I’m Just Not Impressed

Am I supposed to be?

Archive for July 2008

If a joke is said in the wilderness and no one laughs, is it still funny?

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So, that New Yorker cover:

It is supposed to be satire.  Of course it is.  It’s the New Yorker.   Bastion of intellectual liberalism.  So why don’t we get it?  (We meaning a huge chunk of the liberal blogosphere who have dissecting the image with in an inch of its life over the past twenty-four hours.)  David Remnick can go give interviews to NPRand Huffington Post and other media outlets for the rest of his life, about how it’s called “The Politics of Fear” – something which you have to open the magazine (or read blogs, I guess) to find out- and about how New Yorker covers are racy and controversial.  

But images have power – more power than words, there’s that old adage, you know.  And as Anxious Black Woman points out (in comments), for satire to be successful, it has to have something with the ring of truth.  What is the “truth” here?  To hear Remnick tell it, it’s not the Obamas being satirized, it’s the people who perpetuate and actually believe the slanderous whisper campaigns represented in the cover image.  But where are those folks?  Where’s the computer in the corner with a fake headline?  Hell, where’s the title of the image, upon which the New Yorker hangs its hat? 

I’m torn on this cover, because I want it to work.  I want to see the people who actually think that Obama is a secret Muslim who’s going to sell us all out to Osama Bin Laden to get thoroughly skewered in as many places as possible.  I think Ampersand at Alas, A Blog is correct that “mockery of racist fear-mongering is [not] the same as racist fear-mongering.”  But they are not necessarily different either, and I think that the line is a lot harder to discern – particularly when the publication engaging in the alleged mockery has a readership skewed toward older, more affluent, white, urban (so I’m just guessing on the latter) Americans.  The cover is rife, not just with images directly related to the whisper campaign, but also highly stereotypical images of black men and women in the United States.  While the inside article might take on those issues as they apply to Obama, there is no indication that the magazine makes an effort to address how such images send messages about black Americans in general.  Frankly, I am not comfortable giving the magazine a pass on this one.

I’m also troubled by what I see as a lot of classism and some regionalism as well in the responses to this, but I’m having a more difficult time articulating it, because I think a lot of it is based on being a weirdo progressive liberal from the Midwest and being sick of having to defend my very existence.  I can’t up but feel like Remnick is sitting in his Manhattan office today contemplating all of the ignorant rubes from fly-over country who just don’t get the joke.

Written by emandink

July 15, 2008 at 4:21 pm

What’s in a name?

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Not surprisingly, I suppose, I am not alone in my past ambivalence to the term “feminism”.  While in the past few years I’ve found my way to again actively embracing the term, there are still plenty of people who seem to think that “feminism” is not just about the radical notion that women are full fledged human beings with agency and that there is some sort of monolithic feminist agenda.

There’s not.

No, really

Is there a radical feminist manifesto?  Well, sure.  There are plenty of people and articles and essays who try to define feminism and what it should be.  But in the end, there are almost as many different “definitions” of feminism as there are people who consider the term.  Valerie Solanas doesn’t speak for all of us.  Hell, I’d venture to say she doesn’t speak for many of us.  Andrea Dworkin, Gloria Steinem, a lot of the second wave feminists who get trotted out in debates about what feminism is – they are inspirational women on whose hard work a movement has grown.  But they are not the arbiters of what feminism is, or what it can and should be.

White feminists – myself included – need to get our collective heads out of our collective asses.  We need to recognize that feminism – right now, today, in 2008 – reinforces white privilege.  Feminists should know our history.  We should know and acknowledge that Elizabeth Cady Stanton engaged in race baiting rhetoric in the interests of fighting for women’s right to vote.  We should know and acknowledge that the women who are viewed by the mainstream press are woefully silent on issues of race, or embarrassing often as not when they are not.  

We need to take back the movement.  We need to listen to people who want to be our allies.  Feminism is not just about people who look like me.  Feminism is not about lipstick and disposable razors and (not) wearing skirts or bras.  It’s not about menstrual cups.  It’s about breaking down barriers.  It’s about putting 18 million cracks in a glass ceiling and about recognizing that gender, race and class privilege are not individual issues.  It’s about all women leveling the playing field.

That’s my manifesto.

Written by emandink

July 2, 2008 at 6:35 pm