A recent Scenes From a Multiverse:

A not-very oblique reference to the Chick-fil-A flap, turning on denying rights and hate.

Chick-fil-A background: the company — with fast-food fried chicken places, mostly in the South — has been donating money to passionately anti-gay organizations. A boycott was then organized, Mike Huckabee organized a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day in response, and counter-demonstrations were organized. At the center of these events (there’s a side controversy having to do with city officials advocating that the company should be barred from their cities) is the right of the company to donate to whoever they please and the right of gay organizations to object.

In the cartoon, we see a common response to someone who objects publicly to some position or action: that the objector (Chick #1 in the cartoon) is denying someone else’s freedom of speech (Chick #2’s in the cartoon). But, as Chick #1 says, that’s not how it works.

(Usually, the response to the objection is framed as “You’re censoring me”. But that’s not censorship: no one’s speech is being suppressed, and the objection is not coming from some controlling body.)

Then there’s the denial of responsibility by Chick #2: I don’t personally deny the rights of others (the lizard people), but just support institutions that attempt to do so.

And then we get to hate: Chick #1 accuses Chick #2 of supporting hate groups, to which Chick #2 counters by appealing to a holy text, the Word of God in the form of the book Lizard People Suck, which (apparently) says that God opposes and rejects the Lizard People. It’s not hate if it’s in the book. By definition.

Another image, a sign, passed on to me by Gregory Ward:

Objections to the word homophobia come from many sides, all embracing the Etymological Fallacy: since the libfix -phobia is derived from Greek φόβος, phóbos ‘fear, horror’, you can’t be a homophobe if you merely dislike or hate homosexuals. (But many people have noted that fear and hate are often closely tied.) Homophobia is an inappropriate word for such an emotion, on this account.

But this is silly. Things mean what they mean now, and it’s clear that -phobia is used for dislike as well as fear. Here’s Michael Quinion’s affixes site on the element:

Extreme or irrational fear or dislike.

A large number of words using this ending have been created in modern psychiatry and related fields. It is possibly also the most fecund in the language for humorous invention, as in arachibutyrophobia, fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth (from the genus name of the peanut, Arachis, plus Latin butyrum, butter). [considerable list of exx.]

Related adjectives are formed in -phobic (claustrophobic, technophobic). Nouns in -phobe describe a person affected by the condition (arachnophobe, xenophobe).

Note “fear or dislike”. Among the examples:

homophobia: homosexuality and homosexual people

hydrophobia: water, but especially rabies, whose sufferers typically experience great difficulty in swallowing

Islamophobia: Islam or Muslims

photophobia: extreme sensitivity to light

xenophobia: strangers

The Wikipedia entry on phobias starts from clinical psychology, and looks at phobia as a technical term in that domain:

A phobia … is, when used in the context of clinical psychology, a type of anxiety disorder, usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational. In the event the phobia cannot be avoided entirely the sufferer will endure the situation or object with marked distress and significant interference in social or occupational activities.

Late in the game, the entry admits that

The word phobia may also signify conditions other than fear. For example, although the term hydrophobia means a fear of water, it may also mean inability to drink water due to an illness, or may be used to describe a chemical compound which repels water. It was also once used as a synonym for rabies, as an aversion to water is one of its symptoms. Likewise, the term photophobia may be used to define a physical complaint (i.e. aversion to light due to inflamed eyes or excessively dilated pupils) and does not necessarily indicate a fear of light.

A number of terms with the suffix -phobia are used non-clinically but have gained public acceptance, though they are often considered buzzwords. Such terms are primarily understood as negative attitudes towards certain categories of people or other things, used in an analogy with the medical usage of the term. Usually these kinds of “phobias” are described as fear, dislike, disapproval, prejudice, hatred, discrimination, or hostility towards the object of the “phobia”. Often this attitude is based on prejudices … These non-clinical phobias are typically used as labels cast on someone by another person or some other group.

Below are some examples:

Ephebiphobia – fear or dislike of youth or adolescents.

Homophobia – fear or dislike of homosexuals or homosexuality.

Islamophobia – fear or dislike of Muslims.

Judeophobia – fear or dislike of Jews.

Xenophobia – fear or dislike of strangers or the unknown, sometimes used to describe nationalistic political beliefs and movements. It is also used in fictional work to describe the fear or dislike of space aliens.

On homophobia specifically:

Homophobia is a range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). Definitions refer variably to antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, irrational fear, and hatred. In a 1998 address, author, activist, and civil rights leader Coretta Scott King stated that “Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood.”

Homophobia is observable in critical and hostile behavior such as discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientations that are non-heterosexual.

….. Researchers have proposed alternative terms to describe prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people. Some of these alternatives show more semantic transparency while others do not include –phobia: [homoerotophobia, homosexophobia, homonegativity, heterosexism, sexual prejudice]

Me, I’ll stick with what are now the ordinary-language terms: homophobia, homophobic, and homophobe.

As a final bonus, let me recommend Geoff Nunberg’s new book, Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years.


3 Responses to “Hate”

  1. Julian C. Lander Says:

    Relevant to -phobia in general: I’m not sure whether this is standard, but my ophthalmologist refers to me as photophobic even though my sensitivity to bright light is not the result of disease or another problem with my eyes. It’s mild (I tolerate indoor lights fine), but I never could deal with bright sunlight without sunglasses. So that ‘s a use in which -phobia refers to something no stronger than discomfort.

  2. Rick Sprague Says:

    Photophobia is an exception. I’ve never heard it used as a diagnostic term for an anxiety disorder, and if it were it would probably mean you couldn’t bring yourself to go outside in the daylight, even with sunglasses, because of an irrational fear of, say, skin cancer. (It wouldn’t be because of a fear of being seen–that would be diagnosed as agoraphobia or a social phobia.) So the ophthalmological term isn’t just a use, it’s the only meaning of photophobia, as far as I know.

    With respect to etymological fallacy, it’s always struck me as delightfully ironic that “homophobia” should mean “fear of the same”. That is, a homophobe’s aversion would, etymologically speaking, stem from a fear of his or her own homosexual feelings–a conclusion that is sometimes true despite being fallaciously deduced. I’ve always liked the word for that reason.

  3. Departments: There’ll always be an England | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] quite often ‘aversion to’, ‘dislike of’, or ‘hatred of’. (See this posting, on […]

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