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    You scumbag, you maggot

    For the first time in a dozen years, I woke up this morning wondering whether I was a faggot.

    See, Eric is trying to figure out what Ann Coulter’s explanation of her remark at CPAP would mean if applied consistently:

    At any event, it would seem that Ann Coulter is urging upon us the following, very novel definition of “faggot.”

    • Correct usage: a) a schoolboy who is considered by another schoolboy to be “weak or timid” and b) pretty much every Democratic politician — male or female, specifically including Hillary Clinton. (Um, does Bubba know?)

    • Incorrect usage: any homosexual.

    While I guess I should be glad that Ann Coulter has taken it upon herself to unburden homosexuals from the yoke of this rather unpleasant word (as well as change the word’s gender), there’s that stubborn common-sense part of me that just doesn’t quite understand.

    There was a time not that long ago when calling a heterosexual man a faggot was the worst insult you could bestow on him. It was considerably worse than calling him a “wuss,” and that’s because not all wusses are homosexuals. According to the popular stereotype prevalent at the time, however, all homosexuals were wusses. So, if you called someone a faggot, it carried extra weight.

    Now we are told it no longer does, because the word “faggot” does not carry the imputation of homosexuality. It only means “wuss” — and the “wuss” factor is completely detached from the gay factor.

    Hmm. Maybe I’m not the best judge, but I don’t think I mince or flounce or anything. And I think I’m good at facing problems squarely and doing what needs to be done about them. Does that mean I’m a homosexual non-faggot? I’m pretty sure that fantasizing about Bobby Cannavale makes me a homo; could the specific things I fantasize about doing with Bobby Cannavale push me back over the line into faggotry? Will I become a faggot again if I wear purple three days in a row (no difficult feat given my closet)? Does it matter whether it’s plum or lilac?

    This is all very disorienting, so to speak. Next thing you know, someone’s going to tell me I’m not actually a bitch.

    I never figured Coulter was anti-gay*. I have friends who’ve seen her out having drinks or dinner with prominent artfags, for one thing. And for another…well, generally speaking, a lot of loudmouthed, high-strung, unmarried urban professional women are fag hags. I’m pretty sure she’s against gay marriage and abolishing the DADT policy in the military, but those are specific policy positions, not overarching attitudes. Not that I gave it much thought.

    Now, of course, it’s suddenly become impossible to open a browser without encountering a solemn discussion of what exactly Coulter meant when she mentioned John Edwards and the word faggot in close proximity to each other. Her explanation strikes me as sincere. “You can’t understand the joke I was trying to make without bearing in mind that I operate at the developmental level of a second-grader” sounds about right, doesn’t it?

    So while I think she’s wrong about the way the word is used in contemporary American English by adults, I wasn’t particularly offended. I agree with Connie that fetishizing words is a bad idea, and I think it’s especially bad in this case. The last thing we need as gays is to look yet again as if we were easily-bruised creatures who need to be protected from hurt by big, strong, kind-hearted straight people. (See, for example, that letter a bunch of conservatives wrote in protest, as posted by Michael: “Coulter’s vicious word choice tells the world she care little about the feelings of a large group that often feels marginalized and despised.” Even conservatives are bleating about marginalization now? Ick. And people wonder why I cling to the designation “small-l libertarian”!)

    * We’re still allowed to use gay to mean “homosexual,” right? Or are we now to be treated to a revival of the pseudo-Mencken mewling that it’s some kind of crime against English expression that you have to find other ways to talk about the gamesome and happy-go-lucky nowadays?

    6 Responses to “You scumbag, you maggot”

    1. Carolyn says:

      I think Ann Coulter is a shrill harpy who needs to eat something with calories on occasion. I also totally believe her when she says she operates at the developmental level of a second grader. But I don’t think her choice of the word “faggot” had anything to do with homophobia or immaturity — it’s all about the attention for her. And as usual, she’s getting loads of it. I have to give her a touch of grudging credit for that.

    2. Eric Scheie says:

      Thanks for the link!

      BTW, I do agree with the “sticks and stone analysis for the most part, but I think Howard Stern has a better approach than Ann Coulter.

      But what interests me longterm about this is not what Ann meant, what this does for her book sales, or what the various bloggers, pundits, and commentators think, but how it might ultimately resonate with ordinary people, and voters. (Naturally, the Dems will say “Republicans hate you and don’t mind calling you names!” I don’t know what the GOP response will be, but I suspect it won’t be as widely circulated.)

      I can think of better ways to protest PC, and I think this will give the left a morally self-righteously feeling of total freedom to be as loony and unhinged as Amanda Marcotte.

      And it isn’t even election time yet!

    3. Sean Kinsell says:

      Carolyn, she’s always struck me as probably being naturally that thin, though of course I’m not privy to her eating habits. (BTW, the “second-grader” part was my not-all-that-charitable paraphrase. Carolyn knows that, I think, but just to be scrupulously clear.)

      Eric, whenever something like this happens, I try reversing things as a thought experiment. That is, in this case imagine that Michael Moore had said used the word faggot in connection with one of the plummier-seeming Republicans, then maintained that he’d just been having some bratty good fun implying the guy was wussy but hadn’t been making any insinuation about homosexuality.

      Would GOP partisans accept that explanation? It seems to me they’d be much more likely to complain that the Left was playing word games again; that any normal American would recognize the common-sense connection between faggot and homosexuality; and that the anti-gay underbelly of the left, despite its superficial embracing of diversity, had been exposed yet again. I’m not saying that Republicans are worse than Democrats or vice-versa, only that partisans are partisan.

    4. CNT says:

      A little off-topic, but in tolerant Canada (or is Quebec still part of Canada?), a politician scores political points by refusing to allow the sexual orientation of his opponent to become an issue in the belle province’s election campaign:

      Homophobia ‘unacceptable’ in election campaign: Charest

      BTW, I wouldn’t say we Canadians are tolerant…we’re mostly indifferent.

    5. Sean Kinsell says:

      That’s hilarious, CNT: “Don’t pay attention to the fact that my opponent is a faggot; pay attention to the fact that he’s a cokehead.” There’s a Snow Queen joke to be made in there somewhere, but it’s Sunday and I’m feeling slack.

    6. Another approach to find used kitchen cabinets is by adding the phrase out with family and friends…:)

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