Look, no one thought Seth MacFarlane hosting the Oscars was going to be good. Oscar hosting is rarely ever good. Putting MacFarlane onstage in a suit is the Oscar equivalent of the youth pastor bringing in electric guitars because “kids like that stuff, right?” In other words, the Academy is full of out of touch, old white dudes and it shows.
You’d think with how much of the bit was scripted that someone would have blown the whistle on paedophilia jokes, or maybe domestic violence jokes. But that’s given out of touch old white dudes a bit too much credit for even remotely being aware of, let alone caring about the problems in making “jokes” like those. Dana at Slate puts an optimistic spin on the night as “defensive anxiety” about the loss of privilege, and she’s right in a way, but that doesn’t negate the fact that people up on stage in front of an audience of millions have zero compunction about airing those anxieties in ways that continue to hurt the people below them.
The crap cherry on the shit sundae was MacFarlane’s implied – and then the Onion’s overt – joke about Quvenzhané Wallis being a c*nt. The sheer amount of bile lodged in your gut to even think about making a statement like that on a public stage must be astounding. Saying it’s reprehensible because she’s a child implies, some people argue, that it’ll be okay when she’s a little older, but I think this is where the whole idea of feminism focusing on sexualisation versus sexism is rearing its head again, a little. By making the conversation about sexualisation, set up as the enemy of morality and family values – just like reproductive and LGBT rights are – we end up feeding back into the patriarchal systems that ‘family values’ represents, with the added bonus of coddling misogyists feelings, because attacking sexism attacks them – sexualisation however is just a problem in society, you know, out there. It also negates the idea that there can ever be something like sex positivity. Sexualisation uplifts only so much as men find value in your sexuality, and then is used to shut you back down again. Within the context of viewing sexism as sexualisation, women find it more and more difficult to find worth in their own sexuality – you’re either a whore, a sell-out to raunch culture, or you’re an uptight prude (but secretly valued).
A corollary: this article about a parent finding a censored version of Game of Thrones, where much of the sexual content has been removed, so they could watch with their daughter. If you have the stomach to read the comments, most of them criticize the writer for being squeamish about sex, but not about violence. Very few speak up about the fact that nearly every sex scene in the entire show to date is non-consensual, and therefore, acts of violence in themselves. Viewing it as sexualisation (ie: scenes to titillate) is setting up the writer as the Upholder of Family Values and the opposition as enlightened, pro-sexuality, though very little about Game of Thrones sex is actually about sex at all. The author even clarifies with an update that the reason he would let his daughter watch a sex-edited, but not violence-edited version of GoT is because someone getting an axe to the head is unequivocally denounced by society, whereas coercion and rape are still very much “grey areas” for pretty much anyone living in a rape culture.
All of this is pretty much a round-about way to say it’s easy to see why grown-ass men feel they can get away with calling a pre-teen black girl a c*nt – it’s a knotty racist mess tied up with the concept of culture as sexualised and not sexist. It’s wrong because she’s a child, yes, but it’s wrong because she’s black too. It’s wrong because she’s a girl in a society that doesn’t value its girls and women. It’s the same conflation of ugly humanity that led people to divebomb Amandla Stenberg for having the audacity to be black and play a black character. They’re both seen as powerless in so many ways: young, women, black. It’s utter bullshit and yet people get away with it – I’d wager that racism has undergone a softening of terms as well, couching it under something like racialization? – the same way sexism has. Remember, it’s JUST AS BAD, if not worse, to call someone a racist or a sexist.
Don’t let language get in the way of calling sexism what it is. Don’t hesitate to let the Onion know exactly how you feel. If men are feeling defensively anxious about the loss of their space at the top of the food chain, press the attack and push them down. Dare I say it, use the power of satire to pull the rugs out from these motherfuckers and let them fall flat on their face. Satire punches – don’t let them punch us down.
ETA: The Onion makes their apology.