Kobe Bryant’s recent comment in the midst of a nationally broadcast NBA game involving him making an embarrassingly homophobic outburst towards a referee has now spilled over into a mini controversy resulting in Kobe being fined by the NBA , and the Lakers organization committing itself to working with GLAAD says less about Kobe than it does about society and a culture of bigotry and intolerance in America.
If you are able to look behind the controversy you will find that Kobe’s comment was but a small reflection of the greater issue of societal homophobia and sexism as a whole, and the social construction(distortion) of masculinity that uses words like “faggot” to establish and enforce itself in the national mindset.
Derogatory language in regard to homosexuality/femininity is common place in gyms, locker rooms, practice fields, high schools, places of employment, the military and in main stream media. If we are all being honest, the word “faggot” and “gay” are words that have been ingrained into our consciousness, ones that we have all heard and of which the majority of us have used at least one time or other with no intention of harming or hurting the feelings of someone who may indeed be homosexual.
We grow up and say or hear things like “that is gay” which we use to describe something that we feel is stupid or silly. We tell our little boys to stop crying and be a big boy (not a girl)when they fall and hurt themselves. Young men use the word “faggot” as a tool to apply pressure to their peers when they do not want to go along with the status quo or when an individual makes a choice that stands juxtaposed to what “real men” are supposed to be doing.
It is not uncommon for some coaches to even label (libel) young men as sissies in the venue of competitive sports if a player complains of being too sick to practice or too hurt to continue in the game. They are in fact told to “Man up” and to “Stop acting like a girl”. So commonplace is this type of talk, so ingrained is it in this culture of patriarchy, that most of us don’t even flinch when it is said. We are in fact desensitized to it in as much as we are desensitized to the depth of the problems of homophobia, misogyny and sexism in America. We all should dislike the negative connotations of calling someone, or something gay, a faggot, a girl, or a sissy, just as much as we dislike it when we hear a word like nigger- and yet we don’t.
What does it say about our society and how we feel about our fellow women and men, whether they be homosexual or not, that when they exhibit attributes that conflict with the strength, virility, and stoic conformity that are supposed to define our unattainable socially constructed definition of masculinity that we meet it with derisive and derogatory language?
Yes, Kobe was at fault for making that comment on national tv for what he believed was a bad call, but it says more about the spirits of intolerance and sexism in our society than it does about him specifically. As a society we are culpable for quietly accepting and participating in a culture of intolerance and sexism that allows homophobia and sexism to exist and continue to oppress, hurt, and rob our brothers and sisters of their dignity and personal freedom of expression to be who they want to be. Anytime an individual or groups dignity is taken away from them it is a blot on society and a failure of us all.
The seeds of intolerance are sown deep into the national fabric of our consciousness and it needs bold farmers to dig deep into that troubled soil and rip it out by its roots.
There is much work to be done, the harvest is plenty and the workers are few- but first we must start with ripping those roots out of ourselves.