The furore over Gay Accent Mouth Spray being sold on Amazon is self-defeating and plays into the hands of homophobes, says Rob Buchanan.
It was with frustration and more than a little embarrassment that I read last week on PinkNews.co.uk that Amazon and other retailers are receiving backlash over a novelty item called Instant Gay Accent Mouth Spray. If you are from Dublin you will doubtless have seen this quirky little joke gift in the type of novelty and gadget shops you find in the Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre and elsewhere. I have seen this particular item about years.
Humour is not only an essential social lubricant; it is also an important element of free speech. It is a great leveler that can deflate arrogance and highlight hypocrisy. To tell straight people that they shouldn’t use the word ‘faggot’ because its hurtful is one thing. The ‘F’ word is clearly within the legal realms of aggressive, intimidating language. However, to say that a clearly labeled (and in my opinion amusingly camp) joke product is somehow aggressive or demeaning is ridiculous. Worse than that, it’s fascistic.
When does comedy stop being humour and start being racism or xenophobia, or even misogyny? I’m not really qualified to speak about that (though I have been called a ‘Paddy’ and a ‘bitch’ at times). However, when it comes to gay humour, or in this case a joke product, I feel I can give a reasonably informed opinion. I am not offended by the use of the word “gay” in a fake product designed to get a few laughs based on camp stereotypes.
Some in the PC brigade will say it’s a slippery slope. Maybe it might be used to taunt someone, but surely the fault is with the person taunting, and not the product. Where do we draw the line? Ban any product that has associations with LGBT people from bearing the word ‘gay’?
But it’s a ‘slippery slope’ argument of a different variety that concerns me more when it comes to this type of censorship. One only needs to look at religious fanaticism, which can make everything from using words, depictions or dietary habits criminal, even for people who are not adherents to those beliefs. Do we really want to be like that? Do we want our freedom at the expense of other people’s? Do we want to shrink the boundaries of expression or expand them?
This latest example of over sensitivity displays a disappointing willingness to be offended and a wasteful misdirection of energy, which could be far better pointed at real homophobia. Pedantic nitpicking like this trivialises the real suffering caused by homophobia. Plus it paints us as humourless and temperamental, which plays right in to the homophobic agenda.
We should not be so precious about ourselves. They say a good way of judging the size of a man’s character is by the size of the things that bother him. Making any criticism or lampooning of LGBT’s taboo is self-defeating. We want equality, not sacred cow status, above criticism.
We are not perfect, nor are we beyond learning from our mistakes and transgressions, which humour can point out. More importantly we are not above slagging off the straights ourselves.
And plenty of gays do have an accent, especially after something gets sprayed in the mouth – though for me it’s usually Bacardi rather than breath freshner.
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