Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Legitimacy of Wrestler Apologies

Hulk Hogan has apologised for the racist tirade that he made nearly 10 years ago, as well he should have. It was hard to hear that one of your childhood superheroes would go off the handle were you to date his daughter. The tape cost him his job at WWE, to the point that anything Hulk Hogan-related has been scrubbed from WWE.com; there isn’t a wrestler bio, no merchandise, not so much as a mention of even the Incredible Hulk, and he’s coloured! Officially, WWE has stated that, “WWE is committed to embracing and celebrating individuals from all backgrounds as demonstrated by the diversity of our employees, performers and fans worldwide”.

I do not know if Hulk Hogan’s apology is sincere or if it is just PR damage control in an attempt to get back his job. I don’t know if he is as racist as that tirade was, or if his views have evolved in the last ten years. I’m definitely not defending anything he said or did. That shit was terrible.

However, I would like to know, When did the World Wrestling Entertainment apologize for all of the racist shit that they have done since they were founded? Yes, WWE is “committed to embracing individuals from all backgrounds”, but they have always done so by exploiting and stereotyping the hell of out them! Remember the 1980s and 90s? The Iron Sheik is a caricature of what rednecks think Arabs people are. Muhammad Hassan was as well, just after 9/11. How better to stoke anti-Middle Eastern hatred than by having them get beat up in a ring by steroid-addled white men? The Junkyard Dog was black man in a dog collar and chain leash! How about Kamala, a large black man dressed in leopard print and acting like an African “jungle savage”, complete with a valet dressed like a European big game hunter? What about Saba Simba, yet another “African savage” stereotype? How about the tactic of having a black wrestler paired with a pretty white female valet (Ron Simmons & Sunny), not to promote ethnic diversity, but to stoke the very anger in there less evolved fans for which they fired Hulk Hogan? Who can forget the Mexicools? Does anyone remember when Rowdy Roddy Popper dressed in half blackface when going up against a black wrestler who had earlier bested him? Chief Strongbow was a wrestler who was supposedly Native American, but he was actually Italian American. Even Tatanka, an actual Native American, was a caricature of himself. But who would expect much less? Cryme Tyme were a duo of “thug” black men. They were around in THIS century. And let’s not forget Virgil, essentially Vince McMahon’s black lawn jockey. HE WAS HIS SLAVE. This doesn’t even touch the amount of times WWE has exploited women and used homophobia as a trope. This is just the racist stuff.

If someone can point to me where the World Wrestling Entertainment has apologized for all of the racist shit that they have perpetrated, I would love to see it. Perhaps if someone can verify that they also fired Michael Hayes, who has a long history of racist tirades, pre- and post-dating Hulk Hogan’s, then maybe their firing will be legit. If neither of these are possible, then it seems WWE’s code of ethics is about as real as their wrestling.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Slut-Shaming Week in Review

It has been a very productive week for people who like to blame victims and shame bodies. As posted earlier, The Williams Sisters were in the news because of Serena Williams’ Wimbledon win, not because of the win, but because their bodies are built like athletes’s bodies and not like soft hourglasses of caramel and pixie dust that society deems impossibly acceptable for women. Bill Cosby is again in the news, this time because a witness came forward to explicitly state that Mr. Cosby bought quaaludes for the purpose of drugging women and having sex with them: Bill Cosby himself, back in 2005. On the web, AshleyMadison.com, a site for people who want to have extramarital affairs, was hacked, and the hackers threatened to release the identities of the site’s membership. Finally, a local Rochester blogger “exposed” that the widow of a fallen police officer not only has a new boyfriend less than a year after her husband’s death, but she is also pregnant.


Regarding the Williams sisters, I already ranted enough about the racist insults about their bodies, and the sexist responses to the racist insults. I will say this: no one claims that a carpenter has an unfair advantage over a piece of wood when he/she sharpens saw blades before cutting wood. An athlete’s primary tool is her own body, so why would she not keep it in shape? If you are seriously criticizing a female athlete’s lack of “femininity”, but you have never played against said athlete, challenge her to a match. If you lose, shut the hell up...actually, if you win, shut the hell up. Chubs.


It is now known that Bill Cosby ADMITTED to buying drugs in order to drug women and have sex with them. I tried to ask him directly on Twitter about it, but he is now apparently blocking people challenge his credibility, so soon, it will be just him and Camille tweeting back and forth to each other. There are STILL people who are holding on to the notion that this is some sort of large conspiracy that he is being ruined because he is a successful black man, or because he tried to buy NBC, or because he’s rich, and why would someone rich do something so evil when he could just buy sex? There are still people saying that a few of the victims could have lied to “get on the bandwagon”, to get money or fame. Even if that were true, that is still tacit admission that he did rape some of them, which would mean HE’S STILL A RAPIST. There are still people who say the victims knew what they were getting into and were asking for it, going to a man’s house or hotel alone. There are people who are still saying “innocent until proven guilty”. All of these individuals are people I like to call “no longer my friends”. The only conspiracy is the one Cosby initiated to drug these women and then to do his best to publicly discredit them when they came forward, and it doesn’t matter if these women walked up to Bill Cosby’s room completely naked except for a sign that reads, “I want to bang Leonard Part VI”. If they did not consent to sex, it is rape. Excuses be damned.


The AshleyMadison thing is somewhat complicated...Actually, it is not. Some deem the hack and exposure as karmic retribution for the cheaters on the site who signed up, so we should not feel sorry for them. Here’s the problem with this idea: yes, the site does explicitly say that it’s a site for people to have affairs, and maybe a lot of members do that. From my own failed marriage, I can say that infidelity, when only one person knows of it, is VERY painful when it is finally discovered. However, who knows the dynamic of the people’s relationships who are on AshleyMadison? Some couples could be on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” agreement. Maybe both husband and wife are on, and they are into cuckolding. Maybe they are swingers and looking for new swing partners. Perhaps everyone in the relationship knows. Maybe they are on there because their spouse is verbally/physically abusive and cold, and they just need to meet a person who will listen and get some semblance of joy. No one can assess what is going on in the mind of every single person on the site, and therefore, no one can say that everyone on AshleyMadison is on there to insidiously deceive his/her spouse. The thought that every marriage must be a two-person dynamic where parties mate for life and never see another person sexually desirable is puritanical and ridiculous. In a country that supposedly embraces freedom and expression, we sure do have a lot of antiquated thoughts about relationships and sexuality. I would not get an AshleyMadison account for the same reason I would not play a GTA game: I don’t like the basic premise. However, I would not speak ill of anyone who goes on AM or plays GTA, as I don’t know what their intentions are, nor is it my business. We all know what will happen if this hacker group releases these names: the men exposed will be excused with statements like, “boys will be boys”, and, “What did the wife do wrong?”, while the women exposed will be affixed with a red “A” for all the Internet to see, and all repercussions in real life and the Net will follow them forever. These hackers are not righteous. They are petulant.


This thought falls in line with the case of Amy Pierson. She is the widow of Daryl Pierson, a Rochester Police Department officer who was killed in the line of duty, whose murderer was just convicted and sentenced. Another blogger named Davy Vara exposed that Ms. Pierson is pregnant by her new boyfriend, less than 10 months after her husband’s death. It’s a bit complicated: thousands mourned for her and with her. Pierson’s funeral was so big, it was held in the Rochester Blue Cross Arena. A dealership gave her a car, and people offered to pay off her mortgage. People sent her money. She is definitely getting whatever pension/widow’s benefits that are afforded to spouses of officers. Mr. Vara seemed incredulous that she would have a boyfriend so soon after Ms. Pierson’s death, and that she is pregnant and boasting about it on Facebook! It just shows how insincere her sorrow was! Or does it? First, Mr. Vara said that he was old fashioned and how her own mother had eyes for no other man after his father died. He said that back in the day, people partnered and stayed together through thick and thin. What he failed to mention was that the “thick” was often chronically abusive relationships with near sex slave conditions for some wives, and the “thin” was that in some places divorce was illegal, even in the US, and that in most places divorce was equivalent to scrawling, “I’m a whore” on your forehead, no matter what the reason for separation was. What I didn’t see in the article is whether he knew the dynamics of their relationship. There was talk of her cheating on her husband with a lieutenant and of her presumed affair with her current boyfriend, but how does he know that this is the case? Were they in an open relationship? Were they slowly on the outs? Also, who is to say how soon is “too soon” in grieving? Everyone is different, they grieve in different ways, and perhaps during her grieving, she found someone else, who she happened to know already. If they were in any type of non-monogamous relationship, there is a common myth that these types are less pure than strict, binary monogamous unions. There is no real measurement for love. Even if Ms. Pierson was in an open relationship, or if she was actually cheating on Daryl Pierson, that does not mean she loved him less, and it does not mean that her grief was not sincere. A DJ in Baltimore to whom I listened when I lived there lost his wife in a car accident. His first three times back on the air, he had to go off the air and let his partner take over because he couldn’t function. 5 months later, he talked about his first sexual encounter after the death of his wife. No one would accuse him of no longer missing his wife or loving her less. None even questioned him. What was the point of “exposing” Amy Pierson and claiming she may have misled everyone, based on a Facebook post? Without talking directly to Ms. Pierson, how would anyone know how she is feeling? The whole article is similar to the AshleyMadison hacker situation. America is too damned puritan, which is ironic, because we use sex and women’s body parts to sell everything.

This has been your week in Slut-Shaming. Hopefully, this will not be a regular segment.

Slut-Shaming Racism: The Williams Sisters

Serena Williams is a motherfucking badass. Both of the Williams sisters are powerhouses in their own right. They are the two of the greatest tennis players, and athletes, in modern history. This is not hyperbole; this is assessment based on statistics and achievements in their field.
You would not know that, though, because it seems both the public and the press are obsessed with the shape of their bodies. When Serena Williams won at Wimbledon last week, The Internet went INSANE, not with praise for a great athlete who broke a record, but with criticism, excuses, and outright blatant insults, all explaining why she won. People claimed that she is shaped like a man. Many said she was animal-like, namely like a gorilla. Others took those assessments of her body and said that she had an unfair advantage over more “feminine” (blond white) opponents. Some went completely infantile with their statements, but more polished writers wrapped their insults in pretty packages so that you didn’t know how disgusting their diatribes were until about five minutes after you read it. I’m looking at you, New York Times. By the way, if you don’t understand why comparing a black person’s physical attributes and/or athletic prowess those of a gorilla, chimpanzee, monkey, deer, or dog, then you need to pick up a history book, and look up what “scientists” of the past did to equate them with lower creatures. The only acceptable black person/animal comparison of which I know is the cat, and that is usually only acceptable in jazz clubs and 35+ river day cruises.
What is worse than the borderline racist comparisons of Serena and Venus Williams to apes and men in memes and articles veiled as journalism is the angry retort from people “defending” the Williams sisters. Normally, a measured response to such invectives would be welcome. Hell, a collective silent middle finger to such vitriol would be nice. Instead of either of those, a cavalcade of counter-memes was the response. For nearly a straight week, I saw nothing but responses to Williams/Man/Ape comparisons in the form of zoomed-in shots of the Williams’s breasts, buttocks, and legs with tag lines about what posters would like to do to those specified body parts. Rarely were the Williams’s faces prominent in the pictures, but if we were lucky, at least their faces would not be cut off in cropping. Now, I am not a robot. The Williams sisters are FINE. If one of them told me that she was into pudgy middle-aged black men, but only for carnal indulgences, I would drop everything and fly to...wherever the hell they live. However, defending people’s physical criticisms of their bodies by objectifying them and reducing them to body parts is NOT HELPING. I’m all for pushing back against longstanding racist tropes, but not by using longstanding misogynistic tropes. This isn’t an antebellum auction block. It’s somewhat like saying, “How dare you insult that bitch!” YOU’RE STILL INSULTING. Objectifying the Williams based on their prominent body parts is the same as body shaming them based on the hue of their body parts. You’re being just as corrosive, just with a different acid.
Yes, male athletes do get attention based on their looks, but the first thing you hear about a male athlete are his achievements as an athlete, and then if he is good-looking, perhaps he’ll get a modeling deal with Calvin Klein or Express. How he looks is a side note, though, not the focus. People don’t shame a guy for having muscles, as he SHOULD have, because he needs them to do his job. The Williams sisters have 103 singles titles between them. They have 43 doubles titles, 56 Grand Slam titles, and 8 Olympic gold medals. By all accounts, they are likely two of the best players in the history of professional tennis. Sadly, though, I fear that this will all be overshadowed because as black women, they will be body and race shamed by both their detractors and their “supporters”.

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