So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

11 July, 2007

People Are Weird About Words

(And I'm not just saying this because I'm once again being croggled by someone with a partially shared nominal religious affiliation having the little 'labels are bad' dance. Though that happening while I'm being weirded out by other people's language is at least one of those nice synchronisities of complete bafflement.)

Anyway, to be on my intended topic.

So, one of the fora I read is a discussion group for science fiction and fantasy writers. A reasonable proportion of the population of the group is made up of people who have made professional sales, including people who make their living off their professional sales; probably about half are people who hope to make professional sales someday, or (like me) who intend to write no matter what and consider it appropriate to see if that can be parlayed into income; the remainder are interested hangers-on, writers with no particular interest in publication, former writers, people who hope to write, and so on. Strictly speaking, the newsgroup bans advertising in its charter, though exceptions are made for venues offering professional pay rates, which should mention this in their posting; this is noted explicitly very early in the newsgroup FAQ, which is posted regularly.

(I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this.)

So someone came in to invite people to submit to the second issue of their small press magazine. And someone replied to say, "Okay -- your post doesn't say what you pay. Neither does your website. We're largely a professional group, here, we're not interested in being scammed or in giving away our work for free."

This gets a response from the original poster of, "Don't include that in a cover letter." And the claim that quoting rates isn't "classy", and that they do not pay for journal submissions -- those are for the fame and credential on a CV. (Er?)

Which was, well, rude enough; the other responder told her to drop dead.

Which was, well, rude enough, but at least he left after one or two posts; the next one, the original spammer's husband, informed the newsgroup that it was composed entirely of "fucking cunts", and whose next post was suggesting that all of the female posters in the newsgroup (a fair fraction of whom I've met face-to-face, incidentally) "are just male nerds who get off on using a female pseudonym" and masturbating over the responses they were getting. (I would note that I post somewhat gender-neutrally. My strongly gendered legal forename and middle name are not in my headers, and my usename is; while said usename is probably guessable as female, and is strongly gendered in its culture of origin, I doubt that many people are familiar with the names of any of Akhenaten's wives other than Nefertiti Neferneferuaten to be certain of that.)

I'm just croggled by the notion that someone thinks this is an appropriate way to enter into a group. (When I found out that the fellow was married, my response was, "And he's still got a mouth like a fourteen-year-old trying to shock great-aunt Sadie?" Kids these days, wandering the internet unsupervised ....)

I'm profoundly croggled by the whole coming in with slavering misogyny to defend one's wife. Okay, maybe the riding in on a white horse thing crosses into vaguely understandable somewhere, at some level, but I can't think I'm alone in thinking, "You know, I'm not going to be terribly impressed by, 'I defended you from those meanies, dear! I called them fucking cunts and fake women!' If he thinks 'fucking cunt' is a useful term of insult, he's not gonna be fucking mine any time soon."

I have similar thoughts about some of the trolls that hit in the alt.sports.* newsgroup I read, who seem to think that "cocksucker" is one of the nastiest things one can say about someone. I have to wonder what their girlfriends think about this. One of these days I'll have the story that that thought goes into.

It's not like it's all directed at women and bottoms either -- when I commented on this, someone responded to point out the number of synonyms for "penis" that are used to mean "obnoxious and somewhat stupid".

And then there's this PS2 ad campaign with the slogan "PS2: Because Your Girlfriend Bores You Shitless". This whole ... sense of what's appropriate, the playing to stereotype and contempt, and ... it's almost tangential, but it's the same damn noise, too.

Here is one of the demons of the culture this guy is writing from. Male genitalia are obnoxious and stupid; female genitalia (and bottoming) are venomously contemptible. This is what the encoding of the slang that gets grabbed carries with it, down in the subliminals of the use of language. These things are insults to be, these things are insults to have. Be ashamed; be especially ashamed if you are encoded 'done-to', because that makes you sickening, rather than 'doer', at which point you're merely some variety of jerk. By definition in the metamessage.

We build this world with our hands and our voices, and some people choose to build it with words that mould it out of sexual shame and contempt even for their own partners.

People are so weird.

(Hey, wait, didn't Little Light write about this back in May? Why yes, yes she did. More broadly, too.)


Allie said...

I've been thinking lately about how, based on the behavior I've seen in my predominantly-male World of Warcraft guild, "gay" is an insult because it implies that the male in question is acting like a female. I'm moderately baffled by at least two different parts of this. (I bring this up because I liked that you drew parallels between femaleness and bottoming).

Sorry, this is tangential, I've had a bit much to drink tonight and this is all I can come up with. I liked this post, as with all of yours.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

One of the standard forms of homophobia appears to originate in the "men acting like women, therefore as lesser beings" sort of psychology; the other major one appears to be "OMG, that guy might treat me like guys treat women AVOID AVOID AVOID". (There are, of course, other ones, but a lot seems to boil down to a combination of these when examined.)

I find that ... a lot of things get clear when passed through these filters. Not always pleasantly clear, but it's one of those 'this theory adequately explains reality ... ah, shit, that theory does adequately explain reality. Botheration.' things.