Image Map

A Different Kind of F-Word: Perez Hilton and GaySlurGate

perez_william.jpg

Gossip blogger Perez Hilton was allegedly assaulted Monday night in Toronto by Black Eyed Peas member Will.I.Am and the band's tour manager, Polo Molina. The altercation apparently began when Will.I.Am asked Perez to stop blogging about his band. Perez responded by calling Will.I.Am a "faggot." Assault ensued, as did a barrage of media coverage.

Gay rights groups and celebrities alike are weighing in with their opinions on this GaySlurGate, from GLAAD to John Mayer to Ice-T. But what's the real story here? Is it, A. That Perez Hilton, an openly gay man, used a gay slur against another man? Is it, B. That Will.I.Am, a prominent cultural figure, allegedly assaulted another man in public? Is it, C. That one of these men (Hilton) is gay and the other (Will.I.Am) is black? Or is it, D. That the whole thing was covered in real time on Twitter? How about, E. All of the above?

As a quick side note, it appears that most of the coverage of this incident does not include the word "faggot" and instead says things like "the gay slur" and "f****t". It is my belief that if we are going to report on issues like this we must be able to discuss them, so I am choosing to use the actual word. My apologies if it offends.

Let's start with A. Should Hilton be able to use the word faggot because he is openly gay? Is this like that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry's dentist converts to Judaism (possibly) because of the anti-Semite jokes? Is it like a feminism magazine being called Bitch? In short, not really. Hilton was not attempting to reclaim the word faggot, he was using it because he thought it would piss of Will.I.Am. Says Hilton:

The other night in Toronto, after feeling physically threatened by a verbally abusive will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, I chose the most hurtful word I know to hurl at him. I was in an out-of-the ordinary situation and used a word that I would not utter under normal circumstances. My intention -- however misguided it may have been -- was to stand up for myself and tell this belligerent man that I had enough of his badgering and was not going to continue to let him berate and intimidate me.

Hilton continues on to say that he is not a spokesperson for the gay community and that his words shouldn't be construed as such. However, GLAAD is still asking for an apology, and has called for an end to Hilton's use of defamatory language.

And what about B.? Is it okay for Will.I.Am to punch out Hilton because he called him a name? No, of course not. Punching is wrong, I think we can all agree there. What's interesting to me in that regard is how upset Will.I.Am became, and that he was provoked to violence upon hearing a gay slur. My guess (and I could be wrong) is that Will was not upset on behalf of gay people who take offense at the word faggot. Rather, I would bet that he took offense at the suggestion that he himself might be gay (or weak, or whatever else that word implies). The stigma against gay men, and the threat they pose to traditional models of masculinity, is still so strong in our culture that "faggot" is one of the worst things a man can call another man. To me, that's more problematic than this incident itself.

(Update: It has been brought to my attention that, although Perez Hilton originally claimed that Will.I.Am assaulted him, it is actually the Black Eyed Peas' manager Polo Molina who is being charged with the crime. Sorry about the confusion.)

Which brings us to C. Is part of the reason this story is receiving attention that it involves a gay (read: feminine) man using a slur against a black (read: masculine) man? Again, I am going only on media construction here; I realize there are gay and black men all over the spectrum of masculinity. However, when a black man (Isaiah Washington) called a gay man (T.R. Knight) the same word a few years ago, the coverage looked much different. Obviously this is a more complex issue than just deciding which man society thinks is more masculine, but I do think the construction of masculinity is playing a major role here. Just think about how differently this would have played out between two women? Or even two gay men? My guess is that we wouldn't have heard a thing about it.

And now D. Twitter. Perez Hilton "tweeted" about this incident in real time, as opposed to calling the police or alerting the media in a more traditional manner. Have we moved into a new technological age when it comes to information sharing, or does the tweeting indicate that Perez is more interested in getting attention than seeking justice? Most likely, both are true. After all, Perez Hilton is a gossip blogger who makes his living by getting attention for being mean to celebrities. On the other hand, no one likes to get punched and I'm sure he did want the police to intervene.

Which is why my answer to the question, What is the real story here? is E. All of the above. This incident brings up questions about gay rights, free speech, race issues, masculinity, physical violence, new media, and responsibility, just to name a few. Here's hoping that all of the media coverage of this event can function as a tool for talking about these issues. And now, let's talk about these issues! What do you think?

Bitch Media publishes the award-winning quarterly magazine, Bitch:Feminist Response to Pop Culture. Pitch in to support feminist media: Subscribe today

Subscribe to Bitch


Comments

29 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Personally, I was done with

Personally, I was done with Perez Hilton when he outed a trans teenager on the basis that because his parents are famous the child was fair game. Of course, that incident received hardly any coverage, and believing that was so because more coverage would have made the outing worse? Is tempting but seems naive at best. It's bad enough that Hilton feels the need to out adults - outing children puts them in danger in a way that outing famous adults does not, generally speaking, and the practice is vile.

You're right, however, that the public response to this incident, especially as contrasted to the Washington/Knight issue a while back, brings up a plethora of intersectional issues. Personally, I'm just hoping that it disillusions even more people with Hilton's foul ouevre and takes away the one thing that matters to him - the amount of attention he can garner.

Just a note: Will.I.Am

Just a note: Will.I.Am didn't punch Perez. His tour manager did. Perez originally tweeted that Will.I.Am hit him, but then later recanted and said it was Polo Molina, the band's tour manager, and he was the man arrested for assault.

Thanks Amanda!

Thanks for the info! I added an update to the blog post accordingly.

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

It would be helpful to get

It would be helpful to get all of your facts in a row and use ALL of the quotes instead of adding your speculative assumptions to this. Will.I.Am did NOT hit Perez. It was another member of the entourage - which hasn't been confirmed or denied yet. Secondly Perez clearly stated his racial prejudices by referring to him as a "thug" and how he was going to hurl expletives at him to get a response. Why don't you watch the video. Thirdly, Perez used a gay slur and should be censured for it like every other non-lgbt person would be had they used it. He's using white-skin, male, ethnic, orientation privilege to be a bully. The NAACP and other Civil Rights orgs should hold the Gay Rights orgs responsible for Perez's behavior regardless because there are actually non-whites who are LGBTs as well. I for one will not give any support to them until Perez offers up a public apology for offending so many people. I wrote an extensive post on this as well that frankly has been researched and offers a more thorough examination than a knee jerk, "gee I guess the black dude is a closet homophobe". I mean can't YOU set aside your own prejudice for a minute to stop being a disservice to the readers here?
http://actsoffaithinloveandlife.blogspot.com/2009/06/if-these-gay-rights...

You're right,

I haven't watched every video or read every quote surrounding this incident. The only media I have consumed on it is linked to in my post, and I did not mean to present myself as an expert (I am not one).

I also apologize if any of my remarks came across as racist against Will.I.Am or the NAACP. That was certainly not my intention, and I hope that you and other readers do not actually believe that I think black people are closet homophobes. I don't. I only meant to point out that I think both race and sexuality issues are at play in the media coverage of this incident.

My intention was to start a dialogue and hear other people's thoughts on the media coverage of this issue, not to be a "disservice to the readers here." Thank you for sharing your blog post and continuing the discussion.

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Thanks

You misunderstood me. I was referring to watching the Perez video where he clearly stated he was angling for a fight and alluded to his racist tendencies by calling Will.I.Am a thug. I think it would've clarified his intent behind crying wolf in the first place. He was playing into the blame game. The larger issue for me is that he should not be allowed to get away with this. Just like white men censured David Letterman over crossing the line regarding white women when he mentioned Sarah Palin and her daughters, they should not let such blatant hostility and double-standards occur when "one of their own" [who has gone off on others for using the SAME WORDS he INTENTIONALLY used] has acted out of line. I want the NAACP and other Civil Rights groups to insist that GLAAD and other Gay Rights groups police his behavior just like they would be doing if Will.I.Am or another Black person had started a fight and called Perez the names he himself used. If they don't they are standing by in agreement with what he did and are only interested in "justice" when it pertains to their interests, not justice across the board.

video

Speaking of video you might have watched before posting...

Far be it from me to defend either of these dudes in general, but I think it's a bit of a leap - albeit an understandable one - to say that Mr I.Am was provoked to especial umbrage at having his masculinity challenged by a gay slur.

In his initial vlog on dipdive, the way Will describes the slur and his emotional reaction to it sounds like you're selling him short when you assume his distaste for it wasn't on behalf of implicitly degraded homosexuals.

I don't think he's a good artist but I also don't think he went where you suggest he went. Just like I don't think Perez is a good person but I don't think he should get punched.

Didn't Perez Hilton call for

Didn't Perez Hilton call for the firing of one the Grey's Anatomy cast members for using the same slur? This just goes to show that indoctrination of hate speech in our daily lives is complete, I think.

Yes Perez was waving his big

Yes Perez was waving his big gay rights flag when it came time for trashing Washington. Plus he used to work for GLAAD. It's how he got a huge bulk of his contacts in fact. So he is full of it and should be called out on his hypocrisy!! He can't have it both ways. I did cover all of that in my post at my blog. I'm not trying to hijack Bitch mag's post either but this was more than just Perez jockeying for more publicity. There is an absolute double standard and knee jerk blaming of Blacks and he should be held responsible for his obvious bias and spewing hate.

not the same thing

It's a lot different when a self-identified gay man uses the word faggot than when a hetero does. The power positions are completely reversed and personally I love it and think it's awesome. Would you tell a black person who says the word 'nigger' in conversation that they are using hateful or racial slurs? Probably not...

Just to note... In his

Just to note... In his original video, Perez states that he DID call the Toronto police first, but that they told him they had real emergencies to attend to, and he would have to wait. He said that he was still surrounded by these people and felt very threatened, considering he was already bleeding, so he went to Twitter to ask his friends to call the police and urge them to respond. Because they got a barrage of phone calls, they finally did respond. I wouldn't call that a publicity stunt.

Whether you love or hate Perez, NO ONE deserves to be physically assaulted. Are we really back to blaming the victim again? It makes me sick to see the majority of the responses be similar to "he asked for it". Yes, he may be completely obnoxious to some people, and he did use a word that is extremely offensive, but he's never asked to be anyone's role model. I think holding him up to some high standard, especially considering what he's famous for, is ridiculous. Everyone makes mistakes and lashes out in anger (with words, not fists) every now and then when they feel cornered. I can understand trying to think of what would be the most offensive thing possible to say and flinging it at someone you're in a confrontation with, even if that may be something you find offensive yourself. I'm not saying that it's excusable, but sometimes that brain-mouth filter goes out the window when you're seeing red.

This whole thing wreaks of free speech issues. Will.i.am and the gang reportedly started the confrontation because they were upset with what Perez has been saying on his website about them, and it escalated from there. Is it ok now to attack someone because they've said some not-so-friendly things about you? I don't think so.

You Already Made Up Your Mind

Again, if you're already closed-minded about it then continue to excuse Perez's own behavior and involvement. He was at a Music Award Show not some back alley in the hood, okay?! Like he could not have left at any time in a ROOM FULL OF OTHER PEOPLE. I'm not condoning hitting Perez but karma is a debt that must be paid. Actually Will.I.Am and Fergie approached him asking him to tone down the vitriol on his blog and he went off on them because he's a selfish immature person. Then he got into an argument and let it escalate. He's also changed his story a few times. If you watched his video you can hear him plainly state he wanted to get into a confrontation and say the most vile things he could think of. Why not walk away? He's trying to keep his name in the press that's why! He's also nearly twice the size of both Fergie and Will I might add so because he's gay he's supposed to be weaker physically? That's ridiculous! Again, he is using his orientation as cover but behaves in racist/sexist/vicious ways when it's convenient for him. he can't have it both ways. He should have 2 bodyguards with him at all times from now on - and he's lucky he hasn't been smacked around before this with all the people he's pissed off.

Ok then...

It seems pretty hypocritical to me that you're going off on other commentors for "already making up your mind" when it's obvious that you have done the same. Just because we are apparently on opposite sides of an issue does not mean we have to accuse the other of being closed-minded.

When did I say that because he's gay that he was weaker physically? I didn't even allude to that. And because he's "twice the size" of someone, that means he can't feel threatened by them? I would say if you're one person surrounded by a whole entourage, that could be intimidating no matter what their sizes.

I don't consider "thug" to be a racist term, either, so if he feels that said person is a "thug", it shouldn't matter if they're black or white. That term describes an attitude, not a race.

"I'm not condoning hitting Perez but karma is a debt that must be paid."
"He should have 2 bodyguards with him at all times from now on - and he's lucky he hasn't been smacked around before this with all the people he's pissed off."

Again, since when have we lost our freedom of speech? Yes, Perez has said many vile things about many people, but that is his right. These people are in the public eye, and are therefore open to scrutiny. If you follow your logic, they were "asking" to be ridiculed for putting themselves in such limelight. As they say, no press is bad press, so it seems pretty ridiculous to turn around and look (or punch) a gift horse in the mouth. Regardless, no matter what horrible things anyone says about or to you, violence is NEVER an acceptable answer.

Oh, he is allowed to say

Oh, he is allowed to say what he wants. But he shouldnt be surprised if he gets hit for it. Will.I.Am is not the goverment, company, or organization.

You realize that you're

You realize that you're blaming the victim, right?

What if Perez were a woman, would you be sitting there and saying that she shouldn't be surprised if she got hit for saying what she wants?

Would you say the same thing to victims of domestic violence whose spouses' used the excuse that their partners said something they didn't like?

I want to know where this

I want to know where this need for simplistic "good guy (victim) vs. bad guy (aggressor)" scenarios is coming from.

It's generally not a great idea to haul off and punch somebody. It's also generally not a great idea to use gay and racial slurs. Neither Perez nor Will.I.Am were acting like their best, most mature selves, a fight was initiated, and Perez called the police.

Here's the thing - Perez isn't exactly a victim here. He set out specifically to provoke a reaction in a shitty way and he got a shitty reaction. He's NOT a domestic abuse survivor in this case, and saying his position is on par with domestic abuse survivors is actually a bit offensive. Perez is also not a woman who is facing gender-based violence, oppression and censorship. Perez is a very privileged individual - white, wealthy, famous, cisgendered, male - minus sexuality-based privilege, who set out to initiate a confrontation and conflict by insulting and stigmatizing another person. Will.I.Am is similarly wealthy, famous, cisgendered, male, and straight, but he does not have race-based privilege, and people are all too eager to call him the aggressor, paint him as an abuser (VERY different from someone who gets pissed off once at an antagonistic stranger and punches them) and accuse him of doing something violent that he didn't even do.

Two guys get pissed at each other and behave badly. One guy (the Black guy) gets blamed by most "progressive" communities. That doesn't really seem all that realistic or fair to me. So can we stop trying to assign these arbitrary "good guy/ bad guy" roles? They clearly do not really apply here and it's potentially stigmatizing and marginalizing to a whole bunch of people to try.

Uh, no one is saying that

Uh, no one is saying that Will.i.am is the bad guy. His *manager* is. His *manager* hit Perez. No one is blaming will.i.am. Stop trying to turn this into a race issue, because it isn't. And for the record, Perez Hilton isn't white. He's Latino.

I still stand by the belief that no one deserves to be hit. I was recently on a facebook discussion about Tiller's murder, and one pro-lifer said that he deserved it because of his work. No one deserves to be murdered, and no one deserves to be hit, no matter what they do or say. I did not say that Hilton is a victim of domestic violence, only that I think it's bullshit to say that he had it coming or provoked it. I made a *comparison* to victims of domestic violence, saying how people would 't ever say that the wife (or husband) had it coming because they started a verbal confrontation with their aggressor.

Arguing is one thing, hitting someone is another, it goes too far. So no matter who started what, Hilton got hit.

Um, last time I checked,

Um, last time I checked, Latinos can be white. Perez Hilton is a white hispanic, but he acts pretty damn white.

Hilton is 100% Cuban, and

Hilton is 100% Cuban, and identifies as a Latino man.

How does one act white, anyways? On top of that, how does one act Latino, black, or Asian?

What the heck does being

What the heck does being Cuban have to do with it? He is racially white. Hispanic IS NOT A FUCKING RACE.

BTW, white isn't a race

BTW, white isn't a race either. There is no such thing as race.

And considering that the

And considering that the whole "being latino" is based on culture and shit, and not race, yeah you can sure as fuck act latino.

I said his ethnicity was

I said his ethnicity was Cuban, not white/European. And I know Latino isn't a race, as race does not exist. And how does one act Latino? How does one act white? I'm curious. If you know, then you should be able to tell me.

Perez Hilton is white. Cuba

Perez Hilton is white. Cuba is a multi racial country like Mexico and the USA. Many Latinos are European (white).

Listen to your own words.

Listen to your own words. You sound as if you've made up your mind about it without hearing all of the facts.

Why are you defending the behavior of the people who incited the physical violence? Ok, so what that Hilton went off on them? So fucking what? Why couldn't the Peas' manager have walked away? Why couldn't Will.i.am and Fergie have walked away?You're asking him why he couldn't walk away, and not the guy who hit him? Unbelievable.

I can't believe you're saying that he's lucky he didn't get beat up before. Remember that old saying from elementary school "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?" People have a choice whether or not to read that blog, and if they don't like it, they should get over it. If he was calling them slurs, that's one thing, but to say that their music sucks (which it does) is well within his rights. It's his blog. And being made fun of and saying that your work sucks is all a part of being famous, but being beat up for it is NOT.

i think the issue is really

i think the issue is really complex. the comments so far have proven that. i decided two days ago to stop reading perez and i un-followed him on twitter a few months ago. the will.i.am situation was sort of the last straw for me. the truth of what happened between the two and anyone else involved is probably somewhere in between what they are both claiming; i wasn't there and the video of the incident is so unclear, it's really difficult to tell exactly what happened.

two reasons i've stopped reading perez: 1) i have become increasingly annoyed since the prejean "scandal" about how perez makes himself out to be some sort of lgbt advocate, yet uses phrases like "faggot" and "hot tranny mess" all over his blog. i think that if he is going to take people to task for opposing something like gay marriage, then he should also stop publically outing people (especially children, as was mentioned before) and using slurs left and right if he wants anyone to take his politicking seriously.

2) i have also become increasingly irritated with the way he describes women's (and sometimes men's) bodies. he alternates between telling women they are too skinny to saying that someone like beth ditto is fabulous despite or because of her weight to saying that others need to hit the gym. and that's really putting it in nicer terms than he does! his attitudes towards women really confuse me, because on the one hand, there are times when he is really supportive of women who don't meet hollywood standards. but those times are few and far between.

so... all of this to say, i won't be following perez anywhere and i'm personally getting fed up with how mean-spirited everything has become. i know i'm probably preaching to choir here, but this shit has gotten out of hand.

i wonder what would have happened if fergie had slapped him instead?? just a thought.

Thank you!

As someone who is loosely connected to some show-biz working folk, the word in that world is that increasing numbers of them are getting fed up with Perez's antics of hating on otherwise decent, reasonable people who want nothing more than to bring smiles to the faces of the masses- many of them are living through incredibly difficult times right now. I am no fan of violence, but I definitely believe in karma.

I have also starting weaning

I have also starting weaning myself from Perez's site (celeb watching is an addiction, i swear!). At the beginning, he may have been obnoxious, but at least he seemed unbiased and refreshing. Now, it seems he writes with an agenda and constantly steals stories, posts, and nicknames from other bloggers.

As woman who was in a domestic abuse relationship for 4 years, I can honestly say I didn't feel obligated to take his side because he was on the receiving end of violence. NO ONE DESERVES TO BE STRUCK, but he is not a cornered victim. His vlog was watched by MILLIONS. His twitter friends were calling the police for him.

He called Will I Am a faggot because he knew it would provoke him, not because he was trying to protect himself from harm. In his video, he seemed genuinely upset, but he seemed to be more angry than hurt. He seemed more like a bully who is incredulous that someone had the gall to stand up to him.

If we are going to discuss the abuse angle, let's also discuss if his constant negative opinions could be considered a form of emotional abuse. He has enough power to have sway in the industry and I imagine there are many celebrities who are kind to him out of fear. He is not some random blogger. How many bloggers have the opportunity to have encounters with the people they report on? He knows some of the celebrities personally and attacking them doesn't sound healthy and seems a little odd.

Just my opinion.

This whole thing is really

This whole thing is really getting blown out of proportion. This isn't "who's the victim" or "who did what wrong". I would hope everyone could take some time to discuss what's appropriate to say and when. Instead, the conversation revolves around "who should go to jail" or "who's ultimately responsible".

For the record, I think that Perez was being, for lack of a better word, a douchebag. He said some pretty uninformed and hateful things on his blog about the Peas, and one gets the sense he really doesn't know much of anything about any one of them or any one of their songs. He also used the other F-word, which is totally unacceptable to use on almost any basis. I have to endure that kind of crap every day of the week and I really wouldn't blame will.i.am or Mr. Molina for wanting to take strong offense. Punching Mr. Hilton may have been out of line, but it's at least understandable if not warranted.

Perez was also being a total hypocrite. I use the F-word on a basis limited to very extreme situations, like hanging out with my friends or joking around with people who I know wouldn't take offense. Forgive me for sounding racist, but black people using the N-word casually with each other is just part of their culture. I doubt any of them would say that to anyone who they either weren't acquainted with or who was white, just like I wouldn't use the F-word on a total stranger. Perez using that word in such a way is many things. It's tasteless, for one. If you're being told to calm down with the rhetoric on your blog, then simply saying "Sorry, but it's how I keep my readers" or "Sorry, dude" would be totally fine. The Peas are all in the entertainment business, as is Mr. Hilton, and that would be understandable to all. Saying something like that out of the blue and with obvious intent to be hateful is simply poor taste. His use of the F-word is quite obviously hypocritical. I doubt he'd take it nicely if will.i.am used that word on him. The Golden Rule is tragically forgotten in this instance, leaving everyone simply scratching their heads and wondering what the hell is going on.

Finally, Mr. Molina should not have punched Perez under any circumstance. Will.i.am was not being physically assaulted, and neither was Mr. Molina. While Mr. Hilton may have been asking for something of a response, indicated by his vocabulary choice, violent physical retaliation was certainly not on the menu.

Back to the original point presented, the F-word shouldn't be used except in cases where nobody will be offended. In casual conversation amongst friends where nobody's going to be offended it's perfectly fine. Against someone who's told you politely to tone down the harshness on your blog against them? Definitely not.