Hey Your Gay

Howsabout a little good news, Shakers?
FOR the first time since the Advertising Council was founded in 1942, the organization — which directs and coordinates public service campaigns on behalf of Madison Avenue and the media industry — is introducing ads meant to tackle a social issue of concern to gays and lesbians.

The campaign, which is scheduled to be announced by the council in Washington on Wednesday, will seek to discourage bullying and harassment of teenagers who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

The campaign, created pro bono by the New York office of Arnold Worldwide, urges an end to using derogatory language, particularly labeling anything deemed negative or unpleasant as "so gay." That is underlined by the theme of the campaign: "When you say, 'That's so gay,' do you realize what you say? Knock it off."

There will be television and radio commercials, print and outdoor ads and a special Web site devoted to the campaign (thinkb4youspeak.com). Some spots feature celebrities, the young actress Hilary Duff and the comedian Wanda Sykes, delivering the message.

The campaign is on behalf of a nonprofit organization in New York called the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or Glsen (pronounced glisten), which promotes tolerance among students. Glsen is spending about $2 million to develop and produce the campaign.

…The campaign is "something I dreamed about for 10 years," said Kevin Jennings, the founder and executive director at Glsen, and has been in active development for two years.
The Ad Council has previously done public service antidiscrimination campaigns like "A mind is a terrible thing to waste" for the United Negro College Fund and "Expect the best from a girl and that's what you'll get" for, if I recall correctly, a coalition of women's groups.

Naturally, this will elicit the regular complaints of language policing and "political correctness" gone wild, to which I can only say, for what certainly feels like the nine gazillionth time, usually matters of sensitivity aren't about marginalized people being oversensitive, but people who use the slurs that casually marginalize them being not sensitive enough—and if you really feel obliged to complain about having to expand your vocabulary beyond gay and bitch and retard, that says something decidedly more unflattering about you than it does about the people who object to your lexicon. Plenty of us have managed to figure out that refusing to use language which perpetuates oppression is not enslaving oneself to the language police. It's just doing the basic work required of someone who doesn't want to be a fucking asshole.

Anyway, I'll end with a pleasant thought: I'm proud of Mama Shakes for many reasons, but chief among them is that, before her retirement from teaching high school English, she forbade the use of "gay" as a synonym for stupid in her classroom. "There are two ways to use the word gay in my classroom: Happy or homosexual. If you're not using it in one of those two ways, find another word."

She's secretly very fierce.

["Hey Your Gay" explanation here.]

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