Apologies for the lack of posting last week…I was pretty overwhelmed with the Ferguson situation as well as a variety of personal issues (nothing dire) and I just didn’t find the time. But I’m back! With a think piece. Sort of.
So, I have enjoyed two things recently that I’ve been told I ought not to enjoy: Megan Trainor’s new single “All About That Bass” and a jezebel.com article which featured full-frontal nude illustrations of male Disney characters. The jezebel article was speculating, in great and graphic detail, what sort of trouser-snake the heroes of Disney were hiding under their tights. And yea, I chuckled heartily at it. Because Gaston is a jerk and he would totally send tons of unwanted dickpics (NB: is a dickpic ever wanted?).
Both the comic and the song have been criticized heartily for various reasons. And the creators of both have responded with “it’s a joke”. Which leads me to wonder, if some people are laughing, but some people aren’t, is it still funny? Given that I personally have been told MANY times “lighten up, it was a joke, don’t be so serious” when I’ve called someone out on their sexism/homophobia/racism, I think it’s a topic we need to talk about.
Forgive me if you’ve already figured this out. If you have, I want to know!! If you have a blanket statement, like “if anyone’s offended, then it’s wrong” or something like that, I’d like to hear about it. What works out for you? I just don’t have a working hypothesis and that’s what’s bothering me.
So the music video…let’s start there. There’s a lot to say about it…and many people have made some excellent points about the appropriation of black culture, the fact that it pits societal approval vs. male approval (when it should really be about SELF APPROVAL), and many other things. The one constant critique is that Trainor refers to thinner gals as “skinny bitches”, then offers she’s “just playin'”. Is this passive-aggressive? Or just rhythmically convenient? Either way, calling someone a mean name and then following it with “just joking” seems unhelpful. In the South, we say “bless your heart,” which can often mean “f*&k you”, so I know about this tactic. My mom says if you’re going to say no offense…then don’t say it. I’m not sure how I feel. Could Trainor have subbed in a less offensive phrase? Perhaps. But is it okay to express genuine frustration about the women who have fat-shamed her? Maybe. Is it wrong to say skinny bitches, or is it wrong(er) to say just joking when you clearly aren’t?
Now for the dick-pics article. I found it very funny, albeit a little unnerving. Pictures of penises, cartoon or real, generally unnerve me. But the article made me chuckle, because the descriptions of each prince and his man-junk seemed fitting. I found myself thinking, yes, totally, Prince Eric would be like that! I read some aloud to Tom, who also had a laugh. Generally pretty innocuous stuff, I thought.
But then the comments. Many people pointed out that jezebel, a feminist-leaning site, rails against the objectification of women, so why do it to men? The author’s answer was, essentially, because it’s funny. And, unfortunately, I had to agree that it was. But is that okay?
I think part of the reason I was so amused WAS because it was such a dramatic role reversal from the norm. If a male-oriented site ranked Disney princesses by hotness or displayed drawings of their labia, I’d be incensed. But not too surprised. Because I’ve been catcalled on the street, objectified, and passed over because of my gender so many times that it’s hardly even surprising to me anymore. So this felt gratifying to me in a rage-fantasy sort of way, like the movie “Inglorious Basterds”. We can’t undo the Holocaust, but we can really gruesomely depict Hitler’s murder. And that feels just a little bit good. I don’t like that it feels good, but I won’t pretend it doesn’t.
So my laughter at the article, I think, was borne out of some serious frustration. And it alleviated the pain for a moment. But does that excuse it? I think not. Because by stooping to the level of my tormentors, I’m not raising awareness or creating solutions. I can already hear my critics telling me to lighten up. And I don’t want to be serious all the time! I hate the image of a feminist as a dour fun-hater who ruins all the joy in any given situation. But I wish that standing up for yourself didn’t have to be seen as an attack on fun.
A very funny man died last week. He brought laughter into so many hearts but was unable to heal his own. His death has made me think hard about humor and what it can do. It is a very powerful thing, to be sure. It can brighten a day, and it can help to heal an old hurt. It can bring understanding and peace in situations where diplomacy and logic have failed. But I’m starting to think that like any tool, humor should not be used recklessly, because someone could get hurt.
What do y’all think? And how are you celebrating the end of summer?