Call Me By My True Name

I think we need to retire the phrase “check your privilege”. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s nothing more than a backhanded way to tell somebody that their opinion is less valid because they are in the majority. Privilege exists, but there is no way to check it. My existence is my existence, and if I were a wealthy, straight, white, Christian male, I would not be any more able to separate those aspects of my existence from who I am than I would if I were a poor, gay, black, Jewish female. Generally speaking, I would be inclined to take the latter’s word over the former where matters of discrimination are concerned. But ultimately, you don’t speak for anyone except yourself.

I have a tendency to dwell on old conflicts. I might have even mentioned this one before, but if you want to, click on this link and scroll down to my second comment, where you will see me get pummeled by the other commenters for, as far as I can tell, daring to suggest that the readership for 50 Shades of Grey is predominately female. To this day, I have no idea why this is offensive.

It is always a bad idea to get offended on behalf of someone else. That’s why I stood my ground. The other commenters wanted me to stop bashing 50 Shades of Grey, yet none of them made even the slightest attempt to defend it. At one point, one of them even claimed that by implying that women are sexually repressed, I’m slut-shaming and driving the book’s sales up even higher. Dude…do you even live on planet Earth? From a very early age, women in virtually all cultures are socialized to be ashamed of their bodies. Almost every woman alive has had to deal with sexual repression at some point or another. So if it’s all the same to you, I will continue to associate sexual repression with being female. Because reality.

The most troubling accusation in the whole thread is the claim that gendered language perpetuates violence against women. Last time I checked, the words “he” and “she” are gendered, and everyone still uses them. I do not believe that gender neutrality is the best antidote for sexism. I believe that men and women are different in ways that go beyond what we are socialized to do and say. I also believe that there is nothing wrong with this. “Different but equal” does not mean “separate but equal”. It’s time we understood that.

I think the real reason people were so angry at me is that I pointed a finger not just at the book, but the readers. The readers, however, are part of it, too. The whole point of art is that the artist and their audience are engaged in an active dialogue. If I believe that a book is not only abominably written, but glamorizing sexism, I have to ask why so many female readers (and I’ll be dollars to fucking doughnuts that 50 Shades of Grey‘s readership is almost exclusively female) would be complicit in something like that. Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If somebody wrote a book in which a Gary Stu got into an abusive relationship with Christina Grey, it would not sell one one-hundredth as well. And you damn well know it.

There is nothing sexist about saying that women can do better. Anyone who says that I should just lay off the readership has no idea how the world works. I’m not a fan of Larry the Cable Guy. He used to do mediocre comedy under the name of Dan Whitney, and now he does awful comedy that caters to the prejudices of only the most stereotypical of rednecks. Dan, from what I’ve heard, is a really nice guy. That doesn’t excuse his shitty comedy, but it does make you wonder how much blame he deserves for essentially just going with what works. In all the mania over 50 Shades of Grey, the person I’m least angry at is the author. I can’t say the same about Twilight.

You’re not going to get anywhere in life if you can’t give anyone the benefit of the doubt. The reason I still think about this argument months later is that everyone made up their mind about me the instant I used to word “estrogen”. My attempts to clarify came off as nothing more than “the lady doth protest too much”. But if the clarification makes more sense than the original statement, go with the clarification. I don’t think the original statement was all that sexist anyway. Roger Sterling says worse things every week on Mad Men. I think my views on gender are a little bit more evolved than his.

There was an incident some months ago in which Amanda Palmer wrote an open letter to Sinead O’Connor criticizing her for her open letter to Miley Cyrus. Basically, Sinead thinks Miley needs to realize that she is being exploited and stop exposing her body to make people like her, and Amanda thinks Sinead should stop slut-shaming. Amanda Palmer is full of shit. I’m a casual fan of her and a huge fan of her husband, but supporting women doesn’t mean supporting everything a woman does. And I don’t support reading 50 Shades of Grey. If that makes me a horrible person, so be it.

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