Sunday, February 25, 2007

(please insert politically correct title here)

Here's a question for you bloggers out there... if someone was offended by something you posted, would you go back and change the post, just to suit them, or would you let things stand?
Say, for example, if someone took something out of context, and left a comment that suggested you were a racist?
Well, that just happened to me, regarding my previous post (The one titled "Seven Reasons Why Janna Will Never Have Her Own Radio Show".)
I couldn't believe it, and I'm still a little angry that someone would think I meant ANY of that in a racist context.
Yet I went back and actually changed the post, removing the words the person didn't like.
Part of me wishes I'd just told him/her to get a life and stop being so picky.
Anyway, here's what my previous post ORIGINALLY said, on list item #7:

"A few years from now, when absolutely everyone on the globe is connected to the Internet, Pygmy tribes will congregate in their huts to listen to such shows, shaking their tiny heads in disbelief. "Who lets these idiots on the air?" They will ask themselves, in their native tongue, while kangaroo guts roast on a spit nearby."
Yes, I'm aware that Pygmies are in a completely different continent from kangaroos. That was part of the JOKE. The joke being that I choose my words haphazardly, which is part of the reason I would make a lousy radio DJ. (Get it now?) Yet I received a comment shortly after posting, (from someone in South Africa), which took great offense to what I had written. He/She chided me for my apparent ignorance regarding pygmies and kangaroos, and said I had written "a cracker of a post."

Soooo, with my mouth still open in utter disbelief, I deleted the entire post and replaced it with one that had this wording instead:
"A few years from now, when absolutely everyone on the globe is connected to the Internet, Inuit tribes will congregate in their igloos to listen to such shows, shaking their heads in disbelief. "Who lets these idiots on the air?" They will ask themselves, in their native tongue, while seal guts roast on a spit nearby. (No, wait, I guess the seals get eaten raw. Whatever. Leave me alone.)"
Is that "politically correct" enough for everyone? I was originally going to use the word "eskimo", but then vaguely remembered hearing somewhere that even THAT's been considered offensive by some. So I used the term "Inuit", which is the real name for a specific people/tribe/group that lives in an arctic climate (or sub-arctic, or Alaska, or whatever the hell the correct word is this week). I used "Igloo" instead of "hut", and "seal" instead of "kangaroo."
My commenter also took offense at my implication that Pygmies live in huts. Um, here, take a look at
this article on the subject. Scroll about halfway down. See the dwellings? I don't know about you, but those sure as hell look like huts to me. So does THIS.
So, anyway, I rewrote the post, hoping fervently that I wouldn't get any comments from angry Inuit seal-hunters. Ironically enough, I then got a very nice comment from Amy Domestico, (a member of the Blog Talk Radio staff) who had read the original wording and said she LIKED the part about the Pygmies. Here's what her comment said: (it got deleted when I replaced the old post with the new one, but it's saved in my e-mail)

Being a writer who loves to express myself with writing rather then speaking, I remember back to my first time on BlogTalkRadio. hahaha I think I read the news out loud and a friend of mine felt sorry for me and called in and saved me from "dead air", after practicing, like with anything I do I believe i've eliminated most of the Um's!!
BlogTalkRadio is alot of fun when you get used to it, I always suggest doing a show with a friend so you have conitnued banter, pick a few subject you want to discuss before calling in, such as a blog you just wrote you want to discuss, or something you saw in the news, or perhaps discussing the fall of major media and how the bloggers (aka citizen journalists) are now able to become citizen broadcasters. After reading your blog I think I would much rather listen to you then to Nancy Grace on CNN....
If you want I can cohost a show with you, and we can discuss your my dear are hilarious. Can I be so bold as to say I double dare ya to come on with me?
Pigmy's lol funny stuff

So, for the rest of you, my questions are th
1. To what extent do you care whether or not someone takes offense to something you've written?
2. If someone took offense, would you cater to them by going back and CHANGING your words? If not, why not?
3. Does the fact that I DID go back and change my words make you proud of me or disappointed in me?
4. (Insert your own question here and answer it brilliantly in the comments)

Believe me, I realize that the true lesson here is
"You can't please everyone." I respect and admire the bloggers out there who have the guts to say exactly what they want, without fear of repercussions, without worrying who's going to get pissed off. Blogging is not very fun when one must tiptoe carefully around each possibly-offensive nuance.
Let that be a lesson to you. Have guts. (but not
"kangaroo guts", because apparently that's BAD).


Cincy Diva said...

How is pygmies being racist? You didn't say black pygmies, or denote any racial specificity. I had a whole group of people jump on me because I was supposedly condoning anorexia with my Incredible Shrinking Drag Queen blog, so I do understand what you're going thru. It was just easier to shut the blog down than to deal with the hateful emails. I thought Inuit was just as funny.

Ridwan Laher said...

You protest too much and you have misrepresented my intent with your added diatribe about political correctness and blogger freedoms.

What remains troubling about your post(s) is the callous reduction of Pygmy and Inuit people to nothing more than backward stereotypes.

This reduction is worsened by the spurios Wikepedia reference to prove that Pygmies 'in fact' live in huts.

I find no humor in trampling on Black and Inuit life with utter, and even arrogant, disregard.

As a Black man I am telling you your references were/are racist whether you intend your word/name associations to be disjunctive or not.

How would you, or those who are going to jump to your defense, like it if I claimed that all white Americans are murderers because I can point to an article on lynching and slavery in Wikepedia?

You want your post to be treated with nuance yet you engage in dismissive and racist stereotyping.

Reducing Pygmies to nothing more than shaking "little heads" in "huts" ... is the racist imagery I responded to ... I am hardly hung-up about kangaroos, seals, or political correctness.

Please do not twist my intent or sincerity.

I have been a reader of your blog in the past and have enjoyed much of what I read.

I do however suggest that you look further than your navel before you just dismiss my critique.

Also don't worry, I like my life just fine.

Ridwan Laher
South Africa

Loud Mouth said...

Good thing you didnt say those dumb blond pygmies.


The Loud Mouth Italian from New Jersey.

Ps you didnt answer my double dare. lol

Morgen said...

Hey there you wheat thin (that's a cracker, right)
As a murdering white bastard from America, I still thought your pygmy joke was the best.
Wow, if you can get this much controversy and hits over a pygmy joke, just imagine what your radio show would be like! You would be the female anti-howard stern! (that's howard stern the shock jock, not the howard k stern who killed anna nicole smith).
To answer your questions, Janna, my oyster cracker, a few weeks ago I published links to my Egypt Tour journal posts for a Thursday 13. I received my first "hate mail" stating that I was a racist xenophobe for believing that the middle eastern passengers in the airport with my on September 10, 2001 (who were panicking and freaking out when our boarding of the plane was delayed) were tipped off about the up-coming events of September 11. I posted it as a "this is my opinion" and I was labeled a racist xenophobe for it.
It hurt.
Clearly, this faggot ain't no racist. I am prejudiced against stupid white trash, not pygmies on planes. Maybe their kangaroo meat was getting cold while they were waiting for the plane.
Seriously, though - I did think about changing the post OR erasing the comment. I did neither in the end, letting them both stand.
However, I totally understand why you changed the wording of the post.
Sometimes you have to look past your own navel (WTF?) when you engage in dismissive writings. Maybe if you didn't have so much lint stored there in your navel, my triscuit friend, you could see the pygmies for the trees. I think they're the ones in the huts with the satellite dishes on them.
Oooh -- and I love it that Wikipedia is spurios (sic) now.
Spuriousier and spuriouser said Alice.
In other words, Janna, I think that you should take all this with a grain of salt. It took me a while to calm down after being called a racist xenophobe, but now I can smile about how I excited someone's passions enough to comment so vehemently on my blog, as have you.
Besides, a grain of salt goes a long way to making raw seal flesh palatable.
your racist xenophobic axe-murdering slave ancestoring white bread faggoty-fag-faggot friend,
manic mo

Peanut said...

hey, ridwan! One of the great things about living in the u.s.: Freedom of Speech. And, I don't think it was racist... she did not call them 'black'. I see nothing racist about her post.... that's just me. And, I take pride in being a 'murderer'.


Peanut said...

like Morgen said...

In 7th grade, I got called a terrorist because I chose not to say the pledge. I feel that I shouldn't have to pledge my love for this country. it took me a while to get over it, and I'm not completely sure I am over it. but, I didn't change what I did. I still don't say the pledge....

Sadie said...

Oh my.

Let me just say that you cannot be responsible for other people's feelings.

Also, I think that it is true that we can make racist comments without realizing it. However, I do not think that your JOKE is one of those times. I don't think you're a racist.

To answer your questions, I've only had negative comments on my blog that are personal (not from strangers) and directed at me, not at the contents of my post. So, I can't answer from experience, only from what I think I would do.

And I would likely do what you did, and change the post. But I think that your addressing it in this post, talking about it, asking questions, is the right thing to do. Stand up for yourself, ask for opinions, talk about it.

And keep your chin up! ;)

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

wow! they have internet in africa? hey mo? who you callin' stupid white trash?

now: are either of these comments racist? no. they are humor. if you can't laugh what have we become? we are not laughing AT anyone, humor may not translate across the pond very well, cause i don't get british humor at all (or humour as they spell it) but i totally love claire!

so what i am trying (probably not very well) to say is let it go, your blog is yours and no one has to read it. if it is offensive just don't go there. heck i hate liberal blogs but i read some because i like the person. if they say something i don't like i skip over that part or simply hit the back button.

i suggest this person do the same. and for the record i'm so damned dumb i didn't know pigmies were real! how stupid am i? i admit it too. even dumber, sorry....

i got hate mail this week too janna and i do know how upsetting it is. mine was not on my blog but in my real life and from one of my neighbors, sent anonymously (forwarded from someone else). i am trying to trace it now.

anyway the answer from this white trash is just try to let it go and do whatever the f*** you want to with YOUR OWN BLOG!!! and he can do the same with his.

keep your chin up honey, you are a great person, i know that for sure...

smiles, bee

Turnbaby said...

from the blonde with big tits who is also a lawyer and a geek



my 'real' response includes a 'real' four letter word

Cincy Diva said...

Somehow I knew the comentor was of African persuasion before he mentioned it in his comment. I wonder if he knows there are pygmies in South America? And in The South Seas? Both live in huts to this day. There is no shame in living in huts if that is how you live. And neither are, to my
Stepping way out on the NPC cliff... Be thankful he just hated your post and didn't try to get you to refinance his country

Cincy Diva said...

BTW...Haveyou been to his blog? I find it quite fascinating how many racial sterotypes he jokes about and makes comment on but has the nerve to criticize others.

Christine said...

Janna, I am almost pygmy size, and I was not the least offended by the thought that you made a joke about them!
Some people actually prefer to live in a hut. If the walls are thick, it has better comfort in different weather.
You know, some claims against prejudice are valid. Some are just snarking.

amisare waswerebeen said...

This is a good time for comment approval. Write what you feel like, it's your blog. If someone (especially just one) small-minded, humorless person doesn't like it, their deliverance from the offensive is just a click away. Keep true to your writing, I hate to think I'm only getting a censored Janna.

Steven said...

A story to relay my feelings:

A father and his son took a donkey to the market. The man sat on the donkey and the boy walked. People along the way said, "What a terrible thing: a big strong fellow sitting on the donkey's back while the youngester has to walk." So, the father dismounted and the son took his place. Soon onlookers remarked, "How terrible: the old man walking and the little boy sitting." At that, they both got on the donkey's back--only to hear others say, "How cruel: two people sitting on one little donkey." Off they got. But other bystanders commented, "How crazy: the donkey has nothing on his back and two people are walking." Finally, they both carried the donkey and they never did make it to the market.

Claire said...

Oh dear you certainly upset him!
Surely he could tell it was a joke? that seemed quite clear to me. They are so many genuine idiots and racists living all other the place! also doesn't South Africa have the one the highest murder rates at the moment? (BBC News said so!)
He can say what he likes, but you hardly reduced the entire pygmy race to nothing than shaking' little heads' Come on!!!!!

CRose said...

Janna, before I write what I have to say, please understand that I am not attacking You or Your Character. I do not know you nor do I presume to after reading your blog. However, I find your recent debate on racism interesting and am moved to comment.

Because you deleted the post, I am unable to read the critical comment. I find this unfair, as so many people have responded to your perception of what happened instead of what was actually written. It is my perception, having not read the post, that you were not attacked personally, although it appears that references to you as a ‘cracker’ were made in order to make a point about assumptions and prejudice.

Yes, I do think your original post is racist and I will tell you why. It is not about political correctness—in my opinion, people are way too conscious about being politically correct and are equally as ignorant about the social causes behind the ‘correctness,' which is not any better than calling people chink or nigger. Your post was attacked and dissected for its reductive colonial (and racist) imagery. This imagery is used daily by MANY people and, to people who care about living in a progressive world and who actively struggle to fight the racism that pervades society, it is frustrating. It's not a matter of hurting the feelings of an individual, it’s a social issue of which you are a part, if unknowingly. You, like many others, employed selective information that you have been socialized to accept as okay. This is evident in the wording of your original post as well as the follow-up posts made both by you and your supporters.

It is not just about changing words, though, it is about changing perceptions. Words are just one of many symptoms of the problem. Your perceptions of ‘pygmies’ and ‘Inuits,’ expressed jokingly or not, are condescending and denigrating images that are based on the colonial ideas that still pervade society today. I think Wikipedia’s article is racist as well, as are many ‘acceptable’ information sources—that’s at the heart of what I am saying. It’s not about saying bad things about people, it’s about being uninformed about the world around you. Racism is not just about hating people of color; assuming that we are only racist if we speak with racial slurs or name colors is unproductive because it is a limited view of racism itself. Racism is not only an issue of blatant disgust, it is an issue of assumed superiority/inferiority, ignorance and omission. It is an issue of creating an Other, so totally separate from ourselves that it is no longer one hundred percent human. The problem is that people act in racist ways without even knowing it. Combating racism means taking responsibility for our own ignorance, actively engaging in the world to discern the truth from our perceived reality, and learning and growing from this ongoing process. It’s about not accepting things at face value. Please understand here, before getting defensive, that I am speaking not only of you but on the level of the world at large and our unacknowledged social ideals.

This is dangerous territory and you and your supporters may very well be upset by what I have said. You may assert that some people take things too seriously, personally and without humor. And, if that’s the case, then so be it—you may all continue in your world and perceived reality. My intent is merely to explain, in my opinion, why you received negative reactions and to perhaps plant a seed for personal analysis and growth.

Morgen said...

Interesting how "Crose" doesn't leave a link or anything so YOU can check out HER/HIS writing.
At least "Ridwan Laher" had the balls to put their name in a link. (and several of us have gone to that site and have seen that this person wants to instigate racial discussions). Clearly, they are NOT regular readers here, or your online friends -- they search the internet for things like "pygmy" so they can attack the writers.

So, now we have a "colonial" mentality? Does that make you Betsy Ross? I'll be Paul Revere. One comment by land, two if by sea.
And we'll get old Ben Franklin (your ancestor, how appropriate!!!) to make us a lightning rod to draw away some of these zappers.
Personally, I find the term "colonial" to describe us as offensive. Hell-O, we won our independence over 200 years ago, and its not like we're out there colonizing the rest of the world. Except for Afghanistan. And Iraq. And we'll be bombing Iran anyday now, but I digress...
I find it ridiculous that after reading ONE post on your blog, this "crose" person feels you need to "perhaps plant a seed for personal analysis and growth."
I find her/his condescending, patronizing attitude offensive, and if he/she doesn't like our blogs, then they should just stay the hell away.
This SO makes me want to post the "inappropriate card day" postcard that I sent you.
Ha. NOW THAT would get 'em riled up!!!
Try not to let these "people" get to you, Janna. You're a very decent, open-minded, loving person. With a rapier wit and a great sense of humor. If anyone could see beyond ONE post, and ONE joke, they would know that. The little head-shaking pygmy infidels that they are.
Love you,

Erica AP said...

Hello??? Has anyone ever watched The Family Guy or South Park. I think everyone just needs to take a chill pill and relax the F out. Hooray for not even writing the f-word because I might offend someone!!! haha... I think your blog is fine and dandy. :)

Morgiana Le Fey said...

three thoughts.

1) political bullshit. blogs are for blogging. *i* know you're not a racist, *you* know you're not a racist, but even then, why would anyone care if you were? they don't like it, THEY'RE THE ONE THAT CHOSE TO READ YOUR BLOG IN THE FIRST PLACE. i'm sure there are plenty of people that are ACTUALLY racist in the world. why don't you haters go out and find and pester *them*...including those by minorities (or fellow white americans!) that hate on white people for whatever reason. before you jump to their defense, remember white people aren't the only ones that hate.

2) f*ck it.

3) laugh about it. my gods, who the hell has a stick stuck so far up their ass that they would blow such a tiny thing completely out of f*cking proportion. if it was something that was overtly, menacingly derogatory, see my above comment #1 where they can choose whether or not to read and/or come back. wtf.

y'all need to find a paote peace pipe or something. dang. it is what it is.

Anonymous said...

I am going to start this response by stating for the record that I am truly an "equal-opportunity-asshole." If you cannot take my commentary for what it is worth- my own thoughts- then I frankly could not care less. I do, however, feel that it is important for me to support my good friend Janna on this.

I would also like to state that I fully understand and agree with the post concerning institutional racism (thanks Crose) and its effects on our society today. It was well-worded and had many accurate statements, though none of them seem to apply to this particular blog, as I will show later. I feel that the response making personal attacks on Janna and attaching the lables of racist, arrogant, and dismissive is ignorant and hateful. Crose, on the other hand, approached this in what I feel is the proper manner.

So... for arguments sake, let us assume momentarily that Janna is racist. How is a person to go about changing this? What is the best way to change someone's opinion? Any intelligent discussion of this matter would include the word "education." To educate the racist in the true roots of their belief system and to demonstrate obvious misgivings about this system, it is best to approach things gently and with dialogue. To simply attack the person and make broad generalazations is likely to cause this person to be defensive, and perhaps even reinforce their belief system. And this is why I feel that Crose approached this in the proper manner. She (I assume but do not know his/her gender) began by saying that she was not making a personal attack, and then proceeded to make a case. This gives the "racist" in question the opportunity to analyze an intelligent critique and perhaps even challenge his or her own thought processes on the nature of racism, which can then lead to a healthy, enlightened discussion in which all parties are heard and arguements are meaningful and intelligent.

Now... let's discuss the fact that I KNOW that Janna is not racist. To begin this conversation, let us observe the standard definition of racism, as provided by Merriam-Webster (a truly reliable source, I might add): 1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

Janna, in her blog of pygmies, attached no significance of superiority/inferiority to the fact of their lives in huts. It was simply a statement of FACT. Pygmies do, in fact, sometimes live in huts. Pygmies heads, by definition, are smaller than average. Statements of fact are inherantly incapable of bias. Bias is an issue of opinion (belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge). The two are mutually exclusive.

The only inaccurate statement of the whole thing involved kangaroos being native to Australia, while pygmie tribes are more readily found in Africa. This, my friends, served to point out the HUMOR and intentional absurdity of the statement. If she was picking on anyone, it was herself. Did you not pick up on the fact that SHE CALLED HERSELF AN IDIOT in this post.

This is funny stuff, people. And the fact that she attached NO BIAS OF SUPERIORITY/INFERIORITY to the post means that it WAS NOT racist. Racism, by definition, requires a favoritism granted towards a person or people based on skin color. Again I will say, favoritism is an opinion, and facts CANNOT CONTAIN OPINION, WHICH MEANS THAT THEY CANNOT SHOW FAVORITISM.

Thank you, Janna, for providing amusement and opening (albeit unintentionally) a forum for discussion. I LOVE your blog, and will continue to defend you anytime and anywhere. :)