John Mayer’s “Pass” Fail

16 Feb

In the same inflammatory Playboy interview in which John Mayer made reference to his “white supremacist” dick, he offered this response to a question about whether he had ever kissed a man:

The only man I’ve kissed is Perez Hilton. It was New Year’s Eve and I decided to go out and destroy myself. I was dating Jessica [Simpson] at the time, and I remember seeing Perez Hilton flitting about this club and acting as though he had just invented homosexuality. All of a sudden I thought, I can outgay this guy right now. I grabbed him and gave him the dirtiest, tongue-iest kiss I have ever put on anybody—almost as if I hated fags. I don’t think my mouth was even touching when I was tongue kissing him, that’s how disgusting this kiss was. I’m a little ashamed. I think it lasted about half a minute. I really think it went on too long.

Mayer has apologized (via Twitter) for using the n-word elsewhere in the interview, saying. “Re: using the ‘N word’ in an interview: I am sorry that I used the word. And it’s such a shame that I did because the point I was trying to make was in the exact opposite spirit of the word itself. It was arrogant of me to think I could intellectualize using it, because I realize that there’s no intellectualizing a word that is so emotionally charged.”

In an interview with People, Holly Robinson Peete is asked whether she thinks Mayer is actually racist. “Is it possible to say something racially charged, bigoted and flat out ignorant and not be a racist person? That’s the question. My impression is that it’s possible.” But Robinson makes it clear that Mayer’s personal racism, or lack thereof, is the least of her concerns: what he said was “beyond inappropriate,” and he owes her community an apology.

The problem (I’ll argue) is not whether John Mayer is “actually homophobic,” as has been the focus in the back-and-forth on the gay blogosphere. If Mayer is, in fact, homophobic, his comments were offensive, ignorant, and in poor taste. And if he’s not…well, they were offensive, ignorant, and in poor taste.

There are a few caveats, mainly that John Mayer clearly has problems that go way, way beyond not knowing which words it isn’t okay to use when describing gay people (…black people…women), and that Perez Hilton is, for what it’s worth, a provocateur. But if circumstantial or historical considerations allowed us to decide not to label Mayer “homophobic,” does what he said really sound any less sleazy? Would we all heave a sigh of relief because we no longer needed to be repulsed by his comments?  To me, the idea that someone’s progressive politics could buy them a “pass” (much like the “hood pass” Mayer also claims to have) of any kind is repugnant. The issue at hand has little, if anything, to do with the spirit in which Mayer posits that he thought he could “outgay” Hilton by kissing him in a way that was “almost as if I hated fags.”

The absence of any real media uproar over the off-color comments (which seem to have been lost in a sea of sexual napalm) and the absence of an apology from Mayer are, of course, as troubling as his arrogance. If you’re interested in taking social justice into your own hands via hostile Tweets, GLAAD has demanded an apology from Mayer and is urging readers to do the same. Personally, I’ll be moving on fast to focus on celebrities more worthy of our attention (like the adorably, outspokenly pro-gay Jason Mraz).

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One Response to “John Mayer’s “Pass” Fail”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. When Is “Sorry” Not Enough? « BLoGT: NYU's Queer Blog - February 20, 2010

    […] question is this: does the answer change whether or not his words were acceptable? I’ll quote what Sophie had to say about John Mayer in a post from a few days ago: The problem (I’ll argue) is not whether John Mayer is “actually […]

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