Ironic Sexism Is Still Sexism

There is so much about Foz Meadows’s blog that I love and find comforting to see addressed. Her entire blog is a big stress relief for me, but I’m reblogging this particular post because it is something I struggle with constantly when around my family.

Explaining that sexist/racist jokes are STILL sexist never sits well with them. They will always tell me, in a derisive and offended tone, that I need to ‘lighten up’ or, my favourite (not), ‘get off my high horse’ and learn to ‘take a joke’ or explain to me that they’re being ‘ironic’.

I suppose they dislike it that I scowl at belittling and sexist/racist jokes because, for them, they would have to completely alter their way of thinking about humour. They would have to address that they’ve just said something that either reveals a little bit of their internalised misogyny, or that they are bigoted and not aware of it.

Changing how one thinks about humour does require effort, but only in the beginning, like all things. If they TRIED to be conscious of the ‘ironic sexism’ that they’re perpetuating, they might find it easier not to give into the mindless rhetoric that bigotry is funny. It’s easy to just laugh rather than to think, but the effect this keeps having on the way we subconsciously treat people continues to have negative results.

To quote Meadows’s opening paragraph: ‘All too often, gross remarks – be they racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise abusive and vile – are excused or condoned on the grounds of irony; that because they were meant to be humorous, they can’t possibly be offensive. And if somebody is offended, then they’re either oversensitive or incapable of laughter – either way, though, the problem is with them, not the joke-teller.

Except that, no: it’s not.’

shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows

All too often, gross remarks – be they racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise abusive and vile – are excused or condoned on the grounds of irony; that because they were meant to be humorous, they can’t possibly be offensive. And if somebody is offended, then they’re either oversensitive or incapable of laughter – either way, though, the problem is with them, not the joke-teller.

Except that, no: it’s not.

Generally speaking, there are two reasons why people make ironically offensive jokes: either they think we live in such a post-racist, post-sexist, post-discriminatory world that the act of mimicking historical abuses cannot possibly reinforce those abuses, on account of how they no longer really exist; or they secretly think the stereotypes which underlie offensive jokes have some basis in reality, and are therefore funny because they’re true. The former person can be anything from genuinely well-intentioned but oblivious to belligerently convinced…

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A story to warm your heart this Christmas

I don’t generally share personal stories but I thought this one needed to be shared, especially at a time when we’ve heard of so much heartbreak.

In my family we sometimes joke that, since my parents divorced when I was very young, “us kids” have been raised by seven women. Five au-pairs, my birth mother and my mother’s best friend. This story is about Tanya, my mother’s best friend – a lady we sometimes call my “surrogate mother.”

Tanya can’t have children. As you can imagine, this is something the majority of women never want to hear: it is impossible for you to conceive. It’s not surprising then, now that I know, that Tanya has always cuddled us to death, offered to look after us – even been our nanny (the woman who looks after you instead of your parents) for a month.

She’s a quick-witted, beautiful, caring woman full of laughter and has worked as a nursery matron for many years now. Her lively spirit and generous, thoughtful nature touches all who meet her.

Unwilling to give up on having her own child, however, Tanya and her husband eventually decided to adopt. So they began the process, searching in Moldova (her husband’s homeland). At the time, they were living in a lovely little RENTED country house, affordable based on their small income.

But that went against the rules. To adopt a child, you must own a house. For eight years they tried to complete an adoption. Three times their hopes were risen, but they always lost out to a richer family.

Tanya despaired. She couldn’t conceive children, and she couldn’t even adopt one. The main problem was still that she and her husband rented a house, but they just can’t afford to take out a mortgage.

Her heart broken, Tanya confessed to her colleagues and some of the nursery parents that the adoption process had hit an brick wall. It was unlikely to ever happen.

Her story reached the ears of one the parents. Now, bear in mind, most of these parents are sickly rich as Tanya’s a matron for a private nursery of some kind. I don’t know the full details. It’s rude to ask in England.

Knowing how wonderful Tanya is, knowing how hard she has tried, applied and worked to have children for over eight years, this couple (who we’ll call the Supers), picked out three houses.

The Supers approached Tanya and her husband and said, “We will buy you a house. We don’t want anything to do with it – if there’s a maintenance problem, it’s your problem – but we will buy you a house and give all ownership to you. You can have it for as long as you need it. When you want to move, sell it or rent it. It’s yours, just pick one of these three. Our only condition is that you never tell anyone our name.”

And so they chose. Tanya now lives in a beautiful house with her husband, and two years ago baby Elisa joined them.

I met Elisa for the first time today. She’s a wonderful little girl with soft hair, a constant smile and who loves to chat. She showed me the Christmas tree with its homemade decorations, her Lego cars and plastic coins. She also decided to call me “Hammer.” I’m not sure what that says about me, but lispy children are cute so who cares?

And all the while I couldn’t help noticing Tanya; the way she listened to her every word, the way she knew exactly what Elisa wanted, the way she told us about Elisa’s first nativity play.

On the ride home, my mother told me that all the parents from the nursery Tanya works at now buy Elisa Christmas presents every year – like toddler designer dresses (although I still don’t understand why such things exist).

It’s bringing tears to my eyes just writing this post.

Without the Supers who bought Tanya a freakin’ HOUSE, Elisa would still be in Moldova and Tanya and her husband would still be childless.

Whoever you Supers are: thank you.

i don't know what my feelings are doing

Day 3 of NaNoWriMo and the sex/gore increases, as does fictional coffee consumption

Remember when I said I probably wouldn’t blog about each day? It’s a good way to procrastinate, actually.

Man, did I wake up feeling like the back-side of a badger today. Cousin Mitch (click here for her blog) and I have colds from beyond the grave, but luckily our fevers have gone down. Again, I poured some of my train-wreck despair into poor old, abused Frederick who is increasingly turning into me and less like the soft-spoken German boy I was looking forward to love.

Oh. Well.

I managed to pump out 2,000 words this evening because I wrote nothing until about 8pm today. Just, bleeeeeeh with all ma homework and sickness. But, I am writing a parody of Perseus and Andromeda for class, which I will post to my LiveJournal once finished. It’s pretty fun.

My flatmate and I hindered Mitch from going to the toilet this evening by yabbering on about how crazy our  family is (mine and Mitch’s family, that is). Mostly the old folk. And my mother. Sometimes you could reckon my mother is dating me. She rings up my father to say, “Caaarl, I texted Willow and she hasn’t replied yet!” And then we just went on about our grandparents who are terrifying, hilarious and swear a lot.

Granny Doom: I – I –I don’t think it’s a good idea sending your brother to school with £1! He could be buying drugs!
Willow: With a pound?
Granny Doom: You never know these days! Him and his friends, you don’t know, they could – they could  – I don’t trust him!
Willow: But with a pound, Granny? One pound? No, I don’t think so somehow. He’s going to buy sweets.

During the winter, Mitch and her family had a barbeque in the snow, and our dear crazy, now deceased, Nana (a different one) opened the window to yell: “You fucking idiot bastards!” and then went back inside.

Anyway… My badass demons from chapter one who all interrupted each other, shat on one another’s opinions and generally annoyed each other, have turned into the Waltons. I swear to god. Hardor (whose name I simply HAD to change), now known as Garridon, is the father and the other three morons are the children.

It’s quite fun, I’ll be honest, but I’m just wondering what happened. Mercury and Frederick need to stop flirting, but I know they won’t. I don’t really know why Charles is there any more. I think it’s just to make up the numbers. He was originally meant to be ‘the bumbling one’, but that’s only happened at the beginning so far – which you’ve still not read.

So yesh. Today I only managed to churn out words by venting my frustration through Frederick.

EXTRACT TIME! (#1 remember Frederick was dying? He’s now being rescued by some random new inn keeper called Malahide. Mercury found him.)

The windows filled with shadows as Malahide drove around the back of his inn. All Frederick could see now was light; he could not even hear the car engine purr or the slam of the driver’s door when Malahide got out. A blanket was thrown over his struggling body and he felt himself dragged across the seats, then hefted over someone’s shoulder. He could not smell who it was for the blanket smothering his face.

Each jerking movement struck him with misery, were they going up a flight of stairs? He was lumped down onto something soft and a feint light reappeared. “Garriiiii –“ He began to rasp Garridon’s name but it turned into an inhuman screech. Someone’s hand clamped down over his mouth.

“Shut up!” he heard from very far away.

A few seconds later, and Frederick tasted blood dribble over his tongue. A carnivorous growl gargled in his throat and he snapped at the raw meat he knew was dangling over his lips. He nicked the luck warm flesh, his teeth slashing through, and as it was lowered for him, Frederick chewed and hacked into the lump as fast as he could. Blood squirted down his cheeks and into his ears, sticky bits of flesh clung to the skin around his mouth. His palette remembered the tangy, metallic taste even when Frederick had finished what was offered to him and he licked it; feverishly wanting more.

Another chunk was lowered into his mouth, bit by messy bit, until shapes appeared in the light and sounds filtered through the darkness. Without warning he sat bolt upright and seized the third dripping hunk that Charles had ready for him.

When he was done cramming it into his mouth, Frederick gazed at his Brothers, a grateful smile on his face. Mercury crossed his arms as his body moved with an incredulous laugh. “I have not seen a man eat like that for a hundred years,” he said.

As one voice, Garridon, Charles and Mercury said, “you idiot.”

EXTRACT #2

“You need to wash your face, brother,” Mercury sniggered. “I cannot take you seriously.”

Grumbling, Frederick struggled to his feet, his legs tender, and slugged into the bathroom. “Guh,” he hissed upon seeing his reflection. He looked an utter train-wreck. Not the kind of wreck that came from drinking more than his body weight in alcohol, throwing up and then sleeping in the corridor. No, the kind of wreck who looked like he had swigged more than his body weight in alcohol, been in a fight with King Kong whose fist had found his face quite often, then crawled off to chew on the back leg of a dog until it bled all over his head, and then decided to knock himself out with a few vodka shots to the eye. Both eyes, in fact.

He twisted one of the rusty taps until cold water spluttered out.

“The Schiller family are the demons in charge of this county,” Frederick heard Mr. Malahide say. “Them and the Redgraves have been hunting each other for centuries. If you’re lookin’ for ‘em, don’t get in the way of their business, thas all my advice.”

“Thank you,” said Garridon, “we will be mindful.”

“One more thing.”

Frederick splashed his face with water before deciding to fill the basin. Maybe he could drown himself in it.

“The Redgrave’s daughter, Miss. Redgrave…”

They went still. Frederick removed his face from the bottom of the basin.

“She visits the village often. She got long black hair, tanned skin, er, kinda lean shape… Pretty lookin’ anyway. Watch out for her. If you see her, pretend to stutter or something, I dunno, make out your meek travellers.”

Mercury laughed and Frederick snorted, sticking his face in the basin again, but the sound died as Garridon cleared his throat. “We will keep an eye out. We do not want any trouble.”

There was an awkward pause as Mr. Malahide did not leave. “Where you lot from? You got strange accents, like, way of talking.”

“We do?” said Charles. Frederick rubbed water into his thick, blood-sticky hair.

“It’s not bad. You got nice proper voices. Does you good around here.”

“OK.”

Taking the hint, Malahide finally left.

A hand thumped on Frederick’s back, making him choke on water. The hand took a fistful of his cloak and yanked him up, spraying water up the wall. His head bounced against Mercury’s shoulder who was grinning at him in the mirror. Frederick sighed. “What?”

“What are you trying to do? Pour your brain down the sinkhole?”

“Something like that.”

“Bleh, I’m getting wet,” he said, letting Frederick go and shaking water off of his hands. Charles then bounded into the tiny bathroom space and gave Frederick a look that spoke volumes.

“Oh Freddy-boy,” he said, biting his bottom lip, “it’s going to be a while before your face clears up.”

“Only Merc can call me Freddy-boy,” Frederick muttered. But he took another gander at himself in the mirror and observed the many red burn splotches on his skin.

“Oi,” said Garridon from the bedroom, “get in here.”

The three in the bathroom shuffled out and sat on the end of Frederick’s bed, staring up at Garridon, waiting for him to speak.

“Right, after Frederick being a pain in the arse, it is time to familiarise ourselves with the local area, find clothes that blend us in, and learn the Saviour’s daily habits so we can single her out.”

Charles raised his hand. Garridon gave him a withering glare. “Yes?”

“Do you really think she’s as dangerous as Malahide makes her out to be?”

“Of course,” cried Mercury.

“She is the daughter of the Redgraves,” Frederick added.

There was a steady pause, each man realising for the first time just how deep they were digging their own grave by intervening with historical events. “I need a coffee,” Frederick mumbled.

“Make mine an espresso,” said Charles as Frederick plodded out the door.