The temptation is great, sometimes, to line up with the 'sexual oppressors’

Mordecai Richler September 4 1978

The temptation is great, sometimes, to line up with the 'sexual oppressors’

Mordecai Richler September 4 1978

The temptation is great, sometimes, to line up with the 'sexual oppressors’

Mordecai Richler

We have all learned to live with a good many shifts in cultural attitudes, many of them of a sexual nature, in the past two decades. The love that once dared not speak its name, for instance, now shouts it from the rooftops.

Item: The recently formed Gaystars XI, the first homosexual soccer team, the players’ hair dyed blue, has registered with the Sussex Football Federation and challenged Coventry City to a match, if only to prove that homosexuals can play as well as heterosexuals.

There are truculent women about who are demonstrating for the right to do things men have never done out of choice, but only through need. For reasons that utterly baffle me they seem to feel that their lives would be enhanced if only they could be garbage collectors, telephone linesmen, gas pump attendants, or belong to the Rideau Club. Girls, one season out of trainer bras, court cancer with the pill. VD is bigger among today’s teen-age boys than baseball cards ever were.

The good Hugh MacLennan lays most of these changes down to an improved chemistry.

“People have so much more freedom today than in my day,” he said in a recent interview. “Commitments, relationships.

What changed everything was the pill and penicillin.”

Yes, certainly. But I blame it mostly on the movies. When I was a boy we looked to Hollywood for fantasy, candy-coated lies, not a shallow reflection of the way we lived, which is all we really get now. Then, one day, a badly hung over Fredric March was actually seen to burp in The Best Years oj Our Lives. This was a seminal burp, resounding round the world, that led inevitably to Deep Throat, Trader Horny, and other screen gems—the inflationary, if arguably necessary, price we pay for an end to any censorship laws whatsoever. March’s burp also led indirectly to the increasing pressures put upon us by the most bellicose members of cultural and sexual minorities everywhere. Women libbers here, gay libbers there.

Item: Last season, a woman hockey writer in New York cried sexual discrimination when she was not welcomed into the Rangers’ dressing room after a game. One young, quintessential^ Canadian player protested, “I’m still too ashamed to get

undressed in front of my wife. Am I supposed to take my uniform off with her here?”

It is possible to be for equal employment rights and an end to discrimination against women or homosexuals and still find some of their demands ludicrous, others demented. Which is to say I do not necessarily believe the next Bobby Orr should be a Ms., and I do not intend to take legal action even though neither of my daughters has been drafted by the Canadiens. Fur-

thermore, though I do not consider myself a sexual bigot, and am against homosexual teachers being rooted out of schools, I would rather my 10-year-old boy were not taken on a weekend camping trip by an avowed gay.

Clearly, there is a difference between equal rights and cultural overkill. We should, with some grace, accept certain limitations imposed on us by race, religion, gender and sexual proclivities. Not everything is possible. As I’m white, I do not expect to be the next ruler of Zambia any more than I anticipate a black prime minister of Canada. Because I was born Jewish, I do not think my civil rights were impinged on when my name failed to surface on the short-list as a possible successor to Pope Paul. As my gender is male I do not feel diminished because I am not likely to be this year’s Miss Grey Cup. Neither, even though I am a journalist, do I expect to be warmly welcomed in the Dior changing room after a fashion show. As a heter-

osexual, I do not feel rejected as I have not been invited to join Ha Mishpacha (Jewish and Gay) in Toronto. Or Rent-a-Man in New York. By the same token, I do not want to be taken for a boor simply because I’d rather not have Truman Capote or Michel Tremblay as my rabbi. Neither do I want women, however engaging, hanging around the poolroom or male club of my choice.

I enjoy the company of women immensely, I have had a number of homosexual friends for years, but when either women or gays form into groups of grim injustice-collectors I find them just as tiresome as the B’nai B’rith. Coming out of the closet or kitchen is one thing, but it is certainly not obligatory to beat so loud and insistent a drum. The most interesting thing about Jane Austen, whom I take to be one of the truly great novelists in the English tradition, is not that she was a woman. Neither is homosexuality the most compelling fact about E. M. Forster or W. H. Auden, and the latterday defiant celebration of their sexual tastes by gay secondraters strikes me as insulting to two major writers. Not every woman who has spent her best years as a homemaker has necessarily eschewed an important career, any more than the husbands who were quietly providing all that time. I also think that homosexuals are protesting far too much, rendering themselves unintentionally comic.

Item: The May issue of The Body Politic, Canada’s Gay Liberation Journal, announces The Great Canadian Lesbian Fiction Contest, to be judged by Jane Rule and Marie-Claire Blais. What, I wonder, are two such undeniably talented ladies doing lending their considerable reputations to such parochial nonsense, and should I protest to the Human Rights Commission that I am being excluded on grounds that are clearly sexist?

Even so, it is outlandish for The Toronto Sun, that celebrated keeper of standards, to label The Body Politic “a crummy, dirty publication without a redeeming feature.” Though self-pity is not unknown to its pages, it struck me as a clearly intelligent journal. Not nearly so salacious as Hustler or, come to think of it, so queer a taste as The Toronto Sun.