Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Intersex Bashing on Fox Network

House is a popular medical drama that can be seen on the Fox Network. The program recently featured a storyline about an intersex child. The terms "shemale" and "freak of nature" were used to make reference to the child. The House character is usually seen as offensive and other characters are disapproving, and while the shows effort to discuss intersex issues is important, this sort of language is unacceptable as it perpetrates misunderstanding and violence against intersex and gender variant people.

Demand that Fox stop bashing sexual and gender minorities, and to provide more positive and accurate depictions of intersex people.
askfox@foxinc.com

25 comments:

amchau said...

I used to dislike House based purely on personal preference. Now I have a real reason to do so.

mave said...

I saw that show and I have to completely disagree with you. I felt the character, the circumstances and situation were very sympathetically portrayed. Your post here really mischaracterizes the show's handling of the situation, and anyone who hasn't actually SEEN the episode is going to get a wrong impression.

While "freak of nature" and "shemale" were both used in the show, they were not done so in a pleasant way. It was clear in both cases that the terms were offensive, as the character always says the most offensive thing possible in any situation. However, his full statement was: "Just because your child was a freak of nature, that's no reason to treat him like one".

Also, the child was very sympathetically portrayed, and there was a strong message of acceptance, honesty and loving someone for who they are - particularly by the character 13. Also, the parents who were trying to shoehorn their child into one gender or another were portrayed as monsters, which is as it should be.

I really feel you are barking up the wrong tree here, and I don't think it's in the best interest of the queer community to climb down the throat of sympathetic, balanced portrayals like this.

Anonymous said...

If you took to task everyone House insulted it would be a very long list. This show is not for you. I watched it and thought nothing of these so-called insults. At some point, all this political rightness will dry up any creative will. Then again, blogs are a little like cable news, they always need to have SOMEthing to say.

Queers United said...

I understand his character is offensive, but there are certain words that should not be used. "Shemale" is one of them. And although he said "just because your child is a freak of nature is no reason to treat him like one" he also said "cut her balls off." I think this sort of language creates fear, and disgust against intersex people and only promotes misunderstanding and violence.

Isaac said...

This episode hasn't already been shown in Spain, but I think that Mave may be right. Dr. House uses such an offensive language with male and female people. Why is he going to do otherwise with intersex people? If he argues against genital mutilation, this is the point.

Anonymous said...

Oh please. Will you people stop whining like little baby's every time someone say's something that you think it's offensive and wrong. Haven't you people ever learned the word "First Amendment Rights" and "Freedom Of Speech" read it and maybe you will learn something instead of whining like little babies.

For the record, as an intersex person, I think the episode is good, but yes, it could have done a little more better and less trashing.

mave said...

Regardless of what language he used, it was abundantly clear in the episode that he genuinely cared about the kid and felt it was monstrous to treat him like a freak. To rail about the language he used is to COMPLETELY miss the point of both the show and the episode.

We should be thanking Fox for bringing the issue to light and portraying it realistically and compassionately. Instead you are calling people to arms against them for language, when that offensiveness is a key part of the show. If you don't "get" that, fine, but given that the show itself and the issue itself was well portrayed, I think that making a stink about the language just comes across as petty and excessively strict and literal.

This kind of freakout over language does all progressive causes a huge disservice, and only backfires, distances and irritates people who may have otherwise been sympathetic.

Queers United said...

Type in fox and anything LGBT, I think you will find that the network never intends to do our community a service. I think we will have to agree to disagree on this one.

Isaac said...

Moreover, when this episode is shown in Spain, I may talk about intersex issues without more explanation than the reference to this episode.

T. R Xands said...

Bwaaahahaha. Yeah, when House does it, it's okay.

And the First Amendment Rights squad strikes again!

Queers United said...

I don't get this whole first amendment thing, I am totally for free speech. They had every right to air the program and people who are mad have every right to call them out on it.

Unite the Fight! said...

Let's say House's patient was African American or Asian American, and though he's very sympathetic for their plight, he ignorantly uses the "N" word or the "Ch" work respectively to describe his patient (heck, I wouldn't be surprised, this coming from House). Would we be having this debate about whether or not Fox should've aired such dialogue? Sure, it could fall under First Amendment Rights, but does that mean we shouldn't call them out on it?

We may not realise that some (not all) intersex individuals may find the language used in this episode equally offensive as racist slurs that most agree shouldn't be uttered, regardless of the story's message and intent. But that's because this demographic of our society has and is marginalised so badly, that we don't know what we may say about them can be offensive because we haven't bothered to listen to them. We should defend their integrity just as strongly as anyone else's.

Queers United said...

Unite said it beautifully, I second.

MacBean said...

1.) House didn't use the term "she-male." Kutner, one of his fellows, said it. Previously (and later) Kutner used proper and respectful language. He used it in that instance in order to get a reaction out of House, who was behaving strangely.

2.) House was the one who used the term "freak of nature." But he was saying that the kid shouldn't have been treated that way. House has, in past episodes, perpetuated stereotypes such as blacks all being criminals, people of Asian descent all owning dumpling shops, and so on and so forth. And he makes some kind of snide comment about Jewish people in practically every episode, because of Wilson and Cuddy. (Okay, so it's not THAT often, but it IS very frequent.) I don't see any of those groups writing letters of protest.

And, honestly, "freak of nature" may not be the most sensitive way to say "different," but ... face it. Being intersexed is not the norm. That's all House was saying: It's a medical complication, but it doesn't mean the kid should be treated as less than human.

Anonymous said...

Look - House offends EVERYONE. That's the point. He's not singling anyone out. And the characters around him DO disapprove of his comments. Because they represent the sane majority of the population.

So knock the chip off your shoulder and try to understand the show.

I'm an openly gay man writing this and I was not in the least big offended. If anything FOX gets my praise for addressing the topic of intersex kids.

You clearly do not get this show - so don't watch it.

Anonymous said...

it was definately NOT intersex bashing.

the character House said

"You gave birth to a freak of nature, but that's no reason to treat him like one"

the kid said "i'm a freak" House was using the kids comment abut himself to remind him that, HE IS STILL A PERSON.

Remember, Topics such as Intersex, Transgenderism, Homosexuality, especially with children, is a delicate topic. FOX Network is the LEADING NETWORK to show cases which are otherwise IGNORED. FOX has the most gay charcters, and issues about TRANSGENDER and INTERSEX. We should be proud that FOX is shedding light. and yes, the character of House is intended to be an ass, but who tells the truth. he was reminding the parents that their child was still a child, they shouldnt force him to be more masculine etc.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree, that people need to get off their high horse every time someone or something on TV says something you think or assume it's offensive or wrong. They need to stop be literal and stop taking things too seriously.

What the episode on House is not intersex bashing and it's not derogatory. What House was trying to tell this intersex kids Parents was that you don't need to treat your kid like a freak, even though he was born one.

So seriously, you people need to stop assuming something you think was wrong or derogatory, when you all don't know the facts or watched the whole show.

We should be thankful that Fox shed some light on the intersex issue.

Anonymous said...

The entire character of House is an anti-hero. The premise of the show rests upon him being a misanthropic, insensitive ass who happens to also be a brilliant diagnostician.

Anyone who follows the show knows that House's offensive behavior IS offensive. It's not glorified or honored or set up as an example to follow at all.

While the premises and points are different, House is somewhat like Archie Bunker in that he's used as a foil to express offensive language and ideas that are then, by the other characters and by the plot of the show, exposed for the crap they really are.

It's brilliant, and it's disappointing that people who don't watch the show would so easily dismiss it. If you don't understand the point of something, your criticism of it is equally pointless.

That said, the show DOES have its flaws, most notably in treating a bisexual character's same-sex relationships as a reckless, self-destructive walk on the wild side, and her opposite-sex one as a central plot point.

wariobidness said...

I think... that the character House is designed to be offensive to everybody. I don't have a problem with this, I love the show. Here's my issue:

On the show, when House acts like an unbelievable bastard, usually one or two people criticize him, and one or two people defend what he's said. In this particular episode, not only did now one particularly argue against the child being called names, but one other member of House's team did it also. This kind of makes me feel as if it's less of a topical discussion of views toward transgender issues, and more of a statement like "intersex people are freaks, but they're people too." Yes, they're people too, but no, I don't think they're freaks, and I think they were portrayed as such.

Nothing against the show, I just happen to think that they didn't handle the episode parrticularly well.

And no, I really don't like when people are called "Shemales" in a derogatory way, because it DOES offend me and I DO get annoyed because that's what it means to be offended... That's just how I am.

Seth said...

I was expecting trash talk from House, whether or not I liked it. He did the same in an episode with a model who they later found out was intersex. However, I think wariobidness has a point that there was not enough of a negative reaction from the other characters. They've defended murderers more than they defended this kid.

I did appreciate the fact that the story illustrated how unwise it was for the parents to make hasty medical decisions and force gender roles on their child.

mave said...

There weren't even any other characters present when the comment was made, so I don't get why people are harping about "none of the other characters speaking out strongly enough". Honestly, people, get a grip. Clearly you miss the point of the show entirely and the whole premise of it is completely lost on you. If you're just going to run around reacting to everything you encounter as though it is a direct threat to you, then I don't think it's very productive, not very smart. But I guess that's your right. I do believe, as I've said before, that it does progressive causes a HUGE disservice to be that way, but alas...

wariobidness said...

I wouldn't call it harping, mave, considering I only said it once. I also think that there were other characters around, but hey, not the first time I could have been wrong. I don't think I missed the point of the show, but maybe you could state it if you feel that strongly that I have.

In the end, it's obviously not the end of the world, it's just one episode of one t.v. show. I just happen to have found it a little on the inappropriate side.

Anonymous said...

i very rarely watch this show if ever because of their derogatory attitude to mostly everything. but i decided to watch this episode. for most the episode i thought the worst was the "she male" comment, which was insulting but i thought was used to portray the characters bigotry since he was made comments about the other doctor being bi. but at the end when house made his freak of nature comment i saw and felt the outrage that was taken to far. this said i dont think this is reason enough to attack the show. its simply one more reason too. every episode I've seen of it (a total of 3 i believe) have been outright offense. there is no way i have happened to see the only 3 shows with such offensive material. this show is just in bad taste, bad humour and plain old bad disgusting writing period. exactly what i have come to expect from fox.

Anonymous said...

I saw that episode you're talking about and honestly, I was not offended by it. Yes, it included harsh vocabulary, but the character it came from was supposed to be an ass. You can't take a subject and make every character, even the asses, politically correct. It's completely unrealistic.

I can understand being offended. However, the intersex patient involved was portrayed with sympathy.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the title of this episode?

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