Sunday, 28 May 2017

Margaret Court

Many of my Aussie friends, and those of you who aren't, but are into tennis, have probably heard of Margaret Court. 

In case you haven't, she's an intolerant, bigoted, discriminatory cretin who told QANTAS she was no longer going to fly with them because they support marriage equality. And because she's a Christian minister and follows the bible, she thinks marriage should be restricted to being between a man and a woman. 

Apparently she was also pretty good at tennis a few decades ago. 

In the wake of what was basically an attempt to blackmail QANTAS into her way of thinking, many people have called for Tennis Australia/Melbourne and Olympic Parks to rename 'Margaret Court Arena' to something else. Evonne Goolagong Arena being the most prominent suggestion (and the one that I support). 

What I've found odd out of all this is the number of people defending Margaret Court saying she's entitled to her opinion, especially given it's her religious belief. 

Odd, because no one has said she isn't. I've not seen a single person say 'she's not allowed to have that opinion'.

The people defending her right to her opinion seem to not realise that just as Margaret Court is allowed to have her opinion, and to voice it, people are allowed to voice their opinion of her opinion! 

We hear shouts of the loss of free speech...but hang on. Why does free speech extend to Margaret Court, but not to others? Why is Margaret Court entitled to an opinion that's above criticism or response? I don't understand. 

When you keep your opinion to yourself, it is free of consequence, so long as that opinion isn't guiding actions that impact others. 

But Margaret Court didn't keep her opinion to herself. She voiced it. In a newspaper. Although we recognise her right to voice it, nothing about 'free speech' says that voicing your opinion is free of consequence. Nothing in free speech says voicing your opinion removes the right of other people to comment. She made her opinion public, and people responded. This is not anti-free-speech. This is free speech at work. 

People have also defended Margaret Court's bigotry and discrimination because it's part of her faith. It's her religion. Well my question is...why the fuck does that matter? Why does a bigoted, discriminatory opinion become acceptable just because it's religiously based? Why do people think religion gets a free pass here? 

It doesn't. And it shouldn't. 

I wonder what these defenders of bigotry would be saying if Margaret Court had said that all black people are niggers and deserve to die. Extreme? Sure. But do we give it a pass just because it's an opinion? Of course not. Any opinion, once voiced publicly is up for scrutiny and up for criticism, and up for others giving their opinion on that opinion. And none of this takes away Margaret Court's right to have an outdated opinion where she thinks certain members of society should be treated as second class citizens, because of who they love, just because she happens to be stupid or gullible enough to think characters in a bronze/iron age book of myths and fairytales are real. 

As for renaming the arena. Tennis Australia released a statement saying Margaret Court's views do not align with Tennis Australia's values of equality, inclusion, and diversity. And good on them for saying so. But I think to really back this up they need to rename the venue, though I think it's under the jurisdiction of Melbourne and Olympic parks to do this. Margaret Court is entitled to her opinion, but Tennis Australia/Melbourne and Olympic Parks are not, in any way, obligated to be represented by, or supporters of someone who's views are out of touch with their own. Renaming the stadium doesn't remover her right to her opinion. She's still entitled to it, but as I already said, nothing about free speech says your opinion is consequence free. 

I think it's time to send a clear and strong message to these anti-equality people that they are out of touch. That they don't represent modern Australia. That they don't have the support of the community at large. Send the message that we're sick and tired of people thinking hurtful views deserve a free pass just because they're based in religion. Send a message that the good and decent people of Australia want same sex couples treated with respect and equality. 

Simple fact is, Margaret Court's opinion on marriage equality is outdated, backwards, discriminatory, and based on nothing but some old book. There's nothing about her opinion on marriage equality that should carry any weight in a modern and progressive society. 


  1. Well said. I completely agree. Of course Margaret Court has a right to her opinion, and to express it. Those who agree with her are equally free to do so.

    And those of us who think she's a hate-filled bigot are also free to say so. Her ignorance disgusts me. Like too many people she's not even capable of making up her own mind - she gets her opinion from an interpretation of an old text. If that's the way it works, she should know there are plenty of people who interpret that same text and don't get the anti-marriage equality one she does.

    And there are also plenty who interpret the same texts and think women should have always have their arms and legs covered in public, and their own hair covered by a wig. Also that women shouldn't drive, be educated past the age of fourteen, and their husbands should be chosen for them. I guess she would have rejected that interpretation because she wouldn't have been able to be a tennis star.

    Why can't everyone just be nice to one another? -Douglas Adams (Arthur Dent's girlfriend said it in book 5 of the HHGTTG trilogy, but I've forgotten her name. Was it Fenchurch?)

  2. Oz I am afraid I have to disagree with you (which is a very rare thing!)

    Let us start with what we would both agree on. Her beliefs are hurtful and harmful. Personally I despise them and you appear to do so as well. And like you, I am an atheist.

    Furthermore her homophobic statements stoke hatred and fear for many gays living under the threat of persecution and violence. Gay bashing is still (unbelievably) a thing.

    Turning to my problem with the response to her homophobic comments. The first is this. The reaction, or overreaction I would say, gives her a massive platform which she does not deserve. But it is a platform she wanted no doubt.

    The second aspect you would be aware of: extreme christians will use this reaction to promote their belief that they are persecuted. So it is not helpful in general to atheists.

    The third is that the response parading as an ‘opinion’ is mostly not opinion but simply abuse. If vilification is a public act capable of inciting hatred towards or serious contempt or severe ridicule of margaret court; then this is vilification pure and simple.

    To say ‘your entitled to your view’ BUT we are going to harass and intimidate you for holding it … is sort of missing the point of free speech. The ‘free’ doesn't just mean free to speak. The very definition of the freedom of speech is the right to articulate one's opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation or censorship, or SOCIETAL SANCTION.

    The fourth is that it says this. If you don’t agree with us then we are going to target you, target your life and attempt to humiliate and embarrass you.

    How does this persuade her or any of the people who believe her nonsense? Is it the case that you can threaten and harass someone into changing their regressive views? I would have thought education and exposure are the key.

    Finally a comment about geese and ganders. When you start targeting people for not agreeing with you - then you step over a very thin line. If you look at paragraph 3 above you will see that it paraphrases the reason that the radio station KPFA gave for canceling and refusing to host Richard Dawkins. There has been an extensive campaign by muslim extremists closing down atheist facebook pages and blogs recently. If you are ok with the vilification of margaret court then by definition you are ok with muslims using the claim of being offended to shut down atheists all over the world.