The first time I walked into a gay club, I was asked, “Is jy ‘n moffie?” (Are you a moffie? – the local equivalent of “faggot”)
It was a question that took me aback. I thought, “Duh, yes I am” but also shocked at the brazen nature of this enquiry. This, however, was a safe space, and it felt permissible. I said yes, and did not take it too seriously. Others might not be as fortunate to not be offended.
This is why you should be careful when you gender your insults.
Bitch, cunt, whore and pussy are also all examples of doing this. A conversation with a friend made me realise how often gay men are often emasculated in porn. The anus will be referred to as a “pussy” and the men will be called “bitch”. It’s probably meant to be sexy, but once you realise the amount of power that comes with sex and sexuality, because let’s face it, it plays a huge part in all our lives, then this is quite disconcerting. many might say that this is fine, because women and particularly women of colour have been facing this kind of subjugation for years, but going the other way is not always the answer.
Sidebar: Two recent pop culture examples of this that also got me thinking were the controversies around the music videos of Lily Allen Hard Out Here in which she featured women of colour dancing provocatively. Some say it was empowering, funny and not a big deal. Others say she used the women in an exploitative way. Check it out here.
The other one was Jennifer Lopez’s I Luh Ya Papi which features a recent continuing tradition of sexualizing men for the female gaze. Question is, is this doing anything to make things better for women who still face sexualisation from men? I don’t think so. But check it out here
In that space of a gay club, both physically and ideologically closed off to the outside, it was acceptable, as it might also be when you are with friends and others who understand your intentions.
I’ve previously asked how this would have been perceived if the issue were conflated with race. And that is, of course, a topic that could be expanded at length too.
Women in particular are not as fortunate. The negative connotations that come with certain words prevent them from ever being completely popular and used in common parlance. So why do we do this? I’m sure many of you are crying out “Reclamation” and that this is your way of taking back the power that was taken from you when these words were forged against you.
I’m ambivalent about this. On the one hand, the history of these words is often not understood enough before they are reclaimed.
What got me harping on about this topic is the way in which the world is turning – it’s not going fast enough in the right direction. Homophobia, misogyny, racism, ageism are all real factors and they do not seem to be dissipating.
This is my way of staying on the topic and not letting it slip through the cracks for the enlightened few who will read this.
Before you gender your insults, be careful about implications. It may empower you, but it also feeds the power of others who aim to disenfranchise you.
Masculinity needs some femininity. Femininity should be allowed masculinity if it feels it needs it. However, these should not at the risk of alienating the other. An example I’ve encountered often is the idea of men as men and women as women, with nothing in between, yet when I challenge people about these preconceptions and how they may be violating their own standards (women wearing pants, guys wearing tight T-shirts, because it’s simply fashion) I encounter resistance.
I’m a feminist, yet I also find myself falling into the trap of calling my friends “bitches” (unprovoked but mostly reciprocally). This was my way of staying aware that while it may be acceptable within the confines of a friendship, there is power with that word. I am essentially making my friend an animal, lesser to me and others (even if you do not think that animal are lesser animals to humans). Keep that in mind the next time you gender your insults.
<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>