One of the reasons why I haven’t commented thus far on the EvelynEvelyn row is that I haven’t seen the actual work yet, but then, no more has anyone else, except for the couple of songs that have been released as teasers. And the presentational legend, which some people read as truthful in spite of its being, to me, transparently an American Gothic schtick in which the conjoined twin trope was one of several ways of creating a naive quirky voice for AFP and Webley to explore. I am not prepared to judge the overall quality of a work of art in advance of experiencing it and I am certainly not going to be offended by it in advance.

I know other people think otherwise, and I am sorry if you are upset by my not agreeing with you. Yes, promotional material is part of the work, but I am no more prepared to condemn on the basis of promotional stuff than I would be by the first five minutes. Unless that is, the material contained something grossly offensive – as opposed to, say, moderately so.

When I say grossly offensive, I mean clear calls for racist or sexist violence, or for the physical elimination of LGBT people, or for physical attacks on the disabled. I do not mean appropriation of identity; I do not mean possibly dodgy tropes. I mean matters of life and death offensive.

I have no standing to tell disabled people how offended to be of course, except that I belong to a community that is often abused and often appropriated and often subjected to murderous assault. And while I don’t identify as a PWD, I am a long way from being able-bodied – I can walk but only in significant drug-taking arthritic pain in my knee, I am diabetic, I am asthmatic and I have tunnel vision because of the strength of my spectacles. I am not – as they say – disabled enough, but friendship with eg kitsune76 taught me a lot.

Incidentally, I do find it offensive that people assume that AFP’s work on EvelynEvelyn comes from a place of deep cluelessness around disability given that it is reasonably wellknown that she grew up with a disabled sibling.

Another factor in my reluctance to post has been the fact that I am friends – not directly with Amanda Palmer, whom I have not actually properly met yet for complicated reasons that involve blown fuses and council workmen – but with her fiance Neil Gaiman, who is indeed one of my oldest, closest and dearest friends.

And who has received death threats over this – some of them relating to his ‘tacit approval of his fiancee’s project’ – AKA his refusal to act like a Patriarch and Control His Wild Woman.

Let’s be clear – some people are reacting to the EvelynEvelyn kerfuffle by issuing death threats to one of my closest friends. Which inclines me to say that at least a faction of the anti-AFP people can fuck right off.

I’ve been scathing about the way various journalists have used being friends of Julie Bindel to avoid dealing with her transphobia – but the issue there is that she is proposing IN THE REAL WORLD that trans people be prevented from getting surgery and forced to have reparative therapy. And doing this in a context where other people are trying to bring such things about. There are rows to be had about eliminationist oppression of PWDs as there are of trans people; and there are practical day-to-day oppressions; and then there is art which appropriates experience and sometimes that is a problem and sometimes it is not.

In any case, I will say again that issues around appropriation are not live and death issues in the way that issues around eliminatonism are. I am writing a book about a show that includes some quite dodgy representation of trans people – Nip/Tuck – and I am being quite critcal of areas of those representations. But I don’t think Ryan Murphy was not entitled to portray trans characters or even to do so in a problematic way – I have never seen anything in his work, even at its dodgiest, that would make me call for him to stand up in the court of public opinion and make endless self-criticism and withdraw the work.

Come to that, while I have been moderately rude to Julie Bindel over her call for my removal from the world, I have never threatened the life of her lover the lawyer for not controlling her, or for her tacit approval.

It is possible – some will say probable – that the EvelynEvelyn performances will be problematic, but I am not going to prejudge the issue until I have seen the work, and discussed it with friends. It should not be assumed that the friends with whom I shall be seeing and discussing it will all be able-bodied.

I have been very impressed by some of the comments – on both sides of this argument – on AFP’s blog, notably my friend Maki here and here. I think it is important that the perspective taken on this in the original post on Feminists With Disabilities is not the only possible perspective – even among feminists with disabilities. A lot of the demands that AFP engage in even more self-criticism and discussion that she has already assumes that it is self-evident that the work is offensive – this is not the case. It is work that some members of a community have problems with.

As to the twitter issue, I can understand that people who read setting aside 846 emails and removing the disabled feminists from her mental periphery, @amandapalmer sat down to plan her next record. as being dismissive of their concerns. Even at the time, though, when it came up on my Twitter feed, I read that as – putting things aside for the moment to concentrate on other matters – because part of the point of Twitter is that it captures WHERE YOU ARE AT A SPECIFIC MOMENT. Clearly she was and has been engaged with criticism on the whole EvelynEvelyn question – she might have put the tweet better – but it’s a tweet for heaven’s sake.

I have heard the argument that people are responsible not only for what they say, but, because intent is irrelevant, for what other people interpret them as having said. If it is a reasonable reading – even if it is not the correct one – you have to own responsibility for how they read you. May I say, that, while I take the point about intent, that responsibility ends when you clarify what you meant and they have read your clarification – when it is clear that what you claim you meant in the clarification was what you did mean. As is the case here.

We don’t get to stay in a state of crisis over what was a misunderstanding in the first place as some reactions to that tweet were – and misunderstandings that led to understandable upset which should end with explanation…

One of the reasons why I am deeply worried by the assumption that any representation of the Other is problematic because of appropriation is that I am old enough to remember the 50s when large areas of humanity were excluded from representation altogether. Many early representations from outside the hegemonic white able-bodied heterosexual cis group were dodgy in all sorts of ways, because only the hegemonic group got to make them – but they were better than no representations at all. There are so many people who want to silence all of us that we should beware of telling each other that only we should represent our own group.

In the end, what I am saying is that sometimes discussion among progressives and minorities of works of art should be carried out with a certain decorum. It is more important that these conversations continue than that anyone try to win them. This is not the tone argument; it is about finding a way forward that does not involve the left’s usual self-immolation and self-hatred.


About rozkaveney

Middleaged, trans, novelist, poet, activist
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

86 Responses to

  1. ocvictor says:

    Without getting into the work of art itself, as I’ve only seen a bit, and don’t feel I can speak to it, let me just say that I am, as always, impressed by your sense of grace and decorum.

    It once occurred to me, being the less-rare-than-it-sounds sort of Christian that’s pro-choice and LGBT-rights, that what’s telling about intractable positions is not so much which side of an issue you’re on — because really, most of the time we only have our guts and our hearts to decide that, but rather how we acquit ourselves when dealing with the issue itself. Do we let it make a monster of us, or do we face unsolvable disagreement — even disagreement forged by passionate, moral certitude — with civility and dignity. As ever, I hope for the latter.

  2. Long post is long

    Could do with an LJcut, maybe

    • pigeonhed says:

      Re: Long post is long

      Or maybe a call for decency and humanity is too important to hide?

      • Re: Long post is long

        Did i say hide?

        I just suggested that using a cut or 2 to reduce it below a screen height word be a conducive and polite thing to do. Otherwise it just become a wordsoup that can end up being annoying for eating up several screens worth of flist.

      • pigeonhed says:

        Re: Long post is long

        I know what you mean about length but I also think many people don’t click through cuts a lot of the time.
        You didn’t say hide, and may not have meant hide, but that is the effect of a cut, so my view is that there are good reasons not to use a cut that outweigh your good reasons to do so. We may have to agree to differ though.

  3. And to be fair, is tabloid sensationalism and the rubber-necking ‘medical miracle’ documentary genre any better at providing positive views of PWD?

    I’m so sorry to hear that Neil is getting shit over this – how is his fianee’s performance art his fault or even his responsibility?

  4. mckennl says:

    I agree with you. I’m old enough to remember the bad old days too, and it is … surreal to read comments from people whose minds are made up about this work of art, who are certain that they are on the moral high ground and who are so young that they have no idea what “Tommy” is. I wish I could take some of these young people into a time machine to the eras you and I grew up in.

  5. russtycat says:

    Thank you for a well thought out well spoken post on the whole situation. I am so bothered by the fact that Neil is getting such hatred for what someone else is doing. I hate that people assume they are now some sort of package. I would no more blame Amanda for a book or story that Neil has wrote. They are still two separate creative people who are responsible for their own body of work. I respect Neil highly though for trying to speak out in a calm and clear manner about every thing, even though he could rightly say nothing at all.

    I am a disabled person who has dealt with Amanda in person on multiply occasions. She has been nothing but gracious and caring. Her art has always given me hope that there is a place in the world where people can speak out in all different ways and be heard. I feel that the Evelyn Evelyn project is another form of bringing to light that life isn’t always easy or the same the world over. I’m sorry that so many people have found offense in something that I think can really bring about discussion of wonderful art and how we treat each other as humans and not just people who are abled or disabled.

  6. I’ve lost count of the number of times that transphobes have used “I was sent death threats!” to dismiss any need to address their transphobia…

    That is, anyone receiving death threats sucks, but that should not and cannot be the definitive response. There’s a sufficiency of responses to EvelynEvelyn that don’t go there.

    Of course appropriation isn’t always bad, or there’d never be a reason for, say, white people to ever write anything about people of color. But there’s also misappropriation, and there’s nothing wrong with criticizing that misappropriation and wishing it wouldn’t happen.

    Prejudice doesn’t have to be eliminationism to be worth addressing, either. A lot of prejudice that is not directly eliminationist feeds directly into eliminationism – the argument that trans women are really men doesn’t itself sound eliminationist, but consider that this is the primary defense used when a cis man murders a trans woman – “She was really a man and tricked him into thinking she was a woman.” It’s not always so direct, either. A lot of casual humor is based on the assumption that the object of said humor is subhuman.

    The problem with art that misrepresents people is that the misrepresentation can and often does eclipse the real people.

    Anyway, Amanda Palmer’s art in this case is not beyond criticism simply because the performance aspect has not been released. The narrative surrounding the art has been, and I don’t think the quality of the songs necessarily mitigates the constructed backstory.

    • I don’t think the quality of the songs necessarily mitigates the constructed backstory.

      Repeating for truth/emphasis.

      No, we don’t know everything about this project. But we know enough. We know enough to know that it’s repeating the same old harmful tropes. So why can’t we talk about what we know now?

      • rozkaveney says:

        No-one is preventing anyone from talking about it or having a view. What we are not happy about is the assumption that we all have to choose to do so and all have to make a judgement now. Increasingly, the discourse surrounding new work is all about the views of the first people to object, rather than the hostile discourse emerging at the same time as any positive one. This makes it harder to create a critical discourse that is not all about advocacy, hurt feelings and contrarianism – I’d remind people how rushing to judgement about Avatar meant that a lot of people made up their mind before seeing the film that it would be unethical to see the film.

      • a lot of people made up their mind before seeing the film that it would be unethical to see the film.

        And what’s wrong with that? If they don’t want to see the film, they don’t have to. There’s no obligation to “give it a chance”, unless one puts art on some kind of pedestal that elevates it above the real-world concerns of marginalized people. Which, by the way, really feels like what’s happening here.

        If we were trying to write reviews of the project, that would be a different story altogether. But we’re not. We’re just saying, “Hey, this bothers us, and we’d like to discuss it with you instead of simply being told that we’re being too harsh and/or we need to wait and see.”

        And if y’all don’t want to discuss it, fair enough. But it’s disingenuous of Amanda and her fans to tell us that they want “critical discourse” while simultaneously telling us we should “wait and see” every single time we try to have that discourse.

        We shared our thoughts. The response from Amanda and her fandom was, basically, “Fuck off.” That is not discourse, nor are we the ones who are trying to prevent it.

        (Also, I don’t appreciate the dismissal of PWD’s valid concerns about harm as merely “hurt feelings”. It’s not about offense; it’s about harm.)

    • moogiemoo says:

      Death threat MUST be taken seriously

      “That is, anyone receiving death threats sucks, but that should not and cannot be the definitive response. There’s a sufficiency of responses to EvelynEvelyn that don’t go there.”
      I find you dismissive of something very serious. That there are responses that do not include death threats does not negate the fact that there was even ONE death threat.
      Word are words but threats of physical harm to someone are quite another thing. If you or someone close to you has never had their life threatened by some known or unknown person then I don’t believe that YOU can speak about this. A death threat totally disrupts a persons life. It adds stress to peoples usually stressful life. It is especially hard on someone like celebrities who travel a lot and are in the public eye. Additional security must be hired. Restrictions to access must sometimes occur. Amanda and Neil have both made themselves very available to their fans at shows and signings. Will this have to end because of selfish people who feel the need to keep feeding the frenzy over EvelynEvelyn.I certainly hope not and I hope that once the album is out and shows are performed that people will decide for themselves what they think of it. It seems to me that there is a lot of prejudging going on here.

      • Re: Death threat MUST be taken seriously

        I’m not being dismissive of death threats. I’m being dismissive of the idea that death threats define the response to the EvelynEvelyn project. I’ve pointed out how invocation of death threats have been used to silence and delegitimize marginalized voices in the past.

        I’m not asking that the death threats be ignored, but I don’t want to hear people getting shouted down in this discussion because someone else threatened to kill Neil Gaiman. The people objecting to Amanda Palmer’s project cannot be held responsible for everything that everyone who objects to her project does.

        And I’ve been on the receiving end of that, been challenged because someone who may have agreed with my point of view threatened to kill someone for presenting a different point of view. Told that my perspective doesn’t count because death threats were made. Hell, told that trans people’s voices in general didn’t count because someone made a death threat. ‘s response, right below mine, actually makes this explicit:

        Neil has received actual death threats over this?
        That’s really a tremendous way for a marginalized group to prevent further marginalization. Just who is harming who, here?

        Because some people assumed to be PWDs made death threats, suddenly this is about all PWD trying to prevent marginalization, and implying that PWD as a group are harming Neil and their own cause because individuals have taken a questionable action.

        In other words, I am not questioning the calling out of death threats, but the use of such calling out to characterize PWD as a monolith out to put Neil Gaiman in fear for his life.

      • Re: Death threat MUST be taken seriously

        Just to clarify: I don’t think Roz did this, but I’m kind of cautious about the way this is brought up, because if you’re not clear about this, people will take it and run with it.

      • rozkaveney says:

        Re: Death threat MUST be taken seriously

        Let’s be clear – there are two issues here.

        One is that various people have gone after Neil, who is Amanda’s fiance, not her collaborator, and that speaks to areas of entitlement.

        The second is that, when people go after my friend, who has done nothing, I feel a personal obligation to get involved.

      • Re: Death threat MUST be taken seriously

        I’m not saying anyone should go after Neil, nor that they should be using death threats – but when you call out the death threats and the people going after Neil, you know that people will use those in terrible ways to confirm their prejudices about the people they assume are making the death threats.

        The comment below mine was basically dissing PWD as a group because of the death threats.

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: Death threat MUST be taken seriously

        Oh the sick evil that is political correctness – and trying to avoid the moral responsibility – this start with a group claiming to be disabled feminists criticising E-E, goes on to criticisms of Neil (can someone explain to me the feminist perspective that requires men to control “their” women – Dear God I thought we had got away from that and now we have alleged feminists bringing it back!).

        And then trying to minimise death threats – that sounds just like the anti-abortionists; they still go on making these ritual noises even though their followers are killing people.

        Of course people can’t be held responsible for who is on your side – but sometimes looking at those in the same camp should make you wonder if you are on right side at all,


      • Re: Death threat MUST be taken seriously

        See, Roz?

        This is the kind of reaction I’m talking about. You have a guy here in this thread implying that there’s something wrong with criticizing Amanda’s appropriation of disability because someone else who disagrees with it was willing to make death threats, a guy who seems to think that the threats and such were made by feminists and that this implies that all feminists hold similar views…and most of all, that the notion of treating people with respect is a “sick evil.”

        I assume the threats and such were anonymous. I certainly don’t know who made them. Why should I be put in a position to defend myself for what people I don’t even know or agree with have done?

      • Re: Death threat MUST be taken seriously

        And, the people who are making those threats or trying to get Neil to control Amanda are not necessarily representative of those who object to Amanda’s project.

      • Re: Death threat MUST be taken seriously

        Just in case it’s not clear, I do condemn the use of death threats, demands that Neil control Amanda, and in general, attempts to drag Neil into this. I’m not trying to excuse any of that, and I apologize if I did.

  7. applefaerie says:

    Neil has received actual death threats over this?
    That’s really a tremendous way for a marginalized group to prevent further marginalization. Just who is harming who, here?

    And how obnoxious they demand he “control his woman”. The sense of entitlement and possession of celebrity, creativity and expression people feel over this has grown to astounding proportions. If they can’t control her, surely he must? How entirely appalling an idea that is. No one owns anyone else. Not your caretaker, not your parent, not your fiancee, not your spouse, not your child. No one OWNS you.

    I am dismayed, further, at how we have grown so accustomed to “invisible threats” and the fear-mongering that we are beginning to use it on each other, or beginning to attempt to use it on each other. “I don’t like what you say, so you better watch out because I’ll make you sorry”? That’s peachy. I sincerely hope that everyone who has received a threat of any sort over this has contacted the authorities. If they (those delivering the threats) want to be taken seriously, they must accept every aspect of that being taken seriously. And that includes the cops showing up on their doorstep.

    As for people saying how others who are disabled aren’t disabled enough? This is NOT a competition. While there are messages the government sends (I do not qualify for SSI without a huge huge fight, for my disability which keeps me bedridden), that’s not one we should be sending to each other. Just like it’s awful for anyone to tell another man they’re not man enough, to tell a woman they’re not feminine enough, to tell someone who is trans they’re not trans enough.
    And then there’s the argument that it’s “evil and wrong” for anyone who is not a member of a marginalized group to profit off of those who are in that group. A friend of mine spins yarn where 50% of the profits goes to support a man in Africa’s dream to come to the USA. 50% of the *profits* She is a white American woman. She is still profiting, so, is that okay and non-offensive? With the recent Haiti earthquake(s), many crafters sold goods where 100% of the profits went to Doctors Without Borders, but their name is still out there getting more publicity because of this, is that okay? It’s technically taking advantage of Haitians’ tragedy, when most if not all are not Haitian and do not know anyone who lives there even. Surely profit comes from that, too? But that’s not offensive, nor am I saying either case should be. Just people need some perspective, and to take some breaths, and decide what actually really honestly matters. And to quit with the death threats. That’s shocking, and sad, and scary to boot.

    • That’s really a tremendous way for a marginalized group to prevent further marginalization. Just who is harming who, here?

      Marginalized groups are not monoliths. Every PWD is not responsible for those who choose to take questionable actions.

      I certainly agree that no one should be using death threats, and that no one should be telling Gaiman to control Amanda, but it’s not any better to treat those people as examples of all PWD.

      And the fact that anyone is engaging in this behavior doesn’t mean that PWD are in any way responsible for their own marginalization, or that this behavior justifies that marginalization.

    • pigeonhed says:

      Your last paragraph is very confusing and your examples seem to bear no relation to the issue. Your friend is not profiting off the African man, she is profiting off her yarn, and so is he. This does not correspond to an artist appropriating the situation of a minority for their own gain without benefit to the minority which is how EvelynEvelyn is being perceived.

  8. I have no opinion on Evelyn Evelyn since I have not heard the music, read the backstory or seen the show. However, I am greatly displeased that Neil is getting criticism for this – he is not responsible for his fiancée’s art, for heaven’s sake, problematic or not.

  9. Anonymous says:

    omg everybody takes all this SOO seriously. it’s just a bunch of fuckin grown up theatre kids. enjoy it for what it’s worth and worry about real issues instead.

    • paulathomas says:

      I only just noticed this comment ass when I posted the comment below I was in a blind rage.

      Are you really saying that the portrayal of people with disabilities in what appears to be a grotesque freak show is not important? Or don’t you think people with disabilities matter?

  10. paulathomas says:

    Firstly I condemn death threats against anybody the people who are making them do not speak for me or the vast majority of people with disabilities.

    However, before reading your post I hadn’t heard of EvelynEvelyn. A quick google turned up a short wikipedia article. If what I read there is true I am appalled. I thought this kind of thing had gone out with the Black and White Minstrels.

    Yes I am afraid I do think that creating fictional disabled people for the sole purpose of selling records is equivalent to white people blacking up!!

    I am difficulty containing my anger so I am going to stop now.

    • rozkaveney says:

      I did consider discussing these points because it is smoething that has come up.

      1. There is all the difference in the world between ‘black-face’ and ‘playing-black’ (substitute out-group of your choice). One is a derogatory impersonation that is part of a mechanism of subordination and the other is an attempt, possibly a misguided attempt, to inhabit imaginatively another group’s existence. This second may be crass, may be contaminated, but it is not malicious – and extending the concept of black-face or crip-face to all impersonation is, I think, wrong.

      3. ‘Just to sell records’ – that really is not what is going on. The whole point of the project, as I understand it, was to use a voice to write songs that would not work without that voice. It’s a creative tactic and not a purely commercial one. I would be less inclined to defend it if it were.

      • paulathomas says:

        On point 1 I agree there is a difference but I disagree that it is the one you draw. It is the difference between malice and blind, unfeeling arrogance.

        What I am beside myself with fury about is the breath-taking, I was tempted to say Bindelesque but the would be taking matters (only a little) too far, arrogance. How can someone who, on the evidence available, has no way of knowing what it is like to be cojoined twin try to give one two voices? How can she begin to understand the relationship? I certainly would not even pretend to!!

        On your second point There is I think a very thin line in art that is commercial, in the sense that it is someone’s living, between artist and commercial decision. Presumably Amanda thinks there is a market for the songs and she wouldn’t be going to have them performed otherwise?

      • andrewducker says:

        Why do you believe a person can’t write from the perspective of someone else? I believe that it’s a massive part of the artistic experience and literary history. Writers are always trying to inhabit someone’s voice in order to tell a story. Yes, it can be done badly, but I don’t believe that means it should never be done at all.

      • paulathomas says:

        It is a matter of remoteness of the experiences of the person being written about. To put it in set theoretic terms the intersection between your own experiences and the person your writing about must, in my view, be sufficiently large to generate a conduit to the non-shared experiences.

        Often one sees writer who write women’s voices well and men’s voices badly or vice versa. For instance I think Daphne Du Maurier wrote men’s voices reasonably well but her women were thinly drawn, interestingly according to her biographer DDM had unresolved FtM issues.

        The advice given to new writers ‘write about what you know’ is I think applicable here.

      • papersky says:

        “Write what you know” leads to a lot of boring fiction — I do think it’s perfectly possible for writers to stretch themselves imaginatively from where they are into areas of other.

        My problem with this is that the presentation blurs fiction and reality, and when you do that you seem to be making a claim in a way that fiction doesn’t. I have no problem with “Here is my song from the POV of a conjoined twin” but “Here is a real conjoined twin’s song (ha ha only kidding, I wrote it)” seems different, and I think this is where the outrage is coming from, as with faked memoirs. But as Roz says, we haven’t seen it yet.

      • FWIW, I don’t think Amanda is saying ‘ha ha’ or trying to fool anyone with the EvelynEvelyn personae – it’s quite obviously a rather overblown caricature drawn from carnival and vaudeville imagery – not uncommon in modern burlesque and performance art. And there seems to be a lot of ‘the medium is the message’ in this thread and others I’ve read on the topic.

        I’m not sure I see the distinction between someone creating a character for a book, and someone creating a stage persona. The process is the same, it’s just the medium that’s different. Of course sensitivity is important, but then so is allowing freedom of expression.

      • papersky says:

        She may not have been trying to fool anyone, but it seems a lot of people were fooled. I think that’s where some of this anger is coming from.

        I agree that a stage persona is the same as a character. I think blurring the line between actor and persona, or writer and character, is where things start to be problematic.

      • ex_voz_lati says:

        There is all the difference in the world between ‘black-face’ and ‘playing-black’ (substitute out-group of your choice).

        Would you, as a white woman, kindly explain this to my brown self? Please.

        You have my undivided attention.

      • rozkaveney says:

        I listen, all the time, to the discussion about race and other issues between my friends of colour, my friends with disabilities and the general culture.I do what I can to relate their concerns to my own experience, as a trans woman and a lesbian, as someone who is not able-bodied, as someone whose childhood and adolescence were spent in the working class even if education pulled me into raffish class-ambiguous bohemia, as someone with past lovers who are people of colour, as someone who grew up culturally identified as Irish in a culture where this was suspect – none of these things are the same thing as other oppressions but they have educated me a little. From time to time, I feel I have a view and want to say something.

        If you feel that those views are wrong, please explain why. If you feel I am not entitled to have, or to express, those views, then it becomes clear that dialogue is impossible and I don’t know why we are even talking.

      • rozkaveney says:

        But OK, maybe I am not entitled to have an opinion about the representation of any oppressions save my own. In which case forget I said anything.

      • rozkaveney says:

        Oh, and btw, I note that you are telling me off for trying to discuss the historical use of derogatory representation, but not for bringing the question of minstrelsy into this discussion in the first place. Shouldn’t you be rebuking her – Paula is also white – as well as me?

        Oh, but of course Paula is on your side, so you are not going to be consistent and attack her.

        It’s actually far more about attacking, and trying to win, than in a process of uncovering truth by discussion for you, isn’t it?

        Or is me even thinking it can be otherwise an expression of privilege?

    • ex_voz_lati says:

      Yes I am afraid I do think that creating fictional disabled people for the sole purpose of selling records is equivalent to white people blacking up!!

      I am difficulty containing my anger so I am going to stop now.

      Cosigned. I think this whole damn post has seriously busted a cap in my respect for Roz.

      • paulathomas says:

        Thanks Voz, I was beginning to feel just a little isolated. Roz’s misunderstanding of the basic issue here is very troubling. But I think she just doesn’t get it.

        The immediate revulsion which quickly turned to outrage and then pure rage when I read about this project is perhaps something that is intense for me because of my visibly disabled status (btw Roz I think that is the difference here, you probably don’t get treated like an idiot because of your diabetes, I do because of my mild cerebral palsy – it really isn’t a case of “not being disabled enough” but a case of the disability not being visible).

        But I really would have hoped that any person who was concerned with honest dealing in this world and treating others with respect because they are sentient beings with feelings that can be hurt by exhibiting their lives for ‘art’ is something that is rightly taken as a personal attack would see that this form of ‘art’ is wrong.

        It is for me as much a personal attack as reading Julie Bindel’s tripe about trans people can be. Although for a split second in my anger last night I will confess I was actually tempted to make similar points to the ones she makes.

        I am very sorry that your last sentence is one I concur with. Those describing her points here as insightful have really missed it big time. Missed the direct links between this kind of ‘art’ and the Victorian freak show, the Black and White Minstrels.

        The audience for this ‘art’ will by and large get the point. And will come to view the show or buy the records because they get it. In short they will come for prejudice enhancement and will have that desire satisfied irrespective of the rest of the content.

        edited to make the post flow better

      • ex_voz_lati says:

        It is for me as much a personal attack as reading Julie Bindel’s tripe about trans people can be. Although for a split second in my anger last night I will confess I was actually tempted to make similar points to the ones she makes.

        About this.

        Sometimes, when emotions run high because somebody does something incredibly foolish and hurtful, the temptation to grab the first tool and start whacking overrides the sense to think and go get the right tool.

        I’m guilty of this entirely too many times, so, FWIW, I feel you.

        This foolishness isn’t about Teh Trans, it’s about privileging friendship over an entire community, purple prose aside.

        You used the right tool instead of the cheap and easy one and got a better result. Hold onto that…it’s a damn good lesson, and will serve you well.


      • paulathomas says:

        Perhaps that could have been put more clearly. It wasn’t that I was going to attack trans people over this, that would have been stupid for two reasons, firstly because no one person represents the whole of any community however much of a leadership position they have carved out, and secondly because I am trans myself!!

        No the point I was briefly tempted by was a “distinction” between being disabled from birth (as I was) and becoming disabled later in life (as Roz has become). That point would have been Bindelesque in terms of being a distinction without a meaningful difference because the effect on life now from the disability is similar where the disability is similar.

        On the whole I think I have now come across the right distinction in terms of visibility.

      • lovefromgirl says:

        it’s about privileging friendship over an entire community, purple prose aside.

        I think this is what strikes me as odd about the various reactions of pro-writers to this. Silencing of an oppressed group has happened, but the reaction is “Poor Neil”?

        — Not Calling For Neil Gaiman’s Head, Oddly Enough

      • rozkaveney says:

        Clearly an oppressed group has not been silenced – it has indeed been quite vociferous as have its allies. If anyone has been silenced, it is dissenting voices within disabled communities.

        I am not privileging my friendship with Neil over oppressed communities – he has not, as you acknowledge, done anything wrong. Yet he has had death threats and what kind of a person would I be if I ignored that fact.

        Moreover, my whole point, which you seem to be missing, is not simply to go ‘poor Neil’ but to say that the issuing of death threats, particularly to bystanders, is, in my experience, one of those points at which it is possible to spot that a campaign, even one that you entirely agree with, has lost the plot a bit.

        It is certainly the point at which people who are not entirely sure that the original argument is entirely sound have an obligation to stick up their hand and say ‘yes, but’.

        Oh, and one of the reasons why professional writers are likely to do this is that we have some of us experienced pre-censorship at first hand. I’ve been sacked from a well-paying reviews gig for even mentioning a historic campaign of genocidal violence, for example; I have actually and measurably been silenced on occasion. I know quite a lot about what it feels like.

      • rozkaveney says:

        I never asked you to respect me. I suspect that any respect you have ever had for me was based on misapprehension about who I am and what I do. If the price of that respect is living in the fog of constant fury with the unfairness of the late bourgeois world that you sometimes seem to inhale with your every breath, then I am better off without it.

        However, for the record, I am fascinated by your love affair with the world of fixing things and living and eating well on an income I would find impossible. I respect your passion and your commitment and some of your insights – but I cannot live in your world of constant anger and betrayal.

        ‘Bust a cap in’ – hmm, language of calm reasoned debate, right there…

      • auntysarah says:

        However, for the record, I am fascinated by your love affair with the world of fixing things and living and eating well on an income I would find impossible. I respect your passion and your commitment and some of your insights – but I cannot live in your world of constant anger and betrayal.

        Hurt, suffering and anger, of ourselves or of others, are things that I believe we can either draw energy from or be made incredibly weary by. If we’re made weary by them then trying to eliminate them is draining, but is also an act of self-preservation. If we’re energised by them, then there may be a temptation to pour petrol on the flames in order to bask in their heat.

        If we are tempted to pour petrol on the flames, and in doing so raise our own voices above those who are more personally invested in a particular situation, then I think it behooves us to resist such temptation. To do otherwise is to become part of the problem.

        That’s all I want to say on this right now.

  11. As always, Roz, you make some useful and insightful points.

    Personally, I’m *concerned* about the Evelyn-Evelyn project, but I’m hoping that AFP can carry it off with respect for PWDs.

    It strikes me that all we currently have as back-story is the history of Evelyn-Evelyn under the eye of media. We don’t know much about their actual character or experiences. If played carefully, the act could be used as an extremely positive critique of the way PWDs are often held up as exotic oddities by the media as a whole. It *could* be an attempt to criticize the very attitudes that AFP is being accused of. Evelyn-Evelyn may, perhaps, highlight and challenge popular tropes, rather than reinforcing stereotypical notions about conjoined twins as people.

    It’s a very difficult path to tread, and it may be that AFP fails somewhere along the line. She may address any fail she commits once it has been pointed out to her by an informed source. But, as Roz points out, we currently don’t have sufficient information to judge.

  12. I think the f in AFP says a lot. This a performance artist driven by a need to attract attention. Maybe this is because there are issues she strongly wishes to raise or maybe it is merely a personal desire to court noterioty. Sadly her media dealings leave this unclear. But who was it that said I may not like what you say but I will defend your right to say it? Isn’t that the point of a society that aims to be free?
    Of course it’s not aceptable for Neil to receive death threats or be condemned for not controlling his wife to be. However I’m sure he knows AFP better than anyone and will have realized her career will often attract attention both positive and negative. We are all coloured by our associations in the eyes of others.

  13. londonkds says:

    I think that the real problem with this is that Palmer’s and Webley’s actions up until this week go beyond the normal kind of potential “appropriation” you are defending, in terms of authors creating fictional characters of minorities that they are not members of as fiction. The problem, I think, is that until now Palmer and Webley have suggested their creations are real people, which takes things for me into something analogous to the Education of Little Tree controversy (added: not to suggest that Palmer is guilty of anything nearly as bad as Asa Carter’s real-world racist activities). Creating fictional characters as fiction is quite different to promoting melodramatic stereotypes of disability as purported reality for initial teaser publicity.

  14. paratti says:

    Death threats – never acceptable. Also, illegal for a very good reason. I hope they enjoy the visit from the police that kind of behaviour incurrs.

    As for not controlling his fiance. What is this? 1910?

    And I’d definitely go with looking at a work as a whole and not on spoilers. Those can distort and that distortion can only be made worse by imposing a reading ahead of actually seeing the piece.

    • londonkds says:

      I think that there’s a difference in justifiability between judgments based on spoilers (by which I mean rumours, wild press stories, and so forth), publicity created by a publisher/studio/distributor (which the creators may have little control over), and publicity directly by the creators themselves (which is what is going on here).

  15. Fine post. Thank you.

  16. I haven’t started to write up my thoughts on the project or Palmer yet, would you mind if I link to yours in my blog when I do?

  17. rozkaveney says:

    Incidentally, one of the things that troubles me about all of the comments above is that people don’t seem to have had the common courtesy to read and consider the points made by Maki in her comments on Amanda’s blog. One of the reasons why I took the trouble to link to those comments is that they offered a thoughtful analysis of the issues from the perspective of a disabled feminist who does not agree with FWD. She is very much not taking the perspective that critics should fuck off, but analyzing the offensive tropes common in the portrayal of disabled people and seeing whether they apply.

    And Maki does not have an LJ herself, which is why I linked to her here. I think ignoring what she said is silencing a valuable perspective and damned insolent to her.

    • bryant says:

      FYI — it is currently hard to get to those comments; your links no longer work, because the commenting system is showing the most popular comments and MaKi’s comments don’t even show up on the page. I had to swap to showing all comments and then search.

      It was worth tracking them down, but just know it’s hard to do that at this point. Which sucks.

    • paulathomas says:

      I did read them, I found them to be more than a little troubling and, to be brutal, ignorant. Indeed it was those comments which triggered the Black and White Minstrel comparison in my mind. They merely served to heighten an already high sense of anger.

      • rozkaveney says:

        I really do entreat you to reconsider this personal attack on another disabled woman for not agreeing with you. In what possible sense are Maki’s remarks ignorant? Her perspective and analysis differs from yours; to accuse her of ignorance is a classic silencing tactic.

        And may I also say, that it is well out of order for you to accuse a mixed-race woman of acting like a Black and White Minstrel? If you don’t apologize to her here, and pretty much immediately, I shall have to bad you from this journal.

      • paulathomas says:

        to accuse her of ignorance is a classic silencing tactic

        No that’s the silencing tactic.

        I said I found the comments ignorant because that is how I found them. To accuse me of saying that I am accusing her of ignorance does seem a bit of a stretch. Similar problems occur with your point about black and white minstrels, I said that her remarks triggered the thought in my mind that the ‘art’ was little more than a Black and White Minstrel show, I didn’t accuse her of being a ‘Black and White Minstrel’.

      • rozkaveney says:

        So you accuse me of silencing you by accusing you of silencing someone else. This is a perpetual hall of mirrors in which you are never personally responsible for anything.

        I am sure that if I accuse you of using bullying language, you will accuse me of bullying you.

        How can you accuse someone of making ignorant comments without accusing them of being ignorant? That’s just an evasion – own the fact that you insulted anogther disabled woman for disagreeing with you and deal with your own assumption of privilege.

        And, if you weren’t intending to insult a mixed-race woman by saying ‘Indeed it was those comments which triggered the Black and White Minstrel comparison in my mind’ then you should examine why it was dissenting comments by a mixed-race woman that prompted the comparison rather than the art itself?

        I have to accept that you didn’t mean to imply any comparison between a mixed-race disabled woman who disagrees with you and a Black and White Minstrel, and only that reading her made you think of the show in that light. You have to accept that it is a reading available from what you wrote and that, just as AFP has to own responsibility for offending people with an ill-judged tweet, so do you.

        (And when you use inverted comments round the word art, are you claiming to know that AFP’s work, which you don’t seem to know at all, is not art. You may not appreciate how insulting that is; let me tell you, it is very insulting, both to AFP, whom you may wish to offend as much as she has offended you, and to her admirers, who actually know her work. It’s a cheap shot and unworthy of you.)

      • paulathomas says:

        Can I suggest a way forward. You get me copies of the comments in question (the links you give no longer work and I can’t remember enough of the detail of her remarks to do what I am proposing) I will then take some time and do a full analysis?

      • rozkaveney says:

        Actually, I posted the two major comments in LJ as a guest post by Maki, earlier this morning.

      • rozkaveney says:

        Look, do you even now think that there is some formula which means that someone like Maki who simply disagrees with your perceptions, or me who is simply agnostic and torn about the whole issue, is going to be suddenly persuaded that you hae been right all along and we have been wrong?

        I know you want to live in a rational universe in which discourse conquers all, but sometimes it just doesn’t. We can talk about this one until we are blue in the face amd sometimes all we can do is try to understand where people are coming from and accept difference.

        I get and respect where you are coming from – I really do – but you are the one who has characterized Maki as ignorant and assumed that the whole thing is about crass commercialism and that nothing to do with free artistic expression could possibly justify any response other than your own.

        Listen, and respect difference – or don’t – but if you don’t then I think dialogue is over before it begins.

      • paulathomas says:

        Look, do you even now think that there is some formula which means that someone like Maki who simply disagrees with your perceptions, or me who is simply agnostic and torn about the whole issue, is going to be suddenly persuaded that you hae been right all along and we have been wrong?

        Probably not but I’ll try anyway.

      • rozkaveney says:

        Good luck with that…

        Might it be helpful to you if I tried to give a short form of my reasons for thinking it possible that the work, when it actually appears, may be considerably less offensive than you are assuming?

      • paulathomas says:

        Yes that would be most helpful. But bear in mind that my main objection is not based on offence. It is based on reinforcement of stereotypes in the mind of, at least a significant section of, the likely audience.

      • rozkaveney says:

        Yes, I do appreciate that. And that’s why it may not be possible to have a discussion that will convince you because it is all about perceptions of possible harm. Which is a set of risk assessments almost impossible to make and has, to some extent, to do with the demographics of the audience that will consume the art in the end. Which is not a mass audience, but a large cult informed one.

      • paulathomas says:

        Yes, I do appreciate that. And that’s why it may not be possible to have a discussion that will convince you because it is all about perceptions of possible harm.

        Sounds like your mind is closed. I do hope that is not true, the very idea of having discourse for the sole purpose of convincing one person of the wrongness of their anger sounds not nice!

      • rozkaveney says:

        Um I think you have misunderstood what I said.

        My mind is far from being closed. What I am saying is that I cannot see how we can achieve any final resolution when your anger is based on hypotheticals. We haven’t seem the work; we can’t yet know how it will be perceived; we cannot yet know what the consequences of that will be.

        Can you conceive of the possibility that the work, and thus its reception and consequences, may be other than you suppose?

  18. ex_voz_lati says:

    The audience for this ‘art’ will by and large get the point. And will come to view the show or buy the records because they get it. In short they will come for prejudice enhancement and will have that desire satisfied irrespective of the rest of the content.

    you nailed it right here.

    What’s happening here is that the torch-and-pitchfork vendors are getting a free pass by a friend cuz they were just selling the tools of hate, and not actually storming the house like the rest of the villagers.

    I can understand the urge to defend friends, no matter how reprehensible and harmful their behaviors, but there have to be limits, especially when entire groups are demonized and silenced in the name of this.

    Palmer and Gaiman have long and well documented histories of this sort of obnoxious and harmful behavior, so none of this is new or unexpected.

    I’ll say this, and bail: Friends don’t let friends fuck over entire communities without consequence. That shit is reserved for codepenents and enablers.

    Either way, I have no space for most of what I read here today in my life, your writing excepted.

    Good luck. I suspect you’ll need it.

    • paulathomas says:

      Voz wrote the above while I was editing the second and third paragraphs of my post which now appears below, unfortunately I can” find a way of editing an lj comment in situ so had to copy, delete edit and resubmit which has lead to this post in reply to my post being out of order.

      I am also having difficulty finding room in my life for this, it just makes me very very angry and I can live without that.

  19. rozkaveney says:

    Palmer and Gaiman have long and well documented histories of this sort of obnoxious and harmful behavior, so none of this is new or unexpected.

    So now they are a long-standing artistic and ideological unit because they are in a relationship? Don’t you see how staggeringly sexist that is?

    And ‘long and well-documented histories’? Would you perhaps care to outline those histories for those of us who are unaware of them?

    Would you care also to refer to eg Neil Gaiman’s actually well-documented history of promoting the work of people he admires, many of them artists from minorities?

  20. From the sidelines

    Dear all,
    I wish that I was more knowledgeable about the issues. All I can say is that I have read this and related threads, as well as the wiki links that Paula posted and have to say that i am not surprised that people are upset.

    If it is true that the conjoined twins are not real and that they are a trope, then it does raise issues of appropriation, exoticisation and bad taste – especially considering the titles of some of the songs, which sound like spoof songs from a bad South Park episode.

    Tempers have flared, comparisons and boundaries have been drawn and loyalties tested. I am sure that some people might regret losing their tempers. i suggest everyone takes a deep breath and forgives themselves and each other, if possible. It would be a pity if friendships were broken, but that is often the inevitable consequence of heart-felt debates.

    I sincerely hope that everyone can patch things up.

    Neil should never have received death threats, but that is the sole responsibility of the person(s) who issued the threats, not a whole community. For the record, I don’t think Roz was extending the respondibility for those threats to anyone other than the threatener, but she was explaining how her loyalty towards her friend had involved her in the debate.

    As for Amanda Palmer, I understand she has always been a controversial artist. She surely must have been well aware that this would be controversial, particularly if it is true that she has a disabled sibling. It is a prerennial problem for minorities that their voices are unheard. so when a privileged individual appropriates and misrepresents an identity and a voice of an unheard and marginalised minority, she is adding salt to the wound. She should be prepared for all of the controversy and ire that it provokes – but it should appropriately be directed against her and her artistic partners (not her reomantic partner).

    • Re: From the sidelines

      Sorry, I should clarify that I don’t think Amanda Palmer should be sent death threats. I meant to say just that objections should rightly be directed to her rather than Neil Gaiman.

      • paulathomas says:

        Re: From the sidelines

        Let me for one be clear – I can have a heated and honest disagreement with someone without it undermining my relationship with the person in other areas. Indeed I recently had a far more robust disagreement with a friend of many years about global warming (she’s a … lets just say sceptic).

        She offered to look after me when I had a cracked rib recently.

        There is no reason why disagreement of this rather gentle sort need affect a friendship if it is of any depth.

  21. linkspam_mod says:

    Your post has been added to a linkspam round-up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s