Friday, November 13, 2015

In Response to Mary McAleese, Some Catholic Commentators Turn to Trash Talk: The Highly Successful Toilet Meme of U.S. Right Wingers Opposing Equal Rights for Minorities

In an outstanding essay in Slate recently, Gillian Frank does an excellent job of demonstrating that the rhetoric of hysteria about bathrooms that anti-gay groups used so successfully in Houston recently to knock down a city ordinance protecting LGBT citizens from discrimination is rooted in previous memes about the danger posed to white people if public restrooms were opened to use by African Americans. As she notes,

The conservative idea that civil rights protections sexually endanger women and children in public bathrooms is not new. In fact, conservative sexual thought has been in the toilet since the 1940s. During the World War II era, conservatives began employing the idea that social equality for African-Americans would lead to sexual danger for white women in bathrooms. In the decades since, conservatives used this trope to negate the civil rights claims of women and sexual minorities. Placing Houston’s rejection of HERO within the history of discrimination against racial minorities, sexual minorities, and women reveals a broader pattern: When previously marginalized groups demanded access to public accommodations, conservatives responded with toilet talk to stall these groups' aspirations for social equality.

She points out that this hysteria about the danger black men would pose to white women if public restrooms were integrated was also accompanied by a meme about disease: whites resisting integration claimed that African Americans were prone to veneral diseases that they would spread to moral, upstanding, clean white people if restrooms were integrated. I well remember this rhetoric at the time integration took place in my own community in Arkansas. I remember the lurid yellow flyers printed up by some hate group and blitzed around my high school campus to warn us of the dangers awaiting us when black students came to "our" school and used "our" bathrooms.

Frank then notes that the same right-wing groups opposing integration with such hysterical rhetoric about impurity and disease turned the rhetoric against women seeking rights at the time of the ERA debates in the 1970s. Give women the equal rights they're seeking, folks like Phyllis Schlafly informed us, and you'll end up with mixed-gender bathrooms in which men rape women. As she points out in the paragraph above,  people like Schlafly have done this for years now, any time a new group comes along seeking equality and rights in American culture. 

I'd like to encourage readers to take a careful look at Frank's essay, and then go the National Catholic Reporter article to which I linked in my previous posting today, which discusses the remarks of Mary McAleese I highlighted in that previous posting. Look at the thread that has developed in response to the article, and note how many comments say something of the sort one Purgatrix Ineptiae says in this comment:

Medical science, pace politicians' talking points, is unanimous that the sexual acts the Old Testament prohibits* really are highly dangerous, not just for the participants but for the wider society as well.

She's responding to a comment by another commenter calling himself or herself OrdinatioSacerdotalisfan who writes, 

Homosexuality is a lie from the pit of hell. It is a disordered inclination and hurts people spiritually, mentally, and physically. That's what we now know. That has been the unanimous opinion of all cultures except our "culture of death". 

When challenged to spell out how gay people and their "acts" pose a threat to public hygiene, Ms. Ineptiae coyly states that the NCR moderators won't allow her to be specific, but recommends that those seeking information talk to their doctors and hear what the AMA — which ostensibly shares her view that gay people spread disease to the general public — has to say. 

These are only two of a number of comments in this thread seeking to spread around filth about how LGBT people are diseased and pose a danger to the health of the public as a result. Ask yourself as you read these comments: would the moderators of a Catholic publication permit people to make claims like this about African Americans? Or Jews, who were vilified as dirty threats to the public health of Germany as the Nazis rose to power in Germany?

I doubt it.

Why do Catholic discussion places continue to permit this ugly stigmitzation of LGBT people, which is so obviously all about smearing a targeted sector of the human community, lying about it, and making it susceptible to discrimination and violence? Just asking.

I'm glad to be moving on from a community that freely embraces people like this, while it gives one signal after another to those being treated this way that their welcome within this community is tenuous at best. A religious community that can protect and promote people who respond to Mary McAleese's valuable comments with this kind of trash talk — people who profess to be the most faithful of Catholics — surely does not present an attractive face to the world, does it?

*This is one of this commentator's persistent euphemisms for what she also calls the sin non nominandum in similar comments about the danger she imagines gay people and their "acts" pose to the public health. She has a long history, under several different usernames, of making comments at Catholic blog sites about how gay men, in particular, are diseased and pose a danger to public hygiene.

The toilet photo is by Matthew Paul Argall, who has uploaded it to Wikipedia and permitted its free sharing.

No comments: