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"Dude, You’ve Got Problems," by Judith Warner

This post is about Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, an 11-year-old boy who recently committed suicide. He was apparently the object of classmate bullying that took the form of "You are gay."

The post goes on to talk about the ways that boys enforce rigid gender roles on each other. And I certainly think it's worth talking about what's wrong with that sort of bullying.

But I am not at all happy with the author's choice to say
Being called a “fag,” you see, actually has almost nothing to do with being gay.
Because you know what? Maybe not everyone who gets called a fag is actually attracted to people of the same sex, but using the term as an insult has everything to do with being gay, at least in terms of society's notions about same-sex attraction. Statements like that erase gay people and trivialize the particular problems that gay people have, and I don't appreciate it.

The author also goes on to say
It’s what being called a “girl” used to be, a generation or two ago.
Likewise, society's notions about girls and women have everything to do with why "girl" is considered an insult. It's pretty obvious from the author's next comment:
It’s really about showing any perceived weakness or femininity – by being emotional, seeming incompetent, caring too much about clothing, liking to dance or even having an interest in literature.
Imagine a society in which being involved with people of the same sex is perfectly normal and accepted. Where women and men are considered equal and it's understood that anyone can do anything they want or be interested in anything they want, as long as it doesn't cause harm. Would it make sense to insult someone by calling them "fag" or "girl" in such a society?


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 18th, 2009 04:14 am (UTC)
oh, you feminist you!

and I agree with everything you wrote here.


I was thinking I needed to dig out my old peace button and tack on the words "brought back by popular demand."

now I need to find my red women's symbol with the raised fist in it and tack on the same caption.

imagine: feminism has become a perjorative term in many circles.

well, not here, baby.

[hmmm... what does it mean that I can't form paragraphs with more than one sentence in them?]
Apr. 18th, 2009 07:58 am (UTC)
woo hoo!
Apr. 18th, 2009 08:13 am (UTC)
Apr. 18th, 2009 06:46 am (UTC)
The essence of an -ism, not seeing that it's there.

Apr. 18th, 2009 11:53 am (UTC)
What I think the author was trying to get at is that, because it's used against people of all sexual orientations, homophobia isn't harmful only for us queers. She's right that it's part of a restrictive male self-policing of what "masculinity" is supposed to mean, and wrong that it has nothing to do with being gay: those bullies will also go after straight kids, asexual kids, kids who have no idea yet of their orientation, in the course of going after gay and bi kids, especially those who fit certain stereotypes. (The macho athlete, if he lies a little, can get through unnoticed--which is not to say unaffected.)
Apr. 18th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
I agree that is what she was trying to get at.
Apr. 18th, 2009 12:30 pm (UTC)
I agree. I am also reminded of realizing just how thoroughly homophobic military talk is and wondering, if gays ever did get accepted, how new recruits would get insulted.
Apr. 18th, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
We could investigate: Military talk is also thoroughly sexist; did it change when women got accepted? Or are new recruits still called "pussy" and stuff?
Apr. 21st, 2009 12:06 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, I believe they are, from what I hear. Sad.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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