Sound Familiar?

Seems like our old friend TRex is up to some of his old tricks again, along with fellow Firedoglake contributor Pachacutec.

Quoth Pachacutec:

FDL Late Nite: Whore, n., 1. a prostitute…

2. A person considered sexually promiscuous
[Ed. Note: literally, doubtful. See photo.]
3. A person considered as having compromised principles for personal gain.

AH HA HA HA HA! That’s some mighty fine snark there, Pach! See, she can’t be promiscuous, because you think she’s old/fat/ugly! Boy, I can see why you get to run with the A-listers. Hoo boy.

You know, sometimes I’m an old fashioned sort. I can appreciate tradition. I certainly believe in hard work, and positively adore the craft of genuine professionalism.

In that spirit, I bring you an underappreciated practitioner of the world’s oldest profession, a woman in congress Congress, Ellen Tauscher. She can slurp the gnarly nub of power with the very best, gamely grinning to the gushing finish: a working girl’s working girl. Howie calls her, “a bribe-taking corporate whore and shit eater who has guaranteed herself a nasty primary in 2008.”

Oh, the funny. It burns. That “congress” strikeout? As in “sexual congress,” winkwink, nudgenudge? Genius! Except, didn’t you just say she was too ugly to fuck?

Oh, those nettlesome principles. Such a shame to have to answer to us dirty fucking hippies with a list on the back of a napkin. Here, Madam Tauscher: use it to wipe your chin.

Comedy gold! She’s a corporate whore, y’see, so she must do real blowjobs! And not only that, she lets her johns cum on her face. Because only dirty whores do that.

Why does she have Miller in her sights? That is to say, why do her clients have Miller in their sights? Let’s read a little further:

Aw, c’mon, Pach. Don’t punk out on us now. If you’re going with prostitute metaphors, go for the gusto. The word is “johns.”

The same media establishment that’s been cattily sniping at Speaker-to-be Pelosi for daring to become a powerful, successful, progressive woman Speaker is targeting her influential allies to protect Lipitor’s Medicare Part D premium and the Great and Powerful McCain/Lieberman War Machine and Pony Farm. Accordingly, as a genuine professional and a faithful working girl, Tongue Twirling Tauscher aims to please. I suspect Sten Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel (D-Tomczak) may be needing new kneepads by Christmas as well. Shop now.

See! He’s really a feminist after all! He only goes into cum-guzzling reveries for women he disagrees with politically! And, and, he mentioned knee pads for men, too! So it’s really the same thing!

Yes. Well. Things got better. Tom Watson did not take kindly to the working-girl imagery, and said so.

I hope Peter Daou is reading this, because his boss may well have to face this kind of sexist attack beginning next year. It’s so bad, so poorly executed, that it really does appear to be a clumsy Republican efforts to pollute a top Democratic blog. These posts are permanent, folks. They give aid and comfort to the other side. They make our side look surly, sexist, hypocritical.

To put is another way: are you stupid? Or just insane?

There’s a better than 50-50 chance that the broad center-left coalition in this country, organized as the Democratic Party, will be running a woman for President in less than 20 months. The leading Democratic elected official in the land is a woman – and we need her.

This is the third post in an unfortunate series (parts one and two) and you know, I’m going to continue; people are of course free to write and blog how they wish.

But in a world where a hero like Mukhtar Mai of Pakistan overcomes court-ordered gang rape and a corrupt regime to help educate the children of her attackers, we kid ourselves that we’re advanced enough, cool enough, hip enough, or evolved enough to throw around this low-brow gender-based garbage and think it won’t stick – to us, to the left, to the Democrats, to our candidates, to our movement.

James Wolcott came out in support of Watson:

For those of Steyn’s persuasion, the truly noble female exemplars are Orianna Fallaci and Margaret Thatcher–one dead, the other prematurely mute. Sexism is second nature to so many on the right, which is why those on the left have to ensure that their antennae are acutely tuned to the misogynistic jibes thrown at Nancy Pelosi from everyone from Maureen Dowd to Dennis Miller. As Tom Watson, provoked by this outburst of projectile vomiting in Firedoglake, points out, such rhetorical rot will only end up eating into our own faces.

Then Watson updated the post to include a link to a post by TRex in which he had, in the original post, called Laura Ingraham a cunt. This was eventually edited out, but TRex hurled the epithet at Tom in comments to Tom’s post for daring to question him:

“UPDATE II: The grown-ups at FDL have been busy. The C-word has been edited out of the post.”

That was my decision, Tom. I decided I would rather refer to Miss Ingraham as a Bitch Troll from Hell.

You, on the other hand, are a miserable little cunt.

Hilarity ensued.

As is depressingly common, commenters — most of them progressive men — tripped all over themselves to excuse the use of “cunt” and the rather florid whore imagery as just desserts for Ingraham and Tauscher. Come on, can’t you take a little vulgarity? Hey, they’re right-wing bitches; they deserve it. You’re limiting my vocabulary! Women use it, too, so why can’t men? You have no sense of humor. But “prick” is an insult, too! It’s just a word, it doesn’t mean anything. But FDL’s raised a lot of money for Democrats!

Bullshit.

We’ve been down this road before, kids. With Ann Coulter. With Michelle Malkin. With “pussy.” For that matter, with fat jokes. [And, as Lauren reminds me, with blackface.] And those arguments are no more valid now than they were then.

If you can’t attack the positions of a rabid antifeminist commentator or a deep-in-the-pockets-of-Big-Pharma politician without resorting to insults designed to highlight not just their gender, but their relative worth as fucktoys, then you have no business writing what passes for commentary.

It’s easy to reach first for the gender-based insult. And it’s wrong.

And, seriously, how can you sit there and be shocked, shocked, that people you don’t agree with are attacking Nancy Pelosi for her femaleness and not realize that you’re contributing to the problem by portraying a United States Congresswoman as a cumguzzling two-dollar whore? By whining that women are too sensitive because they complain when you call a media figure a cunt?

Remember what I said about the function of this kind of talk the last time we talked about TRex?

Yep, you have just seen a white man tell a woman of color that she needs to just remember her place and stop “assail[ing] your betters.”

Wellllll, he just put Liza in *her* place, didn’t he? He even pulled out the “you’re just jealous” canard, and we’ve never seen THAT used to keep someone in their place, have we? . . .

So, to recap: If you have tits and get invited to a lunch with someone powerful, someone will be along directly to remind you that you didn’t get where you are by being intelligent, and you don’t really belong. If you protest, you will be pegged as angry and hysterical.

If you’re a minority, and you want some answers as to why no minorities attended the lunch with the powerful person, someone will be along directly to remind you not to sass your betters. If you continue to protest, you will be pegged as angry and hysterical.

These insults aren’t meant just for the recipients. They’re meant for everyone else in that group, too. So detailed descriptions of your fantasy that “corporate whore” really means real whore doesn’t just hurt Tauscher, the intended target. It hurts Pelosi, too. And it’s meant to — that’s what insults based on a group characteristic or stereotype are for. They’re meant to convey the message to any member of a non-dominant group that they might be accepted for now, but we all know that they’re really just a cunt and a whore, like those women we don’t like.


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105 Responses to Sound Familiar?

  1. Lauren says:

    Wasn’t FDL one of the blogs using blackface to smear politicians during the midterm elections?

    Yeah, thought so. So goddamned progressive. Go Dems.

  2. zuzu says:

    You’re right. Edited to add ebogjonson’s handy chart.

  3. beth says:

    i stopped reading firedoglake because of t-rex’s reaction to liza. although i feel somewhat reinforced for that decision, it’s pretty disheartening to hear that, once again, commentators on a progressive blog used sexist remarks to attack women with whom they don’t agree.

  4. Heraclitus says:

    If you can’t attack the positions of a rabid antifeminist commentator or a deep-in-the-pockets-of-Big-Pharma politician without resorting to insults designed to highlight not just their gender, but their relative worth as fucktoys, then you have no business writing what passes for commentary.

    And that’s your ballgame, folks.

    FDL speaks volumes about the Dems and the “liberal blogosphere.”

  5. mythago says:

    most of them progressive men

    You forgot the quotation marks! But I’ll let you decide where they should have gone.

  6. exangelena says:

    This is what drove me away from fdl forever*

    * except to rubberneck at their offensiveness.

    PS Thanks for not cowering to the Big Blogs and being willing to call this out for what it is :)

  7. Auguste says:

    What exangelena said. FDL hasn’t been a regular read for a long time now. Glad to see I’m not missing anything.

  8. Auguste says:

    I’d just like to point out, too, that Firedoglake won “best new blog” in the Koufaxes the same year that Malkin(s)watch was eligible. I ask you, is there any justice? Well? Is there?

  9. Cecily says:

    These insults aren’t meant just for the recipients.

    Thank you! This is a fight I’ve had to have many times. Just because someone ‘deserves to be insulted’ does NOT mean they deserve to be slurred based on their gender/race/orientation/what-have-you. Collateral damage isn’t just a word for dead civilians.

  10. sly civilian says:

    Let the minutes of the Revolutionary Council of People Who Give A Damn (Or Two) About Not Being Total Jerks reflect that an official commendation of the “Fuck, Yeah!” level is to be bestowed upon Tom Watson.

    With no further business to be discussed, I move that the meeting be adjourned, and that we go eat cookies.

    All in favor?

  11. RKMK says:

    zuzu, great comments over there. I was tempted to post myself, but Trex and Pach’s responses (and descriptions of comment-moderation at FDL) indicate that they’re particularly resilient to any sort of constructive criticism, and nothing I said would be particularly effective against that lot.

    But can I say I’m completely bewildered by the people who are condescendingly snorting “Oh noes, he said a bad wurd! U r so sensitive lolz!” Like, the fuck? Would people snort in such a manner if a black person got offended by being called a nigger? Or – more allegorically – if Pach had made some delightful “metaphorical” post which described some Republican criminal thug in “poetic” racist tones, comparing them to a black person? Because black people are criminal thugs?

    It’s inexcusably offensive; it’s not – what did they call it – “punk rock”. No, I’m not “delicate” – I can handle hearing the word “cunt”, and typing it – but I still find it end-of-the-line offensive (along the line of nigger, kike, etc), and if some asshole calls me one – if I don’t go straight to kicking the guy in the nuts – I’m for damned sure within my rights to judge him as a sexist, misogynist piece of shit. And the Democrats – and those lobbying on their behalf – definitely need to disassociate themselves with those who invoke it.

    So, to recap: If you have tits and get called a cunt, you better fucking toughen up and take it, you girly-girl. If you protest, you will be pegged as angry and hysterical.

    Assholes.

  12. Veronica says:

    What a bunch of assholes. Again.

  13. Pinko Punko says:

    My fave is the argument from Webster’s. It’s pretty stupid when Vox Day does it, it is pretty stupid when some munchwagon that can’t even take one comment before throwing haymakers does it to. And thus the world turns. Check out Erasmus in the comments over at Tom’s kids. He’s gem. A real English Hothouse Cucumber.

  14. MARes says:

    RKMK, were you around for the outpouring of misogynistic hate that the people at kos refer to as “the pie war”? It started when a woman was offended by an ad on the site, she was basically told to shut her silly girlish pie hole, then, unsurprisingly, more women and men objected to the condescention, and then it was open season at the frat house, egging each other on to more and more blatant sexism.

    In the kos lexicon, “pie war” has come to mean a nonsensical dispute when irrational hysterics get upset over nothing, just like those silly girls. Here’s a typical conversation about it: “Wow, I can’t believe all this fuss over a silly ad.” “Right, yeah, see, it wasn’t about the ad, it stopped being about the ad almost immediately.” “Yeah, the whole thing about an ad! Crazy! The girls are just so sensitive.” “Here’s the thing. Most people didn’t even see the ad. It wasn’t the ad. It was the general attitude and the hellacious comments made afterwards.” “Yeah, boy what outrage over an ad. You’ll never be taken seriously that way!”

    It’s like talking to a damn brick wall. The “progressive” bloggers just don’t get it. They want us on the team, but that means standing on the sideline cheering.

  15. Pingback: Lonesome Road Blues » Sly Civilian

  16. flawedplan says:

    I’m going to admit that I’m one who also uses Cunt (and worse) with various motivations, including the desire to neutralize its power, the desire to inflict pain, and with certain like-minded women as a sign of affection.

    All commments in that thread are valid, but I really appreciated what Zuzu and Pinko had to say and thought I’d come by and say that.

  17. RKMK says:

    MARes, no, I wasn’t, and I’m pretty sure I would have blown a gasket, so perhaps that’s for the best.

    flawedplan, thanks for swinging by and saying that. I really am curious, though; I understand the “reclaiming” philosophy in theory, I do – but I’m skeptical of its effectiveness. What is it achieving, truly?As much as I would love to think that we can reclaim the power and the history of words like “nigger” and “cunt”, can we? No matter how much you band it about with your friends, invoking it ironically or hyperbolically (as a friend of mine has been known to do), when it comes right down to it, does it make it better when a man backhands his wife, and calls her a cunt? Does it stop some pathetic loser from muttering it under his breath at his female boss after she’s dressed him down?

    Black people have been calling themselves “nigger” amongst themselves for quite some time now, and yet, people walked out of Michael Richards’ show when he decided to get derogatory with it. The power of the word, in those kinds of context, doesn’t seem to get lessened as people “reclaim” it.

    What are your thoughts? Is it truly possible to totally “reclaim” a derogatory remark? And should it be? I particularly like having linguistic benchmarks that I can use to judge someone’s true character.

  18. RKMK says:

    And, heh, it seems that this is the subject of the very next post, which I’d opened in a new tab but hadn’t perused yet. Oops.

  19. flawedplan says:

    “I particularly like having linguistic benchmarks that I can use to judge someone’s true character.”

    Language encompasses everything, but I don’t think we can use it as a reliable guide to judge someone’s true character, not without body language, and access to tonality, pauses, emphasis, and the immediate back-and-forth between people that changes their experiences and thoughts because in real life we’re engaged in an act of creation we can’t recreate online.
    We are really limited online and it’s foolish to pretend otherwise.

    If I was having coffee with you, your reaction to my words and manner would inform my behavior to a degree. Online we’re all just shooting in the dark. It’s a given we’re all going to come off as much bigger assholes online than if we were attempting to connect in real life, where we instantly perceive when we’ve fucked up, and can fix it just as quick.

    Until there is more accomodation and patience around blogtopia I predict we’ll keep seeing this sort of immature defensiveness and digging in of ridiculous positions for the sake of foolish pride, because I KNOW I’M NOT A BAD PERSON, and I’ll just act up even worst because YOU’RE TOO STUPID TO SEE THAT.

    I don’t know if this makes sense, but I do think if someone criticizes me (even nicely, as Tom Watson did T.Rex) my initial reaction is to self-defend, and if I am attacked, which is seen more commonly, my reaction is to attack back. I think this is okay, so long as we push through the nonsense and keep talking,

    I was really impressed with how that thread played out. I learned a lot, chiefly from zuzu and pinko, and am thinking it over, the reclamation thing. I do resist alot of what I read there, have a basic aversion to PC crap, but my mind is open. And I have been hurt by being called Cunt in my life, and I also stiffen and withdraw from males when I hear them use the word as T Rex did. But I also have issues with women that I’m working through, and have called them C’s to belittle and inflict, so I am okay with expressing anger at women, so long as it’s sincere.

    Anger at women is the cause of what we euphimistically call “anti-feminist” or misogynist rhetoric. We say it’s wrong for a progressive to use these words because they undermine our political goals, but I am more interested in what motivates the language in the first place. If there is anger at women as women, I want to start there and work to get that resolved, which is how I see the problem get solved.

    I mean, how do we know it’s about reclamation? I assume nothing. Maybe the guy is filled with malice, and if so, I want that to change for his own evolution and peace of mind, and I don’t want to make him wrong. That’s me.

    I do know that if we should him into silence it will likely increase his resentment, and render our efforts ineffectual, and I don’t like wasting my efforts.

    Sorry this is so long and discursive, I’ve been very exercised by all this.

  20. zuzu says:

    PS Thanks for not cowering to the Big Blogs and being willing to call this out for what it is :)

    Hey! According to that test, we’re A-listers here, too!

    I’ve seen what kind of awe-inspiring attacks these losers give over at Tom Watson’s comments. They boil down to, “miserable little cunt,” “Ned Flanders,” and “We’re too punk rock for you.”

    Oooooh. Sid Vicious would be proud, I’m sure.

  21. Mikey S says:

    Let’s take Vernon Robinson. The man is arguably the most despicable GOP nominee for any elected office, ever. He of the ‘Twilight Zone’ ads. Since he’s a.) an asshole and b.) a racist, wouldn’t it follow that it’s acceptable to call him a ‘nigger thug’? And therefore, photoshop his head in a driveby? Give a long description of how he is straight outta Compton and only cares about hos and bling?

    Would anyone call this “punk rock” and not “screaming racism?”

  22. Josh says:

    FDL speaks volumes about the Dems and the “liberal blogosphere.”

    Yep. It shows that the liberal blogosphere condemns this garbage no matter who it comes from.

  23. Tom W. says:

    Zuzu, Pinko et al – thanks for the great comments at my place – much apreciated.

    As I’ve said, FDL has grown dramatically into a top progressive group blog – that brings on a responsibility. And what’s with the censorship over there? I mean really, do we need a lefty FreeRepublic – no we don’t.

  24. Kelley says:

    Zuzu, thank you so much for this post. I thought I was being overly sensitive but now I see I’m not the only one who has noticed this trend at FDL.

    For example, just prior to the election, one post showed the bare legs of a woman in high heels, in a voting booth, with her torso obliterated by the curtain. I made what I thought was a polite complaint about the denigration of the female form to “sexualize” voting. I also noted that GOTV was an important project, and simply asked if there wasn’t a better way to do it. I was immediately chastised by obviously loyal FDL readers who, by virtue of some contorted logic I have yet to understand, managed to interpret my observation as an attack on the bloggers themselves. It was not an attack, just a suggestion. Of all groups, I would have expected the left blogosphere to understand that denigrating women (strong supporters of progressive agendas) is not a good way to keep them in the progressive camp.

    I love FDL, and still read it, but had noticed the sexism that seemed to be creeping in in the occasional post. I”m so glad to know I wasn’t being overly sensitive, and I’m not the only one who noticed it. It saddens me, since TRex is such a good writer.

    Anyway, thanks again for this post! I love this blog, your writing, and, of course, Junebug!!! My condolences to your couch :)

  25. piny says:

    Zuzu, Pinko et al – thanks for the great comments at my place – much apreciated.

    Thank you for posting in the first place.

  26. Sunrunner says:

    This post at DailyKos is worth taking a look at. Particularly what happened in the comments when Jane Hamsher sent her minions over to personally attack a couple of commenters.

  27. piny says:

    Can I just say how grateful I am that we don’t generally have threads that look like those?

  28. Elayne Riggs says:

    Is it just coincidence that all of these events seem to happen after Jane hired a press secretary for FDL? I mean, whoever heard of a blog needing a PR person?

  29. Kristjan Wager says:

    FDL I don’t read at all, and at Daily Kos I only read very few select diaries (ok, only one at the moment, Darksyde’s, and only if I can’t find his content anywhere else). Huffington Post is also out as long as it pushes pseudo-/anti-science, and Eschaton doesn’t have any content.

    Guess the only A-list bloggers I read would be ScienceBloggers, Pandagon and Feministe. Oh, and at rare occations Washington Monthly/Kevin Drum. Somehow, I think I get better content per minute spent reading, than I would if my choice were otherwise. And my bloodpressure is at more healthy levels.

  30. Alon Levy says:

    And what’s with the censorship over there? I mean really, do we need a lefty FreeRepublic – no we don’t.

    There already is one. Firedoglake is shooting for left-wing LGF.

    I don’t read any A-lister. The highest-trafficked blog I read is Pharyngula, and even that’s only because I’ve been reading it continuously for almost two years, longer than any other blog. I like blogs with lively comment thread discussions, and blogs with lengthy intelligent posts – Pandagon, Feministe, Majikthise, Ezra Klein… Having too much traffic turns the comment threads into annoying echo chambers. Pharyngula’s comment threads were a lot more pleasant to post to in early 2005 than they are now.

  31. mythago says:

    We say it’s wrong for a progressive to use these words because they undermine our political goals, but I am more interested in what motivates the language in the first place.

    Sexism. Which is the source of the anger against women, too.

  32. Tom W. says:

    I dunno – DU is soooooo ’04. FDL felt, for a brief shining moment, like ’06. Then they pointed the gun at their own head.

  33. Tony says:

    Wait, what does snark mean?

  34. evil fizz says:

    TRex went to Japan after studying Japanese for a year. Doesn’t sound like a racist to me.

    (Pulled from the Kos thread mentioned above.)

    Is there something in the water at FDL?

  35. Alon Levy says:

    Someone who’s prejudiced against one group is likely to be prejudiced against others, but it’s not ironclad. In Western Europe there’s a good chunk of neo-fascists who have no problem with gays and even Eastern European immigrants and Jews, but hate Muslims’ living guts.

    Besides, TRex’s blowing up in Liza’s face wasn’t the kind of racism that would make someone not live in Japan or even not take an African-American literature class.

  36. I just want to say that TRex and Pach are nice people who suffer from the chronic misconception that they can get away with really questionable content because they belong to minorities themselves. TRex is very openly gay in a very conservative part of the country. Pach is both gay and Latino. (No that doesn’t make this okay, but it might help explain where they’re coming from.)

    They’re both my friends. So, take this with as much salt as you think is necessary. On the one hand, I’m making a point of defending them because they’re my friends. On the other hand, I know them and their work much better than most people on this thread.

    Believe me, neither TRex nor Pach is a slut-shamer. Call them out for trading in oppressive stereotypes or making inappropriate jokes, by all means. I have. But don’t assume the worst about them. They’re solid progressive allies who really mean well. (Of course, some people would prefer to isolate themselves entirely from people who habitually insult them. Fair enough, it’s a free country. I often do the same thing, even with people I know to be well-intentioned.)

    Yeah, I know, intent doesn’t matter. Blah, blah, blah… Well it doesn’t matter in terms of whether you’re entitled to be upset by something that has the effect of subordinating or embarrassing a vulnerable group of people. For example, it really doesn’t matter whether you mean for your lawn jockey to hurt anybody’s feelings. It just does. And when you hurt somebody’s feelings, it’s often polite to apologize. Even if you just bump into someone by accident, the polite thing to say is “excuse me.”

    On the other hand, intent does matter when you’re judging the person, as opposed to the particular behavior, or pattern of behavior. TRex and Pach don’t deserve global contempt because of isolated bad behavior. You certainly shouldn’t judge all of FDL because of a few posts that you object to out of the thousands that the site has hosted. It’s easy to see a few isolated instances of offensive behavior and assume that they must be evidence of pervasive underlying racism or misogyny or whatever. In fact, as some of our most radical progressives continually remind us, racism and sexism are like endemic parasites in our society. Most people, no matter how well-meaning or virtuous are affected to some degree. That doesn’t make the parasite any less disgusting, but it should add some nuance to one’s understanding of what are relatively isolated instances.

  37. norbizness says:

    Lindsey: Unless I’m mistaken, TRex and I were reading each other when we were nobodies (I still am, at least). Unfortunately, I think that his public persona thinks he can get away with anything because he’s a member of that increasingly circle-jerkish site.

    Over there, I think it’s the toxic combination of mindless commentors, an improvidently utilized moderation queue, and an almost Jeff Goldstein-like tin ear to criticism and swarming overreaction to said criticism. The need to faux-impress the rabble with over-the-top, poorly chosen sexist/racist metaphors just becomes the symptom rather than the disease at that point. The army of straw-justifications trotted out doesn’t help one’s (public) credibility, either.

  38. evil fizz says:

    I just want to say that TRex and Pach are nice people who suffer from the chronic misconception that they can get away with really questionable content because they belong to minorities themselves.

    That’s a fucking big misconception. In fact, it also weighs against the nice label. If you are so clueless about what offends people and what doesn’t by assuming that the rules of regular social discourse don’t apply to you, then it makes you an habitual ass. “I’m gay and we use the word cunt all the time!” is just a variation on “I’m a gay fashion designer, so it doesn’t matter if I grab women’s boobs during a photo shoot!”

  39. Regina says:

    Oh, pish-tosh. Nobody was calling them anything. This brouhaha started over content and descriptors that they elected to use, and to which many took exception. The contempt came in when they wouldn’t own up, shut down criticism in the original FDL threads, and started firing back all kinds of ad hocs in the comments of another person’s blog. I don’t care if they’re nice people or not, they’re acting like a couple of babies. And this isn’t the first time.

    And those “relatively isolated instances” you reference are starting to pile up. At some point they become a syndrome.

  40. PhoenixRising says:

    Lindsey, I typically respect your thinking as well as your writing, and in this case you don’t seem to be thinking clearly about your friends.

    TRex has exhibited a pattern, with the confrontation with Liza and this incident. The pattern is that he exercises his privilege by engaging oppressive stereotypes to bolster his argument whenever he’s told that he has been an asshat. In the Liza episode, the stereotype was ‘black people are ignorant’, here it is ‘women are oversensitive’.

    By engaging those stereotypes, rather than the arguments of people who are calling him out for statements that appear to be racist/sexist, he’s showing that he is in fact a racist, sexist asshat.

    As a queer (another term that has been reclaimed successfully) I deeply resent his desire to cover up his asshattery by blowing the smoke of oppression he may have experienced himself into the room. He’s a bigot and I’ve stopped using FDL because Jane seems to think it’s fine for a faggot to be a bigot. They’re both smart people who demonstrate the reason editors still have jobs in the era of ‘anyone can publish’.

  41. exangelena says:

    zuzu at 21 – I think A-listers sometimes have a “gentleman’s agreement” to leave each other alone because they’re all in the A-list clique … so it’s awesome that feministe is maintaining its independence. Now THAT’s really punk rock :)

    As for the TRex studying in Japan thing, in the post I linked to at #6, he approvingly quotes a white American saying about Asian women, “When they’re good, they’re really good. But, when they’re bad, they’re Christians.” (Heaven forbid that Asian women have a right to freedom of religion or to just close their legs, if it gets in the way of some entitled man’s sexual fantasy /snark)

  42. Valkyrie says:

    What PhoenixRising said! I left Kos during the pie wars (after having been a pre Scoop regular), left Eschaton after the “independents are idiots” comment, and now FDL which sadly was my favorite for Plame coverage. Glad to see I’m not the only one voting with my feet.

    Love ya Feministe – don’t ever change!

  43. FDL has another post on Tom’s critique of language and the comment thread is open there. Perhaps people would like to join the discussion — TRex, Pachacutec, Jane Hamsher and Christy Hardin Smith are all there. So you can raise all of these comments with them..

    Here’s the link.

  44. zuzu says:

    I’ve been over there already, Matt, but don’t see much point in commenting. Not when their minds are already made up. For instance, at one point, Jane said,

    TRex and Pach are not sexists, period, and anyone who wants to start off the conversation with that assertion is going to be met with quite a bit of pushback.

    Well, that’s really being open-minded, isn’t it?

    I think a lot of what’s going on with the defenders of those two is that people who either know them personally or who are fans of them at FDL are acting defensively. I know that you know them personally, as does Jane, and Lindsay. *You* may believe from your off-blog experience with them that they’re not *really* sexist, but the rest of us have to take what they write and evaluate them based on that. And what each of them wrote was sexist. And since it’s not the first time TRex’s lame attempts at being “edgy” or “punk rock” or however they’re justifying it walked and quacked like a duck, it pretty well is a good guess that it’s a duck.

    If you do speak to Pachacutec, let him know that we’re Feministe, not Feministing.

  45. zuzu says:

    And another thing: they seem to think that the objections amount to a lot of pearl-clutching about using naughty words. They fucking know better than that.

  46. Zuzu – first, I just posted a comment about Pach’s incorrect attribution (meant to do it sooner).

    One of the common themes in Tom’s comment thread was “this debate should be happening at FDL”. Now it is. And, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, the feminist blogger voice is not there. Tom was and left. A couple commenters raised points. But it’s FDL commenters over there in a forum meant to address the issues you and other have raised.

    Do what you want, but I guarantee that you won’t convince any FDL readers or bloggers there now by staying over here.

    And in regards to whether TRex and Pach are sexist. Yes I know them both personally. But honestly I haven’t had enough personal interactions to judge whether they’re sexist. I just don’t believe that using the word “cunt” makes someone sexist. Or more specifically, calling a person “cunt” does not make the person who uttered it sexist. Most likely it means that they were angry and they used a bad word. I don’t toss around the word “cunt” and I don’t toss around accusations of sexism either.*

    *I’d suggest that it would require a survey to determine if someone’s sexist, but apparently that dog won’t play here…

  47. evil fizz says:

    And what is with the “I need the most offensive language possible to insult Malkin, and who cares if it’s sexist and vile?” argument and the “Wah, wah, I’m being censored!” shit?

    TRex isn’t being censored. His First Amendment rights are live and well. He wrote some fucking stupid stuff and got called on it. The only thin skin is his.

  48. evil fizz:

    The only thin skin is his.

    Um, really?

  49. evil fizz says:

    Do what you want, but I guarantee that you won’t convince any FDL readers or bloggers there now by staying over here.

    Are we reading the same comment thread? It’s a bunch of “I’ll kick your ass, you PC censoring fascist!” and a pile on with regards the objectors. The level of convincing is low.

    I just don’t believe that using the word “cunt” makes someone sexist.

    Do you believe that using the word nigger makes someone racist?

  50. evil fizz says:

    Like I said, are we reading the same comment thread?

  51. zuzu says:

    Do what you want, but I guarantee that you won’t convince any FDL readers or bloggers there now by staying over here.

    Please. Like I think anyone would listen to me in that echo chamber over there. Let ’em come over here if they don’t like what I wrote.

    Over at Tom Watson’s, Christy quoted a snarky remark I made about the “punk rock” thing as evidence of a chip I have on my shoulder about Jane. Which is amusing, because I frankly hardly ever think about Jane. But it’s also a sign of their inflated sense of self-importance — that, and the constant mentions of their traffic to show how much bigger and better they are and why people are jealous.

  52. Heraclitus says:

    I just don’t believe that using the word “cunt” makes someone sexist.

    You’re right, it doesn’t make them sexist. Calling someone a chick makes you sexist. Calling someone the seaward makes you a misogynist.

  53. Like I think anyone would listen to me in that echo chamber over there.

    So you’re conceding any hope of changing opinions at FDL? Well then, I’ll leave you to your echo chamber.

    And no, I don’t think using the word nigger once or twice makes someone racist — though systemic usage would. Do I expect that had TRex called Michael Steele the n-word, the whole world would call him racist? Absolutely. But I think racism, like sexism, or anti-Semitism or homophobia is larger than a single word and diluting any of these things down to single words is simplistic.

    I’m straight, a male, Jewish, wear glasses and have spent almost a year of my life physically handicapped. I also went to a boarding school for high school and two private schools for college. I played sports in high school and college. I was in a fraternity. I live in NYC and I’m a registered Democrat. Pretty much every one of those facts has some derogatory word or phrased tied to it somewhere in the English lexicon. Fire away. I don’t think any word(s) you use will make you anything more than someone who disagrees with what I’m saying and is possibly pissed off by it.

  54. zuzu says:

    Oh, Jesus, Matt, come down off the cross. Who’s firing insults at you here?

  55. RKMK says:

    You’re right, it doesn’t make them sexist. Calling someone a chick makes you sexist. Calling someone the seaward makes you a misogynist.

    Exactly. I’m not a pearl-clutcher myself, but hate speech is hate speech. I’ve had some bare-knuckle blogging throw-downs over the last couple of years, and called people some nasty (but accurate) names, but I’ve never felt the need to reach for derogatory epithets that exist mainly to imply that the other person is subhuman based on something as uncontrollable as their heritage, sex, or race.

    It takes a certain kind of person to reach for it; whether or not Trex and Pach are outright misogynists seems debatable, but they have internalized aspects of misogyny, and perhaps it would be best if they took this as an opportunity to look in the mirror and work on their attitudes. (Evidence heretofore suggests that this is unlikely; just thought I’d put it out there.)

  56. zuzu–no one has insulted me. I’m not saying that.

    I’m trying to make a point that I don’t think one word makes someone an ___ist. I’m trying to showg my willingness to subject myself to a derogatory word or two because I don’t think one slur makes someone a racist, anti-semite, etc.

    anyway, i’m coming down from my laptop “the cross” and going to bed.

  57. Karen M says:

    I don’t think I’ve commented here before… and now I’m wondering why it’s taken me so long to replace my FDL fix with something better. Following this discussion from Wolcott to Watson to FDL and then to Shakespeare’s Sister and now here has been an interesting trek.

    What’s fascinating to me right this minute is this (misplaced?) loyalty in the face of the facts on the ground… in this case, in spite of all of the folks who have voted with their feet and quit FDL (at least in the comment threads, even if they’re still reading it). Sure, the traffic may still be high, but what about the quality of the discussion inside the bubble?

    It isn’t okay for Bush or Bolton or Rumsfeld, et al to choose to antagonize and alienate people, by insisting on their way or the highway, rather than employ a bit of diplomacy, but it is okay for posters on a high-profile progressive(?) group blog to stay their own course, employing all of the very tricks they abhor about the other side, because they only use them against folks who really deserve it? Isn’t that excuse a bit over-used now… after this administration’s many abuses of it?

    Oh, yeah– the blog is privately owned, and no one there was elected. Of course, the same could be said about all of the above, ‘cepting Bush, depending on whose count you accept. At some point, though, even private ownership carries some responsibility in the larger sphere. Especially when said site presumes to speak for the Left, or at least to allow others to think that it does.

    Finally, those of us who cringe at some coarse language (even while recognizing writing talent) are not always as personally squeamish as we are accused of being (that c-word being a major exception), but we do feel an increasing embarrassment for our team, and dread the possible effects of such ammunition in the wrong hands. I guess that’s what makes us concern trolls… or, rather lurkers, now.

  58. Karen M says:

    Matt:

    I was there earlier… before I came here. I just didn’t leave a comment, since it would have been pointless to post something only to have it suspended in moderation limbo until after the discussion was over.

    Why bother, even if I did think anyone would care? Which I don’t.

  59. Cecily says:

    Matt, even if one slur doesn’t make someone a bigot, it’s worth considering what one slur does do.

    1. Identity slurs imply that the identity involved is ‘bad’ in some way. The insult equates the identity and the slur. It says “I recognize and denigrate your identity.”

    2. The use of the slur may imply that people are only abstaining from calling a person that slur in order to be polite — that, in fact, the insulter, and possibly other people, especially those people who support the insulter, really think all women are ‘whores’ or ‘cunts’, for example. After all, when you got the person angry, the slur was what came out. This carries with it the attendant notion that any woman (in this case — choose whatever identity group you choose) who is currently behaving in an acceptable manner is under sufferance — that should she fail to toe the line, she will be named and shamed with slurs. She will be kept in her place.

    Slurs, whatever one may say about ‘sticks and stones,’ have an innate violence. They do harm, and they do collateral harm. Regardless of how the person deploying the slur WISHED to be seen or heard, he or she is heard to use language to harm others, and is seen to be a bigot. People may think it’s ‘PC’ of me, but I don’t see anything merely ‘correct’ or ‘political’ about trying not to hurt other people for no reason. It seems to me merely humane.

  60. piny says:

    So you’re conceding any hope of changing opinions at FDL? Well then, I’ll leave you to your echo chamber.

    So, because we don’t want to step into an echo chamber, we have obviously set one up for ourselves? Good one. I suspect that the FDL crew has been reading many of these posts and the comments, given that they generally show up with torches and pitchforks whenever anyone criticizes them. This qualifies as an attempt to change hearts and minds; that blog qualifies as an impossible medium.

    And no, I don’t think using the word nigger once or twice makes someone racist — though systemic usage would. Do I expect that had TRex called Michael Steele the n-word, the whole world would call him racist? Absolutely. But I think racism, like sexism, or anti-Semitism or homophobia is larger than a single word and diluting any of these things down to single words is simplistic.

    Most people who use slurs use them habitually; there’s no reason to believe that TRex doesn’t use sexist slurs all the fucking time, since he has said several times that he sees nothing wrong with them. Even someone who only ever says that word a couple of times out loud is someone whose private understanding of its target is such that the slur makes sense.

    I’m straight, a male, Jewish, wear glasses and have spent almost a year of my life physically handicapped. I also went to a boarding school for high school and two private schools for college. I played sports in high school and college. I was in a fraternity. I live in NYC and I’m a registered Democrat. Pretty much every one of those facts has some derogatory word or phrased tied to it somewhere in the English lexicon. Fire away. I don’t think any word(s) you use will make you anything more than someone who disagrees with what I’m saying and is possibly pissed off by it.

    First of all, “frat boy” is approximately to “cunt” as “yuppie” is to “ballastexistenz.” A lot of these derogatory words don’t compare well with each other, historically or currently. Second, your personal apathy towards these insults don’t really matter in this context, any more than would the opinion of the several women out there who are perfectly fine with being called horrible names. It’s really easy to find people who are inured to casual prejudice, particularly in societies that are complacent about casual prejudice.

  61. Sally says:

    But I think racism, like sexism, or anti-Semitism or homophobia is larger than a single word and diluting any of these things down to single words is simplistic.

    I don’t think that use of the word cunt is necessarily evidence of sexism. For one thing, there are places in the world where it’s a pretty casual insult, devoid of the connotations of disgust that it comes loaded with in the U.S. But in the context of pach’s post about Tauscher? Well, let’s just say that there seems to be a pattern of disgust about women’s bodies and sexuality at FDL. I don’t condone calling people cunts, but the Tauscher post strikes me as worse, which may be why FDL’s defenders are focusing exclusively on the c-word.

    In fact, as some of our most radical progressives continually remind us, racism and sexism are like endemic parasites in our society. Most people, no matter how well-meaning or virtuous are affected to some degree.

    It strikes me as pretty disgusting, Lindsay, to marshal anti-racist and anti-sexist ideas in defense of unapologetic sexists and racists. Of course we’re all affected, to one degree or another, by the racism and sexism of our society. But that’s doesn’t justify throwing up your hands and declaring that you have a right to be an asshole, because everyone’s a little bit racist. That’s a reason to acknowledge and try to work through your racism and sexism, not a get-out-of-bigotry-free card.

  62. evil fizz says:

    I don’t think that use of the word cunt is necessarily evidence of sexism. For one thing, there are places in the world where it’s a pretty casual insult, devoid of the connotations of disgust that it comes loaded with in the U.S.

    Well, maybe, except for the fact that we’re not talking about writers who think it’s a casual insult. TRex and Pach know that what they’re writing is offensive and obnoxious, and yet they continue to whine that it’s justified. Using the word is just endemic of a larger problem.

  63. Piny:

    So, because we don’t want to step into an echo chamber, we have obviously set one up for ourselves? Good one. I suspect that the FDL crew has been reading many of these posts and the comments, given that they generally show up with torches and pitchforks whenever anyone criticizes them. This qualifies as an attempt to change hearts and minds; that blog qualifies as an impossible medium.

    That’s not the argument I’m making piny. I don’t think that FDL is an echo chamber – that was zuzu’s claim. I also don’t think that Feministe is an echo chamber.

    If zuzu’s standard, which seems to be (please correct me if I’m wrong), a blog is an echo chamber if most commenters agree with the authors, then pretty much all blogs (that get commenters) are echo chambers. That’s a really silly way of defining what sort of thing a blog is. And what an echo chamber is.* People read a site because the like the ideas put forth in it and will usually say so.

    Now, there have been people in the FDL thread raising critical opinions all of last night (including Tom W. and Amanda Marcotte). And here both Lindsay and I have offered our apologia of the FDL bloggers. But by and large commenters on FDL have not had the same problems with TRex and Pach’s comments as people here. And people here have, by and large, not been offering the same defenses of FDL as on the FDL thread. So, in sum, FDL readers think FDL is right and Feminste readers think Feministe is right. I don’t think that makes either site an echo chamber, it makes it a blog.

    But refusing to enter into a discussion because most people at the site where the discussion is taking place like the site and then saying you won’t enter into an echo chamber, I think, is a cop-out.

    *A real example of an echo chamber would be Fox News or coffee room at the Free Republic or the Beltway 500 on whole.

  64. Two more things…

    Have you guys ever discussed The Rude Pundit’s series of posts “why ann coulter is a cunt”?

    Also, here’s a comment left by Digby in the FDL thread, someone who’s generally thought to be quite good with words and who I think makes a good argument here.

    I am unfortunatley late to this party, but it sure looks like fun.

    I too have been chastized for my profane style from time to time, from everyone from feminists to miosogynists so I know whereof I speak.

    The problem lies with the analysis of what’s intended by these terms. People assume that when you call someone a c*** (paying obeiescence to the spam filter) you are saying someone is a woman and that being a woman is a bad thing. That’s not only incorrect in real terms it’s a wrong reading of the meaning of the word. C*** in this context is a scatalogical reference, like prick, dick or a**hole. The terms are derogatory because they refer to execratory organs, not sexual organs.

    They are strong, ancient anglo-saxon terms used to put people down, yes. In most cultures they are interchangeable by sex — women can be pricks and men can be c***s. The Brits — who know a thing or two about anglo-saxon stuff — use the c-word commonly for both men and women. As a writer I would hate to lose the use of these words over a misunderstanding. In fact, I refuse to. They can be very powerful in the proper context. Sometimes, no other word will do.

    And as long as we’re on the subject, I will take this opportunity to point out that the word pussy is a term used to describe cowardice, but that too is not sexist because the etymology of the cowardice definition doesn’t actually come from the sexual meaning of the word but rather the straighforward one — feline. Scaredy cat. (You can ask William Safire, I swear.)

    Of course these terms have all come to mean different things over time and we all know that sometimes a c*** is just a c*** and a prick is just a prick.

    Still, people should wake up to the fact that when a whole bunch of words meaning “bad person” come from “down there,” it’s not because of the good stuff that happens down there or which sex they are, but because of the dirty stuff that comes out. That’s what makes the word so baaad.

  65. evil fizz says:

    Actually, it’s starting to look like an echochamber at LGF. Commenters freely calling each other faggot and spineless pussy? Sounds all too familiar.

  66. zuzu says:

    If zuzu’s standard, which seems to be (please correct me if I’m wrong), a blog is an echo chamber if most commenters agree with the authors, then pretty much all blogs (that get commenters) are echo chambers. That’s a really silly way of defining what sort of thing a blog is. And what an echo chamber is.* People read a site because the like the ideas put forth in it and will usually say so.

    It’s very convenient to your argument to attribute such a broad and bloodless definition of “echo chamber” to me. Look, I spent time over in that thread last night before bed, and it was already almost 300 comments long by then. And, yes, most people agreed with and defended those two, which is fine as it goes, but they also stomped on the people who did disagree, and toadied up to the posters. In fact, a number of those who disagreed prefaced their comments with statements like, “I’m afraid to make this comment.” A few other people said they would do more stomping, but Jane had told them not to, for that thread, anyhow.

    And then there’s the moderation policy over there, which is one of the things that Tom was saying needed to be discussed at FDL.

    I still see no need to go over there to discuss a post I’ve already discussed here and discussed at Tom Watson’s blog. If someone from FDL wants to discuss my post, fine.

  67. zuzu says:

    As for the Rude Pundit and Digby: the Rude Pundit has never pretended to be anything but rude. I don’t like his choice of words sometimes, but that’s his persona, and he doesn’t run from it. Not like Pachacutec, who tried to explain away his “we’re punk rock and you’re Guy Lombardo remark, and got busted by Neddie Jingo:

    I did make the punk rock remark, because it’s my position that, though I’ve understood and tracked the criticisms of my post, and demonstrated as much by restating them, I have seen absolutely no one ask me what I was doing or what my intentions were, as a matter of messaging and politics. Lots of people think they know what punk is about, but estblishment mindsets typically don’t.

    Pach’, you must be getting tired. What the creeping fuck does this mealymouthed sophistry mean? Your “Face it. We do punk rock posts and you’re into Guy Lombardo,” remark pissed me off considerably more than your original post at FDL. It was an absolutely barefaced attempt to extol your manly bareknuckled posting style at Tom’s expense, and it’s impossible to read any other way. Punk = Macho; Guy Lombardo = Nancy-boy. It cannot be read any other way. Your justification for it now is not only howlingly digressive, it’s temporally impossible; you made the offensive boast long before any of these failures-to-understand-your-intentions of which you speak appeared in this thread. Are you seriously trying to define “punk” as “that-which-is-misunderstood”?

    To steal a line from Jerry Seinfeld, I wasn’t offended by your original FDL post as a liberal; I was offended by it as a comedian. Your imagery was nauseating and profoundly unfunny, and your trope of Tauscher-as-whore was whistlingly trite. I’ll grant there was some nice alliteration in “gamely grinning to the gushing finish,” but Jesus, dude! It was a goddamned lazy line to pursue! Politician-as-whore… Stop! You’re killing me!

    And as I’m not quite done with larceny tonight, I’ll steal another line, this one from Shakespeare’s Sister: “If punk is challenging the comfortable conventions of the bourgeoisie, there’s almost nothing less punk than demeaning a woman by calling her a whore and pretending it’s not sexist.”

    As for Digby, as much as I like and respect Digby, I think s/he’s wrong on this, and looking at it too narrowly. But there does seem to be a theme in the criticism that it’s the vulgarity and not the intent that’s the problem here.

    In any event, is playing the Digby card supposed to be definitive or something?

  68. zuzu says:

    Oh, one more thing: one of the FDLers, Pachacutec I think, made an illuminating revelation over at Tom Watson’s place: the word “cunt” sends posts automatically into the moderation queue at FDL. The reason?

    Because somebody called Jane a cunt.

    Kind of sums it all up, no?

  69. jennie says:

    Matt and those arguing that using misogyinst language does not make a person a sexist (as in the following quote):

    I just don’t believe that using the word “cunt” makes someone sexist. Or more specifically, calling a person “cunt” does not make the person who uttered it sexist. Most likely it means that they were angry and they used a bad word. I don’t toss around the word “cunt” and I don’t toss around accusations of sexism either.*

    I think what you’re saying translates, in my lexicon, to “an example of misogyinstic behaviour does not make a person a sexist.”

    Calling someone a cunt, whether you think it’s a very bad word or an only moderately unpleasant insult, does the things that piny says it does: it uses a term for a portion of female anatomy as an insult, thereby equating female anatomy with badness, and the recipient of the insult as a dirty thing. It’s a misogynist action.

    Does a misogynist action make a person sexist? I don’t know … I suppose it depends on whether one believes that action determines essence or vice versa, which is an existential debate.

    I do think that, when one is called upon to examine the biases that one’s language hint at, it’s polite and sensible to do more than say “I’m a member of a [different] minority group, so I can reclaim language used to denegrate your minority group!”

    I’m a feminist, and my boyfriend sometimes calls me on things I say that I may not have examined adequately. Being called on things, and actually thinking about them is part of what raising one’s consciousness is about.

  70. Donna says:

    Ooooooh mega uber super-dee-dooper rock star a-lister Digby said it’s ok, so end of discussion! Yeah, I’ll see your Digby and raise you a Wolcott since you’re so damned starstruck. Or how about we think for ourselves?

    The only reason that they are discussing this over at FDL is because of Wolcott. The giant egos over at FDL pay no attention to the little people. That is another problem with that site, they think they are celebrities and everyone else is nobodies, and they only pay attention to other so called celebrities. It’s a little harder to swat someone like Wolcott aside with “your jealous!” or “gender-baiting bad faith artist!” for the social climbing blogger like Jane, TRex, or Pach. I hope Christy gets out and starts her own blog before they drag her into the gutter too.

  71. Donna says:

    Oh and I guess Michael Richards really isn’t racist, because screaming nigger over and over was an isolated incident.

    Sorry Lindsay that doesn’t wash. How do you know that when you disagree with your misogynist friends, the first thing they think is, “God! Lindsay is such a cunt!” but they just don’t say it out loud? I’ll bet it was the first thing Richards thought when a black person challenged him, but he suppressed it and didn’t speak it out loud most of the time.

  72. Lauren says:

    I wonder if their new PR person wrote this line:

    We test the edges of communication, and in doing so often get perilously close to the edge and occasionally step over. It’s what makes us exciting, challenging and interesting, in the tradition of Lenny Bruce or Hunter S. Thompson.

    And I’m Richard Pryor.

  73. Lauren says:

    Digby has a point if we’re fighting linguistic battles, but this isn’t about etymology, thank you very much.

    Pie fight, round 2.

  74. zuzu says:

    It’s what makes us exciting, challenging and interesting, in the tradition of Lenny Bruce or Hunter S. Thompson.

    You know I already keep a vat of oil and a cage full of cranky wolverines at the ready for people who fancy themselves Jon Swift and make “Modest Proposals” that utterly miss the fact that Swift was not actually mocking the Irish but the English aristocrats.

    But I got to get a shark tank for people who bust out the Lenny Bruce and Hunter S. Thompson to justify propping up establishment attitudes about women, people of color and queers.

    ‘Cause that’s soooo punk rawk.

  75. norbizness says:

    Language in selected FDL posts : Lenny Bruce :: Gallagher watermelon smashing : nuclear physics.

  76. matttbastard says:

    It’s what makes us exciting, challenging and interesting, in the tradition of Lenny Bruce or Hunter S. Thompson.

    The hacks at FDL couldn’t wipe up HST’s grey matter.

  77. piny says:

    If zuzu’s standard, which seems to be (please correct me if I’m wrong), a blog is an echo chamber if most commenters agree with the authors, then pretty much all blogs (that get commenters) are echo chambers. That’s a really silly way of defining what sort of thing a blog is. And what an echo chamber is.* People read a site because the like the ideas put forth in it and will usually say so.

    You’re wrong. A blog is an echo chamber if it is set up not merely to attract people who agree–which, as you say, is difficult not to do–but to make it impossible for people to disagree and to abuse them when they do so. FDL’s response to these complaints has been uniformly disingenuous and self-absorbed. Participating in their comments threads–particularly “Language,” which is a positively Rovian fake conciliatory ploy–would allow them to pretend that they’re making an honest attempt. I’m not going to do that.

    The problem lies with the analysis of what’s intended by these terms. People assume that when you call someone a c*** (paying obeiescence to the spam filter) you are saying someone is a woman and that being a woman is a bad thing. That’s not only incorrect in real terms it’s a wrong reading of the meaning of the word. C*** in this context is a scatalogical reference, like prick, dick or a**hole. The terms are derogatory because they refer to execratory organs, not sexual organs.

    This is horseshit. No one even denies that this slur has special implications wrt women; TRex’s argument is that he doesn’t have to care about them because he doesn’t agree with them. There’s a reason “prick” isn’t as beloved of TRex, that it simply doesn’t have the same obscene punch, and that reason is a different attitude towards men than women.

    And as long as we’re on the subject, I will take this opportunity to point out that the word pussy is a term used to describe cowardice, but that too is not sexist because the etymology of the cowardice definition doesn’t actually come from the sexual meaning of the word but rather the straighforward one — feline. Scaredy cat. (You can ask William Safire, I swear.)

    …And so is this. If an etymology seems downright apocryphal, and if it definitely is not the first association people make when they hear a particular word, do you think it matters much to the people who use it? “Scaredy-cat” has nothing to do with the lexical meaning of “pussy.” “Weak-ass girly-man” does. How many times have you heard adults call people “scaredy-cats,” and how many times have you heard them compare weakness or cowardice to acting “like a little girl?”

  78. piny says:

    And I’m Richard Pryor.

    No shit, really? I hope Ann Bartow never finds out.

  79. Lauren says:

    And as long as we’re on the subject, I will take this opportunity to point out that the word pussy is a term used to describe cowardice, but that too is not sexist because the etymology of the cowardice definition doesn’t actually come from the sexual meaning of the word but rather the straighforward one — feline. Scaredy cat. (You can ask William Safire, I swear.)

    Sorry, but this is an argument about as effective as Gary Miller’s need for a survey. If you have access to the OED you can see that pussy has been synonymous with “woman” for a few centuries, whether or not it was used with fondness. Same with “cunt.”

  80. norbizness says:

    Like I said, you’d better be Scottish (pronounced coont), named Francis Begbie, and use the adjective “daft” or “wee” before it.

  81. bluefish A says:

    this reminds me of the urban outfitters shirts awhile back that had racist slogans, i.e. “two wongs don’t make a white” and that sort of thing.
    i really think that people don’t get this whole reclamation thing. in a larger sense, i think this is why people had issues with borat. where’s the line between frank anti-semitism and subversive satire.

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  83. I’m a glass half full kinda gal, and as far as I’m concerned this debate has been meaningful for me because I’ve found some great new sites to read at. In what has been called by Karen M “an interesting trek”, has brought me here. I love zuzu’s voice and wouldn’t have found her if it hadn’t been for the conversation started by Tom. I’m sad about the loss of fdl as I’ve said at Tom’s and fdl, but opprotunity has arisen out of crisis, for that I am grateful. Can you tell I’ve moved on? Thanks zuzu, and a special h/t to Amanda at Pandagon for her comment 209 at fdl (The “Language thread”). She nailed Jane, and I hope Jane knows it.

  84. piny’s 78:

    This is horseshit. No one even denies that this slur has special implications wrt women; TRex’s argument is that he doesn’t have to care about them because he doesn’t agree with them. There’s a reason “prick” isn’t as beloved of TRex, that it simply doesn’t have the same obscene punch, and that reason is a different attitude towards men than women.

    Maybe because TWrecks actually likes pricks…

  85. piny says:

    I wouldn’t attribute his insensitivity to his orientation, since Dan Savage says “prick” like it’s going out of style. He probably just figured that it’d be weird to refer to a woman as a “prick,” and that it might disrupt the virtuosic pottymouth flow.

  86. I don’t want to get in a pissing contest about pricks, but as it’s been said here and other places, ‘prick’ is still a ‘power word’ indicitive of strength and manhood. I think whether consciously or not Twrecks doesn’t use it because it is something he truly enjoys unlike the “c-word” which he truly doesn’t.

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  88. I quoted the Digby comment to see what y’all thought of it. It was not meant to be an appeal to authority (and for what it’s worth, my entry into this debate was at Tom’s blog itself, not Wolcott or FDL). Your responses to Digby were informative and I’m glad I got your takes.

  89. lt says:

    Also on the Digby thing .. . the c-word is not an execratory organ. It is a sexual one. Just sayin’

  90. zuzu says:

    Yikes, you’re right. I’d say that settles the question of Digby’s gender, but s/he also lumps dicks and pricks in with the execratory organ. But those, you know, excrete stuff.

  91. lt says:

    Well, I do remember someone telling me about having to explain this distinction to a sorority sister. So you never know.

  92. Nombrilisme Vide says:

    @ RKMK way back in 18
    Black people have been calling themselves “nigger” amongst themselves for quite some time now, and yet, people walked out of Michael Richards’ show when he decided to get derogatory with it. The power of the word, in those kinds of context, doesn’t seem to get lessened as people “reclaim” it.

    What are your thoughts? Is it truly possible to totally “reclaim” a derogatory remark? And should it be? I particularly like having linguistic benchmarks that I can use to judge someone’s true character.

    I’m going to give my professional opinion as a linguist who works with semantics on this one. That’s not to say it’s right, nor even more valid than anyone else’s, but it does mean it has more than minimal thought behind it. (Period. No less, but no more either. Well, it also means it’ll be long-winded.)

    Reclaiming words seems very much like it’s based on a slightly ridiculous, misguided notion of how word meaning behaves, specifically a conception thereof that is willfully ignorant of the inherent inescapability of ambiguity. The idea with reclaiming is that if a new use/meaning for a word is coined, and then made popular, it will eventually drown out the negative use/meaning. When people think of the word, they won’t associate it with the bad things, they’ll associate it only with the good ones.

    Except… It REALLY doesn’t seem like people treat language that way. A word can quite easily mean different things, even contradictory things, in different contexts. Reclaimation as it’s commonly described appears to assume that any given word can only have a single canonical meaning. And this is so far from being true it makes me find the notion of reclamation to be nearly hopeless. People have no problem understanding “nigger” as a neutral term in one context and as a derogatory term in another. The term is ambiguous; if it wasn’t before, reclamation has made it ambiguous. The most reclamation can hope to do is make one interpretation more felicitous and commonplace than the other, but there’s no guarantee that they won’t just take an unambiguous “bad” term and turn it into a term which is ambiguous when stripped of context, but clearly and equally prevalantly used in unambiguous manners with contradictory interpretations.

    Personally, I admire the spirit driving reclamation, but it seems at best a little quixotic and frivolous. And at its worst it seems a bit contradictory itself: words have no meaning except the meaning we give them, BUT we mustn’t ever use Those Words to convey That Meaning. Yes, the preference is more generally to forbid the conveyance of the hurtful meaning, period, but the use of the word being reclaimed to convey that particular meaning is considered to be worse than some other locution. Which is it to be? Are words empty tokens, and are only their evoked semantics relevant? Or do particular combinations of phonemes or symbols necessarily hold certain eternal, unchangable meanings that render them strictly verboten in all but their “cleansed” reclaimed forms?

    As to RKMK’s parting question, well… I can only answer with Carroll:

    `When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

    `The question is,’ said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

    `The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master — that’s all.’

    Usage dictates meaning, and vice versa. Why should a single interpretation be imposed for what a term means, forever and always, in every circumstance? And more contraversaly, what does it say about how and why you seem to want to impose it?

  93. Karen M says:

    Well, the comment thread at FDL is offically closed now. One of the last was from Tom, a gracious reply to Christy, re: not having axes to grind…

    The very best thing about this whole brouhaha is, as HopeSpringATurtle says, finding some new sites and intelligent people to read. Although I have previously followed links to Tom’s site, and this one, and Shakespeare’s Sister, I hadn’t really followed such an in-depth discussion at any of them before. Frankly, the quality of discussion here and at the others is so much better, and now that I’m not as desperate for up-to-the-minute political news, I can start to wean myself from FDL. I knew I’d need to make a change, anyway, and this wide-ranging discussion was just what I needed. Sorry, though, for those of you who did not need it.

    (I could see, from an unrelated interaction at FDL last spring, that things were not what they should be there, but I thought I was in the minority.)

    I have two blogs (3 really) that need more attention now (that the election is over), and this has been a very clarifying process.

    I did end up finally leaving a comment or two on the language thread, but nothing really substantive, since they’d already made up their minds on that one, but rather on the way comments just disappear over there, if one is at all critical, or are just moderated long enough to be excluded from the conversation. The responses to that are not even worth mentioning. (Basically, I was being paranoid.) What is very interesting now, is recognizing commenters from there over here, and vice-versa, and yet, the quality of the discussion still varies greatly. The trickle-down effect?

    p.s. I really like the way the preview function works on this site! Is that part of WordPress? Or something additional?

  94. Karen M says:

    Yikes! …time for some remedial typing.

  95. Bruce says:

    I have grown tired both of TRex and of Hamsher and Hardin-Smith’s tolerance of his foolishness. FDL has been stricken from my blogroll since that infamous piece of childishness. They are not A-list, they are low quality but high volume. McDonald’s is not A-list.

  96. Alon Levy says:

    Personally, I admire the spirit driving reclamation, but it seems at best a little quixotic and frivolous.

    Steven Pinker has done a lot of work about this. Words that are taboo undergo what he calls a euphemism treadmill, whereby taboo words are continually replaced with new ones, which are then pejorated until they become taboo.

    For example, in a modern context, the standard word for people slurred as “niggers” used to be “negro,” which then acquired a negative connotation because of its similarity to the slur and gave way to “colored,” which was pejorated as well and gave way to “black.”

    In a premodern context, the words “bear” and “wolf” used to be taboo. As such, they took many different forms in Indo-European languages – for instance, English “bear” descends not from the original Proto-Indo-European word, but from Germanic “brown one.”

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  98. marydem says:

    Why has no one brought up the term “bitch slapped”? It seems to be all the rage in ‘punk-ese’ lately. I find it equally offensive as “cunt”…maybe even more so because there’s an under-current of gleeful violence toward women within the context that I’ve seen it used. To me, it engenders the righteousness some men equate with putting a woman ‘in their place’–as a pimp to his ‘ho’. It haunts me. Authors who use it seem to perceive the epiteth as humiliating when it’s a man that has stooped so low that he needs to be ‘bitch slapped’. Come to think of it, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it used against a woman in a blog. Have any of you? Of course not…that would be mysogynistic! To use it against a man seems to excuse the sentiment to them, I suppose. They don’t seem to see the intellectual dishonesty in that.

    And, if it’s really about excratory functions, why do I not see obscenities related to boogers,ear wax, loogies and goobers hurled? I’ll answer that. It’s because they wouldn’t be considered inflamatory enough.

    They’re just trying to throw sand in our eyes. C’mon…if a guy really wants to hurt a guy, he somehow eludes to his opponent as a girl. If he wants to insult a woman, he calls her a ‘bad’ girl (i.e. anyone or anything that has or, God forbid, enjoys sex).

  99. Nombrilisme Vide says:

    That’s actually a point worth raising. Not just “bitch slap”, but “bitch” in general. There’s an argument to be made that the term’s usage is not so much “an unbecomingly assertive, angry woman” as “someone who doesn’t behave according to their ‘proper’ gender role”. If the target is a woman, then it does indeed mean “an unbecomingly assertive, angry woman”, and if it’s a man it means “an unbecomingly passive, submissive man”.

  100. belledame222 says:

    You know what I’m really, really tired of? This idea that being a “fightin’ Dem” (let’s not even get into “progressive,” since they so aren’t) is synonymous with “being a giant asshole.”

    There’s more than one way of being Republican Lite, and there’s more than one way of getting there. So this bunch (this is the most charitable interpretation of their motivation for acting thusly, frankly) is reacting against the general idea of the neolib, DLC, timid, me-tooing the R’s on every issue, right?

    Well, brain trust, the way to differentiate yourself is by standing up for the motherfucking ISSUES. NOT by strapping on the Bush codpiece, because you know what? You don’t impress anybody. If people want hateful posturing macho bullshit, they’ll go for the real deal. Same as with the issues.

    And–note to Para and T-Rex? You are gay men. Not only does this -not- automatically exempt you from charges of misogyny (like anyone who’d been in Chelsea for five fucking minutes would ever think so), but have you looked around you lately? Has it occurred to you the second you stop toeing the line with your new dear, close, -not at all bigoted- friends, you’ll likely be in for the same sort of treatment? …Ah. Maybe it has, at that. Maybe that’s why you’re working extra hard at this? “WE’RE NOT PUSSIES!!”

    …whatfuckingever.

  101. belledame222 says:

    by the way, for the people who are friends of these guys:

    well, one, what zuzu said;

    but, also, y’know, sometimes it takes a real friend to say, honestly, when all the fair-weathers are sycophanting or fapping away, respectively,

    “…Dude, love ya, but you’re really coming off like a grade-A assberet here.”

    just putting it out there.

  102. EricP says:

    Why has no one brought up the term “bitch slapped”? It seems to be all the rage in ‘punk-ese’ lately. I find it equally offensive as “cunt”…maybe even more so because there’s an under-current of gleeful violence toward women within the context that I’ve seen it used. To me, it engenders the righteousness some men equate with putting a woman ‘in their place’–as a pimp to his ‘ho’. It haunts me. Authors who use it seem to perceive the epiteth as humiliating when it’s a man that has stooped so low that he needs to be ‘bitch slapped’.

    It seems that you are over-analyzing the term. A slap stings but causes no real pain. Any male or female that is taken out by one is a weak person, hence the attitude. Generally, a slap means that I don’t have the confidence or actually care enough to actually hit you for effect. Historically, in popular culture, it was bitches who slapped men or a slap might be used for someone out of control to get their attention. Most modern women have the confidence to hit another person.

    To most people a bitch slap just means that “I don’t care enough to hit you for effect”. You are below caring, that is the insult. The word “bitch” is just to add insult to both women and men. Which you have apparently taken.

  103. Alon Levy says:

    And, if it’s really about excratory functions, why do I not see obscenities related to boogers,ear wax, loogies and goobers hurled?

    The human body has exactly two excretions, both of which are considered dirty: urine and feces. Urine is normally sterile and can be safely drunk, but feces are 10% bacterial by weight, and are a major health hazard without modern sanitation; and indeed, feces are considered dirtier than urine (“shit,” the current use of “ass” and “asshole,” “crap”). Ear wax and smegma are secretions, not excretions.

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