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November 22, 2005

Sexism In The Blogosphere?

Ann Althouse copies a bunch of "anti-feminist" jokes from Atrios, and suggests that Democrats have a long way to go before they can convince her that they're genuine feminists.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like a good slam on Atrios and his commenters as much as the next guy. Well, maybe not as much, because I really have no idea who this idiot is.

But I think there's a certain place for ribbing in life. Women do a lot of ribbing of men -- Maureen Dowd's made a cottage industry of it; she just wrote a book that I've nominated to the Guiness World Records committee as the World's Longest Friendster Profile -- and a lot of that is in good fun, and I roll with it. I think women have to be a little realistic about all of this, too. There's not a war between the sexes, but there's a permanent rivalry, and there's going to be some jibing along the way.

Quite frankly, I think the same thing about "racist" jokes. There are truly racist jokes and then there are jokes with a racial element which aren't racist at all. White liberal commedians get away these all the time; they're assumed to be "just kidding," so it's no harm, no foul. And black commedians -- whoa, nelly. They go to town on this stuff. Again, for what it's worth, I think a lot of black commedians' ribbing of whites is pretty funny. That "Nervous White Guy Voice" that almost every black comic does? It's usually pretty funny. Dave Chappelle does a good one, but a lot of them do funny White Guy Voices.

Hell, I even do a funny Nervous White Guy Voice. It's just a funny bit.

I think a lot of this depends on the "smile when you say that" principle. Is someone saying something really meaning it in a nasty way, are they using the form of humor to say something nasty they really believe but get away with it under the "I was just kidding" pretext, or are they genuinely just joshing around in a good spirit? It's sometimes hard to determine motive, but most of the time it isn't. There's a real bitterness that comes through when someone is just ranking on a sex or race, even if the form of the attack is allegedly "humorous."

I guess my point is: Grow a pair. And be a little more discriminatory in your charges of discrimination; yes, there are, I guess, men who still really have no use for women other than the obvious (plowing the fields, so to speak, and by that, I mean sticking a yoke on them and making them drag a plow through frozen earth for next year's corn plantin'). And there are a lot of people who really have a high degree of racial animus, if not genuine philosophical racism.

But I think most people actually are pretty on board with this whole "tolerance" thing, and one shouldn't declare a jihad on joking in order to stamp out real sexism or real racism. The presumtion should be "kidding" first, not "sexism" or "racism" first, and that presumption should hold absent some good evidence of a real animus or hatred.

Tolerance has to make room for reality, and the reality is that, no matter how committed a tolerant liberal you might be on such matters, there is, and probably will continue to be for a long time, a good deal of rivalry and annoyance between the sexes, races, and sexual orientations. It's not actual hatred; it's just differences, inability to understand where people get some ideas (OJ is innocent, Madonna is an important artist, boots are made for hoardin'), as well as some quite-inevitable quantum of envy and resentment.

Joking is the way humans have sublimated petty resentments into a socially acceptable form of expression for, I'm guessing, 100,000 years or more. Some "jokes" aren't really jokes at all, and some have far too much bitterness and bite in them, but many are pretty harmless and not at all very seriously meant. I really would be loathe to lose some good-spirited playfulness in the cause of securing some utopian vision of races, sexes, and sexual orientations having no differences, disagreements, or disputes between them at all, which, frankly, ain't ever gonna happen.

Even on Star Trek, Data and Worf were made sport of. And that was the 24th Century.

PS: No, I don't really shoot off bottle-rockets and then immediately tell the cops it was "a bunch of Puerto Rican kids." Usually I tell the cops it was a bunch of Chinamen, because you know how those people are with the kung-fu, acrobatics, and fireworks.


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posted by Ace at 12:30 PM

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