Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Um, Excuse Me?

I have subscriptions to a few magazines for different reasons. Two years ago someone sent me a copy of the Oxford American's issue about New Orleans three years after Katrina. It was smart, sensitive and did not make me uncomfortable in the way most writing about the hurricane does. I signed up for a subscription. They are based in Arkansas and focus on writers and subjects in the south. This summer's issue includes an article titled "Are You a Tree Bitch?" with the unfortunate subtitle "Yes the phrase is offensive...but answer the question please." I read it on a lazy Sunday, a few days after returning from Italy. I thought, maybe I am overreacting. Maybe I am just extra sensitive. Nope. I thought about it. And wrote this letter to the editor. The last letter to the editor I wrote was in 1993 about being a weirdo at my high school.

I was disappointed and then angry that you chose to publish Ad Hudler’s piece on “psychology “ titled “Are you a Tree Bitch?” (Summer 2010). Starting with the dismissive subtitle, to the embarrassing excuse that the writer was “raised by an outspoken feminist” and is a “stay-at-home dad”, the writer absolves himself of criticism. He gave reasons why he should better understand that using the word “bitch” across genders does not strip it of its destructive power but continues on in defense of its usage. Using “bitch” to describe crappy, under appreciated grunt work and defining “dude” as someone doing performs the skilled, admired, artistic labor reinforces the power structure feminists work to dismantle. The author talks himself in circles trying to explain why it is ok to use this term in this situation while restating the ways it is insulting to use. While I do not read the Oxford American in search of radical political views, I usually find it thoughtful, entertaining and never offensive. This piece struck me as lazy, and its carelessness has made me unable to enjoy the rest of this issue.

Oh, Thea actually called his excuse "embarrassing" but I borrowed it.