Clearly Matt was intending to wind Adam up and succeeded. Was he being homophobic, though? Or just offensive about surrogacy and Adam’s and Ian’s relationship?
I’m sitting on both sides of the fence on the ‘homophobia’ question. I read aloud to Mr Janie the offending lines, acting both parts. I think I did a very good and pompous Adam, yes we know how to have fun at Janie Towers, not as much fun as Stab Night, but still. Then I made the poor man listen to the relevant clip in the Podcast, so he heard the actual actors.
When we added up everything Matt had said, we did think there was a cumulative effect and that the things Matt said that could be taken to imply that Adam is not a manly man, that because he is gay he is effeminate and because he is effeminate, woman-like, he is inferior.
Here’s the list with my comments in italics.
Is that what’s got your knickers in a twist? - common expression, sure but he had to say ‘knickers’ didn’t he?
Ooh, I never took you to be the violent type! - meaning: because you’re not man enough
Oh, I get it! Playing the alpha male now that you and your hubby want to have a baby! - i.e. pretending to be a real man
I’m the old-fashioned type, you know, Adam and Eve and all that. - I know it appears to be talking about surrogacy and could be said to a man and a woman but could also be taken to mean a child should be brought up by a mummy and a daddy
[Ian’s] the one wearing the trousers in your house. And the pinny, I suppose. Confuse the heck out of your poor kid … - meaning how is the kid to know who’s in charge if one parent wears the pinnyandthe trousers, that’s the trouble with a gay relationship, no ‘man of the house’ - OK, that’s mostly sexist, but I get a whiff of homophobia too
Nothing ‘natural’ about it, is there? Going begging to any random woman to provide the pipeworks you ain’t … - I know that could be said to a man and a woman but it could also be taken to mean it’s not natural for two homosexuals to bring up a child
On balance, I think in Adam’s place, I would have been starting to get a homophobic vibe from the cumulative effect of all those little digs which heaven knows were offensive enough without the homophobia.
Mr Janie, incidentally, and without prompting, liked Matt’s performance very much and found Adam’s very dull indeed. Nice to have that confirmed!
Frankly I don’t think there’s any doubt that he taunted him, using his gay lifestyle as a weapon, trying to get a violent reaction. It worked. Matt will now use this to his own end … whatever that may be.
He may or may not be anti-gay, but did use that lifestyle as a lever to goad.
It’s too easy to say anything a gay person doesn’t like proves the sayer to be a homophobe.
I think that the implication that Adam is not an Alpha Male was absolutely clear – but you can be not-alpha without being gay, and a gay man can be an alpha male. (I have known a couple.)
I don’t think anything there suggested that he is effeminate, though it was definitely suggested that in their relationship Ian is the one who wears the trousers: again, a man who is not gay may be henpecked and not wear the trousers in a marriage.
I think the fact that Adam is inferior is nothing to do with his being gay and everything to do with his being a weak person – just like Tom, who is not gay, is not alpha, and if he were married would not be the one in the relationship who wore the trousers.
I don’t think that one individual wearing the signifying garments of both male and female, which even the least gay chef presumably does, is to do with his gayness; it might confuse a child that he wore both, gay or not.
“could be taken to mean” and “could be said” are always pointers, to me, which indicate that they need not be taken to mean it, and could be said to be otherwise, you see.
In exactly the same way, I recall, one could drive an old-style feminist nerts by saying that something separated the men from the boys, or any one of many other phrases to which they took exception – although the person saying them (except when s/he was deliberately winding up the feminist) was in no way sexist. Well, other than in being bored by feminists.
I would say that the remarks could be taken as homophobic, without actually having been so; that would depend on how you define homophobia.
Some people are very good at taking offence at everything. On the other hand, people do get tired of low-level sexism or homophobia or racism for that matter that when challenged is dismissed as banter.
I remember being infuriated at a family gathering when because Mr Janie did something helpful in the kitchen instead of leaving all the work to the women as the other men had, someone said, (you know I think it might have been one of my more stupid aunties) ‘Ooh, you’ve got him well-trained!’ Implying he was hen-pecked and I was a bully.
Or simply joking. Or envying you your relationship but not wanting to make a thing about it in front of everyone. Or…
There are lots of possibilities, and the moment it starts to be the case that what is said is not what matters, but how somebody chooses to interpret it, there is a major problem. (The same is true about literary criticism: the moment what the reader thinks it might be about is more important than what the author actually wrote, it has gone badly wrong, in my opinion.)
I remember vividly that in a conversation on a board about how wrong it is for people who collect for charity to judge people by how much they give, I wrote something along the lines “It’s a good thing, isn’t it, that the envelopes you deliver door to door are anonymous so you would have no idea who gave five pounds and who gave a button”, intending by this to point out that it wasn’t something that people needed to worry about because nobody would be able to tell.
The reply from one person within about a minute was “How disgusting that you want to know how much people have given” and a lot more to the same effect, others of her particular group of friends piled in, and I spent the next week wondering what on earth I had said which implied in the least way that I might have wished it to be otherwise than it was, ie anonymous.
There is an excellent couple of paragraphs in Rite of Passage which exactly sum this up, but I cba to go and find them at this time of night.
What Matt did was to go for what he correctly assumed would be sore points, and those just happened to be related to Adam’s relationship and situation. Were it not for the 'Adam and Steve’crack, then I think it could be conclusively argued not to have been in the least homophobic. But that does leave the door open rather to those who want to take general offence over a very personal verbal attack.
But poofs punching pensioners is fine, who could possibly be bothered by that…
However, and this is a genuine question: does this make me homophobic?
I very much dislike the notion of gay couples creating families via surrogacy. Now sexuality isn’t entirely a matter of choice - although in many cases there is an element of choice - but if one’s identity is gay, then not being in a position to create children with one’s chosen partner is an intrinsic part of that deal.
It isn’t that I don’t believe homosexual couples of either sex are necessarily unsuitable parents - I don’t feel the same way at all about gay adoption. It’s the picking and choosing and the as I perceive it ‘vanity’ element in the creation of a child that disturbs me.
I find the whole idea of surrogacy a bit disturbing, actually. The high risk of the biological mother changing her mind for a start, then the complicated relationships afterwards.
Ian snatching the role of sperm-giver, not even asking Adam if he would like to father the child, is a problem I see with this plan that is specifically to do with their being gay. How is Adam to bond with the child in the same way Ian will? Would a heterosexual couple have the same problem if the surrogate mother had donated the egg and therefore the man of the couple was the only one with a biological link to the child? I dunno, perhaps, but perhaps not as there would not have been a question of one lot of sperm vs another.
I think that adoptive fathers manage to bond (whatever that actually means) with their adopted children, and Adam would be no worse off than that: the child would be that of the person that he loves, and of another person, but that is now true in many, many marriages, after all.
Ian is indeed a grabby wee git. But I don’t think that is specifically a gay problem. I am remembering a a childless woman who felt sadly that although she would be happy for her husband to have a surrogate child using his sperm, she didn’t want to be excluded as that would make her.
I am opposed to fertility treatment as a general thing for two reasons, simply because there are 'way too many people on earth already, and more complicatedly because people who didn’t have children before it was available simply had to face the fact that they were childless, just as they faced all the other facts about themselves, and didn’t spend years and many thousands of pounds desperate because of the hope of a baby which had been held out to them. Not being able to conceive by IVF or AID must be even worse than not being able to conceive was before those things existed – it seems to me to be a refinement of cruelty.
I’m sorry! “She would be, but” is a subjunctive sort of construction which I thought was clear: that was what the “although” meant. “Although I would love to go on a picnic, it is raining.” “Although I would be happy for you to have a surrogate baby, I would feel excluded.”
[quote=“JustJanie, post:8, topic:720”]
Ian snatching the role of sperm-giver, not even asking Adam if he would like to father the child, is a problem I see with this plan that is specifically to do with their being gay.
[/quote]I see that as very specifically to do with them being Adam and Ian, actually, iyswim. It is not unkmown, certainly in the more ‘informal’ kind of arrangement, for a ‘mixture’ to be used, introducing an element of randomness and feeling of joint enterprise - although heaven knows, if it isn’t a wholly joint enterprise then it shouldn’t be happening. Which brings us back, of course, to the charming Macy-Craigs.
The really bizarre thing about surrogacy is that not the biological, but the host mother can change her mind and thus end up as the rightful parent to a child to whom she has no biological connection at all. Of course, half a second’s thought makes it obvious why that has to be the case - but it still feels slightly bizarre.
Like Chris, I am slightly sceptical about this ‘bonding’ business, or certainly about it being determined purely by having a genetic stake in the revolting little lump. Plenty of men bond very fondly with children that turn out not to be their own at all, just for starters…
Whole area of assisted fertility is a bluddy minefield.
In other words, her eggs might have been fine, she just couldn’t carry an embryo for more than about a month, so if she could have donated the egg for the surrogacy it would have been ok; only that wasn’t what was being offered.
What she minded, quite definitely, was that it would not have been part of her, not that it would have been part of somebody else.
It’s the apparent ‘ease’ of everything which really worries me
Austrian friends eventually adopted an African American baby,& then secondly an American Hispanic baby after years of unsuccessful fertility treatment. In between, they thought that they had a baby ‘promised’ them, but the mother decided, as she is legally allowed to do (in America at least) , that, after the 48 hours was up, she would keep the child.
It was a baby they wanted, any baby who needed a loving home.* They knew, & accepted that they had absolutely no hope of a child of their own ‘making’ when it was discovered that he had no viable sperm & they were both rapidly approaching an age where no-one in Europe would consider them,but they had to go to extreme lengths to get the 2 they had.
*It’s the ‘design you own’ approach which is one of the things worrying me too