Hitchens on homophobia

Rob Schaap rws at comserver.canberra.edu.au
Sun Feb 28 19:59:27 PST 1999

G'day Doug,

>> >Well, Hitchy-poo is playing around with the old stereotype about gay
>> >beauty obsession.
>> But isn't he covertly reinforcing it? And what does it say about women?
>Well yes. But his intention here is to prove he isn't a homophobe. And
>joking that he's only straight because he's too ugly to be gay is arguably
>the kind of crack a homophobe wouldn't make.

Well, no.

Clever English boys like Hitchens are happy to take the piss out of a heap of things all at once, and in middle-class (sorry Carrol, but you know what I mean) Britain they are assured of many readers who read their words accordingly.

Pommie irony would allow itself the luxury of at once taking a shot at a myth about male homosexual superficiality (*as a myth*) whilst simultaneously making mischief with the equally mythical stance that women are much more level-headed and 'deep' choosers of sex partners (you should see the sad specimens my female friends typically choose to take home after a few vodkas) whilst simultaneously ridiculing those who think his words homophobic or his actions particularly homosexual.

The posh poms call such rhetorical ploys 'delicious'. Which I reckon they are. CG Estabrook is right to highlight that bit about never ratting. It IS delicious! It's a fine example of how posh poms hurt each other sans any unseemly sweating or grunting.

We could spend our time more productively than cleverly looking for hidden prejudices in Hitchens - we always find what we're looking for, I reckon. If Hitchens feels strongly about something he generally comes right out with it, no?

Hitchens is successful in America because he writes just like Americans don't - he's an exotic species: somehow sarcastic-by-way-of-affected-politeness (a class thing you inherent from grammar schools), above it all (a British thing, I think), and mischievous (the freedom of not being judged in your own milieu).

But he can be misconstrued by Americans, too, where the idea seems to be to make your points explicitly, where affectation is not generally sanctioned, and where ambiguity points to gutlessness, confusion or deceit.

I think British irony is a particular brand, with particular historical explanations that do not apply in America. In British 'society', the thing is to be polite always, even whilst damning your interlocuter. So people have become very clever at it.

Americans generally aren't, in my view, as clever at it. But then there was always something very wrong about having to be, no?

I think Ozzies are half way between poms and yanks. We understand and appreciate pommy nuances quite well, but we don't trust 'em at all. We prefer a more butch. less wordy, more toe-to-toe sorta discourse.

Humphrey rather than Dirk Bogard sorta thing ...

Cheers, Rob.

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