Life&Style’s Ella Taylor and Julia Lee discuss whether Daniel Craig’s comments about avoiding straight venues are justified
Daniel Craig hit the news last week when he revealed that he frequents gay bars in a bid to escape the fights which often occur at straight venues. The question is, is Craig correct, and if so, why?
I believe that the answer to this question is yes. There is no doubt that alcohol has the potential to increase violent and disorderly behaviour. A statistic from Alcohol Change UK states that ‘in 2014-2016 in England and Wales, 91% of violent incidents which took place in or near a pub or club were alcohol-related.’ Alcohol commonly acts as a depressant. Slowing down our reaction times, it prevents people from reacting rationally to a situation. For example, some people have fun in their new, relaxed state, yet others have a tendency to become emotional or aggressive. Intoxication can lead us to be ‘more likely to misinterpret other people’s behaviour’. Often minor issues can be at the root of fights, for example, accidentally bumping into someone, or knocking over their drink.
But why do club-goers at straight venues tend to react more impulsively and violently? Whilst some people go clubbing just to enjoy the dancing and live atmosphere, others get carried away, fuelled with the confidence that alcohol provides. According to Samantha Wells, Paul F. Tremblay and Kathryn Graham, the predominant reason why men become embroiled in fights is an attempt to impress their peers. When at a straight venue, the pressure to drink more, and to not look ‘weak’ in front of their friends commonly leads men to engage in fights. This negative mindset can often be referred to as ‘toxic masculinity’. The definition of toxic masculinity can be summarised to having three core components: toughness, anti-femininity and power.
Believing they should always be ‘physically strong and behaviourally aggressive’, a number of men reject any traits that would make them appear weak. Therefore, whether provoked or not, they feel that they have to react in an over-the-top manner. This includes violence in bars and nightclubs in order to flaunt their strength to others. In my opinion, a predominant reason why this seems to be more prevalent in heterosexual venues compared to gay ones is due to the presence of straight women.
At gay bars, with the objective to impress a woman removed, there seems to be a greater sense of unity. Most attendees are likely to be either an ally or a member of the LGBTQ+ community. This shared set of mutual beliefs results in a more trusting environment, where in the words of Craig, ‘everybody was chill, everybody. You didn’t really have to sort of state your sexuality.’ not conforming to the societal expectations which some men feel obligated to, everyone in the venue can enjoy their night. This results in a more undisturbed atmosphere.
It would be great if we could transform straight venues into the safe space that gay ones are renowned for. However, there is no easy fix for this problem as societal expectations are at the core of the problem. Together we need to try and dismantle the harmful stereotypes surrounding male behaviour. Then, possibly, as Craig labels it, there will be less ‘aggressive dick swinging’ in heterosexual spaces.
There has been more than one statement Bond actor Daniel Craig made that raised eyebrows recently. First he said that there should not be a female James Bond, which taken without context, made Craig seem sexist. Now he says that he goes to gay bars to avoid fights in conventional bars. No matter his intention, I cannot help but think both statements come off as tone-deaf. Why? The answer is simple– Craig is, as far as we know, the epitome of privilege.
As a cisgender, straight, white man who came into fame conventionally through a drama school education, it takes time to unlearn the entitlement that comes with never being made to feel out of place. The question is, I feel, not whether gay bars are safer than conventional bars (they are not), but that should gay bars be dominated by non-queer clientele, it will no longer do what it says on the tin. Craig is not a woman who wants to escape unwanted male advances and just have a good night out, which I find easier to sympathise with, though cisgender straight women who think that gay bars are a safe space where they would not be subject to unwanted advances erases queer women and non-binary people, not to mention bisexual men. A common fear of queer people who frequent gay bars is that with the increase of straight women, straight men would follow, making the ‘safe space’ safe no longer. Craig’s statement proves them right– saying he goes to gay bars to avoid violence and ‘meet girls there’ as an ‘ulterior motive,’ is blatantly admitting to a sort of expansionism that would contribute to the rarity of already scarce queer spaces.
Toxic masculinity is present in gay communities as much as straight ones. It is naive and infantilising to frame the queer community as some sort of infallible safe haven for other marginalised groups. In an attempt to be an ally with queer, especially gay male folks, straight men seem to have a tendency to dilute the inevitable nuances that come with the queer community. Anthony Mackie, in response to Marvel fans speculating on his Captain America’s sexuality, said ‘something as pure and beautiful as homosexuality has been exploited by people who are trying to rationalise themselves.’ As though only ‘pure and beautiful’ things deserve to be fought for and represented in media, when in truth he was scrambling for ways to placate while dismissing viewers’ (I think, valid) interpretations. Mackie and Craig’s statements betray just how little they know about the queer community. Queer people are human at the end of the day, with human whims and human faults.
With these fundamental misunderstandings, or perhaps willful ignorance, verbal statements of allyship mean nothing. Some have proposed that straight people should only go to gay bars if they were invited by and go with queer friends. It will be impossible to enforce, but I have to agree with the sentiment. Queer people should not be made to feel uncomfortable in spaces made for them, that have been for years and years symbols of queer resistance and community.
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