I put finger to keyboard reluctantly. I never wanted to be a predictable person, and given that my blog has ended up being mainly about opera or The Gayz, the fact that I find myself tapping away on a subject that links the two makes me feel terribly boring. But there’s important stuff going on here, and it’s getting harder and harder to work out who are the goodies and who are the baddies, so I’m going to go ahead and big fat do it anyway.
And also: sometimes I write about football, too, so actually I’m rounded and actually YOU are the boring one. In your face.
So. Tamar Iveri. A year ago, a post appeared on her facebook page in which she criticized the President of Georgia for condemning violence against a gay rights march. So far, so labyrinthine, I know. To simplify: march happened, violence was done on marchers, president condemned violence, Iveri’s FB criticized President for condemning violence. She talked of ‘Pure Georgian blood’, and said that ‘sometimes it’s good to break some jaws’ and went on to talk about homosexuality in terms that were worryingly obsessed with excrement.
(Sidebar in the neutral, facty bit of this post: I think this is being lost in all the discussion. The president said ‘Hey, let’s not beat up the gays’ and Iveri's post, at length, said ‘No. NO. We SHOULD beat up the gays’. Let’s bear that in mind.)
Anyway, that all happened in 2013, and as we all know in 2013 we were all still wearing flares and talking about Ceylon. I mean, it’s an unimaginably long time ago.
So, way back when, some people objected to Iveri’s FB post and it was deleted. She sort of apologised, a bit, and then didn’t do a concert in Paris she had been scheduled for, and it all went away.
Until now. Iveri was cast at Opera Australia as Desdemona, in Verdi’s opera OTELLO, based on Shakespeare’s play in which, as you will remember, neither hate nor words are remotely dangerous. Somehow, her FB post was dredged up, and what is now being called a ‘social media campaign’ was launched to suggest to OA that she might not be everyone’s favourite colleague, or the darling of every audience member.
It gets murky from here on in. People don’t look very nice.
Iveri doesn’t look very nice, because on top of everything else it would appear she lied. Once it became apparent that this wasn’t all going to go away, she came up with another FB post claiming that the butler did it. Her husband, she claimed, had written the offending post, because he is a fervent Christian and the gay march had been scheduled on the same day as a march commemorating Georgia’s war dead and a friend of theirs had died and he was angry and we were never at war with Eastasia.
(For information, again: the gay rights march and the memorial march were not on the same day, and it took a year for her to say that her husband had written the post, and he has his own facebook page, and why is any of this relevant to incitement to violence, which is a crime, anyway?)
What happened next was that Opera Australia equivocated, and got people angrier and angrier by their refusal to condemn what, in most any other profession, would be counted as gross misconduct. You don’t, in any job, go on record saying that some of your colleagues are faeces and cancer and need their jaws broken without expecting at the very least a slap on the wrist from HR. If OA had acted immediately, I suspect this shitstorm would have been less shitty (simile: courtesy the Tamar Iveri School Of Scatology).
Inevitably, finally, Iveri was fired. She made one final FB post where she- and this is where the word ‘disingenuous’ is stretched to its utmost limit- claimed that she had only opposed the march because she was worried that people might get hurt. Ho ha hum.
But, if you can believe it, that’s where it got nastier. That’s where people, on all sides of the political spectrum, took a horrible story and made it worse. I can’t really bear to spell it all out, so I’ll opt for bullet points from now on.
1: People started worrying that she was the victim of a 'witch hunt'
I can deal with this quite quickly, can’t I? No she wasn’t. This isn’t an issue of freedom of expression. This is someone who condoned- encouraged- violence against fellow humans just because they weren’t wired the way she was. We don’t even need to do the racism test, where you replace ‘gay’ with ‘black’. If she worked for a PR firm or a bank or a shop or anywhere other than the nervously liberal arts, she would have been out of the door so fast her head would’ve spun. And you don’t need me to tell you that freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences, right?
2: People started going on Iveri’s and OA’s Facebook pages and having misogynist rants
This is where the double-nasty comes in. Iveri is certainly a bigot, and maybe a fascist. What she isn’t, or not acceptably at any rate, is a bitch or a cunt or a whore. I can understand why people wanted to vent against her, but so many of them got it dead wrong. The correct response to OA’s decision to fire her was silence. Job done, bigot sent home to have a think. I can’t remember a better example of moral defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. Anyone who posted anything abusive about Iveri which was based on anything other than her opinions- here’s a slow handclap. You have given useful, quotable ammo to the very people who ought to have none. And yes, I think she should go to a teacher to work on her higher notes, which have a tendency to go flat, but that is NOT RELEVANT HERE.
Which leads to:
3: People started using the abuse Iveri received as a kind of defence for her actions
This is where I sort of want to give up and blast humanity into space (or, to coin a phrase, to break its jaw). The fact that some idiot misogynists called Iveri a bitch DOES NOT retroactively make her a martyr. The fact that she lost her job should be treated on its own, as a closed book. The fact that some woman-hating trolls did their woman-hating troll thing is a MUCH bigger problem. Prominent women are called the names Tamar Iveri was called every day, time and time again, on the internet. Most of them haven’t angrily defended the physical injury of other humans. If you want to get angry about what was said to her, be my guest. You should. Just don't make her your poster girl.
4: But - AAARGH- those people above are sort of right.
That’s where it’s all ultimately depressing. There’s that old, self hating thing that members of minorities can’t help but think: ‘Oh dear, if we get angry about this bigot saying his bigot thing then he’ll hate us all the more’. And there’s no point in that. For all her ‘gay friends’- and I suspect she’ll have met a few of us, apparently we crop up here and there in opera- Tamar Iveri isn’t going to have her mind changed if we shut up nicely and let her express her desire to see us in casualty without repercussions. I have no interest in keeping schtumm so as not to confirm haters in their hatery. It was absolutely worth speaking up and standing up for ourselves.
But, at the same time. You people who jumped in to call her every name under the sun. You people who allowed her to look like a victim. You people who used the hate speech men have used against women for centuries and thought you were striking a blow against bigotry: you silly fucking cunts (so to speak). All you have done is taken someone who was unequivocally in the wrong, and given her the chance to look as if she was a little bit in the right.
I couldn’t do bullet points without a conclusion: it would be a sin against GCSE Science. So let’s try this one.
Online misogyny is a massive problem, and one which is much bigger than the Iveri affair. Let’s not mix up the two: let’s robustly condemn the people who spaffed their anger all over the internet, and let’s treat that as a problem which has nothing, in the end, to do with a woman who quite rightly lost a gig.