Thursday, September 25, 2008

Response to Marleen S. Barr's "Grizzly Gidget Goes to the Whitehouse"

(This is a response to Marleen S. Barr's Grizzly Gidget Goes to the Whitehouse at Partial Observer)


I agree Palin's religious views/associations are threatening to open-minded progressives, that she "could" be worse than Bush (as difficult as that may be to imagine), and that she most likely wouldn't mind instituting a theocracy that would resemble The Handmaid's Tale.

However, I must object to some of your equally outlandish questions in your commentary:

"Has the United States become anti-intellectual to the extent that no one emphasizes that Obama's Columbia University BA and his degree from Harvard Law School are more prestigious than Palin's graduation from the University of Idaho?"

Is this how intelligent people judge the quality/character of a person these days. Oh, you went to Columbia, you must be better than that hick Bob that went to U of Idaho.

"no serious person names her sons Track and Trig."

This reminded me of a reactionary, soon-to-retire professor who did the convocation for new PhD students at Illinois State University when I started my degree there. He told us that any person who

1) had a tatoo/piercing that was visible 2) put a political sign in their yard or on their car 3) or named their kids with strange confusing names

was not worthy of any intelligent person's respect.

"Michael Jackson can name is child Blanket and Frank Zappa can name his child Dweezle. But someone who wants to command respect does not do so by naming her sons Track and Trig."

Actually, I think Frank Zappa was a brilliant musician, an intelligent critic, and was one of the most impressive speakers I ever saw address a congressional hearing (he was called before congress as an expert witness to testify about the proposal to regulate the content of the music industry). His naming his kids Dweezil and Moon Unit does nothing to take away from that. You probably also didn't like Funkadelic/Parliament because they mention "poo" in their lyrics, which is sad because they are also brilliant, intelligent musicians. You demonstrate a serious gap in your knowledge in regards to the purpose of challenging social standards and conventions (I'm not trying to say Palin is doing this, far from it, but your equating Zappa with Jackson/Palin is ridiculous). You come off somewhat reactionary along the lines of the reactionary conservative pundits and politicians Zappa debated in the 80s.

"Teddy Roosevelt's hunting penchant aside, I just cannot abide someone who has a stuffed bear corpse in her office. A poor dead bear positioned as an office decoration smacks of The Beverly Hillbillies protagonist Granny Clampett inviting folks to eat vittles and swim in the cement pond."

Why do you feel it necessary to engage the gross stereotype of the Beverly Hillbillies (perceived by some as offensively negative on the level of ethnic slurs)? Ironically, the stories always prove in-the-end that they are much more intelligent than the so-called intellectuals who make fun of them. Perhaps you might not want to engage with this cultural stereotype, because, on one hand, you offend many progressive people who have grown up in the Appalachian region, and, on the other hand, you speak to the reactionary people who think that those same people are country bumpkins (do you think this?).

Please do not think that these are PC rantings, instead I seek justifiable critiques of this candidate that are supported by legitimate critiques of her inadequate qualifications and her dangerous beliefs.

Only forty more days (approximately)

This was originally a response written for the magazine Partial Observer after Marleen Barr posted a link to her commentary on the SFRA-List Serv. It was also sent to the Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA) listserv where Marleen Barr originally forwarded the link to her commentary. It caused a series of arguments on the list and the person who wrote the above response has been barred from posting to the list. The pushing point came when it was pointed out that many younger members and non-members are afraid to voice their opinions because of professional retaliation and/or they will be treated as if their opinions do not matter. So far, SFRA has not addressed this issue and senior-members seem to believe that it is not worthy of discussion. Currently some SFRA members are discussing whether to bar all non-members from discussions on the list-serv in order to prevent critiques of SFRA members. We are disappointed that a supposedly intellectual/critical community is afraid to engage in open dialogue and that some of their members fear direct critiques of their statements/writings. We call on the SFRA to continue to keep their listserv open in the interest of open intellectual discussion and to address the fear/concerns of their junior members.
Marleen Barr had someone else make this statement for her on the SFRA listserv:

I have been talking to Marleen off list and she has convinced me that it was not her intent to criticize rural or working class people, that her satire was aimed at Sarah Palin, not at the people she comes from.

Our response (we are not currently allowed to post on listserv):

Since when is it OK to negatively stereotype a group of people and then simply dismiss the legitimate (and angry) critique with a I didn't "intend" to do it (and through someone else?)???

How about we frame it so you might understand. A man is at a party and he tells a joke about the business world that also engages demeaning stereotypes of women as helpless/inadequate/naive. The woman next to him is offended and he dismisses her critique with a statement that he didn't really "intend" to criticize women, he is telling a joke about the business world. Is that OK?

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