I recently came across a Tumblr site called Your Fave is Problematic. What this website does is it takes celebrities and makes a list of every ‘problematic’ thing they’ve ever said, done, or taken part in. Mainly the lists are made up of things people have said which aren’t very politically correct such as a comment that reinforces gender roles, or which reinforces stereotypes of the LGBT community and so on. Of course I don’t like it when people say or do things like that, but, I also have a lot of problems with the idea behind this site and I think it could even be damaging to its cause.
If somebody who never really thought too much about feminism, LGBT rights and so forth, came across this site, what are they likely to think? Well, they’ll see lots of their favourite celebrities listed and shamed for lots of things they’ve done. Except, many of the things on these list seem nit-picky to me (somebody who finds it very important to be politically correct about things) so how are they going to seem to somebody who’s never really thought about it? It’s going to make them think “Wow, feminists are really whiny and annoying, I’m not going to take them seriously!” (feel free to substitute ‘feminists’ for racial equality activists or LGBT activists) and so they’re not likely to research the subject further and their views on these wonderful causes are soured. This site makes all of these movements look like they’re about sitting back and judging everybody, which is already how they’re viewed by some, and so Your Fave is Problematic doesn’t appear to help any of the causes it represents.
For me, the judgemental mentality of this site is very much at odds with these movements. I support them all because I want to help those who are oppressed by society (indeed, many close friends of mine are members of oppressed groups) but Your Fave is Problematic seems to be taking something that is all about helping and supporting others and turning it into about judging people. The site advises people that “When praising [people], don’t ignore the problematic stuff. Talk about that too.” which seems to be an awful rule to me. Imagine there’s a feminist who’s done loads of good work against gender inequality and you want to raise support for them, you’re not going to say to them “Oh yes, they’ve written some wonderful thought provoking articles. Although ten years ago they used ‘gay’ as a derogative” why should bad deeds lessen good ones? Imagine using that rule with friends, you’re just about to introduce an old friend to a new one so you say “They’re marvellous, one of the best friends I’ve ever had… Oh, but back in school they made a racist joke, and a couple of years ago laughed at a sexist one.” it’s just ridiculous. Somebody may have done a lot of good, progressive work, but people will ignore it because they only see the negative things listed, again is damaging to the movements it represents.
I want to reiterate that I don’t like it when I hear somebody (famous or otherwise) saying something that I find problematic, but I’d certainly never make a list of every bad thing they’ve ever said so that it can be preserved for eternity. Surely the time and energy put into making this site could have been better spent on making in-depth guides on how to avoid accidentally offending people, rather than just telling people their wrong? A lot of the examples listed are probably a case of the person not knowing they’ve said anything offensive. At very least, they could have made a list of celebrity’s good, progressive acts to go alongside the bad ones.
(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show, which ties in to this entry!)