Alex Blaze

More on "that" being "so gay"

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 19, 2008 1:04 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media, The Movement
Tags: Association of Teachers and Lecturers, insults, misogyny, queer, schools, slag, That's so gay

A study by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers found that the top insult in UK schools is "gay," with 83% of teachers reporting hearing it. The others were Bitch (59%), Slag (45%), Poof (29%), Batty boy (29%), Slut (26%), Queer (26%), Lezzie (24.8%), Homo (22%), Faggot (11%), and Sissy (5%).

So the insults go to gays, women, women, gays, gays, women, gays, gay women, gays, gays, and feminine gays.

I'm noticing a trend.

Of course, the misogynist slurs (bitch, slag, slut) center around women who don't conform to sexual puritanism. The common thread between all of these is that it's an insult to be penetrated or to be accused of liking to be penetrated.

Volumes can and have been written about our culture's anxiety around penetration and hatred of anyone perceived as enjoying it. What's particularly interesting here is that nothing else made the list - not "stupid" or "dumb" or racial slurs.

(Although calling someone an insult of another race makes no sense, but calling them an insult of a less stable group like queers, a group that defines itself by abstract concepts like desire, attraction, and verbal identity, is a whole lot harder to deny. How can one really prove or disprove attraction?)

School is an important time to lay down the groundwork for bullying and shaming people into following sexual and gender norms, for teaching kids to whom they have to submit and who's allowed to feel good about themselves.

It's a big ship and hard to turn around. The teachers interviewed in the article said they had a hard time coming down on the word "gay":

"It's tricky because it's often a casually throwaway remark and said without any obvious malice," says Deborah, a teaching assistant from Essex. "Terms such as 'batty boy' are clear homophobic insults and much more straightforward to deal with."

I empathize with her as an educational para-professional myself. Often I hear or maybe hear kids saying something that might be a gay insult, but the context isn't obvious because I was paying attention to the other 28 kids in class. It can be very Lord of the Flies at times.

Still, I think we need to recognize what's going on here and that these kids aren't just coming up with these insults for no reason and getting them from nowhere. Education specifically around diversity is needed because, as this study shows, the insults all have a specific intent, an intent that's bigger than just hurting someone's feelings.

I wonder if the list would be any different in America (well, poof, slag, and batty boy wouldn't be on it, but I mean substantively). Thoughts?

(via Jim)


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Well, first, bitch is not really a term for a woman of questionable virtue, to put it in a more friendly way. It is more associated with a strong willed or overbearing woman at least where I am from. Again, it does denote transgression of a gender normative behavior, but not the one you are reffering to.

As for the rest, well volumes can and have also been written about transgressing hetero normative societal rules, so it is pretty clear that the insults are used as a way to villify and punish non-conformity.

As far as what would be different here in america, well, of course there is the ever popular "fag", the contraction of the term faggot, there is also "poofter" though that may not see as wide of usage. One of my favorite words, "dyke", then "ho", or the un-contracted form, "whore".

Most of the insults I faced growing up are listed though, with the exception of fag.

That is pretty much all the ones I can think of, as inventive as american kids are with language though, I am sure there are more out there.

I think bitch would be high on the list here in the States. "Ho" and "whore" too as diddly says. Fag or faggot too.

But this all reminds, me... I thought of you today, Alex. Except you haven't claimed a candidate. *grins*

It wouldn't be different. Just look at the latest GLSEN studies. The stats don't change.