually define privilege? Let’s go back to the example I gave about welfare. Who really holds the privilege in this debate? Is it someone like me, who has never taken a penny of welfare, except to make regular withdrawals from the bank of mum and dad.?

Why, yes, it is!

Or is it those who are actually subsisting on, and benefiting from, welfare themselves? Who, in this case, actually enters the debate from a position of self-interest? Shouldn’t it be those Shameless types who we all know are merely idling and scrounging and swinging the lead, who should be giving their own privilege the run down?

From your lofty perch as someone who’s never been on welfare, you make allusions to lazy, greedy people sponging off the state. Privilege in action which Hodges’ exhaustive and failproof Privilege MOT somehow didn’t register. We’ve had mansplaining, we’ve had whitesplaining, and now with Hodges’ piece we’ve got douchesplaining. Have a seat, sir.

To come back to the Mensch piece which kicked this whole thing off, I noted that in it she claimed it was inspired by Laurie Penny of the New Statesman and a an average Jo and feminist activist on Twitter, whose handle is @jonanamary.  I’ve taken issue with  a well-known person singling out a relative nobody for criticism (implicitly or explicitly) before, so this did not sit easy with me. And then this happened:

 

noplatform

 

It turns out that the reply scheduled was going to be from the other person mentioned in Mensch’s post, Laurie Penny – who already has a platform to respond and is on a level playing field. @Jonanamary, the unknown tweeter, still has no means of replying to criticism directed at her in the Guardian, which will be read by thousands of people.

I myself have experienced something similar – I once called out the Telegraph’s James Delingpole for his blatant racism towards Barack Obama on Twitter, and found myself the subject of his ire in a post following this on his blog.  Now, I have a very small blog which I only update when something really gets my goat and only a modest amount of Twitter followers, so there’ s an immediately obvious imbalance of power here.  My personal attitude towards this was one of contempt – really, a blogger for a national newspaper punching this far below his weight? – and satisfaction at having irked this bullying poltroon enough for him to single me out in his defensive response. But the fact remains, like Mensch with Joanamary, Delingpole had a platform (and a large one at that) from which he could denounce me, while I did not.

What’s the word for being in a position of having more influence, strength and power than another person?

Oh yeah. Privilege.

 

 

Being A Comedian Is Not A Licence To Be A Jerk

Tricky Ricky

So, I logged on to Twitter this morning and saw that Ricky Gervais had appeared to have poked a hornet’s nest with a stick again. Nothing unusual there, I thought – he’s always coming out with jokes designed to outrage people (that’s his shtick he shares with his fellow outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins). What did stop me short though was that one tweeter had objected strongly – and in strong language – to a joke about self-harming, having been a self-harmer herself.

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And Gervais had retweeted her without comment, or responding to her. What followed for the unfortunate critic was several hours of non-stop vitriolic abuse. Gervais, hours after the fact, deleted the retweet that had kicked it all off. He then deleted the passive-aggressive abusive subtweets he’d aimed at her, but alas for Ricky, the mighty Print Screen button has been the downfall of many an ass-covering attempt:


It’s pretty clear from those tweets that not only did Gervais know what the result of him retweeting her would be, he didn’t care.

Finally, hours too late, he instructed his pack of wolves to leave the poor woman alone -

rickygervaistwitter

This was utter bullshit. Gervais’ actions were the equivalent of throwing chum in shark-infested waters. He knew what would happen. He knew his followers would rip her to shreds. Because he’s done it beforeand bragged about retweeting people who insult or criticise him and siccing his 4 million followers on them. Now, here’s where some point out well, these people are abusing him, they want him to see their nasty or critical tweet, so they’re getting what they deserve. Except for that number I mentioned above: 4 million followers. One retweet from Gervais and these nobodies on Twitter attract the instant ire of at least hundreds of rabid fans, who proceed to fill their mentions columns with particularly poisonous bile. As a comedian, Gervais should have a thick skin. In addition there are the options of blocking or ignoring the tweeter. This is not an equal power dynamic. Gervais gets one uncomplimentary tweet from them, they get hundreds of people abusing them back. It is cowardly. In other words, it is also bullying. And bear in mind this is a man who’s considered ‘edgy’ and ‘brave’ for mocking Hollywood moguls at an awards ceremony.

Moving on then – in other news, Ricky Gervais is teaming up with Katie Price to end…online bullying of people with special needs.

You’ll appreciate the extreme irony already, but the irony intensifies and becomes more bitter when you discover what he, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington did to Victoria Wright, a woman with facial disfigurements which they cruelly mocked on the Ricky Gervais Show. It happened 10 years ago, but this kind of cruelty scars people, especially those who receive it regularly in a world that’s not kind to those who are different. Victoria tells her story here.

So, it’s great you want to end the bullying of the vulnerable Ricky, but first I suggest you look up the saying ‘physician, heal thyself’.

Rufus Hound? More Like Rufus Dog

In the same 24 hour period, another British comedian, Rufus Hound, displayed a deeply unsavoury side in a tweet to former Tory MP Louise Mensch:

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Charming.

Whether you agree with Mensch’s politics/approach to feminism or not (and she has plenty of detractors) this is beyond the pale. Hound pathetically attempted to justify this misogynist slur in a long equally misogynist tweet saying how in his experience, it wasn’t sexist. Oh and how suggesting a woman’s blowing her boss only in a figurative sense is totally not sexist. Yeah, you’re not a woman, Rufus – you don’t to be the arbiter of what is or isn’t considered misogynist, OK? And let me tell you now – the tweet was definitely sexist, and in that follow-up tweet you took an industrial digger and tunnelled all the way to Mansplainersville.

Which brings me to a wider pattern I’m noticing among modern-day comedians. I enjoy black comedy and edgy humour that cuts close to the bone, but there’s an increasingly nasty undertone or basis to a lot of jokes and skits these days. And judging from these comedians’ behaviour off-stage, it’s less to do with them trying to be provocateurs than the kind of person they really are. Ricky Gervais exemplifies this – we have two clear-cut examples of him bullying two women who are ill-equipped to deal with it, and it’s not a coincidence that the conceit behind his highly successful series An Idiot Abroad is he and his mate putting another of his mates in increasingly uncomfortable situations. The difference of course is Karl Pilkington’s in on the joke, but part of the humour (aside from Karl’s reactions, thoughts and sayings) is derived from him making someone uncomfortable.

So if you need an outlet for your unpleasantness, comedians, restrict it to your stage or show. Otherwise it’s just human bear-baiting.

Thatcher: Neither A Lioniser Nor A Ghoulish Hater Be

 

Since the news of Baroness Thatcher’s death broke, I’ve been bouncing back and forth on Twitter trying to push back against two completely opposing attitudes – the first, and on the surface most obnoxious being the gleeful cries of ‘Ding dong!”while apparently opening magnums of champagne in spontaneous street parties while dancing to the Clash. People have plenty of reason to despise her, but such macabre delight in the death of a fellow human being reflects badly not on Margaret Thatcher, but her haters. I deliberately put a photo of the young Margaret, because as always with polarising politicians, we forget they didn’t always exist in the form in which we knew them while they were in power. We forget they’re as human as we are, and so we feel free to spew the kind of hate usually reserved for mass-murderers.

On the other hand, we have the many, many conservatives -on both sides of the pond – hailing her as the greatest PM since Churchill and possibly the greatest peacetime PM full stop. Communism’s greatest foe, scourge of the Argies, a champion for freedom and liberty, Britain’s Iron Lady and Saviour, etc, etc, etc.

Bollocks.

A particularly egregious case of this is – surprise! – Andrew Sullivan. It baffles me how a gay man can admire a woman who passed the singularly horrendous Section 28, which banned local authorities from ‘promoting homosexuality’ in general and especially not in schools. The message to gay people was clear: your country is ashamed of you, and is going to pretend you don’t exist. This nasty, discriminatory, humiliating piece of legislation designed to keep gay people as second class citizens exposes a rather large chink in his idol’s armour, yet Sullivan (whose sense of irony seems to have been surgically removed) titles his piece “Thatcher, Liberator”. Life in Britain pre-Thatcher, he writes, was insane. She restored much needed sanity. The cruel unionists were slowly killing their members  by forcing them to work in the mines.  Never mind that for these miners this was the only way to put food on the table for them and their families,  St Maggie nobly put an end to such suffering by putting them out of work to suffer from desperate poverty instead. Sullivan was, of course, a student at Oxford for the entirety of Thatcher’s first term, followed by an almost immediate move to America to work for the New Republic. So as you can see Sullivan experienced virtually nothing of the real Thatcher’s Britain, which oddly enough seems to be a pattern among her fervent admirers.

Having been born just as her rule as PM was coming to an end, I know nothing of 80s Britain either. But I know my father, who held a degree in mathematics and was a member of a professional body as a qualified actuary, had to leave Britain for South Africa to find work. There were absolutely no jobs, or opportunities to be had. Though Thatcher’s spiritual successor Iain Duncan Smith would have called my ridiculously qualified dad a snob for refusing to stack shelves after all that hard academic work.I know my grandmother, a weaver from Dundee, saw factories close as British industries crumbled under the Iron Lady’s iron fist. She and her family moved, coincidentally, to South Africa too to escape Thatcher’s new ‘sane’ Britain.

Margaret Thatcher is an object lesson in irony, in that her policies produced results contrary to her very strident beliefs. She trumpeted the need for people to be self-reliant, and implemented policies that made millions dependent on the dole. She hailed the British spirit during the Falklands War, even as her intransigence during the strikes caused bitter divides between families, friends and communities. And what about Margaret Thatcher, champion of freedom? She deplored and fought against the oppression of Communism, and declared anti-apartheid political prisoner Nelson Mandela a terrorist. In the case of South Africa, first Thatcher not only did nothing to bring down apartheid, she actively opposed sanctions – with the laughable reasoning that it would ‘hurt the black majority most’. You can’t hurt people who’ve got less than nothing.  She was anything but a champion of liberty to an oppressed Chilean under Pinochet, Thatcher’s BFF. Or to a Cambodian living in fear of the Khmer Rouge. These aren’t small blots on an otherwise pristine copybook, but ugly, glaring contradictory holes in the carefully cultivated myth of the Iron Lady, foe of tyranny.

The final myth that needs to be torn down is Margaret Thatcher the Feminist. “I hate feminism. It is poison,” said Maggie herself. And say what you will about her, she was never disingenuous. This hasn’t stopped people from declaring her a ‘feminist icon’. Why? Because she’s a strong woman? History is littered with equally powerful women who broke the mould, but nevertheless remained the exception rather than the rule and did nothing to raise the status of their fellow women. And that is what Thatcher did. If Emmeline Pankhurst had only fought for and won the vote for herself, would we applaud her as a feminist icon? Thatcher is worthy of women’s admiration in many ways:  she was a trailblazer, pursued her own path, won the leadership of a party in a overwhelmingly male-dominated profession, and did all this while raising a family. But those achievements did not unlock doors and shatter glass ceilings for women as a whole.

Quote Of The Day

“We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic games in the middle of nowhere.” – Prime Minister David Cameron in response to Mitt Romney questioning Britain’s readiness to host the Olympics

Burn, baby, burn.

Sanity Is Relative

 

There’s a claim I’ve heard many times from my American friends. “The UK Conservative Party is more liberal than our Democratic Party. Those guys are sane, sensible conservatives.” And every time I see a claim along these lines, I roll my eyes.

Yesterday, it was announced that Britain’s double-dip recession is intensifying:

The economy shrank by 0.7 per cent between April and June, the Office for National Statistics said. It is now smaller than when the Coalition came to power in 2010.

Since then, the Chancellor has pursued a strict policy of austerity – “Plan A” – in an attempt to bring down the deficit, leading to accusations that he has not done enough to stimulate growth.

Wednesday’s fall was worse than expected and means that Britain is firmly back in recession, with negative growth for the past nine months.

Amid a growing clamour from business groups for radical action, one senior Conservative figure admitted that the economy was likely to be in “intensive care” for another two years.

The Coalition’s  been in power for 2 years, and things are now even worse than they were when they were elected. As a clearly on-the-ball politician points out here, the world’s economy is recovering albeit slowly while austerity-driven Europe is struggling:

“The challenge is particularly great in our neighbourhood…since the financial crash the world economy has grown by 20%. But Europe’s has hardly grown at all.”

…said Prime Minister David Cameron. Cue frustrated headdesking.

The Tories’ solution to economic disaster caused by austerity has been the same as George W Bush’s to Iraq: stay the course, and unsurprisingly had the same results. The Tory party might not obsessively attempt to restrict women’s and gay people’s rights, but their economic policies are as destructive as their counterparts’ would be and threatening to bring about both a lost decade and a lost generation of young people who simply cannot find employment. Supporting gay marriage doesn’t make David Cameron a liberal (as some would hold) – it makes him a typical conservative: supporting one kind of family value, while harming families with his idea of ‘reforms’.

Let’s compare and contrast what our Coalition and US Democrats have done or attempted to do:

UK: Undertaken a policy of austerity which has led to crippling cuts in public spending with only one of the promised effects: it’s causing a lot of pain to British people, but making our economy worse.

US: Passed a stimulus bill which stemmed the economy haemorrhaging  jobs and turned it around to the point where America has now had 27 months of job growth and 11 consecutive quarters of economic growth. US conservatives would like America to follow our plan.

UK: Raised caps on tuition fees to a maximum of £9000, which resulted in virtually every single university choosing the maximum fee, as anyone not a Lib Dem could have predicted. Students now face leaving university burdened with a minimum of £36k debt.

US: Extended low student loan rates to make life easier for college students.

UK: Overhauled the welfare system, with the following impacts: disabled people are worse off, companies get free labour from young people on ‘work experience placements’ (workfare) which still does not help them find work, families lose out on child benefit, household benefits are capped at £26k because everyone’s situation is the same, cuts to housing benefit instead of regulating landlords, and proposing that all young people should be deprived of housing benefit altogether.

US: Reluctantly renewed all the Bush tax cuts so that the unemployed could continue to receive the unemployment benefits held hostage by Republicans. The Obama Administration also offered states waivers from the work requirements in Bill Clinton’s welfare reform.

UK: Passed NHS ‘reforms’ which will create massive amounts of bureaucracy, put patients’ interests lasts, open the door for privatisation of the NHS which will lead to more of this awfulness, and saddle doctors with responsibilities they don’t want at the expense of doing their actual job of treating people.

US: Passed healthcare reform which will expand healthcare coverage to millions and act as a foundation to eventually progress to a single-payer system. In other words, Britain and America are now moving in opposite directions on healthcare.

As for those American liberals who think the Democrats are too awful to vote for this November, I’d like to point our ‘Liberal’ Democrats aided and abetted all of the above horror stories – in some cases after having campaigned for the exact opposite – which are helping keep Britain stuck in the mire along with Europe while the rest of the world pulls itself out. And that your Democrats voted for all the good stuff on that list. You have no idea what betrayal of principle is, so grow up.

So America, you have a choice. You can vote Republican this November and go the same way we in Britain have. Or you can vote to keep climbing out of the well towards the light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sully, Put Down The Shovel

Andrew Sullivan doubles down on what was already a stupid reaction to Sally Ride’s lesbianism, with a quote from David Link:

The injustice of gay inequality, and particularly the injustice of the closet did not bother Ride. Or, maybe more accurately, it did not bother her enough to do anything with the public side of her life to try and change it. She simply accepted the closet, and took advantage of the work that others were doing on that front in order to live in a not-very-public-but-not-entirely-private lesbian relationship.

She shares this approach to the gay rights revolution with Mary Cheney. They are among the free-riders of this struggle, letting others do the fighting.

Sullivan adds:

But Mary Cheney was publicly out at least – which is more than be said for Ride.

As I pointed out in my previous post, Sally Ride came to prominence in 1983, which to anyone with an iota of knowledge about that decade will realise was not the most gay-friendly decade. Mary Cheney’s sexuality became a public issue in 2000, when gay marriage and the fight for gays in the military had only just begun to gather a real head of steam. Sally Ride’s father didn’t work for a superior who proposed an anti-gay amendment to the Constitution that would have banned her and all other gay people from marrying their partners. So the comparison Sullivan and Link make here is not only invalid, but to compare Sally Ride unfavourably to a woman who was prominently associated with a political party actively seeking to deny gays civil rights, is nothing short of disgraceful.

I’d also like  to address Link’s offensive description of both Mary Cheney and Sally Ride as ‘free riders of this struggle, letting others do the fighting’. By this logic, everyone who never put on a uniform for their country is ‘free riding’ on the freedom the military has, over the years, bought for them. Do they think every single black person in the country alive during the civil rights era was involved in the civil rights battle? Or that those who were unwilling to face the risk of violence and death were ‘free riding on the struggles’ of those who were wounded and killed? Not everyone is made to be a footsoldier. There is no moral draft where if you happen to be drawn into public life, you now have to serve your minority’s cause.

And the most important thing Sullivan and Link are conveniently failing to address here is that while Sally Ride was a public figure, her partner wasn’t. By slamming Ride and saying she should have outed herself for the greater good, they’re forgetting, or worse choosing to ignore, that Tam O’Shaughnessy also had a right to privacy. It was her decision too. The decision to be an activist for a cause carries burdens and responsibilities which rest not only on the shoulders of the person in question, but their families and even friends. They were perfectly within their rights to decide to spare their loved ones the shitstorm that would inevitably have ensued had they chosen to take a stand.

 

The Narrow-Mindedness of Andrew Sullivan

Here’s what Andrew Sullivan believes: if you are gay and a public figure, as the late Sally Ride was, your country needs you to expose your private life to public viewing and be Jesus for LGBT people. Not to do so makes you a moral draft dodger, for you ‘had a chance to expand young [LGBT people's] hope and esteem’ and didn’t (so all those gay suicides are on you, bucko).  To paraphrase Batman,  it’s not who you are underneath, but which gender you do that defines you. Oh yeah, and any paper that doesn’t make a dead gay person’s sexuality front and centre is forcing gay people back in the closet. Or something.

This isn’t the first time Sullivan’s worked himself into a lather about a public figure’s sexual orientation. When Elena Kagan was nominated for a SCOTUS seat and was up for confirmation, Sully decided, based on the following, that, that Kagan was secretly a lesbian:

[W]e have been told by many that she is gay … and no one will ask directly if this is true and no one in the administration will tell us definitively.

In a word, this is preposterous – a function of liberal cowardice and conservative discomfort. It should mean nothing either way. Since the issue of this tiny minority – and the right of the huge majority to determine its rights and equality – is a live issue for the court in the next generation, and since it would be bizarre to argue that a Justice’s sexual orientation will not in some way affect his or her judgment of the issue, it is only logical that this question should be clarified.

So, several anonymous sources saying Kagan is totally batting for the other team meant she has a question to answer. What the fuck is this, high school? And note Sully’s claim that a SCOTUS’ sexuality would be a key issue because it would affect his or her judgement – is exactly the same argument put forth by the anti-gay right against Judge Vaughn Walker, who was revealed to be gay, when he struck down Prop 8 (more on this convergence with the homophobes below). Additionally, it’s telling that in both cases it’s been women on the receiving end of Andrew’s ire regarding what they did or did not do for LGBT people. So when Sullivan writes dishonest, generalising shit like this:

And one often over-looked aspect of this is the long-standing discomfort of some in the feminist movement with lesbians in their midst. Feminists often “inned” lesbian pioneers, or the lesbians closeted themselves. This was not because they were in a reactionary movement; it was because they were in a progressive movement that did not want to be “tarred” with the lesbian image.

….bear in mind there is some serious projection going on here.

Now, I don’t deny we feminists work hard at getting our hate on. We hate men, we hate women who fancy men (traitors!), we hate women who…don’t fancy men, we make Rush Limbaugh’s dick shrivel up: our crimes are indeed legion. But here’s a pro-tip: the reason there are few prominent lesbians in the gay rights movement isn’t that the feminist movement’s uncomfortable with lesbians, it’s that there’s a lot of gay men uncomfortable with women.

So let’s get down to the fundamental question here. Is defining LGBT people by their sexual orientation good or bad? Put it this way, do we define straight people by the fact they’re straight? Nope. The only group that doesn’t get tarred with this ‘your minority status defines you’ brush  is, surprise, surprise, white straight men. So, if you insist on a public figure’s sexuality being a big deal, you’re basically acknowledging an inherent inequality, and enabling that inequality. Because in the main, the people who look at a gay person and think their sexuality is the most important thing about them are the homophobic crowd that think the pornos they watch are documentaries of the average gay person’s daily life. Look at the Richard Grenell affair – the guy is a neocon and was an aide to John “No Such Thing As Too Many Wars” Bolton, but the Religious Wrong was blinded by Fifty Shades of Gay and so Captain Courageous Romney…let him resign. Sullivan attacked both Romney and the Religious Right for this, and rightfully so. It’s a shame he can’t get the plank out of his own eye when it comes to defining LGBT people.

 

 

 

Hey Disney: Fat People Aren’t Evil, But Your Exhibit Is

Because fat people break everything they sit on, doncha know?

Via Jeff Fecke (who is constantly having to wage war against fat-shaming and fat jokes), this story was brought to my attention. As someone with a mother and grandmother who have both struggled with weight issues, this enrages me:

Disney World has officially joined the fight against childhood obesity — and the reactions are mixed.

An interactive exhibit named Habit Heroes opened on February 3rd as part of Disney’s Innoventions, a two-building playspace at Epcot, the Orlando Sentinel reports. It’s co-sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield, and features protagonists Callie Stenics and Will Power who lead participants through a series of activities aimed at destroying “villains” bearing names like Sweet Tooth, Lead Bottom and The Snacker.

Disney, in their infinite moral wisdom, have decided that ‘fighting childhood obesity’ means ‘let’s make overweight kids feel like shit by portraying causes of obesity as villains, and we’ll make these villains fat and ugly too, in case you didn’t get our point that being fat makes you an awful human being.”  This horribly named ‘Habit Heroes’ exhibit is interactive: kids get to take down dastardly do-badders like Lead Bottom – I guess they only refrained from using “Fat Ass” for being too profane, because God knows even mildly bad language is so much worse than fostering ignorance and contempt for other human beings! –  and Insecura. Yes, low self-esteem is, according to Disney,  a bad habit, and not an emotional/psychological issue that needs understanding and love to overcome. Of course, the people behind this are too fucking stupid and insensitive to realise that treating low self-esteem as such, and indeed this whole disgusting exhibit, is actually going to compound this very serious problem in children instead of helping them gain the confidence they so desperately need.

Yeah Disney, destroying kids’ self-esteem and basically telling others it’s fine to bully people for being fat is going to do wonders to bring down childhood obesity. Turning kids anorexic or even making them resort to killing themselves due to shame and feelings of worthlessness is one way of solving the obesity problem, I suppose. Very Swiftian.

Unfortunately, this is reflective of a bigger problem in society at large – people go on about how bullying is awful, and how we need to put a stop to it. As a victim of bullying myself, I wholeheartedly applaud efforts to do something about this scourge of both childhood and adulthood. And then I see people, often the very same people who deplore bullying, making fat jokes and turning fat people’s weight against them, and the hypocrisy and careless cruelty makes me want to vomit. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to call out people for cracking  fat jokes about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. I’ve got news for these idiots: Christie isn’t an asshole because he’s fat. He’s an asshole because he’s an asshole.

Personal appearance has long been the most common reason for people to bully others, but we’ve succeeded in establishing a consensus that it’s not okay to make fun of people for having spots, or red hair, or for being short, etc. But apparently it’s still okay to make fun of people for being overweight. Because, you know, it’s their own fault. If Fatty over there would only lose some weight, they wouldn’t get picked on. We tell bullying victims how “it’s the bully’s fault, not yours. You’re not to blame.” And then we go and make an exception for fat people, for whom it will NEVER GET BETTER. Instead of  a “It Gets Better” campaign, we need to make “STOP THIS SHIT NOW” campaign aimed at the perpetrators and enablers of not just fat-shaming, but ALL kinds of bullying. Encouraging the victims isn’t enough – some contributors to those “It Gets Better” videos have gone on to kill themselves – we need to tackle the root cause of their suffering: the bullies, and our own prejudices.

As a start, I’d like you all to read this post by someone who’s had weight problems, read how this ‘Habit Heroes’ exhibit made them feel, and spread the word that shaming people who are overweight is not only counter-productive, but flat-out wrong.