Immigration Minister Peter Dutton inexplicably stepped out of his portfolio last week to make commentary on CEOs with an opinion on marriage equality that does not coincide with his own.
Dutton singled out Qantas CEO Alan Joyce for particular attention, presumably because Mr Joyce is gay.
In a final flourish, Dutton advised CEOs to “stick with their knitting” and in so doing revealed the putrid depths of his masculinist contempt not only for gay men and marriage equality advocates, but also for women.
Knitting is largely (though not entirely) a female occupation. It has long been the practice of hegemonic masculinity to “feminise” and therefore devalue gay men through the conflation of homosexuality with effeminacy.
Heterosexual masculinists such as Dutton work to denigrate homosexuals and their CEO supporters as undesirably “female” by suggesting that their expertise is not in the world of business, opinion and commentary, but rather in a confined domestic environment where they are powerless, voiceless, and, knitting.
The denigration works only if Dutton (and heterosexual masculinists of both genders who agree with his point of view) believes women are inferior, and uses the recommendation to “stick to your knitting” as a profoundly unpleasant, homophobic and sexist insult.
The Minister is actually saying: you have no place and no power in the world of “real” men like me, because if you are a man who supports marriage equality you are inevitably effeminate.
Dutton devalues the male CEOs by attributing to them the “feminine” activity of knitting, and simultaneously devalues women. Our real place is not, in his opinion, in the public space advocating marriage equality, but in a domestic life removed from concerns best left to masculinist politicians.
In Dutton’s view, gay men and male supporters lack masculinity, evidenced by their subversive refusal to unquestioningly support the hegemonic masculinity Dutton represents.
Indeed, Dutton’s masculinity is, like the Australian Christian Lobby’s Lyle Shelton, defined by his heterosexuality. I recall Shelton’s plaintive tweet that if we allow marriage equality, no one will know he is straight.
Feminising gay men and supporters, stigmatising them as no better and no more relevant in the world than women, is an abject attempt to differentiate the heterosexual masculinist from his greatest perceived threat: a man who loves another man and in so doing becomes, oh dear god no, feminised.
In the world of heterosexual masculinists opposites attract, therefore, if you’re a man who loves a man, you must be a woman.
That this is employed as an insult by Dutton should give us significant pause.
Knitting is generally regarded as a harmless occupation, however, Dutton should note that knitters are not necessarily quite so bland. Madame Defarge, for example, knits contentedly on through the Revolution as the despised ruling heads of France fall one by one into the basket under the guillotine, their names stitched into her patterns.
Dutton has managed, in one short phrase, to cast a thoroughly offensive slur upon gay men and all women. Actually, there aren’t many human beings Dutton likes. This nasty piece of work does not belong in our government. Let’s hope his electorate see it that way.