August 21, 2012

IconWho is Manchester Pride really for?

"I'm a bad boy"

Controversy has erupted following the announcement that  “bad boy actor” Danny Dyer – a man not shy of advocating violence against women – will be DJing at Manchester Pride. What were the organisers thinking? And what does this booking say about the event itself?

Now I’ll readily admit that I’m not a Mancunian. However, it’s not like there’s anything vaguely resembling a gay bar in the Midlands town I call home, let alone an annual Pride festival, so I typically look further afield: to Birmingham, to London, to Nottingham. And why not to Manchester? It’s an easy, direct train trip.

However, I’ve never been in the slightest bit tempted by Manchester Pride. The parade looks pretty fun and still has something of a political edge, but everything else is expensive and lacks diversity. This is a Pride dominated by second-rate pop acts and DJs, apparently booked with your stereotypical gay man in mind (and of course, not every gay man is a stereotype…)

Still, it’s something else entirely to book a man like Danny Dyer for an event that’s supposed to be all about equality.

Now there’s no proof that Danny Dyer hates women, but his career certainly seems to imply that gender awareness isn’t particularly high on his agenda. This is the man whose advice column in lads’ mag Zoo was dropped after he suggested that a man cut his ex-girlfriend’s face, “so no-one will want her”.

Stay classy Danny

Dyer claimed to have been “misquoted” during the resulting media outcry, but as marykmac points out in a column for the F Word, the comment doesn’t seem particularly out of character. Dyer previously suggested in his column that a man might want to set his girlfriend’s pubes on fire. Hilarious! He has also starred in misogynist films such as Doghouse and Pimp.

So why is Dyer appropriate for Pride? Well, he’s “gay-friendly”, obviously: and for “gay” read “gay men”. He’s appeared in photoshoots for Attitude, and spoken about how he’s comfortable with playing gay male characters. And that’s all very well and good, but it doesn’t really excuse advocating or portraying violence against women, does it?

Salford teacher and Lesbilicious reader Liz W fired off a furious email to us following the announcement. “The point is, why does Manchester Pride want to buy into Dyer’s laddish, woman-hating ‘brand’?” she asked. “Do they expect Manchester Pride’s partners and sponsors to shut up and implicitly support this choice? Do they think that Pride is just a glitzy party for a stereotyped high-spending, apolitical gay man who unquestioningly drools over any hunky man in white shorts? That’s pretty insulting to gay men as well as to women.” Quite.

Similar views were aired on Manchester Pride’s Facebook page, where potential attendees took a break from critiquing the weekend’s line-up to slam the decision. “You’ll book a man who advises cutting up women’s faces, in a vile and homophobic magazine like Zoo, because some men think he’s fit. What the hell is that all about?” asked one user.

Interestingly, nearly all mentions of Danny Dyer’s DJ set – including a press release and an information page – have disappeared from the Manchester Pride website during the past few hours. There has yet to be a statement from the organisation however, and they have not responded to enquiries from Lesbilicious.

It would seem that Dyer was been booked mostly for his sex “appeal” (speaking as a bisexual woman – urgh!) and “celebrity” status rather than any real credibility as a DJ. Meanwhile the appropriateness of the booking clearly wasn’t questioned. Sadly, this seems in line with the broader ethos of Manchester Pride. The event seems to be more of a gay-themed pop festival than anything else, with any real focus on LGBTQ culture and equality largely sidelined.

Who even let this guy near the decks?

It’s a pity that it’s come to this. The increasingly high profile of Pride in Manchester isn’t entirely a bad thing – it certainly achieves a valuable level of visibility, and I was heartened to see rainbow flags everywhere during a visit to the city earlier this week. The question is: should Pride really be little more than a music festival focused on a narrow set of genres, open to all who can afford it? Surely the organisers of Manchester Pride can aim for something more inspiring than this?

Update 9am 22/8/2012:

“Danny Dyer has a clear appeal to a section of the LGBT community and his past controversy was now behind him. However, we’re aware his inclusion has caused some upset and anger amongst others so we have listened to these concerns and have subsequently withdrawn him from the Manchester Pride main stage line-up. We realise there will be some who wished to see Danny perform who will be disappointed by this news.”
John Stewart, Chief Executive, Manchester Pride

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Ruth Pearce


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