by Mr Wainscotting
Yesterday, I was in the middle of blogging about the teacher who has banned his pupils from using gay in the negative in his classroom, when Tau Henare fired up a little shitstorm on Twitter. After he told me that it’s “bullshit” to consider homophobia offensive, and had a crack at several other people, the story was picked up on the 3 News website. I promptly entered Do Not Read The Comments mode.
Anyway, I read the comments. There’s enough “gay people are people too and you shouldn’t degrade them” to give me hope for the world, but there were, of course, the usual cries of “they’re using it to mean stupid, not homosexual, so therefore it’s ok!!!1” and “teh homos stole the word anyway it used to mean happy!!!11” and the utterly trite, meaningless accusation of “PC gone mad!!!”
There’s a few points I would like to make:
Firstly, the teacher is not trying to ban the use of the term everywhere. He has done so in his classroom after explaining to students why it’s bad. He controls his classroom. I can remember teachers having all sorts of arbitrary rules in their classes that differed from everyone else. But so long as they were internally consistent and had a good enough explanation for them, we didn’t mind — we certainly didn’t accuse them of trying to force their beliefs on the whole country.
Secondly, context and intent does not exonerate the use of homophobic slurs. I know you didn’t mean your extra homework assignment was a homosexual person, but you chose to describe it with a word that means just that. People are still called gay with the specific intention of insulting them by insinuating that the sleep with people of the same sex, and that meaning doesn’t magically dissolve when you start talking about inanimate objects.
I can remember being at primary school in the early 90’s, in a very white, rural part of the country. Kids would often call each other Māori when they did something stupid. When we got in trouble, we would often say “but I didn’t mean maori as in the people, I meant maori as in stupid.” That shit didn’t fly then, and teachers weren’t accused of being on a moral crusade when they told us off. By banning us from using such language at school, they taught us that words matter; that it’s still bigotry even if that’s not what you meant.
Thirdly, the fact that some gay people say that’s so gay does not legitimise it, in the same way that some women being not interested in feminism does not legitimise misogyny. Because not all gay people are ok with it. Holding up a handful of “gay friends” or whatever as justification is a really bad example of both cherry picking and a hasty generalisation. Just because some gay people are not offended or even use the slurs themselves, does not mean that it’s not offensive or hurtful to many others.
Whenever somebody cries “PC brigade!” or “PC gone mad!” or whatever, that’s shorthand for “I don’t actually have an argument to counter this, I just don’t want my privilege challenged.” I’ve never heard anyone calling for “more political correctness,” I’ve only ever seen it used in the negative.
It’s not an argument, it’s a strawman. It’s crafted over time to conjure up images of shrill feminists, homosexuals and secularists who want everything that causes disagreement cast out of society. Whenever people try to rationally and politely say “hey, saying ‘that’s so gay‘ is offensive to me, please don’t,” instead of people replying with “sorry, won’t do it again” at the best or “I don’t understand, please tell me why,” at the worst, we get “BLOODY PC BRIGADE TELLING US HOW TO THINK AND PUSHING THEIR AGENDA ON US ALL!!!”
Political Correctness is a strawman invoked by bigots who want to cling to their rights to be bigots.
It’s funny that we’re the ones accused of being shrill or of trying to make a big issue over things…