Language is a tool of oppression used to legitimise discrimination. In a world where social media is becoming a common networking tool, our interactions with each other are becoming more, not less, discriminatory. Casual homophobia and sexism, especially on Facebook and Twitter, is placing a barrier in front of us to achieve a more equal society. We need to remember that words and images hold us back from being a truly free.
Homophobic jokes, banter, and abuse feature regularly in our day to day lives but that does not make it acceptable. Too often on Facebook, and indeed the internet in general, the word ‘fag’ is legitimised under the banner of humour. But using the word ‘fag’ is not funny!
Words hurt and that word causes too much hurt to ever be deemed acceptable. This is a word that is said to lesbian and gay youths in an attempt to hurt and cause emotional pain.
Lesbian and gay youth are four times more likely to have been threatened with a weapon at school and they are four times more likely to miss school because of a safety concern.
Studies suggest that 80% have experienced name calling and 69% have experienced open ridicule by other pupils and occasionally teachers.
So the next time you use the word ‘fag’ think about how it makes a gay person feel. Think of how many times they have heard that word said to them to cause them pain. Think of how many times that word has been used towards a gay person whilst they are being attacked for their sexual orientation. Regardless of the context, using that word is not funny.
In no country in the world do women earn more money than men. The average representation of women in National Parliaments is 16%. The highest representation of women in any parliament is Rwanda where there are 52% of women in parliament.
We’re told so often that we live in an equal world but let’s be honest, this just is not the case.
“Previous generations battled institutional sexism, one of the biggest battles for feminists in the 21st century is against the lazy objectification of women in media and the alarming absence of female voices from the commentariat” – Colette Brown, Irish Examiner 18th January 2012
Frequently images of scantily clad women are used to sell products. This is veiled under the concept that sex sells. But in reality, no one needs to objectify the human body to make profits. Gender stereotyping is institutionalising sexism and it is holding women back.
What can we do?
If we strive to be equal and to live in a society where we have real equality of opportunity, then we must take a stand against discriminatory practices. We must stop others from institutionalising homophobia and sexism through images and language. The next time you see a sexist / homophobic post on Facebook, why not ask the person to take it down. Likewise if you see a sexist poster, deface it or rip it down. Take a stand and fight back – doing nothing only makes the problem worse.
Stamp out Homophobia and Sexism!