So remember when I had the bright idea to post about Lolis both as a concept and as a word? I try to forget that too. It was an impulsive reaction at best. Well let me step into something much worse. I promise I’ll lay off the topical anime fake duhrama for a bit after this.
Almost immediately I got a response to my loli post along the lines of “yeah, people just don’t know what words mean in our community, it’s like people that think trap is an insult“… First, I suspect this fellow did not read my post as I was arguing that loli means exactly what people think it means. But giving them the benefit of the doubt..? whhaaa?
Of course trap is a slur. A particularly obvious one even without any context. Few derogatory terms I know are this obvious about being meant as an insult. For those of you not familiar, in animespeak… “Trap” is used to describe a male character dressed like a woman. In English the word transvestite and the flamboyant expression drag queen can both be used for that. Drag queen having more implications of extravagance and artifice. In Japanese the word otokonoko is often used.
Trap is a borrowed word (obviously) that means the same thing as otokonoko with an implication of something duplicitous, dangerous or bad. Literally a situation in which people lie in wait to make a surprise attack. There’s no such thing as a pleasant trap. So using the word as a descriptor is a way of saying male character dressed as a female which for the purpose of deceiving and potentially attacking others. It’s not a pleasant characteristic. And if that’s the way you’re using the expression then fine. It may in fact fit the character you’re describing. Just have the backbone to own it.
Of course that’s not what I actually want to talk about. You can bark at me in the comments about how I don’t know what I’m talkin about regarding otaku vocabulary in the comments if you want. My issue here is not with you, it’s with myself.
I get annoyed when people use derogatory terms and don’t have the courage to stand by them or the honesty to admit they didn’t know all the implications, and just pretend they were innocent love filled little angels all along. But I’m also starting to worry about outrage culture.
On the one hand, shutting down any possibility of dialogue at the slightest provocation is a great way to encourage ignorance. Guys, there are a lot of problems in the world and we need to figure out how to work together if we’re going to get anything done. Certainly there are better applications of our time than to jump at every turn of phrase. I should point out that most people are pretty indifferent to words, it’s really only extremists that grab onto these gripes every time. Most people may point it out once in case someone simply didn’t realize they were being a bit rude and move on. It’s only the conteroutrage that gives the initial outcries any credence at all.
On the other hand, there’s something very odd about being told, “could you use a different expression, that one has a lot of associated trauma for me and it hurts a bit to see it constantly” and reacting with anger! If you can do something that requires zero effort or investment at all on your part and would make someone’s life a little better, why wouldn’t you do it? Why would the idea of it make you angry?
You see what I mean. The balance is sort of tricky. Fact is words do matter, they carry with them a mentality, an understanding. Of course the world won’t grind to a halt because you call all women bitches or decide to use racial slurs as greetings. But it does somewhat normalise or sanitize the mindset and history behind those words.
You know, traditionally speaking I’m what is known in academic circles as “an insensitive jerk”. Up until rather recently I was generally of the opinion that we have way too many things to care about to make such a big deal about vernacular. Living in places where bigotry and discrimination where not only accepted but expected, made the issue of calling each other names seem almost quaint. But I didn’t understand until I got to somewhere I considered safe and comfortable, the deeper meaning of it all.
I live in Canada. It’s not perfect by any means but it’s pretty gosh darn inclusive on some issues. One of which is LGBTQ+ rights. Montreal in particular has always been very welcoming to the community. A few years ago, a good friend of mine got pretty seriously beaten up for being gay. He was in the hospital for days. It was terrifying. He is a kind and reserved man who has never been demonstrative about his love life or insistent on his orientation. He is also a big and very in shape guy that can stand his own if need be. I never knew the details of the incident and I’m not horrible enough to ask, but it was a violent hate crime. Right here in Montreal. And it all started by a stranger calling him a faggot.
No the word did not make the incident happen. No you are not going to assault people just because you joked around with some tasteless slang. But you do see what I mean right. If it’s fine to say it, some will assume it’s fine to think it. And just because you use it lovingly doesn’t mean everyone does. And to pretend otherwise is just weak.
So what am I saying? Don’t use any language that could offend anyone? Fuck no! My personal bias will always go against censorship. Besides, you know what really pisses me off? It’s holding onto these tiny symptoms and pretending those are the problem. Actually, I prefer if you use sexist language, at least that way I know where I stand. I hate the idea of just not using certain words and pretending the problem is solved. That lazy tendency of attacking the most superficial part of something and ignoring everything that really matters.
Alao, I’m afraid the drummed up outrage will distract us from the real problems and prevent us from properly talking to each other. Which we need to do if we’re going to figure all of this out. Jumping at RuPaul for calling himself a tranny, when the man has done more for representation then I can even explain – well that seems painfully shortsighted to me.
But then you accidentally hurt people for no reason, and risk tacitly condoning much worse behaviour. Make up your mind Irina!!!! This is why I need you guys. I really don’t know where I stand on this and I would like to know where you do.
I guess in a perfect (risk free) world I would say one could use the expression trap because it fits what one wants to say. Because one means to slander a character or the notion has something trap like in the context. Possibly because one is describing someone or something that’s duplicitous. But there’s no need to shut down any conversation that may see it otherwise. That’s the worst of both worlds…
Edit – My original wording here was a harsh and may have made people feel personally targeted so I tried to change it to something more neutral that gets across my general point. I hope it’s an improvement.