Satire t-shirt company Laugh It Off has been slammed on social media for mocking clothing retailer JayJays by using a gay slur.
Laugh It Off, which won a landmark 2005 Constitutional Court case after it was sued by SAB for satirising its Carling Black Label beer brand, has accused JayJays of stealing one of its t-shirt designs.
The design, a spoof of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) panda logo, shows two pandas having sex with the letters “WTF?” below them. Laugh It Off claims that it created the original design while JayJays says that its version is based on one widely used on the internet since 2008.
In a bid to mock its opponent in the dispute, Laugh It Off included a design in an open letter that parodies the JayJays logo and instead reads “GayGays.”
Laugh It Off added in the letter: “We’d rather call them gay. And we don’t mean that in the awesome, homosexual sense, but rather in the lame, weak and creatively bankrupt way.”
This was slammed by some members of the LGBT community and their friends on Twitter, with Rebecca Davis (@becsplanb) asking the company, “SERIOUSLY?!”
Laugh It Off (@LaughitOff3000) replied with: “We mean gay as in rubbish or stupid, which is now an acceptable new use for the term. Look it up.”
Jeanine Cameron (@jeanineac) then commented in a number of tweets, with the hashtag “#gaymeans”, writing:
#gaymeans being honest when it could mean losing everything, including your family;
#gaymeans going to jail in nigeria for marrying your true love;
#gaymeans spending life in Jail in Uganda if you have the courage to come out;
#gaymeans running the risk of being “correctively raped” in SA townships if you dare to come out;
#gaymeans watching those fun Sochi Olympics knowing ppl like you are being imprisoned for being gay.
She concluded by tweeting: “@LaughitOff3000 so do not have the fucking nerve to tell me #gaymeans ‘rubbish’. You have no fucking clue.”
Wes Matthews (@TcupTempest) added: “@LaughitOff3000 #gaymeans integrity, so by extension, boycotting your products.”
Laugh It Off responded rather weakly: “We aren’t homophobes guys, homophobia is so gay…”
While Laugh It Off may believe that using the word gay as a negative term or as an insult is now acceptable, LGBT activists and social scientists would beg to differ.
In 2012, a study published in the Journal of American College Health looked at American students’ use of the increasingly common term “that’s so gay” to describe something as stupid or undesirable.
The study found that gay, lesbian and bisexual college students who heard “that’s so gay” more frequently were more likely to report feeling isolated and to suffer negative health symptoms.
“‘That’s so gay’ conveys that there is something wrong with being gay,” said the study’s author Michael Woodford. He described the use of the term as “low-level hostility” against gay students.
“Policies and educational programs are needed to help students, staff and faculty to understand that such language can be harmful to gay students,” he added.
In 2013, research by the UK LGBT rights group Stonewall found that 84% of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people said that they’re distressed when they hear the term “that’s so gay.”
Stonewall’s Deputy Chief Executive Ruth Hunt said: “We know that many people who casually use the term ‘that’s so gay’ don’t intentionally mean to be offensive. But the reality is that their words cause hurt and distress.”
Do you think that using the word “gay” as an insult is acceptable? How do you feel when someone uses the word in a negative context around you? Tell us below.