Thursday, December 1, 2011

Woman Says Politician "Sucks," People Throw Shit-Fit

Of all the tweets that are mean, vile, and otherwise-reprehensible in existence, I find it amusing how many pearl-clutching folks are ass-over-heels on their fainting couches about this one, by 18-year-old Emma Sullivan:

"Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot"

While "heblowsalot" isn't the most mature retort, I generally find it okay to say that people suck if they really do suck.

Which is partly why I contend that some of the reactions to Sullivan's tweet are a lot worse than her tweet. Like, Ruth Marcus' response in The Washington Post. Marcus' piece is gross in many ways, but what really stands out to me is the subtext that Sullivan's biggest sin was impolitely criticizing a very important male authority figure while being a young woman.

Marcus warns:

"Emma Sullivan, you’re lucky you’re not my daughter....

If you were my daughter, you’d be writing that letter apologizing to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback for the smart­alecky, potty-mouthed tweet you wrote after meeting with him on a school field trip."

Oooh hoo hoo.

Now, as someone who was once accused of blogging with a "listen to mother tone," I find Marcus' tactic really strange and condescending. Is it appropriate to publicly fantasize about how you'd punish a legal adult if she were your "daughter"? I mean, I didn't know before what it would even mean for one to have a "listen to mother" tone, but here is a lady literally taking on the tone and totally owning it. Weird.

And well, after reading Marcus, I don't think my blogging "tone" is quite the same as hers. For one, I would never use the phrase "potty-mouthed." (Do people still even say that? If so, they shouldn't. Outside of the context of discussing a toddler's toilet habits, there are no justifiable reasons for an adult to ever say "potty.") And two, I wouldn't use the word "smartalecky," which when directed at Sullivan in this case, reads as "uppity."

On an interesting side note, one anti-gay fella on Internet once called me a "potty-mouthed dyke," which is interesting, because it seems to contradict that other dude's "listen to mother" bit, but I digress...I think my larger point is that people on Internet are assholes. A lot. So why are prominent adults like Marcus and Brownback only just now realizing this? And why are they only just now realizing it when it's an 18-year-old female high school student who was, arguably, the asshole to a VIP man?

Anyway, given that Sullivan's Tweet didn't include a swear word, and that "sucks" seems to be in the American English lexicon as an acceptable synonym these days for "bad," I think Marcus' threshold for what constitutes "potty-mouthed" is absurdly low. I question whether it would be that low if Sullivan were an 18-year-old young man.

Marcus continues, by mocking Sullivan's silly girl interests. She writes:

"[Before tweeting about the governor,] Sullivan had previously opined on such weighty subjects as the 'Twilight' series ('Dear edward and jacob, this is the best night of my life. I want u. Love, ur future wife') and Justin Bieber."

The implication here is that a young woman who appreciates some of the most popular forms of entertainment in the US right now and who thinks three popular hot guys are hot obviously can't have serious political opinions or maturity. Like, who does girl think she is trying to weigh in on politics, anyway, amIrite bros? As she high fives the "girls are stooopid" crowd, Marcus reinforces the message that because Twilight and the Bieb (do people call him that?) are liked primarily by girls and women, they possess the inferior taint of femininity and thus signal unimportance and triviality.

And, well, playing that card is really problematic, because Marcus has basically just dismissed millions of people from the category of People Who Are Capable Of Having Serious Political Thought.

And then, well, about that.

Marcus may think she's playing some important public role here expounding upon the importance of civility young ladies shutting TFU and acting more like docile little ladies, but she really just comes off looking like a bully. She's using her platform in The Washington goddamn Post to mock and infantilize an 18-year-old who wrote a non-cussing-but-critical tweet of a major politician.

I mean, this is Internet. If you're reading this, you probably know that pretty horrible things get said on Internet all the time (see also #mencallmethings). That worse things are said doesn't make Sullivan's statement perfectly acceptable, but I find Ruth Marcus' column to be cheap and easy. It's cheap and easy because she chose not to use her platform to speak truth to power.

Instead, out of the millions of easily-found, violent messages aimed not only at politicians but at relatively powerless groups in society, she chose to shame a young woman who made one immature statement about a sucky governor.

Just keep this one in mind the next time you hear that it's The Feminists who get our panties in a bunch over all the unimportant stuff.

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