Author has First Amendment rights; sexual-preference joke still wrong

Conservative political comedienne Ann Coulter should be proud of the amount of publicity she can generate for herself with one well-placed controversial statement.Coulter joked, among other things, that John Edwards was a “faggot” at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference and has drawn criticism from both liberal and conservative groups.

Coulter actually said, “I was going to have a few comments about the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards. But it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot.'”

Taking away the fact that Coulter has built her career around controversy, this one joke has sparked debate about whether it is OK to use “faggot,” a term typically demeaning to homosexuals in the United States, as what Coulter called “…a schoolyard taunt” Monday on Hannity & Colmes.

John Cloud, a gay columnist for TIME magazine, wrote Monday that he believed Coulter had not intended to be anti-gay but meant to crack a joke drawing attention to “speech codes,” and Coulter herself said the joke was a reference to “Grey’s Anatomy” star Isaiah Washington entering rehab after calling a co-star a “faggot.”

“I do have one complaint with Coulter’s joke: It wasn’t that funny,” Cloud wrote.

Cloud then continued to say he didn’t understand why Coulter had chosen to use an anti-gay slur against Edwards, but that “…she doesn’t need her semiannual cadenzas of outrage to be funny; she just needs us to condemn them, louder and louder every time.”

I have to agree with Cloud.

This statement wasn’t intended to be anti-gay; it was intended to be anti-Edwards.

But, intentions aside, the fact remains the word “faggot” was used as an insult.

Language in American society is a funny thing. The words we use to insult each other rarely refer to characteristics specific to one individual, but rather characteristics applied to a group of people.

It would be very odd, for instance, to hear someone say, “Hey, you just cut me off, you gum-chewing, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, somewhat tall, white girl!”

Instead, it’s more likely that someone would use the terms “stupid women-drivers” or “bitch.”

But what does being a woman have to do with bad driving? What does being gay or straight have to do with John Edwards’ politics?

In short, nothing. But it is so much easier and takes far less imagination to use these types of insults.

Coulter has the First Amendment right to say almost anything without being censored, and I definitely support that. But I would hope, as an intelligent and influential figure, she would be more creative with the words she chooses.

On the other hand, I would also hope for a more intelligent public that realizes insults referring to sexuality are not OK and using words such as “faggot” are just going to slow the social progress of our country.

After all, if all men and women are created equal and are equal under the law, then they shouldn’t live in fear of violence or verbal abuse simply for loving someone of the same gender.

Talia Sampson is a junior news-editorial journalism and international relations major from Moorpark, Calif. Her column appears Thursdays.