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The Culture Of Oversensitivity
In case anybody's interested, in this week alone, I have been accused of being anti-man, anti-woman, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-proletarian, anti-children, and anti-autism (after being quoted in a column by Dave Copeland). Keep those angry cards and letters coming!

Posted by aalkon at April 14, 2004 8:50 AM


And those anti's are just what's in print! I had coffee with you this week, so I know your anti-sentiment actually runs the gamut of human existence.

Posted by: Lena at April 14, 2004 2:11 PM

Don't get me started on women exposing visible hip fat!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 14, 2004 3:42 PM

Well, I can understand autistic monkeys being a tad upset by your analogy. I'm surprised they were able to mount a vocal protest, however.

Posted by: LYT at April 14, 2004 4:35 PM

Oh Alkon, admit it! Put it in a sentence! YOU HATE FATASS WOMEN!

Let's talk about this.

Lincoln once said "The Lord prefers common-looking people. That is why He made so many of them." If fat is a horrific crime, there must be an awful lot of lawless eroticism happening out there. And as we all know, that's the best kind!

The world of fashion is ruled by homosexual men, often doing their voodoo in your beloved Paris. But gay men will OF COURSE be attracted to boyish, fleshless builds... As will their couture customers, who give their narcissistic lives to weight and trends.

The beauty and charisma of the slender supermodel (Moss, Hilton) is undeniable... But at that level of their industry, they'd have symetry and charisma no matter what their build.

Fashion is, like it's kissin' cousin' envy, a sucker's game.

Posted by: Crid at April 14, 2004 8:58 PM

"The world of fashion is ruled by homosexual men"

-- I think you meant to say "by the homosexual cartel."

Posted by: Lena at April 14, 2004 10:35 PM

Yes! The left-wing, Godless, communist, homosexual cartel. THAT one.

Seriously, did I get it wrong?

Take 2: Years ago, back when he was still alive, Sagan and Druyan wrote a book comparing people and the animal kingdom. It wasn't a great book, but a favorite passage described a central purpose of culture as the means to EXCLUDE people. I thought this was wonderful. I saw it it my own love of rock 'n' roll, which sounded even better when parents hated it. So culture is not all about multiracial groups in colorful clothes lined up on hillsides drinking cola in harmony loving harmony. A lot if it is about telling people to fuck off.

Couture customers and their functionaries aren't using fashion as way to get close to people, but rather as a means to select people to ignore. You have to be slender, groomed, wealthy enough to afford a lowfat diet and idle enough to prepare the good food, and self-absorbed enough to care. Most of all you have to be YOUNG. At least that's how it looks in Vanity Fair.

But a couple hundred years ago, the prettiest girls in Gay Paree had lots of visible hip fat. It's the fashion that's changed, not the beauty. So if there comes a day when you need more beauty in your life, it makes better sense to look for MORE sources, rather than twist yourself into a snooty, 'spring collections' frame of mind. "Refinement" can only take you so far.

PS- This exchange is from an interview with P.J. and Chris in 1998:

> O'ROURKE: ... I was driving down to Washington and stopped
> at a rest area and couldn't believe how fat people were.
> HITCHENS: Rightly they are called the masses.

Posted by: Crid at April 15, 2004 7:42 AM

Another fantastic article on exclusivity is CS Lewis's "The Inner Circle".

Posted by: Peggy C at April 15, 2004 8:21 AM

What? No one's accused you of being anti-gay, Amy? Get with it, Amy! There's a whole segment of the population that hasn't been offended.

Posted by: Patrick at April 15, 2004 1:34 PM

I'm anti-antacid.

Posted by: A.Ho at April 15, 2004 4:51 PM

Actually, I'm pro-gay -- although I'm more of a fan of the lipstick lesbian contingent than the wimin with handlebar mustaches. There! I've managed to be dyke-negative, too!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 15, 2004 5:21 PM

Years ago the Onion had a tragic caption to a photo of a bloody corpse being covered on a city street:

"Martini, Rossi Slain by Anti-Spumante Extremists"

Posted by: Crid at April 15, 2004 8:59 PM

For any kind of group of people, there are always those who are looking for sources to hate. Some people must research day and night for things to find fault with. I think most of it is externalizing their own problems.

Posted by: beSharp at April 16, 2004 1:50 PM

Thanks, beSharp, for your comment. I've actually written back to a number of the parents of autistic kids who wrote me angry letters, asking them to explain why, besides the fact they say I've done a terrible thing in saying this, that I actually might have. No one's really been able to offer me an explanation, although there was one lady who tried, in a most balanced way. The rest just railed at me -- not exactly the best way to persuade me that I've done something wrong. Maybe I'll encourage them to post here and see if they can persuade any of you. What's wrong with joking about autism...or my friend the quadraplegic cartoonist John Callahan does? (He gets a lot of letters from people with working arms and legs saying how terrible it is that he's making quad jokes -- and from quads saying "thank you for making us seem human."

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 16, 2004 3:45 PM

I just want to express my vicarious outrage on behalf of autistic monkeys everywhere.

Posted by: M at April 17, 2004 3:14 PM

Amy, having read many of your columns and being a regular reader of your blog, I don't understand where the anti-Semitic sentiment comes through. I have no idea how anyone could get the idea that you were. On the other hand, I was under the impression that you were anti-Christian just by virtue of your opposition to religion in general and your pointed (bang-on) criticisms of Christian institutions like the Catholic Church. (I don't mean that as a slur; I think I misunderstood your stance before.)

Posted by: M at April 17, 2004 3:18 PM

I'm not against one religion in particular, but against irrational belief in god. I hold no god-believing group in more or less disdain than the others.

Here's the bit from my column that prompted the "Amy is anti-Semitic" remark:

..."Note that there were Cubans floating to the US recently, in a green 1959 Buick they turned into a boat, but no Jewish grannies from Miami sailing the other direction in their retrofitted giant yellow Cadillacs: 'Oy, Irving, I think I left my heart pills back at the condo.'"

Now, I don't know how many of you watch Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," a show I just love. But there was a scene with Wanda (who's black) chewing Larry out for being racist for thinking a well-dressed black man was a valet. Then she changes the subject, asking him whether he gave somebody her script. "Did you tell 'em I was black?" she asks. Larry mumbles, "Well, no" or something like that, and she chews him out again: "Larry, you gotta know when to play the black card."

Well, I might be anti-god, but I still have my Temple Beth El grade 12 graduation certificate, and the letters announcing that I'd won a scholarship for a summer in Israel thanks to my diligence in pondering the finer points of Spinoza, Martin Buber, and Maimonaides. Let's just say my letter back to the lady started out "Shalom." I also told her I could have used the image of Larry Elder's little old lady mother (who happens to be black), but my bubbie (Jewish nickname for granny) lived in Pompano Beach, FL, and drove a big yellow Cadillac, and I wanted the image to be of her.


I'm always accused of being ant-feminist because I tell women to -- GASP! -- dress pretty, instead of like plumbers, if they want boyfriends, ie, "Your look should say 'ask me for my phone number,' not 'ask me for an estimate on snaking your drain.'" Will smearing on a little Revlon before you go out really set the women's movement back 100 years? I don't think so!

I'm hungry, so I'll try to remember to move on to whiny men later. In another post, I mean. I avoid them in real life.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 17, 2004 5:40 PM

I am a parent of an autistic child. While I did not see your original comment, I have heard about it and I just read your blog here. You've asked what's wrong with joking about kids with Autism. Put yourself in the place of us, as parents of children with Autism. Imagine having a baby, it's the greatest thing in the world. Imagine this child one day can no longer look you in the eyes, cries and pushes you away when you try to cuddle or hug him. Imagine your child suddenly no longer able to communicate with you or anyone else, not having the ability to have friends. Imagine that your child has such a high tolerance for pain that you go to throw a load of laundry in the washer and when you go to check on him he has blood running down his face because he's fallen and now needs stitches, but never even cried. Imagine being in the park and people not wanting their children to play with your child or making rude comments because of the odd things he does (like wild arm/hand flapping). Your child has feelings too, and he isn't deaf, and those making fun of him have no idea if he understands or not. Imagine having to give up time with your other children to do hours and hours of therapy every week. Imagine your child crying and screaming for hours on end like he is terrified, and you don't know why, and can do nothing to comfort him. This is just the beginning of it. It doesn't happen for all families like this, but it did for mine. Or maybe, some families have had it like we do and had their child almost die at birth so this child is a miracle to us. What is so funny about this? This is MY child, and our family is affected by Autism. My child is not a joke to be compared with monkeys. Maybe your friend, the quadraplegic can make fun of himself, but most children with Autism will not "get" your joke, and neither will their parents.

Posted by: Tracy at April 19, 2004 6:47 AM

I was one of the disapointed readers who emailed Dave. To put it quite simply, wouldn't saying you would rather vote for a monkey be funny enough without having to qualify it as an autistic monkey? What makes an "autistic" monkey so funny? How does a monkey with autism act as compared to one without? Are you trying to infer that the monkey is perhaps even less intelligent by adding that? I do have a sense of humor, but, as a parent of an autistic child, I cannot help but be hurt with that comment. My daughter has a long hard road to face and the fact that people do not understand the serious implications autism has to one's life is so very sad. It may seem funny at first glance, but if you should ever have a child with autism, you may change your mind. I thank you for your consideration.

Posted by: Chris Perdziola at April 21, 2004 6:54 PM