Is Mardi Gras preaching to the converted?
A Notion by Super Opinion
Every year the Mardi Gras has a way of riling up controversy – unsurprisingly given the heat discussions of homosexuality can ignite. But the controversy serves very little benefit to the cause of equal treatment and equal marriage for same sex couples – one of the goals of this year’s parade.
This year controversy has come from comments by Ten Morning News presenter Ron Wilson in an interview with Mardi Gras Co-Chair Peter Urmson. Wilson put to Urmson the view that certain aspects of the festival were “disgusting” and may make even Urmson “cringe”. These comments have stirred anger from some in the community who view them as an attack on the gay community and Mardi Gras as a whole.
The truth is though, these views put by Wilson – however clumsily delivered – are not unique, and opinions on the way the parade conducts itself include many who find the overt sexuality off-putting and even offensive. This is to be expected – revealing outfits and sexual imagery is always likely to offend at least a few – but the risk is that failing to recognise the extent of offence or disconnect caused may alienate potential recruits to the same-sex equality cause.
My own liberal views on sexuality and the human body means I am not perturbed by the event – but there are many more conservative than myself, and putting a barrier between a gay-pride event and these more conservative groups only serves to hinder acceptance. Mardi Gras is foremost an event for the gay and lesbian community – but its secondary role is surely to promote equality and quash homophobia. The use of this year’s event to highlight the need for marriage equality is surely indicative of this secondary role.
The issue then is finding a balance between promotion of acceptance and celebration in a way which does not cause offence or raise a barrier between the participants and the potential audience of society’s middle-ground. Nudity and sexual imagery would prevent the broadcast of the event on free to air television until later in the evening – perhaps this is the first sign of a potential disconnect between the event and more conservative members of the community. Questions are often asked about whether a person wandering down the street dressed/undressed and acting in the same way outside of such an event would be allowed to do so. While such a hypothetical doesn’t always serve as a clear moral compass – it is still worth considering.
There are people who support gay rights, equal marriage and the Mardi Gras itself – but find the conduct of participants off-putting. Surely the fact that some may feel this way – regardless of numbers – is cause for thought for the event’s organisers. Ron Wilson’s subsequent apology and clarification only emphasise this.
As with many things in life – it’s all about balance. I’m not sure that the Mardi Gras has quite reached that if it wants to achieve acceptance and promote reform. It needs to be welcoming to the wider community if it wants to recruit them to their cause.