The Feminist And The Facepalm

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So before I write anything new, here’s a conversation I just had with an online feminist. The article:

http://www.dragonsworn.net/the-trouble-with-wife-aggro/

Me:

“Wife aggro” is meant to be a joke, you all need to chill out, seriously. No one thinks wives actually “aggro” on their husbands. Complain about something worth complaining about.

Aro:

Can you prove conclusively that no one thinks wives actually aggro on their husbands? Because I can prove conclusively that there are people who do, because otherwise this phrase would not exist.

But that doesn’t matter, because whether it’s a joke or not doesn’t change the fact that the term is sexist and exclusionary.

Me:

No, I can’t prove that, because it wasn’t meant to be taken literally. It’s like if I said “no one like chocolate milk mixed with pickle juice”. Obviously, there’s bound to be a few people who do, but the point of the statement is to point out an overwhelming majority.

And by the way, it does matter whether it’s a joke or not. Humor is sometimes offensive, that’s what makes it funny. I laugh hardest at jokes about groups I belong to (white, male, lower middle class, overweight, atheist). So does anyone else who has a normal sense of humor. Routinely, black people laugh at jokes about black people, old people laugh at jokes about old people, poor people laugh at jokes about poor people. They’re funny *because* they’re offensive. Making light of injustices committed against oneself is fine, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Aro:

So this is some 101-level stuff, but it’s a beautiful day and the kid’s asleep so I’m feeling magnanimous.

The reason why “offensive” jokes about straight white men can be funny is because that group enjoys the privilege of power. Those jokes are not used to oppress or harass because by definition in this country they do not suffer systematic and institutionalized oppression.

Additionally your examples all miss a very important point: context matters. A black joke told by a black person to other black people is very different than that same joke told by a white person.

In this the context of this particular panel in this particular place, the phrase/joke/whatever “wife aggro” tells women that they aren’t invited because they are the cause and need to be fixed.

Words matter. They mean things. These words mean that I and other women like me don’t matter, and that’s wrong.

Me:

Two things.

1) I, a white guy, tell black jokes to my black friends all the time. And they laugh. Know why? Because they know it’s a joke. They also make white jokes, and I laugh. Because they’re jokes. I also tell jokes about women to my female friends, and vice versa, and we all have a good laugh. Maybe I’m just lucky to have friends that aren’t constantly looking for something to be offended by. As for me personally, I don’t enjoy any privilege of power at all. I’m just a regular everyday normal guy. So are millions and millions of other straight white men in the world.

2) You’re right – words do matter, and they do mean things. But you’re wrong about *what* they mean. Jokes aren’t meant to oppress, they’re meant to make people laugh. If someone (somehow) is using a wife aggro joke out of context to oppress women, yeah he’s doing something wrong. But the guy telling the wife aggro joke isn’t at fault, the guy doing the oppressing is. Jokes are just jokes. It’s ok to laugh at them.

Aro:

As I said: CONTEXT MATTERS. You’re talking to your friends, about your friends. You have assumedly a long history together. You know the nuances and the mannerisms that create context. You don’t, I bet, go seek out a group of black strangers and tell them racist jokes that you might be comfortable sharing with your black friends. CONTEXT. Likewise, this is a group of strangers in a male-dominated, notoriously female-unfriendly space. Maybe it’s a joke to their friends; I don’t know these men, they don’t know me, I don’t think it’s fucking funny.

I’m not searching out things to be offended about. It’s right there. Right there in the title. WIFE. AGGRO. Right there. This isn’t a scavenger hunt.

Like I said, this was 101-level stuff, and I’m sorry that you’ve misunderstood. Here’s the thing: yes, you do enjoy the privilege of power because you are a white man. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s not your fault. There’s nothing you can do to change it, because it’s the way the world works. But it’s THERE. It will always be there. Check out John Scalzi’s The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is to break this down more for you.

Me:

I just read the article you linked, and it’s a bad analogy – because “straight”, “white”, and “male” are far from the only factors which influence how easy one’s life is. For example, I’m also genetically cursed with looks on the the low side of average, I’m genetically predisposed to both alcoholism and heart disease, and contrary to the article, I’m actually bisexual. A healthy, good looking black woman born into an affluent family is going to have far more privilege than me, despite our respective skin colors. Privilege comes from the totality of what we are, not from a few basic traits. But you know what? I don’t complain about my disadvantages, because I don’t care. Me, you, and everyone else has things that grant them advantages and things that grant them disadvantages. The distribution isn’t always perfectly equal, but since it’s genetic, there’s no point in complaining about it. Instead of pointing out how everyone besides you has all these privileges, why don’t you tell them all it doesn’t matter, and do whatever the fuck you want in life anyway? Maybe it will be a little harder for you, but life isn’t all roses, and in the long run overcoming disadvantages will make you a better person anyway. Think about it – right now, instead of writing posts about white male privilege, you could be practicing programming, or training for the olympics, or something like that. Do you want to succeed, or do you want everyone else to fail?

Anyway, no, I don’t walk up to random people on the street and tell racist jokes, but I don’t walk up to random people on the street and tell *any* kind of jokes. I leave random strangers alone. But white comedians tell black jokes to audiences with black members (and vice versa). If someone doesn’t enjoy the jokes that are being told, fine, they’re free to leave. But have you ever seen what comedians do to hecklers? You stand up and complain about something as innocuous as a lame joke, and you get *destroyed*, because no one, especially the person telling the joke, likes people with strong senses of entitlement bitching that things aren’t going their way when they could just move on.

Aro:

If you actually read all of Scalzi’s article and THAT was your takeaway, then I’m afraid we have nothing further to discuss.

Me:

It’s fine if you think I’ve misinterpreted the article, but refusing to explain my mistake, and refusing to address what I’ve said, just reflects poorly on you. Shutting down the discussion is never a good idea.

Aro:

http://derailingfordummies.com/complete.html#educate

Me:

Sorry, but that’s not gonna fly. I’m not some little beta “please educate me so I can better learn to respect you” loser. I was arguing my case, and *you* declined to respond to my points. To quote Monty Python, “Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes.”

So once again, you’re free to respond to what I’ve said, but refusing to do so means that you forfeit the right to claim an intellectual victory here. If you’re ok with that, then so be it. Also, to everyone else: I noticed that my posts are getting minus ratings, while Aro’s posts are getting plus ratings. Perhaps some of you comment raters would like to speak up and explain *your* thoughts on the matter?

Aro:

Look, friend. Your future comments can just sit in the moderation queue until you learn some reading comprehension skills. It is not anyone’s job to ~~~educate you~~~ on your ~~~mistake~~~ and I am not your dancing monkey. I don’t give a shit that you think my failure to continue trying to beat it through your thick white man head that your perspective is perhaps slightly different than that of mine and other commenters here is some kind of moral victory for you; if what you need in order to sleep better on your big fluffy manpain pillows is to tell yourself that you’re ~~~intellectually superior~~~ because some woman on the internet isn’t willing to give up her free time to hold your hand and say the same thing over and over and over and over and over to jump through your tautological hoops, then feel free!

And just so your precious feefees stop hurting, I’ll let you know that all of my comments get a default +1 through IntenseDebate so I don’t have to sit in my own mod queue. Nothing personal.
—————————————

So, a few thoughts about that last comment. First, ok, Aro’s comments get a default +1. But that doesn’t explain the many +/-2′s on these posts. And while I wasn’t aware that I had “feefees” (whatever those are), they’re certainly not hurting. My last comment was a challenge to lurkers to share their thoughts, nothing more.

Anyway, it seems rather obvious to me that Aro has some sort of problem with both men and with disagreement (for reals, check out all the vitriol there). What Aro needs to come to terms with is that when something is posted online, no matter what it is, it’s going to be critiqued. While it’s not her job to educate me, it *is* her job to defend what she’s written. Maybe my point about privilege being the result of many complex factors is wrong, but until she (or someone else) responds to it, there it stands.

Now it’s time for me to go lay my head down on my big fluffy manpain pillows, and try not to have a nightmare about Aro’s bizarre tilde fetish (See that? That was a joke!)

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One response to “The Feminist And The Facepalm”

  1. Tafacory says :

    Great job of standing your ground. She gives feminists everywhere a terrible name.

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