Here's why people on social media are claiming that 'gammon' is a racial slur

Here's why people on social media are claiming that 'gammon' is a racial slur

A debate has erupted on social media this week about the use of the word 'gammon' in political discussions, with some detractors accusing the term of being a racial slur.

If you've never heard the term before, allow me to elaborate. "Gammon" is a colloquialism used to describe a particular demographic of conservative; typically middle-aged, white men with ruddy complexions.

In the United Kingdom particularly, the term has grown more and more popular, mostly as a way for embittered liberal millennials to express their exasperation with the right. For example, newspaper columnist and author Caitlin Moran used the term to describe former British Prime Minister David Cameron as "a camp gammon robot – a C3PO made of ham."

However, the term first gained widespread exposure in 2017, when British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn was questioned about his stance on nuclear weapons on BBC's Question Time by members of the audience. Shortly after the program aired, writer Ben Davis shared a composite picture of the nine red-faced men who had questioned Corbyn and compared each of them to slices of ham.

However, now commentators are claiming that the term is actually racist and that it trivialises political debate. On Twitter, Belfast MP Emma Little-Pengelly wrote: "I'm appalled by the term 'gammon' now frequently entering the lexicon of so many (mainly on the left) & seemingly be accepted. This is a term based on skin colour & age - stereotyping by colour or age is wrong no matter what."

Meanwhile, Times senior political correspondent Lucy Fisher wrote: "Gammons, centrist dads, melts & slugs: the nomenclature of nastiness on the left is growing. The culture of scorn may galvanise activists in the short-term, but will alienate voters at the ballot box."
On the other hand, some liberal commentators have defended the use of the term, stating that, while the insult is somewhat childish, calling 'gammon' a racial slur presents a false equivalency - particularly when compared to persecution ethnic minorities have endured over the years. For example, Adam Bienkov, political editor of the magazine Business Insider stated: "There is no cultural, economic, or political disadvantage to being an angry old man with pink cheeks. Relax, nobody is coming for you."

Even Davis himself appears to be anxious about the role he played in introducing the expression to the general public. In a recent article in The Independent, he wrote: "Ultimately, though, what started out as a daft meme has become just another weapon in Twitter’s never-ending culture war. The right will call you 'cucks', the left will call you 'gammons', nothing will change." Perhaps he has a point. When it comes to squabbles over politics, there truly is nothing new under the sun.