The other day I grumbled my confusion on Twitter. I was looking at a nonfiction book on Amazon and most of the bad reviews were due to the author’s occasional use of the f-bomb.
Let me say straight out–I use that word. I try to keep it to a minimum online because I know it makes people uncomfortable, but I don’t really get HOW so I don’t understand avoiding it. I don’t get refusing to read or share a good book because it has firetruck in it. That doesn’t mean I think they’re wrong. I just don’t get it.
I suppose it’s a good thing. If there weren’t people out there who avoid it, then it would lose its power, right? That would be a shame; I like it the way it is.
Other words, though–there are plenty of words I do find offensive. Ethnic slurs, of course, misogynist comments, hurtful names based on stereotype and ignorance–those are the words I don’t use, that make me avoid those who do. But we know those words. I want to rant about some that are less obvious.
Sophia McDougall writes for New Statesman that she hates “strong female characters.” I can see her point, but strong isn’t one of my pet peeves either. No, you know what words I hate to read?
Plucky. Feisty. Spirited. Spunky. Great words that have been waylaid to mean something they didn’t before. Plucky–a woman, but resilient! Feisty–a woman who actually isn’t meek! She’s angry, but she’s cute about it!
In a tragedy of large proportion, we lost Barbara Mertz/Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters this month. She’s one of my favorite authors and I’m very sad to see her go, but I was distracted even from that by the description of her heroines as plucky.
Excuse me? Would you call a man who carries a sword in his umbrella and a gun in his belt plucky? I’m thinking not. Courageous, dauntless, indomitable, great-hearted, intrepid, tenacious, valiant–these are some of the words panlexicon gives me when I input plucky. None of these descriptors carries the unfortunate connotation of isn’t she cute? that plucky does. As a bonus, all of them are excellent and appropriate words to describe Amelia Peabody, Mertz’s favorite of her heroines and mine as well.
Is Amelia funny? Yes. Does she solve problems with her sword and her gun? Rarely–she tries, but waving her weapons about is more likely to make things worse.† That’s one of the best things about this strong female character, actually–despite her willingness, even eagerness, to charge into a situation waving a gun (like a man! some might think) in the end she’ll probably win because of her intelligence or her sheer stubborn faith in the good in people. (A quality most often considered “womanly.”) Amelia Peabody Emerson is an absolute gift. Calling her plucky minimizes her awesome, delegates it to cute girl behavior, and that pisses me off.
All in all, I have to say fuck plucky. Actually, let’s gender-fuck it. It’s a great word and I’d hate to lose it due to some idiots’ misuse.
Let’s hear it for those plucky heroes!
† Her parasol, on the other hand…
I hate the term “politically correct.” It’s a misnomer, a slur that most people seem to accept at face value, but it’s in no way true.
If I say “African American” rather than one of the old, hurtful descriptors, I’m not doing it because a politician wants me to say it. I’m saying it because that is what a group of people wish to be called, and I, as a human being, respect the choices of others with regards to their identity. If I say someone is “African American” and he/she says “Actually, I prefer (Somali/Ethiopian/Nigerian/black/et cetera,” I will correct myself. I don’t find respecting someone difficult.
That’s why I hate “politically correct.” It changes the effort from “respect this person” to “be careful not to offend The Man!”
Hint: it’s not about “The Man.”
“Politically correct” makes it easy to dismiss simple respect. On an article about racist incidents at a traditionally accepting college, someone commented that it was probably a prankster who “got tired of the thick layer of PC around the place.”
Got tired of respecting the rights of others? Got tired of being pressured to treat everyone as human? Poor baby.
I do know that though I call it “simple respect,” that doesn’t always make it easy. I hang out in a really inclusive, supportive writing community online. If someone challenged me to find a kinder, more accepting group anywhere, I would be hard pressed to do so. However, some time ago our group had a big blow-up because someone with a mental disorder requested that others in the community be more conscious of their use of the word “crazy” and its ilk.
Many of these wonderful kind people were furious at being asked to be more “PC.” Were they not kind enough, wonderful enough? Some of them, with their own mental or emotional issues, chose to own the word, and were offended at being asked to use it differently. More were simply annoyed at “yet another word being off-limits” and at the subtle implication that they maybe weren’t behaving as awesomely as they could.
I still hang out there, but not as much. It’s hard to see people go on being hurtful in some misguided (to me) sense of acting out their freedom.†
“The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” –Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
A punch to the nose will hurt pretty much anyone. I recognize that words are trickier. We all have words that affect us differently than they might others. “Home,” for instance, might to you be that cozy place where Mom always had a good snack and a willing ear ready, while “home” to someone else is that place they went when no one would let them stay, where bad things happened and the fear never let up.
We can’t know everyone’s triggers and sore spots. That doesn’t mean we can’t try not to hurt people, when we’re plainly told how to avoid it. No, we can’t ever succeed in never offending anyone. We can’t ever succeed in not-dying, either, but people still try to eat healthy and exercise despite the fact that none of that will let them live forever.
For Further Reading: Ableist language
† Please note: those who chose to own the word and define it for themselves have that right, I’m certainly not contradicting that. Others, however, who have no claim to it for themselves, could make an effort and have not.
Sometimes I forget that I tend to hang out (online) with people much younger than I am. That the feels are ALL THE FEELS and everything is COMPLETELY INDISPUTABLE.
Anyway. Yesterday I came across a post on Tumblr that upset me. I don’t know if the original was a guy’s post, or from his bio, or what, but it was a picture of a young man and beneath it was a paragraph about who he was and what he found attractive.
In that paragraph, he said he liked–oh, I can’t remember exactly. Something along the lines of “cis-males.”
On Tumblr, it’s common to reblog
So under his bio/comment was a comment interpreting what he found attractive as his being insensitive because he’d assume that someone he met who seemed like a guy would have a dick in his pants, and that’s cissexist (or cisgenderish, or something. I try, but I get my terms mixed up.)
And under that was another comment, interpreting his paragraph and the first commenter’s to make the guy transphobic.
Under that was a comment about how people are attracted to what they find attractive, and saying he’s wrong for what he likes is like calling someone a racist because they don’t find African Americans attractive.
And under THAT was the comment that oh hell no, that IS racist, go look up “internalised racism” and…
Guys. Deep breaths.
I’m not going to claim to understand all the commentary. I don’t go into terms all that much–I’m pro-anything that makes you happy, I try to keep an eye on my privilege, and I don’t go much farther than that.
But kids. Listen.
What you find attractive and who you are attracted to can be and often are two very different things. All that guy did (all that’s proveable with the quote supplied, anyway) is be shallow in his comment.
Oh dear god, hide the children, someone was superficial on the internet! *insert eye-rolling*
Seriously. Let’s look at this. I’ll use my own experience, though there have been many conversations with friends to tell me I’m not alone in this.
Jason Momoa because…Jason Momoa.
If I’m wandering the internets looking at pretties, I’m drawn to darker men. I don’t really care for light hair or blue or green eyes unless it/they are really stunning.
Tom Hiddleston is preeeetttyyy…
I…think I was saying something about not generally being attracted to guys on the lighter end of the palette.
My first serious boyfriend, in the top two of the most important love relationships in my life? Pale blond hair, pale blue eyes. And you know what? I thought he was gorgeous. Not because of his face–he was badly scarred from a childhood accident–but because of him. Smart and funny and sweet…and he had this laugh, you know? This incredible laugh that just made me grin and tingle, and when he made me laugh, which he did a lot, he would laugh…
In pictures I’ve always found thick lips yucky.* I’m sorry. I just do. Is it racist to dislike a feature that often appears on persons of African descent? Maybe. Like I said, I’m not up on all the terms. But here’s why I mention it.
I know a guy with lips like this. The first time I met him, I thought someone had punched him in the face. He’s from the Congo, IIRC, and he speaks English with a very thick accent. My brain has (falsely, I know, I’m working on it) connected it to his lips so even if I’m not looking at him, I think I can hear his lips as he talks.
You know what helps? When he starts speaking French. His French is beautiful. So is his Russian. And I love to hear him speak–oh carp, I’ve forgotten the other one! He and his nephew speak French to each other, but there’s an African language he speaks as well…or was it Arabic? *mutters at self*
anywaaaay…The more I get to know him, the more I find him sexy. Because the man is utterly brilliant. He speaks at least four languages. He went to college in France, and got TWO masters degrees in Russia. He’s an engineer. He wants to know everything. Lemme tell you–to me, that is Sexy. As. Fuck. And guess what? I’m not so bothered by the lips anymore. Gimme a bit more contact with him, and I bet I get to finding them attractive even on guys that aren’t him.
So what I’m saying is that my attractions are affected by my feelings. What I find hot changes with what I’ve experienced as “hot.” I don’t think I’m alone in this. So if we want to change the world, how about we stop ranting and just bring on the sexy?
’cause really. Telling me I don’t have the right to like what I like? That’s kinda fucked up too, when you get down to it.
*And then, when I went looking for a picture of what I was talking about, I couldn’t find one. Could not locate a pic of lips I found “yucky.” So perhaps this transformation in my brain has already occurred.
Someone reviewed one of my novels the other day, and in the review she made mention of the occasional homophobia my boys run across in my SF.
Okay, first, a clarification–I know it’s common usage (I do it too) but it’s not homophobia. These persons aren’t pathologically afraid of GLBT people. They do not spot a boy in a tiara or a girl with a “boy” haircut and run away screaming. They don’t hide in their houses for fear of encountering gays.
The behavior the reviewer was talking about is not an anxiety disorder. It’s hate. Discrimination. Prejudice. Bullying. Intimidation. Someone sees two guys in a loving relationship and decides there’s something wrong with that.
Anywayyyyy…the reviewer said “I did wonder if homophobia would still be a problem so far I the future. I assume interstellar space travel and colonization of other planets is faaaaar in the future. So the homophobia didn’t make sense at first. But who knows what the future will bring?”
It reminded me of this.
How Racist Are We? Ask Google
Of course, I wrote this book long before either of these events, but I did think long and hard about including gayism* in my novels. It does seem like far in the future, we should be past all that.
Far in the future, we should be past a lot of things. But then, in the now, we should be past a lot of things. And we’re not. And in some ways, we’re backsliding. So I think I made the right choice by including this particular social ill.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge Star Trek fan. But I do think the future is more likely to be–oh, more like Joss Whedon’s vision than Gene Roddenberry’s. Gene had great faith in mankind. Joss…doesn’t, so much.
So yeah. Sad to say, I think there will always be jerks, who act like jerks and justify it in one way or another. I mean, it’s 2012 and there are still people out there willfully insisting that evolution is just a theory** and Creationism should be taught in science class.
*Yes, I made up (I think) a word. I’m likening it to racism, because “homophobia” seems like it should excuse the behavior. I am careful to warn my friend who has a frightened reaction to underwater pictures if I post a video of a squid where she might see it. I have no intention (ever) of telling people “warning! Contains gay.”
**Gravity is just a theory. We don’t hear of many people jumping off cliffs because of that.
I meant to have a great post ready for today. I actually knew it was coming! Umm…yesterday.
But hell. My mind was on other things, and I didn’t come up with anything. Because, you know–I have that luxury. I’m straight and cis. This day is very important, but it’s not about me. It can slip my mind.
Here’s hoping for a day we no longer NEED this day.
What do you do when your treasured child, your darling daughter, your handsome and sweet son, announces he’s gay?
Say you love him/her. Do it now. That child you have loved all her life, that baby you guarded and toddler you chased, is standing there afraid they’ve done the one thing Mom and Dad can’t forgive and they haven’t even done anything.
This is your child. Tell them you love them. Then you can tell them you need some time.
I’m writing this because I’m getting a lot of hits on a rant I posted a few days ago, about how young children can know they are gay. I hope that post is helping people. I hope this one will.
So. If you’re here looking for advice, it’s probable the announcement already happened. If you said hurtful things instead of “I love you,” please go tell your baby you love them. Go now. “I’m sorry I said things without thinking. I don’t know if I mean them, but I do know I love you.” Or take out “I don’t know if I mean them.” But maybe you’re not there yet.
Back? Now take some deep breaths. Is this still the child who made you laugh till you cried putting curlers on the dog? Yes. Is this still the angel you cuddled through the night when he had a fever at three and only Mommy/Daddy’s arms would do? Yes.
This is your cherished child. Don’t you dare toss them out in the street for something they can’t control.* You didn’t toss him out when his toddler judgment led him to coloring the TV like Elmo, did you? Did you toss her and all her stuff in the street when her curling iron set fire to the bathroom due to adolescent carelessness?
Okay. When you’re ready, read this. Read it to the end, then read the related articles.
If your problem with your child’s orientation is based in the Christian faith, realize that we’ve gotten a lot of things wrong over the years, and perpetuated them until they’re enshrined. Think about it. Christ said the two important commandments were Love God and Love Your Neighbor, but the hating of gays stems from their love of the “wrong” persons. That doesn’t make any sense. This scholar goes back to the source, the original Biblical texts, and shows us how we’ve got it wrong. Is he right and much of history wrong? Well, HIS conclusions align much more closely with the teachings of Christ, so I’m thinking he’s onto something.
I can’t offer arguments for other religions, I’m sorry. I’m sure they’re out there, but I do feel that love article covers it all anyway.
My daughter announced at ten that she is bisexual. For years I’ve mostly snickered where she couldn’t see, because when she got in trouble for her refusal to acknowledge personal boundaries, it was always boys she was glomping. Then last weekend she asked me if she could have a girlfriend. (I told her she’s too young, for the record. The same thing I told her when she wanted to have a boyfriend. Though the boy who would be her boyfriend if I let her have a boyfriend is completely okay with her having a girlfriend too. Kids these days, I tell you. )
Now. I’m hoping that with some reading and some deep breathing you’ve come to realize this is just another bump in the road of child-raising. Hey, you figured out years ago that it’s no piece of cake, right? And really–is this the worst thing they could have told you? They haven’t beaten someone to death for the fun of it, as teens have been known to do. They’re not out setting stray cats on fire or writing racist epithets all over the bathroom walls at school. On the grand scale of Things Your Child Has Done Now, this is just not a big deal. Nowadays it’s not even an end to your dream of grandchildren.
Now realize–and this is horrible–that your child is in danger. Because of the foolish ideas so many have perpetuated unthinking, there are people all around who think there is something wrong with your child and they have the right to fix it by any means necessary.
Get ready to go on the warpath, Mom. Get your stomping boots on, Dad.
We can change that culture of hate. We parents, who love our children no matter what, can change that. In the meantime, though, we’ve got to be ready.
So do you have your child’s back?
*I’m not debating the morality here, or saying they’ll outgrow this. I’m saying this is still your beloved child. Nothing has changed but your perception.
I was reading this wonderful post, and a comment annoyed me. It was just one, among many wonderful supportive comments, but still. (Yes, I know. Even though I tell my friends never to read the comments, I was reading the comments. I’m a bad girl.)
The commenter (you can find it yourself if you like) asked how a seven year old could know he was gay. How he knew of such things, and if the parents would really accept any wild statement the child made–as children do.
It pissed me off.
Let me deal with the last thing first. When my daughter announced that she would be the first female president of the U.S., I did not say “Pfft. No, you’re not.” I suggested that an understanding of history would serve her well. When she announced she was going to be an astronaut cheerleader, I suggested science might be a good area of focus. When my daughter proclaimed she was bisexual, I was also fine with that. I am privately, where she can’t see, quite amused that she has never had a crush on a girl in her life, but I tell her “whatever. I love you.”
That’s my job–love and support. Help her grow into the person she was born to be. Maybe she will be the first female president. Maybe she will be an astronaut cheerleader. Maybe she’ll marry a woman. As long as she’s happy, I really don’t care.
The commenter asked how a child “would have an understanding of what a relationship like that is all about?” Oh, about the same way my daughter understands how she and her two friends will have an apartment when they are sixteen, and all have jobs and cars and yes, finish high school. Imperfectly, through the lens of childhood, but understanding the important things–who they love and want to spend their time with. (Don’t get me wrong. She loves me. But I am bossy. Odd thing, that.)
As for how a seven-year-old could know he was gay–how does a 7yo know he likes football but not baseball? Chocolate ice cream but not rocky road?
My friend’s son knew something was up when he was six. His brother’s friends were talking about a man kissing another man, reacting with disgust, and the gay child thought that sounded pretty nice. Of course, this would have been in the 1960s, so that boy didn’t know anything more than that he might like to kiss men one day. And that everyone would probably think it was disgusting.
Why do people think gay kids can’t possibly know they are gay until they are at least 15? My first crush was Luke Skywalker. I was seven. I knew nothing about anything, except that I liked looking at him and I wanted to be around him. At seven. Am I so alone? When do “normal” people have their first crushes?
I’ll tell you how a kid knows he/she is gay. Look at nearly any movie made for kids. Heck, go with what everyone thinks of as the most innocuous–let’s look at a Disney movie. How about Mulan? (one of my favorites, by the way, because it’s NOT about the “princess” finding a boyfriend.) What if a gay kid is watching that, and he finds that he likes the dynamic between Mulan and Shang when Shang still thinks Mulan is a boy? Or the Little Mermaid, and a little girl would much rather live in the ocean with Ariel than in Eric’s castle?
Kids know that they are supposed to fall in love and get married. Heck, our culture preaches at them that life is all about love and marriage and babies, but that’s a whole other rant. Is it really a surprise that a 7yo might think about how he wants to live happily ever after?
Edit to Add: I’m getting a lot of hits on this post, so I wanted to add a hopefully-helpful link. On this blog, contributors write about their first gay crush.