Aftermath of the Offensive Caption Discussion

I have learned many things in the past couple of days. One of them being, controversy is good for ratings. I had 669 hits yesterday which is a lot for me. That’s like Freshly Pressed kinda hits, well not quite but still it’s a lot!

Thank you all for the conversation in the Comments section of yesterday’s blog.  The remarks ran the gamut from defending the caption more than even I would (mostly because it wasn’t that important to me either way) to a “so what” sort of attitude to very heated opposition to the caption to the embracing of “political correctness” to a degree which I find stifling.

I think if I had posted something nasty about the Pope, Republicans, white men, the Tea Party, etc… that would have been alright with many of the readers who were so aggrieved by the terrorist caption. I do think there is a double standard. That is a post for another time.

I’m not going to issue a blanket mea culpa for the terrorist caption. I don’t think the caption was racist, although I will cop to stupid, offensive, thoughtless, those sorts of adjectives. My intent was not to hurt anyone, it was just joking around. That being said, just because it wasn’t my intent to hurt or offend anyone doesn’t mean I didn’t. And I am sorry for that.

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m not a racist and I generally try not to offend anyone. I can’t say I never will but I don’t often go out of my way to be offensive. (That’s just covering my ass, in case I have gone out of my way to offend someone and if I did, I bet I had good reason.)

There were a LOT of comments on my blog yesterday and I appreciate every one of them. A couple stuck out for me and I would like to share them.

This one is from Katalina .

“Hi Maggie, first time commenting here on your site, though I’ve been following for a while – lovely to meet you.
I applaud you for opening up this subject for debate – to be open to ideas is, I think, all any of us can really hope for.
For the last 19 1/2 years I’ve been the mother of a mixed-race child, and I have often been taken to task by my in-laws about using the wrong word, or for subtleties in conversation that were perceived as racist. And for the first 4 or 5 or 7 or maybe more years, I was so defensive, arguing my side to anyone who would listen. Until eventually I settled down and thought maybe I could just stop reacting and try really really hard to imagine what it would be like to be inside someone else’s head, someone else’s skin….and to imagine walking out the front door every day as that person, and how I would feel about comments or vocabulary or jokes.
I believe it is an ongoing process, never finished. We are all always getting better at being empathic human beings, better able to understand the lives of others.
Yours, Katalina”

I’m sure many commenters were trying to convey the same message to me but Katalina’s struck me right in the heart. “We are all always getting better at being empathic human beings, better able to understand the lives of others.”

I wrote yesterday’s post because I wanted to have the conversation. I invited criticism. At 48 and hopefully at 58 and 68 etc. I will continue to learn and grown and be a better human being.

The second comment is from my friend Madame Weebles. Weebs and I often disagree and there have been times that I have just had to not read her blog and I’m sure times she had to tune me out. She and I are honest and respectful of our differences. Weebs wrote, “It’s not about censorship, it’s about being mindful of how our speech and actions can affect others. This country was built on the ideal of respect for others as much as it was built on free speech.” I like the word “mindful”. According to Webster’s, “mindful” is defined as “being inclined to be aware.” It’s a good word. This country was built on respecting each others differences. The terrorist comment was not mindful of that.

Bottom line, the comment wasn’t offensive to me but I know that others found it to be so. It is clearly a bigger deal to some than it is to me. It was in poor taste. It didn’t add to the narrative in any way. As for readers who will not be satisfied until I concede that the comment was racist. Sorry, I can’t help you.  And as always, I may lose followers for this and that bums me out but I can’t be all things to all people. This is just who I am and some may like it and some may not and I’m good with that.

I can assure you that going forward, I will be far more mindful of what I write and I will be sure, before I publish, that my words are something I’m willing to defend. I have deleted the photo from the wedding post but I will leave it in yesterday’s post as that post is to promote discussion of the topic.

As for the survey results,

  • 14 votes for Maggie’s writing being practically perfect in every way. Not surprising, right?
  • 13 votes for Maggie is an unfeeling cad (caddette). I can see that
  • 12 other votes. I need more survey experience because I want to know what the other voters were thinking. Is there a way to get that info?
  • 3 NSA workers who have already read this post.
  • 1 vote for telling on me to the NSA who have already told on me to themselves.

Thank you all for this conversation. I am always open to being called out on my writing. Next week we will return to our regularly scheduled blogging which could cover fascinating topics like my first golf lesson, this weekend’s garage sale, or Brigid’s 8th grade graduation.

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Voltaire

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60 thoughts on “Aftermath of the Offensive Caption Discussion

  1. Simon says:

    good stuff, really good stuff.

  2. I had filled out the comment box yesterday with a comment that turned into more of a post, but in the end, just deleted it instead of getting myself mixed up in your battle. I hate that people are so thin skinned, but I also understand. I’m Italian. If you call one Italian a dago he’ll go ballistic. If you call me or my dad a dago, we’d smile and go on our way.

    If you say the words “black person” in casual conversation on a bus filled with both white and black people, do you know whose buttholes pucker faster? The white people. Why is that? I didn’t find your caption offensive, but once I read Le Clown’s point and some of the others, I did appreciate where they were coming from. That’s a thought better suited to sharing with your family and not the entire internet world. Did you have any commenters who were Muslim tell you that they were offended by your joke? I’m just curious.

    Thanks for your honesty and sticking by your guns while still giving a little bit. I love a person who can admit they made a poor choice and learn from a mistake.

    • Maggie O'C says:

      Yer my boy Blue! (Please tell me you saw Old School). Thanks for your support. I’m an Irish Catholic Republican if I got upset every time someone slammed one of those groups, I wouldn’t have time to drink wine. I don’t think I got any comments from Muslim readers and I know the blog was read yesterday in Pakistan and Morroco, for what that’s worth. I don’t think I heard from anyone in Western Europe either and I think theirs would be an interesting viewpoint, as well.

      You rock as always you guinea wop dago. That could be a song.

      • When my daughter was but a wee few months old, her and I were up at 2am watching Old School whilst I enjoyed some cold beer and Snyder’s Pretzels. When the Frank took that dart to the neck at the party, I nearly choked to death on a pretzel I was laughing so hard. It was close to my end.

  3. Maggie, well done you. I read the post yesterday but felt it was a highly emotive discussion to weigh in on, especially considering my contribution would have been something like, ‘I still love your dress, can we be best friends. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done a degree in Human Rights (you can do that in England 🙂 ) but I don’t feel a photo caption on a blog is the place for me to get on my speaking box about these things. I know who you are before you mentioned the terrorists. I know how you meant it. The same way I would’ve.

  4. SocietyRed says:

    Maggie,
    Every day each of us has the opportunity to improve ourselves, understand a little more, and strive to be our best. Your post yesterday opened some eyes and brought an important subject to the table. You yourself stood on the front line and provided an example of how a good person can gracefully speak their mind and argue their point under pressure. Whether I agree with you or not, that was an awesome display and an invigorating debate!
    John

    • Maggie O'C says:

      Thank you so very much Red! No one has to agree with me and I am sure I can infuriate people but I will always do my best to be civil and to listen and hopefully learn a little here and there.

      Happy Friday!

    • I couldn’t agree more. It’s so refreshing when these things can be debated civilly! Hooray for hope for humanity still existing!

  5. I agree that was an excellent discussion. As far as whether people would get annoyed if you said nasty things about the Pope, Republicans, white men, or the Tea Party, not so sure. I mean, Le Clown was called to task for his Santa Jesus thing, after all. On my blog, one commenter said something about men being a certain way, and a male reader called her on it. As far as Tea Party and Republicans – yeah, you got me there, I’d have thought it was pretty funny. But I don’t think that quite compares with the whole terrorist thing. I mean, I don’t agree with much Republican or Tea Party sentiment, but I don’t think the majority of them would bomb a place either. And I can easily say that Democrats do bone headed things as well. But I get what you’re trying to say – some things are more offensive to some people than others.

  6. Brigitte says:

    Perfect Voltaire quote and as I said yesterday, you have done an excellent job of expressing yourself. Of course, I won’t stop following you and I know that you’re not a racist or any of that. I agree with you on the third paragraph. Now, about that golf lesson, does one have to have certain attire to play golf? What are you selling at the garage sale and congrats in advance to Brigid. Have a great weekend, Maggie. 😉

    • Maggie O'C says:

      Thanks Brig! Golf offers many cute skirt options which is important, of course. I am selling a lamp and some Christmas china, Derwoods bachelor bedding that I don’t know if he ever used. Stuff like that and the best thing is….it’s not my garage sale so i don’t have to sit there all day! And Brigid actually graduated this morning and she gave a speech and was wonderful! Yay!

      xo

  7. JackieP says:

    It was a lively debate for sure. I’m not sure if I contributed much, but with Le Clown around most are overlooked anyway. Kidding! Kinda 😉 Glad you are none the worse for it. I don’t usually say much, but just had to yesterday for what ever reason.

    Golf? Really? Well if nothing else you will get a nice walk out of it. 🙂

  8. Addie says:

    Both posts were well written, with your POV clearly explained. I can’t say more than that–I will however, have stuff to say about golf.

  9. Love the Voltaire quote. Perfect. I will not be censored.

  10. I read all of the comments last night before going to bed- quite the discussion. I agree with the point that some things are open for blatant criticism while others are not. I’ll admit, I have a salty mouth, and find Louis CK to be the most brilliant comedian since George Carlin and he is known to be HIGHLY offensive.

    I do think it comes down to how our individual words and thoughts impact a global thought process. I also don’t like it when people make disparaging remarks about men, or accuse every Republican of being a greedy money hungry lunatic. Again, feeding into an incorrect thought process.

    I do think the Pope (covering up child abuse ain’t okay) and the Tea Party (too many examples to list) have it coming to them because their actions are punchlines.

    • Maggie O'C says:

      I read and reread last night, too. This has been an eye-opening experience for me to say the least.
      I love me some Louis CK, I’m just not easily offended…obviously.

      Happily we have a new pope and the Tea Party can shut it. I used them as examples but that does not imply support.

      Enjoy tomorrow’s sunshine!

  11. The Waiting says:

    Hey Mags, I read the post and the comments that ensued before I went to bed last night and by the end I was too worn out to add my two cents to such a weighty topic. (I often feel like I don’t really have the skillz to debate on command with fluency and tact anyway.) I will say this: in your comment responses and in your post today, you show a level of grace that I aspire to have myself someday. I am absolutely horrible at taking criticism and being brought to task for things that I did or said, so I applaud you for using this whole issue as a means of rational debate. Well done.

  12. Tilda says:

    Good on you Mags.
    I think we have all learnt something about ourselves here. Thankyou. xxx

  13. unfetteredbs says:

    Why can’t we all just be real fairies ? Very cute

  14. reocochran says:

    I appreciate also, like many mentioned, that you listened to both points of view and did say that you regretted not being mindful. I liked that word, too! We all stick our foot in our mouth but don’t mean to…This was amazing to get so many comments on this subject!

  15. It wasn’t all that long ago that a blogger here we all knew and loved had a post used against them. This post was used to personally attack the blogger’s physical appearance and worth as a human being. It was wretched. If I recall correctly, you were in the front of the pack of those that felt this type of attack was wrong, that it broke an unwritten code we have as writer’s that dangle our feet in this pond we call the internet. You also bore the brunt of some very unkind words for that and I know that hurt you.

    When the author and supporters of this attack post cried that you and others were being oversensitive and that they had a right to write whatever, whenever they wanted you talked about the importance of basic and fundamental respect. You talked about boundaries and their importance in the blogosphere. So, I have a hard time understanding how you can still say the terrorist comment wasn’t offensive to you, or really that important to you, or that you were just joking when the comments aimed at your blogging friend seemed so serious to you.

    During your previous post, one of the commenters used the “R” word, she didn’t call it that, I did. It might be easy for you or others to think that I am hypersensitive or that I have been brainwashed by the PC police, but that is not so. See, I have a dog in this fight. I love a mentally challenged child. Even after his intellectual capacity was robbed from him by a brain tumor, the surgeries and chemo treatments to try and remove that brain tumor, I still used that word that I now find so offensive. That is quite embarrassing to admit. Instead of calling someone or something obtuse, dim, dull, idiotic, brainless, inane, or blank I would say they/it were the “R” word. I did it because, quite frankly, I didn’t know any better. It was a word we grew up with, peppering each other with it abundantly.

    When my sister, the grandmother of this dear child I love, looked me in the eyes and told me that it was no longer acceptable for me to say that word, I listened. I listened and took to heart everything she said because I love her and I love him and there are a billion other words I can use. Why would I want to use the one that offends people I love and respect? I wonder if that is why you found it easy to censor the unkind words hurled at your friend. Watching her heart break broke yours, and all the sudden it was clear what had to be done. Maybe one day you will look into the eyes of a Muslim that has been called a terrorist and your mind will be changed and all the sudden it will be clear what has to be done.

    • Maggie O'C says:

      Thank you for this Fish. Please reread what I wrote. I said I didn’t think it was “racist”, I said it was offensive, stupid…not mindful to quote Weebs. I watched an 8th grader at graduation this morning, she was the first student speaker and she had on a very cute Burberry looking head scarf on and gave a great speech. Don’t think I wasn’t thinking about all of this uproar. Please remember C, that I invited this. I didn’t just email with Eric and let it go. I put my offense out there for all to see and judge and comment on. I poked the hornet’s nest.

      One of my best friends has a severely autistic son, not spectrum, waaaayyy in there autistic. I once said something was R (and I don’t mean Republican) in front of her, using it as you did and she said she didn’t care for that and I stopped. Not that I ever used that word often anyway.

      In 2008, I made a major racial/cultural faux pas and I was CALLED on it and I did a big FAT mea culpa. It is not that I don’t recognize when I’m wrong, I do.

      What I am not doing here is acquiescing that this was a “racist” incident. I know the players, I know the circumstance and I know the intent. This was a commentary on TERRORISTS, not Muslims, not the people of Islam. I know that in my heart as do my friends who are in the photo.

      Please believe me, I have taken much from this situation. I didn’t put this out for discussion lightly. But I still will not agree that the photo is racist. Look at our faces, we were not pretending to be Muslim women. As a matter of total fact, a connection to women never occurred to me until yesterday.

      While this is a court of opinion and not a court of law, we still must look at intent and the intent was not there. In the past blogging situation you are referring to, the malice was intended. No question. In this situation, I wrote that while the intent was not there I hurt and offended people and I am sorry that I did.

      I really do appreciate your message. Please know that I have listened and taken all of the comments to heart.

      xo and enjoy your weekend with the boy! xo

      • Do you think I’d write something so long after not carefully reading what you wrote? I read it, and reread it, and then pondered it for a time. I know what you wrote. I considered saying nothing, but you’re more than just some blogger, you’re my friend.

        It’s obvious we’ll most likely never understand one another’s position on this matter. I guess that’s what really bothers me about this whole thing. I feel like Winnie the Pooh with all my talk of bother, bother, bother.

        Furthermore, and this might be none of my damn business, while you put yourself out there to take the heat, you also put Eric on a skewer and offered him up. He kept his feelings private, choosing to bring them to you directly. Was he aware that you were going to throw his view out to the wolves along with yours? If not, I think that was unfair of you.

        • Maggie O'C says:

          Yes, of course, I discussed it with Eric before I posted it. Give me some credit.

          I have been wrong plenty of times in my life. I have owned and apologized. But I will not call something “racist” in order to appease people if I don’t sincerely believe that it was. I am just not doing that.

        • Maggie O'C says:

          And as I think on this, again….more than once I have read blanket statements about Catholics and Republicans on my blogging friends’ sites. And the statements have been vicious and no one was concerned about offending me or any other Catholics or Republicans in the audience. I think part of this discussion is that it is okay to offend some groups and not okay to offend others.

          Orwell wrote, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. I am aware that this quote is a commentary on communism but it translates well here.

  16. I’ve been hovering in the background here too…and when I first read the comment on said picture…I just laughed because you guys looked funny. So am I racist? So racist that I didn’t even know it I didn’t even blink. Can you make fun of hillbilly’s or scary WHITE people? I dunno. I can agree to this/and me as not being mindful. Only when I thought about it AFTER you mentioned the debate…I guess it wasn’t nice. I really don’t think it was worth losing a friend over. If shit like this came out of someone’s mouth DAY IN AND DAY OUT…sure…we prolly wouldn’t hang out. I totally agree with you on being an uber vigilant society and how it’s overblown sometimes. We can’t watch every single tiny step…but remember that post on Reddit with that girl who had a lot of facial hair…someone commented on it…she wrote back…and it was pretty effing cool what she said. And she was not angry or offended in the slightest and it was TO HER. Then the guy apologizes. Its cool.

    http://jezebel.com/5946643/reddit-users-attempt-to-shame-sikh-woman-get-righteously-schooled
    An actual terrorist or muslim taking offense to the photo as opposed to just being policed all the time are two different things. Your apology here is cool – but no retraction needed here sister. Being mindful is a good thing. Rock on girl.

    • Maggie O'C says:

      I can’t tell you how much this comment means to be Speedo. Love you.

      • I’m sorry it took me so long!!! Love you!!!

      • Like for instance, if you are a ‘gluten free’ eating person – it is not up to the waiter or waitress or chef to know what you need. IT IS UP TO YOU TO EDUCATE YOURSELF ON WHAT YOU CAN/CANNOT EAT AND DECIPHER THE MENU ON YOUR OWN. Not for the whole world to take YOU into consideration and for you to expect them to know your allergies then be offended they don’t know what gluten is or know what you should order. Fucking Glutards.

        love you.
        (I had to come back because I didn’t want to pussy out on Word Press.)

    • Anonymous says:

      You rock jam master j.

  17. This was and the related posts are a fascinating read.
    Was it racist? In my opinion (and what the fuck do I know anyway?) for it to be racist the comment would have to carry the fact that somehow one race was better than another. It certainly wasn’t about race Nor in my opinion was it xenophobic – xenophobia being the unreasonable irrational fear of foreigners/strangers.
    Was it offensive? Yeah it was. Something offensive causes another to feel upset or hurt. And some did feel upset or hurt – so by definition it was offensive.
    Was it deliberately offensive. Nope. It wasn’t attempting to be “provocative”.
    And that is the trouble with something being “offensive”
    Because the nature of “offensive is all in how the audience perceives the “message” of what has been said/done/presented.

    Given the context of the photo and the caption – most people would simply go “Ha – that is silly!” and a few would be offended. And isn’t that why blonde jokes are funny?

    • Maggie O'C says:

      Merlin! Where were you in June?! Great comment and honestly you get to the heart of the matter. I didn’t think it was racist because it had nothing to do with a race. It wasn’t xenophobic or anti-woman, etc. It was just a dumb, offensive remark. Lesson learned but probably not completely …. knowing me.

      And hey wait a minute…I’m blong!! I mean blonde. Good stuff is coming from this mess.

  18. Katalina4 says:

    Wow, I never saw this follow up post – I remember I was working a lot back in June, and didn’t have much time on my hands.
    Anyways, all the recent uproar brought me back here and it’s fun seeing where things went with this discussion.
    🙂 Kat

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