I recently came across this op-ed piece on MetalInjection.com – “The Problem With Heavy Metal Is Metalheads: Stop Calling Everyone A Faggot” (10/22/14, here).
In the article, author Shayne Mathis makes a very simple point, one that I’m surprised still needs to be made at all: Stop using words like “fag” and “faggot,” both in general and especially as a slur. And stop using the word “gay” to describe things you think are silly or distasteful.
What year is this that this is still even an issue?
It should go without saying that any fandom or scene that prides itself on embracing outcasts the way the metal community does would avoid using offensive language that targets an entire group of already-persecuted people. You’d be wrong, though. Not every metalhead who uses the insult is a slavering bigot; some insist it’s a legitimate insult along the same lines as jerk or asshole. But it’s not and it never was – at least not in the United States where the term first arose as a slur against homosexuals in 1914. So, if you’re one of the few people who honestly don’t understand the history of the word, now you know. Stop using it.
The rest of you have no excuse. There’s literally no legitimate reason to call someone a faggot. Like every other slur, it’s an ugly word and its use is needlessly offensive to an entire group of people. If you’re really itching to insult someone, what’s wrong with using asshole, shithead, or the dozens of other terms that aren’t needlessly hurtful and insulting to people who are unfortunate enough to randomly stumble upon your stupid, childish comment?
Except when you read the comment thread following the post, there’s a litany of “Get thicker skin!” and “I’m such-and-such, and this language does/not offend me”-type comments. Le sigh.
There was also my favorite: Get a better vocabulary. Because even if you don’t agree with the fact that there’s a lot of hate and meanness (both historically and still to this day) associated with words like “fag” and “gay” as slurs, don’t you know any other words? As Shayne said, there’re a wealth of other options you can use to let someone know they’re ridiculous.
That said, even if we “get it,” we often don’t really get it until such language impacts us personally. Consider…
Someone who’s very close to me used to routinely toss out “fag,” “faggot,” and “gay” as insults, from the intense to the literally joking. I would explain, re-explain, over-explain, and even under-explain anything I could think of to convey to “Jack” why he should choose different words. But so overly-sensitive and language changes meaning and everyone else says it and he knows gay people who don’t mind those words used in that manner and on and on. (Incidentally, we also had similar conversations about the word “pussy.”) Eventually, Jack began to refrain from said language, but probably only in my presence and probably only because he was sick of listening to me.
Fine. Then one day, I got a slew of texts…
Apparently, Jack had been out walking his dog with his friend “Jim” and Jim’s dog. Jim is a dapper and jaunty older gentleman, 100% gay, but in the understated manner that folks who had to live most of their lives closeted often are. Jim’s sexuality has never really been a topic of conversation between he and Jack.
Anyway, apparently, as dogs were being walked, one of those overly-aggressive *cyclist* sorts went zooming by, nearly clipping one of the dogs. Ironically, the cyclist felt compelled to call out an insult directed at the four-some, something about getting out of the way… To which Jack proceeded to flip out. Absolutely enraged, he proceeded to use one or all of the aforementioned words in an insulting manner, directed at the cyclist, who was now long gone.
After a few moments of ranting rage, Jack turned to look at Jim, whose face was a mix of crestfallen horror and total sadness. Jack was mortified and, in recalling the story, told me that he finally got it – that it took his friend Jim, who he had known for years, to see him in a (presumably) unfettered moment. And in that moment, what Jim saw was a person who immediately used pieces of his identity as the ultimate insult.
Jack is not a homophobic guy. He’s a product of wider culture and a very specific dimension of heterosexual dude culture, with a quick temper, that didn’t fully comprehend the power of language until he saw how it could hurt one of his friends. In his words, he was “done with the f-word forever.”
Jack wrote a long letter of apology to Jim, took him out for breakfast, and all was mended. They still walk their dogs together, as far as I know.
It’s pretty fkkking heavy metal to grow in such a way.
A heavy-looking piece of metal \m/
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