We stopped freaking out about the “Oh my god, women want to wear pants!” thing a really long time ago. Women wandered into the traditionally masculine realms of self-expression and ambition and now it’s just normal.
Not so with masculinity. It is still as rigid and well defended as ever, despite a few David Bowies or Johnny Depps in the mix. Just look at last year’s total freaking meltdown about a J. Crew catalog that carried a photo of a woman painting her young son’s toenails. Just look at the way the more delicate boys of the world are bullied by their classmates and accused of being gay. Just look at the gender imbalance in the diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder in children, with gender disordered pre-pubescent boys outnumbering girls at a rate of up to 30 to 1. When a girl is boyish, or even claims she’d rather be a boy, it’s cute. She’s a tomboy. When a boy is girlish, wanting to wear dresses or try on some makeup, it’s a mental disorder and needs an immediate medical intervention.
Telling people not to use the word “fag” or “gay” isn’t going to stop homophobia. You have to get out there and put an end to it. People have ways of discriminating against gays without using the word.
Same can be said with the “n-word.” Telling people not to use certain words is not stopping discrimination. Putting your ass on the line to make a difference is putting an end to discrimination.
Yes, words can be hurtful, but that’s hardly enough to even fix the problem.