Friday, February 25, 2011

Bay Guardian Insults People With AIDS
as 'AIDS Victims'

 (The late Bobbi Campbell, a founder of the PWA empowerment movement. Note that his shirt does not say victim. This uncredited pic appears in the current Bay Guardian.)

The pretentious on-staff gay writer Marke B at the progressive weekly Bay Guardian wrote a rave review on Wednesday of the new AIDS documentary "We Were Here," about the dark years of the epidemic here. However, he made a bad choice of words that are a bracing and stigmatizing insult to those who've died of AIDS and the many HIV poz folks from the 1980s still alive today:

Other participants tell the stories of SF General Hospital's groundbreaking AIDS Ward 5B/5A, the Shanti Project, Visual AIDS, and the "San Francisco model" of multifaceted, compassionate care for AIDS victims before contemporary treatments became available. ...

After extolling many of the incredible advances in fighting the crisis and lending dignity to people with AIDS, Marke B cavalierly tosses out the "AIDS victim" phrase, which upset me and I sent a note to the Bay Guardian's editor Tim Redmond asking for an explanation. Tim wrote:

Okay, Michael, here's my understanding (and the understanding of Marke, who is more of an expert on LGBT PC than I am):

People with AIDS replaced AIDS victims as a term for those living with the disease. That was an important and appropriate distinction because AIDS victim was disempowering etc.

But I believe it was, and is, still okay (is it not?) to refer to someone who died as being a victim of a AIDS, as you would with any deadly disease or tragedy. (Cancer victim, victim of war, murder victim etc.) In this context, Marke was referring to people who had died (or were dying). If that wasn't completely clear, we apologize.

So the Bay Guardian is not apologizing for use of the term, and the editor and writer think the problem is this reader didn't understand the context in which the term was used. Pretty lame excuse, if you ask me, especially from a progressive publication in San Francisco, of all cities.

The paper used a photo of the brave PWA Bobbi Campbell, who did an amazing amount of work to reject the stigma of being called a victim, including being present at the meeting that produced the groundbreaking Denver Principles, which opened with this declaration:

We condemn attempts to label us as 'victims,' a term which implies defeat, and we are only occasionally 'patients,' a term which implies passivity, helplessness, and dependence upon the care of others. We are 'People With AIDS.' ...

Sadly, I believe the work of the PWAs who developed these principles and the values inherent in the principles have been diminished by Marke B and the Bay Guardian.


woody said...

Just the fact that Redmond used the phrase "LGBT PC" is telling. PC is phraseology I find infuriating.

Bill Wilson said...

Every time I hear or see the phrase "Aids victim" I cringe no matter whether it is used to describe someone already dead or someone still living, because I know how hard people fought against use of the word victim. There is no context that makes it acceptable and it would have honored and respected those people with Aids to not use it.
Once again I find myself having to say, "Thank you, Michael, for not only having the heart to understand, but the balls to do what is right in calling people when they are wrong."!
I also agree with Woody. PC is still correct not matter the motivation.

Marke B. said...

Woody, Tim was responding to a message from Michael that used the phrase "politically correct." Here is his complete note:

hey guys,

i can't believe your ultra-politically correct, not that there's anything wrong with that, publication in freaky san francisco has managed to insult and defame people with aids, both dead and living, in this week's issue. the pretentious marke b. egregiously calls up the fabulous 'san francisco model' of support for people with aids and then calls us aids victims:,1

Other participants tell the stories of SF General Hospital's groundbreaking AIDS Ward 5B/5A, the Shanti Project, Visual AIDS, and the "San Francisco model" of multifaceted, compassionate care for AIDS victims before contemporary treatments became available.

in case marke b. didn't get the memo, aids victim was rejected when reagan was president and ignoring the epidemic and those living with the disease. how the hell did aids victims get into the pages of the bay guardian?

lemme hear what you all have to say as to why this phrase was used, maybe the writer wanted to needless provoke a debate?, and why the editor of the piece didn't catch this offensive term and amend it.

and fyi, that photo on your web posting of the review of the news aids documentary, looks to be the courageous bobby campbell, one of the first persons with aids to reject that label and be public about having aids. you'll note his tee shirt says 'aids poster boy.' the word victim is not part of his ID.

this insensitive goof is worth a blog post and i'd appreciate a reply by mid-morning tomorrow.

btw, the joemygod blog is not local. the author, joe jervis, lives in manhattan.


calugg said...

The term "AIDS victim" is sooo out-dated. "Person with AIDS" set the groundwork for other terminology like "Living with Cancer," etc. Since the advent of PWA, the term "victim" has largely been stamped out in most medical communities.

Does anyone believe Teddy Kennedy was a victim? Really? Or Lance Armstrong? Then why use the V-Word with People with AIDS?

Thanks for posting this bit of asshattery. It's both silly AND demeaning.