Quote of the Day, Too Long for Twitter Edition

Seen at Pam's House Blend, in comments on a guest-post from a lobbyist telling us we "ought to thank the President" - in other words, shut up, you impatient queers, and be grateful for the crumbs we've tossed you! - a beautifully succinct description of the real difference between Dems and Repubs (and why I'll be voting Green from now on, until the Dems actually grow a spine and start keeping their campaign promises and getting shit done):

The choice between Republicans and Democrats...
... is a choice between being deliberately murdered and being locked out in the bitter cold until exposure does their dirty work for them.

Yeah.  Sadly, this really does sum it up.  /sigh

Dove's "Real Beauty" Campaign - Not TOO Real, Please

For those who aren't aware of Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty, it's a marketing effort by Dove, a bath&body brand owned by Unilever (which also owns the Axe brand of male scent products, with its stultifyingly misogynyst advertising; make of that what you will) to combat the effects of an increasingly-narrow airbrushed "perfection" standard of beauty, and particularly the effect that has on girls and young women.  They have workshops on self-esteem for girls, and their ads feature a *relative* variety of skin tones and body types.  Mind you, I've never seen an actually *fat* woman in a Dove RB ad, and it's still primarily young women, about 2/3 of them white.  But baby steps, right?  Women a little thick around the hips with thighs bigger than sticks and a greater than 1:10 ratio of WoC to white women is a start, right?  I would be terribly cynical and demanding to see even such meager signs of progress and get cranky and start pushing for *real* change, right?

If you're inclined to support the Dove RBC, and tell me to hush and not interfere with their worthy work, just read this casting call and then tell me that again.
RATE: $500 for Shoot date & if selected for Ad Campaign (running 2011) you will be paid $4000!
USAGE: 3 years unlimited print & web usage in N. America Only
Well groomed and clean...Nice Bodies..NATURALLY, FIT Not too Curvy Not too Athletic.
Great Sparkling Personalities. Beautiful Smiles! A DOVE GIRL!!!
Beautiful HAIR & SKIN is a MUST!!!
Wow.  So, uh...first of all, to whoever typed this, there's this button on the far left of your keyboard, right next to your left pinky finger.  It's labled "Caps Lock".  Please to press it, make sure the little blue light on your keyboard goes OUT, and then type this out again.  >.<

But on to the substantive criticisms, of which there are oh so very many...
Can I just say how very sick I am of the "real woman" thing?  All women are real women, period.  Being an actress or model or participating in a reality show does not strip a woman of her womanhood.  Actresses, models, and reality show participants, are still "real women".  I mean, what are they implying here?  That one turns in one's "woman card" when one begins a career in the aforementioned areas?  What is a female model or an actress then?  A nonwoman?  An unwoman?  A fake woman?  Plus the history of the term "real woman/man" as a slur against trans people.  Please, just stop using the term "real woman" entirely.  (Oh, and "anyone" is one word.  Not "any one".  Grarr.)
Apparently real-women™ have flawless skin, and tattoos and scars are flaws that unacceptably mar one's flawless real-woman™ skin.  Speaking as someone who is woman, real or otherwise by these standards, and who also has one tattoo (more to come someday when I have money and an artist to work with) and numerous scars from a variety of sources, fuck you very much.  I LIKE my scars.  I like the character of them.  I like the slashing one across my right calf, which really came from a slip of the razor in the shower, but which I like to think looks like the kind of scar that could come from a rock-climbing accident or some other kind of cool badassery.  I like the knobbly scar across the base of my middle finger's knuckle on my right hand, courtesy of a moment of lost temper when I was 16 and punched a tree really really hard after a fight with my then-boyfriend.  My scars tell where I've been and what I've survived.  Frankly, I think it's a lot less realistic to expect a grown woman to have gotten through life WITHOUT scars.  (This is not to say women who have no scars are any less real; just a lot rarer)  And that's not even getting into the tattoo question.  I'll just quote the sign at the shop where I got mine done: "The only difference between people with tattoos and people without tattoos...is that we don't care that you don't have any."
  • Nice Bodies..NATURALLY, FIT Not too Curvy Not too Athletic.
Ahhh, I see.  So when Dove says the RBC is attempting to "[widen] stereotypical views of beauty" (from their about page), they forgot to add "...but not too far."   Don't kid yourselves; they're still looking for a certain beauty standard here, one nearly as narrow as the one we've already got. 
  • Beautiful HAIR & SKIN is a MUST!!!
Because if you don't have "beautiful hair" - and how are they defining that, btw?  Particularly for black women, "beautiful" hair is a concept fraught with problems.  Do they mean straightened hair or natural hair?  Would an afro count as beautiful hair?  Dreads? - you're not a real-woman™ either. 

I guess Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty is just more of what we've already got.  Be "real", but not too real.  Curvy, but not too curvy.  Naturally fit, so your figure better not be the result of dieting or working out.  Of course, you still need to be fit, but not too athletic.  Your hair needs to fit our definition of "beautiful" and life had better never have marked you and left you with scars.  Flawless skin only.  This shit is, at best, slightly less worse than the current level of restrictiveness in our beauty standard.  It's certainly not the beacon of transgressive self-acceptance Dove likes to pretend it is.  I was a little wary about this already, given that Dove purchases fund Unilever, which also spends its money on Axe's egregiously horrible sexism-fests...but after seeing this casting call, I can safely say I'm *really* not a supporter of the Campaign for Real Beauty, or of Dove as a brand. 

It's a great theory...just a really, really shitty execution.

A Blogger's Simple Guide To Fucking Up, Gracefully

I just recently saw a textbook example of How Not To Respond To Being Called Out, that I wanted to share with you as a way of setting out a guide for How To Fuck Up Right.

Readers who know me outside of this blog might know that, over the past year, I've developed a sudden interest in makeup.  Specifically, bold and bright makeup looks (vehemently NOT the "natural look", which I might explain about why I find that approach to makeup to be anti-feminist in another post if anyone's interested) using products purchased from indie mineral makeup companies like Fyrinnae, Meow, Aromaleigh, and Spell.  My ex-girlfriend recommended a couple beauty blogs to me so I could learn about it by example.  These days, I mostly follow - reading and commenting, taking product recommendations from, etc - Fresco Phyrra and Grey's Gothique.  Phyrra and Grey both run giveaways/contests from time to time, sponsored by various indie companies, and I almost always enter.

Last week, there was a post on Gothique, a giveaway opening with the following text (all hail Google cached pages):
 Gypsy Style, free flowing, carefree and colorful.  Although once a derogatory term, gypsy has come to define and entire style of not only life, but of fashion and beauty.
"Gypsy" is a term with a fucked-up history, a racial slur used to refer to Romani and other similar ethnic groups.  It's where the term "gypped" comes from, which means to cheat someone.  Some Roma do use the term to refer to themselves, but as I understand it, that's meant in a reclamatory fashion, like the way I use "queer", and shouldn't be assumed to be ok as a general use word.  And Grey even acknowledged the problematic nature of the term in her contest text, but without any awareness of the fact that, although apparently plenty of people have appropriated it as a term to reference an "entire style...of fashion and beauty", it's not thereby magically washed clean of its bad history and fine to use.

Well, several people apparently emailed Grey about her usage of the term; I wasn't one of them, but when I went back to it and refreshed to check on the comments a couple days later, I discovered she'd changed the description to say "modern bohemian" instead of "gypsy".  In comments, a few people had noticed the change as well and asked Grey about it.  She said she'd gotten "angry emails" and people had been "nasty" to her about it, so she'd changed it.  She also said she'd been hurt by people "nitpicking" when she was just trying to be nice by hosting a giveaway.  (I can't quote exactly, as Google's cache seems to be from before any comments were posted, so this is all from my memory.)

That minimizing of a very legitimate complaint of racial insensitivity as "nitpicking" bothered me, especially with the "But I'm being NICE here!" defensiveness.  So I replied, first thanking her for taking the criticism to heart and changing the description, and then adding in a second paragraph that racially problematic language is significantly more important than a "nitpick" to a lot of people, myself included.

Now, I don't know what happened in comments after I said that, because I wasn't able to check back until the next day.  For all I know, shit really *did* get nasty after I posted.  But lo and behold, when I did get to go back and check again...the entry was gone, with a 404 error in its place, the giveaway apparently canceled without a word.  This was over the weekend, and so far, not a single acknowledgment of the situation has been forthcoming.  Not even an "I've taken down the contest cause it was too much drama" or anything, much less an apology of any kind.  Which leads me to conclude that, called on her accidental screwup, her response is to pretend it never happened.

Incidentally, the last time I saw this happen, it was another makeup blog, and another makeup blogger.  Wonder if that's coincidental...?

But all this is to say, that in almost every possible way, this was handled Wrong.

1.  Instead of making a tone argument about the people calling you out - "angry emails" and saying they were "nasty" to her - understand that you made a mistake that has harmed people, and they have a right to be angry or upset about it.
2.  Instead of using intent as a defense - saying she was hurt because she was called out while she was "trying to be nice and give away stuff" - acknowledge that intent is not a shield from the effects of your words and/or actions, and don't try to hide behind it.
3.  Credit where credit is due - she *did* change the offending word, which was the right thing to do.
4.  However, instead of deleting the evidence by removing the blog post entirely when things got too much to handle, just close comments or declare the contest canceled.  It looks less like there's something to hide that way.
5.  For the love of all the gods...APOLOGIZE.  It is possible to apologize and admit fault without losing face, and in fact, I know I personally respect a person a great deal *more* for having the maturity to acknowledge their fuckups instead of hiding from them.

I don't post this intending to pick on Grey.  I love her blog, I follow her on Twitter as well, I think she's a great person with an adorable kitteh.  However, I also think she handled this really badly, and as a general principle, I really wish people were taught how to fuck up and apologize for it with grace, instead of (as most people do, including myself sometimes - no, I'm far from perfect in this respect) getting defensive and reacting by pretending nothing ever happened.  So based on this, and the other experience I had with a beauty blogger and drama, here's my Blogger's Guide To Fucking Up Gracefully:

1.  If you accidentally write something offensive, don't bother trying to change the offensive bit without acknowledging what used to be there with an editor's note or something.  Google cache will have the original, odds are, and all it does is make you look like you're trying to hide what happened.  This is the internet.  Once it's up, it's out there forever.  Work with that, not against it.

2.  Short of personal attacks - and no, saying you're being racist/sexist/homophobic/etc is not a personal attack.  I'm talking about personal name-calling, threats, harassment, etc. - do not make any attempt to police the tone of people calling you out on your fuckup.  If they're calling you out, it's because you did something that hurt or pissed off other people.  They have a right to their feelings.  Do not try to minimize that.

3.  Do not try to use your intent as a defense.  No "But I didn't mean it like that!" or "Hey, I'm trying to be nice to you here with this review/giveaway/whatever, how dare you not appreciate that and call me on things instead?"  If you bump into someone and knock them over, does the fact that it was accidental make their bruised butt hurt less?  Intent is the difference between an inconsiderate privileged person and an -ist asshole.  It is not the difference between offensive and not offensive.

4.  If your readers offer you links in support of their argument against whatever you said, click through and read them.  Read the pages those pages link to, too, if applicable.  And I mean, really read.  Don't just skim and huff to yourself that "I'm not like that, so this totally doesn't apply to me." and then close the tab and put it from your mind.  If you can't do all that reading right away, at least reply saying you've seen the links and will get to them asap.

5.  Examine your reaction.  Defensiveness is natural - nobody likes being called on shit, after all.  Be honest with yourself, though.  Do you feel that nagging shimmer of "oh, shit...I think I really did fuck up..."?  Remind yourself that it's ok to fuck up, that a fuckup is not the end of the world, and that you will actually gain respect for handling it with maturity and grace.  Face your emotions.  Try not to let them overwhelm you too badly.  It'll be ok.

6.  Once you have a good grasp on what you fucked up and why it was wrong, fix it and/or apologize.  Change the offending word/sentence/etc, if applicable, and leave an editor's note about the change.  If people contacted you individually, reply to them personally with an apology.  Also post a public apology on the offending post, and if it was egregiously bad, create and post a separate apology.  DO NOT give the Politician's Nonpology ("I'm sorry if you were offended").  That's a cop-out, and will just piss people off more.  Remember that an apology is a sign of strength and responsibility, not weakness, when it's done right.

7.  DO NOT EXPECT PRAISE FOR APOLOGIZING.  Acknowledging, fixing, and apologizing for your fuckup is a minimum standard of decent human behavior (and it's a sad, sad commentary on our society as a whole that well-handled fuckups are so rare that people think they are owed special treatment for magnanimously apologizing, but I digress), not a superhuman feat of generosity for which you are owed praise-songs and cookies on a silver platter.  People may thank you for apologizing and dealing with the issue, if they are so moved.  Then again, they may not, and that's totally up to them - and you will undo all the good stuff you've done in handling it up to this point if you turn around and get pissy because your apology and restitution aren't garnering you the adoration you think you should have for it.

8.  Lastly, integrate the lesson and carry it forward with you.  If, for example, you fucked up by saying "penis-bearing people" when you meant "men" (which marginalizes trans men and women who have not undergone GRS and essentializes gender to genitalia, and which is something I've been called out on before), next time you're writing about gender and want a pithy way to refer to men, figure out another way and catch yourself if you start to use genital definitions of gender.  When you write on a topic you've been called out on before, reread it BEFORE you hit "post".  Fucking up out of ignorance, if you handle it well and apologize and everything, is understandable and usually forgivable - ONCE.  You get a lot less clearance for the same maneuver if it happens again.

So there you are.  A blogger's guide to fucking up gracefully, without alienating your readership through obstinacy and defensive posturing.  While I imagine most of my usual readers are progressives who could have written this just as well as I could - fucking up, both well and poorly, are often-discussed topics among many privilege-aware people - my hope is that this can be a post you can point people to from outside the feminist/progressive blogosphere.  Like, for example...makeup bloggers.  ;-)


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