Issue 189 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published September 1995 Copyright © Socialist Review
Vik Konopka (July/August SR) argues in support of the decision to move the Lesbian and Gay Pride festival from Brixton to the East End of London, denying that racism on the part of the organisers had anything to do with the move. She defends the change of venue on the grounds that she was 'disturbed at the amount of homophobia openly shown on the streets of Brixton' at last year's Pride.
The first people to agree with Vik's argument would be the former editors of the now defunct newspaper Capital Gay. That paper pioneered the reporting of a supposedly specifically 'black homophobia', welcomed the shift of Pride from Brixton, and claimed that 'not one queerbashing' occurred at this year's Pride.
Yet following threats from Nazi terror group Combat 18, a black gay man was seriously assaulted by white men in Victoria Park after the festival.
Vik Konopka insists she is not racist and is simply standing in 'unity with other gay people', but in accepting the lie that black heterosexual people are more homophobic than whites, she is siding with people who are motivated by racism.
The people most responsible for gay oppression in our society, the Tory MPs, the right wing editors, the police chiefs and the church leaders, are almost entirely white and ruling class. At a time when Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Condon is claiming that most 'muggers' are black, it is incredibly dangerous for those fighting homophobia to suggest that black people are more likely to be anti-gay bigots.
Homophobia exists among both white and black people. The only way to tackle it is to build unity between black and white, gay and straight. That cannot be done by branding black people as gay bashers.
John Appleyard's letter (July/August SR) regarding the shabby treatment of temporary workers hit the spot.
I was employed as a temp in a local hospital with very weak trade union branches and a demoralised rank and file. I was active in organising and publicising several local NHS demonstrations. I also helped publish and distribute a health workers' newsletter.
Despite my work being described as 'excellent', I was falsely accused of grabbing a telephone out of a co-worker's hand and was subsequently dismissed. Not to be deterred, we plan to continue with paper sales outside the hospital and publishing our newsletter.
A show of solidarity from my colleagues would have been welcome but since the workforce were disorganised and impotent, no one had the ability or courage to protest.
I would like other readers to know what happens in this society when there is weak or non-existent union organisation in a workplace. Without awareness and strength of numbers what happened to me can easily happen to any other worker who has the courage and conviction to stand up and speak out against unfair treatment and Tory policies.
The news coverage of the death of Alison Hargreaves, the climber killed on K2 in August, really sums up the contradictory position of women in the 1990s outlined in 'Babes, Barbie and the battle of the sexes' (April SR).
On the one hand, Hargreaves had entered and excelled at a very male dominated sport. She was celebrated as Britain's top woman climber and was the equal of any man in her field, you would think.
Yet her death has sparked an incredible level of vitriol in the letters pages of 'quality' papers and on talk shows: attacking her for being so callous as to climb a mountain and risk depriving her children of a mother.
Climbing is a highly competitive sport, with a lot of money riding on the result and huge pressure put on the climbers. It is not surprising that Hargreaves had, in her own words, 'an ego the size of Everest'. But whatever you think of climbing, the way Hargreaves has been accused of negligence and irresponsibility is breathtaking sexism.
Seven people were killed on K2 that week--at least three of them were parents, but only Hargreaves has been attacked for 'abandoning' her children in pursuit of a self-centred goal. The fathers are not considered to have committed such a heinous crime.
What is clear from Hargreaves' death is that it will take a more fundamental challenge than women competing with men as 'equal' individuals to deliver us from oppression and sexism.
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