This was not written by Laura. So don’t send her any of your mean comments.
The Philadelphia Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds said a mean thing to Sean Avery last night. I know what you’re thinking: “Good! That Avery fellow is a churl, and it is high time someone took him to task for his outrageous behaviour! Pray tell, what did this Simmonds fellow say? Did he question Avery’s lineage? Denigrate his meagre talents? At least tell a good Yo Mama joke?”
Nope. Simmonds called Avery a faggot.
Let’s stipulate that Simmonds is not the first hockey player to call another a faggot on the ice. In fact, my first thought was whether NHL Chief Disciplinarian and YouTube Star Brendan Shanahan had ever called anyone a faggot on the ice. If I were to place a wager, I would bet so. If so. is Brendan Shanahan a homopobic bigot? Is Wayne Simmonds?
The easy, reflexive, PC answer is: Yes, anyone who uses a slur (racial, homophobic, misogynistic, religious, whatever) MUST be a bigot. We, as a society, must heartily condemn such language, because we don’t like bigotry. As a counterpoint, I present Exhibit A (which you will have to go view via link, sorry, but it is well worth it, I promise you).
The above sketch was one of the things that made SNL famous. And it perfectly illustrates the idea that slurs–nigger, faggot, cunt, kike–are “fighting words,” words that are designed, by their use, to elicit a strong, even violent reaction.
Exhibit B: Well, most of “Slap Shot.” Tell me you didn’t crack up when Reg Dunlop called Hanrahan’s wife a lesbian, or told Anita McCambridge that her son looks like a fag, or any of the other dozen times “fag,” “faggot,” or a variation thereof were used. In the context of the film, the use of the slur was clear–it was intended to (and usually did) provoke a strong, occasionally violent reaction.
Was Reg Dunlop a bigot? Or an agitator, using the tools at his disposal? I’ll argue that it was the later, and I’ll demonstrate why I think so: when Tim McCracken tells him, “Dunlop, you suck cock,” how does he respond? “All I can get.” For Reg, being called a homosexual is not an insult–because he’s not prejudiced.
And that’s why Wayne Simmonds is an idiot. He called Sean Avery a faggot. If there’s one thing that has become clear over the last couple of years, it’s that Sean Avery doesn’t have a problem with gay people. He doesn’t believe that being gay is something to be ashamed of, or a blemish on one’s honor or manhood. So calling him a faggot has as much power to incite as would calling him a chink.
Frankly, I wish everyone had Avery’s attitude–that’s really the only way that slurs like “faggot” are going to disappear. When fighting words lose the power to incite, their value and usage plummets. I don’t fault Wayne Simmonds for giving it a try–it’s his job to goad opponents into taking dumb penalties. I fault him for his choice of insult in this particular instance. I don’t believe that it makes him a bigot. And I don’t believe he deserves any discipline, other than perhaps a minor face-saving fine.
LeNoceur is the former proprietor of Melt Your Face-Off. He is happy to have a new occasional home for his musing here at Thrashing the Blues. You can direct your ire to him on Twitter: @meltyourfaceoff.