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This Stephen Fry situation seems to have hit a few of my buttons.

Let's get some labels out of the way. I'm a heterosexual woman. Stephen Fry is a gay man, whom I mostly adore. He's erudite and funny and makes being a slightly geeky would-be writer feel just a tiny bit more fun.

I'm not going to go into what he said. Published in Attitude Magazine, the quotes made their way via Pink News and thence to the internet and news sites in general. Who knows how accurate or out of context the quotes are? Only Stephen Fry and Paul Flynn, the person who interviewed him.

Clearly, Stephen Fry is as entitled to an opinion about anything he likes. But if those opinions seem rather...odd or offensive, aren't people who find them odd or offensive entitled to question them?

When a twitter user linked him to what he was quoted as saying and asked if it was true, he merely passed on the link. There are many reasons why he could have done that - perhaps it was late; perhaps he didn't read the link and just thought he'd pass it on to his fans; perhaps he read it and saw nothing wrong with it. Nobody knows. But Fry's action was unfortunate, especially given his later assertion that he was misquoted.

While Britain (and presumably Fry) slept, people in other parts of the world started questioning what he'd said. By the time the British media woke up to it, there were various blog posts and the ball was already rolling. Next came an Observer article, and off we went.

Stephen Fry's only public reaction so far has been one tweet: So some fucking paper misquotes a humorous interview I gave, which itself misquoted me and now I'm the Antichrist. I give up., followed by a flounce: Bye bye. His twitter account is now marked "No longer in service".

Again, let me stress that Fry is entitled to react in any way he wishes. That's his prerogative. But my prerogative, and that of anyone else, is to question things that I disagree with. I can do this by talking with friends, by blogging, by reading and commenting on other social media sites and, thanks to the magic of twitter, by asking @stephenfry directly (although I haven't and don't intend to do that last).

Except that apparently I can't and mustn't do these things. Stephen Fry, according to the #welovestephenfry twitter hashtag, must not be questioned or upset. Anyone who says his views are wrong without waiting for confirmation of them is silly/a bra-burning feminist/secretly hates sex. Women who take issue with his remarks are just spoiling the fun/taking offence too easily/silencing him because he's gay. The Stephen Fry situation is "as upsetting" as the fact that Danny Baker has cancer, apparently. People are calling for apologies from The Observer, Paul Flynn, BoganetteNZ and anyone else who might have upset Fry.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I mostly love Stephen Fry. But being popular and funny and loved and a spokesperson for mental health issues and rich and witty and clever and gay and kind and loving and a wonderful writer and speaker does not mean that he is infallible or should never be questioned. He's not a saint. Part of his appeal - part of anyone's appeal - is that he is not perfect.

Treating him like a special snowflake who must be carefully tended and wooed back to twitter is disrespectful to him, as well as to all the people who have taken issue with his remarks. Stephen Fry may be gay and bipolar, but he also has a hell of a lot of privelege to fall back on - much more, we can assume, than many of the people who are taking heat for questioning what he said. He can look after himself...and if he can't, it is not twitter's responsibility to do it for him.

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lizabelle

June 2014

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