Nick Kyrgios is a dick.
True, I don’t know Nick, so I apologise to him if I’m wronging him, but mine is an opinion formed on the basis of what seems to be a pretty pervasive public sentiment. No one doubts Kyrgios’s talent on the court; more’s the pity then that so many people question his sportsmanship and character and temperament.
This is just a random selection from the first few news stories about him I clicked on: “seemingly incessant tendency to self-sabotage” (9 Sports), “he actually needs serious help” (former tennis star Daniela Hantuchova), “he needs a regular therapist” (former British No 1 Greg Rusedski), “brat… absolute tool… this bloke is deadset heading towards straight jacket territory. He needs a psychologist, a psychiatrist and some medication” (Ben Fordham, 2GB), “he doesn’t respect opponents, the crowd or himself” (Rafael Nadal), “petulant child” (Mark Levy, 2GB).
So Kyrgios is a dick. And most people, from average punters, through commentators, to other players have no problem saying it (though generally finding more polite euphemisms). This is good, because we all should be able to bag others. Sure, the world would be a nicer place if everyone only ever said pleasant things (“if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing” and all that), but let’s face it, it will never happen, so let us instead enjoy the freedom to criticise others, even in the most flowery ways.
But think about this: Kyrgios can be called a dick at leisure and, apart from providing a particularly clear case of being a dick, this is arguably only so because he happens to be a Caucasian male (even if Anglos might distinguish him as being a “typical Wog”).
Imagine if Kyrgios was Indigenous – bagging him would be instantly portrayed as being racist. Or if Kyrgios was a woman – in which case it would be sexist. And so on.
Nowadays, it’s near impossible to criticise someone who’s not a white, straight male without being in turn accused of such criticism being in actuality based on the target’s ethnicity, gender or sexuality. To put it in other words, people are bagging X because they hold a general animus towards [insert the group in question], or at the very least the criticism is harsher and more brutal because of the membership of the said group; in fact members of these groups are held to much higher standards than white males and therefore exposed to more criticism for similar behaviour.
This is a pretty standard tactic used to try to shut down the debate and shame and shut up critics without having to address the gist of the criticism. You defend the subject of criticism and attacks by impugning the motives of those criticising and attacking. Take this random example from today’s media:
Meghan Markle‘s best friend Jessica Mulroney came to her defence on Tuesday, calling out “racist bullies” who have been targeting the Duchess of Sussex with “years of undeserved hate”…
Fashion stylist Ms Mulroney began her rebuke by reposting a tweet from British actress Jameela Jamil, who accused English citizens and the press of targeting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex because of Meghan’s race.
“Ugh. Dear England and English press, just say you hate her because she’s black, and him for marrying a black woman,” read Jamil’s tweet read in part. “Your bullying is so embarrassing and obvious. You’ve all lost your marbles. It’s 2019. Grow up.”
Are people who don’t like the Duchess of Sussex motivated by racism – their dislike of black people? I can’t, of course, speak for everyone, but I found Markle annoying before I found out her mother was black. I dislike her for her Hollywood wokeness, which knows no colour – I similarly dislike Alyssa Milano, who’s not black, and in case someone now suggests I’m a misogynist, I also dislike Matt Damon and Jim Carrey.
It also bears reminding that Princesses Di and Fergie have over the decades coped hell of a lot of bagging, while both being pretty pale. And it’s not like Princes Charles, Andrew and Edward have been spared the sharp barbs of people’s tongues and typing fingers either. Virtually everyone is disliked by someone, and some are disliked by many.
I’m similarly not saying that none of the people who don’t like Adam Goodes are motivated by racism, but surely it shouldn’t be an automatic assumption that all those who don’t like him or criticise him are. It also should not mean that Goodes is untouchable to criticism on the account of his skin colour – or that everyone has to love him (or else you will be suspected of bigotry). Google any compilation of most disliked AFL players (or any other sportspeople) and you will find these list overwhelmingly white. People quite simply think they’re dicks, for all sorts of different reasons to do with on and off the field behaviour.
It’s not just sport or celebrity; Julia Gillard and her many fans made a huge point that criticising her was motivated by misogyny. Again, maybe there are some people who don’t like women in positions of power, but to me, and many others, she was just a bad prime minister (as was Kevin Rudd, though Julia at least wasn’t a sociopath).
Everyone can be a dick. Being a dick knows no gender, race, ethnicity or sexuality. It also knows no religion, politics, profession or socio-economics. Men and women can be dicks (or whatever you choose as the female equivalent); people from all corners of the world can be dicks, as can be people who are straight and people who are gay and anyone in between. Conversely, no group is characterised by being dicks, just as no membership of any group gives you immunity from being criticised for being a dick.
In fact, I’m sure – I know – that many people think I’m a dick. And that’s alright with me. Maybe I am. Being a white, straight, middle-class male I don’t have any trump cards to play to accuse my haters of bad faith and bigotry (though how dare you hate immigrants?).
But to make this thought experiment: if I were called Arturia or came from Mozambique instead of Poland, would you hold back?
I hope you wouldn’t. I know it certainly wouldn’t stop me.
Arthur Chrenkoff blogs at The Daily Chrenk, where this piece also appears.
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