Sunday, 13 February 2011

Sexism and Politics

A article on an MP's comments about homosexuals got me a bit puzzled - as normal.

He joked, "we can forget about gay men, but I would gladly watch lesbians." This is an old joke, which seems to be sexist. It must just be my limited understanding, since it says to me:
  • I am a male heterosexual interested in women.
  • The sexuality of men is therefore completely irrelevant to me.
  • I have no objection to female homosexuality.
  • However, I find female homosexuals equally attractive and arousing as female heterosexuals even though I know they would not be interested in me.
Maybe its just that I remember the stereotyping of lesbians as being frigid, ugly men haters, but the joke seems to me to be as good an espousal of equality as one might wish for. A definition of 'sexism' is 'contempt shown for or discrimination against a particular sex, usually by men of women, based on prejudice or stereotype'. There is no contempt, but admiration. There is discrimination here: he prefers women (hetero- or homosexual) to men, but what's wrong with that? (It would put me in trouble.)

My own version of this may be more dubious, but I'm not interested in watching other people have sex. I used this joke, to seemingly good effect, during conversations about homosexuality with younger Polish men, intending to point out, by absurdly negating it, the irrelevance of other people's sexuality. It goes: "I don't care about gay men. However, lesbians should be illegal. Gay men reduce my competition, whilst lesbians increase it." This narrow minded self-interest related to my own attraction to women contrasted with their primary concern about gay men. (Did they imagine they were being buggered?)

What the MP says later is very different, however: “man is constructed in such a way that he should live in partnerships that are in harmony with nature” whilst, for others “It's their problem, but they shouldn't flaunt it.” Given the 'in harmony with nature' and 'their problem', it seems that the guy is anti-homosexual, but trying to be tolerant. The joke then seems just to be thrown in to show how nice and amusing he is. I think its great when Polish politicians give their real views about such things. I might completely disagree, but its far better for me to know the truth than have them hiding it.

Unfortunately, however, this is exactly what I have come to feel about many things said by PO side politicians. Leading government figures, from the Prime Minister and President down, often seem to describe a policy for change and then add caveats to appease voters who oppose that policy. This happens often with internal policies, but, for those with wider interests,   an example was statements about having a primary objective of good relations with Russia, but then immediately promising robust protection of Polish interests. In current circumstances this seems to say 'we will create change, but we will not maintain exactly the same Polish position as before'. Weasel words!

So might this MP just be two faced? I quite liked right-wing arguments about homosexuality not being natural: it biologically takes both a man and woman to have children and homosexuals cannot do this. Its a fun argument to analyse to understand basic concepts such as 'natural', especially since it eventually comes down to 'assume homosexuality is not natural', 'assume not natural is not good' and conclude 'homosexuality is not good'. However, if one assumes that homosexuality is 'natural', gay partnerships suddenly become 'in harmony with nature': the MP's statement then means one thing, but panders to the opposing perspective and appears to say another. The possibility of being two-faced clearly exists.

No doubt I am looking too deeply into the wording as it was reported. Indeed, I feel I am crediting the guy with possibly having an intelligence I wouldn't expect any politician to have. (Has anyone read that famous Jaruzelski statement that may or may not have been seeking Russian army help, though? I you believe his claim of innocence, it's a masterpiece of diplomatic doubletalk. I can't be bothered to find an internet link, but if anyone has one, please let me know.)

I remember a song from 1986 that makes the same sexist joke. It's by Loudon Wainwright III , called 'Synchronicity' and from his album More Love Songs - also available on the Best of ... 'One Man Guy'. Its better to listen to him singing it, as it is difficult to scan when reading. However, think about the line "It turns out that you did like men but didn’t like their things". I'm starting to suspect I am also sexist (although 'hominophobe' - fear of men, is probably too strong. I am definitely biased towards women.

Little did I know, though I probably should have guessed
By the way you walked and talked and spoke and smoked and dressed.
You actually seemed to like me and so naturally I presumed
You were after that thing, it’s the one thing, it’s assumed.

So I wined and dined you, hey, I love that kind of stuff
And we blabbed about our backgrounds, how family life is rough.
We spoke of what we dreamed of, what we thought of, what we did.
Midway through the second bottle I admitted I had kids.

But nothing seemed to throw you, though I know you better now,
At the time, my minor crime was figuring out how
To get you in my hotel room, unclothed and in my bed
And proceed with the unspeakable, it’s better left unsaid.

We went to see a friend of yours and watch me on TV.
Sheer coincidence you said, synchronicity.
A full moon on a Friday night, the thirteenth of July
A man and two women in a room and on the screen the guy.

Your friend, she liked me on the show, yeah: she was snowed for sure.
Her body language got obscene, her demeanor less than pure.
You started venting something, wearing spleen upon your sleeve.
You got sort of nervous, kind of anxious, had to leave.

You told me on the freeway that you didn’t sleep with men.
I put two and two together…and I asked about your friend.
It turns out she, and though she loved my show,
She too preferred the fairer sex — I absorbed the blow.

It turns out that you did like men but didn’t like their things
That hang down and all the hang-ups being with them always brings.
My brother is so practical; this is what he said:
“You should have asked if it was cool to watch them both in bed”

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