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In her essay “Teaching Intolerance: How Society Enforces Community” Laura Mann reflects on an autobiography by Tommi Avicolli. “He Defies You Still: The Memoirs of a Sissy” is a stimulating account of the pain he underwent as a young adult. Mann evaluates the societal norm of teasing and mocking one because of actions. While it is shocking and recognizably wrong, it seems ordinary to hear someone being called a “fag” for dressing a certain way or a “queer” for acting a certain way. It is much more usual to hear men calling other men names like this, but when it is a woman being ridiculed by women or even other men, it takes on a whole different meaning. For example, someone who was not a close friend but an acquaintance nonetheless went through similar ridicule in high school. She was poked at for being “too butch” or overly “manly”. While you hear terms like this fairly often, why does it stir a different reaction from when guys call other guys a “fag”?
She is actual quite normal, but a rumor was started that she was a lesbian. Instead of confronting her about it or ignoring the rumor, people started to talk even more. Mann accurately describes the situation as it went in our small high school, “…how kids would not be his friend because they feared labels” (Mann 65). As opposed to asking this girl, people steered clear because they feared it would “rub off”. People began to call her “dyke” and other similar names without thinking twice—but they only did it in private. As major as this story was in our high school, no one dared to say anything too loud for fear it might actually get back to the subject. It seems that with boy, no one cares if the person involved hears. In fact, that is quiet the purpose of mocking him.
It is even more acceptable for girls to call guys names. A girl saying that a boy is “gay” based on his actions is not unusual or questioned by others. There is a double standard for what is allowed and what is not. It is okay for boys to mock other boys or girls to mock boys but it is “more damaging” and less accepted for girls to bully their own kind. I am not saying it doesn’t happen, but it rarely happens without censorship to the party at hand.
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Mann, Laura. “Teaching Intolerance: How Society Enforces Community”. Excepted from Aspire! A Guide to First-Year English 2000.