December 16, 2007
The outing double standard
Posted by: Chris
The news that Jodie Foster publicly thanked her "beautiful Cydney" at a Los Angeles women's banquet has apparently pushed the magic button that allows the mainstream media to finally acknowledge that the two-time Oscar winner is gay.
In a typical report, CNN's Kiki King discussed the development by saying, almost in passing, "of course she's been with Cydney Bernard for over 14 years now."
"Of course"? If Foster's long-term relationship was so obvious to the mainstream press, why did it take 14 years to report it, and only after Foster herself acknowledged it?
Here is the double standard on outing. When it comes to heterosexual celebrities, the entertainment media can't get enough, reporting every salacious detail they can get their hands on. And when closeted celebrities are caught in scandals, they'll jump in with gusto. But gay celebrities in happy, well-adjusted relationships -- whether Ellen or Rosie or Jodie (why are they all lesbians?) -- the public is told nothing about until the celebrity says OK. Even if the gay star shows up escorted in public by her partner at event after event.
The same type of double standard holds sway with closeted politicians as well, with those accused of shenanigans investigated without any regard to privacy. But it's hands off on those with long-term relationships until they come out. Mark Foley is an example of both standards.
The alternative I have advocated for years is "equality." Apply the same rules to gay and straight celebrities, and the same rules to gay and straight politicians. Ask about their personal lives, as they would otherwise, and report their answers, whether they lie, equivocate or refuse to answer. Then report the public facts that fit or contradict what they've said.
Digging deeper into their private lives is a judgment call, just as it is with straight politicians, that inevitably involves balancing the newsworthiness of the information versus how much personal privacy must be invaded to get it. It's unthinkable that a heterosexual Hollywood celebrity of Jodie Foster would have a 14-year-relationship that went completely unreported. It's way past time that it be unthinkable for gay celebrities, too.
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