So is it any wonder when Perez Hilton called Miss California a “dumb bitch” that most media outlets didn’t notice? Instead, most everyone focused on what Carrie Prejean said during the Miss USA competition (itself not a bastion of high-minded feminism): “You can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage, and ... I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman.”
That’s not homophobic. It’s misguided — most people in this country don’t actually have the choice to marry a same-sex partner, and no one in a same-sex relationship has the choice to be recognized by the federal government as married — but it doesn’t express disdain for gay people.
But even if it were homophobic, Hilton’s response was inappropriate — because by calling Prejean a “dumb bitch,” he expressed general disdain for women. He didn’t address her opinion or correct her argument, such as it was — he reduced her to a non-entity, to someone not even worth taking seriously.
This is fighting homophobia with sexism, and it is wrong.
Hilton, of course, does not represent the gay community. His puerile sense of humor plays to the lowest common denominator. And he apologized. Sort of.
But using sexism to fight homophobia isn’t limited to Hilton. I see it in the news Web site I run, where male commentators will refer to homophobic female legislators as “that cunt” or suggest they be killed or raped or hurt.
Male homophobes are argued with. Women are dismissed.
I am surprised by this. Maybe I shouldn’t be, because sexism is everywhere. But gay men, of all people, know how language oppresses and dehumanizes. Gay men know that when they are called “pansies” or “pussies” or “faggots” that the person slinging insults is doing more than just expressing disagreement — they are trying to put gay people in that place. And that place is choking under a heterosexual foot.
For heaven’s sake — why should we understand that saying “that’s so gay” about a purple notebook is offensive, but we don’t get that calling a woman the c-word or b-word is just as wrong?
We won’t win if every time a homophobic female with a platform is shot with slurs; it only gives the other side ammunition against us.
We made the same mistake after the Proposition 8 vote in November. Suddenly, the Internet was filled with gay tirades against black people, tirades that were often peppered with hateful slurs. This did not win sympathy. Instead, it alienated us from those with whom we should be most closely aligned.
We must always correct the facts when it comes to laws, policies and the identities of gay people. We must always protest when people blithely try to take away our rights or dismiss us.
But we must also recognize that there are other minority groups — like women, like African Americans — who are fighting the same fight we are. Let’s be allies, not enemies. Let’s control our message and our tongues.
Anger is appropriate. Hate speech is not.
Jennifer Vanasco is an award-winning syndicated columnist. E-mail her at Jennifer.Vanasco@gmail.com.