The Willow Palin “Controversy”

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.

4 Responses

  1. I noticed that too. I first noticed it in the comments section of GayPatriot, but I figured it was due to their filter. It won’t let you say “lesbian” either for some reason. The only way it shows up is if the bloggers release the comment later. I don’t know, but I guessed that the media sites have filters that won’t let their writers use “naughty words”.

    As for myself, I don’t worry about the use of the word. It’s gotten over used like “racist” to the point that it’s meaningless. But then I don’t grant others the power to offend me. If one is offended by a word, they are the one with a problem.

  2. Forgot to mention that I have a hard time believing that so many people really cared. Especially when you look at slurs used by Pete Stark and Bill Richardson that nobody seemed to care about.

  3. People cared because it showed how uncivilized the children of Sarah Parlin are. One really cannot imagine Chelsea Clinton or the Bush twins using language like that (including but not limited to “faggot”). So much for the “family values” that Palin is supposed to embody. Not only does Bristol Palin, the spokesperson for abstinence, have a child out of wedlock, but she and her younger sister have potty mouths.

  4. I believe that mainstream media shys away from using the term because of the fear that they’d be accused of having an anti-gay bias in so doing.

    I agree that the word (and other slurs, as well), when used in context, ought to be more readily trotted out.

    It would seem that LGBT media recognize that the word is what it is (there’s a commentary!) and that using it in the particular fashion isn’t going to invite any extraordinary criticism.

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