On the whole, I consider myself at least a marginally witty person, but at the very least, I am an avid consumer of humor.  I enjoy frequenting Dad’s Garage, and as a former improv performer myself, I appreciate the fact that those individuals have worked for years to hone their skills.  I often see professional standup comedians at the Laughing Skull Lounge as well, some of whom make jokes with pointed commentary on race, gender, and sexuality.

The difference between the performers I see at various Atlanta establishments and the posters on Peach Pundit is that the former make a profession of satirizing various aspects of our society, while the latter do not.  So when I open my inbox to read the Peach Pundit Daily, while I might expect a witty jab here and there, I’m generally not prepared for a full-fledged sexist or homophobic “joke.”  Now before I get to the meat of this piece, let’s discuss “jokes.”

Not all jokes are created equal.  Those that you see on late night shows, at comedy clubs, and on HBO specials are delivered by people who make a point of satirizing society, and on the whole, do not believe the occasionally offensive things they are saying.  While I do see problems with such jokes, I at least can rest my head at night knowing that those delivering them are professional comedians- people who make their living aiming to shock and appall, sometimes to point out the follies of society as a whole.  For them, this is an art and a science at the same time, and (pun intended) they don’t take their profession as a joke.

Then there are websites like this one (WARNING: offensive and NSFW), that attempt to find humor in the “N-word” and in proclaiming that dead <black/gay/female/trans/Mexican/etc.> people are the best kinds of <black/gay/female/trans/Mexican/etc.> people.  Not funny.  Not witty.  Not any of the things the above paragraph describe.  Just flatly offensive.

I make this point to state that just because you call something a “joke” does not make it a “joke,” and it does not mean that people should up and say “oh, as long as you’re joking, what you just said is totally fine.”  But apparently, that’s exactly what our friends at Peach Pundit want us to say.

So now we get to the heart of the matter, yesterday’s Peach Pundit Daily.  For your viewing pleasure, I reprint the offending portion, in total:

There Shall Be Candidates Going For Sure Things! Elena Parent, the “telegenic” former State Representative, will seek the Senate seat being vacated by Jason the Carter, who has abandoned the people of Decatur and North Druid Hills in his quest for golden fleece and the governorship of Georgia. Parent may find stiff competition for the nomination, as Decatur attorney Kyle Williams has  already announced.  Compare their similar blond-and-blue pictures for a moment, and answer the question: Will the real legislative Barbie please stand up? More importantly, where is the Democratic “diversity” we’re always hearing about? Surely there’s an African-American who can represent the good people of that district more effectively than two extras from “The Sound of Music?”

Since the authors of the above statement are obviously oblivious, I will take it upon myself to explain the multitude of things wrong with this disgusting statement.

Let’s begin with the political, generally unimportant portion (this is a political blog, after all).  Republicans obviously have no idea what the word “diversity” means.  To them, “diversity” is simply a buzzword for “black.”  This is simply not the case.  Miriam-Webster defines diversity as “the state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization.”  In other words, diversity refers to the opposite of homogeneity.  If the Georgia Senate and House Democratic Caucuses were comprised of only African American members, neither Caucus would be diverse by definition.  So when we Democrats talk about “diversity” we are talking about people of all races, genders, ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations, and yes- that does include white people.

But this brings up another point that should be mentioned- Georgia Republicans want to brand the Democratic Party in Georgia as “the black party.”  They took steps to do so though the 2012 redistricting process, drawing white Democrats in with black Democrats in majority-minority districts.  Today, the House Democratic Caucus has 11 white members and 1 Latino member, a severe decrease effectuated by the Republican redistricting.  The Senate Democratic Caucus has three white members, and only SD 42, currently held by Jason Carter, is a majority white district.  This map is by design; Republicans seem to sincerely believe that Democrats in Georgia should be equated to being black.

I’m not going to spend my time in this post discussing the offensiveness and myopia of this belief, but it is out there, and Peach Pundit continues to prove that Republicans completely fail to comprehend the concept of diversity in governance.

The truly offending statement is the reference to “legislative Barbie.”  Besides being completely unfunny, even if it were to come from Louis C.K., it has the honor of being both sexist and homophobic.

To start, and I’m shocked I even need to say this, women should not be objectified.  Yes, Elena Parent is a good looking, young, white woman who has blonde hair.  She’s also a Phi Beta Kappa UVA Law grad who worked at one of the most prestigious law firms in Atlanta, a wife, a mother, and a proud Georgian.  So to simply focus on her looks is subjugating her to the lowest common denominator.  To debase her by calling her a “Barbie,” a doll that is best known as being a disgusting role model for how young women “should look,” and who was known for the majority of her existence as an example of institutionalized sexism just shows how out of touch Georgia Republicans are.  And to further attempt to dismiss legitimate criticism of such a statement only proves the point.  I am, of course, ignoring the fact that you just called a women’s organization “adorable,” another word used to debase and delegitimize the opinion of women around the world.

Next, to call Kyle Williams, a good-looking out gay man a “Barbie” is so incredibly homophobic I am failing to find the words to describe my outrage.  Gay men in America are constantly subjected to emasculating remarks from the classic “Nancy boy” to the equally offensive question “So which one of you is the woman?”  Gay men are not somehow more “feminine” or “ladylike” because of their sexual orientation, and any suggestion to the contrary is flatly anti-gay.  I don’t know what degree of bullying Kyle has experienced in his life, but I don’t see why the Republican Party has to get in on that action.  In fact, for a party who is out of touch with LGBTQ voters, I’m shocked that anyone would try to defend a self-evidently homophobic remark.

Now I’m truly shocked that I even have to give you a basic English lesson, but I feel like I must because you evidently think that it’s inconceivable that anyone would think that you were calling anybody a “Barbie.”  I’ll put the lede up here: it’s because you were.  No, you did not artfully craft the sentence “Elena and Kyle are Barbies,” but we should all know better than to realize that our language is so simple.  No, you spent an entire paragraph describing their looks (blond, blue eyed, attractive), and then asked the rhetorical question: “Will the real legislative Barbie please stand up?”  I’m not an English teacher, but I’m rather positive I have a grasp of the English language.  You used a referential rhetorical device towards Elena and Kyle, effectively asking which one of them was more Barbie-like.  It would like me saying “I didn’t call anyone a sexist” if I wrote “Will the most sexist Peach Punditeer please stand up?”  Fun fact: if I wrote that, I’d know exactly what I was doing.

So yes, I’m outraged, and I’m hardly the only one.  You had the opportunity to apologize, and you didn’t take it.  Instead, you tried to excuse your actions, and then turn around and pin this on us, the offended people.  You’re calling this a manufactured controversy, which I guess is true, because you manufactured it with your homophobic and sexist remarks.  Maybe you should call up Elena Parent and Kyle Williams, and ask them how they feel about being subjugated by your straight-male dominated worldview?  See how they feel.  Because I’ll tell you what- I know both of them, and neither of them will say “Oh, you’re hysterical!”

P.S. your e-mail completely ignored Russell Waldon, or did he not fall into your little Aryan “joke?”

 

21 Responses to On Taking a Joke

  1. ire says:

    Wait, holy #### dude… “your little Aryan Nation “joke?”

    Really?

    Dude.

    DUDE.

    • Steve says:

      I made an edit to remove the word “Nation.” That was the product of that sentence being written at 2 am. It should have been more referential to the blonde hair + blue eyes + Sound of Music rather than a white supremacy group. My b.

  2. Mrs. Adam Kornstein says:

    Ms. Parent and Mr. Williams are everything that is good about Democrats running in Georgia and smarmy comments on their immutable characteristics only highlight the concerns and fear of them in the Georgia GOP.

    The GAGOP has nothing like these two qualified people on their bench, and the few “bright” folks they have will be either be primaried or drummed out because they dare to deviate from the closed minded narrow view of many in the GA GOP.

    I’m enough of a feminist to lack a sense of humor when bright capable women are denigrated and their intellectual achievements are demeaned by calling out some body part or physical characteristic, i.e. blonde, leggy, attractive, young AKA Barbie.

    But I’m also enough of a pragmatist to see that when folks are accused of heinous comments it doesn’t help either. For instance while I felt like the PP editors comments trivialized both Elena and Kyle’s very fine accomplishments I don’t believe that they were either homophobic or misogynist.

    I think that we throw around words that folks really don’t know the meaning/implication of, it makes for confusion about why some of us would be so infuriated by the so called “off hand” remark or why the original comment is offensive.

    The PP Editor while an influential person is not making hateful legislative policy or law. Demeaning, dismissive, degrading comments yes. Hate, no. There is a big difference.

    Please review the definitions below.

    Homophobia: noun an extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people.

    Misogynist n. One who hates women. adj. Of or characterized by a hatred of women.

    I’ve read enough of PP editor to know that I don’t think he “hates” either women or LBGT people. I do however think that successful women, people of color and gay people who run as Democrats do threaten them.

    That’s the bigger story.

    It’s clearly a failure of the leadership to continue the dismissive nature of the GA GOP’s lack of inclusive tone and language. It’s not the first time that this has been an issue. As a example, SoS Karen Handel had a real opportunity in 2010 to defend her attendance at a Log Cabin event, but instead out of fear she doubled down on her homophobia ( yes in this case it was that) by making comments about same sex parenting and adoption. That’s not dismissive, that is hatred when you’d legislate to block children from being raised in a loving same sex home.

    This is clearing a “teaching moment” but I’m not sure what was taught or learned.

    • Steve says:

      I agree and disagree with you. I am perfectly aware of the definitions of homophobic and misogynistic, but please note that I was referencing the comments, not the author. I do not know Mike Hassinger, but I hope that he does not possess those qualities himself. However, his comments, in my opinion, were. I believe when a comment intimates that a gay man is akin to a woman, that is homophobic. And when a comment intimates that a woman is best defined by her physical attributes, that comment is misogynistic. The author, yes, is demeaning and trivializing. The comments are most certainly something more.

      I also agree that the comments are endemic of a more serious problem, but I stand by my characterization of the comments as homophobic and misogynistic.

      • Mrs. Adam Kornstein says:

        Steve,

        I believe the GA GOP is homophobic and misogynist but I don’t think Mike is. Maybe we’ll have to disagree on that one.

        • Steve says:

          I don’t think you and I disagree on anything, I just think there is a misunderstanding. Nowhere above do I say that I think Mike Hassinger is a misogynist or homophobe. Notably, I do not even use the word “misogyny” above; I use “sexist,” which has an entirely different, and much more appropriate, meaning.

          I do, however, believe the comments Mike made were both sexist and homophobic. It is absolutely possible for someone that is neither sexist nor homophobic to make comments that are. By way of example, I’ll admit to my own transgression. I once referred to a woman as having “pregnancy brain,” a term I now more fully understand to be sexist and offensive. I apologized for using the term profusely, and I have not used it since. Before, during, and after using that term, I was not a sexist. But the comment I made most certainly was. My above post references the comments made by Mike, not Mike himself.

          Hence, I don’t think you and I disagree at all. Characterizing the comments as homophobic and sexist is consistent with the understanding that the author is not a homophobe or sexist. It simply puts context behind why, and in what way, the remarks are offensive.

          • griftdrift says:

            Begun, the parsing has

            • Steve says:

              I know you (partially) jest, but I do think it is an important distinction. I believe it is unfair to say that I believe anyone possesses any qualities when I specifically and intentionally did not so suggest in my post. I don’t think it’s parsing to distinguish between my intention and a possible way to misconstrue it.

              • griftdrift says:

                I’m just amazed that you think it matters.

                And pregnancy brain is offensive? I’ll have to add that one to my long list of things I say that I had no idea might offend someone.

                Probably need to tell my wife too as it was a running joke for the past year.

                • Steve says:

                  Not everything offends everyone, to be sure, but when I made that comment I offended a few people. We talked about it, and I understood why I caused the offense, and I vowed to not do it again. You live and you learn, I guess.

              • ire says:

                Any post that not only includes your sense of humor’s bona fides and definitions from MW’s is a great post. This makes it better.

    • Steve says:

      I will also note that I never used the word “misogynistic” or any derivation thereof in my above post. The word I used was “sexist.”

      Sexist is defined as “unfair treatment of people because of their sex.”

  3. ire says:

    Nearly 1500 words for an offhand remark is pretty humorless.

    • bob says:

      Yeah you’re totally right, it was just this one offhand remark not a systemic and pervasive issue. nice contribution! lolololol

    • Dve Bearse says:

      Hassinger’s paragraph may have been prepared hastily, or not been given much thought, but “off hand remarks” doesn’t apply to remarks prepared in advance on a subject selected by the preparer.