You know, I didn’t actually have a stake in the baby it’s cold outside debate, but apparently this needs to be said, again.
Connotations and social meanings change over time.
Comedy is usually the artform on the bleeding edge of that change, it is meant to be challenging, divisive and pushing the envelope in a way that calls attention to deficits and discrimination in a way that is easier to see and understand than in regular context.
Other art forms have to deal with this as well, music is likely the next one to be pushing the envelope for a broader audience than say a novel or a movie. Arthouse movies and niche novels push their audiences but the reach is smaller.
So it is no surprise that a relatively old song has come up against a rapidly changing dynamic of social norms and practices than when it was first created.
In the case of this one song we are now having the same debate I’ve been hearing for several years
FB this isn’t new it’s been going around social media circles since 2012 and it’s getting old.
Someone tells you they can’t eat peanuts because they’re allergic you don’t feed them peanut butter because you think it will toughen them up.
Someone tells you that they hate horror movies you don’t make them watch them to get over themselves.
Someone tells you that a song reminds them too much of the time they were assaulted, you don’t play the song.
We all have ways in which we navigate the world around us. Sometimes we need to ask for help. If you’re response to that is “well I like it so it can’t be that bad” you are not only ignoring the person who had the courage to say something, you are telling them and all around them that you don’t care about other people’s feelings and what potentially may hurt them.
You do not need an explanation as to why someone can’t have peanut butter, or why they can’t listen to a Christmas song, or why the don’t do x, or can’t have y. You have an opportunity to say to this person, “I may not understand but my role is to make you feel safe and unharmed while you are here”.
That little offering goes further to helping foster trust and understanding between people than anything else.
As a caveat, as I know there will be mentions of it here. Calling out the inherent misogyny in one form of music does not negate the misogyny inherent in other forms. It is telling however that rap music is used as the scapegoat, when arguably pop music is rife with misogynistic lyrics.
I am not telling anyone they can or cannot enjoy something. I am however telling you that it takes a lot of courage to go to someone and say “I really would prefer/feel safer/it would help me if you didn’t play this song, etc”.
The world is shitty enough, the Nazis are back, fascism is on the rise, people are being killed and children are being locked up. Ultra right wing agendas are turning social media into a mess of puritanical bullshit.
Do something nice for someone, be open minded about why a song might bother them. You have not walked in their shoes and you do not know their struggles. You can however ease them, if just a little.
Picking up a hobby is difficult.
You have to be willing to suck.
You have to dig deep and admit that you know absolutely nothing about this potential new hobby, but you would like to know more. Not only would you like to know more, you’re willing to put in the hours, weeks, months, and years of suck in order to get an even halfway decent. This is generally easier when we’re children. When we’re children we suck at everything, so one bit of suckage amongst the pile isn’t going to really deter us from at least attempting it. It’s why children have such fun pretending, and trying this new thing and that new thing. Something eventually sticks and with persistent effort they become better and better and suck less and less.
This lack of fear in the face of failure is so important in creating things. But the more we progress through school, the older we get, the less we fail at things. That’s natural. We begin to fear failure because at first it reminds us we’re still children when we desperately want to prove we’re older, and stronger. It’s a sign that what we do should be taken seriously and that we have value beyond being the product of our parents. I don’t think we ever really think of it in those basic terms. I don’t think most people even conceptualize this at all.
But it is definitely coded into our society. Or at least in Western society. That’s unfortunately my only frame of reference and the one I grew up in, if anyone else happens to read this and would like to weigh in on how their culture weighs risk/reward and failure/success in the arts I would love to hear it.
Right, so, western society has this problem with failure. Failure is bad, wrong, no good, horrible, it’s the worst thing that can happen to a person. Success is the goal, the key to the castle. If you’re not a success you’re a failure. There is no middle ground. It’s okay when you’re a kid, up to a point, there’s an implicit understand that as a child you’re going to suck at things because you don’t know any better.
It’s generally why hobbies that persist past childhood and adolescence tend to stick around for a while. I’m not about to get into a larger discussion of how western society and capitalism play a role in trouncing any and all pursuits that don’t also confer monetary reward.[western society and capitalism play a role in trouncing any and all pursuits that don’t also confer monetary reward.] And that hobbies and artistic pursuits are graded on a scale where the effort to become proficient becomes less desirable the older you get as a result of being less unique. That’s a topic for another time and I might pin it so that I can come back to it later.
And let’s not forget that gender plays a serious role in any and all artistic pursuits. Cis white men are given more importance, more credence, and conferred more celebrity/expert status for their hobbies. Women and other minorities have to pass a never ending line of hurdles and gate keeping even if they are more proficient, are more of an expert, etc.
This is one of the many failings of patriarchy and while it isn’t coded as important as other tasks it’s an intrinsic part of western society, so much so that talking about it feels odd.
All of this comes back to the idea that at some point, once we pass our teens, there is less importance placed on Making, Creating. We internalize the fear of failure and the unspoken capitalist view that unless it’s commercially viable there is no value in it, so it becomes harder to pick up hobbies as we get older. And very hard to stick with them.
I have two main hobbies, writing and fibre arts.
Writing remains a hobby only because I have yet to find commercial success. I’m pursuing commercial avenues, and I’m writing original pieces and this blog for that end. But ultimately writing is still one of my hobbies. I’ve technically earned more monetarily from my fibre arts than I have from writing, in that I’ve actually sold product from dyeing fibre and yarn.
In the case of both writing and knitting there was a case of pursued interest. I was interested in writing enough through high school and college, and had enough feedback through roleplaying and cooperative writing sites to make a concerted effort in getting better. I was given the opportunity to suck. To continue to suck because I showed real interest in improving.
In the beginning, I had no idea I sucked. I thought I was writing brilliant prose. It’s the wonderful ignorance one has when they’re just beginning to write, they have no concept of tropes, clichés, retread plots, because a) they are calling upon movies and books they’ve read, but do not yet have the subtly to bury their reference points b) are still amazed by the ideas that are springing from their minds.
Let’s face it, there’s an awe in realizing that the words you’ve written are your own, they came from your brain.
This is heady stuff.
It is hopefully enough to carry us through that awful horrible middle territory where we recognize how much we actually suck, and how much more work to do.
But first, we need spaces to suck. And I mean Suck. Where we can write the purplest of prose, wax philosophic on green or blue orbs, write sentences that have no definable subject. Break every rule of grammar even as we relearn them. We need to be given this opportunity, because, without it, we never grow.
I think this is why I also picked up knitting and stuck with it. There was the awe in creating something by hand that didn’t previously exist. There was a significant period where I wasn’t aware of my lack of knowledge so that my joy was able to flourish while I gained more knowledge. There was an intrinsic challenge that kept my interest. I mean yeah there were boring parts. For the longest time I was so utterly sick of scarves that I avoided them for a long time after started knitting other things.
I put time, effort, and money into my craft, and expanded my knowledge base to include weaving, dyeing, and then spinning yarn. I’m on a wavering scale, knitting is at the higher end where I have the experience to try my hand at some damn complicated lace.
I have enough knowledge of colour theory to make some rather pretty hand dyed efforts.
And I can seriously weave if I’ve got a good teacher with me to handle the spots where I’m a little deficient.
It’s important to have a hobby. It’s important to make things that didn’t exist before. I think it’s important to not decide on a hobby on whether that hobby will net you money. Not because monetary gain is inherently evil or some bullshit like that, but rather because your time is worth more than just money. I spent a lot of time trying to monetize either one of my hobbies and while I’ve decided that I wish to pursue a writing career — a career I’ve wanted in one way or another since high school but never had the courage to follow my convictions — the pursuit of that career is secondary to the pursuit of the hobby itself.
I love writing.
I love crafting sentences and picking just the right word to evoke the right emotion. I love when writing is easy, and even as I curse it, I love when writing is hard. And if you’ve found my site, you’ve probably been writing long enough to know that writing is hard. So damn hard.
It’s hard having disparate hobbies, or at least apparently disparate hobbies. We get stuck in this idea that we can only have one thing we can be good at, one thing we can excel at. And yes there is a certain amount of truth is taking the time to perfect something. But perfection isn’t the goal, persistence is. Pursue something because it is fun, because you receive joy from it. Hobbies can your spirits, and offers comfort in times when things are difficult.
If you want to learn something new, if you want to do find a new hobby. Do it. There are plenty of ways from the local library to youtube. Find a guild. Believe it or not you’d be surprised and how many things actually still have local groups and guilds.
The take away from this, at least I hope, is that creating is important. I’m going to finish this post with a quote from Ricky Gervais. I really like this quote. I snagged it from somewhere, feel free to share it, the message is important.
We seem to have it every year. Every month. Every week. It’s the same conversation. I’m surprised you’re not tired of it as well. I have spent my life looking for representation, for mirrors of my life. Characters, plots, situations, scenes that echo and resonate within my soul. I have asked, yelled, begged, and pleaded with producers and directors, writers, for a scrap.
I get the same tired excuses. The public isn’t ready. Just a little while longer, you’ll see. Hey remember that movie that came out seven years ago or two years ago, that was representation right? I mean it did win an oscar. I’m greedy and unappreciative when I request for a story that doesn’t end in tragedy. When I tell them putting a cis man in a dress isn’t representative of trans women and is actually harmful to trans women I get shut down, ignored, told I’m being too needy.
I have turned my attention to subtext, the underlying message of the text we’re given. I have spent decades being taught how to disassemble and reconstruct the greater meaning in our media and I have used that knowledge to plumb the depths of pop culture to find those like me. Those who can’t come out, or forced to remain in the closet their writers and producers have designed for them. All because the greater public is ‘not ready’.
I’ve been told I’m seeing things, or ‘how could I really know, did one of the directors actually tell you this’. I’ve come face to face with defensive refutations of queer subtext. I’ve met with offensive refutations that threaten violence. How could I possibly want to see “that” on my screen??
I’m a thirty-five year old trans man. I didn’t know I was trans until I was twenty-five and I was so happy to know who I was, and so terrified at once again ‘not being normal’ I hid. I was a mess, and I had nothing to show me that there were more people like me, that I wasn’t alone. My media representation is thin on the ground, there are less than a handful of mainstream movies, they’re often oscar fodder and the main character is trans and tragic in equal measure. The narrative is clear in these films. To be trans is to be deficient and society will punish you for it. If you think I’m looking too hard at this, understand that this is the message that is being given. Boys Don’t Cry is a true story, the message is clear, society punishes the different. Albert Nobbs, whether the reveal is ever made to the rest of the cast is neither here nor there, the moment the audience is aware that he is trans (and let’s face it, the message in this film is not that trans people exist it’s that women dress like men to get ahead, not because they’re actually men) it’s only a matter of time before either society will step in, or his own tragic humanity will be his end.
Other representations such as the french film TomBoy, are so horrific in their equating of genitals = gender narrative that it’s worse than having no representation. Documentaries and other dramas are there and most of them end in death and sadness and pain. Reading the descriptions of these movies, written by cisgender heteronormative is equally as disturbing as these characters are stripped down to genitals or disguising themselves or somehow hiding the ‘truth’. Summary narratives are even worse than some of the films and misgender so much I’m left twitching.
And I think something that’s a real sticking point in all of this. The characters, unless it’s an indie film with limited release that it’s quickly buried, are played by cisfemale actors.
Yes this is a problem. No, I shouldn’t be ‘happy with what I get.’
Movies are boring me now. I’m tired of seeing cis male power fantasies, cis male revenge fantasies, cis male underdog stories. Your heterosexuality has been pushed down my throat until I have choked upon it and I am still expected to say please, thank you, and may I have some more.
That ends. I’m done. I’m tired of your promise for representation ‘someday’. The public will never be ‘ready’. There is no mythical readiness for when the public can stand my existence. I am here. I am not going anywhere. The public takes it cues from its media and pop culture. The more media shows that I am not a tragedy, not a sin, not somehow evil or wrong, the more it includes me, and includes me properly, the more the public accepts that.
I’m going to defend my right to see queerness in everything. I’m going to continue being aggressively queer, and show how media can be queer, and how it should be queer. I’m going to write my own novels and I’m going to promote representation of who I am, and others. I’m going to create intersectional stories will well-rounded cis women, trans women, trans men, POC and disabilities. I’m going to own up when I fuck this up. Because I am still learning, and I’m still unlearning a horrible system that has misrepresented me and others for more than a century.
Stop asking me to defend what I see. Stop asking me to prove that characters are queer. I’m fucking tired of this argument, but I’m not done fighting, not by a mile.
So this blog is going to be a mix of topics that keep me entertained and conversational blogs such as this one. I’m still learning how I’m going to format and go forward with this blog so the next month at least is going to be a mish of stuff. One might say it could even be a mash.
There will be essay type posts coming soon, I have one several in the works including on the breadth of story telling with Pixar and Miyazki, a series about world building in fiction which leads into a how-to series. Also there will be some diversity posts, explanatory posts regarding how and why the term ‘cis’ matters (an old post from an old blog of mine) and others that touch on trans narratives and those topics that touch close to home.
Currently I’m a little less prepared than I had hoped to be, a combination not anticipating how busy December really would be and then the last three days have been taken upw ith worry over my cat, Fili. He ran away on Friday and while I know where he is I can’t reach him or convince him to come back into the house so I have to set a trap for him today and hope that will finally bring him home.