I’m taking a break from the blog until December to reconsider a few things, the dwindling interest from my reader base and lack of feedback has had me really down in the dumps as I’ve considered my latest material my best work yet and somehow it is completely overlooked, even by people I know personally. I won’t bitch about it much more beyond that but just letting you all know; I will be back for Christmas to upload some festive posts and the Facebook page will be getting another game playthrough in the spirit of the season but after today, no more stuff for this month, unless I think of something I just have to blog about.
Growing up in a state school environment, there was one word that was something of a slur to use and even those perfectly okay with the intended meaning of the word still used this word as a synonym for crappy or rubbish. Yes, the word ‘gay’, an archaic term for being happy now applied as a label chosen by homosexuals as a means of identification and yet at the same time, a word used by people to mean something that is the opposite of good. Someone won’t come clubbing tonight? Gay! Trod in dog muck? Gay! Hideous pair of shoes? Gay! I want to talk about where this use of the term perhaps stems from and why we need to work on our fixation with using the word as a means of calling something shitty.
Well, obvious conclusion could be that the use of the term is homophobic, which in some cases is true – there are misconceptions some cling to that being gay is somehow being lesser, being weaker (especially in the case of being a gay man) so the use of the word gay to mean bad is likely rooted in that. However, I know people who are not homophobic and yet use the word gay constantly in an inappropriate context and whilst some modify their behaviour when I point out to them “I don’t see why the fact that 50% off sale ended is all that homosexual”, some cling to their use of the term, calling me a PC arsehole and saying that it’s just a habit they can’t break out of and I should cut them some slack. Well, slack shan’t be cut, not now, not ever because whilst the use of the word might not be rooted in homophobia, it suggests ignorance and a failure to consider the feelings of others. Let me bust some of the reasons people think it is okay to say gay in this way wide open.
1. It’s just a habit
It was a habit for me in my school days, I’ll admit it, I heard it used that way and you soak up your idiolect from your peers. I used it to mean something that wasn’t very masculine (A pink shirt on a guy? Bit gay isn’t it?) or something that displeased me (Extra maths homework? Gay!) but when I came to realise it wasn’t fair, considering I had gay siblings for starters who didn’t much like me using the word that way, I snapped out of it. Any habit can be broken by willpower, just shrugging and saying “Eh, it’s a habit” is no excuse, we modify our habits when they are bad for us or others, that’s how we grow as people. You were a baby once, you had a habit for sucking your thumb and chewing on plastic dinosaurs, you stopped at some point because you thought you had to stop doing it and you did, this is no different. If you feel yourself about to say ‘gay’ and not in reference to a homosexual, pause, think of a different word. Here’s a few:
And that’s only a few! There are so many words that can mean rubbish and you choose the word ‘gay’? That, to me, suggests a lack of effort in your vocabulary, especially if it was a habit you picked up when you were twelve and didn’t fix in the years afterwards – I’m pretty sure I sound very different to my twelve year old self!
2. I have gay friends, it’s ok!
This is the logic people use when they say the n-word in casual conversation, claiming they have black friends so all cool right? No, not cool, if the word doesn’t have hurtful connotations to you, it is not okay when you use it – you don’t have the right to use the n-word because it was never applied to you, you don’t have to rob it of its power over you, you were never offended by it. If you think you can get away with using a word as a slur just because of your association with someone who is gay or black or whatever, try asking them, try asking ten people like them and see how they feel. If you’re unprepared to modify your behaviour even then, that’s just not fair on them and I’d be concerned as to how good a friend you are to people like that. One gay friend isn’t a free ticket to say whatever you want about the LGBT+ community in the same way one black friend doesn’t exempt you from being called a racist if you start calling people n-words.
3. People shouldn’t get so upset about this
Maybe not but they do, it is not your place to decide who should get offended by what and when. If what you’re doing offends someone and they tell you that, talk to them about it and figure out what is fair – sometimes there is a compromise, sometimes there is a guilty party who needs to shape up and sometimes, sadly, maybe you’re better off apart. I find the only people strongly complaining about a politically correct world are those who are used to getting away with saying anything. Change with the times, some words are okay to use now and some aren’t, if you refuse to adapt and use fair language, you’re on the same side as people who still black people ‘darn negroes’ or call Mexicans ‘beaners’, society evolves and as such, so should people functioning within it. People who refuse are almost always on the wrong side – the people who called women dumb broads got to see a world in which they could vote, the people who called black people sub-human saw one become President of the USA and the people who call gay people faggots will one day see a world in which sexuality is no longer a topic for crude comedy and discrimination. You have no right to tell people what they shouldn’t be offended by, I’ve criticised the offense over the Starbucks cups here but I did so with reasoning, it wasn’t as dismissive as “Suck it up, you know I don’t mean any harm”
4. FREE SPEECH!
Ah yes, this inevitable gem. Free speech, free country, yadda yadda yadda, does anyone ever cite this argument in a positive context? Personally I only hear the mention of it being a free country when someone wants to do something really shitty. Free speech, as a right, means you cannot be arrested for saying something out of place, usually as in criticising one’s government. For example, free speech is not a right in North Korea, the people there are fed a modified version of history wrongly attributing many historical deeds to Kim Jong Un and his forefathers and if someone says “This is a load of crock!”, they get bunged in a van and hit with sticks or something worse. Free speech means you’re allowed to speak freely but your words still have consequences – if you call a surly biker gang “a bunch of shit-stained pansies”, you can expect a rightfully deserved punch in the chops, no matter how often you cite your right to speak freely. Offensive material can be censored, apologies can be demanded for thoughtless comments and the right to speak doesn’t mean people have to listen to you and tolerate your nonsense if they don’t want to. Just as it is your right to shout out that perhaps, say, bananas are the best fruit in the world, I’d be within my rights to suggest that apples are better and everyone else would be within their rights to either agree, disagree or tell us both to shut up.
5. Oh come on, it’s a harmless laugh
Harmless to you, perhaps, harmless to others? Less so. Comedy shouldn’t be lazy and reliant on stereotypes and tropes, the only reason there have been a large number of comedians lamenting a PC world is swathes of their material has been based on these tired old jokes about gay people or whatever. Sure, you can’t avoid offending people, whatever you do will cause upset but is that an excuse for not trying to think of more inclusive material? No. With new information and new views as a society, we have to change and adapt and try out new things. Some of you may be old enough to remember a time when Eddie Murphy’s stand-up routines included jokes poking fun at homosexuals for checking him out and possibly giving people AIDS by kissing them and passing it on, “suddenly, your gay friend gives your wife a kiss, you kiss her, got AIDS on your lips, you’re a straight man who got AIDS”. Turns out, at the time, hilarious for people but looking back we can see how crude and misinformed the performer and his crowd were and Eddie Murphy doesn’t much venture down the whole poke-fun-at-gays avenue of comedy anymore and more the animated donkeys and being a tiny space adventurer inside a giant robot version of himself avenues. If you can’t think of good jokes that don’t rely on a racist or homophobic or discriminatory punchline of some nature, I’m sorry, you need help if you think comedy is your shtick. You can be so much better if you try, comedy should be an observation of life retold with humour and understanding, not a put down of the minority to appeal to the majority – that is called bullying.
I realise this has been a bit long but these things need to be said. What I hope you’ll take away from this is not that I’m calling you homophobic, I’m just suggesting that your comments are rooted in an ignorance of the past I know you are capable of leaving behind. If you’ve read thus far, you’ve clearly got intelligence, patience and understanding, is it such a hard concept to grasp that maybe using a label some proudly identify with as your word for calling something a pile of shit is unkind? I know people fear the PC world, so far as to tell people to stop holding out hope for it but it’ll never happen if we’re not prepared to change and we’ve made many changes thus far, imagine where we could be in ten or twenty years if we tried our hardest! Please, there are so many better words for rubbish than ‘gay’, better words for an idiot than ‘retard’ and better words for a weakling than a ‘pussy’ – such words only promote their further usage and hold back the hopes of a better world. How will we ever have a fair society if we insist on teaching people that weak people should be called vaginas and things that are ridiculous and crap are ‘gay’? It needs to stop and that starts with you, please, I know you can do it.