Friday, February 18, 2011

Sluts 'r' Us

A police officer in Toronto who suggested women can avoid sexual assault by not dressing like “sluts” has apologized, saying he is “embarrassed” by the remark and that assaulted women are “not victims by choice.”

The apology, made one month and a lot of bad press after the remark, is undoubtedly a good thing. I don’t need to add much to what the officer said. He got it right this time around.

But does he really believe what he said in the apology? Or was he told what to say because of the controversy brought on by his remarks. The guy’s been on the police force for years. Did his worldview about women honestly change in just a matter of days?

I know this sounds heretic, but I think it’s good that the police officer said what he did about women ‘asking for it’ by the way they dress. Though comments like his cause damage (and this one probably has), it’s important we know what people really think, especially if they're in important places or wield power, like on a police force.

I am sure the officer is not the only one in the police force to think the way he does. The difference between him and the others is that he was stupid enough to say what he thinks. The others probably know (or were taught) when best to keep their mouths shut.

A lot of narrow-minded people, misogynists, racists and just plain insensitive creeps are walking around out there. Perhaps we need to be reminded from time to time if they're in high places.

It’s easy to be complacent and think everyone thinks the way we do (whatever that may be) if we hang around with like-minded people. And if you happen to be a person not overly fond of racism, misogyny, anti-semitsm, or anti-Muslim thinking, for example,  you might be led to believe, from what people say publicly, that such narrow-minded sentiments have long been weeded out from our major public, political and corporate institutions. 

Not true. We are living in a time of political correctness. Politicians and corporate executives have handlers. They’re being trained about what is and is not acceptable to say in public. But what they say isn’t necessarily what they’re thinking. Unless they blunder and shoot from the hip, we’ll never know. Therefore, if we trust their scripted banter, it's easy to think they’re ‘nice’ people with ‘nice’ policies. Let’s buy their products. Let’s vote for them. Let’s put our trust in them.

So I liked it, in my own sick way, when Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive said, after the oil spill last summer, that he would "like his life back." It was a tactless comment, considering that 11 workers had been killed.

But it did let us know exactly how much, or how little, he really cared about what had happened. It helped us better understand how it was possible for Mr Hayward to spend the day sailing off the Isle of Wight as confusion raged over who was in charge of the clean-up operation (and therefore, no clean-up action could be taken).

I don’t know whether sufficient remedial follow-up will be taken within the Toronto police force. I don’t know if BP or Mr. Hayward will pay a ‘price’ for the harm they’ve done to communities in the U.S. south, not to mention the environment.

I can only take a little hope from the case of Mel Gibson (I know, it’s a long stretch from Mel to Toronto and BP). But Mel’s career did completely fall apart after his arrest in 2006 for drunk driving. While handcuffed in the car, Gibson asked the arresting officer if he was Jewish. When he said he was, Gibson supposedly said: Fucking Jews...the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." It's not a good thing to think if you make your living in Hollywood.

Gibson is not the only mislead soul to think this about Jews. But since he does, let’s get perfectly clear about it. IMHO, his film Passion of the Christ was as anti-semitic as you can get, but somehow that didn’t get him into the requisite hot water it should have. Therefore, I'm thankful (in my odd way), about the remarks.

So let’s let people blunder, say what they think in those unguarded moments. Yes, let’s take them to task, but be quietly glad at the same time that they’ve exposed their true colours.

I’m hoping, but not necessarily confident, the American public will get a good glimpse of Sarah Palin’s stupidity because of the blunders she makes in the media, and therefore not vote for her. But I worry she’ll get ‘trained’ out of her spontaneity and start talking sensibly or intelligently. Alas, so far, I needn’t worry.

In November of last year, Palin was appearing on uber right-wing Glenn Beck’s radio show. When asked how she would handle the current hostilities between the two Koreas, Palin shot back. "But obviously, we've got to stand with our North Korean allies."

Her lack of knowledge about who is and is not a U.S. ally should be enough to scare the American public, but then again, George Bush got elected twice, and he was the guy who when asked what was talked about at a recent summit he attended as President, said, “We spent a lot of time talking about Africa, as we should. Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease."

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