Monday, 10 October 2011

Slurs and hate speech


It's that simple.

No, I don't care what the “context” is. The context of these words is that they're dehumanising, lessening, othering terms that serve to reduce people, express contempt and plug into a history of hatred, violence and oppression. That is the context of these words. They bring their own context.

When you use them you don't divorce them from that context. You just spread the context – and the more you use them the more you make that context ok and acceptable. The more you present the idea that it's ok to refer to us by demeaning and dehumanising terms – which means it's ok to demean and dehumanise us – ok to present us as lesser, as other, as beneath. Whatever your reason is for talking about the f@gs doesn't change that you have put that word out there, with its context and its meaning, doesn't change that you, by your repetition, have added to making that word and the sentiment behind it acceptable.

And it's not ok.

And your context and your excuses don't help those who have had these used against us, whose flight or fight instinct kicks in the minute we see them, who have memories with teeth that are always waiting to ambush us. Your excuses don't prevent the panic, the fear, the worry, the constant looking over our shoulders

I don't care what a wonderful sterling record you have. I don't care how many pride parades you've been to, how many times you've spoken for gay rights, how many pretty speeches you've made

I don't care how funny you think you are.

And I don't care how little you didn't intend to offend people – because, frankly, that's not just bullshit, that's elephant turds. If you really had put any intent into not offending or hurting people, you wouldn't use hate speech, simple as.

And don't tell me not to be offended, don't tell me it doesn't matter, don't tell me it doesn't hurt me and don't tell me I'm wrong to think you're a homophobe. With every word you just dig deeper into the pit of privileged cluelessness. If you don't want me to think you're a homophobe, you shouldn't use their language.

And don't think your empty non-pology erases what you said. It's hate speech, it's simple and really obvious how not ok that is, it's not a "mistake" or an "accident" to use it. Don't think your "apology" means I should pretend it never happened

And let's hit the whole great mess of reclaiming. Personally I don't do it but many people do – the art of taking the attacks of the bigots, claiming them, making them ours and defying their ability to hurt and demean. So, yes, you will hear many marginalised people using slurs that are used against them. That doesn't mean you can.

You cannot reclaim a slur that can't be used against you. This is basic and so simple it's unreal how many people ignore it. If that word cannot be used to insult you, then you cannot “reclaim” it. You already own it. It's already your possession by right of you not being victimised by it. You can't turn it back on the oppressor because it has never been turned against you.

And, yes, this includes if you are marginalised yourself. Just because there are slurs that can be used against you doesn't mean you using slurs against other marginalised people. If it can't be used against you, then you can't reclaim it – even if you are marginalised, even if you have a similar marginalisation – the fact it can't be used as a weapon against you means you cannot disarm it. They're still weapons in your mouth, still attacks and still out of line. Simple simple simple.

And on the note of reclaiming, which I say again I don't like anyway, I side-eye reclaiming attempts that still use the words as weapons. If a gay man calls me a f@g to insult and attack me then how is that reclaimed? To me it sounds less like disarming a weapon and more like you're grabbing it and using it – and this is a weapon that's going to have a whole lot of friendly fire when the straighties hear you using it.

Which also brings me to add – if you've reclaimed something, it doesn't mean everyone else has to, has to tolerate you calling them that.

Y'know, the sad thing about all this is it's so simple my cat could understand it. But the same conversations keep happening and keep being ignored. This is not a difficult concept, nor is it exactly hard to manage. The languages of the world profide you with more than enough words to express yourselves without resorting to said arseholery