When it comes to the usage in Latin America of Spanish-language terms that most people would deem homophobic, I admit sometimes I am left feeling a bit flummoxed.
There is, for example, the song "Puto" by the legendary Mexican rock band Molotov. The literate translation of the title is "Faggot" and it has a quaint chorus that says "matarile al maricón" ("kill the fag").
But whenever I've called it a homophobic song I've gotten push-back from people who say that in the song's context "Puto" does not really refer to gays but, instead, to the powers that be. And, to be sincere, I partly get it. The band itself has said as much and, in the face of criticism, insists on playing it live during their tours. But even if "fag" can be contextualized to mean something else in a song, do their fans make the distinction?
These thoughts come to mind today in light of a new campaign launched today by the National Women Services Ministry of the Chilean government (SERNAM):
SAY WHAT? Yes, the Chilean government says a "fag" is he who mistreats a woman (official government announcement here).
Speaking to La Tercera, Carolina Schmidt Zaldivar, Director of SERNAM, explained:
[Domestic] violence is based on the abuse of power and a poor understanding of what true masculinity is. Does it make you more of a macho man to mistreat, beat up or denigrate a woman? The answer is clear: He who mistreats a woman is a lesser man... let's say things as they are.I do think the Minister makes a relevant point which actually is also pertinent to the discussion about the Molotov song: The Mexican rock band and the Chilean government might argue that "maricón" and "puto" is in no way related to "fagness" but they both admit they use the homophobic terminology as a means to question a man's masculinity.
The second man is television personality and talk show host Jordi Castell who is one of the few openly gay personalities on Chilean television. They both say they decided to participate in the campaign as opponents of domestic violence.
The ads also have the backing of the country's leading LGBT rights organization, the Homosexual Movement of Integration and Liberation (MOVILH), who tweeted the following tonight:
With the SERNAM campaign things are left clear: Relatives and people you know who are gay aren't fags. The man who beats up his woman is.MOVILH, really?
There are a couple of things that strike me as very wrong with this brief statement. MOVILH lets SERNAM use the word "faggot" in a campaign and backs it up. They also buy into the meme that 'fagness' can be used to denigrate a man's masculinity.
In addition, the campaign assumes all domestic violence in a heterosexual partnership comes from the man, which is not always the case.
One Chilean LGBT rights organization is not having any of it. Speaking tonight on Radio Bio Bio, Marcelo Aguilar of Acción Gay said the campaign was discriminatory and questioned whether the message would be received as intended.
Tonight we have an answer to that: The term "maricón" [fag] became the #1 trending topic on Twitter in South America tonight thanks to SERNAM.
I personally think it's an awful campaign, it elicits unintended consequences, and gives people license to use the word "maricón" as if it wasn't anything bad.
But what's your take? Does the shock value make men respond? Is the campaign homophobic? Please let us know.
- El 'rupturismo' del SERNAM (Spanish) - Observatorio Género y Equidad