Now that all the hooplah over shitty Halloween costumes and the right to be an offensive dickwad has started to die down (for this year at least), I think it’s time that we all have a little chat about what it means to be fun.
One of the most common responses I see when someone gets called out for using blackface or wearing an “Indian” costume or doing some other asshole move of a Halloween costume is “you must be fun at parties.” Now first of all as an introvert with social anxiety, a big fuck you to anyone who thinks I’m obligated to entertain them when I’m out trying to have fun, but second, I have this strong suspicion that people who wear racist and sexist Halloween costumes aren’t actually as fun as they think they are. So why do they think they’re so awesome, and why do I so whole heartedly disagree with them?
There’s this stereotype that being up for anything or being cool with anything is what it means to be fun. If you don’t criticize anyone’s behaviors, then they can do what they want around you and that means that people will have fun with you, right? Everyone will have awesome stories about the crazy shit they did with you because you never say no!
Let’s play a cool game called imagining. Let’s pretend that you’re hanging out at a party and one of your friends starts punching other people. Just going at it. Broken noses, the whole shebang. You do nothing of course, because you want to be cool, and only jerks criticize their friends. You don’t want to harsh the buzz. You don’t want to make your face punching friend sad. They’re just joking. Joke punching. Now another person comes over and is like “hey stop punching people, it really hurts them.” You say “Wow calm down man, it’s just a joke. This is why no one ever invites you to parties. Party pooper.”
SURPRISE! This was a metaphor.
Being racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist (I know I’m missing some but you get the idea) hurts people. Not just a little bit. It leads to high rates of mental illness and suicide, economic disparities, housing and job discrimination, violence and homicide…ya know. No big. Of course I can’t unpack all of the implications of the kyriarchy right here in this little blog post, but let’s talk about one of the things that I know best, just as a representative example: neurodiversity!
There are a couple of mental illness costumes out there. Anna Rexia is my personal least favorite. Here are a few of the real world implications of this costume:
- Everyone with an eating disorder is skinny
- Everyone with an eating disorder is a woman
- Having an eating disorder is sexy
- There is a way to “look” anorexic
In addition to all that, the costume glosses over the very real health concerns of eating disorders. Little things, like death. All of the ways that this costume perpetuates stereotypes of anorexia keep people from getting diagnoses (people who aren’t drastically underweight, aren’t white, or aren’t male don’t get diagnosed as readily), which means no treatment, which means people seriously damaging their bodies or dying.
So while you might think that your dark humor doesn’t hurt anyone in the same way that punching someone in the face does…you’re right! It’s way worse. Every time you act like it’s no big deal, you are telling the people affected that they don’t matter and you don’t care if they’re in pain. Life of the party, huh? Definitely someone people LOVE to be around right?
The point here is that there will certainly be some people who will enjoy not having any rules of behavior around you. But there will also be lots of people who quietly learn not to be around you because your attitude hurts them.
Now none of this is to say that if you aren’t a social justice person you will never have any friends and never have any fun. It IS to say that while you might think you’re helping people have a good time, what you’re actually doing is helping a certain type of person have a good time: people who aren’t affected by oppression.
And while some SJWs go a little overboard, most of the time I’ve found we have super great parties that are based on mutual respect and the ability to take a little bit of criticism. We have fun WITH other people instead of at the expense of other people.
But hey, if you’d rather ignore the well being of people you say are your friends, that’s your own business. I’d rather be nice to people.
“Erring on the side of empathy” has become a bit of a mantra for me – I think it applies pretty well here.
Don’t you mean “people who aren’t…female” don’t get diagnosed so readily. Because most people assume men never get eating disorders. (And this brings us back to the problem of stereotypes and their pernicious influence on psychiatric diagnosis.)
Just so you know, most Indians just say Indian. Along with “Put up a damn disambiguation page.”
I want to say, the problem with the term SJW is, it started out to describe a real annoyance: Young, upper-middle-class white ‘allies’ who make you want to say ‘stop helping me’. Then the racists went around and used it to describe normal people.
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