When I holiday’d in Australia last month, one of our outings was to see David Strassman, some hotshot ventriloquist from America [who was not Jeff Dunham]. I won’t drivel on an isolated name-and-shame, but I will say this: his show was not good. A few giggles eeked out at some seriously unoriginal content, right up until David dropped the F bomb. Faggot.
This word kept echoing in my mind, with me past the point of enjoying anything else he had to say. The audience laughed, assumedly because “faggot” is just another word to a lot of people.
Just like “nigger” used to be. The N word still is fairly common in some circles, but most people would think twice.
But faggot, sure, it’s whatever.
Why this word is still so widely used, I don’t know. I don’t get it. I realize that if it’s not “faggot”, it’s “queer”, “homo”, or some other hijacked derogatory used to remind gay people that, what up, they’re gay. Or it’s used to just put anyone down. Because being gay is of course a sign that you’re less human, less worthy, less manly, or some kind of bullshit like that. It’s even used by some as a term of endearment [I don’t know man, people are weird].
Where did this word come from, I wonder, and how did it come to signify a homophobic slur? Some research points to British origins, and perhaps Latin as well. “Faggot”, “fag”, “faggoting” and “fagot”, depending on your time period, can refer to
- a branch/twig/bundle of branches or twigs
- same as above, used to fuel a fire
- a type of meatball
- a cigarette
- a welding technique
- a knitting technique
- an irritating woman
- an irritating child
- a servant
- and, as more recently spawned in none other than North America, an effeminate homosexual male. Or even non-hetero people in general.
So at some point North America [and let’s be honest, this really just means the U.S.A] adopted the term and gave it a derogatory meaning, which has now spread to the rest of the English-speaking world.
In case you’re wondering, I did get a good bit of this information from Wikipedia. All hail the wiki.
Why it’s a problem
Why does this slur in particular bother me, more than “homo” or “queer”? Well for one, I just think it sounds really harsh. But also, “faggot” seems to be the most commonly used pejorative. On Twitter, anyways.
I just took that screenshot, it’s 1:15am in New Zealand [tsk, burning the midnight oil]. This many homophobic tweets have been posted since midnight. Meaning it’s still between 5-8am in the US, where I’m guessing the bulk of Twitter users are based.
That’s over 2 thousand homophobic slurs before breakfast. And the saddest part: it seems to mostly be from the younger generation. Our generation, the one that is [by sociological nature] the most progressive generation yet.
Now at 1:32 am:
And this will carry on, adding to the projected all-time total of more than 9 million “faggot” tweets, plus millions more of “No Homo”, “So Gay”, and “Dyke”.
Now, there’s one level of name-calling, especially on the internet, that seems lighthearted. As indicated by Google image search.
Next is a fine line spillover into personal attacks, and some harassment…
…followed by another spillover into violent feelings towards people considered “faggots”…
…and finally we arrive.
Meet Mallory Owens, a woman allegedly beaten by her partner’s brother in Alabama. Whether or not this was a hate crime against Mallory, an out lesian, is yet to be determined. Regardless, she has become a major representation of homophobic violence in the Western world.
Does anyone else see this progression as naturally as I do? Is it farfetched, far reaching, or easily within reach? Continuing to use a word, referring to homosexuality as a lesser, resulting in dehumanization, and leading to some undeserved whoop ass.
It’s now exactly 2:30am, the “faggot” tweet count is just under 2,000, and I am not amused. I am, however, going to sleep so I can edit this in the morning and post at the optimal readership time. I wonder how high the tweet count will be by the time I wake up. I also wonder, in that time, how many people around the world will have been beaten for being “faggots”.
- 2.4 million times since July 5: Website tracks number of times daily the word ‘faggot’ is tweeted (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Let’s Not Take Back the “F Word” (fsu.uloop.com)