Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cathal Kelly and the Spectrum of Seriousness: Homophobia versus Sexism

In today's Toronto Star Cathal Kelly addresses Yunel Escobar's eye black gaffe. Escobar had the phrase "Tu ere maricon" into his eye black which is a Spanish phrase that can sometimes be interpreted as a homophobic slur.

It's pretty stupid, regardless of what Escobar meant, to write anything in his eye black that could be considered at all homophobic. There are a billion cameras taking your picture so maybe just keep the messages off the field. But no, Escobar did it and now he has to deal with the fall out.

Cathal Kelly is on a mission to educate us all about "how bad" this slur really is. Is it really so bad, he asks.  Yes, the phrase COULD mean "faggot" but it can also be an "effeminizing epithet" according to one of three Spanish professors Kelly approached. Some of the professors said that depending on the different cultural contexts the phrase could mean something different, but all agreed it was offensive. What Kelly seems to be insinuating is that there is a spectrum of offensiveness here that we need to understand: full on homophobia is OFFENSIVE where as a little jab about a man being like a lady is only a bit offensive.

That's bullshit.

I don't really know how many sports Cathal Kelly has played but the idea that calling a man a wuss, a "girl" is actually an insult to women is ridiculous. What are effeminate men? Fags. So telling someone they throw like a girl or that they're wimpy and prissy,is short hand for calling them a big fat homo. And even if Escobar wasn't using it as an outright homophobic slur(despite what the Cuban experts said about the cultural context of that phrase in Cuba, where Escobar is from) it's still offensive to belittle the physical prowess of women and it still calls into question a man's masculinity.

Let's deconstruct this phrase in very terms of basic sexist and homophobic assumptions that are not uncommon:

Women are weaker than men. They are bad at sports.
Men should be strong and naturally they are great at sports.
If a man is not good at sports he is not a real man, he is "less" than a man.
If a man is not a real man, he is more like a woman.
A man who is like a woman is gay.
Gay men are like women, they are weak and bad at sports and less than a real man.

How is this, as Kelly puts it, a "grey area?" It isn't grey, the language and context can vary but the phrase is always in bad taste and is at most extremely aggressive and offensive. Why is it not "on the dark side of the spectrum" to make a sexist remark?

Oh, I forgot that this article comes from someone who doesn't believe that women's boxing is a real sport because it's degrading to women's "nature." So I guess to someone like Kelly an offensive phrase about women isn't so bad on the spectrum(because they're probably true) and Escobar can be forgiven as long as he wasn't doing the worst thing of all: questioning the sacred realm of Masculinity.

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