FAG again

Robert S. Wachal robert-wachal at UIOWA.EDU
Thu Mar 8 17:28:05 UTC 2001

I am disappointed that Jess wants to cary on the debate off-line.  It is
one of the most interesting things to appear on ADS-L for quite some time.

Bob Wachal

At 12:09 PM 3/8/01 EST, you wrote:
>I disagree with Jesse that a little more continued discussion of REDSKIN and
>FAG will "bog down" a list that has had at least a hundred postings on
>ORIENTAL in the past month. Maybe fewer people are interested in Indians and
>homosexuals, but I'd like to give this one final try. People who aren't
>interested can delete (as I have done with, say, the seemingly endless series
>of comments on ERR).
>I'll skip over Jesse's assertion about the implications of his REDSKIN
>parenthesis; if he says that he didn't intend those implications, that's
>great. We have essentially had a meeting of the minds. We differ about the
>discourse implicatures, I guess, though I would maintain that his article's
>particular unqualified reference to Native Americans (instead of "some Native
>Americans") will normally be read as entailing 'all Native Americans' or at
>least 'most Native Americans'. And that his article would have been better
>(and SHORTER) if he'd left the REDSKINS out of it entirely. But that, indeed,
>really is just opinion, I guess.
>But as for FAG, Jesse's examples simply support my case. As Jesse concedes,
>all of these writers are self-referencing (well, except partially for the
>lesbian, which is precisely why her comment sounds a little disparaging). All
>of his examples are merely illustrations of the general rule that members of
>a minority group may self-reference with even the most terrible slur as a
>kind of solidarity-building social acknowledgment (if Jesse doesn't want to
>call this "ironic self-reference" that doesn't change the way it functions).
>This in NO WAY indicates amelioration. Would Jesse seriously argue that all
>of the uses of NIGGER in popular music are indications that African Americans
>are viewing the term more favorably? I hope not.
>The situation is exactly the same with FAG. (Well, I suppose I should concede
>that local dialect in, say, New York, COULD be changing in ways that the rest
>of the country has not [yet?] done--but I would need to see the evidence.) If
>there were really amelioration of FAG, one would begin to find examples of
>gay people saying things like, "I don't like it that some of us are seriously
>beginning to refer to ourselves as FAGS. I hate that word. I am not a FAG, I
>am GAY." Others would be saying, "Let's start calling ourselves Fags. Lets
>reclaim the word!" Gay people would be writing letters to the editor in favor
>of Fag Rights. One does find such discussions and uses of QUEER because it IS
>ameliorating; many people use QUEER as a serious term of self-reference (I
>certainly do). Straight members of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
>say things like "according to the queer press" but not "according to the fag
>press." The only straight people who seriously use FAG in public are members
>of homophobic religious cults such as Fred Phelps's "God-wants-fags-dead"
>movement (check out his website if you want to see just how unameliorated FAG
>is)--and nasty teenage boys who go into AOL gay chatrooms to taunt other
>chatters with the word.
>Jesse, this is not "opinion"; it is inductive fact, based on all the data
>that I have seen to date. I don't mean to say of course that FAG couldn't
>ever ameliorate--or that I would not love to be proven wrong about this--real
>amelioration of FAG would be totally interesting. But unless you can give me
>data that is clearly not self-referencing (or subjective survey evidence from
>gay men), you cannot maintain that FAG is ameliorating. FAG is a big bad
>slur, like FAIRY, SPIC, KIKE and NIGGER. Writing FAG when QUEER would have
>perfectly illustrated your point was a mistake.
>In a message dated 3/7/01 10:47:56 PM, jester at PANIX.COM writes:
><< I am not trying to argue that these examples demonstrate that
>"fag" is now universally acceptable. But it is clear that "fag"
>is at least in occasional positive use by homosexuals, that it
>is ameliorating. It is not just "ironic self-reference." It is
>also not "totally mistaken," nor "patently not the case," as
>Ron later writes.
>I don't want to get in a long discussion about offensiveness,
>I just want to respond to these specific points that Ron
>raises. I greatly respect Ron's work and value his opinions,
>and I'm sorry that we disagree on these particular issues. I
>do hope, though, that if he is not satisfied by my response,
>he will let me know privately so as not to bog the list down.
>Jesse Sheidlower
> >>

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