The United States Patent Office gets so many applications for patents on perpetual motion machines that they now reject all such applications outright unless they come with a working prototype. Which, of course, there aren’t a lot of. Something about the second law of thermodynamics or some such.
Now a perpetual indignation machine, on the other hand, is something that has been brought to perfection right here in the United States of America. I present to you exhibit A: this horrifically racist graduation card from Halmark.
The graduation card is based on the old idea that your precious graduating student is so awesome that the world isn’t ready for him or her. But wait – this card says – not only is the earth not ready, the entire solar system isn’t ready! The talking-card proclaims:
“And you black hole are so ominous. And you planets… watch your backs!”
To which the NAACP responds: “That was very demeaning to African American women when it made reference to African American women as ‘black whores’ and at the end says ‘watch your back’”.
It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so infuriating. What special kind of crazy do you need to take with your coffee every morning to live in a world where you think Halmark – Halmark, of all companies! – is going to insert overtly racist, misogynistic lines into a graduation card? You have to be deaf not to hear the ‘l’ in “holes”. And I supposed – judging by the ages of some of the poor women they have holding the card up to their ears, some of them might be just that. But then you also have to be stupid to not see the context of planets, stars, astronomy, etc.
America’s Right contributor Michelle Zhang is the one that brought this story to my attention, and she’s even angrier than I am. Here’s what she wrote to me:
As a Chinese-American, I would like to file a formal complaint against Minnie Hatley of the Los Angeles NAACP for remarks clearly made as a racist statements against the way some Chinese people pronounce words in English.
You hear the ‘r’ in there. ‘Whores,’ not, ‘holes.’ The ‘r’ is in there,” said Minnie Hatley of the Los Angeles NAACP.
And even if she didn’t intend it that way, it is still racist, because statements are racist if they can be interpreted that way regardless of intent.
Coincidentally, I happened across a convenient candidate for exhibit B on Facebook. It’s an article on a popular free web-game called “Hey Baby“. Basically you wander around as a female character and guys call out catcalls (ranging from benign to obscene) and then you shoot them with a shotgun. That’s it. And – according to the Feminista – it’s wonderful:
See, violence against women in games is so common, so obvious, that some men are actually viscerally bothered by seeing themselves blown away by women. And some of them are actually capable of applying that feeling to how women must feel seeing games where women get killed with impunity. (Men kill each other in videogames all the time, but that’s just par for the world, right?) Let alone how women must feel walking down the street getting catcalled and harassed.
Alright, I’m not really that interested in her point. What I want to point is that when male characters get killed in video games it’s no big deal, but when female characters get killed it’s sexism. So – just to be really clear – if you treat females and males exactly the same you’re being sexist. Then a couple of paragraphs later (lifted from another site) we get this gem:
I realized that one of the reasons why I was so insistent about my gentlemen friend’s insistence at walking on the outside is that I am already subjected to hella patriarchal social relations..
In some ways, I realize that I saw what he was doing as a further extension of what I have to navigate all the time. Because I be in the streets and I believe that women and men have a right to do so autonomously.
Am I saying that his wanting to walk on the outside is the same as street harassment? Of course not. Am I saying that both are patriarchal in that they are rooted in the idea that men, by virtue of being biological males have the right to protect and dominate women? Yes.
So what’s going on here? A woman is being treated deferentially – protectively – by a man and this is (you guessed it) also sexist. So, just to recap: if you treat men and women the same you’re sexist. And if you don’t treat men and women the same? You’re also sexist.
Presto: the perpetual indignation machine.
One of the things that frustrates me the most – and I think it’s what frustrated Michelle as well – is that there is still real discrimination out there in the world and in the United States. There’s old-fashioned racism and sexism, and there’s anti-religious bigotry in the scientific establishment, and there’s anti-Semitism, and all sorts of other -isms that I don’t feel like naming or ranking.
But every time someone holds a press conference to condemn a greeting card because they are too deaf, stupid and paranoid to get a hold of reality it’s a victory for real bigotry. Every time some feminist claims that there is no acceptable way for men to behave towards women it essentially justifies all the worst behavior. Why bother, right? You’re already a woman-hating chauvinist no matter what you do.
I don’t know what explains the perpetual indignation machine. I don’t know if it’s about money, or if it’s about a need to feel self-righteous, or if it’s about real, pitiful, paranoid fear.
But I do know it’s got to stop.