The thing about being human is that we are preconditioned to say dumb shit. At some time or another, we have all been plagued by a case of the age-old verbal diarrhoea bug that leaves everybody in our general vicinity with an embarrassing face-palm moment. And that’s OK. Nobody’s perfect. We make a humble apology and mentally swear not to be seen at social events, or indeed in public for a while. A couple of weeks should do it. We promise not to do it again.
But what about when people become comfortable with talking shit? When society becomes comfortable with talking shit? When the careless teenager cracks a ‘joke’ to his friends in the hopes of alienating a person, group, or minority and gets a few laughs – so they say it again the week after? Before you know it, racist jokes are commonplace. Gay bashing is a schoolyard sport shrugged off as ‘banter’. If you happen not to laugh at a sexist remark, it’s you who has the problem. You’re the one who’s uptight.
Well, I just don’t buy it. I do not want to get comfortable with being treated like a minority. I refuse to be laughed at. The more complacent we get with being trash-talked the more society sees us as victims. Or liabilities. Or jokes. Women are not victims. Homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender communities are not jokes. Any human being that fails to tick the ‘White/Caucasian’ box is not a liability. But with every ‘How many women does it take to change a light bulb?’ or ‘One Black; One Arab; One White walk into a bar’ joke we perpetuate a lifestyle that is designed to oppress. It becomes acceptable – even expected – to use language to emasculate groups that are a little different from us or Joe down the street. How bizarre, to think that we are still uncomfortable with the science behind the fact that – lo and behold – we are not all the same!
Some do it to silence. Others do it to humiliate. Some are just too dumb or too young to know any better. Either way, it’s not OK. In light of my anger, I compiled an organised rant of just some of the shit that I hear weekly, if not daily in an attempt to belittle and shame those of us who don’t fit nicely into society’s neat, prepackaged cellophane wrapping.
1. That’s gay! (and other nonsensical, ignorant variations): No, darling, your shoes are not gay. Your inanimate, mass-produced consumer product does not have a sexual orientation. And even if it did, what gives you the right to use ‘gay’ as a pejorative?
The throwaway use of ‘gay’ as a modern-day substitute for more accurate, intelligent displays of disdain just had to clinch the top spot. There are fewer things that get under my skin more than the heedless hypocrisy of a generation that on one hand claims to welcome the LGBT community with open arms whilst simultaneously slamming the door shut on progression with a simple ‘oh, stop being gay.’
Other variations (and what they really mean to say) include:
‘That looks gay’ – or – ‘That doesn’t look right’
‘You’re gay’ – or – ‘You’re an idiot’
‘You’re being gay’ – or – ‘You’re really starting to annoy me’
You get the gist. Charming, isn’t it? If there were ever a greater display of revolutionary linguistic and social intelligence, well, you could have fooled me.
Okay, so I know I’m English and sarcasm is my only true friend, but my sentiment is sincere.
The incredulous notion that everything is ‘gay’ is only a fairly recent trend, a phenomenon used widely amongst adolescents and teenagers in the UK. Our next generation, our forward-thinking teachers, healers and politicians of tomorrow are nonchalantly rolling hate speech off the tongue as though it were natural conversation. We’re getting too comfortable with it. Our otherwise good, clean kids are being led astray into thinking that it’s OK to use ‘gay’ as an insult because they don’t know any better.
And that’s what really cuts.
Let’s rewind. Let’s take a step back and inject a little sanity into the state of play. Let’s consider the etymology of ‘gay’:
Gay (adj.): late 14c. Full of joy, merry; light-hearted, carefree;
Merry. Light-hearted. Carefree. All the things I rarely am but despite my terrible states of nihilism and narcissism try so hard to be. All the gorgeous personality traits you look for in a lover or a best friend or yourself. So yes, I wish I were a little bit gay. It’s time to take back ‘gay’ and own it, celebrate it and demand the respect it deserves.
Come on, kids. Let’s get out of bad habits. Understand that casual, throwaway homophobia is not OK. It wasn’t OK when bigots were directly attacking homosexuals with blatant hate-speech to suppress their basic rights and it’s not OK in a classroom environment.
What next? ‘That song is so hetero, I love it.’
It’s poor English and it’s poor manners.
2. [Insert chauvinistic bullshit here] … like a girl: OK girls, we’ve witnessed it. The chauvinistic display of never-heard-before hilarity from the meathead chimpanzee in the street whose bollocks are bigger than his brain.
‘Stop crying like a girl!’
‘He throws like a girl’
‘He’s a big girl’s blouse’
(and other insightful variables)
‘Women drivers, eh?’
‘Move, honey, that’s a man’s job!’
Believe it or not, boys, we have a brain.
Now, the very notion of people thinking it’s acceptable to still use language like this makes me fucking furious. We are supposed to be a forward thinking; equal society that recognises (even celebrates!) that a girl’s place is beyond the confines of the kitchen – that women do not have a predesigned place. Are we not beyond this bullshit?
We are born with a brain. Thus, we are born with a choice. If we want to be a homemaker and raise a family then that’s our prerogative and none of your damn business. If we want to run for office then that’s our prerogative, too. We aren’t looking for approval. We do not need our abilities validated. We certainly do not need them mocked.
I don’t think I’d get so irked if these remarks were even just a little bit intelligent. If you’re going to insult someone, at least make it insightful. At least have some fucking foundation to the words you are allowing to fall out of your skull. Making sweeping generalisations that do very little but try and confine women inside a pre-determined box a) make you look like an arsehole and b) normalise an oppression that has taken years of hard work to disprove.
Stop bad-mouthing women. You wouldn’t talk about your mother that way.
3. Get back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich! On behalf of every bigoted douchebag who ever thought it was funny to say this, I apologise. I apologise profusely to the Pankhurts, to Gloria Steinem, to the gorgeous Simone de Beauvoir and to every feminist that ever lived. Actually, scratch that – to every woman that ever lived.
We’re still fighting, ladies.
4. Take no notice of her; she’s on her period. Take notice. Do not silence me because you are threatened by my presence and intelligence. Do not suppress me because your masculinity has been challenged and so you must validate yourself by trying to humiliate me.
If you want to humiliate me, do not choose my reproductive abilities. My menstrual cycle is the most empowering, incredible tool I own.
Come back when you can give birth to life. Until then, your point is invalid.
5. Whoa, someone needs to get laid. Stop right there, sunshine. There are many reasons I am pissed off with you, but my sex life is the last thing it has to do with.
Consider, instead, that I am a forthright, opinionated woman who’s two-cents in a debating arena is the basis of clarity and understanding rather than an apparently lackluster sex life. I challenge you because you’re saying dumb shit. I challenge you because I have a voice.
Sophie Elizabeth Moss is a second year undergraduate at the Cardiff school of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, a faculty of Cardiff University. When not searching for the perfect leather jacket, she can be found wincing the night away in a quiet corner of the English countryside, penning gritty horror novels of grandeur supernatural splendour and nurturing a dysfunctional relationship with her out-of-tune bass guitar and misanthropic pendulum. Disillusioned with societal expectations of the ‘modern woman’, she is a pro-choice, body positivity advocate and is haunted by the ghost of Simone de Beauvoir. @Sophiedelays