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Locker room talk

Original post made by SkepticAl on Mar 7, 2007

In the locker room of my gym at about 5 p.m. today, I was quite disheartened to hear a man I assume to be a member of my community openly using pejorative language and making offensive comments about gays. I expect he never would have joked so loudly about any ethnic group, but anti-gay bigotry is still tolerated in the mainstream of American culture. The degree of comfort and safety he must have felt in making those comments provide evidence of why gay and lesbian members of our community do not yet feel entirely comfortable and safe, even in our fairly liberal enclave.

Comments (18)

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 8, 2007 at 12:29 pm

Bigotry is never a plesant sight, regardles of who displays it or where it is targeted. The trouble is that in this case by protesting that bigotry at that time you would have been exposing yourself to questions about yourself, redardless of your own orientation. So I presume you remained silent and vented here. I can't say I blame you.

Here is a question: How do present concept of "Gay bashing is bad" without presenting the sexual side to the public at large, including to children for whom the topic of sex in any description is not yet a suitable thing? I REALLY don't want ot be explaining the ins and outs of gay rights to my young children who don't even know what heterosexual sex is about. They are not old enough for those discussions yet. But they ask questions about what they see going on and being discussed around them.

Yet, if we don't open it up, how will we change attitudes?


Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 8, 2007 at 7:44 pm

Challenging questions. I think it's possible to discuss respect, difference, love, intimacy, without getting into sexual activity descriptions prematurely. It'll be a while before I have to talk to my children about it. We'll see.

To elaborate on my situation, true, I didn't speak up in the moment. Sizing up the situation - location, numbers of people laughing, and my less-than-intimidating frame - it didn't seem prudent to step in and challenge strangers. It all got started with guys joking about their proximity to each other in the locker room, and then led to that one guy in particular probably feeling the need to prove his heterosexual status by making fun of the "f*****t" he encountered in some other locker room once. You're right that such intervention would probably lead to questions about me, though it shouldn't (and I'm not discussing it precisely because it shouldn't matter). So then I'm thinking that guy would have to show his buddies that he wasn't going to shut up just because some other "f*****t" was offended. I'm not suggesting he seemed physically threatening, but who would honestly be surprised if he had gotten physical with me? But it's pretty unlikely that I could have had the desired effect - "oh, you're right. I'm sorry. My bad."


Posted by ten18, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2007 at 9:24 pm

I wouldn't engage in any bashing, but what if I think it's a disgusting and aberrant lifestyle that should not be encouraged? Am I to remain silent? What about my right of free speech?


Posted by Mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 8, 2007 at 11:59 pm

Ten 18, the answer to your question is, "yes, you are to remain silent." Just because you think someone has a disgusting and aberrant lifestyle doesn't mean it's an appropriate subject to discuss with others in a public forum like the gym. To do so is distasteful and reflects poorly on you. As an analogy, think about someone who keeps a dirty, cluttered house. Plenty of people might look upon that as a disgusting and aberrant lifestyle. But simply holding that belief does not give a person the right to speak or act in an offensive manner about someone else's personal life. Some things simply aren't DONE. Period.

You have the right of free speech and you should exercise it... but with discretion.


Posted by French person, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2007 at 12:00 am

Actually you are wrong. There is an ethnic group that is consistently made fun of everywhere in the US, including the media, and noone seems to think much of it: the French...

Even Thomas Friedman, when he gave his talk on global warming at Stanford the other day, mocked the French...

And I am not surprised you heard such slurs in Palo Alto. Palo Altans love to portray themselves as sophisticated people, but in fact they are quite conservative and cliquish in my opinion... I have never felt very comfortable in this community, in any circle, not even at our neighborhood school...


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2007 at 5:41 am

What about a comment that conservatives are Nazis and racists? This is mainstream. The term F-A-G-G-O-T is equally applicable to heterosexuals in that it defines a behavior found equally in homo and hetero individuals. It is bad enough that gay has been coopted.


Posted by Leslie, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 9, 2007 at 6:06 am

Skeptical Al,
Actually it's pretty simple to introduce young children to same sex relationships; simply have committed same sex couples as friends. We have long standing friendships with same sex couples. Our kids have grown up knowing that there are different ways to be in committed relationships and all are good and equal. Oh,and to French Person, we also have friends who are French as well as other national origins. The point is if you live as you speak there are no issues.
Leslie


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2007 at 10:01 am

We try to teach our children that it is OK to disagree with a person but still respect them.

It is wrong in a public venue to criticize and make fun of any lifestyle or group. However, it is not wrong to have an opinion which is different from a certain group and be able to discuss those differences in a respectful manner in a sensible debate with someone of that opinion and be friends. I may prefer the As to the Giants and be able to discuss that with a Giants fan over a cup of coffee and then both of us go to cheer on our own sons' baseball team together.

It is possible to dislike a lifestyle but like the person or people involved. It is human to disagree but civilised to agree to disagree.

Oh, and it is possible to dislike in general terms, but respect the individuals without being hypocritical.


Posted by Mr. Difference, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 9, 2007 at 10:30 am

We're all different. Let's teach our kids to respect THAT, including our modeling that behavior for them.


Posted by Mr. Difference, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 9, 2007 at 12:50 pm

From now on, politically motivated gay bashing is going to come at a price. It's about time

Web Link


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2007 at 1:33 pm

"It is wrong in a public venue to criticize and make fun of any lifestyle or group."
There is so much wrong with that statement that I hesitate to comment at all. The image of mobs killing people for an imagined slight to a religious figure comes to mind. It is a part of the civilizing process to learn that your displeasure is not a license to shut someone up. No one has a right not to be offended. People upset by locker room conversations might want to change elsewhere, or even learn some conter-jokes.


Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 10, 2007 at 4:53 pm

Walter - my word was "disheartened" - not "upset." And yes, if that bigoted attitude were pervasive at my gym, I would go elsewhere. I am not suggesting that the idiot making the jokes did anything illegal or anything that should be illegal, nor would I support an angry mob targeting the guy. Nor would I prepare any "counter-jokes" to pile ridicule on ridicule.

Certainly the comment "It is wrong in a public venue to criticize and make fun of any lifestyle or group" went too far. But then you went too far by arguing against an argument no one made when you wrote - "learn that your displeasure is not a license to shut someone up. No one has a right not to be offended." No one was talking about "shutting people up" or a "right not to be offended." I started this thread by making an observation and a judgment about the state of things more broadly, and others are welcome to do the same, but it's counterproductive when you (as usual) start twisting the words of others.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2007 at 6:32 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2007 at 7:31 pm

I would like to know how the comment "It is wrong in a public venue to criticize and make fun of any lifestyle or group" went too far. In the context of locker room chit chat or mockery, which is what is being discussed and in particular following on from the comment of what we teach our children, I do not think that this is going "too far". Certainly, if the context of the whole post was taken into account, I can't say that this comment was anything other than respectful.

If anyone took this as being disrespectful, then they have my apologies.

Naturally, there is a time and a place for critical comments, we have them here all the time. Everyone has a right to criticize, but the kind of critical mockery that hurts an innocent bystander as described is what we are discussing.


Posted by IMHO, a resident of Professorville
on Mar 10, 2007 at 9:18 pm

If we agree to reject critical mockery, are we wrong ask the gay community to tone down the critical mockery often noticeable in gay pride parades and events?


Posted by Granite, a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2007 at 10:42 am

I think its good that you were upset, SkepticAl, I think that shows that gay-bashing talk isn't tolerated. If it were, you wouldn't have made this post. It doesn't show a lot of sensativity or class to say stuff that's really offensive to one group or another, of course, but realistically, its is and always will be par for the course to hear that.
One time, I was in a McDonalds in a college town in another state. I was standing in line when this kid got his order filled in front of me. He got upset because he didn't get enough fries, I guess because he said, "What? Are we in Israel? Why are you trying to Jew me out of my fries!" As a Jewish person, I was absolutely shocked and angry. I was so flabbergasted that I didn't know if I should say anything, and I kept my mouth shut. Over the years though I've just learned to laugh it off - not because I approve, but just because the kid was obviously an idiot.


Posted by IMHO, a resident of Professorville
on Mar 11, 2007 at 1:11 pm


Yeah, some weeks ago I attended the Amos Oz presentation at Stanford.

An older gentleman leaned toward me and said, "There's a lot of Jews here".

Smilingly I said something like, "Yeah, I've heard lots of shalom-shaloming."

He looked at me blankly and I said nothing.

To relieve this awkward moment, his female companion pushed him away from me, scolding him, "Enough. You've made your point."



Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 11, 2007 at 3:08 pm

Parent -

When I said the earlier comment went too far, I meant simply that it seems too broad. There are appropriate times and ways to criticize a "group" in public. I think we are in agreement that "groups" ought not to be criticized or mocked simply because of who they are, but it is part of public debate to criticize certain groups based on actions, statements, politics, etc.

I'm not asking for censorship or punishment, just asserting what I think crosses a line in terms of what's tasteful or civic-minded versus what's tasteless, crass, or offensive.


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