Do you remember a past post about how I was raised on folk music, some of which is either straight out racist or stolen from other ethnicities, and how there are times when I enjoy the songs, and other times they make me cringe?
Well, it’s not just music.
If you pay attention, you can find many things about the overall American culture that are cringe-worthy to the average modern American. And not just racism, sexism, size-ism or anything else I rant about, they are simply things that used to be acceptable but are no longer.
Admittedly, some of them are a matter of political correctness gone wild. Things like the belief that men cannot EVER be feminists, because they have a penis and are therefore responsible for all the evils of society. Things like being offended on the behalf of a so-called “minority” (because, face it people, other ethnicities make up more than half of the American population – just like the Irish and Italian ethnicities did….and at one time both the Irish and the Italian were ALSO considered a “dirty, evil, lazy minority.”) without actually attempting to learn about the sub-culture1 they are supposedly protecting.
You want to protect the rights of the Native Americans, the Latinos, the African-Americans and the Asian Americans or any other group like those with disabilities or even something like sizeism (being too fat OR too thin)? Well, that’s a start at least. HOWEVER, if you really do want to do that, you had damned well go to someone of that group, and shut up. Let them talk. Let them educate you about their heritage, their particular culture and traditions, their life and limitations and what THEY want you to do to help them. Don’t just go swan in like some obese, bearded fairy godmother and expect slavish devotion because you deigned to grace them with your presence. Don’t interrupt, and offer your own supposed “unbiased opinion,” because it is rarely unbiased, and often crudely ignorant based on whatever stereotypes you were raised believing in. And yes, this is a white, fat woman saying this. I try not to make judgements about what people should do to protect people of color without contacting either or both of my beloved African American elders. I try to keep an eye on what they are doing both inside their community, and outside of it to educate others. For example, one of them (Amoke Kubat) wrote and starred in ANGRY BLACK WOMAN and Well Intentioned White Girl and actually touches on some of these issues.
On the other hand, there are things that really do cross the line. Some previously considered acceptable phrases that are endemic to certain sub-cultures really need to be completely forgotten. One of those things sat up and bit me in the ass a few days ago.
Now, what you have to understand is that Dad was in the Army during the 60s, but wasn’t stationed in Vietnam. He was actually in Germany, working in an Army hospital. That being said, one of the costumes my mother and I have been working on (her doing the sewing, and explaining to me what she’s doing so I can actually finally learn something I didn’t pay attention to when she and Grandma tried to teach me when I was younger; my design and pattern making – AND occasionally my pattern making fuckups), is an idealized steampunk WWII WAC [yes, I took some liberties, because the WACs were with the Army, and their same situation in the Navy were WAVES – sadly, most people just think of WACs, and forget there were other options – besides, I look better in blue rather than khaki or olive drab].
Part of that costume is a garrison cap (shown above right). I’ve miniaturized it, and some other things to insure that it in NO way could be confused for the real thing.
But, when talking to Dad (and Mom) about how to make one, let alone how to miniaturize it, neither one of them understood what I was talking about until I brought out the pattern I found on the Net. I had to tape up part of it to show them what I was talking about.
At which point both of them recognized it. Both of them referred to it as a “cunt cap.” I have to admit, it made me cringe. At best, I do not like that particular word. Why? Because outside of porn, and the occasional lover’s use of it in the bedroom, it is rarely used as anything except a derogatory term. Just like the phrase “…like a girl…”, “pussy” or any other use of the female gender to demean the choices of men and define any woman as simply just one portion of her anatomy.
Think about it. How many times in a given day are analogies, commentaries, emotional discussions that include demeaning terms in a normative way? Just for one day, try to be aware of the metaphors and similes you are using or are being used by people around you. Yes, put your student hat back on and remember what those terms mean. Not just during your work, but when you’re out hanging with the guys or out on a date or just being a couch potato. When you are doing the “Netflix and Chill” thing. I rarely can get through a single show without at least 4-5 demeaning terms. I’m not someone who sits down to watch my Hulu subscriptions, with a notebook writing down all of the sexist or racist commentary. But, sometimes, it becomes so damned obvious that it reaches out of the screen and slaps you in the face.
Try not to use these terms or phrases, just for one week. Be aware of the words coming out of your mouth.
1. I am NOT being disparaging of the culture of anyone in America. Subcultures are defined as “a cultural group within a larger culture, often having beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger culture.” The fact that European Americans have dominated the American culture does not mean that we as a nation don’t have a unique culture. But, EVERY ethnicity (European as well) has their own set of traditions and worldview that may or may not agree with the overall culture of America. And the key to respecting other heritages is to LEARN about it, not just staying blind to them because of our own sub-cultural identity.