In the universe’s latest variation on the “they call themselves that, so why can’t I?” idiocy, Reuters journalist Matthew Keys offers this take on the Jeremy Lin ESPN scandal:
“So we’re all just going to ignore the fact that Jeremy Lin used the word “Chink” in his Xanga username in 2004, right?
Just wanted to be clear, since, you know, we’re firing ESPN headline writers for being insensitive and criticizing ESPN anchors for using the word during play-by-play.
At what point do we draw the line between “acceptable use” and “unacceptable use?” Do we further divide people by saying it’s okay for some people to use the word, while barring others?
Or can we all agree that nobody should use these sorts of words, in any context?”
Here’s the thing that burns me up most about this tired, absurd claim: nobody would ever make it in any other situation. The reclamation of slurs is the only circumstance in which this argument is ever raised.
I’ve been known to refer to myself as an idiot on occasion. Does that make it okay for journalists to refer to me as “Angus Johnston, historian, blogger, and idiot?” No.
If an Olympic soccer player used the email address email@example.com in junior high, would that make it legitimate for ESPN to mention her sexiness every time she scored a goal? Of course not.
The New York Times doesn’t call Senator Rand Paul “Aqua Buddha.” It doesn’t casually refer to Beck as a loser, Thom Yorke as a creep, or Prince as a sexy motherfucker (though it totally should).
Why? Because the “if you ever use a word to describe yourself, it gives everyone else on the planet the right to use that word to describe you in every situation ever for the rest of your life and you don’t ever get to complain” rule is a rule that doesn’t exist.
It’s not a rule. It’s not a rule. It’s not a rule. It’s not a thing. Everybody knows that. Nobody thinks otherwise. Nobody even pretends otherwise unless they’re trying to come up with a reason why it’s okay for them to call someone a chink or a faggot or a bitch.