31 August 2011

Vampires, Bullies, and Wedding Dresses

Have you heard about the dust-up in New Jersey over the bigoted bridal shop owner who refused to sell a wedding dress to a lesbian bride because she wouldn’t support the lesbian’s “illegal action”? (Never mind that civil unions are legal in NJ, and the bride was planning a legal wedding ceremony in NY anyway).

Have you heard the one about the photographer in Pennsylvania who discovered cyberbullying on Facebook among her teenage clients, and then cancelled her upcoming appointments with them because she didn’t want her business to be represented by bullies?

They have something in common, which is Anne Rice, the vampire novelist. She made an interesting but incorrect connection between them when she wrote on her Facebook page: “I don’t support this kind of discrimination [the photographer canceling on the bullies], any more than I support the bridal shop owner who wouldn’t sell a dress to a lesbian.”

I appreciate Anne’s support for gay rights, but can’t side with her about the bullying. What the photographer, Jennifer McKendrick, aka “Jen McKen”, did is not discrimination based on an immutable characteristic such as age, race, creed, gender, sexuality, etc–which are regularly protected from discriminatory behavior. It certainly is discrimination to refuse service to someone based on these characteristics, as the bridal shop owner did--though she tried to cushion her bigotry by pretending she didn’t want to aid and abet a "crime". But to refuse service to someone based on how they choose to act, especially when that choice harms others–it happens all the time and is a necessary consequence for bad behavior. Bouncers and anyone in the restaurant business know that service is regularly denied to those who are disorderly, drunk, or just not wearing shoes and a shirt. Celebrities are routinely dropped from advertising campaigns when their public behavior crosses the line (Tiger, Kobe, Michael Phelps, for starters).

Whether you support this as a business decision or not, I just can’t make the case that these bullies have been victims of discrimination. They’ve been held accountable for their actions. Anne Rice is maybe too fond of the idea of vampires sucking the mortal life out of people under cover of darkness that she gives these kids a free pass for what they’re doing--sucking the life out of other kids under the cover of online anonymity.

Thanks to Jen McKen for hauling these bloodsuckers out into the light of day.

-Maura McGurk

Maura makes artwork about issues related to the LGBT/queer/gay experience, especially gay bullying. Take a stand against gay bullying by checking out her work, liking it on Facebook, or commenting on her blog.

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