And Then about Black Blackface Minstrelsy

You thought I was just reading all that stuff for fun! Okay, I was, but also because I was invited to do a guest post at The Hooded Utilitarian and I wanted to write about Darkest America: Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hop by Yuval Taylor and Jake Austen, a book I really liked, but had one serious issue with. My post over at The Hooded Utilitarian is an attempt to answer the one question I thought Taylor and Austen left oddly unanswered.

I just want to thank Barry for his help with the song stuff in the middle of the post (though he didn’t know at the time that his help would be going to this end and neither did I). And to Elias for turning me on to The Hooded Utilitarian those many years ago.

Just Some Stuff I Want to Say

This has been the roughest couple of days I’ve had blogging in a long, long time. I can’t sleep. I’m having trouble making sure I’m eating enough at the right times so that I don’t get sick. I feel like shit. Every time I see there’s another comment here, I hide from it for as long as I can before I come to look at it.

I don’t say any of this because I want your sympathy. What I want is just to give you some context for the apology I’m about to offer. In the old days, I used to love these long discussions, because I was an idiot and I thought you really could just hash this shit out in public and some good would come of it. Some minds would be changed.

But the truth is that I don’t believe that’s true and I haven’t for a while. I don’t believe big messes like the one we had here actually change minds. I think they’re just cathartic and terrible in equal measure. Often just terrible and hurtful.

In part, in order to be effective, the person moderating the comments has to have a generosity of spirit and a level of kindness and understanding that is completely outside of my ability. From where I’m sitting, it seems like you’d have to have an inhuman generosity of spirit. So, if you got in that comment thread and it sucked, yes, I knew and I am sorry. It’s just not something I can do–guide a conversation like that in ways that keep everyone on track and everyone, including myself, from feeling like they’re being attacked. I also don’t have the ability to not take shit personally. If it hurts me, it hurts me and I’m going to react.

So, that fucking sucks.

But I also want to say this–tempers were running very high, mine especially. And I know there were a lot of people just watching the shit storm from the sidelines and then forming opinions of the people involved. Or feeling like this incident solidified feeling they already had. That it “proved” something about someone, whoever the someone was to you.

One fight one time in one place is not the whole of who a person is. It doesn’t settle or prove anything about a person. We change. (Though, as I said, I doubt because of shitstorms like this). Or we hold one opinion that seems stupid or out of character but otherwise we’re fine and wonderful people. Or whatever.

God, this post is making me just want to burn this blog to the ground.

But I guess what I’m saying is that, if you want to use the internet to decide who the bad guys or good guys here in town are, don’t solely use moments like these to decide. People aren’t just their fuck-ups.

On Chris Wage’s Cunt

Chris thinks it’s stupid that people are upset about The Onion’s joke calling Quvenzhane Wallis a cunt. More bafflingly, he “thought the onion’s joke was hilarious.” Ha ha ha. No. Even setting aside for a moment–which we will come back to–what the joke calls Quvenzhane, it’s still a joke that takes a nine-year-old girl hostage in order to point out how horribly women are treated by Oscar commentary and then shoots the hostage! Ooops, guess what, The Onion and Chris? Once the hostage is dead, you’ve lost your leverage.

Wage acts like Quvenzhane’s appearance in the joke is incidental–that the joke can somehow be about her and yet have nothing to do with her. In that regard, I think Wage is being an idiot. A joke about a person that the person the joke’s about can’t honestly and spontaneously laugh at is probably a joke a lot of people are going to find, unsurprisingly, doesn’t work. A joke about a woman that the woman who is the center of it can’t laugh at and probably shouldn’t even hear unless she’s got a team of people around her to put it in context for her (as Wage seems to acknowledge this joke would take–“So yes, she probably has heard about it. What horrible things exactly are we imagining have happened as a result? A brief explanation by her parents that it was a joke poking fun at institutional sexism and the vacuity of celebrity viciousness in general? A more in-depth conversation about the power of the word “cunt” and how its colloquial usage is pernicious and should be avoided, and how the Onion turned that on its head to make a rather biting point?”) isn’t a joke with a woman as the subject of it. It’s a joke in which the woman is an object. It’s not a joke for her. It’s a joke about her.

And one, if she hears it, she’s just supposed to learn to think is funny. It’s cruel to make jokes about people they can’t willingly laugh at (I keep saying things like “willingly” and “spontaneously” because we are taught from an early age to laugh at things we don’t find funny, things that often hurt us, because people tell us to. I’m trying to differentiate between what people laugh at because they feel pressured to and what they would laugh at if no one was judging them.), but often cruel jokes are hilarious. So, I’m not opposed to cruel jokes.

But when you’re making a joke about someone and you don’t care if that person is in a position to laugh at it at all, then that’s not just comedy–that’s comedy that uses, in this case, a little girl as an object. Again, I say, it’s not surprising that people would find that not funny.

But I want to make another point as well. It is very, very difficult to make a true statement funny. It’s not that it can’t be done, but, if you’re going to attempt it, you need to be prepared to fail miserably. Which, in this case, The Onion did. Wage makes the same mistake when he says, “Because calling a 9 year old girl a cunt is a horrible, horrible thing to do.” Chris, no one thinks that.

Okay, not no one. A very small pool of people in this world genuinely think that calling any girl a cunt is actually horrible. Women get called cunts our whole lives and when we get confused or put off or upset or angry, and we look to the very same people who I’m sure would tell Wage that they think calling a nine year old girl a cunt is horrible, they tell us the people who call us cunts don’t mean it, or we just need to understand where they’re coming from. Or that they’re just joking. (We’re coming back to this in a second.). We get the message over and over again, loud and clear, that there’s nothing wrong, not really, with calling us cunts. Because we are.

You’re incredibly fortunate if you live in a situation where it’s obviously funny to call a nine year old a cunt because of how horrible it is. Because most of us don’t live in situations where people think it’s that horrible at all. They just think it’s true.

For them, The Onion joke was funny for that reason–because The Onion just went ahead and said what everyone else is thinking. But again, then the joke only works if we’re saying that that it’s not important that the person at the center of it be able to laugh at it. It’s funny because it’s true, in this case, works because the people who think it’s funny think so little of women. Could you make a joke in which the punchline is “so-and-so is kind of a cunt” and have it be funny to the very people who regularly get called cunts? I think so. This was, as evidenced by its reception, not that joke.

Why not? I’ve actually been giving this a lot of thought since I read Chris’s post last night. Why doesn’t this joke work for me? And I think that it goes beyond that I find calling a nine year old girl a cunt distasteful (which I do, but I laugh at distasteful shit all the time) or that I find it gross that a little black girl who’s going to spend her whole life being hypersexualized by popular culture gets labeled a cunt, even as a joke, straight out of the gate (which I do and you can find good and useful commentary about that all over the internet). It even goes beyond the fact that I live in a culture where women are cunts so how is a statement of fact really a joke?

And it’s this: Every time I’ve been called a cunt, when the dude who called me a cunt got called on it by someone he respected, his excuse was that he was joking. Every damn time. Can’t she take a joke? And yet, obviously, he wasn’t joking at all. He meant it.

So, The Onion is trying to land a joke that is more complicated than Wage gives it credit for. There’s already a non-joke joke in wide circulation that is “Ha ha, I called you a cunt, but I say I was joking, even though I meant it, so that makes it okay.” Most women are going to hear it in their lifetimes. The Onion wants to make a joke that is “Ha ha, I called this little girl a cunt, but I’m joking in a style that looks like I mean it, so that makes it okay.” In order to land the joke The Onion was attempting to land and not have it veer into the non-joke joke which is the more culturally familiar one, The Onion would have to be the fucking Mike Tyson of comedians (See? In a paragraph about landing punches, I stick in a notorious rapist and it stings and is funny, because I’ve just spent all this time building it up and because we’re talking about how women can’t get away from this idea that we’re just objects for men to use however they want, so hello Mike Tyson. But I didn’t attempt that in 140 characters and I accept that it might not be funny to you.).

They failed.

I’m not saying it can’t be done. I’m not even saying that it can’t be done in 140 characters. But The Onion didn’t do it. They threw “I called this little girl a cunt, but I’m joking a a style that looks like I mean it so that makes it okay” and they landed “I called you a cunt, but I say I was joking, even though I meant it, so that makes it okay.”

I have a theory as to why, too. And that theory is because they had no idea that “I called you a cunt, but I say I was joking, even though I meant it, so that makes it okay” is as prevalent as it is. I don’t think they had the first idea that they were playing right up against an incredibly common trope. Much like Wage, I’m pretty sure that they thought the joke was “I’m saying something so horrible about a little girl that we’ll all laugh because it is so horrible.”

So, what backfired on them, I think, is that they thought they were making a funny original joke about things that are too horrible to say, when really, they were just making a more sophisticated version of the non-joke joke. Probably a wider variety of women on The Onion’s staff would have helped this.

Which brings me to my last point–if you’re going to make jokes ostensibly in defense of women, I’d prefer it if they not disparage any woman to try to get their laugh. But, fine, whatever. If, however, the point of your joke requires that the woman at the center of it probably not hear it, because it would upset her and she wouldn’t understand, and it requires the use of a word as a joke that most of us get called “as a joke” all the time, don’t pretend like it’s a joke about how terrible women have it. There isn’t actually any concern for how women have it in the joke. If you think it’s a problem that we’re objectified and that slurs are routinely tossed at us, you don’t objectify and toss slurs at us in order to protest our treatment.

Don’t pretend like, when a joke relies on objectifying a woman and calling her a cunt, and women are grossed out by it, it’s because women just can’t see what’s so funny about it. Maybe there’s a whole painful context to the joke you’re not aware of. Maybe Quvenzhane’s parents can come by and explain it to you.

My Last Think Progress Thing

I didn’t intend for them all to end up fantasy and horror, but they did. Here’s an interview with Jason Sizemore.

In case you’re counting, that means that, on Monday, I did whatever crap I tried to pass off as worthwhile here, my actual job, two posts for Think Progress even after I said to the Butcher, “I should take some time this weekend and write ahead some on Think Progress so that I don’t break my brain,” but did not follow my own advice, a post for Pith, and a post for Flyover Feminism that runs tomorrow.

I now can’t function I should make some squares, but I’m going to play video games and fret about my car and go to bed instead.

Random Things that Amuse and Irritate Me

1. Today is Lovecraft. One of the commenters hates me. Well, shoot, now it feels like home.

2. Joe Carr, professional dumbass.

3. Dear Paul. My name is Betsy Phillips. I assume you either know that or gathered it from reading the post of mine that so gravely upset you. Sorry about that. I happen to like Christmas sweaters, even though I won’t fuck you if you’re wearing one. It’s just a personal rule. I’m also not going to fuck the new convention center, even though I find it kind of charming, if hideous. I assume you feel differently or my opinion wouldn’t bother you so much. Eh, to each their own.

4. Today we can watch Mike Byrd play “I’m not the only one who thinks you’re terrible. Everyone is talking about how much you suck.” like this is junior high. Burns, doesn’t it, Mike? Knowing I suck and that you still can’t stop paying attention to me? Knowing how much I suck and knowing that the new readers you’re going to get today will come from me?


For the Record

Mike Byrd says:

Last October local SouthComm blogger Betsy Phillips introduced new SouthComm reporter Andrea Zelinski in an interesting way. Yes, full disclosure counsels that Phillips’ wrote some “homer” PR fluff on behalf of the news corp she blogs for. So, take the cheers with a grain of salt and then verify for yourselves. And yes, it is remarkable that Phillips dropped a double-edged sword of praise for Zelinski qua woman (saying males “don’t really know a lot about the reality of women’s lives” even as she also argued that women’s issues are not different than issues, like jobs, that concern males). Yes, it can be argued that Phillips takes away with one hand what she gave with the other.

Let’s just be clear. I don’t know what Byrd thinks I should have more fully disclosed. I wrote that piece because I wanted to and it’s what I believe. No one asked me to write it. Even when people at SouthComm send ideas my way, they never tell me what opinion to have about those things or how “fluffy” to make those things. But that doesn’t really matter, because I wrote that post on my own.

I’m also not sure how one should “take the cheers with a grain of salt and then verify for yourselves.” Verify what? That I wrote the piece? I did. That I meant what I said when I wrote it. Well, world, if my word then wasn’t good enough, I’m not sure how my word now is supposed to be, but here you go: I meant what I said when I wrote it.

But I would like to thank Byrd for illustrating my point so clearly. In the real world, a woman can be excited about another woman getting a more prominent job writing about politics because she is genuinely excited about seeing more women’s voices in prominent positions when talking about politics. That’s my agenda–support for more women’s voices talking about issues that affect us and support for men who don’t treat women as some strange species that plays by different rules and who don’t write dismissively about us.

In Byrd’s world, if a woman writes positively about another woman, it’s evidence of some secret agenda dictated to her by her SouthComm superiors. In the reality of women’s lives, we don’t all automatically hate each other unless some man tells us to fake it for the general public.

Hell, if all Zelinski did was write about Rhee without using the term “tough cookie” to apply to a grown-up woman making (or attempting to make) national decisions about our educational system, it would be an important change in tone from how adult women making national public policy get talked about here on the internet.

If that makes me a co-conspirator in some grand scheme to… I don’t know what… then consider me a co-conspirator.

Happy Thanksgiving

I have a lot to be grateful for this year. Honestly, this has been one of the most amazing years of my life. From the ceiling over my head right now to the amazing book readings of October to the art people made inspired by me to… well, to everything.

As I’ve said before, for a long time, I owed every good thing in my Nashville life to Charles Wolfe, who, rest his soul, was the kind of guy that would have never occurred to. He was just someone who shared his enthusiasms widely and I benefited from it. It’s weird to think about, because it gets right to the heart of the inherent unequalness of these sorts of things. Someone can do so much for you without even knowing it, because from their end, it seems like so little, so not a big deal. I’m sure Charles Wolfe liked me fine but gave me no more than normal thought. He certainly didn’t set out, ever, to make my life awesome.

And so it is, I’m sure, with you guys. You have given me this awesome life, for which I am profoundly grateful. I have no idea if you ever feel the magnitude of that.

But I hope, a little bit, that you do.

Eight Years Ago, On a Cold Dark… No, I think it was an afternoon

Eight years ago, I started Tiny Cat Pants. In some ways, I’m still the same old me. In other ways, it’s simply impossible to imagine how I got from there to here except that it just somehow happened.

Blogging has brought me so many good things. I’ve met some of my best friends this way, had opportunities I just can’t even believe, still, are real, and found a real community in which I can flourish and grow.

I am incredibly grateful to you all for reading. And I hope it has been and continues to be worth your while.

Well, It’s Got Some Drawbacks

First among them is that there are no links to my pages. And, yes, it would be nice if the recent comments were easier to see. But I really like the layout and I like that I can classify posts as different things. I know it seems like some of the posts can’t be commented on, but they can. Just click on the circle with the date in it.

8:19 pm »

Just testing some different things out to see how they work.

The Blog Roll

It’s gone. I never kept it up to date because I didn’t use it so I cut it. I have half a mind to reformat the whole blog, too, but I hate to lose the header. So, there’s that.

Edited to add: Okay, I did change the theme! And it’s fancy.

A Perfectly Good Waste of Beer

I have an overwhelming desire to smell beer and go to bed. I don’t want a beer to drink. Just to smell.

Not sure what’s up with that.

Someone on Reddit has found my vodka-soaked tampon debunking and I’m now getting a ton of traffic. If I could combine a post about vodka-soaked tampons and crocheted vulvas, I would get so much traffic I’d break the internet.

Fun with Search Terms

Some days I like to see what searches brought people to Tiny Cat Pants. Today, though, I have two odd terms, terms so odd that the Butcher and I have just spent twenty minutes discussing them.

Case one: “rugby penis”  Is this some kind of sports injury? “Man, my jock strap rode up on me strange and I got a terrible case of rugby penis”? Do rugby players have distinctive kinds of penises? “Oh, you can tell he’s an athlete by his rugby penis.”?

Case two: “man carrying woman and kissing her boobs at the same time” Is this a dude carrying a large-breasted woman in the classic “bridegroom & bride vs. threshold” position? Is this a guy carrying a gal in reverse piggy-back? If so, how does he see where he’s going? Is he walking backwards so that she’s shouting directions while looking over his head? How can she concentrate on giving directions?

Most importantly, can we call the injury a man sustains from trying to carry a woman and kiss her boobs at the same time “rugby penis”?

I wish that I could find someone to do an “illustrated search terms that bring people to Tiny Cat Pants” but I feel like it would be completely NSFW.

Don’t Make Eye-Contact! We Don’t Want to Startle It!

Ha, just when I was all “Eh, nostalgia, what crap!” Jamie Hollin wrote a post on some happenings in the blogosphere yesterday.

I write a post on a subject I feel compelled to tell. JR Lind with the SouthComm family posts a link thereto on Post Politics. The hits driven by JR’s post make my site counter spiral upward. I don’t know, but perhaps Betsy found it there and offers up her own response. Then Trace over at Newscoma served up her aforementioned response to the Q & A provided by Betsy with another link back to my post. Then again, JR posts both Betsy’s and Trace’s posts. I know I’ve been getting traffic from all sources all day today. More of the traffic came from SouthComm’s Post Politics instead of SouthComm’s Pith in the Wind.

(Note: Hollin is in my feed reader. So, I probably found his post the same place JR did–on his site. But I know that Post Politics is indeed how most Tennesseans who want to find online political content do so.)

Remember when it was like this all the time? Back in the Nashville is Talking days? When people did have long multi-blog conversations? Yeah, that was nice. It was like this.

I wonder if this is an anomaly or if it’s possible to get back to those kinds of discussions? It takes a lot of faith in the good-will of all participants in order for these kinds of discussions to happen and, I’ll admit, that kind of good-will can often be hard to come by. These days, when things spread from blog to blog, it’s usually in anger, not in interest and curiosity.

But it’s nice to see that it can sometimes work in the good way.

Braisted on Campfield Action

The owner of a Knoxville restaurant kicked Stacey Campfield out of her establishment last night for being a destructive bigot. Sean Braisted gets to the core of the matter.

Knoxvillains who wish to eat out have a whole host of different options from which to choose from.  But Tennesseans who want equal representation and rights have only one legislature to look to.  While there are many representatives, theirs, Stacey Campfield has made it a mission in his life to make life harder for those who don’t fit his own personal view of ‘normal’.

It’s hard, when society is set up to make it s easy to just ignore that you are benefiting from bigots–and thus reaffirming to them that their ideas are “normal” and “mainstream”–and to just let a politician like Campfield eat in your restaurant. In a way, it reminds me of the stand Nirvana took–“if any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for us-leave us the fuck alone! Don’t come to our shows and don’t buy our records.”

And people were kind of pissed that some group would be hostile to their liking them, just because they “had different views.” After all, where was this famous liberal tolerance? But tolerance that means letting Campfield glide through life while the people he hurts just shut up and take it isn’t really tolerance. Like Braisted is getting at–tolerance is what two people of equal social stature do when they have opposing views that can’t be reconciled. If you have to keep your head down to keep the bully from picking on you, that’s not tolerating the bully. That’s staying off his radar.

But so often, “tolerate” and “stay off his radar” are treated like the same thing.

Edited to add: Braisted continues to say brilliant things about this.

Skills for Everyday Living

Heather Solos is going through an interesting problem for those of us who are intellectual property junkies. A website in Florida has popped up advertising itself as “Modern Home-Ec 101: Skills for Everyday Living” whereas Solos’s website is “Home-Ec 101: Skills for Everyday Living.” Solos is rightfully concerned not just that her website is being ripped off, but that Modern Home-Ec 101 seems to be hoping that there’s some confusion with her brand and that people might mistakenly think this is something she’s somehow involved in.

I told Solos I’d be really curious to know if they were planning on using her book as the textbook in an effort to make the confusion more ongoing.

Brand purity isn’t something I’ve had to worry about, thank goodness. And there are a lot of people who don’t really get how intellectual property laws work, so while I do think you have to go after those folks, it’s easy to be sympathetic.

It’s much harder to have any sympathy for folks who seem to be deliberately trying to stir up confusion and benefit from that confusion.

Plus the website actually contains the sentence, “This class teaches you how to cook like it is made from scratch, however many of the basics will be store boughten with your own twist.” I don’t know what the exchange rate between dollar and twist is, but rest assured, I will not be buying anything at the store with my own twist. I have a hard enough time with my own currency.

I Present a Baby Kicking and Hitting a Cat

People, who the hell knows with cats? The cat in this video clearly dislikes being hit and kicked by the baby and yet, he seems to be making an effort to tolerate it.

I think it’s because cats have such low opinions of people already that a little one that can’t really control its extremities and barfs and poops on itself just seems like a tiny step down to a cat.

Cat’s all like “Eh, it’s really not that much worse than what the big ones do.”