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Author Topic: About that Word  (Read 2622 times)

Feral

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About that Word
« on: February 23, 2007, 03:03:49 AM »

I recently came upon this while wandering.

Quote
Someone should check with most of my dyke friends . We don't consider dyke to be a put-down or insult. I'm a dyke. My Sweetie is a dyke. Many of my friends are dykes. I can type the word without my fingers hurting or falling to the floor, disengaged from my hands.

I don't know about "faggot". I have a friend of some thirty years or more who has referred to himself as a "faggot". I'd appreciate hearing from some of the guys how they feel about the word.


English can be peculiar. At times, a subtle change in pitch or intonation can transform the meaning of simple words completely. I am reminded of my truly pathetic attempts to learn a few words in Vietnamese from some good friends that had a restaurant I haunted. It seems I just don't hear the differences between a great many words in that language, and so have no hope at all of ever correctly pronouncing them. Luckily for me the tonal variances in English are not so subtle. A simple grunt can be forced to serve for affirmation, negation, approval, strong approval, dismissal... any number of meanings, and all would be spelled "mmm" (or 'emmm'). My employer causes me no end of consternation by consistently asking "How ARE you?" (clearly an enquiry into my current health status) as opposed to "how are YOU" (a common variant of 'hello' that deserves only a ritual response).

I'm quite certain I can pronounce the word 'dyke' in such a way as to richly deserve the trouncing I would get for doing so at the neighborhood lesbian bar. I am acquainted with the way this word is used in a friendly manner, but I'm not at all certain that I could get away with using it in mixed company 100% of the time. It can be a delicate thing for males to pronounce the word "dyke" without producing offence. There is a great deal of history behind the word and it's usage. If you ask nicely and listen carefully, women might be willing to inform you of it.

Now, about "faggot."

I know this word. I've referred to myself with this word from time to time for over thirty years myself.

As a matter of accuracy, Mr. Washington did NOT recently call TR Knight a faggot. He is reported to have said "I'm not your faggot like TR is." (Or something along those lines). "TR is a faggot" is a different thing than "TR is your faggot." ...Not so different that the story and it's resultant scandal should be revised, but different. Apart from the completely different British vernacular usage of the term 'fag,' it just isn't possible for straight people to use this word without intending offence. "Faggot" is not just a synonym for homosexual. The word has layers of connotation, including an implicit comparative relationship to 'not faggot'.

Yes, gays often use the word 'faggot,' and they often employ it in a very bitter and caustic way. Gay vernacular speech frequently contains a great deal of derision, mockery, and casual slander as a matter of course. We often speak to each other in jocular repartee in manners that would lead to assault and murder if the same phrases were uttered in much the same way by straights in a straight context. Maybe we shouldn't behave this way. Maybe we shouldn't do so quite so frequently. Maybe this is something we should get around to debating among ourselves. But yes... we use the word 'faggot' quite blithely.

FUFBUF contains three 'F's and two of them happen to represent the word 'fags.' When I named the board FUFBUF I did so on purpose. The word 'faggot' implicitly includes a certain juxtaposition with straights. It comes with baggage, history. It does not matter whether it is 50 years of history, 100 years of history, or thousands of years of history. We could bicker for quite some time about how long this 'special relationship' with the straights has been going on. The word 'gay' doesn't automatically call up that history; the word 'fag' does.

If a person knows what a fag is and has been, what his relationship to the greater society is and has been, what his place in the universe is and has been, then by all means... use it. If you do not have a working knowledge of the connotative meaning of the word 'faggot,' it is unlikely as hell that you will be able to use it in mixed company correctly. You see, this 'special relationship' is inherently transitive. The baggage that comes with the word is transitive. The word 'faggot' is all about what has been done to us, continues to be done to us, and likely will continue to be done to us. The history of the relationship between gays and straights is littered with blood and ashes, pain and rape and torture and murder. When you have a working knowledge of this history, it's quite easy to use the word "faggot" in a completely friendly, even affectionate way. But the very transitive character of the baggage that comes with the word 'faggot' makes it impossible to employ this word in a friendly manner from a straight context. It is one thing to be a faggot and been done to. It is quite another to have done to the faggots.

The change in context is not unlike that in another word with an entirely transitive connotation -- rape. It is one thing to be raped, quite another to have raped. The word must be used with care; it has more than one definition depending on who is using it and when and how.

In essence, when I use the word 'gay,' I'm talking about either homosexuals, or (more frequently) homosexuals who have made a sociopolitical identification with their sexuality. When I use the word 'mo, I'm just employing a casual contraction of the word 'homosexual'. When I use the word 'faggot' or any of it's derivations, I'm not actually talking about 'mos at all -- straight people have entered the discussion, and not in a very good light. The use of the word 'fag' by gays in mixed company is very often a clear indicator that the conversation has become accusatory and hostile... a cultural thing that is almost never noticed by straights.

For myself alone, I make no efforts to "reclaim" the word 'faggot.' It can keep it's unsavory baggage; that baggage informs the word considerably and makes it very useful. If the definition of 'faggot' were stripped of it's true meaning the way 'queer' has it would be useless. There is blood and ashes and a whole lot more between them and me. Sometimes it is necessary to face it.
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Feral

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RE: About that Word
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2007, 03:04:08 AM »

Quote from: "'berto"
What's frightening about the word "faggot"?

Quote
Scott: What is it about the word "faggot" that makes people so frightened? Do you think it's the actual letters, themselves? Well, let's take a look at that.

Do you think maybe it's the letter "F"? I don't think so, because "F" stands for fun. And, we all love to have fun, don't we?

Maybe it's that naughty "A." Now, I can't believe that for one second, because "A" is what we all want to bring home from school.

Well then, maybe it's those double "G"s. How could that be? We all love twins. I love that Doublemint ad.

Maybe it's the "O." Well, you might as well get mad at a donut.

You know what? I bet--I bet it's that evil "T," because it reminds people of Christ's agony on the cross.

Well, I've got the perfect solution. Let's get rid of the "T" and all the hate that goes with it. So, come on faggos, let's sing! Everybody! Come on all you faggos!
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Feral

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RE: About that Word
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2007, 03:04:25 AM »

Quote from: "vanrozenheim"
Quote from: "Feral"
When I use the word 'faggot' or any of it's derivations, I'm not actually talking about 'mos at all -- straight people have entered the discussion, and not in a very good light.


Since recently, I also get used to introduce the word 'faggot' in discussions -- in a very similar way, I guess. I use it always if I wish to underline the self-hatred attitude of a particular homosexual who is apparently making a distinction between the worthy himself and the less worthy fellow homosexuals. In detail, I would always call not the opponent himself, but the bunch he is ridiculing, as "faggots" to make clear what he actually wanted to tell us. This is, of course, polemic and probably not always fair - but it is working.
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Feral

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RE: About that Word
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2007, 03:05:13 AM »

Quote from: "'berto"
Oh, I use it in that way as well, V...
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Feral

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RE: About that Word
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2007, 03:05:39 AM »

Quote from: "Feral"
From Pam Spaulding:

CNN defends host's use of the word "faggot"

Quote
I know I'm slow to this story, considering how I'm usually all over media portrayals of LGBT people. But this is one of those stories that's better talked about later rather than never.

Americablog has a story up on their site (dated Jan. 24, 2007) entitled CNN defends host's use of the word "faggot" - network slammed by lead gay anti-defamation group. GLAAD has a press release up on the story too.

It seems Glenn Beck, who hosts an opinion show on CNN's Headline News doesn't think the term "faggot" is anything more than a "naughty name." Just so I don't mistate this, let me excerpt the exchange between Beck and a guest, as reported by GLAAD:

   
Quote
Glenn BeckBECK: But anyway, Dave, what is the-what is the controversy? One of the guys called another guy a naughty name.

    GLOVER: Yes. Basically you have Isaiah Washington, who's one of the stars of the show, who referred to one of his co-stars during a heated argument as a derogatory term for a gay man that starts with "F", rhymes with maggot. Did it a couple more times after that. And do you like how I did that?

    BECK: Yes.

    GLOVER: And?

    BECK: Do you know that "The New York Times" wouldn't even print-I mean, we can say the word. We're having an adult conversation here. Wouldn't even print the word "faggot."

    GLOVER: Right.

    BECK: Wouldn't print it. I find that amazing.


...

I used the comment section to CNN Headline News to let CNN know I won't watch either of the CNN networks as long as Glenn Beck is employed there; I let show sponsors Best Buy and Office Depot know I won't shop at their stores until they drop sponsorship of Beck's show.

An epithet isn't a "naughty name."  Sometimes folk in and out of the LGBT community need to remind broader society just how ugly a term "faggot" can be. For me, this is one of those times.



As one of the commenters at Pam's blog pointed out (quite correctly, in my view):

Quote
Frankly, I don't find his use of the term in the snippet you posted at all offensive.  They were having a discussion on the meaning and usage of a word, not using the word to insult GLBT people.

Do I dislike it when people use the word in a derogatory sense?  Absolutely -- it makes my skin crawl.  But it's quite possible to be just as derogatory and offensive toward gay people without using that word at all.  It's also possible to discuss the word "faggot"--as I am doing--without harboring any ill will whatsoever toward GLBT people.


Mr. Beck did not call anyone a faggot. He didn't say anyone was like a faggot. He said nothing of the kind. Assuming that GLAAD's reporting is accurate, he said that the New York Times won't print the word "faggot." This is true... they will not. I find that practice ridiculously coy, myself.

The word 'gay,' properly pronounced, can be a particularly ugly epithet. The relevant pronunciation has one and one-half syllables, with an exaggerated accent on the first syllable -- GA'ay. There is a slight nasal quality to the first 'a' which distinguishes it quite nicely from the second, much shorter 'a'. The nasal quality might be thought to be the result of the sneer which often accompanies this usage, though the epithet is readily pronounced the same way without any facial expressions at all. The word "woman" is not infrequently used as an epithet.

All signs are symbols for that which they signify. All signs may also be used self-referentially, to refer to the sign itself (as opposed to what the sign ordinarily signifies).

Pam is right (as usual) -- an epithet is most assuredly not a "naughty name." And GLAAD is correct -- Beck's use of an anti-gay slur was quite "flippant and gratuitous." I am not so sure that this particular fandango deserves the "scorched earth" treatment. I note that Pam used the word 'faggot' herself in the headline to her post -- not flippantly, mind you, but quite gratuitously.

Mr. Beck should not be employed by CNN in his current capacity because he's way too ignorant of language to be using it professionally. Perhaps there is some work for him at the network that involves his hands.

As Pam points out in her post, it's a rather old story. Mr. Beck's remarks were made on January 22 -- it was a trifle stale when Americablog posted on it. By the time Pam took it up it was even more stale.
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Feral

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RE: About that Word
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2007, 03:06:01 AM »

Quote from: "MonkeyBoy"
Okay, this is a journo thing. And whether or not Beck is in trouble depends, at least in part, on whether or not he and his Executive Producer had  a talk about the word 'faggot' before the show, or not. I think they probably did, might even have asked one of the gay producers in the newsroom his own opinion, but in the end, they made a bad choice. Or did they? More follows...

To say the word should never have been uttered is Absolutist foolishness. In fact, I think it had to be said at one point or another to avoid that air of coy embarrassment Fer talked about. GLAAD is dead-on here:

Quote
Other CNN personalities have discussed derogatory slurs as part of this story without debasing that discussion.

The problem arises because in this on-air conversation Beck is the guy introducing the word *and* the guy saying that its no big deal. That was a miscalculation if they didn't want Beck to come off badly. A  good host would have gotten the other guy to say it. However, it's just as likely that they were happy to have Beck come off that way:  Glenn Beck has a rep for personifying controversy and being to the Right of Atilla the Hun. So then, I guess he got what he was after here, no?

Sigh. I remember when Headline News was just that-- pithy bits of news spat at you for hour after wonderful hour.
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Feral

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RE: About that Word
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2007, 03:06:21 AM »

Quote from: "Feral"
It was lovely, wasn't it? I think that's what the interweb is for now. ;)

Of course, it's nowhere near so social.
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