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Opinion: Is Sandra Goudie anti-vax, and is Billy Porter jealous?

Sandra Goudie is the Mayor of a region of New Zealand called Thames-Coromandel. She’s gotten herself in the news recently for saying she doesn’t intend to be vaccinated against Covid-19 with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. 

When asked why, she refuses to give an explanation, but has said she’s waiting for a different one called Novavax to become available in New Zealand. 

There are however some hints as to her real views in an interview she did with the news site Stuff. Quotes from her husband indicate he may have swallowed a load of anti-vax nonsense and misinformation about fatal reactions to the Pfizer vaccination. For the record, there has been one case of someone dying after being given the vaccine against millions of doses that have been given in New Zealand. He also hinted at concerns that the Pfizer vaccine uses messenger RNA to produce an immune response and that this would alter human DNA – it doesn’t by the way, it’s just another vaccine myth.

So if Goudie’s husband has these views, it is entirely possible that she does as well. The myths have been shown to be false, but they have nonetheless gained traction among many people around the world. 

The problem with Goudie’s stance is she is deliberately peddling doubt around a health strategy that has been proven to work. 

As an elected official she should be leading by example.  The scientific data for the Pfizer vaccine shows it to be safe and effective. What’s more, it is clear that vaccination saves lives and reduces in fewer hospitalisations and serious illness. 

A person in her position should be reading and taking note of all the health information available to her and taking a responsible view on healthcare.

It is clear she is not up to the job and the proof is in her responses to questions in that Stuff interview. 

In it, she asks why the worming medication Ivermectin isn’t available for Covid treatment in New Zealand. This is despite health authorities and the drug manufacturer stating quite clearly that Ivermectin is ineffective against Covid.

Secondly, when talking about the death toll from Covid she acknowledged there had been “a few deaths”. While you could argue that 28 deaths in New Zealand is “a few,” the official death toll around the world is almost 5 million. Those deaths have occurred in less than two years, and are the equivalent of Aotearoa New Zealand’s entire population. 

Because she has such a blithe and ignorant view of the worst health crisis to hit the world in a generation, Sandra Goudie should resign.

Billy Porter and the straight white man in a dress on the cover of Vogue

Actor and singer Billy Porter severely criticised Vogue’s December 2020 cover featuring singer Harry Styles in a dress. Claiming he created the conversation around non-binary fashion and “changed the whole game”, Porter is angry that Vogue “still put a straight white man, in a dress on their cover for the first time”.

This one needs a bit of unpicking. At first, it might almost seem as though Porter is implying it should have been him on the cover.  If Vogue was looking to feature a man who had influenced fashion by mixing styles from what has traditionally been defined as ‘male’ or ‘female’ then Porter would certainly be in strong contention. No one who has seen it could forget in that black dress/tuxedo on the red carpet just before the 2019 Academy Awards. It was a stunning and provocative look. 

Of course to do that we would have to separate Porter’s fashion from that of ‘drag’ which is a stylised and camped-up take on ‘female’ fashion. If we included drag, then someone like Ru Paul could claim to have made more of an impact. 

In an age when the dominance of ‘straight, white, male’ power is being challenged, then perhaps Vogue was out of step by using one on the cover and then slapping a dress on them.

But consider this. For a very long time, straight men have been wearing women’s clothing. A large proportion of cross-dressers are straight males. We hardly ever see them because for the most part it’s never been safe for them to be seen in public. We usually associate drag and cross-dressing with gay men because it is in the queer community, and in queer venues where that kind of activity is welcomed and celebrated. I’m not saying drag is universally accepted by all queer people, but it is in our communities where drag has its spiritual home.

But it is not its only home. In my childhood, men often wore dresses on TV. I remember the cast of Monty Python regularly doing skits dressed as women. Then there were the many female impersonators such as Dick Emery, Stanley Baxter, Danny La Rue, Marcus Craig, and of course Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage. Some of them were gay, most of them were not. 

In Shakespearean days, women’s roles were played by young men. In the eighteenth century, aristocratic men across Europe wore clothing that these days would probably be considered as drag. 

Implicit in Billy Porter’s criticism is the view that a man wearing a dress, is somehow ‘gay’, and that drag belongs to the queer community. If that wasn’t the case, then why mention Styles’ sexual orientation? 

The reality is though that drag or cross-dressing does not belong solely to the gay community or to gay men. Even Ru Paul has acknowledged as much and we see more straight people – including straight women, who are now doing drag. 

Perhaps Porter’s comments can be taken as a larger critique of the fashion industry. According to an article in GQ magazine in March of this year, just over 12% of the top 1000 fashion companies are led by women. In 2015 it was reported that fewer than 20% of the 91 brands at Paris Fashion Week had female creative directors. 

So is there still a lack of diversity in fashion?  Do minorities only get trotted out to make some vacuous marketing pitch?

White straight men still have a lot of privilege in this world, so perhaps Billy Porter is making a valid point.

If Vogue wanted to make a splash and a statement, why not put a nonstraight male in a dress on its cover?

I wonder if it’s because they were making a statement. Maybe, just maybe, Vogue was sending a message to all those cisgender white straight males out there that it’s ok to come out of the closet – you too can wear a dress!


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