Amateur etymology is really my bag. I love learning where words come from and understanding about evolution in context. Several VERY smart arguments from this first episode of Victoria Coren’s show Balderdash and Piffle from 2006.
Great premise where she pitches revisions to the OED. The focus on a few words and the mix of investigative reports / bad CGI and face-the-camera-and-lecture tactics work for me.
I think Mitchell is wrong about the inclusion of gay from the context of the Gertrude Stein quote. I don’t dispute that the quote is dripping with queerness, but the forced inclusion in the dictionary seems like tokenism. It also sort of positions the dictionary editors as resisting the path of inclusion – which is distinct from the request for gay to get an earlier citation. The editors seem to want evidence and Mitchell has suggestion. I can’t help think that early journals and letters could provide this evidence. Not to mention that the actual dates for queer history are important (First gay man on television).
The pig segment is awesome and the narrator seems pretty cool (until the barbecue scene!)
The Ploughman’s lunch is a pretty cool vignette. I like that the evidence tracked down is anchored in consumer advertising culture post WW2. The use of nostalgia to market British cheese may not be the most romantic of origin stories, but it is credibility enhancing that the show would lead with this kind of honest inquiry.
I spent some time last semester talking about the phrase “no homo” as gender policing. My argument is that it verbalized patterns of behavior that were not generally sexualized. Quite often bringing sexual attention to something that was previously mundane. Consider rap intellectual Dallas Penn’s use of “no homo” to ensure heterosexuality is mapped when getting a compliment about his Polo scarf.
He didn’t introduce himself as a rapper, a graff artist or anything spectacular. All he did was compliment me on the ‘Lo scarf I was rocking. No homo, of course.
I have traditionally argued that “no homo” is simply gender policing. Making sure that people around you know that it is not acceptable for your version of a man to compliment another man on a scarf for instance. It seems like this is an extension of pathological homophobia. Not just fear of gay sex, but fear that non-sexual acts would be read as the precursor for gay attraction.
It seems like an interesting subject because it makes an easy map to see the boundary lines for modern masculinity. The rules for men-to-be-real-men are seldom as explicitly verbalized as with “no homo.”
I’m a fan of Michael Kimmel. I think he is a smart man who gets a lot of the power dynamics of gender. In the case of “no homo” he argues that this is a kind of linguistic development which marks a loosening of the boundaries of new heterosexual masculinity.
I think we’re a little less homophobic. There’s good evidence that young men are less homophobic than older men are. And I illustrate this often by the difference between “that’s so gay” and “no homo.” Because “that’s so gay” is a way of policing other guys, saying don’t do that, that’s gay. But “no homo” says “you can do it, no homo.” Or “I love you, no homo.” It gives us permission to say something but then back away from it. That’s really different than not being able to do it at all. It’s a small step. The next step is to be able to say it and then not back away from it at all. I think it’s a little bit progressive, not a lot bit progressive.
Recent wins don’t undermine these tragedies in any way. In fact, it’s all that much harder to see the most marginalized in our community facing violence at the same time that we’re winning victories. Changes in our laws don’t mean people automatically stop hating us. Sometimes increased visibility can mean increased violence. We have to continue working to change people’s minds while we also work to change the laws. Trans women of color continue to face the worst transphobic violence. So we have to continue working deliberately to lift up the voices of trans women of color, to make sure the community most impacted can speak for themselves and humanize themselves.
Last week a simmering dislike erupted into a battle of words between Pusha T and Lil Wayne. Pusha T is fifty percent of the Clipse, a Virginia Beach rap group whose hallmark is ridiculously hard lyrics and a cozy relationship with hit-maker Pharrell. Lil’ Wayne is the impish high energy pop rapper with a legendary work ethic who sells a lot of ring tones.
The themes of this “beef” could have been foretold. Pusha T was likely to argue that he was more real, having sold crack more recently than Lil Wayne (and since his former manager Anthony Gonzales, was recently sent to prison for 32 years for drug trafficking). Wayne is likely to argue that his sales numbers put him out of the reach of a little guy like Pusha T. Pusha was going to have some exceptionally clever jokes about neon fashion. Both of the rappers would insult each other’s masculinity, intelligence, and strength. They would both go after the other emcees they are affiliated with. (In fact they had almost this exact beef seven years ago.)
Here is Lil Wayne following the insult script including calling Pusha T “softer than a motherfucking nerf ball.”
The topic of this conflict that I would have forgotten about is the kiss. In 2006 Birdman, the CEO of Cash Money Records and Lil’ Wayne smooched.
Turns out they’ve been doing it for years! (There is no way to read sarcasm through the internet, so I’ll just tell you – I’m not bothered by two men kissing. ) Here is a video from years back of the Big Tymers, Mannie Fresh and Birdman on Rap City. When Wayne shows up he drops a quick kiss on Birdman’s lips.
Birdman explains that he basically raised Wayne from the age of a young kid and considers him his actual child. In family relationships kissing each other isn’t uncommon.
In a recent interview, Baby, who calls Wayne his son, discusses/justifies the kiss. “That’s my son, ya heard me,” he explains. “If he was right here, I’d kiss him again. I kiss my daughter, my other son, I mean, you have children? Well, if you did you’d understand what I meant with it. I just think people took that too far man. That’s my son. I’ll do it again tomorrow, I’ll kill for him. Ride and die for him.”
I don’t think that Birdman and Lil’ Wayne have to justify kissing each other. The framing that Birdman has used to help viewers interpret the kisses have been particularly masculine and patriarchal. One spin has been that the kiss is a mafia symbol of closeness. Another positions Birdman as a literal father of Wayne.
We need to be really careful here because Birdman is not Wayne’s parent or guardian. Birdman AKA Bryan Williams was a rap star and label head when Wayne was onstage in grade school plays.
Lil Wayne was born Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. and grew up in the Hollygrove neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana. Carter was born when his mother, a chef, was 19 years old. His parents were divorced when he was 2, and his father permanently abandoned the family. Carter enrolled in the gifted program of Lafayette Elementary School and in the drama club of Eleanor McMain Secondary School.
He wrote his first rap song at age eight. In the summer of 1991, he met Bryan Williams, rapper and owner of Cash Money Records. Carter recorded freestyle raps on Williams’s answering machine, leading him to mentor the young Carter and include him in Cash Money-distributed songs. He also recorded his first ever collaboration album True Story with rapper B.G.. At the time, Carter was 11, and B.G. was 14, and was billed as “The B.G.’z”. When he was 12, he played the part of the Tin Man in his middle school drama club’s production of The Wiz. At age 13, he accidentally shot himself with a 9 mm handgun, and off-duty police officer Robert Hoobler drove him to the hospital. At McMain Magnet School, Carter was an honor student, but he dropped out at the age of 14 to focus on a musical career.
If you’ve seen The Carter documentary on Lil Wayne then you’ve seen the disturbing scene where Wayne describes being raped as a kid.
In the middle of The Carter, an obviously high Lil Wayne jokes openly about being raped at the age of 11 with the encouragement of his surrogate father, Baby—and informs Lil Twist, a 15-year-old member of Wayne’s record label Young Money, that Wayne is going to help him get raped, too.
This gives some insight into the relationship between Wayne and Baby Birdman. I’ve been thinking about using parts of this clip and the Jimmy Kimmel interview referenced in Amanda Hess’s Washington City Paper essay to talk about male sexual assault. In particular the idea that because men are socialized to be sexual all-the-time, then any predatory sexual attacks against men are okay. This terrible notion is essentially the idea that anyone who says “no” is really saying “yes,” and that men are saying “yes” all the time.
I wonder if kissing Birdman isn’t a power thing? A move of control? A sign of closeness? I don’t think it quite counts as parental given the exploitative sexual history between the two. The kisses don’t seem particularly sexual or erotic. Perhaps Wayne and Birdman are lovers. I don’t know and honestly it seems a little bit junior-high for a person with a Ph.D. to spend so much time writing about two grown ups kissing.
But then again, I’m not the only person fixated on this kiss.
The song Exodus 23:1, Pusha T’s diss track is actually fairly generic. Pusha T had to explain that the song was about Lil Wayne. Wayne confirmed it by tweeting: “Fuk pusha T and anyone who love em.”
This morning No Malice, the non-violent, higher road-taking, reinvigorated Christian half of the Clipse tweeted his opinion about the Pusha T/Lil Wayne beef.
“Well I LOVE Pusha! That’s my blood and I ain’t never kiss em.”
Obviously beef sells records, but I think that Pusha T chose Lil Wayne because he thinks that the kiss gives him some annihilating ammunition against him. You might call it a Ronald Reagan electoral strategy of fear. Making your arguments based on the assumption of prejudice in the general population. At the heart of the attacks on Lil Wayne so far is simply homophobia — and a particularly twisted desire to police male sexuality.
Props to everyone who is cool on national coming out day. I don’t love the idea of an “ally,” but I’m enjoying the discussion about the Harvard wrestling team’s collective support for a gay teammate on national coming out day.
Wearing a shirt that said, “Some Dudes Marry Dudes. Get Over It,” Anthony J. Buxton ’13, a varsity wrestler, said he had received smiles from people on the street.
“There is a much larger community of allies who are willing and ready–even eager–to stand with their LGBT peers,” McCarthy said.
Oh Tracy Morgan! A couple of days ago you let loose a homophobic standup routine and then quickly appologized. I’m interested in the ideas you expressed before the apology. Here is one ugly nugget worth further discussion:
Tracy then said he didn’t f*cking care if he pissed off some gays, because if they can take a f*cking dick up their ass… they can take a f*cking joke.
1. This is a common idea. I’ve heard this joke performed by two other comedians. Katt Williams delivers a sweaty version. Similarly, I seem to remember Andrew “Dice” Clay looking arrogantly at the audience before exclaiming something similar. (Forgive my memory, it’s been at least a decade since I watched ‘the dice’). It’s commonality of usage might suggest it is worth examination.
2. It is a backhanded insult. While one might argue that the intent was to suggest that gay men are strong and resilient, the justification (reasoning) for this is because men can withstand being penetrated by a penis. It is valuable to be familiar with this kind of foolishness, a lot of racist, sexist crap comes out in so-called compliments.
3. At the core is the idea that the penis, used for sex, is a tool of punishment. Particularly, it is suffering to be penetrated. Consider the difference between “giving dick” and ‘taking dick.” It seems like the person-who-penetrates/person-who-is-penetrated split is central to the idea of disempowerment in this act. I’ve heard folks use this kind of language around tax time: “The IRS f*cked me in the ass!” Sporting events and political races get similar conversational violence.
4. It is not just penetration, but penetration of men which is implied to be particularly demeaning. It is explicitly gay male sex referenced in Tracy Morgan’s joke. This speaks to male paranoia and gender policing — the investment, surveillance and communications that remind men to act like other men (or the fictional uber-man). Central to the terrible homophobia of ‘taking the dick’ is the idea of men as penetrators and others (women, children, and other men) as penetrated. Jokes like these help to constitute the intellectual fabric in which we have to exist.
5. One potentially valuable reading is to shatter the central dichotomies about maleness presented in the joke. If we can name the essentialist assumption ‘penis+penetration=punishment’ then we can start to talk about how those ideas impact our daily lives. Including shifting the discussion from male/male penetration to speak more broadly to include heterosexual penetration.
Quite a few thoughtful people have pointed out that heterosexual humping-with-penis often hurts. Like painful. Acknowledging that this is a bit of a jump, I do think it is valuable to lay these two ideas next to each other. For one thing it might be valuable to remind heterosexual folks that the representation of disempowerment tied to gay sex might be also be associated with the sexism in heterosexual sex roles. ♣
Don’t get it twisted. I’m not into guilt about sex. I’m into reducing guilt through reflection and discussion. There is a healthy feminist lesson in the flash of the reaction to Tracy Morgan’s homophobia. It might be to challenge the prevailing discourse which makes Morgan’s joke ‘funny.’ IN order to do that we need to follow though the logic.
6. Sex doesn’t have to hurt.
Check out the Crunk Feminist collective on the likely unpleasantness of sex under patriarchy. The article itself is titled “A message to Women Who Frequently Have Horrible, Rushed Sex,” perhaps these ideas can give insight into the rest of our discussion.
Here’s a bold truth: I don’t enjoy penetration of any kind unless I’m wet enough to drown a dolphin. And this truth wouldn’t be a problem if sex weren’t always about penetration. One sex therapist put it best when she said, “If most women don’t have orgasms during ‘sex,’ but do have orgasms, perhaps we need to redefine sex.”
The article is a passionate advocacy for wet, woman-centered sex. Stupid people will argue that feminists hate sex, and that we are prudes or whatever. Crap. The feminist alternative to Tracy Morgan’s notion of the dick as punishment can only really be found with the help of some feminist insight. I honestly don’t think that most guys want to hurt the people that they have sex with. But changing this representation might mean men reflecting about men’s expectations of sex.
Now the Crunk feminist collective have a much less essentialist view of men and their dicks. It isn’t just about what you have, but how you act with that dick.
Since then, sex for me has been a series of negotiations. I know there will usually be a moment when a male partner is ready for penetration and often, that is before I’m ready/ comfortable/ wet / aroused enough. If sex were not a personal expression of political power, these moments would be no more than awkward. It would be like leaning in for a hug first only to find that the other person was disinterested. The problem is that men in a patriarchy are socialized to “lean in” first– always. And those who are not conscious enough to interrogate this socialization begin to believe that leaning in is their right, their privilege. So awkward moments can become coercion, assault, or rape. Or just horrible sex. But you know that already.
What you may not know is that with time, the right partner, patience and negotiation, it gets wetter. Believe you me.
Unlike Tracy Morgan, whose words lock in a toxic idea of male sexuality, the Crunk Feminist Collective invites ALL people to think about patience and negotiation during sex. Here is to communication, ethical eros and pleasure!
Tracy Morgan has apologized, but I think that the brief moment of logic exposed in his words can help us to better understand how ideas gender our lives. I refute the idea that the apology signifies a closure (‘aw leave him alone, he apologized!’) rather it is a reminder that the power expressed is visible and the meaning of words can be contested. The apology/justification are almost always the best place to begin the inquiry.
REFLECTION ON PRACTICE:
What a silly post! To respond to a stand-up comedian with a lengthy series of numbered arguments seems ridiculous. In my defense I tend to have to think through moments of hateful language — to unpack the ideas present in what they actually said and how I make sense of it. Often these expose some of the vulnerable ideas upon which they rest, hopefully giving me a chance when the ideas come up in conversation.
♣ A brief comment on S&M. This text is not intended to slight those who experience sexual fulfillment by making sex and gender roles more visible. Safe and consensual are the only two standards I believe in for sex.
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