Miranda Devine is not a ‘f**king gay c**t’ (pardon my French, but I’m just quoting here).
Confused? Let’s step back in time for a moment.
On Saturday, 3 May, an under 20s NRL player, Mitchell Moses, called Queensland lock Luke Bateman a ‘f**king gay c**t’ during a televised game and those comments were broadcast live to the audience.
Admittedly, it was particularly bad timing for Moses to use a slur of this nature, given the NRL has just signed up to an initiative to stamp out homophobia from the code.
After an investigation into the incident Moses received what seemed, whether rightly or wrongly, a bit of a slap on the wrist and he was suspended for two games. It seemed like a straight forward disciplinary matter for the NRL.
Enter Miranda Devine into a ‘debate’ that really didn’t exist until she wrote a piece for Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily Telegraph, titled ‘NRL bosses are totally gay‘.
In her ‘illuminating and insightful’ piece, Devine argued that the slur couldn’t possibly be interpreted as homophobic because youth culture has changed the meaning of the word ‘gay’ to mean not only a homosexual, but ‘lame, or dumb or stupid, as in: “That’s so gay”.’
For Devine that’s the end of the story. The woman who arguably built her entire journalistic career on being offended by broad social trends (to borrow an apt phrase from The Simpsons), suddenly wholeheartedly embraced this particular, and relatively recent, youth cultural trend, without her trademark moral panic about how a latest cultural trend will destroy society. After all, even South Park featured an episode on the subject! Case closed.
Perhaps she should have stuck with her usual modus operandi and considered the (this time very real) inherent social harm in this latest trend which has been addressed by the American Psychological Association’s blog: Stop saying “That’s So Gay!”: 6 types of microaggressions that harm LGBTQ people (Psychology Benefits Society, American Psychological Association Public Interest Directorate, 7 February 2014).
But let’s face it, hell will freeze over before Devine plays into the hands of ‘homo-fascism’, ‘homosexual activists’, the ‘anti-homophobia police’, the ‘gods of homosexuality’ and the ‘illiberal modern-day crusade to hunt down homophobes’. Phew, that is some serious ideological overload in less than ten paragraphs, consisting of less than twenty sentences.
However, Devine is right about one thing. Language does evolve and words develop different meanings over time.
She briefly lamented that ‘[b]efore “gay” came to mean homosexual, it meant happy and bright’. I wonder who made that curious connection between homosexuals and happiness and brightness? I suspect anyone who ever had gay friends …
At the same time Devine expresses surprise that no one has complained about the use of the ‘sexist c-word’ in the slur in question. Perhaps Devine overlooked another broad social trend whereby the meaning of that word has also changed over time to mean not only a certain part of the female anatomy, but also a person who is ‘unpleasant to be around’, or an ‘idiot’, or an ‘undesirable’.
And we all know that ‘f**k’ stopped being offensive somewhere between the 60s and 80s and even the courts have now largely stopped considering its use offensive language.
So, Devine is right. If you put all that together, you are reasonably entitled to arrive at a conclusion that the ‘f**king gay c**t’ slur is not just not homophobic but, going by various cultural adaptations of the words it contains, it is not at all offensive.
So is Miranda Devine a ‘f**king gay c**t’ after all, as Matthew Mitcham put it on Twitter, responding to her article?
I would say that no, she is not.
Language does change over time, and societal standards do as well.
For example, not long ago calling someone a ‘retard’ or a ‘spastic’ were relatively acceptable methods of putting a person down. Although originally those words were descriptions of various disabilities, certain subcultures have attached a negative connotation to them, and over time they became derogatory terms. However, society had come to realise that it was very wrong and harmful to use those terms in that particular way, and made a concerted effort to stamp it out, and continues to send a clear message that the use of those words as a pejorative is unacceptable.
It is also worth noting in this context that the words ‘retard’ and ‘spastic’ developed a derogatory meaning largely because of people’s deep-seated prejudices against, and misunderstanding of, disabled people, which made the development of those derogatory uses even more horrid and sinister.
The change in the meaning of ‘gay’ to mean something bad and negative is also very likely a symptom and a cultural expression of our society’s homophobic undercurrent, not something we should encourage or accept in a civilised society.
In the same way we consider it unacceptable to use the words ‘retard’ or ‘spastic’ as a pejorative, it is also wrong to use the word ‘gay’ to mean something negative, considering it is a term which is still used overwhelmingly by the LGBTI community to self-identify. Society, including the NRL, does have a role to play in sending and reinforcing that message.
So to sum it up, no, the NRL bosses are not gay and Miranda Devine may be a journalist of questionable quality, and possibly an intellectual hack, but no, she is not a ‘f**king gay c**t’.
Especially considering that usually she is the opposite of anything happy and bright … a.k.a. gay.
The text of the original article by Miranda Devine as it appeared on the website of The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, 6 May 2014:
NRL bosses are totally gay
WHY doesn’t the NRL just burn Mitchell Moses at the stake?
The 19-year-old Wests Tigers player has been hit with a two-week match ban for making a “homophobic slur” against Queensland opponent Luke Bateman.
He did no such thing. But he’s been caught up in this illiberal modern day crusade to hunt down homophobes, and who cares if he’s guilty?
Rugby league will make an example of him to show how progressive it is. Paying obeisance to homo-fascism.
What Moses actually said was “f … ing gay c …”, during an on-field biffo with Bateman in the dying moments of Saturday’s Under 20s state of origin game.
These immortal words were captured on a referee’s microphone, and rugby league’s anti-homophobia police swung into action.
There was no problem with the players trying to punch each other. No problem with the foul language. No problem with the sexist c-word.
But woe betide the player who offends the gods of homosexuality.
Let’s get one thing straight. “Gay” no longer just means “homosexual”. The word has changed meaning over the last decade. Young people use “gay” to mean lame, or dumb or stupid, as in: “That’s so gay.”
South Park even had an episode about it. In Britain there was a campaign against homophobia with the slogan “homophobia is gay”.
Before “gay” came to mean homosexual, it meant happy and bright. Hardly anyone uses it that way now. Young people of an earlier era changed the word and now young people of today have changed it into something else. Easy come easy go.
No one owns a word. English evolves, and it is quite capable of embodying two separate meanings in the one word. It is just tyrannical to demand that people must use a word only in the form approved by homosexual activists.
So why is anyone pretending that what Mitchell said had anything to do with homosexuality? It didn’t.
He was being offensive but he was not being homophobic, which last time I looked meant, “an extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people”.
Bateman isn’t even homosexual. What more evidence do you need that Mitchell didn’t say “gay” as a homophobic slur?
When the NRL interviewed Bateman after the match he said he didn’t care what Mitchell had said and didn’t want to take the issue further.
The NRL thought-police then went back to Bateman on Sunday for what has been described as a check on his “welfare”. This is insane.
Bateman still didn’t want to make a compliant (sic), so the NRL went ahead anyway.
The punishment is devastating for Mitchell. As Dean Ritchie reveals in the sports pages today, he had been told he would be getting his big break on Friday night, debuting for the Wests Tigers in an NRL first grade match against the Roosters.
He’s a good player and he’ll probably get another chance, but who knows when? Rugby league is a fickle game. Injured players return, other rookies shine, injuries strike.
Mitchell’s moment was Friday night and that has been taken away from him, capriciously and unreasonably, by a rugby league organisation that has lost the plot.
They could have given him counselling or community work to teach him to keep a clean mouth in a game full of microphones. But the NRL wanted to parade as a champion of homosexual rights, so who cares about fairness or honesty.
What might have started as a noble cause to prevent vilification of homosexuals is in danger of backfiring. If punishing an innocent man is supposed to promote tolerance, someone at NRL headquarters is on drugs.
* I can proudly report the above piece caused Miranda Devine to block me on Twitter.