I can't say that the news that Matt Damon--who is fifty-one and went to Harvard--only recently stopped saying the word "faggot"--and not in reference to the cover of Led Zeppelin's fourth album--is surprising to me, with Damon being sufficiently removed from reality to also have thought it cute that his daughter was the one who prevailed upon him not to use the term and this could be turned into a happy puff piece type of thing. Nor did it surprise me that people took this as an opportunity to dump on Massachusetts. Cue the remarks of, "Well, it's Massachusetts, what did you expect," etc.
I had this editor at ESPN. She was dumb. Highly attractive. She kept getting promoted. There wasn't much mystery as to why. Not a clue in her head. And she used the word "retarded" constantly. "I know it's retarded but..." That didn't surprise me either. They flew me in, and I'm sitting there with her, and it's retarded this and retarded that. This was a ways back, and it's certainly nothing compared to what I've come to know and experience since.
As for this f-slur, and all of these statements about how people didn't used to know it was wrong, but they've seen the light since in these wiser times, I say bullshit. I grew up here, and everyone I knew knew the word was wrong. This was in the 1980s. All the kids I knew knew. Some said it, but they knew what they were doing. They didn't care, being kids, but you absolutely knew what it referred to. Kids even made the joke of, "What? It's just a bundle of sticks."
It occurs to me that people were smarter then. Because these were average kids. If you asked any of them what the word meant, they could have told you. It wasn't this case of "Oh my, I had no idea, I thought it was a synonym for 'jerk,'" or whatever I hear people saying now, retrospectively; the "we didn't know any better" course.
I played sports constantly, and hockey for a long time, and it wasn't that common. It was a low-grade, ineffective insult when it was used as one at all. You had the sense that people thought using it was cheap and unclever. I didn't grow up rich, my parents weren't frou-frou fuck-wit Williams professors. We were just kids. And you absolutely knew. I don't mean me, enlightened guy. But I never had friends who'd toss that word around when we were hanging out. When someone got slammed, and had something nasty said about them, it wasn't that word. It was some pretty awful stuff. It could be much more upsetting. But it wasn't that word.
I don't think it made sense to a bunch of us as a pejorative. That's not the same as "hooray for the gays!" because people weren't saying that. When you wanted to rip into someone, you didn't call them a "fag." That's not what happened. It wasn't liberally bandied about in hockey locker rooms. I'm sure it has been, and there's someone like Kevin Durant using it, but that was never my experience. It's so uneducated, so uncouth, so ratchet-y to use that word as part of your daily parlance, as Damon obviously did.
All of that money, the travel, the places you've been, the luxuries of your life, the society you can buy your way into, the culture on offer to you, and you are still that trashy gutter-muppet? You're not under a rock, you're out in the world. You have to work not to know how to behave. Because you have so much opportunity, you're exposed to so much. You're not on your own in some overgrown jungle of darkness.
Like I said, I'm not remotely surprised, and if you want to be offended, spend some time in media and publishing and learn how most of those people think and talk. But this thing now where people are trying to score Woke points saying they get it, they reformed, sure, they used to talk that way, but no one knew at the time, they've grown, is total hogwash. People knew just as well as they know now back in the 1980s that you shouldn't have that word falling out of your face fifty times a day.
And I say that as someone who thinks it's ridiculous when someone like an athlete has this big moment where they announce their sexuality, which is so crazily hubristic to me. Who cares? Live your life. Be good at your job. Be strong. Help people. Grow. Don't do "whee! look at me!"