Isinbayeva (take two)

As reported by BBC:

on Friday Yelena Isinbayeva issued a clarification of her Thursday statement covered in my previous post:

Let us do a line-by-line analysis of the BBC report of her second media appearance.

Russian athlete Yelena Isinbayeva says she may have been “misunderstood” over comments condemning homosexuality and insists she is against discrimination.

This is exactly how I understood her the first time round – Isinbayeva is against discrimination. To refer to her original comments as “condemning homosexuality”, as the BBC have done, is malicious nonsense.

On Thursday, the 31-year-old world pole vault champion backed new anti-gay laws brought in by her country.

She had supported the new law and expected others to respect it. But the law in question is not “anti-gay” – it merely targets feeding information promoting “non-traditional family models” to the minors. It does not change the legal status of the gay people in Russia or limit the freedom of the adults to choose the lifestyle they wish to pursue. It actually does not even mention homosexuality!

But in a statement on Friday, she said: “English is not my first language and I think I may have been misunderstood. What I wanted to say was that people should respect the laws of other countries, particularly when they are guests. I am opposed to any discrimination against gay people on the grounds of their sexuality.”

This is exactly how I understood her on Thursday – the issue is respecting the laws of the country one is visiting. The leading “but” in the above quote suggests that Isinbayeva’s recent statement somehow differs from what she had said before. It does not.

Speaking in English at a news conference on Thursday, Isinbayeva had said of Green-Tregaro’s actions: “It’s disrespectful to our country, disrespectful to our citizens because we are Russians. Maybe we are different than European people and people from different lands. We have our law which everyone has to respect. When we go to different countries, we try to follow their rules.”

This is what she said on Thursday and I am not finding it particularly contentious. Neither is it different from what she said on Friday, despite the nasty innuendos in the BBC coverage.

I believe that her latest effort to explain where the media had gone wrong on Thursday is a complete waste of time, for two reasons.

Firstly, whoever can read and comprehend English should have been able to correctly understand Isinbayeva’s original statements. While her English is a bit rough, she was crystal clear that she had nothing against the gay people but simply expected the visitors to respect the laws of the country hosting them. I had no problem comprehending her massage and it beats me why the media crowd had failed in the task.

Secondly, whoever did not understand Isinbayeva the first time must have had political motives and will not change their view. This is evidenced by the BBC coverage of Isinbayeva’s Friday statement in which they still refer to “condemning homosexuality” and “anti-gay laws”. To the BBC she will always be anti-gay, no matter what she says.

This reminds me of a racist joke popular in the 1970s Poland, when there were almost no people of colour to be seen in the streets. An old lady spots a black man and starts yelling “Monkey, monkey!”. The man walks up to her and explains in fluent Polish “Dear madam, I am not a monkey. I am an African student at the local Uni. I have come to Poland to study and have learnt the language”. Hearing this shocks the lady who now yells “Monkey can speak!”


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