That’s a Good Question: Is online hate speech defensible?

There’s an interesting conversation going on over at Good Men Project, it revolves around some pretty nasty language Chris Brown used on Twitter.

Essentially, in response to being called a “worthless piece of s***” he resorted to (maybe) threatening sexual violence towards Jenny Johnson, the comedy writer/Twitter personality who called him out. As the story expanded it became apparent that she’d been using similarly salty language over the last couple of years, which prompted some people (on the article comments and elsewhere online) to point out that she deserved some credit for escalating things too.

When someone makes a sexually violent comment towards another person I never respond well to the “s/he asked for it” argument, but there does seem to be a double standard applied in this case. Personally, I would never say the things that either of them said in a public forum. Johnson is a comedy writer, and regularly caustic in her tweets, so there’s an argument to be made that it’s all in good fun. Except that looking at her history of tweets she regularly baited Chris Brown and apparently got exactly the response she was looking for.

I guess my gut reaction is that both were being disrespectful. I don’t think his tweet reached the level of a threat, though if they had a history in person (say, lived in the same city and got coffee at the same 7-11 regularly) that might make me think twice. But more importantly, her language I think deserves to be criticized as roundly as his. And that’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, being honest in our interactions and not giving anyone a free pass. Context does matter, and the fact that Chris Brown has a history of violence and doesn’t seem particularly apologetic about it does not make him a sympathetic character. But I think he’s an easy target, and anyone looking to lob grenades in the hope he will say something stupid should take a look in the mirror as well.

When it comes to what do we as a culture do about it, things get a little more complicated. I’m not sure that virtual lynch mobs really accomplish anything, especially when people feel it’s appropriate to toss death threats out (and trust me, it happens all the time, just search “kill you” and see what comes up. I’m not on Facebook and don’t really care for the service, but the fact that they are pretty tough about making people sign up as a real person reflects a greater need across the web. You don’t get to throw out hate speech unless you’re willing to own it.

That’s a good question: Does physical appearance really matter?

There’s an interesting conversation going on here —> http://captainawkward.com/2012/11/20/397-pretty-should-be-optional/

Basically, the letter writer is looking for advice on dealing with family and friends who want her to dress “prettier.”

It got me thinking about how mainstream media and their audiences talk out of both sides of their mouth. Comments like that get a free pass, but appear in close proximity to admonitions to “be cool and carefree.”

Here’s the thing: you can’t have both. I guess there must be a small portion of the population who fits the “ideal physical appearance” label (don’t get me started, that’s the most subjective crap of all time) but I’ve never met anyone who meets both standards. And if I had to choose, I would take brainy and funny and kind any day over good looks.

I’m lucky though, I don’t have to choose. I’m not the dumbest rock in the pile and I’m average looking so it’s rarely an issue for me in one direction or another. No one’s flipping out over my slight beer belly or taking tabloid photos of my awesome looking toes. Now, for women average still sucks, because you can’t even be average and be happy, according to the conventional measurements of our culture (this is actually a problem for guys, too but those are both another conversation of their own).

Even I have to toe the line sometimes. Anyone who’s worked in a traditional office knows how this works. But just because this is the way it’s always been doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. I can see there are some positives to be had when discussing physical appearance, but mostly I don’t think it’s an indicator of someone’s humanity, their empathy/kindness/grace/sense of humor…of course I’m not against anyone dressing pretty, do whatever makes you happy, but do it because you choose to, not because you feel compelled to.

Unfortunately physical appearance matters, but we should all be working harder to get to a point where it doesn’t.

How to have a good divorce

I have a couple of friends in the midst of a difficult divorce, and while I can’t say I’m an expert I think I managed to handle it fairly gracefully by keeping the following things in mind:

Decide what’s important to you and leave the rest behind

While it’s possible the dispute really is about who gets to keep the giant cat, more often it’s about ego and hurt. In my case I made decisions about what physical things and emotional baggage I was going to take with me. For example, I compromised on furniture but I also compromised on how we both understood who’s responsibility it was that things didn’t work out. Frankly, I found the division of possessions much easier.

Make decisions….then stick to them

No one likes ending a relationship, and ending a marriage is even more painful. If it’s truly time to move on (made changes already, tried counseling, etc…) than an absolute must is to make decisions and not back down. Once you’ve worked out what’s important to you then it’s time to make decisions, and no matter what you have to stick to them. When I decided to move on from my marriage one of the things I figured out was that I was not going to get into a knockdown drag out fight over whose fault it was. I had some good reasons (she probably has her own list too) but I talked it out in my head and realized I would have to let my ego absorb those for the sake of moving on. It was not easy because my ex and I did not see eye to eye on some things, which is obviously a part of any divorce. But because I had already decided what was important, and then made decisions I could stick to it made the situation much easier…..albeit still very painful, and truthfully when we divorced I still loved her even though I knew it was the right decision.

And while we’re talking about ego…

Continue reading How to have a good divorce

Let’s not get married let’s just be partners

I’ve always been an LGBT ally, and I fully support marriage equality, but the more I think about it the more I like the idea of partnership over marriage.

I love the phrase “partners” because it says something to me that husband and wife, or husband and husband/wife and wife never can. It implies true equality, and that both people are invested in creating joy for and with each other.

Loves I have known

 

The Demon Lover

The flames licking hungrily at first seem magic,

I am a moth to light.

Your tongue sears a brand on my heart,

That will last long after you have found another.

Driving the same way you eat, starving for what’s next,

I loved you because I did not know how to love myself.

 

The Stouthearted Woman

The laughter of late nights after too much whiskey,

It feels right.

Strong kisses, affirming the ground we walk on,

A lesson to fiercely clench the meat of life between our teeth.

Striding confidently on your road, ready for what’s next,

I did not love you because I did not know how to love myself.

 

Maids in the Meadow

The dream of a shy glance and secret smiles,

I dream, too.

Pale skin, your presence like a star that constantly disappears and appears again,

The idea of love that never quite seems to materialize.

Carefully stepping your way, wondering what’s next,

I loved you because I did not know how to love myself.

 

The Tall and Quiet Woman

And the future –

I stood at the abyss and when I looked back you were there,

You did not say a word.

When the time was right you listened,

Your wide smile drawing the length of your face, a laugh, a patient glance, an exhortation to wild joy.

Your lead and mine,

I love you because I know how to love myself.

 

(Titles in bold borrowed gratefully from E. Annie Proulx’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Shipping News)