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Redefining An Offensive Word

***WARNING: This video has language that some may find offensive.

This weekend in the Fast for Non-violence, SLAM students explore the redefinition of the word "faggot."  A word heard over and over in school hallways to describe everyone from a person who is different (in whatever way) to a friend who you want to put down, for whatever reason.

SLAM students have decided to take the word as a compliment in this video.  The fasters from Friday evening through Tuesday (Monday is a day off) are Myra Nortado, Chuck Jimenez, Will Shiroma, Kati Aiken, and Kevin Enriquez.

Leah Hall March 28, 2011 at 10:38 PM
‎"Being offended is what happens when you have your deepest beliefs challenged. If you go through four years of college without having your beliefs challenged, you should ask for your money back." - Greg Lukianoff. Article on offensive student postings..nice line, and so true.
David March 28, 2011 at 11:25 PM
if only most professors, especially in th humanities, weren't so dreadfully uniform in outlook, those students actually might learn how to debate.
Marga Lacabe March 28, 2011 at 11:37 PM
David, I do agree that, in comparison with other doctrines, Catholic doctrine is pretty consistent. Catholics, for example, are against both abortion /and/ the death penalty - not like evangelicals who believe human life loses value once the fetus is out of the mother's womb. But I don't agree there is no merit in debating the doctrine of the Church. Catholic doctrine is not set in stone, it evolves, changes and adapts to its environment, the political/economic/social forces around it. Priestly celibacy is not a basic tenet of the Catholic religion, while originally introduced in the 4th century, it didn't really become an issue until the 11th century and then only because married priests were passing on their property to their children. Priestly celibacy really only became established in Trent, 1500 years after the foundation of the Church. And yes, celibacy is extremely difficult for those who practice it, if you do any reading on the subject you'll see how this is the case. I've read estimates that say that there are somewhere betwee 100,000 to 200,000 married Catholic priests worldwide. That's quite a lot of people who could not keep that vow.
Leah Hall March 28, 2011 at 11:42 PM
Yes, David. Like Glenn Beck on his chalk boards, the poor souls just don't know what they are missing :(
David March 29, 2011 at 12:55 AM
They are missing an opportunity to learn how to debate someone without calling them racist, idiot, or fascist.
David March 29, 2011 at 01:04 AM
Marga, while it's wonderful to debate the finer points of catechism, unless you're willing to entertain a return to the Mother Church, I don't see the value. I'm well aware of the history of celibacy and the priesthood, including the fact that some Catholic priests are actually allowed to be married (i.e. they're not breaking a vow of celibacy). Anglican priests who are married and convert can be priests in the Catholic Church, along with member of the Eastern Rite Catholic Church. My point stands, celibacy is not only practiced by nearly all priests in Catholicism but in many other religions who would dispute your assertion that it is "inhuman." It's not.
Marga Lacabe March 29, 2011 at 01:45 AM
David, I think neither of us has an objective idea of how many priests keep their vow of celibacy - and how many punish themselves for not keeping it. It may be "nearly all" or "none at all". I'm sure there are surveys out there, I saw a reference to some that said 2% of priests have ever broken their vow, but I have to cook dinner now so I can't look for them :)
David March 29, 2011 at 03:22 AM
That's not the point, Marga. Buddhist monks are celibate too. The point is that it's not an unheard of practice, it's not 'inhuman' and of course people fail in their commitment just like they fail in their marriage vows or other matters. You can find it inconsistent, illogical, or think it's harmful, but it's not restricted to Catholics, and it's not restricted to priests. You're an atheist, and a liberal right? It might be illogical or nonsensical to you, but stripping it of the religious context, it's certainly a lifestyle choice entered into freely (and given the years of training, it's entered into with generally more thought than most marriages), just as surely as there are people who willingly choose not only to live as a single person, but also are celibate and non-religious.
Marga Lacabe March 29, 2011 at 04:27 AM
David, I'm kind of forgetting what we're arguing about now. I don't know much about Buddhism, but I do know that Buddhists do not expect non-monks to remain celibate. Buddhism doesn't proscribe non-procreative sex for the general population, the way Catholicism does. Whatever draconian sexuality rules it has, it reserves them for monks & nuns alone. And those rules are very, very harsh. A monk who has sex while in the religious community will be de-frocked for his whole life. No going back from that. The fact that the penalties are so harsh, makes me think that that it must not be so easy to maintain celibacy. IF it was, it wouldn't need to be punished at all.
Leah Hall March 29, 2011 at 06:23 AM
Congratulations, David. No easy feat to get Marga to forget what she is arguing about :) Hope you two are enjoying yourselves, I certainly lost track awhile back. Did one of you happen to bring up eunuchs? If so, then I think you guys have hit *almost* all the bases.
David March 29, 2011 at 04:02 PM
To recap Marga, you stated at one point or another: 1) Priestly/religious Celibacy is 'inhuman' : response-not really, and not unique to Catholics, and entered into voluntarily, again likely with more contemplation than most marriages 2) Priestly/religious Celibacy is hard. Well, yes. Impossible? No. "Draconian" ? Not really, again - entered into voluntarily does not = draconian. 3) Married priests exist. Well, yes. Married priests are allowed if a) part of Eastern rite Catholic Church, e.g. Maronite as an example or b) if married Anglican/protestant minister converts to Catholicism (but cannot be bishop). 4) Catholic rules on sex are impossible to follow and not limited to restricting homosexual acts. Well, in your (atheistic) framework, yes the rules could be considered nonsensical; the evidence (not just from Catholicism) shows that celibacy etc exists in multiple cultures and traditions, and therefore is certainly possible to adhere to. In the catechism's framework, as you state, it all follows from the Catholic philosophy regarding procreation and actually is internally consistent. What this has to do with the original topic, I'm not sure, except that it flowed from a minor response I made regarding catholic attitudes. I think it flowed from the idea that celibacy is an impossible demand. why it would concern an atheist like marga in a country with freedom of religion is somewhat beyond me:).
Leah Hall March 29, 2011 at 05:27 PM
re: I think it flowed from the idea that celibacy is an impossible demand. Exactly! And if not impossible, then tortuous surely if not done voluntarily. Using words like "faggot, queer, dike, swishy and the like" have been used historically to police certain outward and inward human sexual expressions. Again, going back to Stephanie Brill, an extraordinary speaker on the topic. Stephanie is a leading figure who works with parents of children who at a very young age who are already exhibiting expressions of gender-non-conformity. At 5-8 years old, it is a huge mistake to refer to these children as gay, for like all children, sexuality and self awareness happens mostly in adolescence. These children are exhibiting a spectrum of gender expression that in many cases would otherwise be repressed. Why people have a hard time understanding that repression is devastatingly unhealthy (for the repressed as well as the repressor) is beyond me, but that is where we are and hopefully we are seeing changes in our life time for the better. I myself am not gay but I can easily recall how repressive my own high school community experience was, and I know it wasn't exceptional. The Gay Ivy was rather exceptional for its time while I was there and it was loads of fun too! IT GETS BETTER!
Marga Lacabe March 29, 2011 at 06:01 PM
Actually, David, what I stated is that the Church's imposition of celibacy on /homosexuals/ (not on priests) was inhuman. And this concerns me because the Church's position on this issue hurts a lot of people - from Catholic homosexuals who hate themselves for not being able to keep celibate, to non-Catholics who are hurt by the Church's political work against gay marriage, to families who are torn apart by the Church's teachings. But even the Church's requirement that priests be celibate I think is of a social concern. We can debate the question of whether the celibacy requirement is linked to the child molestation scandals but that's just it, it /is/ a debate and one that concerns Catholics as well as non-Catholics.
Max the Teacher March 29, 2011 at 07:55 PM
"Max, are you able to understand a different framework of reasoning?" Sure. But what does that have to do with your post? "I presented it as a relatively subtle theological argument in that frame. No, David. There is nothing subtle and no reasoning involved in saying :"Roman Catholics...Jews...other Christians; I don't know about Mormons) actually aren't opposed to homosexuals as people " It's just an ignorant thing to say, not much different from saying, "I have nothing personal against the Negros; I just don't think we should let them vote." You really don't know the anti-gay agendas of the Catholic church? Of Christian fundamentalists, Orthodox Jews and the Mormons? Then I would suggest you get off Patch once in a while and read a book. Or just stay out of discussions where you don't know enough to engage. "Your response is ridiculous, blah blah blah knee-jerk Bay Area blah blah blah liberalism." Great debate technique, David. Apoplexy in the face of "the reality based community." Y'know, if the Bay Area is just too Socialist/Satanic for you, there are lovely homes at rock-bottom prices in Oklahoma and you would be in the bosom of your ideological brethren. As for your weary remarks about my being all [boo-hoo] mean to you and your irrational assumptions about how I am in class, I'm perfectly willing to change gears and talk to you as if you were a not-particularly-bright 14 year old if you feel that's the level your needs require.
Max the Teacher March 29, 2011 at 07:58 PM
"Hope you two are enjoying yourselves, I certainly lost track awhile back. " Indeed. I came to this thread because of a provocative and sometimes brilliant video that had absolutely nothing to do with theological hair-splitting.
Max the Teacher March 29, 2011 at 08:00 PM
"They are missing an opportunity to learn how to debate someone without calling them racist, idiot, or fascist." Unless, of course, they find themselves in a debate with a racist, fascist idiot. That could happen...
David March 29, 2011 at 08:02 PM
Indeed, as expected, you have again opened your mouth and removed all doubt. Bye bye.
Max the Teacher March 29, 2011 at 08:02 PM
""Being offended is what happens when you have your deepest beliefs challenged." I believe it was Fran Liebowitz who said that being offended is what happens when you step outside your front door.
Thomas Clarke March 29, 2011 at 08:15 PM
Max, exceptional points and well said. I am in complete agreement with you. You did leave out a couple of other overwhelmingly anti-gay groups of great signficance in the area, including Muslims, the majority of African American churches, many Baptists, some Lutheran synods and a large group of Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus. In short you are right, the Gay Pogromists will likely find home in Sharia free Oklahoma.
David March 29, 2011 at 09:05 PM
It's only a concern if you actually had any data showing a link. There is none, because there is no evidence. The only reason there has been so much publicity around Catholic priests is that's where the money is for the trial lawyers.
David March 29, 2011 at 09:07 PM
PS. if they're so torn apart, they can leave the church, as you did. There's freedom of religion here, unlike other countries (yet again mostly located in the Muslim-dominated world) where that's not the case, and where I think there are greater concerns over human rights.
Kari Hulac (Editor) March 29, 2011 at 10:19 PM
Hi Thomas, In the context of the piece, since the word is the heart of the students' message, we are fine with having it on our site. Any journalism publication or website has flexibility in how it allows the use of profane/offensive words, based on the context. Since the students are not using the word to literally attack a group of people, and instead or doing the exact opposite, it doesn't violate any policy.
Tony Farley March 30, 2011 at 12:03 AM
I have added the students' reflection video to the post above. Tony
Leah Hall March 30, 2011 at 03:11 AM
Sweet. Thank you, students!
Max the Teacher March 30, 2011 at 05:22 PM
"You did leave out a couple of other overwhelmingly anti-gay groups of great significance" For sure. I was just commenting on the ones david was being stupid about. The Lutherans you refer to is, I believe, the Missouri synod. And I would point out, as you probably know but someone may mis-read, that the homophobia in the African American churches comes not from being African American, but from being fundamentalist.
Josh Thurman April 01, 2011 at 06:41 AM
Hi i used to be in SLAM and i made a profile just now so i could say this to you. DON'T EVER APOLOGIZE!!! Your video was powerful and moving, and your intentions behind using the normally offensive word were good. Also the manner and context in which you said "faggot" were not to harm anyone but to educate and redefine. You shouldn't have to worry about the insecurities of others, especially when they obviously do not understand, but hey thats the kind of stuff you have to deal with when handling ignorance. Just know that every great director and actor has a controversial piece in their portfolio and i salute you for starting early. I hope i can maybe see you at the SLAM grand opening or the SLAMMY's.
Jill Replogle April 01, 2011 at 06:46 AM
I love the response, SLAMers. Thanks for all the great work you've shared throughout the Season of Service. See you at your grand opening tomorrow!
Robert Fukushima April 01, 2011 at 09:44 PM
Here! Here! I agree that regardless of the fact that your voice and message may cause some to be uncomfortable, if you are to make a difference in your world, and the world of others, you must be heard and your voice must be clear and without conflict. You made a powerful video, with a ringing message, you should not feel the need to apologize. If you would enter the world of social activism, know that there will always be those who find your voice uncomfortable, this is not a bad thing. I admire your work and it cannot be easy to come out to a world that still cannot accept you fully.
Robert Fukushima April 01, 2011 at 10:05 PM
This idea of re-appropriation of a word is identical to the arguments I remember from the late 80's when many rappers and urban activists attempted to do the same thing with the N word, similar attempts have been made with regards to names used for Hispanics (or more specifically, Mexicans and people of Mexican heritage). It has not, to my knowledge, worked in any sense of permanent change. But, it does start to frame the argument for these young people, it makes others think about their own conception of the world and it offers a chance to once again face our own fears, or lack thereof. I remember the use of the word 'faggot' as a pejorative, and it's use was specifically focused on the idea of hurting someone, or otherwise insulting them, in a manner to suggest homosexuality. In my time as a teen, we did not apply it to girls/women, it was reserved for boys/men. In any event, what a church has to say about it and the pursuing argument is less interesting to me, than that the young people we so fondly discard in society as a lost generation indeed have voices and ideas worth discussing.
Max the Teacher April 04, 2011 at 08:11 PM
Good answer, Kari. No one is quicker to kick someone's butt over using the word "faggot," but anyone should be able to look at this video and see that this is 180 degrees from gay-bashing.


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