Your fave is problematic. So is mine.
[Content note: Mentions of rape, abuse, and potentially how your fave is problematic.]
I live in a world where literally everything is problematic. There is no unvarnished good. I was going to say wild strawberries are unproblematic, but even those…someone’s allergic. Baby otters are cute, but otters engage in aggressive sexual behavior that could be considered rape.1 Everything is problematic to someone.
A couple of times recently, someone has pointed out to me that something I’m enjoying has a problematic aspect. Usually with tones of hushed shock, as if they can’t believe that someone committed to social justice could be enjoying something with problematic content or connections. As if to be a real, true SJW, I must forgo every piece of media, all the time, because I might otherwise look like I am endorsing the worst media has to offer.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot, recently. Because I don’t want to support truly problematic content (there’s a reason I will never watch a Woody Allen film, for example), but at the same time…every human being in the world is raised in a society that fills them with problematic messaging and values. I, personally, am still dismantling internalized biases and prejudices. I catch myself using the word “bitch” to refer to other women even now, years after I began the work to remove it from my vocabulary. I live as on guard against these things as I can, but I’m not perfect, no one is. Not even those we’ve raised on pedestals and given celebrity.
And I think in many ways it must be harder as a celebrity, because you’re dealing with your problematic shit in public. When Nicki Minaj says something cis-centrist, it immediately undoes all the work she’s done to be feminist, to be intersectional. When Marvel Comics makes Miles Morales the official Spider-Man in continuity, fans take it as an opportunity to talk about how “Peter Parker should be black, because he’s ‘the real Spider-Man.'” Every time someone’s fave is shown to be problematic, others take it as a chance to leap on the bandwagon of condemnation.
I’m not saying that we should, as individuals or a community, simply ignore the problematic shit that comes before us. I’m not asking anyone to deny that there are microaggressions in the world around us, that there are celebrities who engage in heinous behavior and say ugly things being lauded by their friends. I’m saying instead that everything has the potential to be problematic, and that it is ok to like problematic things…as long as we work on acknowledging why they’re problematic, and work to dismantle the systems that enable these continued biases and aggressions to exist.
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I have issues assigning the word “rape” to non-human sexual behaviors because of how society wants to other rapists, but that’s a talk for another day. ↩