The first time I heard the word “fag” was fifth grade when a sixth grader was trying to embarrass someone in a basketball game who constantly fouled the sixth grader. At that time, I didn’t know that fag or faggot was an epithet for homosexuality. It wasn’t until eighth grade when I was told, “God hates fags” that I put two and two together. By then, the word fag and faggot had a very different meaning to me and many of my friends than its actual meaning. Instead of it being a slur for a member of the gay community, it was simply a very hurtful words either said jokingly by friends or to try and embarrass somebody else.
One of the great points that Pascoe brings up is how the word is used to emasculate and discredit other males. The words attack the masculine identity to its core and is a tool to break down a male to their lowest point. Here’s where a dissonance occurs though. People say that they don’t mean fag as a gay slur, but the point of using the word is to break someone’s masculinity down. What’s worse than being a girl? A homosexual. Even though fag might not be meant to target an actual homosexual, its meaning still carries on when used b heterosexual males.
The fact that fag is used to question masculinity, but is only used by males, reaffirms that it is a tool to establish a male hierarchy. Women, as Pascoe also noticed, rarely used the word, and the few documented cases were between good friends and incredibly jokingly. This may be because there is a fundamental difference between men questioning each other’s masculinity and a woman questioning masculinity. There may still be some safety when it is just men setting a hierarchy, but when women are judging potential mates there is a lot more at risk. Very similar to how women may refer to each other as sluts to establish a hierarchy/pecking order, the word has a very different impact when a man calls a woman a slut.
There has been a lot of debate in the pop culture sphere on the validity of the word fag as a slur. South Park has made the argument that the meaning of the word has totally changed. Someone who is very annoying, ignorant to others, just a bad person in general, is called a “fag.”
Louis CK’s stand up on being a “fag” is one of the go to references for people who use the word. People would never say the word in front of a homosexual, because it would be interpreted very differently than by two people who are heterosexuals, and rightfully so. There are certain behaviors that tend to prompt the use of the word “fag.” One of which is obviously video games and another extreme anger or frustration at an individual. The biggest reason why fag is tolerated, I believe, is because America still treats the LGBT community as second class citizens.