I was recently g-chatting with someone who was annoyed that their printer wasn’t working. Then they called their printer a “faggot.” Long story short, I won’t be speaking to this person again.
It’s not like I have a “one strike, you’re out” policy on offensive words. Actually, I’m a bit more forgiving than I should be, probably because I have personally found it hard to stop saying a few choice words that I know are wrong. But the point is that I know they are wrong, and I am trying to stop using them. When this person used the real F word and I called him on it, he had no such awareness that it was wrong. Instead, he threw the classic argument at me: “Being PC (politically correct) is boring/dull/stifling/etc.” Well, I’m sorry to say it but that argument is bullshit.
I pity all the people out there that think that a world where people cannot say hateful words would be “boring” or “stifling.” Talk about a lack of imagination. If you cannot even imagine finding other words to use to describe a broken printer or more creative ways to tease your friends, then I feel fucking sorry for you. How limited your mind must be.
The ridiculous part of this is that there is a large community of people who have colorful, vibrant, and terribly inappropriate conversations on a regular basis using delicious words that are snarky, mean, and biting – but totally PC. (Hello the feminist blogging community!) Enter one of my personal favorites: “douchebag.”
Why is it awesome to call someone a douchebag? Because douching is stupid and unhealthy for women, not to mention gross, and that’s something everyone basically agrees on. Everyone is, and should be, offended by the idea of douching. And that’s why it feels so good to call someone a douchebag. You get to express your feelings in a colorful, pointed way that is not reinforcing the legacy of hate, violence or oppression of a disadvantaged group.
But even the worst of words – “faggot,” “nigger,” “kyke,” etc. – have their place in our culture. No one is advocating (or at least no one SHOULD be advocating) that they disappear entirely. These words have power, and they need to remain as a testament to the past so that we do not forget the danger of allowing hate to flourish. Sometimes these words can even be reclaimed and become empowering, like “queer.” It’s truly unfortunate that certain groups really miss the forest for the trees about this – like the people removing “nigger” from Huckleberry Finn. How can we expect to learn the lessons of our own history if we sanitize it, or erase it completely? As the saying goes, “those who do not know history are destined to repeat it.” I understand and agree with the argument against that type of censorship, but that’s hardly the same thing as throwing around the word “faggot” for no particular reason.
The underlying truth behind the “PC is boring” myth is that people who cannot envision a world without hate-speech are one of two things. They either do not have any experience of hate and oppression and therefore do not understand how it is perpetuated by language, or they’re just plain racist/sexist/classist/homophobic/etc. I’m not sure what there is to do about the latter group, but I’m pretty sure the actions of the former make it easier for them to be hateful without owning up to it or even being cognizant of their own prejudice. A culture in which it’s acceptable to use hateful words allows bigots to slip under the radar and there is no accountability for the perpetuation of hate.
The majority of people, I would like to think, are not actually hateful. They just don’t get it. I wonder how many of them have been privileged never to experience hate-based violence or oppression. Or how many have experienced it but are somehow unable to recognize the role that language plays. I am certainly privileged in a number of ways, but I am not that distanced from the reality of hate. Every time I hear someone use the word “faggot” I think about Matthew Shepard. I think about his brutal and cruel murder. And I think about my own family. I think about ovens and ditches full of bodies. I think about the family members that I never got to meet because they were tortured to death. I am acutely aware of the power of hate-speech. I cannot speak for everyone. We each react differently to certain words, but I’d venture a guess that most of us have some reaction to at least one of those words. It’s pretty rare to go through life not knowing anyone who has experienced hate. That is a reality that needs to change, and language is an important part of making that change happen.
But I am not the “PC-Police.” I am not a “PC Nazi.” (Nazi, like douche, is another great insult to throw around. Everyone hates Nazis!) After all, I like South Park! And I swear! Plenty. My world is anything but boring or dull. I love to insult people and yell obscenities at inanimate objects. When my printer breaks I bash my fists and curse the damned piece of shit as the ILLEGITIMATE PROGENY OF FAIL that it really is! But I don’t call it a “faggot.” Not only would that be insensitive and morally repugnant, it’s completely uncreative and boring – not to mention that it doesn’t make any fucking sense.
If the only colorful words you have to work with are hate-speech, then it’s YOUR world, not the PC world, that’s boring, dull, and absolutely stifling. Get an imagination and get a life — or you can get out of mine.