Language & Inequality

One of the things that I really hate is when people say, "That's gay." I've been seeing a lot of people online (men in particular) saying that quite often lately. Hardly can I ever enjoy a video of the Lakers getting schooled big time or my favorite group on America's Best Dance Crew tearing up the dance floor without people saying stuff like, "OMG! Tehy r FAGS," or "they're so GAY!" This isn't something I haven't encountered before of course, but I've been seeing a lot of this nonsense these days (some of it from folks who claim to be working towards racial justice) and I've had it.

Oftentimes when I confront those folks about the issue, they respond, "I don't mean 'gay' as in ACTUAL gays. I use 'gay' to describe something that sucks." And that's exactly the point! They're using gay as synonym for "shitty." That's like saying, "I hate this shirt. It's weak and stupid. It's so ASIAN."

I also hate it when people say things like, "Be a MAN," or "Don't be a pussy," in other words, "Don't be some spineless, weak coward, LIKE HOW WOMEN ARE!" I dare them to say that to the important women in their lives to see how much they'd appreciate that (assuming that those women haven't internalized that self-hatred).

One might rebut, "But Carlo, you're taking this too seriously! They're JUST WORDS LOL!" Yeah. No I'm not. Words aren't "just words." Language is impacted with cultural values. I'm sure if people used you as an example to describe how much something sucks you'd be pretty upset.

In her discussion of how language is used to maintain systems of inequality, Tracy E. Ore writes the following:

Language is ideological, reflecting the values that are important in our culture... The power of words lies in the fact that the members of a culture share their meanings and valuations... In maintaining cultural values, roles, norms, and ideologies, language maintains inequality.

Sometimes shedding light on how this type of language demeans gays and women gets through to people and makes them try to break the habit. Other times pointing out how they're being homophobic/sexist doesn't get through because they're admittedly homophobic/sexist. When that's the case, it depends case by case how one wants to go about addressing that.

But to those of you who claim to be advancing the movement for racial justice but continue to use this kinda language and perpetuate this kinda thinking -- cut that ignorant, biggoted shit out.


Jack Stephens said...

Good stuff. Check out this video as well. It's a really funny response by a Vlogger on the anti-gay comments he got on his YouTube videos.