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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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31 Responses

  1. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston April 28, 2011 at 6:31 pm |

    I’ll admit that when he made the sideshow reference, “ableist” did briefly cross my mind.

  2. Cactus Wren
    Cactus Wren April 28, 2011 at 7:41 pm |

    “Maybe carnival people are the last safe stereotype to attack.”

    It’s good to know that feminists, fat people, and Rroma are now immune from stereotyping.

  3. Rinth de Shadley
    Rinth de Shadley April 28, 2011 at 8:38 pm |

    That’s why I chose medical school instead of becoming an acrobat. :)

  4. mztress
    mztress April 28, 2011 at 9:28 pm |

    Did that asshole SERIOUSLY compare comments about carnival sideshows to racial prejudice…and think that it was acceptable?! Un-fucking-believable . Maybe one of these days he’ll be juggling for the carnival and accidentally drop a ball onto his empty skull, thereby knocking some sense into himself.

  5. mztress
    mztress April 28, 2011 at 9:28 pm |

    Did that asshole SERIOUSLY compare comments about carnival sideshows to racial prejudice…and think that it was acceptable?! Un-fucking-believable . Maybe one of these days he’ll be juggling for the carnival and accidentally drop a ball onto his empty skull, thereby knocking some sense into himself.

  6. Zoe
    Zoe April 29, 2011 at 2:09 am |

    I started reading before looking to see where the article was from and I just thought, “Please let this be The Onion.”

  7. Shaun
    Shaun April 29, 2011 at 4:45 am |

    @Cactus Wren: I know, right?! To say nothing of (insert at least a dozen groups here). I want to live on his planet.

  8. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 29, 2011 at 5:04 am |

    So lemme get this right, O says this birther thing is a being used by “carnival barkers” to distract USians from the business of running the country.

    And this is insulting how? Isn’t carnival barker a job title where in the barker strives to get your attention so you’ll focus and pay for hir show rather than say go the grocery store?

    The article seems to suggest that a least one dude is insulted because his shit is entertaining suggesting that he’s not insulted by the reference to carnival barkers as distractions per se just as distracting you to something that is as non-entertaining as a birth certificate.

    Which would be silly since a good number of people find this birth certificate shit highly entertaining.

    So color me confused, I don’t get the logic, unless of course the logic is carnival workers using any possible excuse to draw our attention to their show…oh wait…

  9. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin April 29, 2011 at 6:02 am |

    Austin Powers: Only two things scare me and one of them is nuclear war.
    Basil Exposition: What’s the other?
    Austin Powers: Excuse me?
    Basil Exposition: What’s the other thing that scares you?
    Austin Powers: Carnies. Circus folk. Nomads, you know. Smell like cabbage. Small hands.

  10. miga
    miga April 29, 2011 at 8:49 am |

    @ Angus: “African Savages” were also part of sideshows (See Venus Hottentot), so it’s not necessarily Ableist. It’s actually kind of fitting.

  11. konkonsn
    konkonsn April 29, 2011 at 9:41 am |

    I do think the carnival workers have a point as they often are stereotyped in a way that intersects with a lot of the -isms people who already work there come in with (blue collar, disabled, racial minorities…also, I could mention the abuses of non-human workers). As someone pointed out above, there’s a very ugly history behind who gets used for entertainment in some of these venues. But it is over the line to act like only carnival workers are stereotyped or hurt without breaking into that intersectionality and history.

  12. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery April 29, 2011 at 10:11 am |

    So lemme get this right, O says this birther thing is a being used by “carnival barkers” to distract USians from the business of running the country.

    And this is insulting how? Isn’t carnival barker a job title where in the barker strives to get your attention so you’ll focus and pay for hir show rather than say go the grocery store?

    Kristen, I’m not sure if you’re one of the folks who aggressively polices language in these comments sections, but I don’t see how this argument is at all distinguishable from other definitional arguments used to defend the figurative use of words like in “blind to the facts,” “deaf to reason,” or “politically insane.” If one doesn’t think a word used to describe a group of people should be used in a negative analogy, it seems like that rule should extend to all groups.

  13. Heather
    Heather April 29, 2011 at 10:24 am |

    Tom Foolery: If one doesn’t think a word used to describe a group of people should be used in a negative analogy, it seems like that rule should extend to all groups.

    I’m not sure that I buy into this line of thought. As an anecdotal example, the last time I got my oil changed, I complained afterward that the mechanic was “acting like he was my dad.” I certainly meant this negatively, but I don’t many would take that comment to mean I harbor animosity towards fathers in general, or my own father. Perhaps Obama’s comment is different in that fathers are mostly respected, and carnival workers are not, but I’m not sure that distinction holds.

  14. Florence
    Florence April 29, 2011 at 10:30 am |

    The history of carnival life is a little more complicated than 100% uncut exploitation. Yes, it involves more than its share of exoticism, racism, discrimination and exploitation of disabled people, but it also provided agency and community for a lot of people who otherwise would have lived as misfits and outcasts on the margins of polite society. It’s irresponsible to me to speak on behalf of the people who participated in this historical community while ignoring the range of oral histories that are out there defending its existence by the people we claim to want to protect from it. Seems paternalistic.

  15. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery April 29, 2011 at 10:42 am |

    I’m not sure that I buy into this line of thought. As an anecdotal example, the last time I got my oil changed, I complained afterward that the mechanic was “acting like he was my dad. I certainly meant this negatively, but I don’t many would take that comment to mean I harbor animosity towards fathers in general, or my own father.”

    I don’t know anything about your father, but there are plenty of things about his behavior that you could be referring to that doesn’t have to do with his father-ness — he might be a blue-collar fellow, or an immigrant from a disadvantaged nation, or be non-neurotypical, or any number of things that could inform the behavior you wanted to describe negatively. I don’t want to get into the specifics of this hypothetical — just trying to make the point that comparison by analogy often extends beyond the speaker’s intentions.

  16. konkonsn
    konkonsn April 29, 2011 at 10:54 am |

    Florence:
    The history of carnival life is a little more complicated than 100% uncut exploitation.Yes, it involves more than its share of exoticism, racism, discrimination and exploitation of disabled people, but it also provided agency and community for a lot of people who otherwise would have lived as misfits and outcasts on the margins of polite society. It’s irresponsible to me to speak on behalf of the people who participated in this historical community while ignoring the range of oral histories that are out there defending its existence by the people we claim to want to protect from it.Seems paternalistic.

    I’m not sure if you’re referring to me or others along the same lines, but anyway…I agree with you. I suppose I did come off mostly negative, but I meant that generally marginalized people are placed in these roles, and so it becomes easy to use dismissive language as, “Oh, we’re just talking about their occupation, so why should ‘barker’ or ‘sideshow’ be considered offensive?” when there’s a lot more that plays into how we view carnival workers and why these terms are considered dismissive. I do think a lot of these workers like their job or find an place there, and that’s exactly why some of them find Obama’s remarks troubling.

  17. Florence
    Florence April 29, 2011 at 11:40 am |

    Tom, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  18. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery April 29, 2011 at 12:38 pm |

    Tom, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

    I invite you to use that argument in a discussion about ableist language. I will bring the popcorn.

  19. saurus
    saurus April 29, 2011 at 12:59 pm |

    Tom Foolery: Kristen, I’m not sure if you’re one of the folks who aggressively polices language in these comments sections, but I don’t see how this argument is at alldistinguishable from other definitional arguments used to defend the figurative use of words like in “blind to the facts,” “deaf to reason,” or “politically insane.” If one doesn’t think a word used to describe a group of people should be used in a negative analogy, it seems like that rule should extend to all groups.

    It’s not about groups, period, it’s about systemically marginalized groups. That’s why in one situation, using a group of people for a negative analogy might be okay, while in another situation it might not be, without anyone being hypocritical. For example, if I say disparagingly that a political leader “talks like a corporate goon”, that’s not problematic because corporate goons are not a systemically marginalized group. So using that analogy doesn’t contribute to their marginalization. Whereas if I say that a political leader “talks like a [ableist slur]”, that’s problematic because it reinforces the marginalization and devaluation of people with disabilities.

    That’s also why a slur about white people isn’t as offensive as a slur about black people: the historical and power context is extraordinarily different, even if the sentences sound similar.

    So the important question is: are carnival barkers systemically marginalized specifically for being carnival barkers?

  20. Florence
    Florence April 29, 2011 at 1:10 pm |

    That’s cute, Tom, but I’m referring to the silliness in comment #15. Heather pointed out a weakness in your argument using a fine example about a commonplace idiom, and you want to make it about whether her actual father is actually disabled? C’mon. Make a regular practice of bending over backwards to problematize analogies and idioms if you want to, but sometimes the things you want to be there just aren’t. And I have used that argument in discussions about ableist language, so.

  21. Florence
    Florence April 29, 2011 at 1:30 pm |

    @Tom Assuming your comment in #12 is literal and not snarky. And now I’m not sure. It’s so absurd I can’t tell anymore.

  22. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery April 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm |

    @Tom Assuming your comment in #12 is literal and not snarky. And now I’m not sure. It’s so absurd I can’t tell anymore.

    I know exactly how you feel.

  23. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 29, 2011 at 2:27 pm |

    Tom Foolery: Kristen, I’m not sure if you’re one of the folks who aggressively polices language in these comments sections, but I don’t see how this argument is at alldistinguishable from other definitional arguments used to defend the figurative use of words like in “blind to the facts,” “deaf to reason,” or “politically insane.” If one doesn’t think a word used to describe a group of people should be used in a negative analogy, it seems like that rule should extend to all groups.

    Huh? So if I say “We can’t let lawyers bog us down in brutual negotiations” that would be discriminatory against lawyers because…they’re group and I’m using their jobs to describe something that is bad?

    As far as I’m aware and have experienced, carnival barkers are talented and experienced showpersons. Their job is to get your attention. If you are trying to do something else that can be annoying.

    And lawyers are talented negotiators who will drag negotiations out to the bitter end. Which if you’re trying to get shit done can be annoying.

    So “lawyered” as a pejorative is out then?

    If I’m wrong on the facts here, then I agree…but I don’t know of any cultural references to carnival barkers (what few their are) as anything more than salespersons and performers (sometimes negatively…but then again…lawyers). What is the source of the systematic oppression?

  24. Florence
    Florence April 29, 2011 at 2:33 pm |

    I object to the term “bog”. Bogs are very sensitive habitats that are highly important to biodiversity.

  25. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery April 29, 2011 at 3:42 pm |

    I object to the term “sensitive” because I am very sensitive.

  26. saurus
    saurus April 29, 2011 at 6:49 pm |

    Jill: I think there is a legitimate question as to how far this extends, though. The grouping of oppressed vs. not-oppressed is helpful, but I’m not sure it’s a perfect differentiation. I know we’ve had the ableism discussion here a million times so I won’t get into whether or not it’s ok to call someone “crazy” or “out of touch with reality,” but what about a term like “childish”? If people agree that children are an oppressed class — and I’m not sure everyone does, but I think it’s safe to say that some people do — does that mean that it’s bad to use a term which isn’t actually talking about children and instead is short-hand for a group of characteristics that we consider negative that are associated with a lack of age, experience and cognitive development?

    I hear you. Well, I’d say if kids tell us that “childish” is something that reinforces their systemic marginalization – not necessarily in those words, of course – that’s not such an ambiguous call. I.e., if we listen to what marginalized groups tell us about their own experiences of oppression and trust them, that kind of takes the guesswork out of whether it’s harmful or offensive or not.

    Anyway, even if we did away with “childish” there are a lot of substitutes; someone who is being “childish” is more often being whiny, rash, selfish, over-reactive, naive, etc, and we all know those characteristics are by no means limited to children.

    I’m not sure how this connects to what I’ve said, but I also think sometimes the less privilege a child has, the less ze can behave in a “childish” way – because they already have “adult” worries and “adult” responsibilities.

    Anyway, I think people are usually worried about “how far” we might have to go in changing language if we really want to expunge all the bad stuff, but considering how formative the kyriarchy is in our existence and experiences and society, it’s not surprising to me that having a language that doesn’t drag people down with it would require some pretty widespread renovations.

    For anyone reading: no, I’m not saying changing one’s use of language is an absolute feminist “must-have” or whatever.

  27. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston April 30, 2011 at 6:15 am |

    Jill: If people agree that children are an oppressed class — and I’m not sure everyone does, but I think it’s safe to say that some people do — does that mean that it’s bad to use a term which isn’t actually talking about children and instead is short-hand for a group of characteristics that we consider negative that are associated with a lack of age, experience and cognitive development?

    Some youth activists I know absolutely DO object to using terms like “childish” as synonyms for “whiny and irresponsible” or whatever — in fact, this came up in connection with the very same Obama speech, when someone on my Twitter feed expressed exasperation about people referring to Obama as “the adult in the room.”

    Anyway, my comment about ableism was mostly meant lightheartedly. I do agree, though, that there are lots of ways in which carnival folk have historically been marginalized along lines of class, race, gender, gender expression, and ethnicity, among other things. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that at least one of the guys quoted in the article was just looking to get a little free ink, which is something else that carnival folk have historically been known for.

    I don’t think calling something a sideshow is a vicious slur, in other words, but I do think it can be a loaded term.

  28. Brett K
    Brett K April 30, 2011 at 6:55 pm |

    As a former carny (well, circus employee, but whatever) I think this is hilarious.

  29. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie May 1, 2011 at 12:01 pm |

    Goodness, those sensitive carny people! With their privileged lives and high wages and safe working conditions! Pretty funny, from here.

  30. PeggyLuWho
    PeggyLuWho May 2, 2011 at 9:59 pm |

    Jill:
    I know we’ve had the ableism discussion here a million times so I won’t get into whether or not it’s ok to call someone “crazy” or “out of touch with reality,”

    Do people really take issue with this phrase, “out of touch with reality?” As a person who is frequently and literally “out of touch with reality,” I don’t see it as problematic. Maybe I’m ableist. I’m so confused.

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