TMZ reported on November 16 that Willow Palin, one of Sarah Palin’s daughters (the one not on “Dancing With the Stars” on ABC), used the word “faggot” on Facebook against a critic of her family’s reality show titled “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” on TLC, which premiered on November 14.
And so a tempest in a teapot was born. I would have gladly ignored this silliness for many reasons, but something about the use of the word “faggot” in the coverage has made me pause. Is it me, or have the mainstream media generally been restrained in using “faggot” in this story? Seems so to me.
Let’s start with TMZ. “Sarah Palin’s Daughter Uses Homophobic Slurs” was the headline to their original story:
Sarah Palin’s 16-year-old daughter Willow Palin used multiple homophobic slurs — including the word f**got — to attack a Facebook user who criticized her mom’s new reality show …. TMZ has learned.
During the premiere of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” Sunday night — a boy named Tre who went to school with the Palin kids wrote a status update that read, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska, is failing so hard right now.”
The comment sparked an intense response from Willow — who replied on the boy’s wall, “Haha your so gay. I have no idea who you are, But what I’ve seen pictures of, your disgusting … My sister had a kid and is still hot.”
Willow followed up that comment with another that read, “Tre stfu. Your such a f**got.”
TMZ from the start decided to write “faggot” with asterisks and subsequent related stories continue to do so. Other mainstream media have refrained from using “faggot” in the headlines, but, for example, The Huffington Post in its round up of the coverage did use it in the text without asterisks.
“GOProud on the Willow Palin ‘Controversy'” is the title of a statement from GOProud, a gay Republican group. Leaving aside the merits of the GOProud defense of Willow, it is notable that “faggot” is never used in the statement.
Now, when it comes to the LGBT media and LGBT bloggers, “faggot” seems to be used without restraint in relation to this story. For example, “The Palins and ‘Faggots'” is the title of the original blog post on this story by Andrew Sullivan. Gay.com and others in the LGBT media used “faggot” in their headlines.
Why do LGBT media and LGBT bloggers (myself included) feel free to use “faggot” and mainstream media, in this case anyway, feel restrained? I obviously can’t answer for anyone but myself.
I don’t think it’s possible to have a serious dialogue about anything if I can’t use the words involved. I don’t think “faggot” should be used without caution by the media, but it should be allowable in context.