Polyphasic Sleep and Better Thinking
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — social laquer

How to be good at dirty talk

Lessons I'm sure I'll never have reason to teach anyone, but which are cool to be *qualified* at teaching:

I'm awesome at this now. Whenever someone wants it, over the phone, in their ear, in text-messages, I jump right in and enjoy the hell out of myself, and it's always well-received. But I hear from many people that they find it stressful, intimidating or difficult.

But I wasn't always awesome at it; I had to learn.  So maybe I can help those who want to do it but find it tricky.

(Put behind a mercy cut for those who don't care for these kind of topics.)

[Read more →]

February 21, 2014   No Comments

Everything You Need To Know About Being Friends (You Did Not, In Fact, Learn In Kindergarten)

There's more to it than just sharing your toys sometimes and not hitting.  Being an adult friend means these things too:

  1. You will not hurt your friend.  That means no deliberate cruelty, ever, in verbal or other form — if you lash out and try to hurt your friends, you deserve to lose them, even if you had other motives*.  And if you're inadvertently cruel, which we all are sometimes, you'll apologize and make up for it — not in proportion to how much you think the thing you did should have hurt, but in proportion to how much it did hurt.  COROLLARY:  You will know how much it did hurt by listening to and observing your friend.
  2. You will be there a) when your friend desperately needs you to be (see COROLLARY) and b) when you said you would be.  If you aren't there at either of those times, you will, again, apologize and make up for it.  "Making up for it," by the way, means taking an active role in correcting your mistake in an appropriate way — not just saying you're sorry and then doing nothing.  If you flake when a friend needed or had a right to expect you, you're responsible for offering and scheduling a good time and way to make it up to them.
  3. You share not just your things, but your time.  You'll do things with your friend that are not just things your friend came up with or invited you to — sometimes you'll do the inviting or suggesting of a thing too.  If you never have time for your friend unless "they make it happen", then you aren't being a good friend.  
  4. You pay attention.  Related to (3), if you always drop off the planet unless your friend contacts you, if you can't be bothered to occasionally call / text / ping and see how your friend is doing, or know about and be at least a little available for things like their birthday and other important days, you're not being a friend.  Friends take time and effort:  If you don't have this to spare, it's your job as an adult to explain to someone that you don't have the time or energy available to be their friend right now.
  5. You want what's best for both of you, which includes a good friendship.  If all you can offer is something that isn't very healthy for your friend, then you won't offer it.  You care about your friend, so you won't deliberately continue an arrangement that's obviously bad for or going to hurt either one of you — and you'll discuss what you can offer, and what you need, clearly and frequently, and tell your friend when those things change.  As an adult, you'd rather be a good acquaintance than bad friend:  Your friends are people you care about and want to spend time on, not just something you collect so that you can say you have a lot of them.

 

*hurting someone deliberately when you had other motives — i.e. making them act a certain way, or protecting yourself from some social or other thing — is called manipulation, and repeated manipulation of one person in a relationship by another is called abuse.  If the pain you're inflicting is "only" emotional pain, it's called emotional abuse, and it disqualifies you from having friends just as much as the physical kind does.

February 16, 2014   1 Comment

On Intro- and Extroversion: Labels Are Dangerous

(I owe the polyphasic community like six hundred updates — sorry guys!  My productivity has been miserable lately, for reasons that have nothing to do with sleep.  Actually, that's one of the posts I need to write:  How being polyphasic is different from "just" a productivity hack.  But first I need to fix my shit so that I actually have time to write again!

ANYWAY.  This one feels pressing, so I'm using it for motivation to Sit In The Chair And Press The Keys, which has been unreasonably difficult lately.)

Introversion has been "a thing" lately, and I think that's good overall, since as many of us know by now, people who are introverted socially are/were often mis-labeled as being unsociable, unfriendly, antisocial, or just not pleasant to be around — and that certainly isn't fair.  Having different needs isn't a crime, and we should all be more understanding of each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt.  Good lesson.

But as with many fad ideas, I think this one risks going too far.  If I'm reading my feeds right, approximately half of all Internet-connected humanity thinks it's an introvert now; and we know for a fact that that isn't true.  (Neither are half of them suffering from some mild form of Asperger's, I might add as a corollary.)  

I point to myself as an early example:  I was called antisocial and treated just the way introverts hate being, for a long time.  Then I was more politely labeled an introvert and, well, pretty much treated the same way, though as the idea gained traction in the nerd community, it became easier to explain my loner-hood in a single word, I guess.  I behaved like an introvert, as I think many people (especially Gen-X/Y-ers) in the "nerd subculture" do:  I avoided parties, crowds and people I didn't know, preferred the company of just one person if any, and spent a whole lot of time with my face in a book or a screen, shutting out the world.

But I wasn't an introvert.  And I wasn't "antisocial" either, whatever that means:  I was, in fact, an extrovert with a crippling case of social anxiety disorder, and a whopping history of childhood bullying and isolation that had left me unable to identify, express, and meet my own social needs.  What the early well-meaning people identified as being "socially miswired" and the later people identified as "introversion" both missed the question:  Was I *happy* that way?  Because while I think we can all agree that it's cruel and stupid to look at a young person and say, "Fuck 'em, they're antisocial", is it really more helpful to label someone (or yourself, I might add, because this is an easy cop-out rather than dealing with it) "introverted", if the end result is still ignoring a problem?

A truly introverted person spends a lot of time alone, or with one or very few companions, and is happy that way.  Their social needs — and we are humans with social needs, and not getting them met is no healthier than malnutrition — are being adequately met by their circumstances.  You could compare them (sloppily, but adequately) with people who only need three or four hours of sleep:  That's rare, and it is unhealthy and mean to force someone like that to lie in bed all night because "that's normal and normal is what we do" — but it's just as bad to ignore the sleep-deprivation of a friend who's only able to sleep three hours a night but is miserable that way.

I guess what I'm saying is, labels are dangerous.  If we really want to be compassionate to each other and understanding of our differences, we need to empathize, to see each other as individuals, and to care whether whatever someone's doing is working for them or making them happy, rather than what box it fits into.  The "introverted" label made it possible for me to continue to starve myself of social contact I actually needed — and more pertinently, the application of that label made it easy for people, even people who loved me, to ignore that I was miserable and needed to fix some things about my social life.  

What happened, finally?  I went to a very good therapist and after a few sessions I casually mentioned that I was an introvert, whereupon she actually snorted before saying, "You are one of the most extroverted people I've ever talked to!"  From there it became gradually clear that I wanted and needed social contact that I wasn't getting because I'd been taught to fear or avoid it — but because I'd been taught to fear and avoid it, and then further taught that it was just "how I was" (i.e. "my" label), I didn't actually know that that was the problem:  I only knew that I felt a lot of negative shit pretty much all the time, that I usually felt like an alien and had a hard time connecting to anyone, and that I wasn't very able to be happy either alone or in company; and that while having one safe-feeling companion seemed like a fix for that, it was often landing me in very dependent and unhealthy relationships.

And while my issues may have been pretty serious on the scale of things, I don't think it's at all uncommon for people to be misaligned with, unaware of, or not automatically able to meet their social needs.  

In fact, I think "not aware of or able to get what you need for some reason" is a LOT more common a situation than "introverted".  The difference is, the former shouldn't be written off or ignored:  it's not a stable state, a comfortable label that's fine as it is.  If you are intro (or extro) and fine, then great, awesome.  You probably know what you need, then, and are capable of going out (or not) and getting it; and therefore there's not much reason to worry — the most discomfort you face is explaining your needs to others, which come on, isn't really that bad.  (And if it is, well, stop hanging out with those particular others; they suck.)  

But if you feel lonely, cut off, anxious, unsafe, unheard, or like you hate yourself or your life…that's not a label, not a thing, and not okay.  Neither you nor the people around you should be ignoring it:  You should be fixing it.  And fixing it starts with believing that a fix is necessary and possible…something those neat handy labels can sometimes really get in the way of.  

May you find peace, whether or not you find the "right" word for it.  ;)

November 10, 2013   2 Comments

Overly Honest

This, I think, falls under "Blogging nobody wants to read" — Sometimes I wake up and I'm not sure what to think, what to do, and then I sit down and write for a while and EUREKA, I HAVE IT!.  That's what happened today, and though I'm sure no-one probably cares about the process, I can't just throw that writing away…that would be like painstakingly determining your exact favorite color and then forgetting the whole process so you could go back to wearing read.  (BLACK, my favorite color has been black since I first could recognize the shades of it, and my favorite shade of it is the one I can stare at a moment and lose all sense of surface; it's a color that conveys depth, that makes it seem as though everything you paint it with can dissolve into infinity at a moment's notice.  What's yours?)

Anyway, overt honesty below the cut.  Perhaps if you need some of your own, mine will rub off?  Or perhaps you'll waste ten minutes reading about someone else's insecurities and life-pathness.  Time will tell!  ;)

[Read more →]

October 1, 2011   3 Comments

Obvious Lessons in Exercise: We’re All Stuck Embodied

I don't fsck with not getting exercise anymore.

I do at least the basics (pushups/situps/squats/triceps/or something), stretching, and some weightlifting, at least a few times a week, no matter what.  I also make sure to get a workout from walking — I walk fast, concentrate on my form, and always take the stairs.  And this is not difficult — know why?  Because there's been SO much positive reinforcement from doing it, that I'd sooner not eat food at this point, than not exercise. 

Exercise means I stay warm, feel alert, don't feel sore, am not anywhere near as stressed, and go through my days feeling strong and solid and reassuringly capable.  Many other people either limp along, due to age or weakness, or they're fine but only by luck; if they fell or suddenly had to catch something or move something or burst into action, they'd be at risk — but I get to feel all the time like I'm in nearly top condition for my size, age and build.  (Some lucky suckers get to feel like this anyway, but I never did; even when I was young, I was pretty weak from…oh right…lack of exercise.) 

Oh, and I get to look nice.  I'm not a model-type and I'm not a bodybuilder; I'm not "cut" and I don't really care — I don't do the kinds of working out that burn of all one's fat, really — but having well-exercised muscles means a) a pleasing overall shape and b) effortless control of excess body-fat.  You can pinch an inch on me (which, no matter what anyone says, plenty of people consider attractive anyway) — but I went and bought some pants that fit the other day, and after a massive trying-on-of-things, guess what I learned?  That since I started working out, I've gone from a solid size US 10, cresting into 12, down to a 6.  Without trying to lose weight at all.  That's the size I wore in high-school, by the way, and it isn't tight on me today.  I wouldn't wear a bikini — as if I ever have, or want to — but I feel good and I know I look pretty damn good. 

To that last phrase:  Knowing you look good is one of those things that I, at least, wish didn't matter; but we're social creatures, and it just does.  It doesn't require being the prettiest person anywhere to reap the benefits — knowing that you look good for you is enough.  Knowing that you're strong and healthy for you is good enough too.  The mental change is quite profound — it gives you the confidence to act like yourself around people that you otherwise might have backed down to for stupid reasons…because they're younger, or thinner, for example.  You see that all the time in a social work-environment, and it often leads to incompetent people getting a big raise or promotion simply because the more competent person didn't like holding themselves up for comparison against the young/skinny person, simply because they aren't confident about the shape they're in — not compared to others, but relative to how they themselves could be.  An older person or heavier person who exercises and is in good shape is a truly formidable opponent in the workplace; their decades of experience is a powerful asset, but only if they're not afraid to use it.  (Some people — especially autism-spectrum people, in my experience — can actually just ignore the whole physical side of those equations.  But most people can't, or don't.)

We're all stuck being embodied, dammit. 

For the price of a few minutes every other day, it's possible to make that an asset, even if it's usually a detriment to you.  Even if you're in a wheelchair, working out the muscles you can will make you feel and look better.  Exercise is just a no-lose proposition, and I'm rather irked that I didn't know this, or know how to take advantage of it, until I was thirty.  But it's made being thirty far more awesome than it could have been!

January 24, 2011   6 Comments

Arisia 2011, said the totally bland headline

(Yes, sometimes I am allergic to bland titles for things.  Shup.)

So, I've never been to a big bustling con before.  I've been to Construct, which is a small (comparatively) relaxacon in SE MI, and run by by my friends and acquaintances — once.  It was fun, but definitely in the "big party with activities" sort of way.  This was more event-like for sure, and huuuge.

The hotel it was in (in downtown Boston) is beautiful, but they can kiss my ass for the $13/day Internet access.  (Hence the no updates yesterday.)  However, the spiffy shuttle back to South Station for free was a nice addition…even better, the shuttle driver, Andre, is a peace activist with some great ideas, so the ride back was both educational and uplifting.  (Andre's website is awesome!)

I went to several panels…"Leadership in SF/F" was pretty good; the rest were pretty much shit, but I still learned a lot…like, good LORD do people not know how to run a discussion!  I hadn't realized that I knew so much about it, from my limited academic and business experience, but the things I think of as basic — like, have a moderator who has prepared beforehand; have a topics and some subtopic in mind; have panelists who know at least something about the topic; have a clearly defined question-and-answer period — these are apparently a stone cold secret to at least half of the SF/F con world.  The panel on "Time Management for Creative People" was especially awful; not only did the presenters have bare credentials, no preparation and no organization, but they spent half the panel throwing doofy wishful thinking bullshit at people, probably leaving some of them feeling like they were at fault for their struggle to find time and energy for their creative endeavors (due to their horrible habits of working to feed their kids).  I didn't walk out of that one, but after it I was drained enough that I walked out of "What do Women Want (in SF/F characters)", when it turned out to be a horrid all-girl exploration of questions like "does Liv Tyler count as a fat chick" and "can people really fight crime in five-inch heels".  That one, like "Linguistics" — ha! — "and SF/F", had exactly one panel-member who knew anything about the topic actually, and that one spoke up once, got steamrolled by someone saying something insipid that the mods then went along with, and just gave up.  I'm sure there were plenty of good panels I didn't see, but still…I'm seriously *this close* to running a panel next year, just to show people that they can actually be used to convey and uncover interesting and useful information, rather than as vehicles for the uncontrolled wank of a few people who like to hear themselves talk.

Oh yes, I'll definitely go next year, one way or the other.  The art was neat (although fuck the art show for their check-your-bags-or-let-us-search-them policy — your fear of theft is not a valid reason to trample my fourth-amendment rights, and if you think I was loud about it this time, just wait), the artists and dealers were awesome (yay for giving them money directly for work I like), the peoplewatching was great (I may even find a — very nonsexualized — costume for myself next year — it's like grownup halloween!) and I'm sure there was plenty more to it than I actually got to find time for this year.  The con overall was very well-run and well-staffed, and it never felt like there was a shortage of help or supplies, nor any major confusions or kerfuffles that I witnessed.  And though my fears of dealing with massive amounts of people were not unwarranted, having a room in the same hotel turned out to be a brilliant way of dealing with that…I could escape for a few anytime I wanted, and I did, and I only got uncomfortable a few times, and not badly.  So yes, if you're an introvert, go to the con — just get a room.  *yay*

Anyway, I'm wiped out and behind on email and writing, so Imma catch you all later…I know I owe some vlogs and stuff; I haven't forgotten!  ;)

PD

January 16, 2011   2 Comments

Toy-like people make me boy-like!

When I started martial arts a few years ago, I wasn't in bad shape.  I was nearing thirty, had had a kid, never really paid much attention to my diet; but I've always been stronger than average and "bouncy"; I burn a lot of calories just twitching and running around generally.  So compared to many (especially many Midwestern American) women, I was pretty lean, with slightly-better-than-average strength and muscle-tone.

Fast forward through a whole bunch of taiji, a serious dose of shorin ryu and a good sprinkling of kungfu, plus some basic mandatory pushups-and-situps stuff.  Now I'm even slightly more lean, quite a bit stronger (especially in the core-muscle area), and if I really work at it, I can show you actual muscles, like, with lines and stuff.

Naturally this situation has been a tinderbox all along.  Wanting to be stronger can only be a distant glow for so long; eventually the fuse catches and before you know it you're shopping for weights and getting angry that you don't have room for a squat-cage.  Oh yes!  The geek-fire hath spread again.  ;)

I'm up to almost 50 pushups and 130 crunches (still doing the 100 pushups / 200 situps challenge from before; it works! –Or it's working so far, anyway!); and yeah that's nice, but come on, it's beginner stuff.  Time to get some barbells and really have fun!

Only…getting them is not fun.  Getting them, so far, has meant being asked to "talk to my husband about it" twice, and directed to the Pink Hand-Weights section whenever I'm stupid enough to look in a store.  And did you know that weightlifting equipment — even professional Olympic-grade stuff — has a crippled female version?  Seriously, the bars are 2" shorter and often lighter.  WHY??  I bet they don't suggest the "women's bar" for short men, either, because it's pretty obviously not about size — I have yet to see a single "for people under 5'5"" or something on any of it–not that that would make much sense either, since, you know, it's a BAR and you can just slide the weights in farther if it's really an issue — no, it's divided by GENDER, and to the point where women competing professionally in weightlifting are forced to use the crippled equipment, while men never are.  So a six-foot woman should be using wussier equipment than a five-foot guy.  BECAUSE OF THE WHY?  Do we have to go in the back door and use a separate drinking-fountain too?!  (Oh wait..sometimes, yes we do).

So anyway — not fun, that and the general amount of static even the subject of pursuing strength as a goal generates in the population at large…apparently everyone and their mother (as well as my mother) feels they have not just the right, but the obligation, to inform me that I'd better be careful or I'll be ugly (because strong men are attractive and strong women are icky) / have no breasts (as opposed to what? Have you looked at mine, lol) / scare people (is bad why? Scary men are envied, and they arguably can't even make as good a use of it as a woman can, defense being a particular issue of ours) / go blind or piss off Jesus or whatever. 

Oh, also, once I get some (more? visibler?) muscles I am apparently going to bleach my hair and prance around in bikinis all the time and suddenly become incapable of marital fidelity.  Geez, who knew that being strong also turned one into a "stupid slut"!  (Or a lesbian, which in popular parlance seems to be a frigid subspecies thereof.) 

I can't imagine how that narrative got started.  ::facepalm::

For various reasons, this is looking like a Lost Year for me, coming up; a year of biding and slowly plodding towards goals I had hoped to reach this summer, but which "the triumph of inferior influences", as the I Ching puts it, has stalled for a while.  Which doesn't make it seem like a bad year to focus on self-improvement, specifically strength of various sorts, which will hopefully make me readier for the challenges when they do hit, after sitting around building up energy for a year. 

WHAM!  Yup. 

Oh, and I seem to have found an awesome full-contact Wing Chun school right by my house.  Think I'll go ahead and put the cream on that there cookie, and learn to brawl too, if I can eek out the time!

So that's my "new and exciting", or a chunk of it anyway.  Feel free to share yours!  Just don't tell me how I'm going to lose some measure of my "femininity" or something by working out, or I will come over there and put this Olympic Men's Size barbell right up your…ego.  ;)

July 7, 2010   6 Comments

In Loot of Actual Content…

Behold!  A list of all the fun stuff I brought back from my latest trip to Boston!  It's rather amazing that I had time to shop, but not only did I, I got to see a part of the city I haven't really explored before (Newberry Street), and get taken to all the places *I* would like to see…this amazing huge computer store called MicroCenter (fate saved my wallet by not having any of the monitor I wanted in stock ;)…a Michigan-quality army surplus store…the most eclectic "comics shop" I have ever seen…the world's coziest bookstore, and nevermind three different places for food.  It turns out my friend who hosted me this time is like the world's best date, heh. 

So yes.  I ran myself almost into a coma most of the week, but I had an intense Thursday night and a lovely Saturday, and got to hang with some of my favorite humans period, so I'm calling that a win.

Anyway, the list!  I offer it in gratitude for all that it implies.  ;)

  • 200' of 550 paracord, red & black
  • awesome BDU/utility pants (though I was pretty offended that I wore an 'extra small' in them.  I'm not extra small, dammit.)
  • 2 p38's
  • a tai chi sword to replace mine with the wobbly grip.  I had to get it, because it looks just like mine (which is kind of an odd style), except that instead of being black it's red, and it's both garish and wonderful and I love it.  Also, the army surplus guys had no idea what it was (and were visibly awed by my overpowering female nerdosity — the combination of my deadpool t-shirt and FMA purse almost gave the cashier tremors, ha), so they sold it to me for about half the minimum price they should have.  \o/
  • Books:  "Please Kill Me" (a punk-rock history for my boy), "Homework for Grown-Ups", the Opus (Bloom County) full-color compendium, some pr0n, and an awesome book on Oriental Battle Tactics, Weapons and Strategies 1200-1800.  All on sale.  *score*
  • The Coolest Pink Frilly Umbrella Ever, for a certain goddess among gradeschoolers
  • Little rubber-bandy shapey things that are all popular now, for same
  • Assortment of real, brightly-colored, sticky-note tabs for placement on important documents, with big bold arrows and variations on "F*CK THIS" and "DON'T F*CK THIS UP"
  • Black aluminum 12-LED ultrabright flashlight for my tactical (yup, milspec–I'm totally one of those nerds now) office laptop bag
  • Red aluminum pen-size precision screwdriver multitool for same
  • Awesome accessory bag for the MOLLE straps on said tactical office bag (a gift)
  • 2 locking d-rings for same (I can hook so much to that bag now, heh)
  • Wacom tablet for my boy (also a gift)
  • RFID-blocking two-color duct-tape wallet, made just for me right in front of me.  *aw yay*

 

So yeah.  I had a great and crazy week; and I'm sorry it didn't leave me with much to write about here, but still…great and crazy!  That's worth something! 

May you all get one too!  ;)

P.S. I don't have a camera right now – I realize that could have made this post a lot more fun – but I should soon, and then, I promise, fun of some kind will ensue.  *wink*

July 4, 2010   Comments Off

YouTube – Top 10 quirky science tricks for Christmas parties

YouTube – Top 10 quirky science tricks for Christmas parties.

w00t!  Happy Winter Food & Presents Time, everybody!

…My Xmas is merrier and brighter (wait, are those flames?) already!

December 23, 2009   Comments Off

How to Handle a Slur?

Here’s something I still haven’t at all figured out — perhaps it’ll be a nice contrast to last week’s post about things I feel I have (for the moment) somewhat figured out.

How do you “take a joke” that’s a slur aimed against a group to which you belong?

As someone who often inflicted a cyanide sense of humor on others, I grew up thinking I had an obligation to “take it well” when a joke was aimed at me.  Of course most of the time when this happened, it was because the “joke” was a slur against women.

I also lived in a highly racially-charged area for a time, and we all had our own opinions about people who put their feet down and said “hell no, that’s not cool” when they felt a racial joke had gone too far.  Those opinions varied, but they were mostly negative, as were everyone’s opinion (including mine) of women who spoke up about gender-related slurs.  (There are also plenty of other groups that are or have been victimized in different ways, and are put down using jokes/slurs — many different minorities (and some majorities) have suffered this way.  I mean no disrespect by including the ones I have in this post, and failing, where I have, to include others.)

I dealt with gender slurs for most of my life by pretending they didn’t apply to me. Those often uncomfortably nasty “jokes” were, I told myself, targeted at, not women-as-a-group, but women-who-are-dumb or women-who-are-sluts or women-who-don’t-like-sex or what have you, and I wasn’t a member of ["bad" women who deserved joking about].  I was a smart, physically-active, technically-competent woman who had male friends and didn’t ever make people uncomfortable by being unable or unwilling to “take a joke”.  Therefore I didn’t deserve any of those slurs.  Therefore, I told myself, I could safely ignore them.

I also figured, mighty conveniently, that when people said that women were “overreacting” to negative comments and nasty jokes, they were right — “good” women, ones like me, were overreacting, since the slur wasn’t aimed at us anyway.  This let me say on the “right side” — the winning side — of some very brutal condemnations of women in general and some women in particular.

Of course, I was a kid then, and I was a nerd and frequent bullying-victim who was terrified of being one of the ones “everybody picked on”.  That’s not an excuse, but it is, I think, understandable that people would choose to think that way.  An African-American who says “some blacks really ‘are niggers’, but not [the good ones]“, is distancing hirself from having to feel the sting of a hurtful slur, just like I was when I told myself that gender-slurs only applied to [bad women].  But this is a defense mechanism, and it ignores the truth that a slur has the underlying intention and/or effect of spreading a malicious untruth about the group as a whole.

(It also mischaracterizes people in an oppressed class as having a clear choice about their behavior, which is also unfair: It’s not cool to call a woman a “slut” in a society that doesn’t give her room for healthy sexual expression; and it’s not cool to blame blacks for being poor in a world that conspires to disproportionally make them, and keep them, that way.)

In fact, maybe this is the best way to differentiate between a slur and a genuine joke.  It’s not a joke when you show a picture of a naked woman on her hands and knees being used as a coffee-table, and the caption “KNOW YOUR PLACE, BITCH.”  That’s a slur, because the point of it is to reinforce a damaging untruth about all women.  (Not just “quote-unquote ‘slutty’ women who would take their clothes off for a weird artsy picture”, as I’m sure some men AND some women might prefer to believe.)  Similarly, a movie that “jokingly” casts a black man to play a dumb, servile character is (probably, depending on context) making a (false) comment about all blacks, or all black men.  Many slurs disguise themselves as jokes, and many good jokes riff off the pain caused by discrimination, so I’m sure the line is not 100% clear between them.  But in general, a slur makes a degrading comment that’s intended, even stealthily, to apply to ALL women/blacks/fat people/etc.

Ignoring jokes that may not actually be slurs for a moment….how should one handle a slur that’s presented/disguised as a joke, like the aforementioned captioned picture of the coffee-table woman?

Almost every avenue here seems fraught with Ick, and while I usually look for the “yield to overcome” path when it comes to conflicts like this, here, I’ll confess I can’t find it.  The choices seem to be about like this:

If you keep quiet, you feel icky because you sat there and took it.  You feel this on some level even if, like my young self, you’ve managed to mentally distance yourself from the targeted group.  Because after all, part of the point of why racism and sexism and all that is wrong is because the people who are members of the oppressed group didn’t have a choice about it (or in some other way don’t deserve the slur; choice itself isn’t an excuse for discrimination either).  I can be as strong and smart and friendly with men as I like, but I can’t change the fact that I AM a woman (and wouldn’t change it if I could), and therefore harmful slurs against women are, to some extent, always slurs against me.  And nobody likes the feeling of being made to eat dirt, and doing it without making a peep.

If you speak up by identifying the joke as a slur against you, you open yourself for branding as a “whiner”, as “oversensitive” or “someone who always trots out [gender/race/size/whatever] to get attention”.  If you’re a woman, it’s worse because women are already characterized as whiny, so now you’ve just been a typical “bad” woman on top of it all.  (The same goes for black men who yell or fight, etc.)  If you fight against this characterization, you will only embed it deeper in the minds of those who have everything to gain by your not being right…and remember that, in modern culture, it’s often considered socially worse and more serious to accuse someone of racism/sexism/etc. than it is for the person you’re accusing to BE those things.  On top of all that, by speaking up for the imaginary group of “bad” women (or blacks, Jews, etc.) who “deserve” such comments, you’ll end up being labeled a member of that subgroup, too.  A good example of this is the “feminazi” label:  when someone says something negative about women who believe in and work for women’s rights (such as that they are ugly, frigid, or hate men), if you speak up in their defense, others are likely to conclude that YOU must be ugly/frigid/hate men, because otherwise why would you defend those people?  Paradoxically, being a “good” (socially acceptable) feminist often means allowing people to mischaracterize and attack feminism.

If you speak up without identifying the joke as a slur against you — if you mount the “disinterested defense”, wherein it’s not that the joke hurt your feelings that makes it wrong, but rather the inherent wrongness of all those types of slurs — then you both face a difficult intellectual battle (often with people not really up to intellectual battling) to prove your point, AND you become easy to write off as someone who just “can’t take a joke”, or can’t grasp the “edgy” “humor” that slurs often hide behind.  Someone says “God forbid Sonia Sotomayor is on her period while she’s on the bench; death penalty for everyone!” and you launch into a well-reasoned speech about how dangerous and unhelpful it is to perpetuate the myth that women aren’t rational, especially using a woman whose life has been a model of reasoned, rational behaviour as an example…and people tend to roll their eyes, because you’re “ruining their fun”, or “missing the point”, or you must have no sense of humor.  This attack is sometimes leveled at people who identify as one of the victims of the slur, too, but there is a defense there–you can say “but it hurt my feelings; it offended me and I don’t care if you thought it was funny, it still sucks”.  If you choose not to identify (or actually can’t; i.e. you’re not a member of the target group, but you still want to speak up), then you can’t use your feelings as proof that the joke wasn’t really just a successful joke, avoiding the charge that you’re a boring jerk because you refuse to laugh.

If you return fire, with a slur against men, whites, or what have you, then first of all you’d better have some good original material, because one of the problems with a discriminatory culture is that it doesn’t have a lot in the way of effective counter-defamation, mostly because slurs against privileged groups aren’t seen as funny or “edgy” by definition.   Second of all, you’ve gotten down in the dirt with the enemy, which almost always has the effect of getting you dirty:  slinging slurs at groups really isn’t a cool thing for anybody to be doing, well-intentioned or not — or maybe it is, but to me it feels prohibitively icky.  Thirdly, someone is likely to “call you on” using slurs yourself, under the (misguided, but hard to fight) accusation that your making a discriminatory comment against men or whites or rich people or thin women (etc.) somehow justifies, or grants permission for, any people using any slurs against anybody.

Lastly, if you quit the company you were in and go write a post (or an article or a book or make a movie, etc.) about it, have you really accomplished anything?  Or did you just admit that it wasn’t possible to confront the slur and its perpetrators directly, and resort to “preaching to the choir” instead?

Any ideas?

August 12, 2009   18 Comments