Hello readers, I have joys of posts to share with you and then to blog about something else, this just closes the tabs I’ve had opened for the past couple of weeks.
First up is a post by China Mieville on the Belgium’s recent court ruling to not ban Tintin in the Congo.
ii) One can insist that the book’s attitudes ‘reflect its time’, as the court held.
There are two interesting points about this ultra-common defence for every undeniably racist (sexist, homophobic, &c) text in existence. The first is that it is historically bogus. Such ideas, like all ideas, were – are – contested. Certainly & obviously the mainstream shifts, the balance of forces alters, but the implicit or explicit claim that there were no dissident voices on supremacist agendas is a lie. To claim that everyone talked like Tintin about the Congo back in the day is (whatever other serious political arguments we may have with them) to slander, say, Felicien Challaye, Albert Londres, the French Socialist movement that declared at its 1907 conference that colonialism ‘relies on violent conquest and institutionalises the subjection of Asiatic and African peoples’.
The second point is that even if these attitudes do ‘reflect their time’ in the sense of reflecting a then-more-mainstream agenda, so the fuck what? The point about attitudes is that they change, in response to struggle, to a battle for ideas. The question here is whether or not Tintin au Congo is racist. Which it is. That may perhaps in part be because white supremacism was less contested back then – just as well we’re not back then, then, isn’t it? & that instead we live in now, when the resistance of those deemed unable to add 2 & 2 has forced the recognition that this kind of shit is shit. These days a ‘collective synapse’ should kick in ‘forged by mass movements … that have forced a lot of people, particularly white straight men, to have a clue.’
The folks I have met to advocate Radical Honesty™ tend to fetishize blunt, unvarnished, raw communication, at the expense of compassion or of any sort of concern for the emotional response of the people to whom they are speaking. Like the main character in Bones, they tend to display a lack of empathy toward their fellow human beings that, from the outside, borders on active hostility.
And that’s unfortunate, because it means that conversations about Radical Honesty almost always end up being framed in terms of “Is honesty good, or do we need little white lies and other small deceptions in order to make civilization go?” The debate gets set in terms of honesty vs. dishonesty, and that’s a damn shame.
Honesty without compassion is rubbish. The question should not be framed as “Which is better, honesty or dishonesty?” but rather “How can we strive for absolute honesty in a framework of respect, compassion, kindness, and sincerity?” All too often, when the question is framed as Radical Honesty™ vs. The Little White Lie, the only compassionate answer is The Little White Lie, because the philosophy of Radical Honesty™–at least as I’ve seen it practiced–treats compassion with disdain, or even contempt.
And then Margaret Cho with her beautiful post, “You are not ugly. Don’t make videos“:
I thought I was so ugly for so long and I wasted so much of my life on this dumb notion. I punished myself and avoided my reflection in mirrors and any windows. I would see myself reflected back and I would look away, trying to pretend I didn’t exist because I hated myself so much. I hated the way I looked and it started early on. My father found a school project from 1st grade, where I had written on a photo of myself that I looked like a flat faced mummy – and firstly, how does a kid that young know what a flat faced mummy is and secondly, I cry at my own self judgement and thirdly, I was such a cute kid. Imagine my face and then miniaturize it in your mind until the age of 6. I know, fucking adorable.
One day I looked at myself and I thought, shit, this is it. this is what I look like. No amount of self hatred is going to change my appearance. I am who I am. I am stuck with this and I have to love it or else I am going to die early from my own suffering and idea that I got shortchanged in the looks department.
And finally from Geek Feminism, “Why do we watch Doctor Who?: A fan scholar’s perspective“:
Yes, the female characters are secondary. But that’s a production decision. And fans don’t generally let production decisions get in the way when there is still something to scavenge from the show. This is the beautiful thing about fans: they don’t let creators tell them how they get to experience the show. I mean, the creators often do tell us how to experience the show (*cough, cough,* George Lucas), but fans don’t comply. And I would say that fans don’t just ignore the voices from on high that directly tell them “You can’t read it that way,” but they also ignore plot details, the structure of casts, and other elements in shows that tell them how to read it indirectly. So even though the companions are definitionally sidekicks to the Doctor, plenty of women will still read those companions as the heroes. They’ll still read the Doctor as a genderqueer character they can relate to. And they can do all that while complaining that Doctor Who needs a lady protagonist every once in a damn while.