In case you missed my last post, I doing a segment on slurs. In other words, in the coming weeks I’m going to write separate pieces on popular slurs in the LGBTQ+ Community.
Regarding slurs themselves, the book We Did What?! Offensive and Inappropriate Behavior in American History explains:
“Ultimately the meaning of a slur and its impact depend on the nature of a relationship between the speaker and the listener and their intentions. Members within a particular ethnic, racial, or gender group may use slurs among themselves, not intending to hurt each other or even as terms of endearment…The uses of slurs might sound offensive to listeners who do not understand the relationship between the speaker and listener or they do not understand that they mean no harm” (Jay).
First, I’ll define the term. Fag, or faggot refers to someone perceived as non-hetereonormative. Sometimes it’s adopted affirmatively by gay men to refer to themselves.
- I think there is a long history behind this slur, so below are some ways it’s been used and came about:
- Fag, in its English Public School sense denotes service by junior boys for seniors, often with the implications of service by junior boys for seniors, often with the implication of sexual favors (Hughes).
- Faggot is typically a highly disparaging epithet in use by homophobic people (often men) who hate and brutalize gay men. Expressions such as “Kill the faggot” and “We’re going to teach this faggot a lesson” are commonly used prior to and during vicious assaults on gay individuals. (Herbst 87)
- “Faggots Jump Here” was written by high school boys when they threw a gay man off a bridge in 1984 (Herbst 87)
- If you google faggot, you’ll probably come across pictures of piles of twigs. Historically, when gay men were burned alive, they were referred to as faggots (Herbst 87)
- In the 20th Century, the word was used as slang for “men considered to be women-like or flashy” (GLSEN).
- It is unclear when it specifically became an insult that usage no doubt comes from the belief among some straight men that the greatest possible humiliation is to be identified as gay” (GLSEN).
The Fag Discourse
In the case study Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School, sociologist Jane Ward uses the fag discourse (basically, this is the use of the word of behaviors perceived as someone who could be called a fag) to see the affect the word fag has on boys. Here are some of the findings:
- The fag discourse is racialized. Some behaviors can be enacted by African-American
boys without putting them at risk of receiving the label. The racializedmeanings of the fag discourse suggest that something more than simplehomophobia is involved in these sorts of interactions.
The fag label can be used jokingly, to describe boys who either act femininely and/or pretending to sexually desire other boys
“The fag identity is…an identity that no boy wants, but one that a boy can escape, usually by engaging in some sort of discursive contest to turn another boy into a fag”
- The fag identity is “a position outside of masculinity that actually constitutes masculinity.”
- When a boy calls another boy a fag, it means he is not a man, not necessarily that he is a homosexual.
- This term affects boy gay and straight men.
A Note on the Word Fag
I do recognize that piece may be a little jarring if the information is new to you. But that’s what I’m here for! I think it’s important to talk about things folks don’t want to say. So far, I’ve talked about the use of dyke and fag, and as I mentioned, I think dyke has been reclaimed more often. Whether that’s because of how “fragile” masculinity is or just a historical thing, I think it’s an individual thing, but also a conversation to be had.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the next piece on another LGBTQ+ slur! In the meantime, feel free to check out the sources and resources below.
Celebrate Kindness: No Name-Calling Week. GLSEN. https://www.glsen.org/sites/default/files/HS%20Lesson-What%27s%20in%20a%20Name_.pdf
Duffy, N. Tabloids attack Lily Allen for quoting the ‘fag’ Pink News. http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2017/01/26/tabloids-attack-lily-allen-for-quoting-the-word-fags/
FAQ. God Hates Fags. http://www.godhatesfags.com/faq.html#Goal
Herbst, P. (2001). Wimmin, Wimps & Wallflowers : An Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Gender and Sexual Orientation Bias in the United States. Yarmouth, Me: Intercultural Press.Ward, J. (2009). Dude You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School. Social Forces, 88(1), 484-486.
Hughes, G. (2006). An encyclopedia of swearing : The social history of oaths, profanity, foul language, and ethnic slurs in the English-speaking world. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe.
Nichols, J. Tyler The Creator, Rapper, Discusses Why “Faggot” Isn’t Offensive on ‘The Arsenio Hall Show’ The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/11/tyler-the-creator-faggot_n_4254885.html
Jay, T. (2017). We did what?! : Offensive and inappropriate behavior in American history. Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood.
Scudera, D. Reclaiming the Gay F-Word. The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/domenick-scudera/reclaiming-the-gay-fword_b_1092157.html
Tharrett, M. No, Everyone, It’s Not Okay To ‘Reclaim’ The Word ‘Faggot’ Queerty. https://www.queerty.com/no-everyone-its-not-okay-to-reclaim-the-word-faggot-20140520
Van de Mark, B. (2007, October 11). Faggot: linguistic friend or foe?. Gay & Lesbian Times. p. 34.
Ward, J. (2009). Dude You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School. Social Forces, 88(1), 484-486
(2017). LILY ALLEN’S USE OF ‘FAGS’ SLUR DEFENDED BY GAY RIGHTS CAMPAIGNER. World Entertainment News Network
Check out these too:
Azzopardi, C. Lily Allen Q&A On Her ‘Fag Hag’ Epiphany, UK Journalists & Writing Women off As ‘Bitches.’ PrideSource. http://www.pridesource.com/article.html?article=66148
Cohen, B. On the Scene: Protesting with the Westboro Baptist Church. The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/benyamin-cohen/on-the-scene-protesting-w_b_573863.html
Sunderland, M. Facebook Blocked Me Because I Said ‘Faggot,’ Even Though I’m Gay. Vice. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/facebook-wont-let-faggots-say-faggot
Walters, S. D. (1996). From Here to Queer: Radical Feminism, Postmodernism, and the Lesbian Menace (Or, Why Can’t a Woman Be More like a Fag?). Signs, (4). 830.
Miles Chronicles. Calling the Westboro Baptist Church as (666-666-6666). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPr4edzZIPw