For how long do we make them pay?
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
It's a bad time to be a straight white male (SWM). So bad that when there is a danger I will be lumped in with this bunch I will bellow (as I would never have done 30 years ago), "Hey! I'm Gay!" If this isn't enough I will trot out being an anglo in Quebec with a francophone name or, if push comes to shove, play the handicapped card.
I noticed this anti-SWM trend over a decade ago when I saw a perfectly fine production of Dinner With Friends and reviewed it accordingly. One of my colleagues, however, tore it a new asshole for its white, bourgeois concerns (he may have used the word "suburban"). Yes, the play was at such a theatre but as far as such theatre goes, it grabbed me.
But think on it: most of the things we call "alternative" and "fringe" are a reaction against the culture (or lack of it) of the SWM. Even a work that seems to be a paean to SWMs is actually a trenchant criticism of them and the way they treated everyone around them: Mad Men. Yes, I'd like to get jiggy with Don Draper, but I suspect I'd want him to leave right after.
I must confess, I used to be a zealot of political correctness. I went after insult-comic Bobby Slayton in a review (and he came back at me giving me a lesson in comedy history). I once made an issue out of how sexist a Norm Foster play was. Norm Foster! Really! When I first came out publicly I was as thin-skinned and sensitive as a... (I was just about to use an enormously un-PC metaphor. Phew...)
Then, in the last weeks, I watched, with some amusement, the take-down of David Gilmour whose biggest sin was to claim he taught authors he "got" which all happened to be heterosexual and male. An SWM statement if ever there was one. I was amused by the subsequent attacks on him because I have always found Gilmour typically CBC (read: smarmy) and I knew in my guts what he said was a standard-issue SWM's attempt at humour (read: smarmy). At about the same time Guido Barilla, the big boss of the pasta company, said stupid things about Gays and the family and he, too, got it in the teeth.
I'm sure the two men thought that it was safe, now, for SWM's to stick their heads up again as the world is so open and Queer-positive and women have made such huge strides. Well, yes they would be right...but also terribly wrong.
I live in Montreal and so don't fear for my Gay life but if I was in Russia, or rural Quebec or even in my hometown of Quebec City I might not be quite so open. (I recently found out high school pals knew only one thing about what had become of me: I was Queer.) So, you see, the threat to me of SWMs is not something over there - it is something people here and now have to live with. At the University of Mississippi this week (Ole Miss) a production of the Laramie Project became the scene of ugly, homophobic comments from the audience. (So much for the hallowed halls of learning...yes, yes it's Ole Miss, I know...nevertheless...)
And women? Well - ask them! Ask them about how a new charter of values in Quebec which - if you're feeling generous - seems to have its heart in the right place but also seems quite specifically aimed at Muslim women (ie: the antithesis of the SWM).
And ask women and Gays about religion and patriarchy! Good Lord, these are not things of the past. There's a crucifix in our parliament in Quebec - and despite this Holy Charter it is staying there (and the Quebec Catholic attitudes and heritage it represents were violently oppressive of women and Queers).
So Gilmour makes some glib jokes. So a bunch of yahoos at Ole Miss make some noise. So Norm Foster often writes plays with (arguably) funny but patently SWM themes. So Bobby Slayton can make faggot, fat, dyke, jokes at the expense of his audience. So what?
Scratch a non-SWM and I promise you they can tell you a tale of a glib remark, "joke", play, work of art which minimizes struggles and negates strides.
So, for a while more... "Hey! I'M Gay!"