When I saw the title I was kind of worried it would be something some white kids cobbled together, but it’s a lot more entertaining than that.
“I support gay people and marriage equality!”
Never before have such innocent sounding words made me feel so on edge.
Nearly every straight white teenager proclaims they’re an ally of the LGBT movement. It’s easy, you know? You just work it into the first minute of conversation with near everyone you meet, show up to a few rallies with a sign you worked for five minutes on, and say you think same-sex couples should be allowed to marry! Congratulations, you’re now a true-blooded ally to queer people everywhere. Or at least, that’s what you’re telling yourself as you pat yourself on the back for having done no real work at all.
In truth, I am distrustful of most “allies”. Perhaps I’m being too judgmental, perhaps I’ve only seen a few bad apples, but it seems to me most fair-weather allies all do the exact same shit:
- Fetishize same-sex relationships, often using fictional characters as their “reason” for joining the cause
- Erase non-binary genders and sexualities from the movement, completely ignoring transgendered and bisexual people as well as others
- Grossly oversimplify the issues facing queer people in modern society, usually focusing solely on the fight for marriage equality and maybe on the daily mistreatment by heterosexuals (but don’t hold your breath)
- Attempt to “reclaim” words such as faggot and tranny in order to give themselves a free pass to use demeaning and offensive language
- Focus almost exclusively on white people and ignore the discrimination queer POC experience, often writing off the crap white LGBT throw at them
- Invade safe spaces that aren’t for them, even when they’re explicitly told to stay out
- Display blatant racism, ableism, ageism and transmisogyny
But, above all:
- Continually demand to be the center of attention and blatantly sidetracking all discussions so everyone can focus on them
Really, this is the main crime they commit. Not all of them, but many of them. Every discussion on an issue LGBT people face gets derailed into a discussion on how great they are for dedicating their time to “help” queer people.
But, not content with merely this, they also feel the need to hold “Ally Week” and have an “Ally Coalition,” essentially designed to give them a “safe space” of their own, when they aren’t busy invading safe spaces of others. Hey guys, you know what else is a safe space for allies? Absolutely everywhere else! So, perhaps, instead of trying to make a safe space for yourselves when you already have a ton of safe space, why not try and make spaces that aren’t safe for marginalized groups a little less hostile?
This isn’t limited to allies of LGBT people. Indeed, “white allies” are often just as bad, if not worse. In addition to doing much of the above, they often feel like they have a right to pry into other people’s personal lives for no reason other than to satiate their curiosity, they ask questions like they’re observing an alien species rather than discussing something with human beings, they repeatedly try to reclaim words that are not theirs to reclaim (usually just as an excuse to say them without being criticized for it), and all in all they’re even worse about wanting to lead a movement that isn’t for them. They, more than any other racist I believe, reek of white saviourism, and constantly act like people of color need to be lead by some benevolent white dictator.
Then we’ve got “male feminists”. They seem to think “feminism” is just “tell women they look beautiful no matter what they’re wearing” and then BAM, you’re a feminist and everyone appreciates you! They might even go a bit deeper and say “Hey, women should get paid as much as men!” What they won’t do is speak out against rape culture, particularly not in front of their dudebro friends. They will ignore feminism’s widespread racism, transmisogyny and homophobia, focusing solely on cishet white women as if they’re the only women that exist. They will uphold supposedly “strong female characters” as role models, even when said characters were created by men and exhibit a number of stereotypes of women. Above all, though, they have the typical “Hey guys, look as how wonderful I am for being a feminist!” attitude that is completely useless.
A lot of marginalized people argue we should accept all allies with open arms, regardless of how they act, because any help must be good help, right? I say, fuck no. I don’t want “help” if that help is just harming me rather than helping me. Good intentions do not matter. If your idea of helping someone is to invade their safe space, pry into their affairs, and claim you’re “tearing down stereotypes” while offering up those stereotypes as “truth” yourself, I want nothing to do with you. If you genuinely want to be an ally but feel the need to act this way, just sit down and stay quiet. Do not ask way-too-personal questions, do not ignore the faults of the movement you’re supposedly getting behind in order to remain on people’s “good side”, do not selectively support some individuals and not others, and do not make it about you.
Because if I catch you doing this:
we’re gonna have a problem.
Tell me if you've heard this before. You're watching television, and during the commercials, a PSA appears about how there are children starving in an African nation. (Sometimes they also have children from South America and Southeast Asia.) You see pictures of poor children malnourished living in extreme poverty and harsh environmental conditions. Who's there pleading with you to sponsor those children?
I found this little gem on tumblr.
I think this is my favorite form of “Why is their no White History Month” ever. It combines that “personal responsibility” malarkey that is always a one-way street with an insistence on putting the focus on white people and how amazing they are with an attempt to shift blame for the effects of white supremacy on its victims.
Sometimes I seriously want to hug people. With a rope.
I’m going to admit something: I rarely watch television anymore. For something that supposedly gives me hundreds of options to choose from, TV seems to just be about the same poorly written sitcoms with awful laugh tracks, made-for-tv movies that are little more than cheap knockoffs of better films, and reality entertainment where the only thing you don’t see is reality or entertainment. What few shows there are that are worth watching are mostly all watchable on Netflix and Hulu anyway, so I found precious little reason to ever bother with that expensive cable package that we only have because just having the internet and phones is somehow slightly more pricey.
Recently, a friend of mine told me about a show called The Big Bang Theory. Now, I’d heard about it and seen its commercials that failed to make it look remotely interesting, but this friend insisted I give it a shot. I’ve watched this sitcom for a solid two months. I’ve given it every chance I could possibly give it. But the sad truth is, this show is not only very unfunny, it is highly problematic in many, many ways.
Right off the bat, I could tell the writers were male. For most of the show, the only major female character is Penny, who plays into some rather irritating stereotypes about women and seems to exist solely to make our male protagonists seem pathetic. Unlike Leonard and his band of dweebs (because all male nerds are socially inept in the writer’s mind and that’s supposed to be funny and LAUGH DAMMIT), Penny has no interest or even knowledge in nerd culture, to a point that seems almost unrealistic (I doubt any adult that’s grown up in America could seriously have absolutely NO knowledge of any supposedly “nerdy” interest). This, in and of itself, is not the true problem, no matter how irritating it is. The real problem with this is that not only is she the only woman who gets any real focus in the series for a long, long while, but when the show introduces other female main characters, they still aren’t really “nerds.” Yes, Bernadette, Amy, Priya and Leslie may be intelligent and, at least in Amy’s case, socially awkward, but they too lack interest in “nerdy”subjects and seem to just go along with the interests of their boyfriends with a vague air of annoyance, just like Penny has always. The erasure of women in nerd culture, and the rather painful stereotyping of the leading lady in particular, feels almost like a poorly typed YouTube comment proclaiming “lol no girls on the internet”.
Not only that, but it’s safe to say that nearly every relationship in this show is the very antithesis of “healthy and normal”. Our flagship couple, Leonard and Penny, are both highly emotionally abusive towards each other. There are several times when Penny uses sex to manipulate Leonard, and even after their break up (that inevitably leads to them getting back together), she continues to emotionally manipulate and abuse him. Penny is also constantly deriding his interest in things she considers nerdy. Leonard, for his part, is sex obsessive, very condescending towards not only Penny but also his other girlfriends (even Leslie and Priya, both of whom are intellectually his equals if not his superiors), and is constantly trying to push relationships too fast, ignoring the feelings of whoever else he’s dating. They aren’t the only ones, either. Sheldon and Amy are just incredibly awful for each other in every way, and the way Howard treats Bernadette is truly loathsome; he consistently ignores her feelings, insults her regularly, has been known to flirt with other women, and is an all around asshole, yet Bernadette sticks with him for no real reason except the writers find their shitty relationship funny.
This isn’t getting into the way the show treats Raj. Constant “jokes” (I use the term loosely, because this show doesn’t fully understand how to tell jokes effectively) are made about his race, his inability to talk to women, and, later on, his sexuality. Raj’s inability to talk to women unless he’s drunk is also not portrayed as a debilitating problem or anything, but is simply played for laughs. Soon, the writers decide that, since he can’t talk to women, he’s the perfect vessel for homophobic humor, and the show repeatedly mocks his close relationship with Howard and does everything but call him a closeted homosexual, and it’s obvious this is supposed to be hilarious instead of off-putting. This is made more damning by the fact that, unlike his (all white) co-stars, Raj is rarely given any episodes focusing on him, and instead of the failed attempts at drama everyone else gets when it’s their turn in the limelight, his episodes are simply more mockery of his race, his social awkwardness, and his ambiguous sexuality.
His sister, Priya, is in a similar position. Leonard, in his typical fashion, repeatedly says or does racist things towards Priya while they’re dating, and she repeatedly blows it off and acts like it’s no big deal. Priya in general is probably the least repulsive person Leonard has ever dated (aside from Stephanie, but Leonard dated her for only three episodes, so she doesn’t count), but the show takes her actions, most of which are things Penny has done, and casts them in a far more negative light than they ever did to her supposed “rival”. This isn’t to say Priya is a good, altruistic person or that she doesn’t deserve criticism of her behavior, but the show treats Penny far more kindly than it does Priya, despite the fact that they, in the end, have basically done the same things to Leonard.
Its treatment of mental illness is no better. Sheldon has a laundry list of symptoms of an autistic person, and the show, rather than show any real sympathy towards him, plays it for laughs 100%. His so-called “friends”, rather than trying to understand his admittedly often rude behavior, instead see fit to insult and deride him for it. Sure, the show never actually says he’s autistic, but it’s fairly obvious that’s what the writers were going for, and it’s fairly obvious the writers want us to find his “quirky” behavior funny. His love interest, Amy, is pretty much treated the exact same way, though the writers also manage to slip in jokes about Amy’s lack of sexual experience and often blunt discussion of sex and relationships, often with homophobic implications.
There is one more thing I should probably discuss. While I would hardly call this the show’s worst problem, it is definitely the most obvious problem to any casual observer; this show is essentially designed solely to mock nerd culture. It advertises itself as a celebration of nerd culture, from cult classic films to comic books to D&D, but it quickly becomes apparent that it is a mockery. We aren’t made to laugh with Leonard, Sheldon, Howard and Raj, we are supposed to laugh at them. Often, the “punchline” is just one of them mentioning they have a “nerdy” hobby or taking part in one, or it’s a mention of some work the writer considers to be part of nerd culture, even though it sometimes isn’t. Some of the things these four do for their fandoms are actually somewhat impressive, but the fact that they aren’t considered “normal” things to be doing means that we are not intended to appreciate their efforts, we are supposed to find it just hilarious that grown men would enjoy something enough to, say, make a replica time machine or design costumes based on Superman or Frodo. The fact that this show dares to claim it identifies with nerd culture when all it does is insult everything about it makes this especially frustrating.
I could go on about the many, many other problems this show has, but I don’t want to sound any more long winded than I already do. In fact, I really don’t want to have anything to do with this show anymore if I can help it. So I’ll leave it on one final note: pop culture references are, in and of themselves, not funny. A show that relies as heavily on simply making them, sans punchline, as heavily as this one does, is an abject failure at being a comedy show. When you combine all the problematic shit with the fact this show literally fails on the most basic level of comedy, it makes you wonder how the fuck it managed to stay on the air so damn long.
Image taken from tumblr.
Recently, SFF author Tansy Rayner Roberts wrote an excellent post debunking the idea that women did nothing interesting or useful throughout history, and that trying to write fictional stories based on this premise of feminine insignificance is therefore both inaccurate and offensive. To quote:
"History is not a long series of centuries in which men did all the interesting/important things and women stayed home and twiddled their thumbs in between pushing out babies, making soup and dying in childbirth.
Hey, do you all remember that woman who had acid thrown in her face? She said that a black woman did it, but it turns out that it was a hoax. Now, Bethany Storro is publishing a book about her phantom black attack and it's available on Amazon.
The Vancouver woman who burned her face with drain cleaner and claimed to have been attacked has written a book about the hoax called