Last week, I had a run in with something that I haven’t seen, at least so blatantly and with obvious consideration, in years. I was not expecting it, and I particularly did not expect the context or the perpetrator. It felt quite clearly like a baseball bat to the gut, a slap in the face in front of friends, and a bad fall on black ice resulting in a swift slide downhill. It felt like hate.
A classmate of mine from boarding school days posted two – one, apparently, was not enough – YouTube videos for the amusement and entertainment of all. He personally had found them to be extremely gut-busting and just couldn’t wait to spread the hilarity far and wide. In these very funny videos, two men (one holding the camera, the other dressed in drag), presented their portrayal of what women are really like and what they really want. It’s called “Shit Girls Say.” One of the priceless examples was the “girl” saying “ice cream makes me cough” followed by three shots of her coughing and holding a spoon. “I *love* wine.” “Is that hummus?” (two or three times), “is that lip balm?” “is that a mojito?” “how *are* you?” “that is *so* true” and so forth, all with the postmodern Valley Girl intonation, all with the vacant stare, and all with the “this is as much as my brain can handle at any moment because the effort involved in selecting shoes to go with my handbag is just so exhausting in the morning” intonation. In other words, the “I’m totally fake, but so are you so no one will notice that neither of us have ever had a sincere thought in our lives” tone. The one that only drunk, stupid, vapid reality stars have.
So why the horror, Shann?
I freely admit that women – myself included – do stupid things from time to time.
So do men.
These vignettes however posited that this empty-headed large-breasted high heeled good fuck ability is all any of us ever are. Which says to me that the makers of these little laughable moments aren’t just blowing off steam or sharing a joke. They’re using parody to tell us all how they really feel. It’s one of the more sophisticated methods of misogyny. After all, no one wants to be described as “having a stick up her ass” (as I was).
Lincoln put it best: You can keep your mouth shut and let the world wonder if you are a fool, or you can open it, and confirm that you are.
What further bothers me is that this is a classmate I have respected. In addition to our school, he has attended a few others and works in a profession where I’d honestly be surprised if he ever met a bimbo, or even someone doing a convincing imitation of one. He ought to know better. Not that bra-burning maniacs will chase after him, but that women in general – even the ones with a slightly lower IQ – deserve NOT to be made fun of.
Yet, there are two items which bother me even more. One, humor always contains truth. Parody is used only when one wants to moon the establishment and yet not be held responsible. Whether you invented the routine, or you’re sharing the routine – you’re agreeing with its underlying message. There is no such thing as having no intention. You may wish that others don’t figure out what your intention is, you may even wish to not know it yourself – but it’s always there.
My classmate tried to hide behind the “I didn’t mean anything and you’re all taking this way too seriously.” Doesn’t hold water. You did mean something when you deleted my one lined very well-controlled (far better than I am here) criticism, and then continue to post very nasty comments about the fact that someone had the nerve to complain in the first place. Anytime you share something or create something, you intend something. Audiences and their reactions MATTER. The audience’s reaction is in fact one of the major purposes behind art in any medium; if it weren’t, more people would have stellar private collections and libraries and radio stations wouldn’t exist. If you put your opinion out there, either through your work or someone else’s, you ought to have the courage to back it up. Don’t run and hide and use your other friends – women, no less (wow, what have you bought into?) – to say that the dissenting opinion just lacks a sense of humor and doesn’t get it. By deleting my dissent, you have further reinforced your belief in the message, and given it that much more power.
I shared some of these thoughts with him recently. He politely said, “Well said.” and then later added a quote from a show basically saying that we should be careful what we say because others are watching us and use us as examples.
No, we should be careful what we say because we should be carefully saying the truth – and be willing to take the consequences of whatever that truth maybe.
Sometimes, things are offensive because they are ahead of their time, and folks just aren’t ready to hear certain things yet, but sometimes things are offensive because they are mean. Not subversive, but mean.
He has no idea that one of the consequences, not just to what was done but how it was handled, is my almost complete loss of respect for him. And I’m not friends with people I don’t respect.
Does the loss of my respect or friendship matter, really? Maybe not. Maybe he won’t even notice.
But the selection of who I chose to have as friends is extremely important to me. To me, this is incredibly significant.
Intent matters. Consequences matter. Morals and values matter even more. Character does still exist, in both genders, and I insist upon it. In its absence, you will receive my Emily Post treatment, and never know a single one of my real thoughts again. Assuming you ever have the chance to get that close to me.