A recent event which caused quite a stir in the media gave us a good indication of where we are as a people – the people of the so-called free West. Australian swimming sensation, Stephanie Rice, mentioned something by means of her twitter profile which caused quite a few storms in various tea cups Down Under. Her native land’s national rugby team, The Wallabies, beat their South African counterparts in what ended of as quite a nail-biting test match. Her tweet reportedly read as follows: “Suck on that faggots. Probs the best game I’ve ever seen!! Well done boys.” That was the words of a very excited and patriotic, 22-year old Australian sports fan. Those of us who like our sport and regularly get our identities tangled up in our various teams to the point where we feel their success really validates us as individuals, know what it feels like to say something really mean about the opposing team during a moment of weakness, or otherwise put: a moment of blunt honesty.
Stephanie said something stupid which is not the best example to youngsters, and even more so because she is also a famous sports personality herself. The reasonable man, a term regularly used when formulating new laws, would see this as a ‘take that!’ or ‘in your face!’ proclamation which is made against the Springbok rugby team and possibly even against South Africans in general. Being a proud South African myself and also quite fond of sport, my immediate reaction was something like ‘Yeah whatever, we’ll beat you next time round’ or ‘Yeah, yeah the Aussies beat us for a change and now this girl is going all crazy’. I would then get over my emotions and not make too much of it.
On the other side of the world things didn’t go down too well though. Before I go on discussing my views of what happened next I want to state that I’m all for holding sport celebrities accountable as role models to our youth. A former rugby league player turned actor, Ian Roberts, got quite upset with Rice’s twitter comment. He did not criticise her for bad sportsmanship due to her comments against South Africa but got upset at the fact that she made use of the word ‘faggots’. The general reaction of most people was similar to mine at first when I thought that Roberts is going a bit over board here and that Rice never for one moment even thought of the homosexual connotation when she uttered the (other) f-word. Roberts, a practicing homosexual himself as I understand, however took serious offence. I have spoken to friends about this as well and the reality is that the word ‘faggot’ does in fact hurt many homosexual people and it is quite understandable seeing that in certain pockets of society they do get treated as lesser human beings when terms, such as faggot, gets slurred at them in a very abusive and demeaning manner.
What followed was a bit too much for me however. To recap, Rice made a comment aimed at South Africans in an unsportsmanlike attitude and used the word ‘faggot’ as part of the comment. Faggot is, amongst other things, generally used as a slang term for homosexual men. In this instance there was no direct connection however but Rice nevertheless stepped forward, erased the tweet from her twitter profile and publically apologised to the very angry (and quite intolerant if I may add) pro-gay brigade. The media also played their part of course as ABC calls it a ‘homophobic slur’ even. Pro-gay is a bad word choice actually, seeing that this specific section of the homosexual and gay-rights community fight for superior rights, rather than plain equal rights, for homosexual people. Due to this Rice lost her sponsorship deal with Jaguar and it seems that she is also in danger of losing a few other deals as well. Thankfully people like Matthew Mitcham, Aussie Olympic gold medal-winning diver, stepped in and approached the situation in a calm and rational manner. Mitcham, who is also homosexual, defended Rice and stated that nothing in what she said was aimed at the gay community or had any anti-homosexual intent. Mitcham took the tolerant route and forgave Rice while Roberts called for sponsorship bans and called Rice an ‘idiot’.
The reason I wrote this article is not to condone what Rice did or ridicule Roberts but to draw attention to what happens when society goes totally irrational in order to avoid extremes. As I have mentioned, it does happen that homosexual people are being terribly misunderstood and disrespected but it is also true for many other people for various other reasons. There has been a very particular shift (of which I could give some shocking examples) where homosexuals are being granted undeserved special rights to avoid criticism and abuse and many times at the cost of those who merely disagree with their worldview regarding sexuality or even just have a tongue-slip as is the case with the Rice tweet. Special rights are handed to homosexual people while rights are taken from other individuals and groups. Others should be respected at all times regardless of their worldviews but room should be left for disagreement and freedom of speech and although bad judgment, as is the case in this instance, should be punished at times, the offended should be willing to forgive and show some degree of tolerance towards the perpetrator.