Stop claiming that being called a bigot is worse than the actual bigotry

“*sobs* I just want to express my racist and sexist views without being called racist of sexist! *sniffle*”

(click to embiggen)

If you are somehow unaware of the racist thing Trump tweeted this last weekend, and the doulbing-down and defending of the words that has happened, I’m not going to sum them up. The salient facts are here: Congresswomen say Trump’s ‘openly racist’ attack is a distraction. And I agree with U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib that the purpose of those tweets is not really to attack the congresswomen in question, but rather to get all the news sites to stop talking about the illegal inhuman camps that our government is packing children and adults into at the border: Migrant children report sex assault, retaliation for protests at border facility and Mike Pence Toured a ‘Horrendous’-Smelling Detention Center Where Migrants Were Packed in Cages.

And what comes to the top of many of the google searches I did looking for recent stories on the camp situation were people arguing about terminology. It doesn’t matter whether you think that the camps meet a particularly carefully cherry-picked definition of concentration camp: the conditions in the camps violate U.S. law and international treaties; locking people who present themselves at a border and ask for sanctuary is illegal; it is not illegal for people to present themself at a border and ask for sanctuary; the treatment of the children in particular is immoral, unethical, illegal, and appalling.

Call them Detention Centers if you must, but they are still illegal, they are as immoral as any historical Concentration Camp, and you should be ashamed of yourself for not caring what happens to any fellow human beings, but especially children.

“Straight people. If a restaurant was taking the money they make and giving it to organizations trying to dissolve your marriage and take your kids away from you, you wouldn't give a if they have really good leamonade.” —Faith Naff

Do not eat at Chik-Fil-A (click to embiggen)

People who want to discriminate against others get really angry when you call what they are doing discriminate, despite that fact that a couple of years ago some of them made this argument at the Supreme Court: White House: We’d Be Fine With Bakers Hanging “No Gays” Signs In Their Windows. The weird part is, that in many states they can do just that. They are free to both discriminate against queer people and even put up signs in their shop windows saying so, and yet, virtually none of them do. And here’s why:

They want to quietly and discreetly refuse to serve individual customers who happen to be gay without their other customers finding out. They wanna hate on the down low because they know that customers who may not be gay themselves—people who know and love LGBT people, customers who don’t approve of discrimination on principal, other minorities who worry that they could be next—will take their business elsewhere.
Dan Savage

“Just because you're gay doesn't mean you can't be homophobic. Internalized homophobia exists.”

And that internalized homophobia is often turned outward at your fellow gays, particularly if they don’t conform to your idea of what gay means…

I commented on the weekend about the poorly written, nasty, inappropriate op-ed that The New Republic published about presidential hopeful Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and then removed for the site while listing a lame apology. While it was roundly condemned by straight people and queer people alike—and even some publications that no one would describe as gay-friendly—we have now reached the point where certain queer journalists are falling all over themselves to defend it. They are really leaning into the fact that several of the critics of the original piece saying that portions of it come off as homophobic. The counter argument is that, since the author of the piece, Dale Peck, is himself gay, the thing he wrote can’t possibly be homophobic. One particular op-ed that lots of people are linking to agrees that the piece was rude, and that it demonstrates a part of gay culture that many queer people are uncomfortable with, but insists it isn’t at all reasonable to describe it as homophobic because not only is Peck a gay man, but he was a gay man who was active in Act Up back in the day (which apparently means he can’t be homophobic), and the piece is simply a case of “reading” which has a long tradition in queer culture. The author of the defense piece also made the assertion that it was only straight people who were objecting, and clearly as straight people they don’t have a right to call out homophobia(?).

In case you don’t know, reading in this context is usually defined as the act of pointing out a flaw in someone else (usually publicly and addressed directly to them) and exaggerating it in a humorous way. It’s that last bit—that the exaggeration needs to be funny that I first complain about—because I didn’t find it any of it funny. And while, yes, reading is a tradition in parts of the queer community, it still is an ad hominem attack, which only belongs in political analysis if one is offering proof of several character flaws or harmful ideologies. In other words, if the piece had called Mayor Pete a bigot of some sort and offered up some evidence to back it up, then maybe doing so in the reading-style would have been appropriate. But that isn’t what happened.

So, since these folks think that only straight people object, let me be clear: I’m a gay man. I see Peck’s Act Up crendentials and raise my own Queer Nation involvement. I found the use of phrase “Mary Pete” over and over homophobic. The rest of the essay is a mess—badly written, the opposite of persuasive, and one long ad hominem attack—and The New Republic was right to pull it (and shouldn’t have published it in the first place).

Dan Savage has said many times that queer people have the right to throw slurs back and forth at each other so long as they meet this criteria: “so long as it’s used affectionately and ironically and so long as the term is embraced by the user and so long as it isn’t tossed around in front of strangers and so long as it isn’t used as an insult…”

  • Peck was not using the term Mary Pete affectionately nor ironically,
  • There is no indication Mayor Pete embraces the term “mary,”
  • This use of the slur wasn’t just tossed around in front of strangers, it was written specifically to be published in a publication whose target audience is the general public,
  • It was definitely intended as an insult.

So this queer man has absolutely no problem calling b.s. on these attempts to spin one bitter gay man’s homophobic attempt to read (and if this was reading, oh, it so missed the mark) another gay man for not being the right kind of gay as anything other than it was.

There is an argument to be made that some of Mayor Pete’s policy proposals are further to the right of center than both most Democratic voters and the country as a whole. One can legitimately critique the tepid response he had to a recent incident of a person of color being killed by police in the town of which he is mayor. And I want to point out that even Peck’s defenders aren’t certain if these were the sorts of things he was trying to imply in his essay.

But vulgar speculation about his sexual desires and practices (which was what most of the so-called “reading” was about) doesn’t belong in a opinion piece published on a serious political news site. Yeah, if you’re sitting with your friends in the local queer bar tossing back drinks and gossiping about people, that sort of commentary may get you some laughs. But it isn’t how you educate voters about issues you disagree with him about.

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About fontfolly

I've loved reading for as long as I can remember. I write fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and nonfiction. For more than 20 years I edited and published an anthropomorphic sci-fi/space opera literary fanzine. I attend and work on the staff for several anthropormorphics, anime, and science fiction conventions. I live near Seattle with my wonderful husband, still completely amazed that he puts up with me at all.

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