Wednesday, 21 May 2014

In painful defence of Pyne

Written by

Progressive’s dislike of Christopher Pyne is entirely understandable, but the expression of it leads them to mimic the worst of the behaviour they so despise in conservative commentators.

I have a huge problem with Christopher Pyne. This isn’t the first time this sentiment has been written down; in fact, it’s probably not even the first time that I have written it down (today). Unfortunately, I only have one article and not a War and Peace-length book to list all of the issues that I have with him.

First, of course, are his politics. I have a lot of problems with his politics, as do most people with a heart and ability to feel empathy. Besides that, I also have a huge problem with his public persona, his smug demeanour, the patronizing tone he uses, and the rage that fills me during his appearances on QandA.

There is also the fury that builds during his appearances at Question Time, and essentially at all other times. I think he is disingenuous, uncaring, smug and intolerable. If Australia were Hogwarts, Christopher Pyne would be head boy of Slytherin.

However, none of these are the problem I wish to talk about. The big issue I have with Christopher Pyne at the moment is that I am being forced to defend him, and I really, truly don’t want to.

This may be the only problem I have with Christopher Pyne that is not actually of his own doing. This problem manifests itself in right-wing people, left-wing people, conservatives, libertarians, other politicians, ex-Prime Minister Gillard, Prime Minister Abbott, my family, your family, and a lot of people you know. The problem can be boiled down to two words:

1. Gay

2. Jokes

Now, you have probably heard these two words used separately before, and perhaps you are even familiar with them as a concept when they are combined. If you are reading this, and if you follow me on Twitter, there’s a pretty good chance that you don’t think you make gay jokes. You probably would never consider yourself a homophobe. In fact, you are no doubt outraged when simpletons like Sam Newman espouse homophobic views on television. You probably think yourself far superior to him, as someone who would never be homophobic. You love queer people, your best friend is gay, and you have been to several rallies for marriage equality!

And yet, when Chris Pyne comes on television, who is it that makes snide remarks, sly references, uses innuendo or flat-out says that Chris Pyne is feminine, or that Chris Pyne is gay? It is people like us. People like us who would never consider making a gay joke about Michael Sam. We would never ever disparage someone for being queer. But because Chris Pyne is so unlikeable (see first paragraph of article), a lot of us let jokes slide by that we would typically find unacceptable and would have no hesitation in challenging if they were made about someone we do like.

If we just take a second to think about why these jokes about Pyne are so enduring, it might help us also realise why they should be unacceptable. Let’s get straight (lol) to the point. Kevin Rudd called Pyne, the member for Sturt, the ‘member for skirt’ sarcastically. He was called ‘mincing’ and a ‘poodle’ by Julia Gillard. He has a falling out with his own colleague in 2010, after Tony Abbott, while getting makeup removed after a TV interview, said: “Christopher would probably want his left on”. Pyne wasn’t there, and Abbott had to call him to apologise after learning that the comment would be in the next day’s newspaper.

This wasn’t just a couple of pals ribbing each other. In 2011, staff from QandA contacted Pyne’s office to apologise when a tweet was shown on the screen that said, “Just me, or does Pyne really light up when he’s talking about men in uniform? #qanda”. There have been rumours, innuendo and gossip about Pyne’s involvement in the Ashby/Slipper saga, ranging from Pyne having a drink and a conversation with Ashby, to them having a sordid affair.

And that brings me to my main problem, the nastiness that is directly under the surface in this situation; stereotypes about gay men. The majority of people who make these kinds of comments or jokes about Pyne are doing it for one reason and one reason only; they think he has the mannerisms of a stereotypically gay man. They think Pyne, who is married with four children, is secretly having sex with men and just won’t admit it, purely because he has a high voice and some effete mannerisms. I don’t want to blow your minds here, but a lot of out gay men do not have high voices and a flamboyant manner. Some are even huge manly football players with messy houses and ugly torn shorts. And a lot of men with nasal voices and a lisp, who like a clean house, also love having sex with women. While we’re at it, did you also know that not all lesbians have short hair? Not all bisexual people are confused, not all trans people are homosexual, not all blondes are dumb, not all women love shopping, not all men love sport, not all Irish people are drunks, and I think you can see where I am going with this. Stereotypes are damaging, they are used as weapons to oppress. In the year of our Lord Beyoncé 2014, it is beyond wrong to rely on these kinds of stereotypes to brand someone you don’t like as secretly gay.

And that’s what all of this comes down to; it’s all because we don’t like Chris Pyne. I see versions of homophobia online on an almost daily basis, but this is different. This doesn’t come from people who generally abhor gay people. This comes from the minds and mouths and Twitter accounts of people on the same side of politics as me. People who like and respect their gay friends, people who are pro-gay rights – people who should know better. But all of that is discarded because we disagree with Pyne’s politics and personality. And really, what are you doing even GOING there? Especially if you are heterosexual. Making snide jokes about Pyne’s sexuality, by sniggering that he is gay, by using that to try and bring him down, using that to try to insult him? That is homophobia, there are no two ways about it.

How do you think your gay friends feel when Pyne is on Q&A, and we see ‘joke’ (they are never funny) after ‘joke’ about how Pyne is gay? Being gay shouldn’t be the punchline of your joke about a politician you don’t like. Being gay shouldn’t be used as an insult. And with this, Pyne’s sexuality is truly irrelevant, because I dislike him not a jot more or less if he was actually secretly gay.

Besides it being wrong, there is an ENDLESS supply of real and awful things Pyne has done politically that ARE fair game. If you cannot find something else to make comments about, a different way to insult him, another way to tell people that you dislike him, you are not trying hard enough (or at all).

But the very worst outcome from all of this, and the true disgrace, is that I have felt it necessary to spend time writing an article defending Christopher Pyne.

Look at what you have done.

Rebecca Shaw

Rebecca is primary caregiver and confidant to Tippi, the best cat in the world. She also likes writing bad jokes on twitter @brocklesnitch