Fagged Identity Politics

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Of all the possible reactions to the momentarily famous Oui interview, the last one I would have predicted is that Arnold would be accused, by activists and even newspaper columnists like the Los Angeles Times' Steve Lopez, of committing (in Lopez' words) "slurs against gays."

Huh? Here is where the alleged slurs occur:

OUI: Do you get freaked out by being in such close contact with men in the gym?

ARNOLD: Not at all. When I was playing soccer at the age of 14, the first thing we'd do before going out onto the field would be to climb up on one another's thighs and massage the legs; it was a regular thing. None of us had a thought of being gay, absolutely not, and it's the same with most bodybuilders. Men shouldn't feel like fags just because they want to have nice-looking bodies. Another thing: Recently I posed for a gay magazine, which caused much comment. But it doesn't bother me. Gay people are fighting the same kind of stereotyping that bodybuilders are: People have certain misconceptions about them just as they do about us. Well, I have absolutely no hang-ups about the fag business; though it may bother some bodybuilders, it doesn't bother me at all.

To sum up: He professes easy-going tolerance and comfort, argues that homosexuals are unfairly stereotyped, and risks ridicule by posing for a gay magazine. In 1977. But, since he uses the word "fag," and (maybe!) because he's not a Democrat, this apparently makes him a homophobe. From a San Francisco Chronicle story:

"I think he's got a problem, bordering on a fixation" about gays, said Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.

Michael Andraychak, president of Los Angeles' Stonewall Democratic Club, which opposes the recall, called on the actor to apologize, saying gays react to "fag" much as African Americans react to "the n– word."

Well, at least they're not trying—yet!—to out him, like Democrats (including a lesbian politican) tried to do with Ralph Nader.

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  1. The Chronicle has been worse than usual in its sliming of Arnold. They’re the ones who had the story about how he’s not a Republican anymore because he said he would be an “independent” voice in Sacramento.

  2. Just think. If by “fag” he’d meant “cigarette” he’d be in even more trouble.

  3. Oh, and of course Arnold’s critics have to latch onto Arnold’s “homophobia.” Post-Clinton, they can’t very well make an issue of the pot smoking and womanizing, now can they?

  4. As a fag, I had no idea Arnie had made these comments, since I am avoiding scandal-mongering articles. But reading this excerpt actually SOFTENS my stance toward him. I mean, the man is not a diplomat, and the content of his message is far more meaningful than his word choice.

    Think about it. During an interview, when he was at the prime of his bodybuilding career, he equates stereotypes about bodybuilders with stereotypes about gays. That doesn’t sound like the venal commentary of a thoughtless man.

    Still not sure I can bring myself to vote for a Republican (it would be the first time in my life), but I’ll take Arnie anyday over Bustamove. Uh oh, did I just accidentally heap slurs on Hispanics? Better write me up.

  5. I don’t intend to cut A.S. much slack anywhere else, but in this instance, he deserves a pass, for much the same reason we cut Mark Twain some slack when he used the n-word. The context of the passage, the fact that the article was over a quarter-century ago, both indicate to me that he was making a slur about anyone. Let’s just stick to the gang-banging, please.

  6. Oops–make that “he wasn’t making a slur about anyone.

  7. Yeah, Arnold may or may not be a homophobe. That’s insignificant.

    But Arnold freely admits to being *gasp* a SOCCER PLAYER!!!!!

    Everybody knows that soccer is not a sport for real Americans. Only Commie Homos play soccer.

  8. “Well, I have absolutely no hang-ups about the fag business.”

    Sounds like an alarming and resounding endorsement of big tobacco if I ever had heard one.

  9. Mo, first of all, there was a radio interview he did the day before not recalling the 30-year-old magazine interview where he seemed to at least know that he’d said some unpolitic things. Also, I’d have thought that he’d have gone over things like this before they came out… he knew people would be digging around his past, you’d think he’d have prepared for it ahead of time… and I think he did… he planned to deny even remembering the interview.

    So unless he, sometime soon, says something a little bit more senesible about that old interview, I’ll believe that he’s just being another damned dirty deceptive politician.

  10. When did using a word in an entirely non-offensive manor, with a blindingly obvious positive, affirmitive, accepting attitude become something akin to being a slave owner 150+ years ago – if that word is presently consider to be a “bad word”?

    It’s as if one is not capable of thinking “Well, that word usually is meant to demean…but he clearly isn’t using it that way”, but rather “Well, that word usually is meant to demean, so no matter how he uses it, by God, he must mean it that way!”

    You know there is something wrong when even supposed liberal scholars are puritanical prudes.

    It’s not that humans need to be saved from their selves – we have to be saved from each other. Sheesh.

  11. Also, consider the two cited uses, “Men shouldn’t feel like fags” and “the fag business”. Both are quite reasonably interpreted as adopting other people’s perspective. For the confused athletes as well as those marketing a stereotype, “fag” seems to reflect their thought processes perfectly, even or especially today. Perhaps hearing Arnold’s intonation would help that shift of perspective come across better. I feel like I, today, would have little problem using the word in a similar way. It’s a far cry from a literal use, e.g. “My neighbors are fags.”

  12. I wonder if Arnie watches “Queer As Folk?”

    I think its time we all go down to the pool!!!! Let’s get soaking wet!!!!

  13. What does Jesus say about this issue?

    1. Jesus praises the Centurion as a man of very strong faith

    2. The Centurion was trying to save his boy slave

    3. Centurion’s used boy slaves for sex

  14. They are also trying to paint him as insensitive to women. Seems when he and his friends took that women upstairs for the gang bang, according to Gloria Allred that might have been rape. And there are other instances in the article where he might not have displayed the “proper sensitivity” toward women as well. He may have just used them for sex. They were objects to Arnold, not people.

    I got this from an article linked to by Drudge. Personally, based on this article, and his response to its recent re-release would make me more likely to vote for him than less. Too bad I don’t live in California.

    Richard Swan

  15. I’m starting to think that Arnold wants to encourage the idea that he’s similar to Ronald Reagan… did you hear his response to questions about the interview? He said that he has no recollection of any magazine interviews he might have done 30 years ago.

    Anyway, this is the only sticking point I have about this whole “issue”, since I believe he’s lying about not knowing what the questioners were talking about.

  16. Why is it so unbelieveable that he doesn’t remember a 30 year old interview? I can’t remember conversations I had 5 years ago. I’ve had people approach me that I “knew” 10 years ago and not had the foggiest clue who they were. I don’t have a bad memory (it’s actually quite good), it just that one doesn’t remember ever event in their entire lives.

  17. Apparently, Mr. Lopez forgot about these articles.

  18. I think other politicians have bigger problems right now. Such as South Dakota Congressman (and self-described speeder) William Janklow, who ran a stop sign and plowed over, killed a motorcyclist in the process, and is now charged with felony manslaughter.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A64736-2003Aug29?language=printer

    ….

    Janklow has gotten more than a dozen speeding tickets in recent years, state records show, and has been involved in at least eight accidents in the past 10 years. In the past, he has made light of his driving habits. His penchant for speed, in a state of vast distances and empty country roads, has been part of his political mystique.

    But since the death on Aug. 16 of Scott — a military veteran, firefighter and father of two — nobody is laughing anymore about Janklow’s driving. Talk shows and letters-to-the-editor columns have been filled with angry denunciations of the hard-charging, blunt-talking politician.

    Lanita Melton of Sioux Falls expressed an often-stated viewpoint in a letter this week to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. “Janklow should just confess, step down from politics, serve his time in jail, and pray to God for forgiveness,” Melton wrote. “I know I wouldn’t forgive him. I believe the only reason he shows remorse is because he got caught and his career is in jeopardy.”

    ….

    Janklow is scheduled to appear in court on the charges on Tuesday, the same day the House of Representatives is to reconvene after its summer recess. Lawyers have speculated that he might plead guilty to some charges if he could avoid a prison term. As a former state attorney general and governor, Janklow would presumably encounter many enemies in a South Dakota prison.

    ….

    Give the fucker a shiv.

  19. Jean Bart, for who but yourself does that Waldheim stuff have any traction? From your article:

    “the Wiesenthal Center?s Rabbi Marvin Hier told the Jerusalem Post. ?He probably did not have any clue as to the seriousness of the allegations against Waldheim at that time [i.e., 1986]. To suggest that Arnold?s an anti-Semite is preposterous. He?s done more to further the cause of Holocaust awareness than almost any other Hollywood star.?”

  20. I’m no on recall, yes on (with clothespin) Bustsamant, but as the poster above said, I’m giving A.S. a pass on the “fag” part of the story. Years ago, I read an interview of Christopher Isherwood in the SF Chronicle in which he said he didn’t like the use of the word “gay” for homosexuals. He said something like “sometimes I’m gay, and sometimes I’m sad, but I’m always a fag.” So unless something has happened in the interim, I don’t see the problem.

  21. Alex,

    Arnie has a hard time repudiating his old friend it seems. I guess he believes in “tolerance.” 🙂

  22. This is one queer thread, that’s for sure!

  23. It is? Well, maybe that’s because …

    I’m as restless as a willow in a windstorm.
    I’m as jumpy as a kitten on string.
    I haven’t seen a crocus or a rosebud,
    Or a robin on the wing,
    But I feel so gay
    In a melancholy way,
    That it might as well be spring.
    It might as well be spring.

  24. Like I said, man … one queer thread!

  25. As a lifelong fag hag who has usually had a coterie of gay men I hang with, I understand what might have happened with Arnold here. Among my gay buds,we use words like “fag” and “queer” all the time. I am considered to have a license to do so.

    Where it gets tricky is when I’m outside of that milieu. Gay people who don’t know my views and assocations might take offense, and homophobes might assume support.

  26. Really!?

    Well, if that happens, you can say goodbye to American military supremacy.

  27. Why should that matter?

    The Roman Army had a “Please ask, and do tell” policy, and Rome reigned supreme for 500 years.

  28. Well, then I guess that means we’ve got about 273 years to go.

  29. I agree that the substance of these comments show Arnold to be more tolerant than homophobic. But let’s stop kidding ourselves. If he had expressed tolerance toward Jews by saying, “I’ve got no problems with the kikes,” or racial tolerance with “Those niggers don’t bother me,” or gender equality with “I love bitches and hos,” would everyone be so quick to shrug it off as harmless?

    If you want to give him a pass because the interview was 30 years ago and he was a young, stupid bodybuilder who didn’t think he’d be running for governor, fine. But let’s at least admit that the comments can legitimately be called insensitive and offensive, if not worse.

  30. “I’m Robin Hood, and these are my merry men!”

    “Are you…vagelish?”

    “Hm…oh, no! Just merry!”

  31. Yankee diddles dandy?

    (Nah!)

  32. Okay, I’m a fag. I don’t have a problem if you want to call me gay or a fag. I actually prefer fag over gay – it actually sounds more masculine. To hear Arnold use it and in the way that he used, non-derogatory, pleased me to no end. I’m tired of words that I am trying to take the negative connotations a way from being delegated to “bad” words.

    Case in point. The Stonewall Democratic Club states that. “saying gays react to ‘fag’ much as African Americans react to ‘the n– word.'” That statement says it all. First Michael Andraychak doesn’t want the word “FAG” used but he does use it – then he refuses to use the “N” word because African Americans would be upset.

    He’s basically delegating that word as to a “our not yours” word like African Americans that creates a stigma. What is missed is that Arnold not only tolerates homosexuals but sympathizes with homosexuals and this makes him a homophobe.

    No, it’s the left that supports a political party rather than a person that supports a minority. This continues to reek of political muck raking for the democrats yet the democrats truly have yet to do anything except galvinize political hatred and not allow voters to choose for themselves the better candidate.

    They use actors as political muscle but God forbid one, who is a citizen of America, runs for office. Then it becomes actors should stay out of politics. Citing no political experience to be governor is also wrong. All Americans that vote have political experience and should be allowed to run for any office they choose. It’s the American way of life. Profession should never come into play at all.

    Does it sound like I don’t like the left? Well, I don’t vote for the right or left. I’m a libertarian who’s for freedom in all it’s forms. And it sounds like Arnold feels the same. He didn’t start the recall to run for governor but given the choices California has he appears to be the better candidate. And I’m a fag. Get over it.

  33. To be fair to Arnold, we must remember that English is his second language and that in 1977 he did not speak it as fluently as he does today. Back then he might not have been able to pronounce the word “homosexual” and he may have been completely unaware of the negative connotations of the word “fag”.

    Communication is a two-party process and BOTH parties bear part of the burden for its success. The speaker needs to choose his words carefully to clearly convey his message. The listener has a duty to listen to the words and interpret them in a way that reflects the speaker’s intended message. Arnold’s critics condemn him for a word choice that some MIGHT find offensive. Yet, no listener could, in good faith, interpret what Arnold said as being intentionally offensive. His critics are acting in bad faith. I doubt any of them would feel fairly dealt with if they were held to a similar standard when giving an interview in a second language.

  34. BTW, my irony detector is screaming right now over this:

    AS says postive comments about gays, but in a non-PC way 25 years ago in pre-gay PC America, and gets slammed for it.

    A certain Mississippi senator makes positive reference to Strom Thurmond’s 1948 segregationist presidental campaign, probably just trying to say something nice about an old man, and is widely villified across the political spectrum and forced to resign from his position.

    Strom Thurmond, who ACTUALLY RAN FOR PRESIDENT ON A SEGREGATIONIST PLATFORM, is still in office, and popular with his constituents, even the black ones.

    I guess it’s all how you spin it….

  35. Jim? Strom Thurmond’s retired.

    And dead.

  36. David Walser, you shine! You help make this website be worthy of its name (reason) — for you certainly know how to use your mind to reason sensibly.

    I love the way you think!

    Thanks for having contributed. I copied your repartee (if you don’t mind) and will show it to friends and associates around the neighborhood and at the office. You simply can’t find clear thinking like this in newspapers, at least not often.

    Again, thank you!

  37. Maybe I should be as well. I forgot about that.

    Anyhow, point stands – Mr. Thurmond largely escaped political suicide from backing what are now hugely unpopular and recognizably morally wrong policies, up until his recent retirement and death. Yet Mr. Lott committed political suicide by accidentally (in my opinion) giving praise to those policies. Back when that whole scandal was unfolding, I remember one poster stating here that the best evidence he didn’t mean what was implied by the comment was the very fact that he said it. Racist or not, it’s just fucking dumb for a politician to do that. Yet Strom apparently atoned enough for his sins to get re-elected in more elightened times. So, given the much less serious nature of the remarks made by Arnold, it would be much easier, methinks, to appologize for the ‘offensive’ portion, emphasize the true intent, and move on. Pretending it didn’t happen, for good or ill, doesn’t work.

  38. But let’s stop kidding ourselves. If he had expressed tolerance toward Jews by saying, “I’ve got no problems with the kikes,” or racial tolerance with “Those niggers don’t bother me,” or gender equality with “I love bitches and hos,” would everyone be so quick to shrug it off as harmless?

    Like most “if you said the same thing about X” arguments, this one does not, I think, stand up to scrutiny. When Churchill called Gandhi a “naked little fakir,” that was offensive, because the comment had negative policy motives attached to it. Here the word was used in the context of supporting the group in question; to remove it from that context is to engage in pointless language policing. (I’m sure Cruz Bustamante, for example, hoped for a similar benefit of the doubt when he said the n-word in a speech to the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists a few years back.)

    I’m not a great supporter of contextual leeway, but it really is true that this kind of talk was very much taken for granted in the seventies-an era that is more distant from us than most people want to believe. I saw a rerun of WKRP In Cincinnati a while back in which the awesomely ba-a-a-a-d and cool Dr. Johnny Fever does an outtro for a song: “That was “Lonesome Loser” by the Little River Band, and speaking of losers: Hey, Village People! When are you gonna give it up, etc, etc” a flurry of abuse of the VP follows, closing with, “Take my advice, lose the Indian.” Even in those heady days of Death Before Disco (itself a largely homophobic and to a lesser degree anti-black phenomenon) such a diatribe only worked because the Village People were openly gay. And this was Dr. Johnny Fever, the coolest of the cool! What resonates now isn’t so much the homophobia as the amazing idea that anybody could have thought the fucking Little River Band was worth praising at the expense of one of the most brilliant, inventive and beloved disco acts of all time.

    If you really want to stick Arnold with a homophobia charge, you’d do better with the scene where Conan beats up the priest of Thulsa Doom, and it’s clear the audience is supposed to be psyched and amused because the priest is a fey and breathless homosexual. But that’s really the fault of the screenwriter, and John Milius isn’t running for anything (that I know of).

  39. I don’t think those “more enlightened times” have reached all areas of the country yet, Jim. As Senate Majority Leader, Lott stood before a national audience. Thurmond only had to convince voters in South Carolina to vote for him.

    James Inhofe, Republican Senator from Oklahoma, once told a black subordinate at the DA’s office that he needed to be careful how he spoke to white people. If he were nomiated to be Majority Leader, he’d be crucified by the national press. But he keeps getting re-elected in his home state.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah – blue state elitist snob.

  40. Nah, nothing homoerotic at all about heavily muscled men in speedos oiling up each other in a locker room. Happens every day. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  41. I do think you have to consider it in the historical context. By 1977, it would have been considered taboo to refer to anyone as ‘kikes’ or ‘niggers’ or ‘broads’ (bitches and ho’s being a recent invention). As another poster stated earlier, we can forgive Mark Twain because at the time it was not uncommon for anyone to refer to African Americans in that manner, derogatory or otherwise. On the other hand, although ‘fag’ often has a negative connotation (depending on use), it isn’t really clear (from the reponses I’ve seen from some gay posters) that it’s uniformly considered offensive by gays.

    As David Wasler said above, meaning is the important thing.

  42. Calling Arnold homophobic is like saying Mel Gibson is anti-semitic—if it’s true, then he’s in the wrong business!

    However, the Republicans should watch what they say, they are no strangers to false accusations. I’m glad the Democrats are starting to do it too, it is apparently the only way we can compete.

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