Friday, 30 July 2010

'Legitimising name calling'

On Wednesday, the Daily Star reported on research from Staffordshire University that '93 per cent of fans believe homophobia has no place in football.'

The editorial that accompanied the story said gay footballers should come out:

Yes, there are still isolated incidents of hate. But the vast majority of modern supporters would not bat an eyelid. There is nothing to fear.

Yet this is the same paper that, in an editorial a few weeks ago, said:

Yes, it was a reaction to a story about gay asylum seekers but the stark wording of the headline suggested the Star was giving a wider view.

And this is the same paper that, in December 2009, was reporting the views of Max Clifford that gay footballers should not come out:

He said: “It’s a very sad state of affairs. But it’s a fact that homophobia in football is as strong now as it was 10 years ago...

Max now believes any star would be unwise to follow the example of Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas who has come out as gay.
He warned: “If he did, it would effectively be his career over.”

Of course, one reason why gay footballers might not wish to tell everyone about their sexuality is so they can avoid childish 'jokes' such as this one. From the Daily Star:

That article claims homophobic supporters sang a 'sick song' which the Star then goes to the trouble of repeating, just so any other bigot who might want to sing it will know all the words.

And several years ago, when Steven Gerrard had topped a 'sexiest footballer' poll of gay fans, the Star ran a picture of him with a handbag photoshopped onto his arm.

On Tuesday, the Star's right-wing, red-top rival proved calling homosexuals crude names is hardly a thing of the past. The Sun's Gordon Smart wrote a (fascinating) article about Louie Spence being at a party hosted by the Beckhams.

The headline:

Clause 12 of the Editor's Code of Practice says:

The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

As No Rock and Roll Fun points out:

You can't throw a word like 'bender' into a headline about a gay man. Not in a newspaper that still pretends it has any sort of standards. Homophobic name-calling isn't the same as a witty headline.

Moreover, Smart also said:

Pineapple Dance Studios star Louie, or Louise as I like to call him.

No Rock and Roll Fun again:

Do you see? Because he's gay, Gordon has given him a woman's name.

And it's not the first time - Smart said the same thing on 9 June:

Now Pineapple Dance Studios hero LOUIE SPENCE - Louise as I call him.

A couple of weeks ago, when Spence had done a dance routine with Vernon Kay, Smart renamed him Vernon Gay:

On other occasions, the Sun has called Spence 'flamboyant', 'master mincer' and a 'fruit'.

This isn't confined to Spence either. When Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe said he wasn't gay in an interview in early March, the Sun decided to go with the headline:

The story said Radcliffe had:

been plagued by speculation he is more Botter than Potter.

And the Sun isn't the only Murdoch paper using such unacceptable language. Carrie Dunn at The F Word reports that in last week's Sunday Times, tiresome controversy-seeker AA Gill said:

Some time ago, I made a cheap and frankly unnecessary joke about Clare Balding looking like a big lesbian. And afterwards somebody tugged my sleeve to point out that she is a big lesbian, and I felt foolish and guilty. So I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise. Sorry.

Now back to the dyke on a bike, puffing up the nooks and crannies at the bottom end of the nation.

Balding, unsurprisingly, was offended and wrote to editor John Witherow. His response was as ignorant and arrogant as it could have been:

In my view some members of the gay community need to stop regarding themselves as having a special victim status and behave like any other sensible group that is accepted by society. Not having a privileged status means, of course, one must accept occasionally being the butt of jokes.

A person’s sexuality should not give them a protected status. Jeremy Clarkson, perhaps the epitome of the heterosexual male, is constantly jeered at for his dress sense (lack of), adolescent mind-set and hair style.

He puts up with it as a presenter’s lot and in this context I hardly think that AA Gill’s remarks were particularly 'cruel', especially as he ended by so warmly endorsing you as a presenter.

So he doesn't think there's anything wrong with calling someone a 'dyke'. Balding, rightly, wasn't impressed:

When the day comes that people stop resigning from high office, being disowned by their families, getting beaten up and in some instances committing suicide because of their sexuality, you may have a point.

This is not about me putting up with having the piss taken out of me, something I have been quite able to withstand, it is about you legitimising name calling. ‘Dyke’ is not shouted out in school playgrounds (or as I’ve had it at an airport) as a compliment, believe me.

It may be your job to defend your writer and your editorial team but if you really think that homophobia does not exist and was not demonstrated beyond being ‘the butt of a joke’ then we have a problem.

Balding has now made a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission under Clause 12.

To repeat what No Rock and Roll Fun said: 'Homophobic name-calling isn't the same as a witty headline.'

So isn't it time the PCC made it clear that using derogatory terms such as 'bender', 'fruit' and 'dyke' does indeed 'legitimise name calling' and simply is not acceptable?

(Hat-tip The Sun - Tabloid Lies)


  1. If you complain to the PCC about these homophobic terms, the decision that they send you (if it gets that far) will contain an explanation like this: "The Committee noted that issues of taste and offensiveness fell outside its remit, and that it was therefore unable to rule on the use of the term [insert offensive phrase]."

  2. These papers would be the first to tear some D-list celebrity apart for using the same language.

  3. I have to say I thought today's headline in the Express was blatant racism however qualifying the editorial.

  4. It'll be interesting to see what the PCC makes of the current spat between Claire Balding and AA Gill/Sunday Times over being called a dyke.

    I must say I was impressed by the editor's reaction to it, namely "So what?".


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