How offensive is “poofter” – football comment opens debate

Paul Scholes, apparently used a homophobic insult last night after he received a yellow card during Manchester United’s Champion’s League victory against Portuguese side Benfica.

A keen eyed Peter Tatchell (from gay human rights group Outrage!) noticed the insult and issued a press release quite rightly saying; “no player, referee or fan should have to endure abuse about their race or sexuality … There should be big fines and match suspensions for players, managers and supporters who wilfully use anti-gay insults.”

But in the context of being carded and angry, is the insult “poofter” really wilfully anti gay, or just a throw away swear word? Is there a difference, and should this difference be important to us? took to the streets of Kings Cross to find out.

“Poofter? Do people still say that?” wondered Sue. “It’s not that bad.”

22 year old gay graduate student James said; “I don’t think a lot of these insults mean very much. My friend’s younger brother is 13 and he calls everything that annoys him “gay”. The other day he didn’t like his dinner and he said, “this is so gay!”. If these insults are overused they don’t have any meaning.”

“Of course it is wrong to insult people by swearing at them” said Dr Jonathan Roberts.

“But that’s the whole point of swearing isn’t it? Life isn’t all Famous Five where people say “oh no” or “dash it all” when something makes them cross.”

“There’s a difference between a swear word and being deliberately homophobic, I think,” said Caroline, a website manager. “Are they going to fine people who use the word bitch for being insulting to women? Get over it.”

“Football is pretty homophobic, so maybe it would help with the attitude” Peter, visiting London to play college football said. “But everyone swears on the pitch. It’s not like you mean it. I don’t mean someone’s mum wasn’t married to their dad if I call them a bastard! That’s just -“

James, our intern considered the question for some time before deciding; “it depends on the context. If it’s used in a hurtful way of course it’s hurtful, and I also think that it’s a shame that the word “gay” can be used in a negative way. It’s a word I use to describe myself, and I don’t want to hear it as a term of abuse.”

But what about the word poofter? Fellow journalist Marc wanted to know whether we should even put the word in quotation marks. “What’s so bad about that?” he said.

“Poofter?” James half chuckled, “well, I wouldn’t call myself that, it’s almost funny! It’s offensive, but differently offensive. The whole thing seems a bit childish to me, a bit ridiculous.”

What do you think?

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