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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

That's So Jewish !

Yeah, well I wouldn't say that or even think it, because it's offensive. In New Zealand, why hasn't "That's so Maori" as a term taken off? Or "That's so Samoan"? In the States, why haven't for example, "That's so Black" or "That's so Latino" to equal "That's so lame" become popular? Maybe because people would find those terms just a little offensive and you'd get your head kicked in if you tried it?


So why do more and more people think it's fine to say "That's so gay!"?


I've heard the argument that "gay" used this way has nothing to do with me as a gay man - but that's deceitful self-serving bullshit. It does, and it's oppressive and insulting. What people do, when they use the word in this way, is take a word that is associated with a minority group in society, a group that has regularly and continues to be targetted, beaten up, murdered and have their basic rights denied, and then use it "jokingly" as a term for lame or poor quality. Well, fuck you.


It does seem most popular among younger people. Ah, young people these days. But not among all young people, some I know consciously avoid it. Some think it's fun to be offensive a bit, and push the boundaries. Do they go and make Auschwitz jokes to their Jewish friends I wonder? Or would that be going too far? Probably.


But it's ok to make fun of gays, and then claim you're not, because, well, we don't count. The simple fact that they don't make use of terms such as "Jewish" or "Black" in the same way shows just where we rank as a group. If we object, if we complain, we're being kill-joys, we're not seeing the joke, no sense of humour, not moving with the times. Yeah, right.



Those were the approaches used years ago to justify racial jokes and other forms of subtle, snide oppression. They were seen for what they were then - why is it so hard to see them for what they are now?


This use of the term gay as an insult shows minds that have no political awareness. To me it seems they have never fought for anything in their lives, except perhaps for Daddy to pay their bills usually. With no understanding of the political fights that have gone before, of the sacrifices made and hard work that it took to get us to this point, they feel free to trample over us, and then claim they didn't. Hypocrisy, ignorance, laziness and a sense of entitlement reek from those who use these words so blithely.


I've been told I have "no right" to censure their free speech. I disagree. I have every right, and will express it. They tend to think, when they do think, that they are entitled to say and do anything they like, so long as no one says or does anything that hurts them. Their own pompous outrage when criticised or mocked is often comical to see. Perhaps it comes from years of schooling where they've always been told how special they are, and how clever, even when most of them are, in fact, decidely average.


What about the argument that we "stole" gay in the first place? Actually, it had a history in slang for quite a while meaning queers and those on the edge of society for quite a while before Gay Liberation took it over in the 60s. And there was a clear political reason behind our use of it, just as there was a clear political reason behind the use of "Black" rather than "Negro" or "Coloured" in the same era.We were, in fact, reclaiming words that had been used to attack us, words used to put us down and keep us in our place.


I do not, and will not accept that using "Gay" to mean stupid or lame is acceptable. I am a gay man. We didn't spend years fighting for the few rights we now have to have it all subverted and be put back in our place by this casual form of linguistic insult.


Words matter. Words are powerful. Words can hurt, and words do have a political and social message attached to them.

2 comments:

Harry Gunkel said...

Dear Michael, Thank you for your fearless, forceful message. I think you hit the nail on the head when you noticed that this sort of disguised name calling tends to be practiced by those who are spoiled and privileged, never having had to face any deprivation or hardship. Keep on speaking out

Paul said...

A post on race and language by Maureen Dowd NY Times...


"The normally nonchalant Barack Obama looked nonplussed, as Nancy Pelosi glowered behind.

Surrounded by middle-aged white guys — a sepia snapshot of the days when such pols ran Washington like their own men’s club — Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” at a president who didn’t.

But, fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!

The outburst was unexpected from a milquetoast Republican backbencher from South Carolina who had attracted little media attention. Now it has made him an overnight right-wing hero, inspiring “You lie!” bumper stickers and T-shirts.

The congressman, we learned, belonged to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, led a 2000 campaign to keep the Confederate flag waving above South Carolina’s state Capitol and denounced as a “smear” the true claim of a black woman that she was the daughter of Strom Thurmond, the ’48 segregationist candidate for president. Wilson clearly did not like being lectured and even rebuked by the brainy black president presiding over the majestic chamber.

I’ve been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer — the frantic efforts to paint our first black president as the Other, a foreigner, socialist, fascist, Marxist, racist, Commie, Nazi; a cad who would snuff old people; a snake who would indoctrinate kids — had much to do with race.

But Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president — no Democrat ever shouted “liar” at W. when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq — convinced me: Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it.

“A lot of these outbursts have to do with delegitimizing him as a president,” said Congressman Jim Clyburn, a senior member of the South Carolina delegation. Clyburn, the man who called out Bill Clinton on his racially tinged attacks on Obama in the primary, pushed Pelosi to pursue a formal resolution chastising Wilson.

“In South Carolina politics, I learned that the olive branch works very seldom,” he said. “You have to come at these things from a position of strength. My father used to say, ‘Son, always remember that silence gives consent.’ ”

Even if he and the coterie of white male advisers around him don’t choose to openly acknowledge it, this president is the ultimate civil rights figure — a black man whose legitimacy is constantly challenged by a loco fringe.

For two centuries, the South has feared a takeover by blacks or the feds. In Obama, they have both.

The state that fired the first shot of the Civil War has now given us this: Senator Jim DeMint exhorted conservatives to “break” the president by upending his health care plan. Rusty DePass, a G.O.P. activist, said that a gorilla that escaped from a zoo was “just one of Michelle’s ancestors.” Lovelorn Mark Sanford tried to refuse the president’s stimulus money. And now Joe Wilson.

It may be President Obama’s very air of elegance and erudition that raises hackles in some. “My father used to say to me, ‘Boy, don’t get above your raising,’ ” Fowler said. “Some people are prejudiced anyway, and then they look at his education and mannerisms and get more angry at him.”

Clyburn had a warning for Obama advisers who want to forgive Wilson, ignore the ignorant outbursts and move on: “They’re going to have to develop ways in this White House to deal with things and not let them fester out there. Otherwise, they’ll see numbers moving in the wrong direction.”"