Ok, I first saw this over at Sady's place:
Jesus fucking Christ, Amanda Palmer.
Sady does a beautiful analysis in the post before, actually, about a certain type of feminist with white, cis, het, and class privilege who uses feminism to try to fight back against only those issues that apply to HER, and everyone else, other women included, be damned. Shakesville also already commented on this (and mentions Amanda Palmer's Evelyn/Evelyn thing, which is a whole other issue that makes me upset) and sparkymonster jarringly compares Gaga's product placement (which was the subject of the tweet) with actual pictures of what the Klan has done (the link has some pictures that are difficult to see, be aware when clicking over).
After Sady's post last night, about feminists who can't seem to get past themselves to see their own privilege or the other ways in which people are marginalized, I spent some time really thinking about that, lying in bed before finally falling asleep. Especially because dealing with rape has made me so very egocentric - sometimes, it takes all my energy just to get my sorry raped self through the day, and maybe that makes me not the best feminist right now? Because I can't get past myself to see anything else? I cut myself some slack here, though, because I think that fighting against the kyriarchy takes all kinds of work, and even surviving can actually be a revolutionary, defiant act sometimes. But, I was really examining my privilege and in my head I listed all the ways in which I was LUCKY, after being raped: I had access to a therapist, and access to health care, had I needed it, and I could have probably paid for an abortion, had I required one, and I lived in NYC, so I could get emergency contraception, and because I am white, I am not socially constructed to already have a deviant sexuality, so if I filed a police report, it is more likely I would have been believed, and I do not live in a culture where I will be blamed, and on and on. Lots of privilege. Right?
And privilege works by making itself invisible, so I have to stop and remind myself of my privilege sometimes. And situate myself with it in the world, and see how it works to position me there, and how I can avoid becoming a monster on someone else's back even while I am trying to get the monster off my own back (thanks, June Jordan).
But no matter how fucking wrapped up I am in myself, no matter how insular and narrow my world has gotten, it would never, ever occur to me that it is ok to use the Klan as a punchline. EVER.
The Klan is not ironic. The Klan lynched and murdered and beat and terrorized. They are still a symbol of white racism and hatred and bigotry, and they have not gone away. So either Amanda Palmer is very confused about what "irony" is, or Amanda Palmer is acting like a giant fucking asshole. Or, actually, I am lying: there is only one option here, as I do not think Amanda Palmer is stupid. No, Amanda Palmer is just being an asshole.
Thing is . . . guys, I used to LOVE Amanda Palmer. I liked how spunky she was, how outspokenly feminist she was, how brazen she was about being herself, how different her music was, how daring it could be.
And Amanda Palmer truly is an awesome advocate of herself. But that's it. She has been dismissive of people with disabilities, and now people of color. She has erased their very experiences to co-opt them into a joke or a sideshow. It would NEVER occur to me, even as a pretty ego-maniacal feminist right now, to joke about the Klan. The Klan is not funny. The Klan cannot be my punchline.
Is there anything that is beyond the scope of joking? I think this question gets asked a lot, especially about why can't privileged groups joke about unprivileged groups, and I think appropriate joking means this: if you are maintaining the skewed societal power dynamics in your joke, meaning that you as a white person feel that you can make fun of black people or whatever, you are contributing to a very harmful dynamic, one that historically has led to things like, oh, lynchings, and contributes to continued inequality. And that's not acceptable. If you are a person of an unprivileged group who wants to poke fun at your own group, or push back and make fun of a group that historically has had privilege at your expense as a way to push back, then go to it, because you are not contributing to dangerous cultural narratives that hurt people.*
Here's how this works in my life. Basically, have I made Jewish jokes, as a Jew? Yes! Have I made Christian jokes? Yes! And when people pointed out I shouldn't make Christian jokes, because I am not Christian, have I told them to fuck off? Yes!** Jesus H. Christ on a popsicle stick, people, the next time I see Christians as a group becoming the victims of a bigoted society in which they are no longer the powerful majority, I will stop making fun, but as it is more likely that my cats will figure out how to rule the world even without opposable thumbs than Christians will start being institutionally oppressed, I am not really worried about this scenario. As a Christian, you can be ticked at me, and maybe you feel offended, but nobody got hurt. Whereas, a bunch of Christian people making fun of Jews? Well, I could be describing a Klan meeting! Or a Nazi propaganda movie! Meaning: that has never turned out very well. So, Jews being the butt of a joke, and Christians being the butt of a joke - just not equivalent.
Right? You with me? So. Anyway. Given this, as a white person, I don't make Klan jokes. Making light of the Klan only serves to reinforce my privilege; it means that the oppression of people of color is not important, not serious, not real. It's my punchline! Are there appropriate jokes that could be made about the Klan? Sure! But whose job is that to push back at that oppression? NOT MINE.
Because I really did love her, Amanda Palmer's fall from grace in my head has been an especially long descent. And it's a shame, because music that I used to love (and which specifically got me through first year law finals) is now un-enjoyable for me. In reparation, I may just have to donate ten bucks, the amount I paid to download her CD, to an organization that fights against oppression. The fact that I feel the need to give money to fight oppression because I bought the CD of a self-avowed feminist, well . . . let's just say I at least am a little more successful with the "irony" here. In the irony standings, Gayle: 1; Amanda Palmer: 0.
* I also think that those who fall outside the policed boundaries of a privileged group are in an excellent position to have perspective and constructively critique the dominant societal narrative that maintains those boundaries and the identity of that in-group. Which is not to say that people within privileged groups cannot criticize and have perspective; I am just pointing out that those who have been othered and are on the outside looking in have an important point of view to be considered.
** How to make this work? See: Lewis Black