The Winter Olympics never fail to provide some form of entertainment, even for the very disinterested. The sports themselves are appealing enough, the athletes are exceptional, but it’s the peripheral stories that interest the rest of us who are biding our time until Hockey comes on. The story I’m referring to is of course, Johnny Weir, the indeterminately gay white male Olympic figure skater who was maliciously criticized, in some cases receiving death threats, for attempting to wear fox fur on his costume. Could this mean that possibly gay white male Olympic figure skaters, a niche group if ever there was one, are no longer a “protected class?” Could this also mean that straight white male conservatives are no longer the only unprotected class of citizen? Yeah, they wish, but seriously, I’m sure they won’t mind sharing the distinction.
To be fair, Weir has never come out and openly admitted being a homosexual, hence the use of “indeterminately.” However, he has said some decidedly gay things about his orientation, like the following, “I don’t feel the need to express my sexual being because it’s not part of my sport and it’s private. I can sleep with whomever I choose and it doesn’t affect what I’m doing on the ice, so speculation is speculation."
That’s fine, and I personally don’t care either way. But if that’s not code for “I’m super gay,” then rainbows and Subaru’s aren’t either. I cite as evidence the fact that no self-respecting straight guy would ever, ever say anything remotely like that. In fact, it could be argued that if you have to ask, you have your answer.
All that aside. Weir’s orientation, although not relevant to his ability to compete as an Olympian, is relevant to this issue of class protection. Of all these attributes, white, male, possibly gay, and figure skater; gay is the only one of those designations that is given greater consideration by law. Thanks, of course, to the hate crimes bill signed by Obama last year. A bill considered by some to be the first federal gay rights legislation. This law makes it a federal crime to assault an individual based on their sexual orientation or gender identity (not to be confused with their actual gender).
Even the language from the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission which was created out of Public Law 82-352, a provision of the Civil Rights Act, in addressing the legality of a protected class, states that “Every U.S. citizen is a member of some protected class, and is entitled to the benefits of EEO law. However, the EEO laws were passed to correct a history of unfavorable treatment of women and minority group members.” Some individuals are just slightly more protected than are others. Sorry straight white guy.
So how is it that the assault on Weir (the beneficiary of iron clad protected status) went un-outraged by the purveyors of sensitivity and enlightenment? Why is it acceptable for a minority group to attack another minority? The answer, I’m afraid, is even more disturbing than Weir’s controversial fox fur costume.
It resides, I believe, in the premise, that because the Anti-Fur activists are a minority group, more importantly a liberal minority group, they cannot then possess ill-intentioned or hateful motives towards any other minority group, especially a possibly gay one. The sensitive and enlightened see that as a universal impossibility, like say, the law of physics that states two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time.
Regardless of how vitriolic or insane the threats leveled against Weir may have been. It’s not a hate crime, because Anti-Fur activists aren’t directing their hate at Weir’s possible homosexuality, just his fur, and that’s different. Now in order to swallow this tripe, you have to suspend your disbelief that straight men would ever wear fur (except in the case of something they had personally killed, tanned and sewn together, Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett were definitely not gay.) Also, that liberal minority groups are well intentioned always. That, of course, is hooey.
I submit to you that if this were a group of straight white guys protesting dudes in spandex, Obama himself would have intervened on behalf of figure skaters and mimes everywhere in a show of support for these disenfranchised Lycra lovers. Sexual orientation would have been numero uno in the media, and the straight white guys would be branded homophobes, Olbermann and Maddow would burn them in effigy and the spandex industry would be given stimulus money for reparation.
Far fetched? I think not. It is the natural resultant of an unequally-applied law. When a law is designed to protect certain members of society over others, you get legal discrimination. Or, like the EEOC puts it, you’re all protected, just some more than others.
Getting back to Weir, for all the drama, he did manage to finish a rather respectable sixth overall. He has also stated that he will continue to wear fur because, as he put it, it’s his personal choice. Something that should in theory resonate very strongly with the sensitive and enlightened. And yet it seems to fall flat when applied to man-fur.
I guess personal choice is only acceptable when it ends a person’s life and not a fox’s. But that problematic prologism is a topic for another time.