Friday, September 23, 2011

The Republican party's anal stage

On "The Millionaire Matchmaker," participants - one millionaire (or "millionairess" - one of the show's many nods to misogyny) and one gold-digger - go on a "masterdate," a term Patti repeats as much as possible, no doubt knowing full well what the viewer mishears. Last night, my husband, our poodle, and I watched the Republican masterdebate. Dan Savage, you are the prophet of our age, or something, because it's not just that the Republicans' stance on gay issues is, well, weak. It's that they are obsessed - obsessed! - with gay sex. You'd think that images of Keanu Reeves and James Franco making out were hovering on cue cards in front of them the entire time, because without an explanation along those lines, it's hard to imagine even many gay men being that focused on gay sex during a live-broadcast political debate.

Not only was there the now-infamous WTF-moment booing of a gay active-duty soldier. (I explained to Bisou about Santorum and "Santorum" - unfortunately the only radio station that works on the radio near her crate is something far-right and super-xenophobic, and when she was a younger pup this was all she listened to, so her political views may be fixed. Fellow dog owners, what is the crucial puppy period for formation of political ideology?) There was more.

During the part at the end when the hopefuls discussed their dream picks for VP, Republican caricature Perry said something about wanting to "mate" two of the others, and neither of the two he mentioned was sole female contender Michelle Bachmann! OMG! The gay funny! Romney had a gay funny about this! The image is with him forever. And sometime about dog turds.

Meanwhile, Bisou, in schrecklichen protest of the fact that I made muffins (using our new hand mixer - life-changing, effortless baking!) and thus did something food-related but not for her, produced one right smack dab in front of the oven, whose light was on revealing the muffins within, to make a point. Point taken.

18 comments:

Andrew Stevens said...

I actually suspect that you and Dan Savage are the ones obsessed since I watched that debate too and everything you mentioned took up a tiny fraction of the time available. Of course, there is Rick Santorum, unfortunately, who is fairly obsessed and took the opportunity to go on another incoherent rant.

Phoebe said...

Seriously? The fact that there were *any* allusions to The Buttsex - let alone mockery of the idea of two men "mating" - during a political debate is in itself worth noting. Remember that this is a day and age in which, if whichever the two were Perry suggested did wish to "mate," they could become legally married in parts of this very nation. It would have been even more bizarre if that had been 98% of the debate rather than 2%, sure, but even 2% is way, way too much. And this wasn't even the part of the debate in which homosexuality was addressed (offensively, what with the booing, albeit) in a political context, in which Santorum did his thing. Yeah, not seeing how it makes me, or anyone else, "obsessed" to point this out.

Andrew Stevens said...

If Perry had made that exact same comment twenty years ago, nobody would have even noticed. His choice of words was a little odd (the usual word is "crossed"), thus prompting Romney's questionable joke, but everybody knows that what he meant had nothing to do with homosexuality.

I agree about the offensive booing. Perfectly fair to point that out. I wish Gary Johnson, a full-on supporter of gay marriage like Barack Obama isn't, had been given an opportunity to do so, though I don't know whether he would have taken it.

Phoebe said...

"but everybody knows that what he meant had nothing to do with homosexuality."

Which "he"? I mean, obviously Perry just meant "crossed," but Romney's tittering (and did the crowd/the other candidates not laugh along?) was just as obviously about the horrid image now in his head of two male Republicans getting it on. And dog poop.

Phoebe said...

Anyway, glad you agree re: the booing. As for where gay marriage fits into all of this... It almost seems to me that a more pressing problem is the social acceptability of homophobia along the lines of Romney's fun moment there. While I do think legal same sex marriage would have a positive trickle-down impact on gay young people, it's attitudes like Romney's there, and the laughing-along - that give bullies the idea that it's OK to make life a living hell for gay kids.

Andrew Stevens said...

Eh. I think Dan Savage, faced with the same misspeak by someone, probably would have made a joke about it too. (Okay, probably not the "disturbing image" joke, but give the Romneybot a break. He doesn't completely understand life-form humor.)

Phoebe said...

Not giving Romney a break on this one. He may be robotic, but casual homophobia like that is arguably more damaging than the fact that some morons don't get that it's not a big deal (hey, Israel does it!) to have gays in the military.

Andrew Stevens said...

Romney was a supporter of civil unions before it was popular with Democrats. Now that I think of it, given that it's Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich we're talking about, Savage may have made exactly the same joke.

Also, keep in mind that Romney is a great deal older than you are. Holding him to some brand new standard of political correctness invented within the past five years and punishing older folks for their inability to navigate the rapids of 2011 sensitivity is perhaps not the kindest thing in the world. Romney wasn't bullying anybody, nor was he approving of bullying or sanctioning it in any fashion. In other words, give the guy a break. You may need it yourself some day.

Phoebe said...

Look, unless Savage did make this joke, it seems unfair implicating him in what may or may not have been. But if he did make precisely that joke, it would have been a) in the context of a sex-advice podcast or column, not a serious political debate, and b) with the aim of highlighting Republican hypocrisy on this issue, as a gay man. But again, seems off to bring his theoretical joke-making into it.

And I'm going to have to reply with a give me a break re: Romney's age. He's not someone's inappropriate-comment-making not-so-sophisticated uncle. This was a serious event for people whose job description, in a large part, is to be sensitive to the words they use, to the message they convey. He's well aware of the political significance of homosexuality and homophobia, and that a joke about gays is like a joke about blacks or Jews. It may be a relatively new thing that it's not socially acceptable to mock gays, but it's not as of last week. And really, it's not as if I'm faulting the man for failing to be up on the latest in Queer Theory. It's standard-issue normal behavior to save off-color jokes for private life, and in a setting like that to avoid offending. Either his remark was off-the-cuff but just revealing what he really thinks (re: gay being ick), or it was a savvy move to rally those who think gay is ick, and who might not have thought of him as the candidate for the gay-is-ick constituency.

Meanwhile, the 'you're youth is showing' argument is a cheap and irrelevant shot, one I find commenters tend to resort to (if more when I was 20, say) whenever they've run out of other ideas. You have to be 28 or under to see where he went wrong there? No. This is someone any sophisticated professional of Romney's age would understand, whatever their private thoughts on homosexuality.

Anyway, I don't see why you're suggesting that the relevant issue here is how kind I'm being to Romney (poor, marginalized man), and not him making the world a worse place for gays, especially gay youth, by that remark. It was the kind of gaffe for which he should apologize. Not a career-ender, but yes, an apology would be great.

Andrew Stevens said...

You missed the import of my remark. Which is that this: and not him making the world a worse place for gays, especially gay youth, by that remark is completely overblown.

As for comments on your age, none of that was "your youth is showing," but "Romney's age is showing." It is very easy, in off-the-cuff remarks to fall into patterns of speech which you've been using all your life. I sympathize with your call for an apology and I think Romney might make one, if it were pointed out to him. Though I think your reaction is unusual and extreme and I doubt anybody will make an issue of it, so he's unlikely to even be told that an apology might be appropriate.

Phoebe said...

OK, I'm running out of interest in this. It was very much a 'your youth is showing,' as though being 28 (I of course have no idea how old you are, for all I know 18) means I'm oblivious to the privilege I have, of knowing what is or is not PC these days, of catching on to these delicate subtleties. Well, making a crude remark as Romney did strikes me as crossing that line by a long shot.

As for my reaction being extreme, if so that's unfortunate. FWIW I'm concerned not only with Romney's joking around, but with the general atmosphere of giggles starting from when Perry first made that unfortunate word choice. The takeaway was that a good Republican finds homosexuality icky and the source of nervous laughter. However, since only Romney seemed committed not to let the moment slide, it's only Romney one might expect to apologize.

Andrew Stevens said...

You are mistaken. I was making the exact same comments when Jimmy the Greek and Al Campanis (and others) were being crucified for making thoughtless remarks about race and I was younger then than you are now.

Phoebe said...

Maybe I'm not being clear. What I meant by 'your youth is showing' is along the same likes of 'your privilege is showing' - when someone privileged fails to note how things are on-the-ground for the less privileged. As in, 'Why are so many poor people fat, when there are such good arugula salads at my local café in Beverly Hills?' My impression is that you were saying that, as a 20-something (but barely, at this point!), I am oblivious to what a 50- or 60-something would or wouldn't get re: PC.

I was responding that a) it's not so relevant what a random person that age would pick up on, because neither Romney nor the situation are random, and b) that this is not something kind of obscure, like "cis" being used to describe someone who identifies as their biological gender, say, but something straightforward, something that I'd imagine PR-oriented professionals of my parents' generation would understand. Thus why I consider it entirely possible that Romney piped in there precisely because he'd correctly gauged the mood of the crowd, and thought that vocalizing some ick regarding gay sex would be appreciated. I also think it's entirely possible it was a gaffe.

Andrew Stevens said...

Okay, now that you've rephrased it like that, I accept that as a fair interpretation of what I said. What I objected to was "a cheap and irrelevant shot, one I find commenters tend to resort to (if more when I was 20, say) whenever they've run out of other ideas" which makes it sound like I was saying, "ah, you young, naive fool, you" which I think is a very unfair interpretation of what I said.

As I said, I did make this exact same argument about Campanis and Jimmy the Greek when it was the Baby Boomers crucifying their elders, even though I was younger than the Boomers doing the crucifying. I do believe that even many people who pride themselves on their empathy and sensitivity often don't put themselves into the shoes of people who make insensitive remarks and think about why they might say such things, but instead immediately jump to conclusions of active malice.

I think you're right that Romney could have been pandering to the crowd (though it was only a couple of people who booed that soldier, and there were at least a few people who clapped to try to drown them out). If it turns out he was pandering, then judge away. I just think it's unfair to assume it, when it could easily have been a gaffe. And there is another possibility besides revealing that he thinks "gay sex is ick," given that I don't want to visualize Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich mating either. (And admit it, neither do you.)

Phoebe said...

This particular case, which we've now officially discussed more than it merited (and I take the blame!), is a bit confusing because, as becomes obvious when one looks elsewhere at coverage of the debate, the real story is Perry's lack of suave. This is what people remember, that Perry said "mate" (which was plainly ridiculous, yes, even to non-homophobes).

Finally (I hope), I didn't say definitively (and we'll never know definitively) that Romney intended to appeal to a homophobic base with that remark, or whether it was indeed a gaffe. I don't think it's so very out-there to offer up both as viable possibilities.

Andrew Stevens said...

I take a lot of the blame. I am tendentious and cantankerous at the best of times. And, because I am (reluctantly) supporting the Romneybot, I might be defending him more than he deserves. I prefer the earlier Romneybot programming on gay rights (early supporter of civil unions, enthusiastically endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans) than his 2008-present programming, but I still think his heart-circuit is in the right place, even though he does have that maddening pander-circuitry.

The Atlantic's James Fallows reports that at least one person has claimed that, due to acoustics, the boos were not heard (they sounded like they were awfully near a microphone) and he reports that at least one (unnamed) candidate, after watching it later, wishes he had heard them so he could have said something. I suspect that's Gary Johnson, not Mitt Romney, but it does go to show that we probably shouldn't even judge candidates' lack of reaction to that event.

PG said...

Assuming the boos were inaudible to the folks onstage, I still thought it was fairly standard to thank people in the military for their service -- which neither Santorum nor anyone else on that stage did.

Phoebe said...

PG,

Yep. If NPR shows can manage it, you'd think a GOP debate could!