Sunday, February 12, 2006

Who's obsessed with homosexuality?

It is the liberal elite, not the public, that kicks up a fuss about gay MPs

The UK Sun's outing of Lib Dem leadership contender Simon Hughes last week was presented as yet more evidence of the British masses' homophobia. Brave individuals rushed to defend Hughes against the millions who apparently would shun him. 'It's okay that he's GAY!', liberal commentators shouted towards the public gallery.

By these accounts, it was fear of public humiliation that had kept Hughes in the closet for so long. One columnist talked about the 'irrational loathing' and 'bigotry' that marked the Sun and its readers, and predicted that Hughes would now receive hate mail. The Guardian's news blog consoled: 'Sadly, it is hard to believe that Britain, at least as filtered through the media lens, is ready for a major party leader who is single, let alone gay.. Having a demonstrably virile family man in Number 10 has set the bar high. Is it any wonder that politicians deny they are gay when the penalties for admitting it still seem steep?'

But all the fuss about the affair came from Islington dinner tables. SE16 - the area of south London where Hughes is MP - remained nonplussed. There were no voters on the streets outraged at their representative's perversions. One constituent told BBC Radio Five Live that everybody in the constituency had long known anyway, and that it was not as if he had been caught 'dressed as a Nazi doing it with donkeys'. The only notable public reaction was from a handful of Muslim Lib Dem party members who switched back to Labour (they had recently switched to the Lib Dems over the Iraq war, so were hardly party faithful).

Nor was there reprobation from the Sun. Yes, there were the usual sharp headlines ('Another Limp Dem.Bites the Pillow'), but the paper's concern was less with Hughes' sexuality than with the fact that he had denied it. Hughes was pictured having a heart-to-heart with political editor Trevor Kavanagh, who reported 'Lib-Dem leadership challenger Simon Hughes last night spoke frankly about his gay sex life - and said he had been WRONG to hide it'. According to Kavanagh, 'Mr Hughes appeared relieved to get his confession off his chest after living under suspicion of a secret life for 30 years in politics'.

The Guardian blog cited the Sun's earlier headline to mark the recent marriage of Elton John and David Furnish - 'Elton takes David up the aisle' - as evidence of prejudice. But what it failed to note was the Sun's lengthy descriptions of Elton John's nuptials - the groom and groom's choice of clothing, their guest list, their pledges of love - that almost gave it the air of a royal hitching.

It is simply not the case that being gay is political suicide for an MP. There is a long list of openly gay politicos - Peter Mandelson, Chris Smith, Matthew Parris, Alan Duncan - most of whom are far closer to power than Hughes (though not all of them are entirely happy about being photographed with their boyfriends). Nick Herbert, a gay Tory MP, won a seat in the fusty Arundel and South Downs at the last election. In the current issue of Gay Times, four MPs are pictured on the dancefloor with their shirtsleeves rolled up. Alan Duncan recalls: 'When I came out, there was nothing but a positive reaction from the Tory Party. I still get two or three thank-you letters a week.' Indeed, former Tory leadership hopeful Michael Portillo confessed his previous gay love affairs in an attempt to boost his political standing.

So why all the fuss about homophobia? This issue owes less to public prejudice, than to the conceit of the liberal elite. The gay issue has become one of the signature tunes for an otherwise vapid elite; a point of principle it uses to mark itself out from the crowds. Overtures to gayness are implicitly directed at the backward and bigoted masses, who supposedly aren't sensitive enough to appreciate the finer points of gay love. Though public tolerance is growing, the gay question is kept politically fraught by constant attempts to turn it into a public education programme.

Just look at the fuss surrounding Brokeback Mountain: commentators fell over themselves to talk about how 'deeply moved' they were by the Western gay love story, and rubbed their hands with glee at the thought of Midwest America having to swallow this bitter pill. (Meanwhile, the film is quietly mainstreaming at cinemas all over the Western world, with not a gasp to be heard.) Or take the pages of commentary that accompanied the first wave of gay civil partnerships. This wasn't just about saying 'how nice that couples are finally able to tie the knot', but was instead a self-conscious posture, with journalists proving their sensitivity and appreciation of gay relationships.

All of this is not good news for gays. Gays were once a freak show because of their exclusion from mainstream society. All the most artificial aspects of gay culture - from drag queens to bull dykes - developed as a poke in the eye for the heterosexual mainstream. The gay community was shunned and ridiculed, and so it wore its marginalisation almost as a badge of pride; rather than being at ease with itself, it was always putting on a pose.

Now, at a time when public attitudes have eased, gays are becoming a new kind of freak show. Instead of achieving free and easy equality, their role as pin-ups for the liberal elite sets them apart from society. They are pushed forward as a lesson for all: 'He's GAY! Do you have a PROBLEM with that?', go commentators' cries. The new sin is not to be gay, but to hide it - an assumption that perhaps puts the Sun in bed with the Guardian blog.

Once, gay public figures were outed in order to suggest that there was something wrong with being gay. Today, there is a new breed of outing, which is about shining a light on the perceived prejudices of the masses. Gay figures are pushed forward and put on awkward parade. This keeps homosexuality politically live, at a time when by rights it should be fading as an issue of public concern. In this context, who could blame some politicians for wanting to keep the closet door firmly shut?



There was, to be sure, lots not to like. Betty Friedan was one tough mother. She overstated her case about the boredom of the 1950s American housewife, and she indulged in vicious and damaging hyperbole, describing the suburban housewife as living in a "comfortable concentration camp." But she transformed certain female realities that would benefit generations that came later, whether pleasing to liberal or angering to conservative.

Before she wrote "The Feminine Mystique" in 1963, many women who aspired to work in certain trades or pursue careers in the professions were consigned to the closets of their suburban homes, both literally and figuratively. She blazed a way out into a world of expanded opportunities that young women today expect as their natural due. It's important not to confuse Betty Friedan, the mother of modern feminism, with all that came after her. When she saw the damage wrought by radical feminists, she challenged the movement she founded, confronting the lesbian conspirators who would ignore the emotional wants and needs of women who yearned to be full-time mothers, or who wanted to mix family with work. She was denounced by some of the sisters as "bourgeois."

In her 1981 book, "The Second Stage," she examined some of the not-so-good changes her revolution had wrought. She told of the "executive assistant" she met in the office of a Los Angeles television producer. The woman, in her late 20s, beautiful, accomplished and "dressed for success," liked her work and saw it as a rung on the ladder to greater opportunity. "I know I'm lucky to have this job," she told Betty, "but you people who fought for these things had your families. You already had your men and your children. What are we supposed to do?"

Like most revolutions, feminism pushed the culture a few inches too far, ignoring the iron law of unintended consequences. Women who put their careers above all often found themselves listening to the remorseless ticking of their biological clocks without a man to love or child to nurture. Feminists had ignored Mother Nature, and Nature is the toughest mother of all.

The number of childless women in their early 40s doubled over two decades. One study found that 42 percent of successful women in corporate America were childless after 40. The numbers grew in other professions as well, as women became workaholics like the men they had railed against. By the 1970s, Betty Friedan's famous "feminine mystique" had hardened into conventions that deprived women of the warmth and caring that had marked their sex as la difference .

Betty Friedan made the mistake of imagining that all women were alike. She underestimated the passion of the conservative women led by Phyllis Schlafly, who almost single-handedly defeated the Equal Rights Amendment. In one debate, Ms. Friedan screamed at Mrs. Schlafly: "I'd like to burn you at the stake." Phyllis, who never loses her cucumber-like cool, replied: "I'm glad you said that, because it just shows the intemperate nature of proponents of ERA."

Betty Friedan and Phyllis Schlafly clarified the issues for women, issues that still teeter on the seesaw of public opinion. Betty had the media with her, but Phyllis had a grass-roots movement of her creation that's still alive and well. John Kerry won the majority of single women in 2004, but George W. won the overwhelming majority of married women, who figured he would be more likely to keep the home fires ablaze.

Betty Friedan was contemptuous of the radical feminists who set women against men, women again women, feminists against family. She warned young women of the peril of distorting the priorities of women and starting a war nobody could win. She was right about that, too.

More here

The Holocaust Memorial Museum

Dr Helen gets it:

I just went to see Glenn do his book signing at CPAC where there were bloggers, journalists and reporters galore! From there, I went to the Holocaust Museum to look at the exhibits. As a psychologist, I found the exhibition on "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race" the most interesting. The Nazi emphasis on health and fitness was certainly intriguing--while it sounds good in theory, it reminds me of why I feel upset with all the fitness gurus in this country with their propaganda that makes smokers seem like outlaws and those who eat at McDonald's one step away from a heart attack and lifelong reliance on the health insurance system. It is all about more government control--even to the point of telling people how to eat and exercise. Heck, I ate at McDonald's on the trip up and it was fairly healthy.

The National Socialist Party is an amazing representation to me of the worst characteristics of the authoritarian mixed with far left leaning propaganda. While the far left sometimes likens the right to Nazi's, it seems to me that Hitler also had traits of the left--I guess that's why they called it the National Socialist Party. One of the displays in the Deadly Medicine exhibit mentioned a quote from Hitler that I did not write down--but the gist was that the goal of the National Socialist Party was to have children as its top priority (in a 1938 speech, Hitler proclaimed the mother to be the most important citizen in his state) and that the selfishness of the individual was to be overlooked for the good of the collective society. Sounds very much like a form of socialism to me.

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