Has the LGBT community become numb to slurs? The Case of Diesel
In this day and age, with shock culture at an all-time high and the current cultural obsession with social media, there is not much that can shock or surprise. I won’t lie; I find myself being both underwhelmed and unimpressed as I quickly swipe through photos and read articles. But upon learning about fashion brand Diesel’s bold “FAGGOT” jacket, I was completely shocked.
Diesel’s “FAGGOT” jacket was a part of the label’s recent “Hate Couture” line. The anti-cyberbullying campaign behind the line (starring celebrities Nicki Minaj, Gucci Mane and Tommy Dorfman) was launched as an effort to face hate speech head-on, with the slogan “The more hate you wear, the less you care.” Select pieces, including the $450 jacket with “FAGGOT” spray-painted on it, as well as personalized ‘hate speech’ garments from the collection are available for purchase. While the intentions might’ve been earnest, the jacket feels like a majorly offensive misstep for Diesel.
The act and declaration of reclaiming derogatory and offensive slurs and hateful rhetoric is nothing new (there is a long history with the reclaiming of the N-word amongst African-Americans) and is still very controversial and complex practice nonetheless. While the term “faggot” has, in recent times, been taken back by the LGBT community as a term of endearment with one another (moreso its short-form version, “fag,”) it has an even longer history of being a homophobic, anti-gay slur (much like the term “queer”; another term long-deemed offensive but recently reclaimed by the LGBT community.)
While it seems like the term has been around forever and made an exclusive term referring to queer and LGBT people, its first printed and recorded use in America was in 1914. While the exact origin is harder to pin down, it seems to date back to the Old English times, as a pejorative term towards older women, as well as young, British men in boarding school engaging in sexual acts with one another.
Older generations lived with the social stigma of being LGBT in a society that was not welcoming. “Faggot” was one of the ways the heteronormative society verbally assaulted queer people and “kept them in line.”
In the current era, where everything old is made new, it is understandable how this new LGBT generation wants to reclaim the term “faggot.” The youth of this current generation want to show how far they’ve come by taking back that which has oppressed in the past. Look at the “N-word” as another example: it is also a term so deep and resounding in its derogatory history, yet the word has been attempted time and time again to be rebranded as a badge of honor and a symbol of racism reclaimed. And although can have mild conversation and drop ”faggot” or the “N-word” amongst friends, cohorts, and (some) people of the same identity group, are we at the point where we can adorn ourselves and drape the term all over us?
The question answers itself with a resounding NO. What society is doing, with the desensitizing of oppressive speech is attempting to simply wash away that old meaning and start anew. That old meaning is rich and heavy with the sound of deep homophobia and speaks to the many LGBT people that have been discriminated against, verbally assaulted (or worse), and called “faggot” during the process. Let’s bring it back to the “N-word”; which can never be fully embraced as a moniker and representation of black identity. What these words represent and continue to be is a symbol of how oppressive and unjust our society is; one where words and hate speech are used to oppress people and make them feel lesser than. Yes, we have made strides, but It’s hard to reclaim a word for something that is still a very real problem.
It could be a very long time until it would be deemed socially acceptable and okay for (anyone) to wear a jacket covered with “FAGGOT” or any type of slur on it; no matter the bold declaration or good intention. I think I would prefer to get a plain Diesel jacket instead.