TMZ is reporting that Willow Palin, 16 year-old daughter of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (and sister of newly-minted Dancing with the Stars finalist Bristol Palin) struck back at a critic of her mom’s TLC show by calling him “f*ggot,” along with a string of other obscenities. The incident is being widely reported on the internet, and while Miss Palin’s word choice is, indeed, homophobic, it would be unfair to label her a “homophobe.” If anything, the lengthy exchange illustrates the lack of thought that goes into this kind of name-calling, and presents an opportunity to get these kids thinking, instead of fighting back.
Read the full, uncensored exchange after the jump.The Facebook flame war in question was touched off by a comment from someone named Tre, who said of Sarah Palin’s TLC show, “”Sarah Palin’s Alaska, is failing so hard right now.”
The comment sparked an intense response from Willow — who replied on the boy’s wall, “Haha your so gay. I have no idea who you are, But what I’ve seen pictures of, your disgusting … My sister had a kid and is still hot.”
Willow followed up that comment with another that read, “Tre stfu. Your such a f**got.”
The conversation escalated from there, with varying degrees of obscenity.
There are probably already people who are looking to score points, political or otherwise, based on this story. They are wrong. Willow Palin is a child, and she is not fair game. If this story was not already halfway around the world, I’m not sure we would be reporting it. Since it is, though, putting it into the proper perspective is the only responsible thing to do.
There will be some who are tempted to use this as an indictment of Sarah Palin as a parent, or to connect it with Republican opposition to gay rights, or to paint Willow as a homophobe who didn’t fall far from the tree. These instincts are completely wrong, and they muddy the true lesson here.
These kids are all too typical. Willow obviously doesn’t really think this kid is gay. She and the others transition effortlessly to weight-and-appearance-based insults almost interchangeably. No thought is given to the fact that they’re using hate speech, because it is so common. The idea that being called gay is a heinous insult is second nature.
I would hazard a guess that Willow and her Facebook playmates weren’t thinking about the rash of suicides related to anti-gay bullying, including young kids who were not, in fact, gay. They didn’t create a world where gay equals unequal, they are a product of it. Attacking or demonizing them will only prevent that lesson from being learned. Even if you don’t support gay marriage, or repealing DADT, surely most of us can agree that kids shouldn’t be calling each other “f*ggot?”
Here’s the full Facebook exchange. Besides serving as an excellent screenplay for Apostrophe Now!, it is a candid glimpse into the schoolyard mind, and a reminder that the way we speak to each other matters. They’re obviously watching us.
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