When I hear the words “I’m a feminist, but..,” I already know that the clause that follows will almost certainly aggravate me. However, I was still unprepared for the ultimate palm-to-forehead experience I had when the end of that sentence was, “but I don’t eat pussy.”
The headline of a June 7 Thought Catalog article reads as such. The author, Wayne Nutnot (which I can only hope is a pen name), begins by stating outright that he is a feminist, claiming to love women, like abortions and hate inequality — because that’s all it takes, obviously. He states that he “bravely and selflessly” understands his privilege as a white male and says that women must alternatively understand that “sexually, vaginas are not as good as penises.”
Nutnot’s essay goes on to repeatedly denigrate women’s bodies, stating that the only purpose of vaginas is feeling “really good when your penis is inside of them” and that they are “finicky,” “objectively gross” and dirtier and worse-tasting than penises. He ends by claiming that “for women to want to receive oral sex when you know the strain it puts on men, is selfish and, frankly, discriminatory.”
If the author’s intent was to admit to the world that he is a downright tragic lover, mission accomplished. But if his goal was disseminating any larger truth, any pearl of wisdom or even humor, then he failed miserably. Claiming to be a feminist does not grant a “pass” for misogynistic behavior any more than does assuring people you have a black friend permit you to make racist statements.
When people protest against flagrantly discriminatory pieces like this, the creator or those who rush to defend it often cry satire. There is no need to get upset, they argue, because the author is “on your side.”
The stance presented in the essay and its attempted justification of satire is reminiscent of the issues presented a few months ago by the locally produced “Ratchet Molly Party” song and video released. When people protested against the sexism iterated in “Ratchet Molly Party,” like chanting referring to female genitalia, one of the artists defended their position on the grounds that it was satirical.
The Minneapolis native claimed they were intentionally “brash, in your face, hurtful, overly misogynistic and offensive” as “an attack on the type of hip-hop that sounds like RMP.”
In both of these cases, whether satire was the original intention or just an after-the-fact rationalization is largely unimportant. Regardless, it fell so flat that it accomplished the opposite purpose that true satire achieves. When satire is done correctly, it is not difficult to recognize. Such content does not leave its readers or viewers entirely unable to understand if it is serious or ironic while simultaneously producing complete discontent with both possibilities. It does not leave us guessing as to its purpose; its parody oozes and drips in excess, clearly revealing its message. Conversely, hiding behind the claim of satire while merely echoing problematic language and hate does nothing but augment the problem. Satire’s sincerity must be recognizably feigned. By this standard, Nutnot’s article is a complete flop.
The line between tongue-in-cheek and foot-in-mouth is not so fine that it is not able to be traversed. Satire is accomplished very effectively on a daily basis (hello, “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show”). But wannabe satirists like Nutnot must remember that we are not in some post-feminist society where deliberate misogyny represents viewpoints so widely outdated that it is categorically hilarious. Women suffer every day from sexism and chauvinism. Reiterating its harmful manifestations, even through hyperboles, is irresponsible, hateful and most certainly not entertaining.