The Other ‘F’ Word

Words matter.

Everyday in the paper we can read of the carefully crafted words from diplomats around the world as they communicate with friends and foes.  The daily press briefing in the White House often has the Press Secretary dancing on the head of a pin in an attempt to convey just the right tone and meaning with his carefully chosen phrases.  With our family and friends we at times couch our words so as not to offend or hurt feelings.  Over and over again, day in and day out, we see evidence that the choice of words we use matters, and has consequences.

Over the past few months a story has developed from Hollywood that has more to do with our society, than with the stars of  “Grey’s Anatomy”, where the firestorm started.  Last October Isaiah Washington, an actor on the ABC drama not only verbally clashed with co-star Patrick Dempsey, but also had his hands around Dempsey’s throat.  Washington then uttered the ‘f’ word, in regards to T.R. Knight, another actor on the show.  Up to that point Knight had not ‘come out’ publicly as a gay man.    It was that moment, Knight explained later, that something shifted in him and caused him to step out of the closet.

The outrage over Washington’s slur only got worse following the Golden Globes last week when he denied ever using the ‘f’ word.  His more than clumsy style in making his statement only has made this story grow.  Clearly Washington has some issues that need resolution, and ABC needs to deal with him post haste.  He should be ordered to participate in anger management and counseling courses.  And his contract with ABC should be reevaluated.

Had one of the stars on the highly rated ABC-TV show called Washington the ‘n’ word there would be justified outrage over the racial slur.  If a Jewish epithet were used the same type of condemnation would have occurred.  There would have been much more national clamor for a resolution had a racial slur been used on the set of “Grey’s Anatomy” than what was received as the result of the insensitive and shameful ‘f’ word.  Why is that?  Why should it be more painful for black people to hear the ‘n’ word, than to have gay people hear the ‘f’ word?  Why should there be a double standard when it comes to hate speech?

The silence of too many in our country over Washington’s hateful word is, I fear, a sign of homophobia in America, and the moral drift that comes with this hatred.  ABC should have stepped in at once and denounced the words used by Washington.  If the network thinks that this issue is just going to go away as their ad revenues just keep rolling, I suggest they might have a rude awakening.  Gay people buy products…..and they can also stop buying certain products that get advertised on shows with actors like Washington who uses the ‘f’ word.

Words matter.

When words like that uttered by Washington do not meet with a national smack down it lends acceptability for others to also use them.  The scars and damage by words can be very real for people.  There are standards for social interaction and good manners that are part of any healthy society.  When words are used to injure others based on ethnic background or sexual identity there needs to be repercussions.  I have never worked in an environment where it was acceptable to act as Washington did.  ABC should have no fewer standards for postive behavior than the vast majority of other workplaces in America.

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3 thoughts on “The Other ‘F’ Word

  1. You are absolutely right about the double standard in our society, regarding the inappropriateness of the “N’ word versus the “Faggot” word. As a Gay man, I feel the only way to correct this, is to confront it. You would be fired for using the “N” word at work. And people should know that they will also be fired for using “the other ‘F’ word.” Thanks for a thoughtful commentary.

  2. It bothers me just as much to here fellow gays use the word “queer” to refer to us, often as a political statement, as it does to hear someone else use it as a slur. For Pete’s sake, now they have a field called “queer studies” at universities. Maybe it’s just me. By the standards of the gay community, I’m a right-winger. A registered Republican who plans on voting for Giuliani, but…

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