Dolly Parton’s Dollywood was the location of an incident in which a visitor to the park (co-owned by Dolly) was asked to wear her T-shirt inside-out as the slogan on the front of the shirt read ‘Marriage is So Gay’. The fun park has strict guidelines as to the wearing of clothing that might be deemed offensive to others but of course people are bleating on about homophobia and the lynch mob media are probably already erecting a wooden scaffold and gallows in the nearest public space.
The event took place on July 9 when a lesbian couple took some kids to Dollywood and were informed of the dress-code policy by the person at the entry gate. According to Pete Owens the PR manager at Dollywood in an interview with gay and lesbian periodical The Advocate:
“Thousands of times a day our front gate hosts are asked to enforce our dress code policy. It doesn’t have anything to do with who the people are or what their belief system is or with anything other than the fact that we try to prevent as best as we can upon entry of the park one of our guests being offended by something someone else is wearing.”
“I was curious what he found offensive about the shirt. If it was the fact that it had the word gay on it or that it was in conjunction with the word marriage,” says offended Olivier Odom who didn’t hesitate in filing a complaint to the amusement park, saying “I do not feel that your company has the right to restrict the freedom of speech of its patrons. My shirt was a political statement of equality.”
Now I’m all for equality and I’m as pro-gay marriage without actually drinking from the furry cup myself, as I can be, (some of my best friends are lesbians. Or at least they would be if they weren’t quite so gay) but this to me smacks a little bit of over sensitivity and more about confusion over semantics rather than a genuine complaint.
Whilst the slogan on the shirt is pro gay marriage, some people might take it to mean that someone is either anti-marriage (which might offend some people) or that the word ‘gay’ is being used in a derogatory way (which might offend some gay people). Of course it also might offend folk that are genuinely anti-gay marriage but who cares about those Neanderthals anyway? The point being that the door person who asked Olivier to conceal the potentially offensive slogan was merely doing their job – trying to protect other people from being offended.
[adsense]A campaign has been running for some time by a group of vocabulary crusaders called Think Before You Speak who have been lobbying people to stop the use of the word ‘gay’ as an insult or in a derogatory way eg ‘that’s so gay’.
So we are told that we can’t use the term in that way despite gays using the term themselves in exactly the same way. They might be using the term playfully, but they are still using it.
Gay is one of those words whose meaning has transmogrified in recent history. Once a female name, the word was used throughout history as an adjective for happy and carefree, and then was adopted by homosexuals during the 1960s as the preferred term to describe themselves. In the last decade the term has developed an additional meaning, that of ‘weak’ or ‘not impressive’.
I feel that it is the misuse of the word ‘gay’ that is the issue here. It’s not that the shirt was pro-gay but it is the choice of words used to promote gay equality that caused the problem.
This is more political correctness going wrong again. The word ‘homophobia’ shouldn’t even exist. The fact that the term ‘gay’ can also be used negatively shouldn’t be seen as a sleight on homosexuals. It is another meaning for the same word. Words like ‘dyke’, ‘fag’ and ‘bender’ also have secondary meanings. Any word can sound derogatory if used in a particular way. Political correctness means that we can no longer refer to people as fat even when they clearly are and don’t even start me on what we are and are not allowed to call people with coloured skin.
“Our park is open everyday to everybody. It’s open to every and all kinds of families enjoying their day,” Says Owens.
For the record, Dolly Parton – who is the main attraction (with a couple of main attractions) – is a staunch supporter of marriage equality rights for gay people.
This is not the first time that Dollywood has been the subject of homophobia accusations. In 2004 they requested that a gay and lesbian group who were holding an event there changed its name from ‘Gay Day’ after threats from the Ku Klux Klan. So you can see why the folk behind Dollywood might be a bit paranoid. A bunch of pusillanimous catholic bully buys issuing threats whilst hiding beneath white ladies’ nighties? I mean, how gay is that?
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Images: dollywood.com,nowpublic.com, hrcbackstory.org, cmt.com