This column originally appeared in the Student Standard volume 1, issue 1 on the 12th February 2013. The Student Standard is NUI Maynooth’s independent new source and can be read online here
published here with kind permission of Keith Broni, editor of the Standard.
Bank Holiday Tuesday 12th February 2013
Another year, another Superbowl Sunday passed with me in bed early, not willing to stay up until 5AM watching the most excruciatingly boring sport known to man (Worse than Cricket, Curling and Lawn Bowls put together because AT LEAST those sports don’t stop for a little rest every every. single. Play) only for the faint promise of nine minutes of Beyonce that I could catch on YouTube the next day. No, I experienced the superbowl the way I also experienced the Late Late show’s debate on marriage equality last week- tucked up in bed with a hot chocolate, following the proceedings via twitter.
Twitter is a great medium for experiencing telly, a crowdsourced annotated commentary of whatever happens to be on. It’s basically watching highlights that are tailored to your own personal tastes- so in my case, the Superbowl coverage I saw was mostly ‘When’s Beyonce on?’ Then hysterical tweets when she actually did come on (SHE’S SO GOOD AT WALKING!) all about the dancing, the costume, the choice of song (‘Baby Boy?’ Really? That song was lame back in 2004. Come on Bey, do Bootilicious, come on-OH MY GOD THEY’RE DOING BOOTILICIOUS) and of course, the fact that Destiny’s child had ‘reunited.’ When really, all that happened was that Bey got her moderately famous backing singers back. I always liked Kelly Rowland. She reached a minor solo peak around 2003 when I first got into pop music. Sadface. Oh wait, now they’re doing single ladies- I have to do Single ladies on this deadly silent train now, excuse me.
The Bey halftime show was a bit of an experience for me, watching it on my phone on the train to Maynooth Monday Morning. It was when I finally sort of ‘got’ Beyonce. We’ve long had a complicated relationship because she just doesn’t really have a lot of songs I can groove to. Bootilicious and Single Ladies are aggressively good and that is Beyonce at her best. Telephone is an over produced masterpiece of pop excess. If I were a boy and her other break up jams always felt a bit flat to me. It never really captures the actual pain of a break-up- they’re more like revenge dreams. I’d theorise that ‘If I were a boy’ is really a dissing of the sort of casual misogyny that’s common in most hip hop and rap.
Beyonce isn’t particularly titillating. She’s too fucking scary to be titillating. Compare some of her earlier videos- writhing on a beach because Sean Paul is just too hot to comprehend (note- it was 2004 after all) in baby boy, to the aggressive dominance of the Single Ladies dance. Single Ladies is an aggressive, iconic song. It’s not sensual- it’s a war cry. She’s strong and she will fucking TRASH YOU in a song if you wrong her. She’s not pandering to sexism so much as sticking a sharp heel through it. Men do fancy her (note-I fancy her. everyone fancies her. don’t lie.) but she’s not for a moment subservient to any man. She consistently out-earns her husband. All you need do to set off any woman born between 1980 and 1993 is to go up to her and ask earnestly ‘Kelly, can you handle this?’. You will be treated to every woman in the vicinity shrieking the lyrics to ‘Bootilicious’ at the tops of their voices.
Which brings me to the title of her new tour- Mrs Carter. Using her husbands name on her solo tour has been a bit… confusing to people who have always seen Beyonce as a strong independent figure. Personally, I had actually forgotten Beyonce had a surname at all. ‘Knowles’ sort of became redundant after Sasha Fierce came out- She’s reached Cher levels of ‘first name only’ recognition. I had also forgotten Jay-Z had a surname either, in fact I just assumed they were monarchs and didn’t have a need for one, you know? Privately, Bey and Jay apparently both hyphenate their names, going as the ‘Knowles- Carter’ family. Bey has said publically that when she’s stressed, she likes to go make love to her husband to chill out. She is one of the most athletic and accomplished dancers of our generation- I’d argue her choreography will define the dance of our generation in the same way Michael Jackson defined the 80s. In the promo for this tour she’s dressed in a Louis the XIV style leotard and a fur cape. She’s Beyonce. LADS. She is Beyonce. Beyonce is allowed name her tour whatever she wants.
Niamh ‘I don’t think you’re ready for this Jelly’ Keoghan
A rather upsetting trend I’ve noticed recently is that of popular mainstream feminist broadsheet columnists in the UK being total wankers on twitter when they are met with criticism. I mean, I rather like Caitlin Moran. I think her books are funny. I do honestly think that despite every silly, often ill- judged thing she’s said or crack she’s made, she is essentially well meaning. I’m not as familiar with Suzanne Moore, but I’d have given her the benefit of the doubt too. Problem is, these writers, when discussing gender, sexism or modern feminism, are often in for stiff criticism from the feminist blogging community. Most of the criticisms concern their treatment of race (i.e. Moran doesn’t discuss it at all) or pointing out unhelpful language in otherwise well meaning pieces (i.e. Moore’s now-infamous ‘Brazilian Transsexual quip), and it can admittedly get very intense- I can only imagine because most of the blogs written in response to Moore’s article are articulate, indignant and blisteringly intelligent.
If it had been me, I’d be sitting there going ‘Ooooo fuuuuuck, she’s right.’ because the criticisms are valid- don’t ostracize Trans women. Either we’re in it together or we’re not- there’s nothing nice in excluding anyone from the woman party. It’s really important to recognize that in the world, different women are treated badly for different reasons- because of race, class, age, nationality, sexuality or even their physical body (btw Moore, the status of a woman’s genitals is never ANYBODY’S business except her own). And all the current transphobic bullshit getting thrown around seems to boil down to ‘Stop giving out about this, we have BIGGER THINGS to worry about! Like the Daily Mail, and page 3!’ and this is exactly the thing women have been told all down the years when they complain about things that bother and oppress them. ‘Focus on the real problems, gawd.’
The backlash to Moore’s comment in her article was swift and sharp and at first, I went ‘really?’ I read the piece and the critique, and was like ‘all this for one throwaway comment that was a bit off colour? That seems extre- Ooooooh, the tweets..’ Yeah, Moore responded to sustained criticism by taking to twitter with some incredibly ill-advised comments about mutilated genitals and similar transphobic comments. It was hideous, unpleasant and unprofessional as a writer. And in the face of even more vitriolic criticism, she then left twitter altogether, while the British journo gang on twitter all mourned her departure and berated those who ‘bullied her off twitter’. That’s where I get a bit bothered.
People had every reason to call Moore out on such horrible language. It doesn’t matter if she’s nice in real life, and that she’s your mate- writers, recognize when you have inadvertently offended someone or been wrong. This has happened a few times- Caitlin Moran, who as I’ve said I enjoy a lot as a writer, said on twitter she ‘could not give less of a shit’ about non-white women when she was called out on her lack of comment of the issues of race surrounding feminism. It was so, so disappointing Moran was cool to me, she complimented my jumper and signed my book. I like how she describes things and her writing style is somewhat similar to mine. It was really disheartening to see a writer that has a lot of charisma and talent be so… childish about criticism.
And that’s what I’ve observed. A whole group of well meaning, right on, cool feminist columnists who will not ever take heed of criticism. Maybe they’re used to lots of ‘LOL, ur shit’ comments online, or maybe they’re jaded from years working in media, but it’s a killer blow to any writer- to think you’re above being called out on shit you get wrong, even if you’re doing it with a well meaning point, or for the LOLz like I usually am. Just because your friends all gather around to defend you, it rings hollow because you actually were really offensive and nasty to an already marginalized group. One of the most intelligent things I ever heard anyone say was when Caitlin Moran said ‘Always make sure you’re kicking up [When you write]. Get at David Cameron, don’t attack some schmoo in the back with a bad hat’. That’s the kind of philosophy I like in my comedy and in my writing. Kick up, at the elites and the movers and shakers and let them know when they’ve gone wrong.
When you attack trans people, you are pretty decidedly not kicking up. Some of the most liberal, right on, feminist, LGBT-allied people I know are still a bit… weird about the idea of trans people, and in the idea of reassignment surgery. Trans men and women have it unspeakably hard in a world where even the right on liberals are iffy about them. Trans people are still a cruel punchline in comedy in a way that is considered waaay more acceptable than gay people, or women. ‘Whoops! That bird you nearly scored is ACTUALLY a MAN! LOL!’ that’s bullshit and it’s not fair. But for the ‘Moore getting bullied off twitter’ narrative to hold, Julie Burchill had to cast Trans people as the elite, so that she could kick up. She criticized the ‘trans lobby’ for their perceived abuses and language, Comparing the word ‘Cis’- used to describe anyone who’s gender matches their physical sex- to ‘cyst’. Worth noting that ‘Cis’ actually derives from latin and also refers to men as well as women and has NEVER BEEN USED as a derogatory term. Unless you count ‘Cissie’, which you don’t, obvs.
Now, obviously I don’t know what it’s like to be under sustained criticism like that. I am a teeny tiny drop in the sea of internet blogs. I just faff on about whatever I feel like, I have no overreaching agenda or theme other than having ROFLs and the odd angry post about sexism, but at the end of the day, I am just being funny for an audience of friends and friends of my friends. In fact I do shy away from really getting into deep questions about gender and feminism simply because there are so many razor sharp, clever feminist bloggers who I fear will tear my shit up- it’s a very intense field of debate and I don’t think I have the moxie for it, tbh. I acknowledge my own privileges- I’m white, I’m cis, I’m heterosexual, I’m from a reasonably comfortable background.
Does this mean I’m ‘not allowed’ write about race, or the working class, or LGBT issues? I say heck no, I can write about what I want, but it does mean I have to make extra sure I have my facts straight- and accepting criticism when it’s needed. The only time this has happened really was when I made a quip about the ‘suicide clause’ that’s causing so much debate over the new abortion legislation. I posed the question of why a woman would fake suicidal thoughts when she could just GET THE BOAT TO LIVERPOOL (Embarrassing emphatic caps lock is my own) My friend Emma commented on that piece, explaining that not all women have the money or resources to travel for an abortion, and their desperation can’t be ignored. And I was very, very embarrassed that I could have made such an error in reasoning, admitted my flippancy and moved on. That’s what you do. You take it on board. If you’ve caused offence, you apologize. Don’t fight back, or be a wanker on twitter. Just say ‘my bad, I’ll try to be mindful of this in future’ and move on. Amend the piece if you can. But don’t start kicking down at those who you should be listening to.
Let this be my pledge. If I should ever, in the course of my writing, be a wanker about criticism, someone take me to the side and say ‘dude, not on. Stop being a wanker.’ Don’t let me stamp and shout and be a knob on twitter (I am always a knob on twitter, but I mean like, a proper offensive, mean spirited knob).
Niamh ‘Still likes How to be a woman even if it’s problematic’ Keoghan
Without futher ado, I offer my favourites from the selection offered tonight, courtesy of Twitter- I’m pretty shite at being clever in 140 characters so have a bunch of funny ones I found in lieu of an actual post- My head is too fried.
(All the tweets below aren’t mine, they just made me laugh very hard. Everyone’s twitter handle follows their tweets. and also LOL)
‘That was A1, Sharon’ – @Breffniburke1
‘Is that the latest thing now? Twas far from Fifty shades of Grey ye were all reared’- @IrishMammies
‘As I shouted ‘Sharon Ní Bheolin’ at the top of my voice, I realized my mistake’ – @RyanCullen90
‘She Quivered as I stroked her thighs. ‘Take me in the shower Sean!’ I whispered to her ‘Wait til I turn on the immersion’ -@istherehotwater
‘Her underwear was wet as he pulled the rope. There’s great drying out today she thought as the clothes line hoisted’ – @Paudienewstalk
‘He slipped his hand under the red silk. ‘You’re so beautiful in that dress..’ ‘Feck off it was only a euro in pennys!’ – @LeanneWoodfull
‘Bríd’s knees were sore and her throat was raw; this was the longest Novena she’d ever attended’ – @Jim_Sheridan
‘Mildred giggled coquettishly. Pushing Sean’s hands away she leaped out of bed to turn Pope John Paul II’s face to the wall.’- @Datbeardyman
‘It was long and hard in her hand. she cupped a ball in the other. Oh how Bridie loved Camogie.’ @Yourmannugget
Niamh ‘don’t worry it happens to lots of men’ Keoghan