Think before you speak

I think that’s an adage many of us could get behind: Think before you speak. It’s not that surprising, sadly, that the term, “That’s so gay,” can be found in most spaces both on and offline; this includes videogames (oh boy, does it include them). In fact, it’s one of those warnings that I’ll leave a pick-up-group in rather quick order. Yes, some people may use it without thought and are just perpetuating something they don’t understand, but that tells me enough right there about how much I want to interact with said person.

So, color me surprised when I saw what the Gay, Straight, and Lesbian Education Network (GLSEN) were teaming with the Ad Council to release: anti-gay language advertisements. On the right sidebar of the provided link you’ll find videos and images connected with the ads. I’ll bring three to your attention right now, the first featuring Wanda Sykes:

I laughed. It’s definitely a message I support and fully endorse.

Then I came to the print advertisements, which is where this ties back in to this particular blog (with one extra to show the bent of these ads):

Keeping it pointed and direct was one thing; perpetuating stereotypes is another. Sure, the smaller text reads, “Think that’s mean? How do you think ‘that’s so gay’ sounds? Hurtful. So, knock it off.” Except, saying ‘That’s so gay’ does not perpetuate a stereotype, it’s just asinine and derogatory. The explanation text is also quite small and assumes the reader will next draw his or her attention to that particular spot. You do not make such assumptions; it undercuts much of what you say, because I can read the larger text and just turn my head.

The target audience is younger than I. People who are apt to associate more readily into cliques, rather than denying the truth. People for whom these stereotypes are something much more real and palpable (what isn’t to a teenager?). So, these are people who will read the stereotype and already be warned off about some sappy message concerning loving each other and not using stereotypes.

And boy, do I grow tired of stereotypes. I’m German, so I’m punctual and have been called a Nazi. I’m gay and enjoy theater, I must loooove musicals and swish my hands around while having to know everything about the latest fashion designers. I’m a gamer, so I am some lonely, introverted nerd with glasses who sits in a dark room whose only illumination is a television or computer screen, also being overweight, and limiting my social interactions to people online–if that.

I realize the line they were trying to walk with these advertisements, I just feel they fell off the mark. Yes, gamers have serious issues with heterosexist language, but I somehow doubt this will actually speak to them in any fashion–especially to the age group these ads are so painfully targeting. Most gamers I know these days are not lonely, friendless dorks, and the one mistake many ads make is attempting to appropriate the language of youth in odd ways.

The gamer ad also assumes gamers are guys.

Seriously?

One does not seem informed when one makes statements like this. In contrast, the Wanda Sykes commercial showed an immediate, personal connection. There are two other television spots, one with Hillary Duff catching two teenaged girls trying on clothing and intoning the line, and another with a customer coming up to two clerks complaining and using the phrase. The latter even goes so far as to say the clerks’ names behind, “That’s so…” to illustrate her point.

That’s what I’d like to see.

P.S. Tomorrow I’ll continue recounting what Cap’n Perkins and I discovered and discussed.

About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
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One Response to Think before you speak

  1. Spencer Greenwood says:

    I’m not sure what I think of the campaign to stop the use of ‘gay’ to refer to something which is ‘stupid’.I’m aware that I’ve said something controversial, but I don’t mean it to be inflammatory.Lots of words are spelled and pronounced the same but have very different meanings, such as ‘second’ (a measurement of time, one sixtieth of a minute) and ‘second’ (placed immediately after first). I don’t see why ‘gay’ should be any different.We can have the word ‘gay’, meaning ‘stupid’, as a negative adjective, and we can also have the word ‘gay’ meaning ‘homosexual’, as a neutral one. I don’t see any problem with that. The issue for me is when the term ‘gay’ (meaning ‘homosexual’) is used perjoratively, though I think that ‘faggot’ and ‘homosexual’ are the insults of choice among heterosexist bigots.If you disregard everything else I say here, take the following on board. It might be possible to make the conscientious minority stop and worry about which pronoun to use, but language trends cannot be stopped. No-one has ever stood in the way of linguistic trends and won, but plenty have tried.

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