« Male despair and mail-order brides | Main | Thursday Short Poem: Olds' "First Sex" »

July 12, 2006

Comments

SamChevre

I think you underestimate the power of race/class insults for poor whites. It isn't that they aren't insults--it's that you (Hugo) are no more described by "cracker" than by "nigger." There is (at least in the South) a long history of disdain, disfranchisement, and discrimination against poor, rural whites, running from the immigration in the 1700's until today. (I spent 10 years learning to speak with a non-hillcountry accent, because everyone assumed I was stupid if I spoke in my own accent.)Describing someone as a "cracker" (or, in a more common, as "trash"), is a fightable insult.

Hugo

Fair enough, Sam, I defer to your experience. But it still doesn't solve the problem (if that is the right word) of the complete absence of a comparable insult to give to middle-class, heterosexual Christian white men, of whme there are a sizeable number. I am happy to have "class" added to the list of categories over which one can be deeply hurt.

Jendi

What is the benefit of making a list of forbidden topics for insults (race, class, etc) rather than red-carding all verbal abuse? That avoids the "my victimization is worse than yours" game.

Just wanted to say, Hugo, that you are a model of Christian forbearance when YOU are insulted by the commenters on your blog. I may not always agree with what you say, but I admire how you present yourself with candor and humility and compassion for your opponents. I learn a lot from you.

Douglas, Friend of Osho

Race, sure, but even Materrazi's non-racial taunts are bad enough. A death wish for Zizou's family? That's way beyond "liar" and "go fuck yourself". A recent analogy is Colorado Rockies closer Jose Mensa, who has said he will plunk SF Giants shortstop and former teammate Omar Vizquel whenever he faces him and has done so this year. Do we have to wait before Mensa makes good on the rest of his promise---to kill Vizquel---before Bud Selig acts like a comissioner? Fans need to get involved, especially in a game with the international appeal of soccer.

Noah Snyder

Zidane's headbut is definitely not comparable to something like a kick in the groin. It was a good hard shot, to be sure, but it had no chance of causing injury. In football or basketball there are tons of opportunities to give hard shots like that which wouldn't get you ejected. And if someone does something that deserves it, then they get a hard foul and knocked down. What Zidane did, although deserving of a red card under the rules of soccer, was not vicious or cheap.

Indecisive

Thanks, Hugo, for giving some helpful context for thinking about this issue. A couple other horizons of context that might be useful. First, I can't help but think that this event could not have happened had Zidane and Materazzi been closer to the action. They were both off the ref's radar, and had it not been Zidane, who certainly had a camera shadowing him the entire game, then it might have been missed by the cameras. Zidane started to run away and seems to turn when he sees that the ref is farther away; this seems like a somewhat calculated move to try to get away with something when he could potentially miss getting caught. Of course, this cuts both ways; perhaps Materazzi would reserve some of his more vile comments for when the ref is out of earshot. But I also think that had Zidane chosen to respond in mid-play, the world would be tend to be much more forgiving.

Second, this is the World Frickin' Cup Final in overtime. Doesn't it mean anything to him that this is such a huge event, literally the world's biggest stage, from which one could try to effect a positive good (this WC did, after all, intentionally try to position itself as anti-racism, though I'm not sure how much good those statements the captains read pre-game do). Zidane has certainly heard every insult in the book many times over in his illustrious career, and yet chose about the worst possible time to react. In many ways, I actually wouldn't have too much of a problem had he done this in a random league game, where the stakes are low but the point could still be effectively made.

On the other hand, some of the blogging I've seen defending Zidane seems to hail from the same spirit as racial stereotyping. Constant reference is made to Zidane's difficult life growing up, with the assumed (and sometimes stated) "You can take the man off the streets but you can't take the streets out of the man" notion; there is an assumption by many bloggers that precisely b/c of his poor, marginalized background, Zidane shouldn't have any capacity for self-control. While I don't want to equate the two b/c they are in very different power contexts, this sounds a lot like the kind of argument that you refute all the time on this blog, namely, that men, because they happen to be men, can't help but control their lust for women. I know that this might make me sound like one of those dreaded "personal responsibility" conservatives, but I'm thinking about this issue more from a pragmatic standpoint: I think everyone chooses their battles to a large extent, and this battle seemed to be about as ill-timed as possible.

perplexed

And it is the height of arrogance for those of us who have never experienced these sorts of psychic injuries to demand constant self-control from those who have.

Let's be specific. Zidane headbutted the Italian in the chest - sending-off offence - straight red. A footballer is expected to keep his self-control on the field of play. If not, that's what red cards are for.

As for causing offence, we can all be offended. It just depends on the variables. To say there are sections of society who can be "more offended" than others is a ridiculous argument. We're all human. Much offence can be caused based on someone mocking another person's past EXPERIENCES for which there are an unlimited number of possibilities. It's not just about race or sex.

Q Grrl

eh, for once I agree with perplexed.

These are professional athletes, at the peak of their sport. Verbal offences are as common as sweat on the playing field. As are physical retaliations. Zidane not only assualted another player, he sent a big "fuck you" to the sport and his fan base, from which he is retiring. Having played 27+ years of soccer and 3+ years of rugby, I have yet to see anyone act in such a manner that wasn't driven purely by ego, and not offense.

Hugo

Sure, Q Grrl, verbal offenses are common -- but my point is that some people by virtue of their race, class, or faith are more vulnerable to those offenses than others. And please note, I did think he deserved the red card (and, if he continues a playing career internationally, a ban of a few matches). I just want to be careful not to play the part of the obtuse white man who says "Shut up and learn to take it" when I (or any other white player in Europe) haven't had to take anything like what Zidane has had to take.

Douglas, Friend of Osho

You're right, perplexed, Zidane got what was coming to him. The matter now is, will Materazzi?

the flying ghoti

The point is an interesting one, but Zidane's little tantrum wasn't his first - and the the attack must be considered a violent assault with last man he attacked for insulting him was Saudi, and certainly didn't call him a terrorist. Also, the fact remains that we have no idea what Materazzi actually said; every lip-reader seems to come up with a different interpretation. Materazzi has admitted to trash-talking, but swears up and down it was neither a racist slur nor a dig at Zidane's mother. Based on the context, the most likely interpretation (to me) currently seems to be that Materazzi grabbed Zidane's shirt, Zidane said "If you really want my shirt I'll give it to you afterwards," and Materazzi replied with something like "I'd rather take the shirt off your wife."

So I suppose "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me" if you happen to be a privileged white unmarried male using Western European languages.

Also, to Noah Snyder: a blow to the celiac plexus can cause intense pain or even death. A good headbutt to the chest could also easily break ribs or the xyphoid process. I'm by no means claiming that Zidane was trying to seriously injure Materazzi, but it wasn't a "hard foul", it was "assault and battery". Subtle distinction.

perplexed

(tried to post this yesterday, so some of the quotes are missing from previous posts!)

These are professional athletes, at the peak of their sport. Verbal offences are as common as sweat on the playing field. As are physical retaliations. Zidane not only assualted another player, he sent a big "fuck you" to the sport and his fan base, from which he is retiring. Having played 27+ years of soccer and 3+ years of rugby, I have yet to see anyone act in such a manner that wasn't driven purely by ego, and not offense.

Sincerely I want to take this opportunity in agreeing with Q Grrl!!

Hugo, Zidane is like every other human being - he has this thing called personal responsibility for his actions. There is no excuse to physically attack another human simply based on words they speak. As Q Grrl states, and as I know very well, verbal abuse is practically part and parecel of professional sports.

In cricket, they call it sledging and it's actually an accepted part of the game. All kinds of insults are used, no holds barred. The more offensive the remark, the better. The point of sledging is make the batsman lose his cool - to psyche him out.

In football (soccer) and other sports its just the same. I think a lipreader would get much entertainment from observing footballers whenever there's a corner - see how much is spoken between the opposing players. Also, when there's a foul - it's normal there's an exchange of words.

Once again Hugo, you seem to have this double standard of shaming particular humans about their actions (just because of the arbitrary attributes they have, like white skin and male gender), while EXCUSING other humans just because they happen to have particular skin colour/ethnic background/gender.

Here's a thought Hugo: how about judge people by their actions, no matter what skin colour or gender they are.

His head-butt was a "I'm a man, just a man" moment -- a refusal to play the role he had been assigned and a impassioned plea to be seen as a human being.

C'mon Hugo - the whole incident happened in seconds. Zidane lost his cool - simple. He hit out. If it was his wife he attacked, would you be defending him? What's worse is that Zidane said he'd do it again in his public 'apology'. You're waxing lyrical about thuggery, which I find odd.

He's a genius footballer, and he's a thug (sent off 12 times in his career including other head-butts).

elizabeth

Well, I am the person in the blogsphere who has not heard about this headbutt - perhaps because I have no television, radio or newspaper or interest in World Cup events. I am unclear - the person who used language in europe that surely must fall under "hate speech" european laws, do they not get a red card? Or get arrested? Or is this part of the "when men are on the sports field the normal rules of humanity don't apply" thing?

As for not finding something to verbally hurt a white Christian male - while certainly institionalized hurts followed up by the actions of society allow an easier access to emotionally hurting those of minorities - I think you underestimate the capabilities and imagination of humans if you think words don't exist to hurt you, even a White Christian male (that don't include your sexuality). The first word I would think of was "racist" - would a group of people outside your office screaming "racist", "Bigot", "Klan-man" etc hurt you? How about "rapist", cChild molestor", "abuser", "nutcase", "pedophile", "plagerist", "women-hater", "Alcoholic", "Addict" - there are many, many ways white males work to disenfranchise each other without implying homosexuality (though that is common too) - if you, out in your soccer dreams, had someone start talking about how you rape your females students, enjoying it all the more because they believed your lie as a feminist, and how you like to hear them scream - that wouldn't get you upset?

Hugo

Elizabeth, none of those terms are specific to white men in the way that "nigger" is specific to blacks or "pussy" to women. You mistake my point.

elizabeth

Insults based on the assumption that white men are the wielders of power in society - and thus abuser of that trust aren't specific? Pedophile, rapist, bigot, racist - are all male specific, also almost exclusive used against white men (with the exception of rapist).

You point seems to be that "Western culture doesn't have derogatory language for white, Christian, heterosexual men" - again, it seems that you see what you wish to see in this regard - that white chistian striaght men don't know how to say things to hurt each other besides sexuality and thus haven't for the last 2000 years?

Hugo

Yes, that is largely what I'm saying -- calling a man a "bigot" is not going to wield the same psychic power as calling a woman a "cunt".

Mr. Bad

Hugo, you're projecting your own experience and hubris on the entire Christian white male population and it's not valid.

It is your opinion that calling a man a bigot, dick, fag, cracker, etc., is less hurtful in a "psychic" or other manner than similar insults are to blacks, women, etc., but frankly, there's just no way you can know it's true, let alone prove it. The reality is that it doesn't bother you as much as you seem to think it does your female (presumably feminist, and thus small subset of women) friends, but that's as far as your analysis can possibly go because of it's fatal limitations (i.e., sample size of 1, you). In fact, I would argue that it hurts an average man a lot more to call them a "pussy" than it does an average woman (where the hell did you get the insult "pussy" for women anyway? I've never heard that used against a woman, only a man). Throw in the fact that you are one of the most tolerant people I can think of out here in the blogosphere, and thus a poor comparison for the 'average' white guy vis-a-vis becoming offended by insults, and your arguments become even more tenuous.

IMO this may be one of the weakest posts you've ever written.

Hugo

Mr. Bad, the term pussy is not used for women, but it insults a man by suggesting that he is a woman -- it's much more hurtful to call a man a pussy than to call him a prick or a dick. It's misogyny whenever we suggest that there is something to be feared in being identified with the feminine. Note that we rarely call women "dicks" -- because that which is masculine is rarely considered insulting; that which is feminine is insulting to both.

Mr. Bad

Hugo, you used the term "pussy" as an example of an insult to women in your response to Elizabeth - see above.

As for your theories re. calling men "pussy," IMO they incorrect. When men (and women) use the term "pussy" in reference to a men it's suggesting that he's acting like a woman and not is a woman (somehow that sounds very Clintonesque); it's similar to the insult "butch" or "bull" used for a woman when she acts masculine, and "bitch" for a woman when she acts pushy. However, saying that one insult is worse for one person than another is exercising an incredible amount of hubris on your part, as if you could possibly read minds and absolutely know how people feel in a given situation when insulted and thus who is 'hurt' more by the insult than another.

As for equating misogyny (i.e., hatred of women) with calling someone a pussy, that's absurd. Reducing such minor incidents to "misogyny" trivializes the term such that it loses any serious connotations and becomes yet another empty classification useful only for shaming. Sheesh, what next: An accusation of 'canineogyny' when we call someone a bitch? Dogs all over the PC-world will stomp a foot, toss their heads and get in a snit!

perplexed

Is it mitigating cirumstances if a black man physically attacks his white wife because she racially abused him? Or is that not OK simply because she's a woman (and thus, in the victim pecking order, she is a few rungs above white men).

Hugo, in post after post you make on your blog, you do your best to absolve large sections of society from personal responsibility.

Lee (ADLTI)

[i]When a white man and a man of color are playing on the pitch, no matter which European language they speak, the white man will have more "weapons in his verbal arsenal" than his rival.[/i]

This is unmitigated bovine scat.

Just because this idea has gotten traction in academia, and other professors and left leaning individuals agree, doesn't make it true.

I don't agree with it, most people on the planet don't agree with it, and this is simply your opinion.

This is self-hatred of a White European Man, externalised, codified into a philosophy and taught to those who don't know better or must mouth the platitudes back to the professor to pass the course and graduate.

Yes, Zidane ruined his reputation. But if
Marco Materazzi did say: "...(Y)ou're the son of a terrorist whore." (among other things), then Materazzi deserved it and Zidane did the right thing.

Many emasculated, leftist men don't recognise, agree with or know that prior to the insanity of Leftist thought ruining society 1963-present, that if you insulted someone's mother like that, and with the added hate speech of her being a terrorist, the person who spoke that would (rightly) get the fucking shit beat out of him.

This is how men used to enforce socially appropriate behavior. Insult me, call me names, go ahead ya loser. Start to call my *mother* names, and you have crossed the line. Men in the U.S.A. *used* to live by that honorable code.

It appears that among his many attributes, this is not one Hugo shares.

I am not surprised.

Lee (ADLTI)

[i]Yes, that is largely what I'm saying -- calling a man a "bigot" is not going to wield the same psychic power as calling a woman a "cunt".[i]
This is simply not factually, intellectually or actually true.

It is just the opinion of many academics who have convinced others that statement has merit.

bmmg39

"Put bluntly, the word 'cunt' has more power to hurt than the insult 'prick'..."

Sorry, can't agree. We're going down a dangerous road when we begin putting hateful, hurtful words into a hierarcy of sorts. And it's impossible to know how a hurtful a word will be to its target, anyway, since we're all different. Maybe a woman calling a man the above insult will shatter him to the core, while, in a situation with two completely different people, the c-word will roll off of her like water off a duck's back (particularly if she's a MONOLOGUES fan and sees the word as more empowering even if she knows it's not being directed at her that way). And what about a word like "loser" or "failure" hurting a person more than either of the above ever could? We don't know what word will hurt a person the most.

This doesn't mean I'm being callous toward Zidane. I don't support his action, but I'm not blind to the fact that words can hurt.

"If it was his wife he attacked, would you be defending him?"

A fair question. What if he were married to a white Italian woman who used racial slurs while having an argument, and he responded in this fashion?

"Insults based on the assumption that white men are the wielders of power in society - and thus abuser of that trust aren't specific?"

"Cracker" refers to whip-cracker, BTW. That's pretty bad. And while I'm feeling expository:

"...the word 'faggot' more power to hurt than the word 'straight.'"

The word some gays used to use to "retaliate" against straights is "breeder." That's where the band with Kim Deal got its name.

As for Zidane, do any of you lament the fact that he is now a hundred times more famous for this in the USA than he ever was while a brilliant active soccer player?

bmmg39

Sorry it's taken long for these to get up; there was apparently a TypeKey error.

"Mr. Bad, the term pussy is not used for women, but it insults a man by suggesting that he is a woman -- it's much more hurtful to call a man a pussy than to call him a prick or a dick."

Again, you can't speak for all men. I don't like any of the above words because they degrade the human bodies of men and women, and -- in doing so -- degrade the men and women themselves. But if someone calls me a "woman" because of something I say or do, I'll say, "I don't consider the word 'woman' to be an insult." But if someone drops the word "pr---" or "d---," I'll be angry.

Judge intentions and actions, not who has the bigger weapon. If someone is trying to kill innocent people with a sword, and I'm trying to kill innocent people with a paring knife, I don't deserve a lesser punishment.

Lee: "Many emasculated, leftist men don't recognise, agree with or know that prior to the insanity of Leftist thought ruining society 1963-present, that if you insulted someone's mother like that, and with the added hate speech of her being a terrorist, the person who spoke that would (rightly) get the fucking shit beat out of him."

Lee, lefty/righty has nothing to do with it. You simply cannot have people beating the hell out of each other because of insults. We can sympathize -- even empathize -- with the person who lashes out in anger when he or she has been insulted, but we cannot condone physical violence for something said.

Lee (ADLTI)

"Lee: "Many emasculated, leftist men don't recognise, agree with or know that prior to the insanity of Leftist thought ruining society 1963-present, that if you insulted someone's mother like that, and with the added hate speech of her being a terrorist, the person who spoke that would (rightly) get the fucking shit beat out of him."

Lee, lefty/righty has nothing to do with it. You simply cannot have people beating the hell out of each other because of insults. We can sympathize -- even empathize -- with the person who lashes out in anger when he or she has been insulted, but we cannot condone physical violence for something said."

Oh yes we can.

There used to be a time when men fought for the honor of those close to them. That to insult one's wife or mother was a line not to be crossed. There used to be things that simply were not done. Ever. The fact that some men think that no amount of verbal insults levied at their mother or wife is worth defending, is horrifying.

What you appear to be saying is that verbal insults, defamation, lies are to be tolerated and that the honor of your own mother and wife are not to be defended; rather, turning the other cheek and walking away is the only solution.

'Sticks and stones...' is for the playground and children.

Adults know that some things are worth fighting for, although I am not surprised that in the post-feminist era we live in that some men wouldn't even come to the defense of their own wife or mother.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Regular reads

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 01/2004