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Brooke
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Reged: Jun 23 2006
Posts: 474
Loc: Pennsylvania
"That's So Gay"
      #4018 - Wed Mar 14 2007 09:37 PM

Yep, to me it's "so gay" that a 9 year old was suspended for saying "that's gay" during a playground soccer game. The following article claims that saying "that's gay" is equal to saying racist or other homophobic remarks. A post on feministing compared saying "that's so gay" to saying "that's so jewish" or "that's so negro".

I remember when I was in 3rd grade, I lived in an all white community and we were discussing what the N word meant. I was trying to explain to my peers that the N word could be said to basically anyone who was acting like an idiot...while my peers kept telling me it was a word for any person who was black. Instead of being suspended, my teacher who overheard the conversation...and thankfully was a hippie who had fought for civil rights in the 60's, explained to us what the word actually meant. We weren't suspended. We weren't sent to the principals office. Our parents weren't even called. Instead we were taught that our words had an effect on other people, that by saying certain things we could hurt people just by saying a word we thought was innocent and common day language.

I'm not sure that saying "that's so gay" has the same effect as saying the N word. But, if it can be argued that is does, should a 9 year old really be punished for saying something when they don't know what effect it may have, they hear it all the time from their peers, adults and even in our media?
Also, is saying "that's so gay" a homophobic remark?

heres the article: http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/34627.html


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BeppieAdministrator



Reged: Jun 22 2006
Posts: 362
Loc: Sydney, Australia
Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: Brooke]
      #4019 - Wed Mar 14 2007 11:14 PM

I think it's quite possible that a nine year old in a heterocentric society would not know that "gay" has a connotation of homosexuality. Parents often shield their kids from learning about anything that isn't heteronormative for a long time. I remember I saw a thing on TV once where a man was interviewing kindergarten children about marriage, and one of the kids said he would never get married "because only gay people get married" (sadly ironic in a country that has legally defined marriage as a heterosexual union). Given that, I think that your approach, Brooke (that is, talking to the kids about why these words are hurtful) would be far more appropriate.

However, having said that, I also do not think one should underestimate the way in which using "gay" as an insult contributes to homophobia in our society. The very fact that most kids seems to learn "gay" as an insult before they use the word to describe a sexual orientation, means that when they DO learn about orientations-other-than-straight, the term already has a negative connotation. I would agree with the feministing folk that saying "that's so gay" is the same as saying "that's so negro"-- it's using the lower status of a marginalised group to lower the status of something else, thus suggesting that the lower status is something intrinsic, rather than something socially constructed.

I did a lot of linguistics as an undergradute, and in a few different classes we'd discuss the way that words change over time, and the word "gay" would often be a prime example chosen, because in the space of half a lifetime the word went from meaning "happy and merry" to "homosexual" to "homosexual and general term of insult." We'd often talk about the semantic "value" of a word-- that is, what you can exchange a word for. Sometimes a word can have two or more values (ie, when you have synonyms)-- for instance the word "fast" can be an adjective to describe speed, a verb or noun to describe not eating for a set period, etc. However, sometimes two values are seen as incompatible (usually when one value is seen as taboo and the other is not), and this means that there is a shift in the usage. The "happy/merry" value of the word "gay" was seen as incompatible with the taboo value of "homosexuality", and as such, the term "gay" is very rarely used to mean "happy and merry" anymore. However, "gay" as an insult is NOT seen as incompatible with "homosexual"-- both useages of the word co-exist. This, in turn, reveals a LOT about the implicit homophobia in our society. If we were not homophobic as a society, then "gay as an insult" would NOT be considered compatible with "gay as homosexual," because the INSULT would be taboo.

As such, I really feel strongly that using "gay" as an insult is something that should not be done-- using the term as an insult is a powerful yet subtle way of reinforcing homophobia, and it DOES need to be dealt with. As you say, Brooke, in this instance, talking to the kids would have been the best appraoch, but if it can be shown that the kids DO understand both connotations of the word and they continue using it, it should be punished in the same way that any other hate speech would be punished.

Unfortunately, it's really hard to get people to stop using the term... I have tried talking to my brother about it, and he always argues that the word has changed in meaning now (he doesn't understand the whole word-value thing), and he insists that it doesn't insult his gay friends, so why should I be concerned? (In other words, I get a typical heterosexual privilege response). It's been similar when I've brought it up with other people too...


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DrK
Wordsmithsta


Reged: Jun 22 2006
Posts: 94
Loc: AL, USA
Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: Beppie]
      #4020 - Thu Mar 15 2007 11:25 AM

Beppie, what a wonderful response, thank you so much.

Brooke, I have to add a bit before I dash off to work.

"Nigger" "kike" "faggot"- none of these are appropriate in everyday speech.

So why is "gay" ok but "faggot" isn't? I absolutely agree that educating a kid before suspending him is important, but what kind of hairs are we splitting when it's ok to use one word for a sexuality as a perjorative, but not another?

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Contre tout le monde, je me defendrai...je suis le dernier homme, je le resterai jusqu'au bout! Je ne capitule pas!- Ionesco, Le Rhinoceros


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IrmelinAdministrator
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Reged: Jun 20 2006
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Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: DrK]
      #4026 - Thu Mar 15 2007 05:35 PM

I think the suspention was the correct course of action, by FAR. Sadly, I think that is the ONLY way to properly educate children that age about the severity of the "that's so gay" term, which I DO agree is just as bad as "that's so Jewish" or "that's so Negro" etc. Why do I think this? Because I have seen first-hand, too many times to count, what happens when you try to warn a kid about the hurtful nature of those comments. "So what? Screw you. I'll say whatever I want."

They say that because their parents, their TEACHERS, their peers, their PRESIDENT, their media, the entire world around them enforces the idea that they ARE in a state of power where it IS ok to speak down on gays, and that they don't have any obligation to watch their tongue for "those people."

On the other hand, if you explain, for example, that "nigger" is a racist word, then most kids would exclaim, "Oh crap, I've been saying a racist word??"

The cute and explainy and COMPLETELY non-effective approach that has been taken so far teaches them that no one will discipline them on BEHALF of homosexuals. Teaches them that there are no consiquences for crimes against gays; that they are second-class, and that an insult towards them is treated with a different level of severity than an insult against another minority might be.

Sadly, if you're made to think that you're in power and no one can and no one WILL knock you from that position of superiority over someone else, then it won't matter what anyways SAYS to you. I fully support the suspention and I think it's a stategy that should be picked up by schools across the nation.

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~Meddle not in the affairs of Dragons, for thou art crunchy and taste good with ketchup.


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DrK
Wordsmithsta


Reged: Jun 22 2006
Posts: 94
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Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: Irmelin]
      #4027 - Thu Mar 15 2007 08:12 PM

Ah, now that I have a moment. Perhaps check out the wikipedia entry on hate speech: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hate_speech

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Contre tout le monde, je me defendrai...je suis le dernier homme, je le resterai jusqu'au bout! Je ne capitule pas!- Ionesco, Le Rhinoceros


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Brooke
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Reged: Jun 23 2006
Posts: 474
Loc: Pennsylvania
Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: DrK]
      #4028 - Thu Mar 15 2007 08:23 PM

I think overall we have come a long way when it comes to the mainstream population understanding that homophobic speech is not ok, for example, the word "fag" is no longer consider ok in our media or in our culture. I remember just a few years ago it seem very ok to say such a term, it held as much power as calling someone an idiot...but now it's yet another forbidden word. But also I wonder, are people worrying to much about speech and not enough about actual rights? It's still illegal for gays to marry in most states, in some it's still criminal for members of the same sex to have sex at all, there is still alot of very legal homophobia going around...so I think in alot of ways society is sending a mixed message. It's not ok to say "that's so gay" or even call people gay (which makes me wonder, if being gay is ok, then why would that be considered insulting?), but it is legal to discriminate against homosexuals in a million ways in this country.

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BeppieAdministrator



Reged: Jun 22 2006
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Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: Brooke]
      #4029 - Thu Mar 15 2007 10:08 PM

Irmelin, if the kids understood that "gay" is a word for "homosexual" then I agree that a harsh punishment, such as suspension, is appropriate. However, I really do think there is the possibility here that they did NOT know that the term was used in that way. If that's the case, I think it's only fair to explain why using the term is hateful before enacting a suspension. Sadly, it is true that kids might well respond less strongly learning that they have been inadvertently homophobic than they would if they learned they were inadvertently racist (though some kids probably wouldn't care about the racism either), HOWEVER, I think it's only fair to first give the kid a chance to respond appropriately and change their vocabulary. Otherwise, it's giving them a suspension for doing something wrong, when they had no way of knowing it was wrong (because if they didn't know that "gay" meant "homosexual" they could never have reasonsed that using the term as an insult was demeaning to an entire group of people).

However, I will stress again, that if the kid DID realise that "gay" is often used to mean "homosexual" then yes, I do feel that the punishment was appropriate.


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DrK
Wordsmithsta


Reged: Jun 22 2006
Posts: 94
Loc: AL, USA
Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: Beppie]
      #4030 - Thu Mar 15 2007 10:28 PM

Beppie- interestingly enough, the parents of all the children at school were given a note asking them to explain the word "gay" to their children. So education was part of the solution from that school's perspective. (No way to know about the situation of the suspended kid- privacy laws here like FERPA leave many details of cases like this unreportable).

Brooke, just a detail (but an important one!) you're incorrect about queer sex being illegal in the US. Yes, many states still have sodomy laws on the books (which penalize many acts regularly occurring between straight couples as well!), but these are unenforceable after the Texas case (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_v._Texas).

And per your last comment- could you clarify? Would you consider calling someone "gay" similar to calling them a "fag?"

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Contre tout le monde, je me defendrai...je suis le dernier homme, je le resterai jusqu'au bout! Je ne capitule pas!- Ionesco, Le Rhinoceros


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JennyAdministrator
Be-Musing Momma


Reged: Jun 12 2006
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Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: DrK]
      #4031 - Fri Mar 16 2007 10:19 AM

My younger sister and I have argued about this for over a decade now. While she continues to claim that calling something gay has become completely separate from homosexuality, at least she corrects herself if she slips and uses the phrase in my presence. To her, at least, there's a big difference between calling someone/thing gay and calling someone a "fag".

As far as the case goes, I can't say I support the punishment, but that's primarily because I don't generally believe suspension is an effective punishment. I suspect the kid (and his classmates) would get a lot more out of being made to research and write a (grade level appropriate) report on slurs and how they harm people, or on discrimination against gays and lesbians, and then presenting it to his class.

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No matter what your fight, donít be ladylike! God Almighty made women and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies. ~Mother Jones


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HeatherAdministrator
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Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: Jenny]
      #4032 - Fri Mar 16 2007 01:01 PM

Right with everyone on the suspension vs. discussion bit. I just don't see that suspension is a good problem solver here, nor that it will likely teach the kid the problem with what was said.

Quote:

Also, is saying "that's so gay" a homophobic remark?




Is saying "You're a pussy?" not a misogynist remark? Is "Don't be such a GIRL," not sexist?

Point is, if by "that's so gay," you mean "That sucks," or "That's not good," a person is very clearly being derogatory about homosexuality, making gay = bad.

In fact, I'd posit that if there's even a question that "that's so gay" as insult isn't homophobic, we've got our answer on a) how pervasive and acceptable homophobia is and b) how inarguable so many people feel it is that being gay is a negative trait.

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If I had to characterize one quality as the genius of feminist thought, culture, and action, it would be the connectivity. - Robin Morgan


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Brooke
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Reged: Jun 23 2006
Posts: 474
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Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: Heather]
      #4033 - Fri Mar 16 2007 05:06 PM

Dr.K, I don't think the term gay in itself is equal to the word "fag" at all. Gay can be a positive term, like when people come out as being gay, it's not directly negative. I was comparing it to other terms such as ones used to demean people on the basis of race. I get that the Texas laws made it illegal for anyone to have oral sex or sodomy and I know the case you are referring to, but these types of laws are still on the books...and I have been used to arrest mainly homosexuals, not heterosexuals. The rest of what I said still stands. There is definitely mixed messages occurring here.

Heather I can see how calling someone a pussy or saying "she throws like a girl" is sexist. However, as far as I know there has never been a case in the media where a 9 year old was punished for such speech, or anyone for that matter. Plus, both of those things are directed at people, not events or inanimate objects like the term that's so gay...which makes me wonder if in a way it is homophobic because it's not directed at a individual like other forms other hate speech/ bias speech, even though it's obviously using the word gay as a negative term. Also, does anyone think if a high school students said they believed that homosexuality was morally wrong, that they would be suspended? I think that's part of my issue with the whole thing. Also I wonder if in another community a 9 year old said God is dead, if that child would have been suspended and if certain people would also be saying that saying that is offensive and equal to racist speech. Not to say that from my liberal view point, such phrases are equal, just that given the right community, the same thing could have occurred for a student saying something else that might be considered offensive to a whole group of people.


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DrK
Wordsmithsta


Reged: Jun 22 2006
Posts: 94
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Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: Brooke]
      #4034 - Fri Mar 16 2007 05:34 PM

Brooke- you mistyped. The Texas case makes it LEGAL to engage in oral sex, anal sex, because it asserts privacy rights, and this makes the sodomy laws in all states unenforceable on private property. After that case, any queers arrested for queer sex could have a nice lawsuit on their hands, paid for by the state once they won. Arguments must have their facts up to date if they are to be effective- you know this.

As to your rebuttal to Heather, I'll admit I've had a hard week and my store of false cheeriness is low, so I'm not mincing words: you come woefully close here to relating queers to objects, and that is disgraceful on a website devoted to supporting women- including queer women. Be careful your rhetoric makes the argument you think it's making- I may not be understanding your position correctly, and I honestly hope I'm not, but I'm entirely sure that when dealing with delicate subjects like this you need to think more carefully about your rhetoric.

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Contre tout le monde, je me defendrai...je suis le dernier homme, je le resterai jusqu'au bout! Je ne capitule pas!- Ionesco, Le Rhinoceros


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Dylan
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Reged: Jan 26 2007
Posts: 52
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Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: Brooke]
      #4035 - Fri Mar 16 2007 06:02 PM

I think a lot of the things I would have said in response to this post have already been stated so I don't feel the need to echo them, though I hope you have really read and thought about them.

I do want to just add a bit of my personal experience on this topic. I was an out gay student in high school and I have to stress the powerful and highly negative effect hearing slurs about sexual orientation can be. Going to high school many times took every ounce of my being to face my peer group that constantly expressed homophobic sentiments. It really can rip a person a part Brooke, make them feel very unsafe, unheard, fearful, ect. I've said before that there would be no incentive great enough to make me relive those years, and I really think that shows just how bad they were.

I understand that you think there is a difference between calling someone gay or faggot, but really, the environment created just by saying "that's so gay" to mean stupid is absolutely destructive to gay students' person hoods. I think for one, it is so bad to allow that saying to go on because then when a student is directly called "gay" as a personal attack, people don't even hear it. Words that become common place go right over our heads and that impact that has on harassment is horrible. Secondly, walking around in a world where gay has come to mean stupid is certainly something adolescents just coming to terms with who they are will internalize. So will their peers and then when a friend, parent or sibling comes out... they are already preconditioned to nonacceptance.

On a personal note, I am a gay woman and as a person who writes here with you, I am disappointed to see this sort of post and sentiment from a colleague. It would make me very uncomfortable in any setting to know that someone who has claimed to be "on my side" as we all have here by coming together in our pursuit of feminism, could express such a homophobic statement. Feminism needs to be inclusive... and this line of thinking won't land us there any sooner.

As a note on the suspension, I think sometimes administrators needs to do something that offers a lot of "bang for their buck". They have probably been battling this issue for a while before this incident, and I think by suspending this child and sending letters home, parents will talk about it with their kids, regardless of their personal beliefs, if only to keep them from being suspended as well. Parents, gay accepting or not, will tell their child to not use those words because they do not want their child to get suspended. That seems productive to me.

Edited by Dylan (Fri Mar 16 2007 06:05 PM)


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JennyAdministrator
Be-Musing Momma


Reged: Jun 12 2006
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Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: Dylan]
      #4036 - Fri Mar 16 2007 07:27 PM

I think your personal experience with this slur is really valuable, Dylan, and I'm glad you shared it with us. As a not-really-straight but not-really-bi woman, my experience with hearing something or someone called "so gay" is obviously different and not as threatening as yours. A reminder of what kind of environment these words create for the most vulnerable people is really important.

(On a side note, I don't want to derail discussion here, but while we're on hurtful words I just wanted to state for the record that "retard" or "retarded" as a synonym for "stupid" is equally problematic, and I sincerely hope that our members have also excised this slur from their vocabularies.)

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No matter what your fight, donít be ladylike! God Almighty made women and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies. ~Mother Jones


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HeatherAdministrator
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Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: Jenny]
      #4038 - Fri Mar 16 2007 08:05 PM

I think it's nonproductive to continue arguing about whether or not suspension was the most appropriate and productive measure here, since thus far, nearly everyone who has posted has been pretty clear in echoing that they/we don't feel it is, especially if this was a one-shot deal, not an ongoing problem where other attempts had already been made.

So, can we not keep on that bit anymore, since thus far, it seems we're all essentially in agreement? (Dylan, if I've not fully understood you per this, or am dismissing you in some way, please let me know: not my intent. Just seems to me that this arena of the conversation is way too convenient a distraction from the real issue.)

FYI, "gay" is quite often directed as people as "you're being so gay," or "he's so gay," or "X thing he/she is doing is gay," etc. And even when it is directed to a thing or activity, it is still ABOUT a person, just like saying something is "tits" is still related to those persons who have breasts, IOW, women. Too, just so you're aware, there are folks who self-identify as fags, so the use of gay perjoratively isn't about the word, just as with fag, just as with cunt, etc.: it's about how it is used and what the intent is in using it.

I think, simplistic as it may sound, it's also worth bearing in mind that privilege influences a lot. In other words, as a woman, it's going to be a lot easier to see how the comments I put forth as sexist are such, whereas as a heterosexual, the way you're not able to view "gay" as pejorative in the same light is likely in part due to heteroprivlege. Jenny just spoke to that a bit pretty well. That's not a poke or a jab at you in particular, Brooke, just a simple reminder of how any sort of privilege effects anyone.

I lucked out, for the most part. Most of my coming-of-age as a queer woman was within the arts community in Chicago, which -- in my sector anyway -- was overwhelmingly queer. So, I don't even know when the first time I heard "that's so gay," was when it was not literally meant as "that IS so gay," as in, "Your boyfriend and you have the same name! Ha! You're SO gay!" Or, a few summers ago, my friend Maggie ( an MTF transperson) walking into my apartment without me hearing, who announced loudly, upon seeing me fixing the pipes, bandana-ed and Birkenstock-ed, BLARING the Indigo Girls, "Good lord, do you have to be SUCH a dyke?!" As in, things like this as an actual descriptor, meant to address the funny parts of being gay, or to call each other out on living the stereotype, in a good-humoured, I-love-ya-ya-big-ol'-queer way, not as an insult.

But I do very well remember, before the valhalla of that community, being called a dyke outside that community when I was just feeling out having girlfriends, and hearing homophobic talk -- and sometimes, the "casual" kind can have a greater sting, oddly, than the more targeted stuff, because it makes so clear how little people think of you as a person of import -- very much had the same sorts of effects that hearing sexist or classist talk did. I'm pretty certain that had I not had community where it was very clear that homophobia or homo-hatred was NOT okay, or normal, or something one just accepts and lives with there is no way I'd have wound up as comfortable with who I was per who I loved, a comfort everyone should be entitled to.

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If I had to characterize one quality as the genius of feminist thought, culture, and action, it would be the connectivity. - Robin Morgan


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Brooke
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Reged: Jun 23 2006
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Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: DrK]
      #4051 - Mon Mar 19 2007 01:54 PM

Regardless of words, what is more important here, words or actual beliefs? It seems to me, that from how people here are accusing me of homophobia, "straight privilege", and calling gay women objects...that words mean more then actual thoughts and actions. Because I have never discriminated or thought differently about someone because of their sexual orientation...I myself identify as bisexual and I definitely don't think there is anything morally wrong with homosexuality. Yet, questioning whether a term is homophobic or not, makes me a homophobe exercising my white straight privledge?

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HeatherAdministrator
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Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: Brooke]
      #4053 - Mon Mar 19 2007 03:11 PM

Words are what we use, with actions, to express thoughts and beliefs. In short, words mean things, and words have weight.

So, I don't see this as an either/or: our language has weight and meaning and our language, like our actions, has effect, be that for good or for ill. (As a Buddhist, words and speech in this respect obviously have particular relevance to me, but this is hardly a personal idea: this is what language is for, it is not without meaning, nor is it separate from what we think and feel.) Our ideas and beliefs are important, as is the language which we use to express them, consciously and unconsciously, mindfully and mindlessly.

To my understanding, this thread isn't about whatever homophobia you may or may not have, Brooke, but about how important language can be in general, particularly pejorative language about individuals and groups. Instead of going on the defensive, I think it may be more productive to just consider where privilege may create blind spots, something any of us should always be doing with whatever our privileges are, or whatever our lack of awareness may be.

It's also worth mentioning, however delicate it always is to address, that how we identify and how much that actually is pertinent to our lives makes a difference. A woman who is only male-partnered who identifies as bisexual is coming from a very different place than a woman who identifies as bisexual and has male and female partners -- and far different than a man who IDs as bisexual in any respect -- than one who has male and female partners in a committed way -- rather than in a very casual, occasional sexual arena -- only female partners, or than a lesbian or gay man who only has same-sex partners. I can assure you that if you were a same-sex partnered young mama right now, your experience of living in the world even just as a bisexual, let alone as a lesbian, as GAY, would be a vastly different one than you experience now.

And per bisexuality, period, heteroprivilege has long been an issue that the bisexual community as a whole has generally tried very hard to cultivate an awareness off and not dismiss as a very real privilege for many, more and more of late, to boot. Heck, I'll even go so far as to say that right now, in western culture, a young woman identifying as bisexual in word means all of nada: it's been so pornified that it roughly only translates to "I'll kiss girls if it gets someone excited," to most ears. It certainly does not mean, to most ears, "It's just as likely I will make my life with a woman as with a man," or "I and my female partner will present and enact our sexuality and our relationship in any way we like, incuding ways that turn men OFF and completely challenge the status quo, rather than serve it," or, to that point, "I never want to partner with men ever, I just happen to feel attraction to men as well as women." (The last statement there, in reverse -- I am attracted to both women and men, but I will never, or probably will never, partner with a woman, especially in any meaningful way, and will be perfectly satisfied -- in fact, is another way female bisexuality is interpreted right now, in part because that is what so many young women who ID as bisexual enact it just that way.) I can speak personally to how very different the general reaction is when you say things like that: it ain't pretty, and it's a whole different world than it is when you say, or others assume, that same-sex attraction, sex or love is a side-gig at best.

All of that seems a distraction regardless, anyway, because just like plenty of us as women battle with internalized sexiam, internalized homophobia is just as prevalent. So, even those of us who are queer-as-anything can still be homophobic.

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If I had to characterize one quality as the genius of feminist thought, culture, and action, it would be the connectivity. - Robin Morgan


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BeccaAdministrator
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Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: Heather]
      #4054 - Mon Mar 19 2007 03:51 PM

Brooke, you asked:
Regardless of words, what is more important here, words or actual beliefs?

On a message board where we can't see your actual beliefs without you writing them out, words are more important than what you believe deep down in your heart. The only way we have of expressing our beliefs in this forum is through words, so in this case, the words are more important.

Same thing on the playground or in the classroom; people don't have x-ray vision to divine the beliefs of others. We can only go by the words they choose to use and the actions they choose to take. These words and actions represent a person's beliefs to others, so again, the words are more important than the beliefs when it comes to interaction with others.

And using an identifying word like gay in a perjorative manner (to insult another child or person) is indicative of a belief that gays are bad. So again, the words are important.

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The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it. Roseanne Barr


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Jeyoani
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Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: Becca]
      #4091 - Thu Mar 22 2007 02:12 AM

Good points on language's importance Becca.

I like alot of the thoughts in your post Irmelin-- though I don't know that suspension is the best method, I totally agree w/so many of your points and assertions--strong points.

Brooke in response to some of what what you're arguing here-- especially in response to this assertion:


"I think overall we have come a long way when it comes to the mainstream population understanding that homophobic speech is not ok, for example, the word "fag" is no longer consider ok in our media or in our culture."


I am arguing here that "fag" and "faggot" are actually currently very, very socially acceptable terms. Listen to men speak amongst themselves. I hear this term used amongst men of every stripe and background, every race, age group, you name it, at least once per week, both in "real life" and in the media. (And I'm in Los Angeles California for the love of God.)

It's definitely used as a tease or in place of the word "wimp". (Like the macho-culture favorite, "pussy".)

Recently a male friend of mine angrily called criminals being spoken about on the news "faggots". (I quickly called him on it.) Bottom line, from light insult to sharp moral judgement, it's a slur that gets used.

Here's another example that supports my argument: "The Departed" won the Academy Award this year and it's full of the word. Now this movie in and of itself, and the fact it won the Academy, (voted on by people considered to be the cream of the crop of the cultured, sophisticated and artistic) is indicative of our acceptance of, celebration and revelry in macho, misogynistic, and yes, homophobic culture.

As evidenced by the fame of this movie, people like to use this word, fag. They like hearing it, they don't have a problem with it, they think it's funny or clever, they basically get off on it.

The word "fag" is extremely dangerous on so many levels, but I think saying "that's so gay" is actually just as destructive or nearly as much so, for the reason that it masquerades like a joke, which makes it even more insidious. It's almost always used in a negative way, in a mocking way.

If homosexuality were as valued as heterosexuality is, "fag" and "gay" wouldn't be in our national lexicon as the pejoratives that they are, used like they're going out of style. You can't distance language from reality, from the fact that homosexual people are discriminated against. In our culture that uses the word "gay" as a common slur, it only follows that we do not grant full rights to **people** who are "gay". It couldn't be any more clear.

I care about the rights of gay people, therefore I care about any language used that undermines their struggle. Changing the way we think (and therefore speak) is a first but necessary step. It can't be skipped over just b/c people are annoyed they have to come up w/other terms, terms that don't contribute to homophobia.

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"Scratch any woman deeply enough and you find a feminist." -Christina McCall


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Kampire
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Reged: Jun 20 2006
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Re: "That's So Gay" [Re: Jeyoani]
      #4097 - Thu Mar 22 2007 09:43 AM

On the word Faggot (I don't know if I've said this before on the boards but anyway) Everytime someone I know says it I quickly explain to them that the word faggot means a bundle of sticks used to light a fire and the reason that it came to be a negative word for gay people is that back in the witch-hunting days they stacked known homosexuals at the bottom of the stakes in order to burn the witches. That usually shuts people up.

I also love that example because it proves the power of words and is also an example of the connection between violent homophobia and sexism, and the connection between our struggles.

--------------------
Speaking out for women's rights: voice4choice.org


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