Jodie Foster stars in ‘Everyone shut up now’Posted: January 15, 2013
It’s not anybody’s business. That was the message sent in Jodie Foster’s Golden Globe’s speech last night.
A lot of people commenting and reporting on the speech have been asking whether or not Jodie Foster actually ‘came out’ or not. But this is the wrong question. The right question, the question that Foster posed, is ‘Why do you think it is any of your damn business’?
Foster’s refusal to ‘come out’ puts our desire for people to ‘come out’ under the microscope. It should make us question why we want to know so badly and why we think we have a ‘right’ to know. It should make us question why gay sexuality has to be made public while straight sexuality can remain comfortably the property of the individual.
Why do the public demand the announcement of homosexuality? Why do people become annoyed when the announcement isn’t made?
Jodie Foster asked us that question last night. Why do we need to have access to her privacy? Why do we need to know? Why does she ‘have to’ make that part of her public property, some kind of conversational fodder for people to muse over, question, debate or joke about? Why can’t it just be hers? Why do we care so much about ‘knowing’?
Knowing is an act of control. Being able to label and define makes us feel secure and in command. Someone who refuses definition, who eludes our attempts to pin them down, makes us uneasy and maybe even angry.
Demanding someone tell us ‘what’ they are is a way of trying to assert that control and to intellectually colonise another person. We try to take them over with our idea of who they are rather than meeting them on their own terms. Demanding to know is demanding to have power over someone else. Foster refuses to hand over that power.
By refusing to ‘come out’ Jodie Foster is refusing us control over her. She is refusing our attempts to define her and to own knowledge of her.
Her refusal has good cause. The demand to know if someone is gay has a dark history of persecution, social policing, surveillance, capital punishment and torture. Is the demand for people to ‘come out’ (by the straight community) a continuation of this surveillance? A subconscious desire to keep tabs on those who are gay? Those who for so many years were presented as a threat, an invisible threat at that, whose best mode of detection is self-identification?
Whether people should come out or not isn’t the question. The question is why do other people feel the need to know.
Perhaps Foster also knows that the reduction of all of her personality, sexuality, experiences, feelings and thoughts into the word ‘gay’ would give people the illusion of knowing her, or knowing something about her.
Some have expressed disappointment that Foster didn’t overtly state ‘I’m gay’ for the many kids out there struggling with their sexuality and looking for courage and bravery in a gay role model.
But Foster showed a different kind of courage last night. She showed how much courage and bravery it takes to say ‘no’, to deny people access, to tell everyone it’s none of their business.
It takes a lot of strength to say to people ‘You don’t get to have this. This isn’t yours. It’s mine. Now, kindly get off my damn lawn.’
Foster has claimed sovereignty over her self and in no uncertain terms has told the rest of us that this sovereignty isn’t up for grabs.
I, for one, think it’s something to be admired, to be respected, and perhaps even to be left alone.