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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

misogynist idiot of the moment

“Arnold Furious” at 411.mania.com, who says — drum roll, please:

I’d like to choke that bitch MaryAnn Johanson for giving It’s a Wonderful Life the thumbs down.

I’m gonna keep highlighting the particular violent vehemence directed toward a woman with an opinion as I come across examples directed toward me, because I think it’s important to show up these pigs for what they are, and because I’m not the only woman by far to come under attack like this. (Though I’ve also so far escaped the much more ugly and disturbing treatment some women online have but at the receiving end of.)

“Furious” includes the above quote as part of a roundup of great directors; I’m the only critic he singles out even though the less-than-100-percent Rotten Tomatoes ratings he highlights for the films of these directors indicate that there are other critics who don’t like certain movies he likes. Does he write anything like, “I’d like to stab that bastard Joe Smith in the nuts for giving Goodfellas a Rotten rating”? Of course not, although the vast majority of critics are men and so there are going to be many who disagree with him.

Mostly, though, I find it hilarious and ironic that it’s a movie that so many people supposedly revere for its gentleness that has inspired such vicious ire in a guy who, it seems, isn’t even brave enough to post under his actual name.



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  • MBI

    You didn’t like “It’s a Wonderful Life”???

    I mean… yes, I realize that’s not the point of your article, but… you didn’t like “It’s a Wonderful Life”???

    Although I note that not only is he being violently angry about your rejection of a very gentle film, your specific criticism was that it didn’t satisfy your unending lust for violence*, which makes the already overpowering irony that much richer, doesn’t it?

    *hyperbole

  • El Canucko

    Maryann,

    I have been visiting your site for a number of months now but haven’t posted before. But I have to say that I, too, am often surprised at the vitriolic responses your reviews sometimes generate. I don’t really get it. I sometimes don’t agree with your critiques (you thought Frailty was pretty good, I thought it was kinda boring, even though I really like Bill Paxton), but I can’t imagine getting as riled up about it as some people do.

    People: It’s just one person’s opinion. Relax…and maybe try to appreciate the fact that she took the time to construct a website and post these reviews for us. I mean, even if you don’t always agre with her, you have to admit she has a way with words and can be pretty entertaining.

    Then again, I am Canadian, and we tend to be a little nicer up this way… :P

  • El Canucko

    Damn…no edit function. That should’ve been “agree.”

  • bats :[

    Wow, I hadn’t realized you dissed It’s a Wonderful Life, and I honestly thought I was one of the 10 people in the world who didn’t like it (the other nine living in the Outback or sub-Saharan Africa). That’s cool.
    What’s not cool is the inflammatory reactions your often get. Anonymity is a bitch for those who are brave enough to speak their minds and a lovely crtuch and hidey-hole for those who are too chicken-shit to do otherwise (but you already knew that). I guess what stuns me the most is that the people who your opions “offend” (is that even the right word) feel the need to keep coming back here and jacking up their blood pressure a few points, when it would be just as easy to bookmark Michael Medved’s reviews, or any other critic who shares their views.
    Oh, well. As Lex Luthor said, “Like my dad always told me, ‘People are no damn good’.”

  • Why give the twit any publicity? You probably reach more people than he does.

    You’re certainly right that men tend to leap on opinionated women. Nearly 20 years ago, when I first got online, I sometimes got involved with USENET groups, particularly soc.women. By the early ’90s, that group was completely unreadable due to all the raving by all the babbling boys.

    I just don’t read babbling boys. It usually takes about 10 seconds to figure out who to kill (in a USENET/Web sense), and it makes the net a better experience.

    I don’t always agree with your reviews, but I always enjoy your writing.

    Besides, you’re 1000% right about It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s a mawkish, awkward movie and I really dislike it.

  • MaryAnn

    Why give the twit any publicity?

    I think it’s important to point out the extreme nature of verbal abuse that women can be subjected to online. If Furious had written something like “I can’t believe that idiot MaryAnn Johanson hated this movie” or “It shocks me that there’s anyone — like, for instance, that twit MaryAnn Johanson — who hates this movie,” I would never have highlighted it. In fact, I come across comments like that all the time online.

    I got no problem with being disagreed with or even insulted — that comes with the territory when you’re vocal on the Internet (though I make no apologies for insisting than anyone who wants to be taken seriously as a commenter here must have something more to say than “You’re an idiot”). What I object to is the almost sexualized nature of the way that some men put down some women online. Even the guy who told me via email recently that he “sincerely” wished I had been killed in the World Trade Center collapse because I differed with him on a movie didn’t bother me quite as much as hearing that some man would like to “choke” me for being a “bitch.” That’s how physical abusers of women talk, and I won’t stand for it, and I won’t take it quietly.

  • Ok, just to play devil’s advocate, though: If he had said, “I’d like to rip off that dickhead Roger Ebert’s balls for giving It’s a Wonderful Life the thumbs down” would that have meant he was being sexist against men?

    I’m not saying you’re wrong, and that saying something like that can’t be code for misogyny (Just take a look at Hillary Clinton, for example. There’s plenty of reasons not to like her, but she seems to get called a bitch and incur much more vitriol than, say, John Edwards does from people who don’t support him) but it kind of seems like you’re taking a line where you’ll see a lot of misogyny where there isn’t any. There’s plenty of way more obvious misogyny out there than just some dude who called you a bitch, ya know?

  • t6

    Ok, just to play devil’s advocate, though: If he had said, “I’d like to rip off that dickhead Roger Ebert’s balls for giving It’s a Wonderful Life the thumbs down” would that have meant he was being sexist against men?

    Okay Count Shrimpula…let me run down some terms for you. In scholarly circles we make a distinction between sexism and sexual prejudice (or racism and racial prejudice, etc).

    Sexism, is prejudice backed my institutional oppression. So, if the guy had said “I want to rip off Roger Ebert’s balls” he wouldn’t be being sexist against men. He might be misandrist or prejudiced against men…but not sexist. If you understand sexism to be about larger social systems, not just about some individual, you’d see that it isn’t possible to be sexist against men while living in a patriarchy.

    How does this work? Well, if a woman says to a man, “You ass, I’m going to rape you.” that doesn’t carry the same impact as when a man says “You bitch, I’m going to rape you.” Because of the fact that in our society a woman is raped every minute…and men aren’t. Women don’t make equal pay for equal work. 90% of all violent crimes are committed by men. Women are victims of violence at the hands of men in appaling rates. There are structural inequalities in the society itself that make expressions of aggression toward woman different than expressions of aggression toward men.

    The same works with race. In Jena right now, some black kids in high school sat under a tree that was traditionally for whites only. In retaliation, white students put nooses in the tree to threaten the black kids. Racially motivated protests and fights have broken out there. The response? Nothing happened to the white kids who beat up black kids, the black kids who beat up white kids were arrested for attempted murder. Is a white kid beating up a black kid the same as a black kid beating up a white kid? On a micro level, the acts are the same…but looking at institutionalized power, they are not the same. The white kids don’t get prosecuted, and the black kids go to jail for the same actions. I think there is a fundametal difference between being of an oppressed class and being angry and resentful at the people who are oppressing you (fighting back), and being an oppressor and continuing to be angry, resentful and kick people you have societal power over.

    Is a guy sleeping with lots of women the same as a gal sleeping with lots of men? On a micro level the acts are the same, but they are not viewed the same by society and the social consequences for the two people are different. The ease with which many folks call women bitches, hos, and advocate violence agaist them is part of a larger societal oppression against women.

    Are there more blatant acts of misogyny out there? Sure…but the blatant acts of homophobia, misogyny, classism, racism, etc are the easy ones…and they don’t stop the more insidious subtle ones, which are just as bad…and maybe even worse…because we don’t think to struggle against them…and then we let them calcify.

  • I find it hilarious and ironic that it’s a movie that so many people supposedly revere for its gentleness that has inspired such vicious ire in a guy who, it seems, isn’t even brave enough to post under his actual name.

    Every time a member of the online belligerati writes an anonymous kneejerk and reactionary attack on someone who only happens to disagree with his opinion of something he has fetishized above all reason, an angel chews off its wings.

    It says a lot about Mr. “Furious” that he chose to think up, type, consider carefully, then go ahead and post the phrase “I’d like to choke that bitch” rather than, say, “I tend to disagree with… Oh, and here’s why…” None of it’s good.

    MaryAnn, next time my wife and I visit NYC (one of our two favorite cities), please let us buy you a drink somewhere. Then you and she can compare notes and clink stemware on your shared opinions of It’s a Wonderful Life. A good time is guaranteed for all.

  • MaryAnn

    Sounds good, Mark. :->

    : If he had said, “I’d like to rip off that dickhead Roger Ebert’s balls for giving It’s a Wonderful Life the thumbs down” …

    But the thing is: Men don’t say those kinds of things about other men. Or at least at nowhere near the same rate they say those kinds of things about women.

    Oh, and what t6 said.

  • Doa766

    stuff like this it’s the reason why I’ve lost all faith in mankind

    now I’m like the german guys in The Big Lebowski: “We believe in nothing, Lebowski, nothing”

    MaryAnn, I think it’s kinda of sweet that you take your time to argue with those idiots, I used to do that, now I just don’t care anymore, they can say whatever crap they won’t and I just don’t think they qualify to even speak their own name

    and I didn’t like “It’s a Wonderful Life” either, in fact I think most movies made before 1960 are awfully dated, filled with horrid acting, wooden dialogue, obvious storyline and total lack of artistic value or cinematic value (filmed plays), but that’s just me

  • MaryAnn

    I think it’s kinda of sweet that you take your time to argue with those idiots, I used to do that, now I just don’t care anymore, they can say whatever crap they won’t and I just don’t think they qualify to even speak their own name

    I’m not sure which idiots you mean. If you’re referring to Furious, well, I’m not arguing with him, just pointing out his idiocy. And I do think it’s worth doing that, because 411mania.com is a popular site — according to Alexa — far more popular than mine, so it’s not like no one is reading this idiot’s stuff.

  • MaryAnn

    Huh. I just discovered that 411mania’s terms of service for people who post in the site’s forums include this warning:

    You agree, through your use of the service, that you will not use the forum to post any material which is knowingly false and/or defamatory, inaccurate, abusive, vulgar, hateful, harassing, obscene, profane, sexually oriented, threatening, invasive of a person’s privacy, or otherwise violative of any law.

    I wonder whether the same applies to the site’s writers, and if so, whether “I’d like to choke that bitch MaryAnn Johanson” qualifies as, oh, I dunno, abusive, hateful, obscene, sexually oriented, or threatening. In fact, I think I may email the site right now to find out…

  • I think the connection to “It’s a Wonderful Life” gives it a touch of the bizarre. Love it or hate it, it’s a very gentle film (critics would probably say “maudlin,” but nevertheless.) Attaching an “I’d like to strangle anyone who hates this” sentiment to it causes a truly strange disconnect. You might as well say “I’ll cut any bitch who badmouths ‘The Little Mermaid'” or “if you hate ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ I hope you get rectal cancer.” Your vitriol tends to clash with the general tone of the film you’re defending.

    The implied misogyny, of course, takes things to a much more troubling level… though if it makes you feel better, M-A, I envy you your death threats. It’s a sign that you’ve achieved enough prominence to truly incite the emotions of your readers.

  • t6 and MaryAnn:

    I don’t want to argue semantics of “sexism” vs. “sexual prejudice”, and I don’t need to be told how fucked up our society is, and that institutionalized sexism, racism, etc. exist. I know that, and I’m with you there. I see it, and I hate it, and I’m all for fighting against it.

    My point is just that it’s really easy to get to that point and then start going too far, where you’re looking for signs of racism/sexism/prejudice against whatever, and when you’re looking that hard, you see it everywhere.

    I get very touchy about attempts to limit free speech for the sake of not hurting people’s feelings, because it tends to end up going too far. You start getting overly sensitive, and you end up firing people for accidentally saying offensive things during live broadcasts. Anyone remember the weatherman who got tongue-tied trying to say the weather would be nice for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and accidentally said “Martin Luther Coon, Jr.”? Clearly an accident (he just slurred “king” and “junior” together) and yet he got fired! And the radio broadcaster who was complimenting Condoleezza Rice, was trying to say “coup”, slipped up, and said “coon” instead, then immediately apologized. Listening to the audio just makes it blindingly obvious it was a mistake. Guess what happened to him? He was fired. Because obviously he was intentionally following up his couple minutes of complimenting her by then calling her a racial slur. That makes sense. But hey, at least Condoleezza was gracious enough to accept his apology.

    What I’m getting at is, fight the good fight, absolutely, and I totally support that, and I’ll be right alongside you. But don’t turn it into a witch hunt where anyone who says the word “bitch” or says they hate a woman for any reason is suddenly a misogynist. It’s not productive to attack people who are your allies, or at lease aren’t your enemies, because they said a word. Attack the people who actually believe and propagate that shit.

  • hh9

    Agree with the person above completely. The comment is nowhere close to being a sexist remark. It’s just hateful. If someone comes up to me and says “Fuck you”, I’m not going to accuse them of being racist because I’m black, it’s ridiculous.

  • “If someone comes up to me and says “Fuck you”, I’m not going to accuse them of being racist because I’m black, it’s ridiculous.”

    what if they said, “Fuck you, nigger?”

  • amanohyo

    I think you might have to go even further than that to find an appropriate racial analogy. Something like, “I’d like to put a bullet in that ni**er YOUR NAME’s head for giving The Teddy Ruxpin Movie a thumbs down.”

    To restate some of t6’s argument, men actually do choke women to death in our society. “Fuck you,” or even “Fuck you, ni**er,” just doesn’t carry the same sense of menace. At least, not here on the lovely internet. If it was in person, that’s a whole ‘nother story…

    As far as accidental racial slurs by newscasters are concerned, I’ve found that when people consistently react strongly (or overreact if you prefer) to something that I say, it’s almost always because whatever I said is related to some serious unresolved issue that they have. Societies are the same way.

  • MaryAnn

    If someone comes up to me and says “Fuck you”, I’m not going to accuse them of being racist because I’m black, it’s ridiculous.

    What if someone said, “I’d like to throw a noose around the neck of that idiot”? Would you be offended then? Would you take that in a racist context?

    My point is just that it’s really easy to get to that point and then start going too far, where you’re looking for signs of racism/sexism/prejudice against whatever, and when you’re looking that hard, you see it everywhere.

    I DON’T see it everywhere. But I DO see it, I’m not gonna be afraid to call it like it is.

    I get very touchy about attempts to limit free speech for the sake of not hurting people’s feelings

    This isn’t about hurt feelings — I’m not hurt. And it’s not about limiting anyone’s speech. I just think people should be aware of what they’re saying, because I don’t think they always are.

    don’t turn it into a witch hunt where anyone who says the word “bitch” or says they hate a woman for any reason is suddenly a misogynist.

    Is that what you think I’ve done here?

    Attack the people who actually believe and propagate that shit.

    And how, precisely, are we supposed to tell the difference between those who actually believe something, and those who only sounds like they do?

  • MaryAnn

    If someone comes up to me and says “Fuck you”, I’m not going to accuse them of being racist because I’m black, it’s ridiculous.

    Just an FYI, I hear “Fuck you” and many variants on it ALL THE TIME. There’s a HUGE difference between “Fuck you” and “I’d like to choke that bitch.”

  • I’m not saying you’re wrong, and I’m not saying you’ve necessarily done that here, but I wouldn’t see that statement and think, “Oh man, this dude hates women!” Maybe I’m not as attuned to it being a man, I don’t think you’d be calling him a misandrist idiot if he’d said, “I’d like to choke that dickhead Roger Ebert for giving x a bad review!” And I think that is a significant distinction, our patriarchal society notwithstanding.

    I know you’re not doing this because your feelings are hurt. If you were so thin-skinned, I’m sure you wouldn’t be maintaining this website still. Obviously you can’t read people’s minds and tell whether they mean what they’re saying. That’s not what I’m getting at. But for me, I need more evidence than that one line to say that this guy’s a misogynist. That’s where the distinction lies, and I think that even if you can’t agree with me there, you can see why that’s a concern, right?

    I don’t want you to get the wrong idea here, we’re on the same side. I see plenty of misogyny out there, I agree with you mostly, I even think you might be right about that guy. The difference is that from that one line, I’d give him the benefit of the doubt.

  • t6

    Regarding those newscasters who made accidental slip ups.

    Isn’t it strange that their accidental slips ends up being racial slurs when they are talking about black people?

    I’d call that a Freudian slip, not an accident.

    I never accidentally start using misogynist language around women, or racial slurs around people of color. When drunk, I never start spouting anti-Semitic remarks and have no idea where they came from.

    Dick Armey said it was an accidental slip when he called Barney Frank, Barney Fag…and I wonder…why was the slip “Barney Fag” and not “Barney Flag”? How coincidental that the slip happen to be fag when talking about a homosexual, happens to be coon when talking about a African-American.

    I don’t buy it.

    And as for their being fired…newscasters and other public figures are used because they can get their bosses advertising money. Networks regularly fire women they think are too old, simply because they no longer fit the image of the network. If a network decides that a newscasters screwed up language will cost them money, they have the right to fire that person. In this case it isn’t about free speech, it is about the networks making profit. Some networks don’t care if you use hate speech, others do.

    And then let me touch on the topic of free speech for a moment.

    Not all speech is free. Slander, libel, specific threats of violence, language that incites violence, fighting words…none of that is protected speech. Also, free speech isn’t completely wide open on the TV aifwaves…as the FCC shows us. You aren’t allowed to show Janet Jackson’s nipple or use the word “fuck.”

    While I’m a fan of free speech, I think it is important to note that we don’t have the right to say whatever we want whenever we want…and when we do say things…we have to deal with the consequences…and living in a country very little union protection or labor rights, that often includes being fired when people don’t like what you said.

  • I can’t believe people are actually arguing against MaryAnn’s decision to call Arnold Furious* a misogynist idiot. Granted, it’s possible to be even more misogynistic than that, unfortunately, but then again, how misogynistic do you have to be before someone can call you on it?

    * Not Arnoldo Furioso?

  • MaryAnn

    I wouldn’t see that statement and think, “Oh man, this dude hates women!” Maybe I’m not as attuned to it being a man, I don’t think you’d be calling him a misandrist idiot if he’d said, “I’d like to choke that dickhead Roger Ebert for giving x a bad review!” And I think that is a significant distinction, our patriarchal society notwithstanding.

    Yes, there is a significant distinction between what Furious wrote and your example, but it’s not what you’re saying it is. It’s like I wrote earlier: Men simply do not talk that way about other men, and if they were to do so, it would not have the same connotations as it would about speaking of a woman in that language. It’s like the difference between a white person saying about another white person, “I’d like to string him up,” and a white person saying about a black person the same thing. While there’s an implied threat in both statements, they have vastly different contexts.

    I need more evidence than that one line to say that this guy’s a misogynist.

    If it quacks like a duck…

  • Grant

    Yeah, its just one line, but its such and oddly out of place line that it calls attention to itself. I mean, first off, the guy is a horrible writer. Secondly, his “Opinion” is just a laundry list of each directors’ oeuvre and other critics opinions. And finaly, MAJ is the only critic he names by name, and then only to make a nonsensical threat against her. And the choice of threat – “…choke that bitch…” – really does speak volumes. He didn’t write “smack” or “punch” or “send an email virus to”, he chose words with a very strongly misogynistic connentation.

  • MBI

    It’s weird that “choke” has misogynist connotations denied to “smack,” “punch,” “kill,” “run over with my car,” etc. I don’t really imagine that men actually choke women any more than they smack, punch, kill, or run over them with their car. Or for that matter, that they choke women more than they choke men. But yet, I fully admit those connotations are there, and I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s just because it seems to be more frequently used as a rhetorical threat against women than men, but I don’t know what that stems from. MaryAnn says that men don’t talk about other men like that, and I honestly don’t think I agree. But threats against men are along the lines of “I’ll kick his ass,” a threat which sounds weird directed against a woman. Still, the nature of choking gives the author some wiggle room against charges of woman-hating. If the line had been “I’d like to rape that bitch,” there would be no question that it was misogynist — if it had been “Fuck that bitch,” that’s practically harmless. “Choke that bitch” occupies a weird middle ground.

    But where is this conversation going? Does the past history of violence perpetrated by men against women automatically make any such rhetorical threat made by a man against a woman misogynist? Or inappopriate? Or, at least, more inappopriate than a threat directed against a man? For that matter, since we’ve dragged race into it, is a rhetorical threat made by a white person against a black person automatically racist, or racially inappropriate? I have no answers to any of these questions.

    Now here’s an interpretation that no one has thought of. It’s already been pointed out several times that it’s highly ironic that he used such a violent threat in defending such a gentle movie, and that it’s the only such . Perhaps, and I realize this is a bit of a stretch considering the caliber of this guy’s writing, but perhaps, that is in fact the joke, and the irony was intentional. Like I said, a stretch, but I wouldn’t discount the possibility entirely.

  • MaryAnn

    It’s weird that “choke” has misogynist connotations denied to “smack,” “punch,” “kill,” “run over with my car,” etc.

    Add “that bitch” to any of those other words/phrases, though, and I think the same what-a-pig feelings would result. It’s the combination that makes all of them so wrong. “Punch that idiot”? “Slap that moron”? “Run over that nincompoop”? Those don’t bother me.

    Does the past history

    *Past* history? Women are still *constantly* demeaned with words and the attitudes behind those words. Not to mention still subject to horrific violence because of their gender.

    of violence perpetrated by men against women automatically make any such rhetorical threat made by a man against a woman misogynist? Or inappopriate? Or, at least, more inappopriate than a threat directed against a man?

    Depends on the rhetoric. When, on a societal-wide cultural level, words and the threat of violence have been used by men to keep women in line, rhetoric that conjures up that subjugation is bound to have a different impact than words that do not. Of course men have used words — and violence — to keep other men down, too, which is why context is important in this kind of thing, too:

    For that matter, since we’ve dragged race into it, is a rhetorical threat made by a white person against a black person automatically racist, or racially inappropriate?

    Depends on the rhetoric. “I’d like to string up that nigger,” said by a white man to a black man is not at all the same thing as “I’d like to punch that idiot,” said by a white man to a black man. Black people can be idiots and morons too, and may well deserve a metaphoric punch. That’s not racist. Using a comment that is meant to demean a person because it alludes to racist violence *is* racist.

    Words have power. A writer should know that. I’m NOT saying that a writer shouldn’t use whatever words he wants. But he should KNOW what he’s saying, and chose his words carefully.

  • MaryAnn

    Arnold Furious strikes back. He says this about me in a new posting at 411mania:

    Was I wrong to threaten her in such a fashion? It was idle but there are some who suggest it shows I have an underlying contempt for women. I certainly don’t think that’s true. If any women feel my verbal wrath they usually get the same treatment as a man would get in the same situation (I hark back to the recording of Whoop That Trick in Hustle & Flow where Terry Howard’s character wants to call the song “beat that bitch” and he’s referring to a man). And isn’t that what women want? To be treated equally? Or am I just totally missing the point. Anyway, I apologised via email because it was never my intent for her to take it seriously. Much the same as if I typed “I’d like to fuck Rosario Dawson” I wouldn’t expect an email from her reading “really? Come on over Arnie!” Ah well.

    And I told *him* in my email response to his apology:

    You said in your movie news posting at 411mania: “isn’t that what women want? To be treated equally?” Yes, that is what women want, and deserve, and have every right to expect, and have every right to complain about when it doesn’t happen. In this case, though, “treating equally” is not what you’ve done, any more than threatening a black person with a noose would be a triumph for colorblindness. And to liken “I’d like to choke…” to “I’d like to fuck…” *is* actually offensive, though not how you probably think. Crudity of the compliment aside (I’ve been known to be that crude, too, and right out in public on my own site as well!), most people expect fucking to be a pleasant activity for both parties. Choking? Not so much.

    (That’s not my whole email, BTW — just a small part. But the rest of it pretty much goes over what we’ve been discussing here.)

  • MBI

    I rescind the words “past history” in my post. They were ill-chosen.

    “Beat That Bitch” in Hustle & Flow totally does not refer to a guy. Alternatives to “bitch” proposed in the movie were “trick” and “ho”; I’ve occasionally heard men referred to as bitches, but hos and tricks?

    I totally don’t like throwing out words like misogynist, but I’m going to put my backing with Maryann on this one. Yes, Arnold, you are in fact totally missing the point.

  • All right, well t6, you’re insane to be so oversensitive that you can’t give someone the benefit of the doubt if they get tongue-tied. It’s not like they guy said “Martin Luther Nigger Day”. He got a little tongue-tied and slurred two words together really unfortunately. And ditto for the guy on the radio. If you’ve really never misspoken like that, then I guess I can see why you believe that guy is a secret racist. If you have, though, and I’d be willing to bet you have, then I don’t see why it’s a mistake if you say “Take luck!” instead of “take care” or “good luck”, but it must be purposefully racist if you accidentally end up saying a slur. That’s absolute madness, and is exactly what my point above was about. Let’s not lose our heads here, people.

    MaryAnn, I respectfully disagree with you, and I think I’ll bow out here, because I hate arguing on the Internet. I’ll just say that I do think men talk that way about each other, so I don’t accept that premise of your argument, and I really think it’s silly to say that a comment made to a man can be ok, but making the same one to a woman is suddenly sexist. It’s all about the context. I think you could say something about hanging a black man without it being racist. If you were saying it the same way you would say it about a white person, without thinking, “Ha, this will be an awesome threat/insult because it’s a black man I’m talking to!” then it’s not racist. Is it a stupid thing to say because of the context? Sure. Does it make the person who said it an automatic racist because when they said it they genuinely weren’t thinking of that context? No way.

  • MaryAnn

    But the fact that people are not aware of the potential threatening context of what they’re saying is a HUGE problem. People are NOT thinking… THAT’S the problem. And of course it’s typically white men (not all, but some) who fail to see the context that everyone else (or many others) not white and male sees. This isn’t to pick on white men: this is to point out that those in the dominant, “default” position sometimes fail to appreciate that there are other contexts in which their words can be taken, because *they* have never been in a position similar to a woman’s, or a black man’s, for instance.

    It has long been a tenet of feminism (and other philosophies that are interpreting the world from a subordinate position) that women (or blacks, or Jews, and so on) have to appreciate, understand, and operate in two worlds: the dominant culture that has been shaped by white men, and the world of women’s experience that men never see, not having any need to do so in order to function, whereas women who want to “succeed” in the dominant culture must understand its rules.

    Getting *everyone* — men, women, black, white, etc. — to understand that the culture shaped by white men is NOT the default and NOT inevitable has been an enormous job of the feminist movement and the civil rights movement. There’s still a long way to go, though.

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