Fagbug rolls over gender stereotypes

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If it wasn’t for a car insurance company being backed up, Fagbug would never have started.

New York college student Erin Davies was the victim of a hate crime and had the words “fag” and “u r gay” spray painted on her Volkswagen Beetle because of a rainbow sticker on the back of her car and her perceived sexual orientation.

The crime occurred more than five years ago, but Davies brought her car to the university and spoke about her experience.

The Fagbug presentation was organized by Speaking Out Loud and sponsored by Student Association, Residence Housing Association and community organizations PFLAG and Perceptions.

The event received local coverage from WNEM TV5’s news station, which censored this word “fag” but not the name of Davies’ website, www.fagbug.com. Before showing it, newscasters said that the following segment “may not be appropriate for all audiences.”

Andrew Northrop, Speaking Out Loud president and social work senior, said he’s glad the university allowed the group to put the event on.

“It’s an awareness move ment that takes a controversial topic and forces dialogue,” he said.

Despite graffiti on her vehicle, Davies had decided to leave it on as a way to educate others. She intended to have it cleaned off, but her insurance company was too busy to take care of it.

“If they hadn’t been backed up, I never would have done what I did,” she said.

Soon after the incident, she decided to drive it.

“In this very moment, it was like an inner voice telling me what to do,” she said. “So I didn’t question it.”

She parked it at her university and was soon asked to move her car by police because it was upsetting people.

“Instead of being upset with who did this to my car, they were very upset with me,” Davies said.

One of her friends suggested continuing driving it around to record others’ reactions and make a documentary out of it. Davies took a 58-day road trip around the United States, interviewing people about their responses. Fagbug has since been sponsored by Volkswagen and repainted in rainbow colors with the graffiti removed.

Davies said she was glad she originally kept the graffiti on.

“Every time you wipe something like this off, you’re just encouraging it,” she said.

Many people criticize Davies for her use of the word “fag” and worry about her safety, but Davies said she’s never been physically attacked because of her project and said it helps stimulate discussion. If it were a male trying to take ownership of this movement, she believes it would have turned out much more differently.

In her time driving the Fagbug, she has had the word “faggot” shouted out at her once. For just one day, Davies let her male friend drive the car. Within hours of him driving, people shouted the obscenity at him. She said 78 percent of anti-gay hate crimes are directed towards men.

“Some people can be victims of hate crimes and not even know it,” chemistry freshman Bailey McCarthy Riley said.

Northrop said these actions can happen everywhere.

He received an email the day prior to the event that a Saginaw resident had his car keyed because of the stickers he had on his car.

Davies said she won’t stop until she has a presentation where others don’t have similar stories of hate crimes to share.

“Homophobia is not my problem,” she said. “It’s everyone’s problem.”

The Fagbug documentary is available online and through Netflix.

For more information go to www.fagbug.com.