I had to create this blog because the other day a girl who was in my hostel joined a Facebook group and it really offended me.
When I say my hostel, I mean the New Zealand term for the dorm like university accommodation where for the first year of university you eat dinner at 5.30pm off plastic trays and you probably have to eat your dinner beside those who enjoy 'power showers', casual misogyny and lazy drinking games as a past time. So by hostel I do not mean a backpackers hostel or a nunnery, and by a lazy drinking game I mean something like 'Hermit' where all you have to do is lock yourself in a cupboard until you have finished your beverages of choice. Or the 100 Shots of Beer Game, where participants can't stop drinking until they drink... 100 shots. Of beer. At least Scrumpy Hands requires a degree of gymnastic effort, and I Have Never encourages creative thinking, often to avoid the seemingly prerequisite slut shaming and a particular kind of exhibitionism that seems to run on low self esteem.
And so perhaps this girl shouldn't even be on my friends list, because I know her from a time in my life when weeding out those who offended you was more difficult because everyone had just moved to Wellington and needed time to work out who their friends really were. I should have expected to be offended by someone who I knew in the hazy time of first year, a time that is filled with awkward memories of the cable car and of eagerly pleasing. I would be shocked to be offended by a friend from second year or third year, when everybody splits into flats that swiftly define the scattering of the social strata. A time when my feminist and leftist and lesbianist and thespianist tendencies came sharply into focus, having been clouded by being 18 and leaving home and the need to make friends.
But when S 'liked' a Facebook page called "Holocaust jokes aren't funny, Anne Frankly, I won't stand for it" I felt really fucking offended. And when I clicked on the group itself, I felt like I wanted to cry. The creator of the group had gone to the effort to find that lovely picture of Anne, the one where her hair sticks out at the side and she grins at the camera and looks sunny and beautiful and free. This one. They had used this photograph for the display picture of a group that pokes fun at the fact that eight million people were viciously murdered, and persecuted for things they can not change, like their sexuality or their disability or their religion. A group where you can find a photograph of Anne, and written over the top of the photo it says "What's burning? Oh it's my family". I was offended that Anne Frank's name could so casually be used in jest, when she was a smiling, ice-cream eating, completely-articulate-far-
beyond-her-years diary writing, bike riding, crush-getting teenage girl who was viscously murdered by Nazis. Because I don't think the holocaust is funny, and I think that Prince Harry should have been punished for his costume, and when I heard about a law student whose name begins with C dressing up as a Nazi for a racial stereotypes party that was attended by mostly white, entitled law school types I thought it was just really gross. Because really, could anything be more indicative of character than dressing up as symbol of hatred, bigotry and murder? (And on a side note, how well does this party bode for the future of the New Zealand justice system? Get out now while you still can, there's a one way Air New Zealand flight leaving for Vancouver on Sunday for $1,937).
I think what offended me further is that S has sensibly moved on from from Victoria University, and is soon to graduate from the New Zealand Broadcasting School. I feel fine about her decision to do this, and maybe if I had also taken on a similar kind of specified course I would not be writing this post from my moderately challenging desk job. But I feel offended by those who in the media industry who so easily laugh at other people, and when audiences are offended by their racism, or their insensitivity or their xenophobia or their sizeism or their blah blah blah they spout about their right to say what they want about whoever they want, and they trump free speech and journalistic freedom over the feelings of others. Yesterday I saw that a dude I know with an enviable side job writing for a newspaper, had 'liked' a Facebook group called "OMG is that Sarah-Jessica-Par....... wait... its just a horse" and I felt a similar sort of rage. I know that the ethics of humour suggest that humour is art, and I don't think that art should be censored. I am just bored with media personalities, who have such an awareness of pop culture, saying offensive things for the shock factor and the publicity. I also think that the jokes about Sarah Jessica Parker are fucking villainous and perpetuate hideous beauty standards, because a woman who is not conventionally attractive must obviously look like a horse. And if SJP looks like a horse, and that is something that we really care about, then New Zealand should probably be wiped out, because our gene pool is fucking limited. But not only are these gags problematic, SJP jokes are boring. Jokes were being made about her face ten years ago. And ten years ago, even if the jokes weren't boring, they still rested on cruelty and misogyny, the founding fathers of Internet snark.
I was talking to my girlfriend about this, and she thought that I couldn't judge people so easily based on what groups they join on the Internet. Because people just see a group, laugh about it, "like" it and then never think about it again. And that is true and she was right, like she usually is. But I am largely an irrational person, and rather than risking her growing tired of my impassioned and relentless ranting I had to start a blog to vent to the Internet instead. I don't think that S sits around all evening thinking about how glad she is that Anne Frank died, and she probably doesn't have an anti-Semitic bone in her body. But Facebook is public. Even if it makes everyone act like an idiot, Facebook is still the public sphere. Liking a group is not that same as making a joke in your lounge amongst your equally small minded and bigoted peers. When an offensive joke is told in public I feel like letting that kind of humour float into the ether without comment permits the teller to be offensive, as well as sending the message that I am sweet with hearing such bullshit. Just because it's offensive doesn't mean it's funny, and just because I'm offended doesn't mean I need to lighten up. I know that supporting freedom of speech means supporting freedom for the speech that I hate, and while I support the right for people to defend their inane and offensive jokes until they are blue in the face, I will also defend my right to write a blog about my offence. And yes, I have commented on these Facebook groups in possibly the most cowardly way; by creating a blog. The Internet really does provides endless opportunities for stilted confrontation. And yes, thanks to the button-pushingly-easy passive aggressive Facebook, I could de-friend anybody whose views I don't agree with. And lately, I have been doing just that, taking a lesson from my perceptive friend Scarlett who once de-friended an acquaintance for joining a group called 'The Only Library I Visit is my Music Library'. But now, maybe I won't de-friend so easily, as I will probably need material for the blog.
It turns out I was too hasty when I deleted Amber for updating her status with the pertinent message that Anna Paquin is "ugly". I might have needed her for my next post.