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They Said a Bad Word

by THE SOPHIST

Seriously! Really! NO EFFING WAY! Just a word, in a satirical sexualized context, creates this flurry of ad hominem attack and fallacious argumentation. What happened to judging whether something was even worthy of an argument, even worth a question, or to be labeled a problem? Here, what I want to defend is the idea of reasoned argument based upon a worthwhile topic. Not based upon the preconceived ideological notions certain people would attach to a single word (or words, by god!). It is debate, sound utilization of public reasoning that is needed, to follow the command of Lenin to “Learn, Learn, Learn” (quoted in Violence). But what debate can be had once the crime of sexism is levied based upon one word. What can be learned if all arguments are ignored to focus on a word, and when that fails to go on the offensive ignoring all other things which were stated? At what point is it analogical to the act of a five year-old throwing a temper tantrum for being ignored and writing tripe? My purpose is to provide a cursory answer to a general question, “Who made anyone the boss of any word, to lay claim to its meaning, or to enforce their own universalized ethics upon us all?” I will do this with a more thorough reading and higher-level of argumentation beyond the gossip mag style tabloid bullshit so far enveloping this debate.  Lastly, I want to end with a question. Since when do little nods from the powerful lead us into the cult of personality as a good? For Brecht would put the good people against the good wall and deliver the good bullet from the good gun (quoted in Violence).

The first point is based on the failure to accept the capacities of language to be utilized creatively, pushing beyond a de Saussurean signifier-signified binary. It is their crude radical ascetism bordering on authoritarian non-sense, which should perturb “WE THE FREE!” Tits can only carry the meaning they inscribe in it denying all other collective assemblages of enunciation. It is as if Derrida never lived and semantic binaries weren’t crushed under the weight of a million turns of a word. Turns of a word always in a context, a language game built into a system of knowledge constrained historically. As if Deleuze and Guattari did not build up the desiring-machines who constantly re-construct the flows of semiotic code in a folding socius. The act of de-essentialization of culture is ignored to reaffirm an ascetic meaning cutting off all creative flows from any micro-politics of desire. No longer can we play around in the constrained infinity of our language game. The word TITS must automatically be equated with misogyny, for now a trillion stings from the symbolic violence of capitalist elites and their propaganda is forgotten. The crumb cast to us by another of these “good people” is worth attacking our comrades in the struggle. A person you know is fighting with you in the trenches sharing the same struggle is quickly the misogynist. For a joke against the same elites we all deride is not allowed, not if it means a word *gasps* is used. Language must be walled off, confined, and guarded from perceived attacks by the ideologue guardians who have lost all touch with the working class.

Here is what enraged Smith so much:

“Yet the editors over at the CounterPunch website were apparently guffawing over Angelina Jolie’s recent decision to undergo a preventative double mastectomy. Their e-mail promo for an article posted on the site on May 14 reads: “Ruth Fowler unsnaps Angelina Jolie’s bra and exposes privilege, health care and tits.” Presto! A double mastectomy morphs into locker room fodder.” (16/05/2013)

Would Smith have been so enraged if it was an article on testicular cancer and Brad Pitt became a hero for speaking. What if the promo read “Ralph Nader has got Brad Pitt by the jock strap and coughing to shed light on privilege, health care and balls”? Still funny, still not about sexism. But of course this humor can only be male humor, only some phallo-centric oppression. For a group of petition signers gender-based symbolic violence is reduced to a word, always a falsely-idealized conservative semantics. Yes, a word can be representative of oppression, but it is not automatically so! And when you respond saying words are tossed around and not necessarily fitting into the meanings people would want, you are labeled infantile for these ideologues who consider it

“responding with what we expect a typical male undergraduate student to say when first introduced to the notion of women’s objectification: “CounterPunch also uses titles with ‘dick,’ ‘penis,’ and ‘cock’ in them.” (27/05/2013).

Women can only be dirty when they are “frequently potty-mouthed, proud lesbian” women (24/05/2013)? No, of course not! Working class woman would never talks like this without it being some form of self-oppression.

I guess this is what happens when you negate everything and see no way to affirm anything, but of course more negations. Slave logic much? And what would have been wrong with Wolf’s title

“mischievously proposed to the Counterpunch editors: “I suggest this nifty title for your post after Angelina Jolie has her ovaries removed: “Rich Cunt Mutilates Pussy”–that should get you lots more readers!”” (24/05/2013).

And why if it was Fowler’s title does it still matter. She is a woman, does she not have a right to call tits whatever the hell she wants? Especially, when she was pointing out the objective background to the symbolic violence of Angelina’s op-ed and the system underpinning the horror of breast cancer (05/14/2013). But, wait now we conflate not having breast cancer with having it in order to remove Fowler’s feminist agency:

“all medical patients diagnosed with potentially fatal illnesses deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Jolie deserves respect as someone who spoke out bravely about the difficult decision to have a double mastectomy rather than risk getting breast cancer (05/25/2013).”

No disagreement about the patients. But, even the non-patient who talks about breast cancer and utilizes humanitarian crises like a good liberal-communist should, for PR, deserve our respect? Does that mean if I write an op-ed explaining multiple procedures that can be undertaken, I should get treated with respect even if I ignore the fact the gene is owned by a company? What if I was a blind, pansexual, mixed black, latino, white, and Asian, who shared in 5 different ethnic cultures, and a post-op trans-gender woman? And then Fowler is no longer allowed to criticize? Well, sorry, you used the word tits and someone said something about a bra, your opinion is no longer valid.

For this is the tyranny of the intellectuals, the ones who have read Marx and breathed in what they would call his divinity who declare to us what everything means (ego-trip?). To act as if Nietzsche did not lay a well-aimed attack at the idea of absolute good and evil, at the idea of some universal ethical essence wrapping us in its categorical imperative safety net.  Who allowed them to say that this word TITS has become taboo. Only in this situation or universally, because of the context or because they are always against the word TITS, WHEN? Questions to be answered! For if they dictate the universal ethic, our actions, then what happens to the dream of “many and different better worlds are possible”. Does it die underneath the teology they inscribe upon our history and our future? What does TITS even mean if we do not accept their teology? Or if it is not a universal taboo, because Wolf is using it, then is it only a chosen few get to say the word? It would seem these questions are merely waved off by Smith quoting the Everyday Sexism Project who

“notes on its website, “In this ‘liberal,’ ‘modern’ age, to complain about everyday sexism or suggest that you are unhappy about the way in which women are portrayed and perceived renders you likely to be labeled as ‘uptight,’ ‘prudish,’ a ‘militant feminist,’ or a ‘bra burner.'” Indeed, there is a longstanding caricature of feminists as man-hating and/or sex-hating, bitter and humorless women who find sexism everywhere they look.” (05/24/2013)

What about it being about none of that? What if you are just being petty and looking for arguments where nothing is important and relevant to any matter of social justice? The CounterPunch editors, the ones who have Gail Dines writing about the ills of pornography and the destruction it reaps upon our male children? They are against the Everyday Sexism Project? Or were you turning a private problem into a public carnival leftist populism style? If Smith found it so problematic couldn’t she e-mail the editors and have that conversation. Wouldn’t this have been more reasonable than calling them misogynists? Or is this tied to Counterpunch having a “disproportionately older and male readership” (05/24/2013). Funny how everything descends into ageism and sexism for Smith so easily, so slyly without a forethought.

Do we suddenly find the lost universal context of the word TITS, where it is in every case a misogynistic act. I think not. TITS! It has been stated, declared, and signed with a giant John Hancock, as merely a word out of context. TITS! What does it even mean detached from any other point, in between nothing for which it can be ascribed in its common meaning. It begins to stink of a high-brow classism based on the tyranny of the intellectuals. O my lord, the word TITS was let loose. A word I heard working class women around me say my entire life. When breasts was a vulgar word, objectifying women smacking of pretentiousness in everyone’s ear.  Shit, it was my mom’s northeastern educated side who would find tits vulgar, but only because it was to them a low-brow thing. And not a chuckle leaves me now, for I mean this in all seriousness. Objectification is relative, relative to a societal context, but even to the miniscule micro-scales of dyads. Attempting to state that we have some scientific truth about sexual objectification is ridiculous. So, since we have no way to scientifically measure objectification, who becomes the judge and jury of who is being sexist? And when you defend yourself from the self-selected judge and jury you are labeled “SCHOOLYARD bullies…[a] gang then scrambled around and slung mud from a variety of directions in the hope that something would stick.” (05/24/2013). Should we over-inscribe them as well, and ask why they utilized the word gang? Were they guffawing over their racism when they selected it? For isn’t this the crux of a very idiotic argument being had? One gets to decide the universal meaning and history of a word and then oppress others with it as a sectarian attack!

So, I defend here the notion that a word can be utilized in a positive, dare I say, revolutionary way, even when it can be daily reactionary. But, I also attack, go on the offensive, and state that any reasoned debate was lost in the ideological swamp of fools in farcical plays. This is not to dismiss symbolic violence; present every day in the lives of those oppressed by a system dominated for power and money. However, it was never a point in Fowler’s piece to ignore symbolic violence. Just she wasn’t naïve enough to play in the idiotic game of a single word. How over simplistic to think of symbolic violence as wrapped up in a single word. But this is the silent death of the left, as St. Clair pointed out (05/24-26/2013). For this is where they are, fighting in the sewage left them as they lose every other struggle. A poor defeated narcissist with a victimhood complex, unable to morph into a new revolutionary, a revolutionary to come. A static spiteful being. One who is willing to accept the manufactured consent of the cult of personality that will follow Angelina from this point on. Because, they have swept away the ideas of it wrong for a gene to be owned, that Angelina wasn’t campaigning for health care as much as putting out a press release, that the environment being wrecked with chemicals is causing rises in the cancer rate. Swept under the rug! WHY?! Because, a claim of sexism was levied without trial nor due process.  A claim quickly disproven by a look at the evidence of CounterPunch being a radical rag. Well Angelina, you can have the support of the Marxist-Lenninists or Trotskyites, or whatever they are. They were never my cup of tea either way. But, at least know they do not have a monopoly on the word TITS!

The Sophist is a righteously angry burgeoning sociologist attempting to point out sectarian tomfoolery of those who should be comrades in the struggle. It can be reached at Andrew.smolski@gmail.com.

Andrew Smolski is a writer and sociologist.

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