Ricky Gervais usually tweets from the heart and has views I like when it comes to animals and atheism. Which is why it was quite delightful when he ripped into hunting as a sport. Unfortunately, I saw a side of Ricky Gervais or perhaps the “1st world” that I have been meaning to write about for a while.
TV presenter Melissa Bachman made a rather obnoxious tweet posing with a “beautiful” lion she had killed. Well, it would be more beautiful alive than unresponsive and soon to be decaying.
Rickky Gervais detonated. One tweet in particular that I really liked, I’m reproducing without the last three words.
“Sport is fair. If hunting was a sport the animal would have a gun too. If it doesn’t you can’t call yourself a sportsman.” ~ Ricky Gervais
In condemning hunting, he brings up the unfairness of a protected and armed human attacking an unarmed and unsuspecting animal for sport and seeing it as a brave thing to do. He rightly points out that there is nothing brave about it. And he went ahead and trolled the daylights out of hunters talking about hunts. And his massive Twitter following followed.
The catch here is that the brilliant arguments questioning specisism and denouncing the inherent cruelty in hunting and asserting that all animals are equal (including us) used the term “a cunt” to describe the hunter for his unfair methods. This isn’t all that different from the concept of “mardangi” (manhood) where a real mard (man) does what is honorable and fights fair or you throw bangles (traditionally worn by women) at someone to humiliate them and so on. Not all that different how this fight went. The full tweet for that beautiful quote is:
Sport is fair. If hunting was a sport the animal would have a gun too. If it doesn’t you can’t call yourself a sportsman. Just a cunt. ~ Ricky Gervais.
When I objected to the use of the word to describe cowardice or unfair methods, many of his followers trolled me. Some said that I was misunderstanding and that in the west, the word cunt is not considered offensive or sexual. That is a bit like saying “blacks” are not called blacks because of their skin color, and it is now a statement that is color neutral. And while these explanations were coming in, there were coming the standard uses of cunt too. As in “pussy” and “3rd world whore” and so on. So what is really happening here is that the word has got normalized. It has become acceptable to call someone a cunt, not the word cunt losing its connotations, because if it lost the connotations, there really isn’t much else to recommend it over more descriptive insults like “coward” for someone who fights an unarmed creature unfairly. It is the sense of power conveyed by calling someone a cunt and thus inferior that serves as the degradation.
So it seems speciesism is the problem, while sexism and racism is fine.
[Tweet “So it seems speciesism is the problem, while sexism and racism is fine.”]
Now here is my problem. The idea that men fight fair and women don’t is a myth. Women rarely have the kind of power that can get away with being unfair, unchallenged, which kind of makes doing it iffy. If we are speaking in terms of comparison, then the physical or social power accessible to men and women makes it more likely that women fight more overwhelming odds than men. Statistically, women left in the dust by men when it comes to violence or hunting, for that matter. Women may be weaker and thus backing off from many fights, but they do not have the luxury of having the odds stacked in their favor. The hunter isn’t backing off because he is weaker than the animal. So the idea of a “cunt” being a logical descriptor of a cowardly male “winning” a fight he cannot lose makes no sense. It is just the cliched male with an over-inflated sense of his own gender. Or, in other words, a prick.
Which brings me to the other part. This third world business (which Ricky Gervais did not say, making clear). We have western media reporting the recent women’s rights related events in India with a fairly condescending attitude about how women are treated in India. Our actual statistics of violence against women being lower are explained as lack of reporting (and I have no doubt that this is true), but the I have seen far more condescending attitudes about women in the West. Also the idea that women in the West report crimes against them more is not necessarily true. For example, you couldn’t trend a tag like cunt in India. Indian women would not let it happen. Indian MEN would not let it happen. If it comes to that, Indian law would not let it happen either. It is seen as discrimination here. Do people do it? Sure they do it. But the voices objecting are also robust.
I have a long history of antagonizing people and there is great diversity in the kind of people I manage to piss off, but I have seen consistently that tags with a lot of members from the “first world” generally have a greater degree of normalizing of insulting views and terms. And I spend most of my time pissing off Indian conservative right wing chauvinists who are often misogynists as well. Something symbolizing a woman’s identity being used as an expression of inferiority and not even seeming to be sexist to most people is simply a sign of acceptability for humiliating women. “Nothing wrong with it. That is how women are.” kind of agreement at the cost of women.
I am not making any conclusions here, more like pointing out that there are large gaps in the stereotypes we believe without questioning. Women are not necessarily a symbol of unfairness. The third world does not necessarily have less evolved attitudes on gender. And more importantly, it is the unfairness that is the problem, whether it is religious discrimination, gender abuse or species abuse. Objecting to one while promoting to the other “Hunting is Cunting” or a tag like #HuntTheCunt etc will not change the underlying thinking. It will only make some kinds of unfairness not ok in hindsight if someone famous objects to it.
The hope here is that Ricky Gervais has indeed shown a lot of sensitive thought on many things, and he is hopefully capable of extending it to gender as well, instead of going with existing stereotypes, which he is happy to break on many other subjects.
That said, I do understand the fury that drives sudden tweets of anger. Felt it myself, e-lynched it too. And I am damn glad that the hunting got called out anyway, though I’d have preferred it happened without getting into making a body part of women a definition of something unworthy.