What a week. Ugh. Here are the things I’ve been reading and thinking about this time around.
How Many White People Does it Take to Ruin a Good Joke? (The New Republic)
Jazmin Hughes is pretty amazing, and this piece examining the ins and outs of comedy and race is really excellent and insightful. In it, Hughes examines the prevalence of jokes about white people made by people of color–largely seen as a way to seek solace from the frustrations of being a marginalized person in a culture of white supremacy–being co-opted by white people themselves:
This is how the party ends—with white people wanting in on the joke so badly that they create a separate category of “cool” white people who mock their own whiteness in an effort at solidarity. “White people be like ‘white people be like,’ but they be the white people that white people be like!!!!” as one Tumblr post neatly summarized.
Hughes examines the historical context of jokes like this and finds that they go back a long way. She also talks about how the most successful comedy is always “punching up,” which means that comedians don’t make jokes at the expense of people they have more privilege than. She points out one of the most troubling aspects of white people making jokes about white people:
But what most white-people jokes have in common is that they are not about white people per se. Instead, they are about inequalities between whites and other races. “What is the scariest thing about a white person in prison?” a comedian asks. “You know he did it.” Har har! Except you only got the punchline because you’re aware of the problem of prejudicial prosecutions. In sum: “LOL, RACISM.”
It’s a great read and not super long. Well worth your time.
How Fifty Shades of Grey Does Money (The Billfold)
After a couple of interesting conversations with one of my long-distance friends about Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James being kind of an asshole, and the impact on the world of BDSM, my friend sent me this excellent, funny piece from the Billfold this week. It is both a send-up of the controversies surrounding the franchise as well as a smart little take on marketing and capitalism:
“Okay, but that’s really unsafe,” I say. “Do you think you have a responsiblity for educating people on safe and consensual ways of exploring BDSM together?”
“I’m just a book,” Fifty Shades says. “A story. When do stories need to be responsible for anything but themselves?”
At any rate, it’s smart and funny.
All Dating Advice is as Terrible as the People Who Give it (The Guardian)
The title pretty much says it all, and I don’t have much to add here. But it is an interesting look at the culture we live in and perpetuate where dating advice nearly always mirrors our own experiences (because validation):
Everyone has ulterior motives. There’s a good chance that anybody emitting romantic tips is a deeply insecure life-choice evangelist – that they’ve chosen some path (to marry young, or to wait, to have children, to stay single, etc) and they’re not sure it was right. Their uncertainty manifests itself as a desperate attempt to persuade you that it’s the best choice for you, too.
The article runs down the other types of advice-givers, including the ones who wish they had chosen differently, the ones who are cynical (they’re most likely to quote The Rules or whatever bullshit else there is), etc. But the fact remains there’s no such thing as perfect advice, there is no right way to do these things, and one size does not even fit most.
The Lesbian Jewish Leftist Conspiracy Tearing Apart Reddit, Untangled (Gawker)
First of all, this:
Almost overnight, the venture-backed link-sharing behemoth has been plunged into a bizarre, wide-ranging conspiracy scare—complete with accusations of shady cabals, corruption, radical feminist infiltration, and scheming of all sorts—that makes PrisonPlanet.com look like BuzzFeed. It is one of the least sane things I have read on this internet, and I’ve spent the last day trying to untangle it.
I don’t have the energy to get into all of the politics and crazy at play here, but the basic idea is that Reddit is being infiltrated by feminist social justice warriors and the white men are clutching their metaphorical pearls (or their actual balls, because the feminist SJWs are coming for those, too, probably) over this. What is usually relegated to the fringes of the site (although the site does have racism and sexism problems overall, and I say that as a regular user of it) is seeping into the mainstream, and that is why it is noteworthy. It’s still batshit insane, but it is worth taking note of, because:
There was a time when the fringe truly existed on the fringes of society, where they could be insulated from the non-fringe and egg each other on into new and more brazen forms of fringedom. But today, conspiracies as manifestly deranged as this one rocket in popularity, empowered by the simple software behind sites like Reddit and 8chan. There have always and will always be right-wing lunatics who think creeping “transexual feminism” is an existential threat; but now those same people share real estate with all the rest of us. They are just one click away.
I don’t know. I am simultaneously amused by the irrational fear of the white hegemony at Reddit, but I’m also alarmed at how pervasive and insidious this kind of thinking can be.
What got you reading and thinking this week?