One of the things that has been making me furious about sexual harassment lately–secondary to all the other things that make me furious about it–is the attention tax it imposes on women. The time spent figuring out whether there’s enough evidence for us to be taken seriously this time, whether the people who were in the “surely you misinterpreted” and “that doesn’t mean what it blatantly means” camp last time will finally take us seriously, the time spent recovering from someone shouting in our faces and someone else grabbing our asses, the time sharing stories and pooling information and cleaning up messes and figuring out what to do, what we can do, what we have the power to do. That is time not spent on other things that are frankly a whole hell of a lot more interesting.
When it’s in convention terms, the time spent discussing who did what and what to do and letting the adrenaline settle and coping is time not spent on ideas for books and stories and where to go with them. It is very directly a tax on attention that could and should be going toward work. And it makes me exhausted and resentful, and then I try to corral my attention back to my work, because that is a far, far better place for it to be. I have directly observed that when I am at a con where people are dealing with an ongoing situation of this type, I come back with far, far less in the way of inspired notes for new projects–not just coming away drained instead of energized, but the specifics of what business are we doing here, where is our attention going.
I’m lucky. I know a lot of good men. I know a lot of good straight, white men. One of the benefits of this is that when a straight, white dude is an asshole, I am clear that it is artisanal assholery that he is hand-crafting by choice, not a trait he can’t avoid by his demographics. And a lot of good straight, white men have been stepping up to share the work of dealing with sexual harassment on a community level. I appreciate it. I do. But that is a choice they are making. Statistically, on average, the nonconsensual part, the part where you have to cope with the fallout of being harassed again, the part where it happens several times in a row and then it’s on your mind and you go into the next professional situation having to have a plan for how to cope–that’s a drain on your time and attention that you cannot have back, that other people can help with structurally but not in the moment. They can donate their time but not hand you back yours, not give you back those hours and days of working on the situation and processing and coping. It can happen to men. It does happen to men. And as one woman I know never loses an opportunity to point out, it does not happen to every woman. But statistically, on average, it is an attention tax that falls much, much more heavily on women, for things that we did not ask for and cannot change.
It’s not just sexual harassment. This is not the only attention tax, and I don’t mean to talk as though it is. Racist bullshit and the people who visit it upon people of color? That is, among other worse things, an attention tax on those people of color. Having to cope with accessibility issues and prejudice against the disabled? Attention tax. Homophobia and other forms of anti-queer assholery? Attention tax. Navigating the world while neurodiverse, even in ways that do not feel like a disability internally, among people who are going to be utter jerks to any hint of non-neurotypicality? Attention tax. And while I’ve talked about men and women above, the amount of attention tax that falls on gender-nonconforming and non-binary people gets mind-bogglingly larger the more gender-policing the subculture they’re interacting with gets. One of the fundamental questions is: how much jerkitude are people going to blithely shovel on you for being you and then skip along with their day, and how much will that pull away from the focus you need to do your stuff that you do.
Do I imagine I’m the first to observe this? Hardly. But “show don’t tell” is hardly new advice, either, and writers get blog posts out of that several times a year. What I’m saying to you is: this is affecting the work of people you know and care about. All the time. It doesn’t have to. It is literally all entirely voluntary. The thing I said above about artisanal bullshit: last month I got very tired of people saying “so that’s a thing that happened” when they were describing a choice someone made. So let’s not do that. Let’s not ascribe to fundamental forces things that are actual bad choices people are making.
And also: people who are doing work through all these attention taxes, who are managing to push it aside and fight their way through to focusing on making something awesome: I see you. I appreciate you. I’m sorry it’s like this. I keep hoping that some of the draining work will gain us some ground and it will be long-term less necessary. But in the meantime, thanks for clawing back some of your own in the face of it. It’s so hard, and it matters so much.
I'm sympathetic to many of the arguments offered in a guest post by Robert Henderson, Peter Klecha, and Eric McCready (HK&M) in response to Geoff Pullum's post on "nigger in the woodpile," no doubt because they are sympathetic to some of the things I said in my reply to Geoff. But I have to object when they scold me for spelling out the word nigger rather than rendering it as n****r. It seems to me that "masking" the letters of slurs with devices such as this is an unwise practice—it reflects a misunderstanding of the taboos surrounding these words, it impedes serious discussion of their features, and most important, it inadvertently creates an impression that works to the advantage of certain racist ideologies. I have to add that it strikes me that HK&M's arguments, like a good part of the linguistic and philosophical literature on slurs, suffer from a certain narrowness of focus, a neglect both of the facts of actual usage of these words and the complicated discourses that they evoke. So, are you sitting comfortably?
HK&M say of nigger (or as they style it, n****r):
The word literally has as part of its semantic content an expression of racial hate, and its history has made that content unavoidably salient. It is that content, and that history, that gives this word (and other slurs) its power over and above other taboo expressions. It is for this reason that the word is literally unutterable for many people, and why we (who are white, not a part of the group that is victimized by the word in question) avoid it here.
Yes, even here on Language Log. There seems to be an unfortunate attitude — even among those whose views on slurs are otherwise similar to our own — that we as linguists are somehow exceptions to the facts surrounding slurs discussed in this post. In Geoffrey Nunberg’s otherwise commendable post on July 13, for example, he continues to mention the slur (quite abundantly), despite acknowledging the hurt it can cause. We think this is a mistake. We are not special; our community includes members of oppressed groups (though not nearly enough of them), and the rest of us ought to respect and show courtesy to them.
This position is a version of the doctrine that Luvell Anderson and Ernie Lepore call "silentism" (see also here). It accords with the widespread view that the word nigger is phonetically toxic: simply to pronounce it is to activate it, and it isn’t detoxified by placing it in quotation marks or other devices that indicate that the word is being mentioned rather than used, even written news reports or scholarly discussions. In that way, nigger and words like it seem to resemble strong vulgarities. Toxicity, that is, is a property that’s attached to the act of pronouncing a certain phonetic shape, rather than to an act of assertion, which is why some people are disconcerted when all or part of the word appears as a segment of other words, as in niggardly or even denigrate.
Are Slurs Nondiplaceable?
This is, as I say, a widespread view, and HK&M apparently hold that that is reason enough to avoid the unmasked utterance of the word (written or spoken), simply out of courtesy. It doesn't matter whether the insistence on categorial avoidance reflects only the fact that “People have had a hard time wrapping their heads around the fact that referring to the word is not the same as using it,” as John McWhorter puts it—people simply don't like to hear it spoken or see it written, so just don't.
But HK&M also suggest that the taboo on mentioning slurs has a linguistic basis:
There is a consensus in the semantic/pragmatic and philosophical literature on the topic that slurs aggressively attach to the speaker, committing them to a racist attitude even in embedded contexts. Consider embedded slurs; imagine Ron Weasley says “Draco thought that Harry was a mudblood”, where attributing the thought to Draco isn’t enough to absolve Ron of expressing the attitudes associated with the slur. Indeed, even mentioning slurs is fraught territory, which is why the authors of most papers on these issues are careful to distance themselves from the content expressed.
The idea here is that slurs, like other expressives, are always speaker-oriented. A number of semanticists have made this claim, but always on the basis of intuitions about spare constructed examples—in the present case, one involving an imaginary slur: “imagine Ron Weasley says “Draco thought that Harry was a mudblood.” This is always a risky method in getting at the features of socially charged words, and particularly with these, since most of the people who write about slurs are not native speakers of them, and their intutions are apt to be shaped by their preconceptions. The fact is that people routinely produce sentences in which the attitudes implicit in a slur are attributed to someone other than the speaker. The playwright Harvey Fierstein produced a crisp example on MSNBC, “Everybody loves to hate a homo.” Here are some others:
In fact We lived, in that time, in a world of enemies, of course… but beyond enemies there were the Micks, and the spics, and the wops, and the fuzzy-wuzzies. A whole world of people not us… (edwardsfrostings.com)
So white people were given their own bathrooms, their own water fountains. You didn’t have to ride on public conveyances with niggers anymore. These uncivilized jungle bunnies, darkies.…You had your own cemetery. The niggers will have theirs over there, and everything will be just fine. (Ron Daniels in Race and Resistance: African Americans in the 21st Century)
All Alabama governors do enjoy to troll fags and lesbians as both white and black Alabamians agree that homos piss off the almighty God. (Encyclopedia Dramatica)
[Marcus Bachmann] also called for more funding of cancer and Alzheimer’s research, probably cuz all those homos get all the money now for all that AIDS research. (Maxdad.com)
And needless to say, slurs are not speaker-oriented when they're quoted. When the New York Times reports that “Kaepernick was called a nigger on social media,” no one would assume that the Times endorses the attitudes that the word conveys.
I make this point not so much because it's important here, but because it demonstrates the perils of analyzing slurs without actually looking at how people use them or regard them—a point I'll come back to in a moment.
Toxicity in Speech and Writing
The assimilation of slurs to vulgarities obscures several important differences between the two. For one thing, mentioning slurs is less offensive in writing than in speech. That makes slurs different from vulgarisms like fucking. The New York Times has printed the latter word only twice, most recently in its page one report of Trump’s Access Hollywood tapes. But it has printed nigger any number http://tinyurl.com/ycn9sytp of times (though in recent years it tends to avoid the word in headlines):
The rhymes include the one beginning, “Eeny, meeny, miney mo, catch a nigger by the toe,” and another one that begins, “Ten little niggers …” May 8, 2014
The Word 'Nigger' Is Part of Our Lexicon Jan. 8, 2011
I live in a city where I probably hear the word “nigger” 50 times a day from people of all colors and ages… Jan 6, 2011
In fan enclaves across the web, a subset of Fifth Harmony followers called Ms. Kordei “Normonkey,” “coon,” and “nigger” Aug 12, 2016
Gwen [Ifil] came to work one day to find a note in her work space that read “Nigger, go home. Nov. 11, 2016
By contrast, the word is almost never heard in broadcast or free cable (when it does occur, e.g., in a recording, it is invariably bleeped). When I did a Nexis search several years ago on broadcast and cable news transcripts for the year 2012, I found it had been spoken only three times, in each instance by blacks recalling the insults they endured in their childhoods.
To HK&M, this might suggest only that the Times is showing insufficient courtesy to African Americans by printing nigger in full. And it's true that other media are more scrupulous about masking the word than the Times is, notably the New York Post and Fox News and its outlets:
Walmart was in hot water on Monday morning after a product’s description of “N___ Brown” was found on their website. Fox32news, 2027
After Thurston intervened, Artiles continued on and blamed "six n——" for letting Negron rise to power. Fox13news.com, April 19, 2017
In a 2007 encounter with his best friend’s wife, Hogan unleashed an ugly tirade about his daughter Brooke’s black boyfriend.“I mean, I’d rather if she was going to f–k some n—-r, I’d rather have her marry an 8-foot-tall n—-r worth a hundred million dollars! Like a basketball player! I guess we’re all a little racist. F—ing n—-r,” Hogan said, according to a transcript of the recording. New York Post May 2, 2016
"Racism, we are not cured of it," Obama said. "And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say n***** in public." Foxnews.com June 22, 2015
One might conclude from this, following HK&M's line of argument, that the New York Post and Fox News are demonstrating a greater degree of racial sensitivity than the Times. Still, given the ideological bent of these outlets, one might also suspect that masking is doing a different kind of social work.
Slurs in Scholarship
As an aside, I should note that the deficiencies of the masking approach are even more obvious when we turn to the mention of these words in linguistic or philosophical discussions of slurs and derogative terms, which often involve numerous mentions of a variety of terms. In my forthcoming paper “The Social Life of Slurs,” I discuss dozens of derogative terms, including not just racial, religious, and ethnic slurs, but political derogatives (libtard, commie), geographical derogations (cracker, It. terrone), and derogations involving disability (cripple, spazz, retard), class (pleb, redneck), sexual orientation (faggot, queer, poofter), and nonconforming gender (tranny). I'm not sure how HK&M would suggest I decide which of these called out for masking with asterisks—just the prototypical ones like nigger and spic, or others that may no less offensive to the targeted group? Cast the net narrowly and you seem to be singling out certain forms of bigotry for special attention; cast it widely and the texts starts to look circus poster. Better to assume that the readers of linguistics and philosophy journals—and linguistics blogs—are adult enough to deal with the unexpurgated forms.
What's Wrong with Masking?
The unspoken assumption behind masking taboo words is that they’re invested with magical powers—like a conjuror’s spell, they are inefficacious unless they are pronounced or written just so. This is how we often think of vulgarisms of course—that writing fuck as f*ck or fug somehow denatures it, even though the reader knows perfectly well what the word is. That's what has led a lot of people in recent years to assimilate racial slurs to vulgarisims—referring to them with the same kind of initialized euphemism used for shit and fuck and describing them with terms like “obscenity” and “curse word” with no sense of speaking figuratively.
But the two cases are very different. Vulgarities rely for their effect on a systematic hypocrisy: we officially stigmatize them in order to preserve their force when they are used transgressively. (Learning to swear involves both being told to avoid the words and hearing them used, ideally by the same people.) But that’s exactly the effect that we want to avoid with slurs: we don’t want their utterers to experience the flush of guilty pleasure or the sense of complicity that comes of violating a rule of propriety—we don't want people ever to use the words, or even think them. Yet that has been one pernicious effect of the toxification of certain words.
It should give us pause to realize that the assimilation of nigger to naughty words has been embraced not just by many African Americans, but also by a large segment of the cultural and political right. Recall the reactions when President Obama remarked in an interview with Mark Maron’s WTF podcast that curing racism was “not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public.” Some African Americans were unhappy with the remark—the president of the Urban League said the word "ought to be retired from the English language." Others thought it was appropriate.
But the response from many on the right was telling. They, too, disapproved of Obama’s use of the word, but only it betrayed his crudeness. A commentator on Fox News wrote:
And then there's the guy who runs the "WTF" podcast — an acronym for a word I am not allowed to write on this website. President Obama agreed to a podcast interview with comedian Marc Maron — a podcast host known for his crude language. But who knew the leader of the free world would be more crude than the host?
The Fox News host, Elisabeth Hasselbeck also referenced the name of Maron’s podcast and said, http://www.rawstory.com/?p=714752
“I think many people are wondering if it’s only there that he would say it, and not, perhaps, in a State of the Union or more public address.
Also on Fox News, the conservative African American columnist Deneen Borelli said, that Obama “has really dragged in the gutter speak of rap music. So now he is the first president of rap, of street?”
It’s presumably not an accident that Fox News’s online reports of this story all render nigger as n****r. It reflects the "naughty word" understanding of the taboo that led members of a fraternity at the University of Oklahoma riding on a charter bus to chant “There will never be a nigger at SAE/You can hang him from a tree, but he'll never sign with me,” with the same gusto that male college students of my generation would have brought to a sing-along of “Barnacle Bill the Sailor.”
That understanding of nigger as a dirty word also figures in the rhetorical move that some on the right have made, in shifting blame for the usage from white racists to black hip hop artists—taking the reclaimed use of the word as a model for white use. That in turn enables them to assimilate nigger — which they rarely distinguish from nigga— to the vulgarities that proliferate in hip hop. Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough of Morning Joe blamed http://tinyurl.com/ybx9k2e7 the Oklahoma incident on hip hop, citing the songs of Waka Flocka Flame, who had canceled a concert at the university; as Brzesinsky put it:
If you look at every single song, I guess you call these, that he’s written, it’s a bunch of garbage. It’s full of n-words, it’s full of f-words. It’s wrong. And he shouldn’t be disgusted with them, he should be disgusted with himself.
On the same broadcast, Bill Kristol added that “popular culture has become a cesspool,” again subsuming the use of racist slurs, via hip hop, under the heading of vulgarity and obscentity in general.
I don’t mean to suggest that Brzezinski, Scarborough and Kristol aren’t genuinely distressed by the use of racial slurs (I have my doubts about some of the Fox News hosts). But for the respectable sectors of cultural right—I mean as opposed to the unreconstructed bigots who have no qualms about using nigger at Trump rallies or on Reddit forums—the essential problem with powerful slurs is that they’re vulgar and coarse, and only secondarily that they’re the instruments of social oppression. And the insistence on categorically avoiding unmasked mentions of the words is very easy to interpret as supporting that view. In a way, it takes us back to the disdain for the word among genteel nineteenth-century Northerners. A contributor to an 1894 number of the Century Magazine wrote that “An American feels something vulgar in the word ‘nigger’. A ‘half-cut’ [semi-genteel] American, though he might use it in speech, would hardly print it.” And a widely repeated anecdote had William Seward saying of Stephen Douglas that the American people would never elect as president “[a] man who spells negro with two g’s,” since “the people always mean to elect a gentleman for president.” (That expression, "spelling negro with two g's" was popular at the time, a mid-nineteenth-century equivalent to the form n*****r.)
This all calls for care, of course. There are certainly contexts in which writing nigger in full is unwise. But in serious written discussions of slurs and their use, we ought to be able to spell the words out, in the reasonable expectation that our readers will discern our purpose.
As John McWhorter put this point in connection with the remarks Obama made on the Mark Maron podcast:
Obama should not have to say “the N-word” when referring to the word, and I’m glad he didn’t. Whites shouldn’t have to either, if you ask me. I am now old enough to remember when the euphemism had yet to catch on. In a thoroughly enlightened 1990s journalistic culture, one could still say the whole word when talking about it.… What have we gained since then in barring people from ever uttering the word even to discuss it—other than a fake, ticklish nicety that seems almost designed to create misunderstandings?
( Here are some notes, cut for spoilers and lack of interest: )
There are various encore presentations going to be happening, if you missed this and are interested.
We're on our way home from Scott's parents' place now. If we weren't, I'd start the next story with a due date.
-planning or outlining
-sending to beta
-taking the day off
-something else, which I will tell you all about
It's Saturday! Feel free to post a snippet, ask for help, brag about how well you're doing, or anything else.
Nonetheless they had reissues of some of Zora Neale Hurston's works, so I bought the one about voudoun which I was sorry not to have finished last year. Tempted and fell, also bought Rudyard Kipling's Tales of Horror and Fantasy, another doorstopper. Kipling is an impeccable short story writer and I maybe don't appreciate his stories as much as I should just because they are so impeccable. Not counting the Puck and Mowgli stories of course, which are much more on my level. But English soldiers going spla in India doesn't rivet me the way it did someone who'd watch them go spla. Good riddance, I tend to think.
* a singing *cauldron*, Gus? Cauldrons don't sing. Choruses, yes; tea kettles, yes; but I suppose 'a tea kettle of unholy loves sang about my ears' sounds silly. Supposing Carthaginians had tea kettles to begin with.
Otherwise have decided Daisy Dalrymple is not for me- much too pip pip and toodle-oo, which style works only when Wodehouse does it and tires quickly even when Wodehouse does it. Happily returned two vols to the library, a load off the conscience.
My suspicion that AC defeats malaise seems to have been correct. Slept like a baby and awoke feeling fresh. Did not /stay/ fresh because the day is as muggy-humid as one might expect, interrupted only by glaring sun. Is now set to rain all tomorrow and my shoulder aches again. This summer doesn't deluge the way other rainy summers have, but five days out of every seven are forecast to rain or look as if they'll rain or do rain, and in the end it's simply *wet*. (Like, I don't remember April and May being especially wet, but the Islands flooded all the same.)
No mention was made of mothers. Likely the effects parallel those of father loss. I would not be surprised if they are worse.
Now to see if Chibnell can pull it off as showrunner. A quick glance at IMDB tells me that he loves the Ponds, which is a plus, but none of his Doctor Who episodes have been particularly spectacular.
I hope that Bill comes back as the new doctor's companion. I'm worried thirteen will have to travel with a really annoying white guy, aka a repeat of Will and Helen on Sanctuary.
( This is a spoiler for Star Trek: Discovery )
Given that binge watching is not one of my strengths, it might take awhile to get caught up on Doctor Who. Also not sure where to start.
go all the way back to RTD and the ninth doctor
start at the beginning of Moffat's era
just go back to where I stopped, somewhere in season six
2. This morning I was really good at what I do.
3. This afternoon I went for a walk with kiddo and the visiting ltlbird, and after that we played card games and watched cartoons, and these have been lovely ways to spend a Shabbes afternoon.
4. This weekend I've been reading a draft of something awesome and offering beta comments and that is making me super-happy.
5. I spent some time learning today about the origins of Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokémon, and Magic: the Gathering (my kid asked me which came first and I did not know, but now I do.) It's neat to be learning things about geek culture because my kid wants to know more.
How are y'all?
Pairing(s): Otabek Altin/Yuri Plisetsky, Katsuki Yuuri/Victor Nikiforov
Warning(s)/contains: Violence, injuries
Word count: 628
Summary: Otabek's always looked out for Yuri, no matter what, but he can't help but wish he'd make different choices. Otayuri, mafia/noir AU.
Notes: Written for the Sports Anime Shipping Olympics, Bonus Round Four for the prompt: Yuri Plisetsky/Otabek Altin, "It’s hell to love a fighter."
Also my first time writing Otayuri, so... *plays with her hair*
Read on AO3
Title: The Wedding of Frog Fears and Anthropomorphic Nonsense
Characters/Relationships: established Willow/Giles, other relationships to be named later.
Summary: When Willow and Giles' iPhones decide to get married, and an ill-timed wish gets made, chaos inevitably ensues.
Notes: This is a sequel to my story The Love Song of Frog Fears and Anthropomorphic Nonsense. People with long memories may remember that I wrote and posted the first chapter of this story to Summer of Giles a few years ago.
Basically each story in 'Stepping Sideways' is a visit to a different universe/character, allowing the Seeker to be seen with fresh eyes by his nearest and dearest, this time round meeting Roda (luckweaver's OC). Part of my Not the Last 'verse.
For new people - I have my own OC Time Lord and a whole verse centered around him. (He is the Master and Lucy's son and born during TYTNW.) The stories are all meant to stand alone, so please have a look if you like. I'd love you forever. <3
Summary: How do you save people that don't want to be saved?
Setting: Between A Good Day and The Death and Life of Rodageitmososa. (This is AU, but within New Who between Name of the Doctor and The Day of the Doctor.)
Spoilers: A Good Day. But can easily be read on its own.
Characters: This part: The Third Seeker (OC), Alt!Roda (OC)
Beta: Um... That would be a no. All mistakes mine.
Feedback: Would be amazing. :)
Thank yous: To luckweaver for the loan of Roda, for the collaboration and all the dialogue, and for the gorgeous icon/banner. ♥
( A Long Way from Sherwood: Prologue )