An Cailín Rua
With the election fun of late, it might have escaped notice that one of Ireland’s best-loved GAA pundits recently got himself into hot water. On RTÉ’s Allianz League Sunday programme, Colm O’Rourke was criticised after suggesting that reducing contact in football might turn it into ‘a namby-pamby pansy-boy game’.
Leading referee David Gough objected on Twitter to the use of ‘homophobic language’ on national TV. Former Cork player Conor Cusack mentioned that an ‘outdated label’ was being used on the programme. Both men have come out as gay; two of a tiny number of high-profile openly LGBTI figures in the GAA. Is it any wonder?
Does this mean that Colm O’Rourke is ‘a homophobe’? Unlikely, though of course, only he will truly be able to answer that. Probably the remark was made in ignorance rather than malice, from a time where such a phrase might have been inoffensive to the – straight – majority. This time being, of course, a time when being openly LGBTI wasn’t really deemed acceptable.
The phrase in question is typically deployed in a belittling, derogatory manner towards members of the LGBTI community; the implication being that they are somehow weaker, lesser or not as brave as ‘regular’ people. Whether or not you agree with this yourself does not change the fact that the connotation exists.
And research proves that such language can make younger LGBTI people feel like they don’t belong. As if it’s not difficult enough.
Predictably, Gough and Cusack’s remarks were met with a barrage of outrage from a bunch of people who have never in their lives been at the receiving end of a homophobic slur. Mostly grown straight men having meltdowns. Outraged at the suggestion that trying to be a decent, kind and empathetic human being by refraining from using hurtful language for the sake of it might be something to which we should aspire.
Language, of course, is the thin end of the wedge, just one example of abusive behaviour endured by members of the LGBTI community, others being discrimination and assault. Using language like this, unchallenged, on the national airwaves, implies that it is acceptable, and emboldens those who seek to use it in an abusive context. So you’ll see why people were quick to highlight it.
But oh, my, how people don’t like hearing these things. Amidst the tantrums, the old reliables were trotted out. ‘PC gone mad’. ‘Faux outrage’. ‘Snowflakes’.
Gentlemen – and yes, it is mostly yourselves – having gone against all advice and read the comments this week, it’s clear to me that the only snowflakes out there are those whining and moaning that using this type of language really isn’t very sound. Hilariously, these same people don’t appear to comprehend that the very nature of free speech means that it can be freely challenged.
I can understand the tendency to be defensive; I made a faux pas myself recently by unknowingly using a symbol of white supremacist hate speech (the OK emoji, for anyone wondering), only to have it pointed out, multiple times. My first reaction was annoyance – of course I hadn’t meant it in that way and how dare they? But y’know, I didn’t need to use it that badly, so I deleted it, learned a lesson and moved on with my life.
It’s disappointing that at the time of writing, O’Rourke – incidentally, principal of a boy’s secondary school – hasn’t acknowledged the issue; however, the weekend may of course offer an opportunity to do so.
But when it boils down to it, most people have better things to do than wait around to be offended. In fact, if people just stopped saying offensive, hurtful things and tried being sound, they could all just go off and have lives for themselves. But in the meantime, forgive them for trying to be kind.
Using the phrase ‘PC gone mad’ tells the world that you prioritise your right to use a stupid phrase over the feelings, wellbeing and even safety of a minority group. And really, who wants to be that person? If your PC’s gone mad, take it back to the shop and get it fixed. But if it keeps you from hurting people from behind the safety of your screen, then maybe leave it a while. The world will be nicer for it.
An Cailín Rua