Notes on a slur
Before I begin, I should probably offer potential readers a couple of warnings and suggestions.
I will be discussing Alec Balwin’s most recent homophobic outburst. In doing so, I will dwell a little bit on the actual words he used. I do not intend this for prurient reasons, nor for the sake of puerile titillation. However, because I intend to use Mr. Baldwin’s words as an indicator of his attitudes, it seems necessary use them myself, and to try to pussyfoot around them would be unduly delicate.
I do this:
1) Trusting that we are all grown-ups who can handle the use of grown-up words. If the use of these words is unseemly to you, even as the topic of an otherwise-decorous conversation, then perhaps this isn’t the post for you.
2) Asking that those of you who are deeply squikked out at the thought of two dudes engaging in sexual activity with each pass this post by, too. While I don’t intend to focus on that subject, I’m going to make reference to it. If reading this will compel you to note in the comments how grody you think homosexual activity is, know in advance I’m going to delete your thoughts without compunction. I’m not forcing anyone to read what I’m writing here.
So in case you missed it, the other day Alec Baldwin called a member of the paparazzi a “cock-sucking fag.” This has led to a predictable frenzy of apologies, recriminations, condemnations and media responses. Many people (including his daughter) have leaped to his defense and insisted he is not a homophobe, and Baldwin himself apparently has tried to explain that he didn’t know what he was saying would be offensive to gays.
Now, I have seen it argued that “fag” or “faggot” has become so overused in our slang as a generic put-down that it no longer specifically implies anti-gay sentiment. (Let’s call that the “Eminem defense.”) I don’t find it convincing, but your mileage may vary.
What beggars credulity is that anyone would use the phrase “cock-sucking fag” and then express anything approaching surprise that gay people would accuse them of homophobia. Because not only does that choice epithet deride gays for who they are, but specifically derides them for activity in which they (presumably) engage. It drags out the specifics of what two men might do for their mutual sexual satisfaction and proclaims that doing so is worthy of mockery and contempt. If “fag” is a dead metaphor, appending “cock-sucking” to it is the rhetorical equivalent of applying the AED pads and yelling “clear!”
So I’m sorry, Mr. Baldwin. If I’m going to use Rush Limbaugh’s words as an indication of his true feelings about women, I’m going to use yours as an indication of your feelings about people like me. Your frontal cortex may have signed onto the whole pro-gay agenda that has been embraced by liberals such as yourself, but your lizard brain hasn’t gotten that memo. You don’t, in a moment of (justifiable) rage reach for words to express your anger unless you believe there is something innately insulting about them.
Being used as an insult is offensive, and I don’t believe Mr. Baldwin didn’t know that.