There was a recent article in PinkNews about a 54 y/o man (presumably from the UK) who was banned from Facebook after commenting on a food-related post and photo of the British culinary, er, phenomenon known as "faggots". He simply said that he likes the dish, but the real crime is that he used that word when he did.
It gets better.
The 68 y/o woman who initially posted the photo of the food dish was blocked from Facebook for 12 hours. Reportedly, there was a "Free Eileen" campaign.
Shake my head.
I understand the cringeworthy word above is definitely a wrong one to use most of the time. The Facebook seems to think no one should ever use the word, and they're willing to punish anyone who does.
In case you didn't already know, I am gay and a geek. I have had more than a fair share of mean-spirited labels tossed my way. But I disagree with Facebook on this.
I disagree because the word in question has a few siblings (homonyms) that are so completely different in meaning that they couldn't possibly be disparaging. "Faggot" is not, like the N-word, a lexeme that originated as a derogatory term. Usage of the latter word was begun many centuries ago, and today it ranks deservedly as what Dictionary.com describes "probably the most offensive word in the English language". (If its usage was not begun in a sadistic context, then it quickly slipped down the slope from inappropriate to hatefully offensive.)
What are these homonyms?
Collins (published in the UK) defines faggot in two ways: 1) a bundle of anything, but especially kindling, iron bars or balls of chopped meat with herbs; and, 2) a male homosexual. What Mr Wilkes was referring to with the comment that got him banned from Facebook was not his love of sticks or of men, but of those fried balls of minced offal that most of us would rather not think about in a mealtime context.
When I was studying and working as a professional tenor, I sang quite a lot of works by Benjamin Britten. One of my favorite pieces to rehearse and perform was his canticle Abraham & Isaac. This is the biblical tale in which Abraham is requested by God to sacrifice his favorite son, Isaac. In the story, Abraham agrees to the request. He collects Isaac and takes him, along with a sword and fire-making items, to the top of a mountain on a "hunting trip". Odiously, Abraham not only lies to his son, but he also asks him to carry the wood that will soon be his own pyre. In Britten's setting of the tale, when they reach the desired spot, Abraham says to Isaac, "Lay down thy faggot, my own son dear", reveals the true reason for the expedition and readies the boy for slaughter. Hard stuff, indeed. That's the drama of it.
At first, it was odd to sing the word, but after researching the term, I accepted the definition and overcame the urge to be ridiculously hypersensitive. The really tough stuff came with playing the role of Abraham. (A duet for alto, tenor and piano, Britten's canticle is not a staged work, but it is some of the most dramatic music writing that exists. Have a listen and see for yourself.) It was all I could do to keep emotions from interfering with me vocally. The theatre of the work most assuredly eclipsed any worry over what the listeners might think by me singing this F-word.
I believe that Ms Perrin and Mr Wilkes were unjustly penalized by Facebook. They were talking about food, and from what I gather, they weren't even engaging in the tired game of innuendo. This action by the social media giant only served to bolster the argument that political correctness is on its head. It also devalues the true need for harsh action whenever hate speech does occur.