Two things have been on my mind today. I’m sure this is a wholly inappropriate format for these thoughts, because lord knows I won’t be able to do them justice here. But, hey, this is what a blog is for, right? Making an ass of yourself in public.
A friend on Facebook posted about how at quiz bowl they changed his team’s name from “We Shot Travoyn” to “DooDooHeads.” (How original.) My friend was upset at the change because it was “political correctness” from “liberal arrogant douches.” Setting aside everything else for a moment, the people who run the quiz bowl have the absolute right to reject names they find inappropriate. So there’s that, first off.
But that wasn’t really what his outrage was about. I responded that the name sounded, at best, pretty damn racist. Whatever his intent was, in a void it appeared really bad. The response was “it’s deep, because it’s a commentary on how we all shot him, because we enable racism. There’s a lot there.” And you know what? I think he has a point. Sort of. In America we do a lot to enable racism, even if all we do is not actively resist it. And in that regard, yes, we’re somewhat responsible for enabling a culture in which someone could shoot a black teenager and Gieraldo Rivera can blame the victim for wearing a hoodie. I’m okay with that point.
“We Shot Travoyn” as a name for a quiz bowl team in no way conveys that argument. Especially coming from a team of three white males. And trying to defend that name when you are called out on its obvious racism is making light of a very serious issue. Regardless of the intent behind the message, do you honestly think that name was going to do anything but scream racism? And I’m sure that the argument of perception would be wielded here, that just because people don’t get it doesn’t make it racist. But that argument undermines what communication *is*. It is a two-way interaction between speaker and listener, if your argument is couched in racism and requires much explanation to be understood as not being racist you probably shouldn’t name yourself that thing.
Plus, let’s not kid ourselves here, it’s pretty obvious my friend was doing it to just get a rise from people.
Ugh. That pissed me off.
The next thing on my mind doesn’t piss me off, but it does leave me a bit confused. There’s been a lot of discussion lately about why the mentality of “I prefer small boobs” is wholly inappropriate in the context of discussing sexism and perception of female norms in media. As in a woman points out “All the best roles go to women with blonde hair in TV.” and a man responds with “I prefer black hair!” I’m not going into the logic of why that’s sexist and a backhanded compliment here, suffice to say I agree with it.
What’s been confusing me is *when* is it appropriate to utter such sentiments? Or, maybe a better question, is it ever appropriate to ever utter such sentiments? I don’t mean in regards to sexism, etc. Here, let me pose a few hypotheticals so you can see where I’m coming from.
1.) A person asks you your sexual preferences, and how you feel about item X. -This is straightforward, stating preferences when specifically asked for them is fine.
2.) A female friend says that she wishes she had blonde hair. -Would it be okay to say something like “I like your hair the way it is”? Hmm..
You know, I don’t think there’s ever a good time to state one’s physical preferences outside of being expressly asked, or something similar to those lines. I wouldn’t want someone to tell me they love brown hair when I’m talking about how I dislike mine. It seems awfully dismissive and dominating. No. It *is* dismissive and dominating. “You shouldn’t change this thing you dislike about yourself, because I like it.”
Not that I think all men who say these things are trying to be sexist and dominating, they probably mean something like “You don’t need to change yourself to fit in with a societal norm, you are beautiful as you are.” It’s just harder to say that than “You don’t need a boob job, I love small tits!”
Man. That sounds so bad.