"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Aug 18, 2010

Faggot: A Revaluation

As I write this, I wonder if I'll hit the "publish" button. If you read these words, I've done it - against my own instincts, or some of my judgment.  I divided myself into thirds, as I ran, working out the body of my argument.

The first part, the portion of my original perspective, settled immediately on go. Proceed with the thought, I muttered to the other thirds. Do it.

The second facet, that innately cautious steppenwolf fragment of my mind, hesitated, playing the role of the imaginary superego, worrying the three and a quarter readers of this diary of stupid, wondering if I'd manage to alienate them all.

The final third managed only silence. Observational, amused, mildly detached. "Who cares?", that buddha smile seemed to ask, implying a hint of a sentiment: "The all father wove the skein of your life a long time ago. Fear profits a man nothing..."*

So - I type on, not knowing if I'll actually present it for criticism, critique and condemnation.

*

It begins with a video game, an entertainment I allow myself from time to time, slaying animated pixels with aging fingers dancing in keystrokes. We lose a match, and the avatar of an anonymous nobody types, all caps and exclamation point, "FAGS!!!!!!!faggotsFAgs!"

Which prompts me to reply, "Do you mean to imply that the other seven of us are queer?"

"FAGGOT!!1!," he responds.

Me: "Well, I'm not actually homosexual, but I see no reason to belabor the point."

He switches to private messaging, "Suck my dripping black cock!, faggot!"

I reply, smiling through my fingertips, "Methinks you lack a sense of the ironic."

"FUCK U FAGGOT MOtherFucker," he sends back.

Me, again: "You want me to let you copulate with me and suck your "black" cock," but I am...[I run out of characters for the PM, hit send, and finish the reply]...the faggot motherfucker, eh?"

Him: "I'm not a fag you fag fucking FAGGOT!" I can hear his words as screechy screams, his octaves overlapping.

Me: "Well, I have your text here, and you seem to suggest that I ought to do gay things with you."

Me: "I'm not gay, but honestly I'm flattered. It's been a long time since a handsome gay man found..."

Me: "...me so irresistible and attractive. Should I ask my wife if she's offended?"

Nothing comes in reply.

And then still nothing more. I chuckle, and hit the "enter match" button, hovering over the screen. I have time to kill before my kids finish their chores. The timer counts down. Resets. Several times. I grow bored, hit "cancel" and turn to grab the novel at hand.

His last message pings into the chat box, "I'm not gay, dude. I don't mean your [sic] gay. I mean you m8s wer [sic]..."

"...fucking weak ass players. I hate fucking loosing [sic]."

And there it was, one of the new and very modern (perhaps post-PoMo?) meanings of the term. An analog to "bitch," which on top of meaning "breeding whore" and "woman as chattel," has also come to mean "weak ass" guy.

Faggot, as Loser. Someone who accepts a lower rank. One who kneels and accepts the dominance of others.

Beta.

Which I found rather inspiring, when I really thought about it. I like this usage. I like what it evokes.

I don't care one bit about sexuality, so long as all the participants do their thing willingly. You can suck cock, or play model housewife, or wrap yourself up in bondage and submission, for all I care. You can do the auto-erotic, or the anerotic. You can partner up in a loving and monogamous gay marriage, or trip the vampy halls of amphetimated orgy parlors, seeking pleasure in bi- and tri and poly- hetero anonymity, and it matters naught to me.

I cannot wrap my head around wondering or worrying how other people copulate. I really can't. I cannot honestly imagine a more tedious and ridiculous waste of my time. Well, perhaps playing cricket, or the stock market, or Barack Dubya Obama...

I don't care about gay, straight or bi-, and like Ethan, I doubt that sexuality unravels itself in ontological categories of Victorian classification.

But, and let us chalk this up as whopper of a caveat, I have no damned fondness for kneelers. For people who take a knee. Who serve a master willingly. Who ply sycophantic crafts and the courtier's homage to power and might. For cops and prosecutors and mafia under bosses. For shop floor tyrants and people who vote for Democrats or Republicans, for Labor or Tory, for Christian Democrat or Revised Media Tinpot Fascist. Or, the people who work for them. Or the Democrats and Republicans, themselves.

For the bourgeoisie. For everyone and anyone who does obey, willingly. For people who choose to lose, because the alternative bears too heavy a cost. Because their dignity fails them, or they never had enough of it.

Now, I don't mean to include actual victims. People bowled over by adversity, by war and slaughter, by abuse and violence. These are my people. I understand them. I come from them, and to that sept and clan I remain loyal unto my own death. I'll oppose a motherfucker, if he goes after any man or woman who bears that shared mark. I respect survivors, even the damaged ones. Especially the damaged ones.

I mean, instead, those people who by some defect of character, some eagerness to please, some urge to obey, willingly take a knee and do the awful that men do to others, in exchange for benefit and accolade.

Servants of power.

You know - faggots...



* - from The 13th Warrior, which my wife loves and the few local feminists I've known in person really, really hate....

21 comments:

Ethan said...

Words have histories that fight against this kind of recontextualization, but for the moment at least I'm tempted to say I like this. I might have more complicated thoughts to share later on.

Jack Crow said...

I know, Ethan. I took the extra step of scribbling this out by hand, first - trying to work out if my point could slip through the history of the word, could escape the actual context.

Mostly, I think it won't. Like "nigger," it inscribes itself with a history that some people, by virtue of their exclusion, by the force and violence which delimited the creation of the category in the first, cannot fully understand.

No one has ever screamed that word, or growled it through gritted teeth, against me with the intention of demeaning my sexuality.

So, I don't presume to understand. I don't and won't claim it as a redeeming mantle, a token of my enlightenment, or include myself within its scope.

That wasn't my intention.

I just wanted to juxtapose this emerging meaning (I see and hear it all the time, especially from children of an age with my own) with the actual sort of people it describes.

I have likely failed, but this is a condition to which I have accustomed myself.

Respect,

Jack

Bret “Ginx” Alan said...

Maybe you're overthinking it, and people just say the most offensive thing they can come up with when they're trying to insult someone.

And maybe if you weren't such a noob, you wouldn't have to worry about this... :-P

davidly said...

Shoutout to your superego: Y'got no less than a dozen readers, and only by tracking your traffic could you find out just how many more than that. At any rate - or for what it's worth - I like your prosaic commentary as much any of the actives out there in the wide web world, and your entry last week had me replying in thirds: devastation, humility, and incompetence (I failed to successfully publish my comment).

I think Ethan and Ginx have expressed synergically why I avoid certain words: when the derivation fails to disregard the hate. But I guess that's the point, so one might call me a faggot in the "pussy" sense.

I do think that you have adequately contextualized your usage of it, however, and find it sublime that by questioning your counterpart, I daresay you forced him to think about something he wouldn't've otherwise. You have broadened the scope of gaming.

From one of my favorite faggots:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42fyiFuwkE0

And somewhat to your point:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxMrWSTlvgg

The Promiscuous Reader said...

It's a good post, but you're wrong here:

"And there it was, one of the new and very modern (perhaps post-PoMo?) meanings of the term."

There's nothing new about it, let alone modern or postmodern; it's quite old, even ancient (think of Catullus's poem 16). There are times when I think that what you're talking about is the original meaning of the word and its equivalents, but really they are inseparably intertwined. I'd strongly recommend that you read C. J. Pascoe's Dude, You're a Fag, which I wrote about here. I also wrote about your theme here.

I'm not sure what can be done about the attitude involved. I think of it as something to do with Boy Culture (to which I'm not immune, though I'm a faggot). But there's an equivalent, "slut," which has roughly the same meaning for women (and for gay men). I'm glad you called that gamer on his stupidity, but he's still stupid and vicious.

One of the best things that Pascoe says is this: lots of straight men claim that they wouldn't call a gay man a fag, but they're lying. They would, and they do. (And they freak out when a faggot calls them on it.) Some straight men -- well, pretending to be straight, anyway, which may be what straightness is -- have told me that guys have to have such a word for use in what amounts to dominance games, which they see as normal (probably, but normal doesn't equal good) and necessary (maybe, maybe not).

Again, a good post, and food for more thought.

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

Everyone knows in their 3AM darkness, their heart of hearts, the depths of their soul... when they are being bigoted. Even Archie Bunker knew he was a bigot. And what is bigotry anyway, but a salve for one's pride, one's self-respect?

That's an explanation, not an excuse.

Humans being tribal, they band together in their ragging on others. The more insecure, the more extensive the crowd-fury, the deeper and more direct the insults.

I'm of the thought-school that says it's all just words and what matters is the sense of threat or danger one feels when another is playing verbal battery and mayhem. Somehow America ran away from personal responsibility in the 2d half of the 20th Century --probably because personal injury litigation is a nice "driver" of profiteering for those who might not have a profitable work niche otherwise-- and the result is that we now have a babying culture, where political correctness has more evocative and persuasive power than real harm (or real threat thereof) for a great number of Americans.

It's a rare adult in America who hasn't had to suffer verbal insults and ego injuries at the words of another. Some of us may have known it only on rare occasions at schools or on playgrounds; others may have had a hard time escaping such attacks even in their own homes, from their own parent(s). Probably most of us fall between those ends.

Some subcultures in America have a group relational game that depends heavily on one's ability to creatively insult another. Lots of people call this game "The Dozens" but I've heard it called "ragging" and "jagging" as well. I'd imagine that most anyone who grew up as a part of that subculture knows how to see words as just words.

Finally, I can't say I have much ability to relate to insular groups whose members are primarily a generation behind me, age-wise. I assume a lot of harmlessness and intended harm are lost to me in poor attempts at translation.

Jack Crow said...

I like your own write up, TPR - it has some interesting commentary. But you got my motives wrong.

I'm not trying to find someone lower on the rung, I'm mocking the rungs itself, and people who live lives of hierarchical anxiety, the sort who project onto displaced and dispossessed groups their own insecurities. People who fear gays, or brown people, or Mormons, and use them as emotional scapegoats for their own insecurity.

I don't care either way about "penetrability." And that's not me doing a liberal-about-sex thing. I just don't care. Call it enlightened apathy. Or whatever. It just isn't me being liberal, for sure.

When I mock "kneeling," there's no psychosexual component. I mean, literally, those who take a knee. The feudal and neo-feudal/industrial corporate oaths of fealty.

Respect,

Jack

Asp said...

If you don't care about "penetrability" why use an insult that specifically refers to it? Calling a man a faggot (by other men, usually) is meant to denigrate him by associating him with feminine behaviour -- being penetrated (and the feminine is by default devalued, which is why if you want to insult a guy you tell him he does something "like a girl") -- and there is no way you can use a word like that without implying a "psychosexual component," which you claim to be doing here. The point of that insult is precisely sexual.

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

At every insult I can imagine, somewhere in the layers of meaning is a sexual under- or over-tone.

Arguments for politically correct hypersensitive speech tell me more about the advocate than they do about what humanity actually needs for social harmony.

Jack Crow said...

Words do not carry absolute, unchanging platonic formal meaning, ASP.

If they did, then "truth" would still mean "pledge," and not "unassailable fact."

If they did, "faggot" would still mean "bundle of sticks" and not "homosexual male."

If they did, "revolution" would only mean "to revolve around," and not also "to overthrow and reconstitute."

If they did, "stasis" would not mean "frozen state" but would still continue to mean "state of civil war."

Get it?

Thanks.

So what does this mean? It means that I can use a word and not mean "penetrability" even if that pisses you the fuck off and ruins you whining little thesis.

Fuck off, now. Ok?

Asp said...

No, this just means that you get to use a word that's a sexual insult but pretend it's not a sexual insult, despite it's current usage and contemporary history, and despite the fact there's a gay person right here in this comment thread telling you it's a sexual insult.

Also, you don't think saying that faggot means a homosexual male yet claiming that it does not evoke penetrability is a tad (oxy)moronic?

Btw, I may not be a native speaker of English but I possess dictionaries (several, good ones) and sufficient language comprehension skills to understand what words mean and in what contexts they're used. A skill that seems to evade you.

Jack Crow said...

ASP,

I meant exactly what I said I meant, not what your Mistress Cleo Crystal Ball tells you to believe I meant.

Kindly, fuck off if you cannot accept my honesty as a ground condition.

I wanted to try an inversion of the term, because I found quite appealing the irony of a bunch of overly macho idgits who tend to kneel to alpha power when confronted with it.

That's it. That's all.

Asp said...

Your honesty is not in question; what bothers me is the refusal to acknowledge that this sexual insult carries specific connotations which are not erased when you try to expand the word's meaning. I don't doubt your honesty, I don't think you want to insult gays, it's the language relativism that irks me. Hence my original question: why use an insult that carries specific connotations if you don't mean to imply them? Why the assumption that how a word is used normally is not relevant to how we may use it?

And your interpretation of the word is flawed. It misses out on the fact that a power relation/status is not observed through the use of the word, but in fact established.

Faggot doesn't just mean "someone who accepts the dominance of others" -- this dominance is imposed on the faggot precisely by branding him as such. The use of this insult is supposed to assert the superiority and dominance of the one who insults, and thus constitute the faggot as the one who is being dominated.

You may think you can ignore this (or whatever other) dimension of the use of specific words when you use them, but, as you can see, I disagree.

And, you know, I'll fuck off now, but the first part of your post suggests you expected to receive some "criticism, critique and condemnation" for it, so why are you so upset now?

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

I don't see Jack being "upset."

I see frustration with ASP's consistent insertion of HER OWN MEANINGS into Jack's own statements.

Statements by Person A mean what Person A intended, not what Hearer Z wanted them to mean.

Playing the accusatory card, asserting that Jack's "upset" -- that's bullshit. You're ignoring the words themselves, inserting your own meaning, and then insisting that your meaning controls.

Yeah, I know... Derrida and Foucault and deconstruction sanctify that shit, don't they?

Jack Crow said...

Thanks, Charles. That's precisely my point. ASP wants to try a hand a passive aggressive bullshit, and it doesn't work here. I meant what I meant, not what ASP wants me to mean. Full. Stop.

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

No sweat, Jack.

I see it as the gulf that exists between the knuckle-dragging dirt-eating organic intellectual, and the formalists who "think" by parroting the stylings, mannerisms, lingo, etc. of academic "intellectuals".

(All quotation marks intended to show euphemistic reference.)

Passive aggression is standard fare for the formalist intellectual, a big part of whose self-worth is tied into formalist superiority, a position gained by taking a knee in the academy, gaining "good marks," while learning a whole lot of ... stuff. The ground-up intellectual tends to either make more of that opportunity (i.e., actually LEARN something), or reject it as hoop-jumping left best to trained animals.

As an example of LEARNING something I would submit those who synthesize and connect what they learn, without being totally obeisant and sycophantic toward the teacher, or toward the material itself.

The trained animal example fits well with many, many Marxists.

Mr.Fundamental said...

nice post, great discussion! thought I'd pass these along for your enjoyment:

http://www.crispinsartwell.com/shockey.htm

http://www.crispinsartwell.com/gay2.htm

I get called "fag" all the time out riding my bicycle, training for races and whatnot. "fag!" "where's Lance you faggot!" etc. I'm as "straight" as can be.

once you boil an individual down to a set of checks on a list, ie. these mean gay/these mean straight. . .not that I think it's wrong to identify yourself with other like minded folks, it's just. . .so what? it's reductionist and arbitrary. there is a wide variety of human behavior that should simply be identified as part of a wide variety of human behavior. who cares?

but since we live in reality, what we see is what, a culture war? lines are drawn, distinctions made, codes enforced, wagons circled, etc. you can try and bump the meaning and intention out of a word, but it's just going to wind up somewhere else. I recommend a kung-fu, zen like approach to those wielding words as weapons. aim to confuse them. disarm them with absurdity. culture jam.

at any rate, I find I'm most pleased with myself when I yell back, "why, do you want to lick my asshole!? my wife won't even do that!" after being called "faggot!" while out riding. and when someone yells "get off the road!" I yell back "fuck you, faggot!" imagine the skinny cycling dude in spandex calling you a faggot. confusing. as. hell.

chicago dyke said...

i'm a feminist. 13W is bad because it's pro-Nazi. not because it's silly about other stuff. i enjoyed it as a movie, even as i hated it as an academic. consumerism, meh.

chicago dyke said...

what a lively, Serious discussion! i hope everyone here reads a lot of gay blogs; they tend to inform discussion about these sorts of issues.

Asp said...

"I see frustration with ASP's consistent insertion of HER OWN MEANINGS into Jack's own statements."

Um, yeah. Unfortunately, Jack's statements are not expressed in a vacuum but within the language system where meaning is created based on how words are used, you know? Those are not "my" meanings, as words cannot be divorced from the larger context of their use and meanings predominantly ascribed to them through it. Which is kind of the point that I've been trying to make here, you understand? I mean, obviously you don't, but -- try?

As for upset, Jack repeatedly asked me to fuck off. Seeing as he's not usually given to swearing at his readers, I'd say that points to at least a small degree of upsetness.

Jack Crow said...

Duncan,

If you're going to lie, please at least do it in such a way that you're not so obvious about it.

I didn't say "faggot doesn't mean homosexual." I didn't complain about the TSA. And I don't think that class war is a pure position.

Not sure what your agenda is. Am surprised at how inept a liar you are.