Prostate gate doesn’t rate as an issue worthy of debate
You’d be hard pressed to find an opening news paragraph this week more ludicrous than “Tim Mathieson has apologised for making a joke about small Asian women and prostate examinations”.
It’s not quite up there with the classic “Gordon Ramsay’s porn dwarf double eaten to death by badgers” from 2011, but as far as news leads go it’s pretty much got everything going for it.
Well in 2013 it does, anyway. There used to be a time when a story about the Prime Minister’s boyfriend saying something stupid might have raised a few eyebrows on the gossip pages. (Actually, in years past the fact that the Prime Minister HAD a boyfriend was probably a more exciting story to begin with, but I digress).
These days anyone in the public eye making a gaffe is the type of story that seems to send people into a frenzy of trumped-up outrage on the internet - over racism. No, sexism. No wait, misogyny. Discrimination against small-handed doctors!
If the poor fool is a politician the internet lynch mob immediately calls for them to be sacked.
If they’re Labor, their stuff-up is somehow always representative of the failings of the Gillard government. If they’re Liberal, they’re another example of Tony Abbott’s misogyny.
If no political parties are involved at all, someone will blame it all on Gillard anyway.
Invariably the social media storm of stupid turns in on itself and people start becoming outraged that people are outraged. What about free speech? It’s not even offensive! I’m offended that you’re offended! You shut up! No, YOU shut up!
Soon Twitter spammers start jumping on to the relevant hashtag to spruik Viagra, making more sense than those actually arguing the point, and the whole thing eventually washes away in a tide of pointlessness.
Such is the way “prostate-gate” played out this week.
Mathieson’s joke about female Asian doctors and their small hands was a bit tasteless, and if there were any such docs in the audience they may well have rolled their eyes. But surely all he was trying to say, albeit rather clumsily, was that if you’re going to have a rectal examination, you’d prefer a doctor with small fingers.
As far as I can tell there’s nothing racist, sexist or offensive about the generalisation that Asian women have small fingers.
The fact that some critics tried to draw parallels between Mathieson’s gag and the outdated stereotype of female Asian prostitutes says more about them than him, in my opinion.
As for claims the joke somehow made light of prostate cancer, give me a break. It wasn’t funny enough for that. Anyway, prostate cancer’s biggest fundraiser is Movember, and you’d hardly call that a serious affair.
Here’s what we should all be actually offended about: Somehow Australia has arrived at a point where we all seem to be constantly “offended” about pretty much everything.
It’s like we’re so confused about what’s genuinely offensive that our default reaction to anything vaguely controversial is wide-eyed outrage, just in case we accidentally offend someone by not condemning it.
Someone said something about race – is that racist? They mentioned gender – is that sexist? Not sure, better just tweet that it’s “inappropriate” so everyone thinks you’re modern and progressive.
Incidentally, is there a less appropriate word to describe absolutely anything than “inappropriate”? What does it mean? Inappropriate for what?
A fork is inappropriate for eating soup. A joke about doctors and bloke’s bums made to a room full of cricketers? Maybe not so inappropriate.
There’s been an avalanche of stories like Mathieson’s over the last 12 months, helpfully kicked along by the growing popularity of Twitter – a wide-open trap into which carelessly tweeting celebs and pollies constantly fall.
Schadenfreude must have something to do with it – we all love to gloat when someone other than us stuffs up and pays the price for it.
But the fact is people have been putting their feet in their mouth since before humans even knew how to stand up. Laugh and point fingers, by all means, but let’s save the national outrage for something genuinely offensive.
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