language

Stop Losing Your Minds Over Vanity Fair‘s Brett Berk Writing The Word ‘Fag’

Hey everyone! Guess what? Gay people get to use the word “fag.” Even gay people writing for major magazines. It’s our word! It’s not for heterosexuals, even your best fag hag. The word is the strict territory of The Gays, and you can choose to use it in the company of friends, or you can choose to never utter it. That’s your call. But you don’t get to tell other gays whether or not it’s banned from their vocabulary, which is what so many have tried to do to Brett Berk, the gay Vanity Fair scribe who’s usually covering cars for the magazine’s Stick Shift blog. Berk used the term in describing Blaine and Kurt in a Glee recap. (“Nice singing. But how can having girls in the audience make these cartwheeling, foam-party fags straight-sexy?”) Now everyone is freaking out about it as if he killed your first born. The overreaction is stupid.

Whether out of pressure from VF brass or all your tweets, Berk now says he’s sorry: “I would like to apologize sincerely to anyone I offended with the use of the term ‘fag’ (now removed) in this ‘Gay Guide to Glee’ column. As an openly gay writer writing in an overtly overblown style, my intent in using the word in this offhanded way was to continue my consistent efforts to confront and challenge stereotype, to unpack the way in which language works, and to deconstruct the clever gender politics at play in the scene I described: teasing out the purposeful incongruity of this (foamy) attempt to make the conspicuously gay Dalton Warblers seem “sexy” to females. Anyone with even a whiff of familiarity with my writing will know that I am, and have long been, a tireless agitator, here at VF.com and elsewhere, for gay rights, as well as a huge supporter of everything Glee has accomplished in advancing a meaningful dialogue about homosexuality in our popular culture—and in our youth culture in particular.”

Do standards change a bit when you’re writing for a national magazine with a majority straight audience? Well sure, that’s a reasonable debate to have. But Berk’s writing, while read by straights, is almost always targeted at a gay audience. A gay writer writing for gays about a gay show: imagine! Which means the f-bomb, while offensive to some, remains completely kosher for him to use. Quit being such fags about it, or you’re going to wake GLAAD. (Oops, too late: “Does the author have license to do this because he himself is a gay man? Among his friends, maybe. But the second this article went live, this f-word didn’t belong to Brett Berk anymore. It belonged to Vanity Fair. So then, does Vanity Fair have license to casually throw around the f-word to describe gay men? Absolutely not. And that’s why his apology wasn’t enough by itself.”)

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