Thursday, January 21, 2010
      ( 9:44 PM ) posted by Setsuled  
Last night's tweets;

White mad eyes roll on sweaty skin over
Sigmund Freud's new black fibre optic beard.
A jury pool wants to be your lover--
Government dating services are weird.


And I wrote that before I heard about the Supreme Court significantly loosening restrictions on corporate political funding. And, oh, isn't everyone just so very upset? Oh, sorry, that was the sound of everyone not giving a fuck. Sort of like how the election of a Republican Senator in Massachusetts will mark the point in time when the president and congress went from doing nothing to doing more nothing. Honestly, how can people question the Democrats at this point? Hasn't the game been obvious for at least six months?

Speaking of uphill battles, I read this in Neil Gaiman's blog to-day;

I was going to write a long blogpost today about how I was quoted as saying I "wasn't anyone's bitch" in the New Yorker (something that I don't remember saying, because it's not the kind of thing that I'd say, unless we'd just been talking about the Entitlement Issues blogpost) and how yesterday I was deluged with FAQ emails (and a handful of Twitters) explaining, with varying degrees of civility (which I appreciated) or incivility, that having used that phrase undid all the good I'd ever done by writing positive women, supporting RAINN etc, because it showed that I was minimising the horror of rape and revealing my underlying misogyny (I think it started here); and I apologised a few times on Twitter and in the New Yorker chat; and how this morning's FAQ email has been filled with people saying "Look, I'm a feminist and I have to tell you I'm really disappointed in you for giving credibility to those people from yesterday who are trivializing very real issues..."; and how I'm rapidly moving into "a plague on all your houses" mode; but honestly right now, I haven't the heart, and probably it's only getting to me because I'm actually really worried and upset about a very small cat.

Gaiman doesn't mention that his fiancé, Amanda Palmer (who was dressed brilliantly at the Golden Globes, though I could've done without the panties), started a thread on her forum encouraging fans to design "Amanda Palmer is Not Your Bitch" t-shirts, an outgrowth of Gaiman's original statement in that "Entitlement Issues" post, which, quoting exactly, was, "George R.R. Martin is not your bitch," in response to fans asserting that they had a right to expect Martin to write and publish fiction faster.

My take on this is that the people asserting that Gaiman's statement, or even the statement which was apparently inaccurately attributed to him, is somehow glorifying rape, making light of rape, or in any way causing rape to be more acceptable in this culture are incorrect.

For one thing, the obvious; stating that someone is not a bitch does not implicitly or explicitly support the institution of bitches. If anything, it rejects that institution.

This blog post, which Gaiman links to has having started the fury against his statement, says, "The use of 'bitch' here is not merely a misogynist slur. To be someone's 'bitch' is to be sexually subservient to hir, and the phrase is typically associated with nonconsensual sexual subservience, i.e. rape. (Specifically, it originates with prison rape.)"

One might point out that prison sex is typically between two individuals of the same sex, but I suppose the response might be that the word, originally meant for female dogs, is meant to indicate that an individual designated as female and animal is okay to sexually abuse. So perhaps these folks might be better with Amanda Palmer using the word than Neil Gaiman--sort of like a white man saying he's "nobody's nigger."

It might be helpful to examine why being considered someone's "bitch" is different from being someone's "nigger". Nigger was more less used interchangeably with negro and black to refer to African slaves and their descendants in a derogatory way, to imply there is something about being black that makes one a lower being. "Bitch" can be understood to refer to anyone, male or female, of any colour, its gender component reflecting traditional, sexist attitudes about a woman's place in society. So while I think one could say the word "nigger" is something a black person is more entitled to use in humour, "bitch" is a little more vague.

Next, I'd like to point out the absurdity prescribing an appropriate word to describe someone in a state of total physical and/or emotional subservience to another. "I'm nobody's slave," might seem appropriate because, if you look back far enough, every colour's been a slave. There are still slaves to-day, and you might note that by using the word "slave" in this context, one does not seem to be endorsing it. But because slavery is widely considered to be a remote problem to modern culture, it's not nearly as funny as "bitch". Bitch has some graphic immediacy because we know on some level that it relates specifically to a form of abuse and oppression going on nearby in the modern world. An important component to humour is shock value, something that humourless people frequently fail to grasp, people who dislike any hint of unpleasantness in the public discourse. Ironically, more and more of these people consider themselves resilient and open minded.

So, people might be sensitive to a word and might be offended by it. People who've lost loved ones may be offended by Gaiman's take on the afterlife in The Graveyard Book. The prospect of offending people is often the price of being interesting or provocative--you have to rub the sensitive spots to elicit feeling.

Is the statement, "I'm no one's bitch" going to make a would-be rapist out there feel a little more okay about raping someone? Does anyone seriously think so?
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