Homophobia in social media: Twitter’s foul beak revealed
The word “faggot” has been used more than 2.5 million times on Twitter since July 5 this year.
The statistic is courtesy of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta in Canada, which has set up a website campaign that records instances of casual homophobia on Twitter.
The campaign site nohomophobes.com aims to highlight the extent of the negative language and by doing so put an end to what it calls casual homophobia.
The site also records use of “so gay”, “no homo” and “dyke”.
“Words and phrases like ‘faggot,’ ‘dyke,’ ‘no homo,’ and ‘so gay’ are used casually in everyday language, despite promoting the continued alienation, isolation and — in some tragic cases — suicide of sexual and gender minority (LGBTQ) youth,” the website states, adding:
“We no longer tolerate racist language, we’re getting better at dealing with sexist language, but sadly we’re still not actively addressing homophobic and transphobic language in our society.”
Visitors to the site can view the targeted words being used by Twitter users as a stream of posts scrolls down the page.
Campaign founder Associate Professor Kristopher Wells said people have become desensitized to language that demeans gays and lesbians.
“We see all across the world athletes tweeting and casual language thrown around the boardroom, and it's all designed to demean and perpetuate stereotypes against the lesbian gay bisexual, transgender community.”
Paul Martin, principal psychologist at Brisbane’s Centre for Human Potential, told GayNewsNetwork that persistent negative language has enormous potential to cause psychological damage.
“I think that if we use it among ourselves, for example if you say, ‘You big queen’ or something – when it’s perceived to be in a way that’s brotherly, it can be seen as a bit of fun,” Martin said.
“But when it comes from external parties and when the context of that Tweet is judgemental or undermining, it has enormous potential to cause psychological damage.
“Where the damage comes in is where there’s existing damage because of internalised homophobia, from the schoolyard, from sport, it’s everywhere. So when people are influenced by those beliefs they feel a lack of confidence, they feel defective. Then what can happen is those [derogatory Tweets] can have an enormous impact in that they activate other disorders.”
Martin suggested a system of reporting abuse, similar to Facebook’s, where pages can be taken down, was a good way of drawing attention to the problem and punishing habitual homophobes.
- Tags: Blaze, Centre for Human Potential, Communication, Discrimination, Homophobia, Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, Internet, Language, MCV, Paul Martin, Queensland Pride, Social Media, SX, Technology, That's So Gay, Twitter, University of Alberta, World
About the Author
Andrew Shaw worked in Melbourne's media scene for 12 years as a news journalist, arts writer and editor, before making a sea change to Brisbane to become editor of Queensland Pride in 2012. He was editor of Melbourne Community Voice for six years, worked in the Media Unit at Monash University and was assistant editor/editor of statewide magazines for secondary school students and teachers respectively.