Wednesday, March 04, 2009

That's so gay!

The word "gay" was intended to be a non-pejorative word for a homosexual person but in any school playground you can hear the phrase "That's so gay!" as a term of disparagement. Now, over at I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I read? someone has come up with a different definition of the word "gay".
if it's, like, good, good, good fashion-level, design-level stuff, where it's on a higher level than the average commercial design stuff, it's, like, gay people that do that. I think that should be said as a compliment. Like, 'Dude, that's so good it's almost . . . gay.'"

You really should read the original: it's very funny. Why not use one stereotype (gay fashion designers) to oust a more pernicious stereotype? Although I don't think it's so much stereotyping that makes kids use "gay" to mean "bad". I think there is a lot of nervousness about sexuality and a fear of being taken to be part of an oppressed minority.

Will it make a difference if we all start saying things like, "That's a great painting. It's really gay!"? I think it might. Words are hugely powerful and we can make a difference. So, if you think this post is any good, tell me it's gay!

21 COMMENTS:

writtenwyrdd said...

The idea is correct in that embedded attitudes are actually passed on by catch phrases like "that's so gay." If you look at the English language for embedded sexism, it's literally everywhere. I mean, even the generic "he" for a neutral/unknown is an issue, thus the grammatically incorrect "they" usage.

You can see the struggle against this in the (incorrect) objection to the word 'niggardly' or to how some feminists have taken a word that sounds like it's masculine (history) and made it feminine (herstory).

fairyhedgehog said...

I do find it irritating when people object to words on the basis of a false idea of the origins as in your examples of "niggardly" and "history".

I like "they" though. A lot of different languages use a plural for politeness, such as the French "vous", so I don't see why we shouldn't do that in English.

Lee Wind said...

spreading the word about this is so great... it's absolutely GAY!

hmmm. It'll take some getting used to, but I like that we're talking about it!

Namaste,
Lee

JaneyV said...

Well I love the word gay. As a Sunday's child who was born to be 'bonny, blithe, good and gay' I have always found it a positive word. To be it means bright, joyful and happy and that's why I've always found its association with homosexuality to be very positive. It makes me happy. If anybody tried to disparage me by saying "that is so gay" - my immediate response is to say "why thank you!"

I'm not convinced about blithe though - I don't know why but I'm convinced it has sneering undertones!

fairyhedgehog said...

I love the idea of blithe having sneezing overtones! That's very funny.

fairyhedgehog said...

Hi Lee! It's good to see you visiting because I love your blog. When I was a kid there were no books with any protagonist who wasn't white, male and straight. That's how I remember it anyway.

sylvia said...

This is so gay! I love it - I'm totally going to take over that usage of the word.

fairyhedgehog said...

We'll change the world! Well, the English speaking part of it anyway.

fairyhedgehog said...

We'll change the world! Well, the English speaking part of it anyway.

McKoala said...

I think the word is definitely undergoing change. I don't think its playground use is always disparagement; alas that's not to say it's not praise either. But personally, I think it's heading that way. Whenever Adam's run into it it's been used to refer to style/hair, rather than behaviour, which is intersting

Since gay people have been able to be more upfront about themselves, people of our generation have many more friends of varying sexuality than our parents did (or maybe we simply know about it). I hope that our kids will be able to grow up with acceptance and perfect contentment with that variety in our lives and the openness that comes with it - and that the word 'gay' will lose all its issues.

So yes, this is a totally gay post!

Jessi said...

You know, hun, I think this is the gayest thing you've ever written. ;-)

But seriously, it drives me crazy when people do that, and I have no problem calling them out of in. It's completely inappropriate. I also don't approve of when people call things or people "retarded" either. Grrr.

fairyhedgehog said...

McK - I'm glad that the playground use is changing where you are. Maybe it is here too, but only a couple of years ago I know it was still being used as a term of abuse. In schools, boys who look or act in a way that is considered "girly" get bullied and I know of at least one set of parents who were very worried because their son liked dolls and "girl's toys".

Jessi - thank you! I'm so glad this post was gay!

blog said...

Ahahah, that's an awesome idea! I'm going to use this for the next couple of days every opportunity I get, just for the fun of it :p

fairyhedgehog said...

Go for it, Vlad!

Bevie said...

Definitely gay.

I agree on the false origins irritation. Since I was young I have wondered why English doesn't have a generic word such as "vous". We're stuck with stupid things like he/he.

We need to be more gay, I think.

Robin S. said...

Yep. It's Gay Central, baby! I hear the kids saying 'this is gay' or that's so gay' all the time.
The only good thing is - when I asked The Blondster if she was making fun of gay people, she said something like:

"Mom- no - not at all. The word gay has moved way past that. Besides, no one my age cares what anyone does..." If she's right, that's a good thing.

fairyhedgehog said...

Hi Bevie, I wondered if you hadn't commmented because of your religion. I should know better than to make those kind of assumptions!

Robin, I'm glad that for so many youngsters today it's not really an issue. "Gay Central" eh? Yay!

Bevie said...

No. I know what my religion says, but I also know what my faith says. What my faith says is more important: Do not judge others. God loves everyone. (If He doesn't, then I'm off his list, too.)

No. This week has been especially busy for me (too busy), and I didn't visit a single blog the day you wrote this.

P.S. You didn't really think I was a creep, did you? [haha]

fairyhedgehog said...

I should have known better. (Hanging my head in shame.)

Sophie in the Moonlight said...

I LOVE IT!!!!!

I'm going to start using this for sure. I've always thought gay was awesome to begin with, we'll just spread the word. and the love.

fairyhedgehog said...

I'm glad you like it, Sophie!

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