“I think that with the context in which cis men come to understand ourselves, as shaped by patriarchy and sexism, there’s a need to be thoughtful about our uses of language. It’s so important. And yet the queer potential, the radical potential in queerness, is our ability to fuck with language.”
– Black writer and activist Darnell Moore, a queer cisgender man
Eusebius McKaiser’s account of being lampooned and bullied at school is poignant. No one should have to endure such wilful bullying from anyone, whether it emanates from deep prejudice or unwitting socialisation.
Any discrimination against another person, based on the circumstances of their birth, is reprehensible. As such, homophobia, misogyny, racism and the like have no place in any evolved society. This is a position I have championed all my life. It is in sync with my party’s (the DA’s) manifesto which states in no uncertain terms, “It is our foundational belief that no South African — regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or any other marker — should have their life chances determined by the circumstances of their birth.”
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said as much when he was accused of being homophobic, after comments he made about sinners (within the general ecumenical tenets of his Christian belief) were wrongfully interpreted by some as being homophobic.
That said, let’s examine the substance of my tweet which has caused an outpouring of outrage from a diverse commentariat on Twitter, including political foes from other parties, some inside my party even, genuinely concerned individuals, random woke identitarians, and other Twitterati trolls.
It all began with a tweet from my colleague Gwen Ngwenya, who posted:
“I’m told Eusebius McKaiser has again referred to me as a right-winger on his show. McKaiser and I have never spoken. Which isn’t a problem because I don’t talk about him to thousands. But if you don’t have time to speak to someone, make sure you don’t have time to analyse them” — to which I replied, “I have it on reliable authority that he applied to be a DA MP. Nothing quite like a woman scorned.”
My response aimed to place in perspective McKaiser’s animus towards Ngwenya and the DA, based on his unsuccessful attempt to parachute himself into politics as a DA MP, which he has conveniently not countered. The phrase “a woman scorned” has universal currency, and is adapted from a line in the play by an English author of the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
I meant no ill nor harm in employing the phrase, which incidentally, as I have pointed out, came from a comment by a gay friend in the discussion about McKaiser’s remark about Ngwenya.
How many times have I heard gay friends (and even, McKaiser) refer to one another as she, a queen, a drama queen and the like? The double standards displayed in the selective lambasting of me for similar utterances is mindboggling. It is regrettable that McKaiser has taken such a particular offence. None was so intended.
But then, as Oliver Markus Malloy says, “Claiming to be offended is a great way to elevate yourself at the expense of others: ‘Look at me! I’m a much better person than you! And I judge you! I condemn you! Shame! Shame! SHAME!’ ”
I take exception to being vilified, cyberbullied, defamed and accused of homophobia and misogyny. I expressly reserve all my rights in this regard. Anyone who knows me will be aware of my track record that stands up for gay rights and that condemns the actions of countries that have abhorrent laws discriminating against LGBQTI people across the globe, and like radio broadcaster and commentator, Roman Cabanac, who happens to be gay, many disavow this false narrative.
He tweeted in the wake of the display of selective outrage, “anyone who thinks @Ghaleb Cachalia is a homophobe is ignorant at best or malevolent at worst”.
Speaking of selective outrage, let’s examine a tweet by Gerard McCarthy, the Belfast-born actor, awarded the Sir Kenneth Branagh Renaissance Scholarship — who plays bisexual cross-dresser Kris Fisher in the Channel 4 soap opera Hollyoaks — who made a laudable call for Democratic Unionist Party MP Iris Robinson to step down after she claimed homosexuality was “simply unacceptable in a modern democracy” and said it was “comparable” to child abuse.
“There should be no place for hateful and extremist opinion,” he told The Belfast Telegraph. “Moreover, to have a Member of Parliament advocate them must certainly be in violation of the MPs’ Code of Conduct.”
I stand firmly with McCarthy on this, but note the absolute absence of any outrage when he tweeted to tens of thousands, “anyone who says ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ has clearly never met a homosexual slightly inconvenienced.”
Now let’s examine potential reasons for McKaiser’s outrage. Some years ago, I met McKaiser for the first time. My friend Anton Harber introduced us at a Ruth First Memorial lecture, at Wits.
The Ruth First Committee, responsible for the event, comprised Jacob Dlamini, Indra de Lanerolle, Anton Harber, Shireen Hassim, Eusebius McKaiser and Liza Key. After the lecture I wrote an article in which I said:
“I’m not sure about the criteria used for bestowing this honour on this year’s speakers or what the intent of the committee was. What was clear was that the address was a far cry from previous years.”
The speakers, Sisonke Msimang and Panashe Chigumadzi, whom McKaiser idolises, came across to me as the acceptable face of the #RhodesMustFall brigade, mired in arrogance, delivering a shallow intellectual veneer to constructs that ignore and distort many aspects of our past in a cathartic display of introspective victimhood aimed at the deliverance of a dose of dignity — misplaced, and as intellectually debilitating as it is uninformed.
McKaiser took massive umbrage at my temerity to confront this identitarian wokeness (which defines him), and ever since has nursed an animus. I am reminded in this regard of poem by William Blake, A Poison Tree:
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I water’d it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,
And into my garden stole
When the night had veil’d the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch’d beneath the tree.
This is what I believe lies at the base of McKaiser’s vilification of me as a schoolyard bully, homophobe and misogynist. This and his fervent adherence to the tenets of identitarian wokeness.
As Adam Gopnik recently wrote in The New York Times:
“Like the Great Awakenings before it, the Great Awokening is a spiritual movement more than a political one. It offers redemption, not reform. It reckons not with adversaries, but with heretics. It rejects tolerance for precisely the reasons (offered in a description of dogmatic religion): If you think you have unique access to the truth, why wouldn’t you be intolerant of those who reject that truth?’ DM