The story: Old white man is pissy because an artist recorded a group of Muslim women in a situation where they would not consent to be looked at by strange men. Artist offers artwork on that condition; Dowse Gallery accepts.
There’s a lot of argument going down around the fact that the Dowse is publicly-funded, is this discrimination, do we owe it to the poor oppressed brown women to tear away their autonomy because they’re too stupid to know they’re oppressed … yeah, guess where I fall on that one.
But here’s the thing that pisses me off: it seems like old white dudes like Paul Young have honestly drunk the anti-PC KoolAid. They sincerely believe that the Human Rights Commission has some kind of god-like power to storm the Dowse, tear down the curtains around Sophia Al-Maria’s exhibit and instantly beam its images into the heads of all good Kiwi men so that SEXIST OPPRESSION SHALL BE NO MORE!!!!
Boy, is he in for a surprise.
Here’s what Paul Young says – and our brave, fact-checking media offer no clue that he’s talking out his ass:
Human rights legislation did not allow for exceptions on the basis of art or religious belief, Mr Young said.
Per the Human Rights Commission’s bloody-hard-to-navigate website:
There are a number of circumstances where it is not unlawful to discriminate on the ground of religious belief.
Hence, you know, why the Catholics still get to ban women from the priesthood. I’m not saying this exception necessarily applies in the case of the Dowse, but again: don’t you just love how someone who has probably never previously even thought about our human rights legislation assumes that NOTHING IS EXCEPTED, ALL OPPRESSION IS PUNISHABLE BY DEATH?
As for the merits of Mr Young’s case, I refer him to the HRC’s “Resolving Discrimination and Harassment Guide”:
A person must be disadvantaged because of the discrimination.
Now, if an Art History lecturer decides to make Sophia Al-Maria’s work a central part of a third-year compulsory Art History paper, and bases half the final exam marks on it, and then tells the men in the class “Ha, sucks to be you, wankers” then maybe Paul Young might have a case.
But it’s frankly fucking appalling to me that he’s going to sit there and – having made his complaint and thus presumably having read that guide – pretend that not being able to see an exhibit (which I’m sure, to riff off someone on Twitter, is right up his alley as an enthusiast in Qatari women’s domestic subcultures) is any-fucking-where near being “disadvantaged”. Disadvantaged the way pregnant people are when they get fired. Disadvantaged the way people of colour are when they happen to get arrested more often and sentenced to longer prison terms than white people.
Fuck me, his fee-fees must be so hurt right now. Why don’t the mean Muslim women care about his fee-fees?
I think the issues on this are kinda complex, but also fairly simple to me in a “you don’t get to stomp on other people’s consent just because you’ve convinced yourself it’s for their own good” way. And maybe under our human rights framework the Dowse, as a recipient of public funding, shouldn’t have accepted the exhibit – but that’s a choice they made, clearly aware of the issues involved.
But on one side is an artist and the rights to privacy of her subjects. And on the other is Paul Young, whose main gripe seems to be, completely without irony, that it’s totally unfair to stop 50% of the population from seeing a single art exhibit, which I’m so sure they were all completely interested in.
Some further reading on the HRC website: “Why can some groups of people be treated differently?” for all you WAAAAA AFFIRMATIVE ACTION STOPPED ME GETTING INTO LAW SCHOOL WAAAAAA trolls out there.