Monday, August 17, 2009

Tycho Brahe already said everything I wanted to say!

I don't know how these guys keep hitting the nail right on the goddamned head. Tycho (of Penny Arcade, as opposed to History) writes on the ThinkB4YouSpeak campaign:
Trying to regulate how people speak is a problematic endeavor. People sometimes try to assert that Information Wants To Be Free, when that isn't actually true, because information can't want things. It's a false corollary of something that is true, though - namely, that Communication Cannot Be Contained. A true corollary of this notion would be that People Will Say Things You Don't Like, And May Even Hate, a shard of schoolyard wisdom I previously thought well distributed.
Gabe, in deliciously uncharacteristic form, has his own riff right below where he gives undue analysis to what was, in all likelihood, a rather thoughtless comment from someone he doesn't even remember.

I gotta say, I'm with 'em. (Full Disclosure: I was against 'em before, and with the ThinkB4YouSpeak folks, but I've since changed my mind.) I think that people who think "gay" is an insult are stupid, but you can't really fight stupid with stupider. "Gay" will continue to be an insult as long as those assholes think it is, for the same reason that "special" is now (and "retard" before it, and "moron" & "idiot" before that). It's a very simple thing, really: the insult word is something that the speaker does not wish to be. "Chug that beer or you're gay" has the same argumentative weight as "Chug that beer or you have cancer." It's every bit as insensitive and ignorant, no matter the specific manifestation.

So how do we win? Well, leaving aside for the moment that you can't actually "win culture" or "win language" (OK, maybe you can... I certainly lose at language when under certain chemical influences...), I like Dan Savage's "leotarded" approach. I like it because it's fun, it's stupid, and it shows just how stupid the whole thing is. You want me to stop saying "leotarded?" Fine, stop saying "retarded" and I'll think about it. Neener-neener, nanny-fuckin'-boo-boo. And when you've blown the last raspberry, then you'll know you've won.

Just kidding. The insult, it turns out, only has the power you let it have (like, say, any other insult). Things may or may not change in your lifetime, and you'd save yourself a lot of grief & angst if you'd just get over it. Yeah, I know, they're wrong and it sucks and you just wanna do something about it. Well, by all means, do something about it! But if you're not also preparing yourself for the inevitable backlash and the possibility of failure by inoculating yourself against such barbs, well, then you might go a little nuts. And cry in public when someone calls you "gay," then cry more when they call you "gay for crying."

Besides, if we couldn't use "gay" frivolously, then skeletons couldn't be gay for deals! And that would be a true tragedy. For Serious.

1 comment:

Silver Garou said...

I'd like to add that insults are not only insults because the speaker find the adjective undesirable, but because the person on the receiving end, or even the audience find the adjective undesirable.

Personally I am not behind this whole "stop using the word gay to insult people" thing. I don't hate actual gays, or think being gay is a bad thing but others do, and insinuating that they might be the thing they hate infuriates them quite nicely.

I still use the word as a generic insult, mostly as a speech artifact from my adolescent years, but when I say it I am not usually thinking of homosexuals. My thought are more along the lines of, "that's stupid." That is not to say that I think homosexuals are stupid. I just recognize that there is such a thing as a homonym, for example...

Dictionary: gay
pronunciation: (gā)

adj., gay·er, gay·est.

1. Of, relating to, or having a sexual orientation to persons of the same sex.
2. Showing or characterized by cheerfulness and lighthearted excitement; merry.
3. Bright or lively, especially in color: a gay, sunny room.
4. Given to social pleasures.
5. Dissolute; licentious.