Stacy alerted me to a good (feminist) analysis of the Onion tweet.
First of all, she says, Quvenzhané Wallis is terrific, no question.
But you know what? All of the women at the Oscars last night are awesome. Just to have survived to that level in an industry that, at best, ignores women, and, at worst, actively despises them means they have to be awesome. Maybe they’re not awesome in ways that everyone sees or acknowledges. But in their own way, they’re fierce and strong and bursting with personality in an industry that is designed not to see women that way…
The best examples of how Hollywood hates women were supplied by Oscar host Seth MacFarlane himself. He sang an entire gleeful song about how he saw famous actresses’ breasts in movies, as if he were 12 years old and had no hope of seeing breasts in real life (maybe, with his attitudes, he doesn’t), including movies in which their characters are abused, even gang-raped. (Yup, so sexy, getting a glimpse of nipple as a woman is being brutally attacked.) He degraded women left and right by reducing all their immense talents to how “beautiful” they are or how human carbuncle Rex Reed might insult their body size.
Hollywood and pop culture — including most pop culture watchers, such as the mostly male ranks of film critics and the mostly rank roster of “serious” film fans who populate movie sites from the IMDb to Rotten Tomatoes – is absolutely vile to women, with extra bile if they’re famous and don’t give that particular boy a boner.
And the Onion tweet was parodying that. Not echoing it but parodying it. I saw that as one possible reading at the time, but I saw the shock-horror about the tweet before I saw the content of the tweet, so I was primed not to see the parody reading as clearly as the echo reading. Or I was just stupid. One of those.
Or maybe a third possibility, which is that so much humor these days turns out to include misogyny, to have a misogynist edge, to be compatible with misogyny, to be the product of people (mostly men) who are misogynist. I occasionally watched Family Guy for awhile because I found Stewie and Brian hilarious. I find parts of The Big Bang Theory hilarious. I find Jon Stewart sexist quite often. I’m used to discovering that something hilarious turns out also to be misogynist and/or sexist as well.
It was probably all three of those. Anyway, the parody reading seems like a better fit now – but Twitter can be a bad medium for jokes like that. I know this. People mis-read my jokes aimed at myself as jokes aimed at someone else, and then ignore my corrections. Twitter can be a dangerous toy.
But the point was a good one.
What highlights how outrageous is the loathsome treatment of women on the Web?
Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a cunt, right?
That gets attention in a way that calling a famous adult woman the same thing never does. Because it’s clearly outrageous in a way that, apparently, isn’t quite so clear-cut when it comes to an adult woman. But she asked for it by wearing that dress. She’s an attention whore. She likes being in the spotlight. She can stop being famous any time if she can’t take it. We should see such rationales as ridiculous. We can see it when they’re applied to a nine-year-old. But we don’t see it in general.
Well. Okay. Feminist pop-culture watchers see how all women are treated in pop culture as outrageous. But we feminists are still a minority. That Onion tweet was not directed at feminists. It was directed at a general readership that probably has not yet internalized that it’s just plain wrong to talk about women like this, but might possibly understand that it’s just plain wrong to talk about a little girl like this. And might possibly start to get an inkling of a clue.
God damn that sounds familiar. She’s an attention whore. She likes being in the spotlight. She can stop being famous any time if she can’t take it.
She’s a professional victim. She engages in drama for the blog hits. She can stop blogging any time if she can’t take it.
So the point was a good one.
The Onion likely demonstrated some tone-deafness when it comes to issues that some online feminists I respect immensely pointed out, like how women of color come in for extra bonus disrespect and misogyny, and how little girls are inexcusably oversexualized.
But that’s not what this tweet was about. As I think many of my readers would attest, I am attuned to misogyny in pop culture, even the point at which I see it when others don’t. And still, I didn’t see it here. I didn’t see Wallis as the butt of this joke. It seemed completely obvious to me — to the point that I didn’t even have to think about it — that the butt of the joke here is people who say such things about women.
But she reads the Onion much more regularly than I do, so she had a better sense of their overall attitudes than I do. I’ve learned to expect to be suddenly disappointed.