So Gawker is up with a qualified defense of Azealia Banks's Friday night faggot-fest smackdown on Perez Hilton on Twitter (admirably rounded up in almost realtime by the ever intrepid Chris Geidner). Short recap: Banks called Hilton a faggot; asked "does your butthole whistle? Like is your butthole so stretched and raggedy the air whistles when you move?"; announced that "A faggot is not a homosexual male. A faggot is any male who acts like a female. There's a BIG difference."; and capped it all off by noting that she should have just said Hilton "acts like a cunt."
Pretty offensive stuff, although not the nastiest stuff ever seen on Twitter. Lots of people (including myself) were appalled and said so, etc. Others assume that because Banks is openly bisexual she gets a pass on using "faggot" as a slur and being all around nasty about effeminate men. Rick Juzwiak at Gawker takes that latter point of view:
As a troll, Azealia's primary function is to speak recklessly, which is why she does things likebristle when Angel Haze mocks her skin tone (to be fair, "charcoal skinned bitch" was the lowest of the low blows in their exchange), but has no problem mocking the size of Angel's breasts. It's why an ally to gay men and a member of their larger community can use the word "faggot" as an insult. It's why her definition of the word "cunt" has elasticity. She communicates from the gut and her grab for attention leaves a sting.
Yeah, not really, at least as it comes to "faggot." First off, everyone's focusing on her use of "faggot" but not on the really vile "does your butthole whistle?" which, like "faggot," is the kind of slur gay men hear a lot. How about this: If I decided to go after a famous lesbian on Twitter, call her a "dyke" and ask "does your gaping pussy queef every time you move?" I would be hounded to the ends of the Twitter and no one at Gawker would be putting up defenses on my behalf that because I'm a gay, foul-mouthed, egomaniac publicity whore it's all okay. And that would be the exactly right thing to happen.
For a species built around language, we really suck at words. It takes a lot of talent to use offensive language in public in a way that's not offensive. If you're wondering if you should try, you probably shouldn't, given that the odds are against you being the next Louis C.K. or Lisa Lampanelli. But if you're going to scream "faggot" in a crowded public sphere be ready to take the consequences.
To me, at least, it's pretty obvious which words I can use with certain people, in certain situations, in private. I'm more than happy to say "faggot" among friends -- "Oh my god you are such a fag!" -- but I don't use it with straight people. I don't use it in public often (except, you know, right now) and I have a really strong negative reaction when I hear anyone who's not a faggot say "faggot."
I have maybe a few lesbian friends that I would jokingly call a "dyke," but I don't recall ever doing so. Being gay doesn't mean I can toss that or any other slur around in public. Same goes for "tranny."
My husband is Vietnamese, which means he and I will both sometimes make racial jokes to each other that I wouldn't put on Twitter. Being married to an Asian doesn't give me permission to call any Asian I'm pissed at a "chink" (and I've never called my husband a "chink" either). My cousin-in-law sometimes comes home and says, "Herro!" and I say, "Chingy chingy chong" (an in-joke we have about my ongoing inability to learn Vietnamese). But if I walked into an Asian night at a gay bar and broke out with the "chingy-chong" or hit on guys with "wanna be my geisha" I would richly deserve a punch in the face.
And so on. Different unspoken, but not incomprehensible, rules for what language we can use. I know there's all kinds of white people out there who feel it is the greatest injustice ever that they can't say "nigger" even though all those black people on TV and in movies and on the radio say it all the time. There are more and more people convinced that because they have a friend or a neighbor or a co-worker or a favorite movie star who's [gay/black/trans/latino/whatever] they get to use the chummy, offensive language we use amongst ourselves.
You don't. You want to be an asshole? Fine. Stop whining when people note it. And everyone else stop making excuses for them when they do it.