Dan Savage, a gay male advice columnist who writes for the Seattle Stranger, has some cachet among liberals/Democrats/progressives as being queer-friendly, pro-kink and open-minded, but he still has lots of privilege as a thin, white, rich, cis, married, U.S. man. I’ve collected several criticisms of his advice which should make you think long and hard before calling this columnist helpful, progressive and open-minded. In no particular order…here they are…
1. He’s pro-coercion. As the Delphiad Blog notes, Savage’s ideal is the “good, giving and game” partner. To be “game,” in his mind is to accept sexual practices that one may not like or enjoy for the sake of one’s partner. The Delphiad explains that, in male-female relationships, this dynamic may often play out where the partner with less power, i.e., almost always the woman, may submit to sexual things she doesn’t want to do because she feels guilty. That’s not enthusiastic consent. That’s not healthy, happy sexual activity. That’s coercion.
2. He’s ableist. When called out by a reader on his use of “retarded” to mean “silly” or “unlikeable,” Savage responds by saying that he would use the word “leotarded” instead of “retarded.” Basically he mocks and criticizes a reader for pointing out his harmful prejudices and then went on to ignore the reader’s valid points. That’s ableist.
3. He’s fatphobic. In a column where a reader asked if he should stay with his overweight wife for the sake of an infant daughter or else cheat, Savage assumes that fat = ugly. Jessica Stein at the Bilerico Project breaks it down:
…Savage never questions the assumption that newly overweight equals unattractive. He tells the writer to “take a little responsibility” – not for sharing childcare, but rather for “knowing that pregnancy and its tragic aftermath, aka ‘parenting,’ leave new moms with very little time for the gym.” Furthermore, Savage posits that if the woman seems more concerned with the baby than with her weight, then she deserves whatever she gets.
Basically, Savage shames the woman in question for daring to change her size and weight, as if one’s weight and size are strictly a moral, personal, individual choice, rather than complex results largely influenced by genetics. That’s fatphobic.
4. He’s homophobic. Yes, Savage, though a gay man himself, suffers from internalized homophobia. Melissa McEwan on Shakesville analyzes Savage’s Santorum campaign [a campaign to get presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s name associated with a disgusting byproduct of anal sex in search engine results] as deeply anti-gay. In a nutshell, Savage is responding to Santorum’s bullying behavior by name-calling and bullying him back. He’s stooping to Santorum’s level. And Savage performs his bullying in a particularly homophobic way. McEwan says:
Dan Savage does not speak for all gay men—and among that diverse community, there are gay men (and their allies) who consider it objectionable, and deeply counterproductive, to treat as “gross” something that is central to gay male sexuality.
(Which is not to suggest that gay men are the only people who have anal sex, or that all gay men have anal sex, but the campaign was designed by a gay man specifically to embarrass Rick Santorum for saying something homophobic about gay men, so the context here is pretty evident.)
5. He’s transphobic. Among many other examples, in one column, Savage passes judgment on a person who wants to transition, even though the transition would upset the person’s 15-year-old son. In fact, the title of the column is “Bad Tranny,” thus using a derogatory term for trans folk. Savage’s answer — that the trans person should wait to transition until the son is older — also completely disregards, marginalizes and writes over the trans person’s experience, privileging the cis son. Yup, that’s transphobic. No wonder Savage gets glitter bombed…multiple times!
6. He’s racist. In the aftermath of the Californian Prop 8 debacle, in which same-sex marriage was legalized, then voted away by referendum, Savage says:
I do know this, though: I’m done pretending that the handful of racist gay white men out there—and they’re out there, and I think they’re scum—are a bigger problem for African Americans, gay and straight, than the huge numbers of homophobic African Americans are for gay Americans, whatever their color.
This will get my name scratched of the invite list of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which is famous for its anti-racist-training seminars, but whatever. Finally, I’m searching for some exit poll data from California. I’ll eat my shorts if gay and lesbian voters went for McCain at anything approaching the rate that black voters went for Prop 8.
As Renee at Womanist Musings says, Savage portrays himself as speaking truth to power, but he’s really just repeating bullshit, not actually borne out by statistics, about black Californian voters being huge supporters of the anti-marriage Prop 8. Furthermore, in the first sentence, he plays Oppression Olympics, essentially saying that homophobia is a worse problem than racism. Thus he dismisses the legitimate grievances of POC. That’s racist!
7. He’s misogynist. Savage cops to calling biologically female genitalia “a canned ham dropped from a great height.” Even as he says that perhaps this statement wasn’t in the best judgment, he argues that it’s accurate. Did he just compare bio fem body parts to a disgusting splatter of processed pig? Yes, he did, and his revulsion is misogynist.
I’m really tired at the moment, but I will add to this list as I find more ways in which Savage fails to be the broad-minded, accepting individual that he would like to think he is.
EDIT: 8. He’s biphobic. In this video, he dismisses the reality of bisexuality by calling it a “waystation” that gays and lesbians go through before identifying as gay or lesbian. He calls it a “phase.” He delegitimizes this sexual orientation with bullshit about its “essential nature.” That’s biphobic.
9. He’s a douchebag of colossal proportions. In the same video mentioned above, he trivializes prison rape.
SHUT UP DAN SAVAGE!!!!