Chris Rock has a routine where he makes a distinction between black people and niggers. He basically defines “niggers” as stereotypical black people whereas black people are simply people who happen to also be black. I think it’s a good distinction. There are people out there who fit the negative stereotypes associated with black people. Those are crappy people that mess it up for all the non-stereotypical black people (which constitutes the vast majority). I want to extend this distinction to another group, but with some deviation because the analogy isn’t perfect.

There are gay people and then there are faggots. A gay person is someone who doesn’t flaunt his sexuality around in public; it’s unlikely a random gay person could be identified as being gay if he was walking down the street. A faggot, on the other hand, is nothing but identifiable. This is a person who intentionally dresses flamboyantly, speaks with an unnatural lisp, and tries to fall into all the stereotypes associated with gay people.

This distinction, it should be noted, has absolutely nothing to do with sexual orientation. It isn’t possible for anyone who isn’t a member of the shrieking PC brigade to think it does. If this was about sexual orientation, then I wouldn’t be able to make a distinction between people with the same orientation in the first place! Exclamation marks are usually bad writing, but this case should be so obvious that it warrants one.

The distinction Chris Rock makes is more severe because the stereotypes about black people deal with violence and real safety issues. That clearly isn’t at point with gay people. Though the principle that intentionally fitting a stereotype is a bad thing does stand in both cases. It’s an act of immaturity. We see it in more apt analogies. The goth clique in high school. The frat guy with the pink shirt and popped collar. The girls wearing shorts up to their pubes and shirts they bought at Baby Gap. How often have you come across a person you would consider mature who also dressed like any of these stereotypes? It almost never happens.

The final example is the best because it deals with sexuality (though not sexual orientation). Girls who dress in overly skimpy clothes are usually called skanks. We go from a neutral term (girls/women) to a negative one (skanks). This is justified. If they are going to try and play a part or a role because they’re too immature to realize that embracing stereotypes is not a mark of adulthood, then they deserve to be derided. This is especially true for skanks because they are dressing in a way that is considered inappropriate in much of the public square. They are “expressing” their sexuality in a truly skanked up way.

Faggots are skanks by another name. They are advertising in a way that is so similar to skanky girls, a distinction is only to be made based upon the details, not the principle. That is, they are part of a different group, but they’re doing essentially the same thing.

Beyond that, a “faggot” is someone who can be identified while walking down the street as being gay. There is no need for that. Just the same, there’s no need for the asshole from the frat to dress like a complete and utter tool just so he can show off his straightness to all the ladies.

Note that there is consistency in this post. That is because I’m not reasoning based upon sexual orientation. My basis is first that intentionally following a stereotype is bad. This is because it gives a bad name to everyone else who doesn’t want to be a part of that crap. Furthermore, it is immature. Adults who fall into stereotypes are either losers or celebrities trying to keep up an image for the sake of business. If you’re an intentional stereotype, an adult, and not a celebrity, you’re a loser. Maybe most importantly (to me, at least) is the fact that this is all dishonest behavior. I refuse to believe there are so many more gay men with lisps than straight men. Surely there are gay men who honestly have lisps, but c’mon. There should be a roughly proportional number of gay to straight men with lisps. The stereotypes skew the numbers, and they do it either for attention or to fit a prefit model or for some other purely dumb reason. There is no good reason anyone should be able to identify your sexual orientation based upon how you speak. (Again, consistency tells us that the same applies to straight men trying to be overly macho or whathaveyou.)

No one is saying that people have to behave differently than what feels natural to them. But how many after school specials have said “Be yourself”? The point of this post captures that sentiment perfectly.

7 Responses

  1. I agree with you on most points. Though, I think homosexuals deal with violence more often than you think.

  2. I’m inclined to see all behavior as political behavior… that is, a statement about your relationship to power and society.

    For example, at work I refuse to dress in the typical “corporate uniform.” Most of the people I deal with are within just a couple of rungs above me and just a couple of rungs below me. I also have a job and skills that make me pretty indispensible. Barring a major screw-up, I can get away with not conforming. When I’m dealing with people waaay up the ladder from me, I adopt the standard corporate uniform and behavior. You can tell by looking at the way people dress at work whether they are part of the traditional corporate structure or not and what their position in that structure is.

    Similarly, I think public behavior is political. I see people who deliberately dress or behave in an attention-getting manner as making overt political statements. The flamboyantly gay man may be saying, “Your societal rules tell me I’m sick or depraved and deny me the same rights as the rest of you, so I’m going to shove my sexual orientation in your face and make you squirm in your bigotry and narrow-mindedness. You discriminate against me because of my private behavior, so I’m going to make you uncomfortable with my public behavior too.”

    Young black men who act like thugs at the shopping mall are doing the same thing I think… “Your irrational fear of me is based in racism, so I’m going to act in a way to exploit and exaggerate your fear in retaliation.”

    Or something like that. I’m no expert. I’m also not saying it’s mature behavior, because I don’t think it is. It may also not be conscious behavior, certainly not as conscious as I’m making it sound. It becomes self-destructive when an individual adopts that persona full-time or fails to differentiate in the context of their behavior. The persona ends up becoming restrictive and self-reinforcing… the more one behaves in an “unacceptable” way, the more one is faced with the disapproval of the dominant power structure. The more one is threatened by the power structure, the more one retreats into the rebellious persona, etc. etc.

    At least that’s my theory for an early Monday morning.

  3. I wouldn’t give the majority of these people the credit that comes with such a progressive agenda, Yank. I don’t say that because of their sexual orientation or skin color. I say that because most people lack the intelligence, proactivity, and tact to pull that off, let alone pull it off effectively.

  4. I don’t think it’s all that sophisticated a response to power… how many times, especially as a teenager, did you act in a particular way as a “fuck you” to someone else? I know I acted that way more times than I care to admit.

  5. In reference to the first comment about homosexuality and violence, I wasn’t saying homosexuals do not face violence; they certainly do. I was saying the negative stereotypes with black people (and other minorities) deal with them being violent people whereas the negative stereotypes associated with gay people are more annoying and immature rather than actually dangerous (i.e., intentionally speaking with a lisp).

  6. I see what you were saying now, Michael.

    Yank, many people act out of spite. However, to suggest that these people act the way they do solely as a response to power is to ignore all other social and psychological factors.

  7. Eric,
    Yes, I agree people act the way they do for many reasons, but I took Michael’s comments to be focused on deliberate public behavior.

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