Not to beat up on NPR or anything, but…
This morning, fellow freelancer, Erik Sherman drew my attention to an interview that NPR Supreme Court expert, Nina Totenberg did last weekend on Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon. Totenberg had this to say:
There were people who said that because, in a speech about eight years ago, [Sotomayor] said that she would hope that a Latina judge would, relying on her experiences, reach a wiser conclusion than a white male judge relying on his. I just don’t think that that’s enough to really queer this nomination.
Sherman blogged about this interesting use of the word queer on BNET’s media blog, where he analyzes industry news and opinion. He introduces some interesting points that Totenberg and Simon should consider, writing:
I suspect that the irony of describing the impact of charges of bias with what is an undoubtedly loaded word in society was unintentional. Nevertheless, it was there.
Indeed. And Sherman’s post adds to the discussion about language that is so important in journalism today.
Meanwhile, the verb queer has been reclaimed in similar ways as the noun or adjective queer, as noted in a book review of Queer Studies: an Interdisciplinary Reader, edited by Robert J. Corber and Stephen Valocchi (Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2003).
“To queer” is to disrupt the dominant cultural understanding of the naturalness of heterosexuality and conventional gender relations. Queer studies is an epistemology, an approach to knowledge, as much as it is a topical field.
No doubt this is not what Totenberg had in mind when she interjected this uncommon use of the word. Meanwhile, I’m torn between personal admiration for her vocabulary and professional frustration at her lack of sensitivity in using the word queer so cavalierly.