Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Day #328

One of the most gratifying parts of being a writer is making an impact on the lives of strangers. I've had readers tell me my books have cheered them while they were undergoing chemo, radiation, and, once, while passing a kidney stone. My work has brought together at least two couples that I know of and has given hope to misfits everywhere. I also get the occasional angry letter for my supposed misogyny, racism or homophobia. But I've never been threatened.

Welcome to New Thing #328.

It started with the Oregonian running my account of going to the
Blazers game
side by side with sports writer Ryan White's story about me taking him to the opera.

I'll admit it was very exciting--a big spread on the front page of the Living section--or as the O calls it, How We Live. (As opposed to How We News or How We Metro.) Then I got a blog comment. And a Facebook message. And an e-mail. All from the same irate mother of a Blazer dancer:

"What no time to slam the Blazer Dancers on your blog? Or just saving that particular brand of sexism for the Oregonian? I am still seething at your characterization (or more aptly, character assassination) of the dancers as talentless, brainless and of ill-repute. Don't make assumptions about other's based on your ill informed and biased views of women."

Okay, here's what I actually wrote in the Oregonian:

"While I’m sure the Blazers Dancers are all wholesome women with unblemished reputations, between the knee-high boots and booty shorts all that was missing was a stripper pole."

I've wrestled the line to the ground a few times since. For starters, I do feel bad for the Blazer dancers. They obviously work very hard and apparently are paid next to nothing. So I deliberately put the qualifier about the women being wholesome because I figured some, if not many, could be. At the same time, though, the line reads ironically because the dancers dress and move in a way that would, in a different setting, cause men to put dollar bills on the bar. I understand that there's a distinctly 21st century disconnect on this issue--that a gyrating, scantily clad pop star, for instance, could truthfully proclaim she's a virgin. But, as someone who has behaved sluttishly in public myself, I can understand if someone would assume it's a reflection of my personal life. In fact, at 42 years old, I welcome it.

The whole affair wouldn't even warrant a mention if the irate mom hadn't written the following:

"I am busy urging my husband and my daughter's husband to seek you out and defend her honor."

How was I supposed to interpret this? I don't know this woman. It's entirely possible that her husband or her daughter's husband are the kind of hotheads who get into bar fights. What's more, all I could think about was that Texas cheerleader mom who hired a hit man to kill the mother of her daughter's rival.

So I called my neighbor the cop.

"I'm glad you called," he said. "I've been meaning to tell you--lately your blog has gotten kinda weak."

Everyone's a critic.

"Okay," I said, "how's this for something new..."

He agreed that words like "seek you out" and "defend her honor" constituted a credible threat. I mean, what else could they mean? These guys are going to come over and challenge me to a game of chess?

Luckily, when I informed the irate mom of my intentions, she backed down, accusing me of misinterpreting her words and taking the opportunity to tell me that my sexist comments were the kind used to justify rape. Followed by her work e-mail signature: "If you know anyone buying or selling a home, I'd appreciate the referral!"

That's my favorite part.

So, dear cyber-friends, I leave the last word to you. Here are the Blazer dancers:




What do YOU think?

18 comments:

Whitey said...

You know, I read right over the threat. I blame the cold medicine. I once had someone upset that I didn't vote USC No. 1 in the Associated Press football poll request I kill myself, video tape it, and have the tape sent to him.

We decided that wasn't a threat.

Kate said...

Take solace in knowing not all mothers hate you. I used to be a dancer - and still think the Blazer Dancers could handle wearing a little bit more. Just to keep form catching a cold. Yet my mother called me on Tuesday specifically to tell me that she saw your article in the Oregonian and thought it was hilarious. You are still loved by some, but apparently not by all.

Laurie said...

As a former cheerleader with a (somewhat) wholesome and unblemished reputation, I took no offense to your observations in the Oregonian about the titillating side of professional dance entertainment vis-a-vis the Blazer Dancers. Look at the barely-there Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader costumes, the cleavage-torso-and-thigh-baring dresses on Dancing With The Stars, the beaded brassieres of belly dancers. If it were necessary to be so scantily clad for physical movement, the Blazers themselves would be tricked out in tube tops and hot pants (and isn't THAT something you'd like to see). Let's call a spade a spade - if you're dressed like the Blazer Dancers are dressed, you can be Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and you'd still be selling something other than cheese.

Anonymous said...

Uhhmm, I never knew that Barbarella had less inhibited younger sister....or rather sisters!
Don't let the scary people make you scared, Marco!

Mead said...

Thank you for consulting your cop friend, and I hope you've gone on to make an official complaint about the threat -- and yes, that is definitely a threat. There are appropriate ways to respond to criticism, and Mrs. Lady has not observed them. I hope they throw the book at her. How dare she threaten our Marco!

James said...

She got bent out of shape about THAT?!?! Damn I am glad she doesn't hear what I say about the dancers at the Houston Rockets and Houston Aeros games.

Thanks for making me laugh!

As for what I think? I think I might need some alone time now.

cyn said...

I agree with your comments in the Oregonian 100%. They ARE dressed like strippers! And that's the point: They are objectifying themselves and selling sex appeal-- you were just calling a spade a spade. The mother was probably just venting at you (being an easy target, complete with contact info) because she was sick of so many people informing her that her daughter dresses like a floozy for a living. Absolutely credible threat.

Is that a stripper pole in the second picture of a shadow??!!

Anonymous said...

I have seen less on a stripper and this is supposed to be before a family event. I think I would need to go to the next game with a pocket full of dollar bills.

therese said...

Where are the pom-poms?
Without pom-poms there's no way to know they are cheerleaders.

Your comment was right on.
And "mommy-dearest" was way out of line.

David said...

Yeah, if it weren't for the really great skin and hair, I'd expect to see a few of them hanging around outside the Lincoln Tunnel.

Who was the gay (I'm assuming) that designed these outfits? They're awful. Like naughty superheroes. Or Santas little hookers.

Jeff said...

Well if your blog has been boring lateley this sure spiced things up! Nothing like a little verbal threat to heat things up!

Anonymous said...

Marc-

Given the broad swath you've cut in life, I am surprised that this is the first threat against you.

WHS Class of 1984 Go Blue Devils!!

Charlotte said...

All those dancers need are cute little santa hats and they'll be good to go. ;]

Layne said...

Both of my daughters who are 12 and 8 have danced since they were each 3. I was never more pleased with my choice of dance school than the time the oldest, who was 8, competed district wide. One school's "baby" class (4-5 year olds) had costumes almost IDENTICAL to what the Blazer dancers are wearing, just with a little white fur trim added, and were bumping and grinding to "Santa, I Want a Man for Christmas." I'm not a prude by any means, but it was totally inappropriate and disturbing. They just needed a pole to complete the motif. You were totally in the right and that mother was totally out of line. Plus, that mother's daughter is an ADULT, so I find it a bit disturbing that the MOTHER was the one making the threat.

Kathy N said...

I think Mom was projecting. SHE thinks her daughter looks like a slut. And, not wanting to "own" her negative feelings about her daughter, she assigned them all to you! Send her not the cops, but the name of a good therapist. She clearly has issues that have nothing to do with you!!!

~Kathy

pianofemme said...

Puritans, definitely, due to those brown belts with distinctive buckle. Puritan: the very definition of "wholesome".

The Mom said...

Ah the beauty of a public forum. If only I had one with which to manipulate opinions.

Marc it seems you and your minions are are in total agreement. Having fed them only your view it isn't strange. It is easy to categorize and dismiss people when they are presented as stereotypes. My anger makes me a "Texas cheerleader mom?" Why not a "feminazi?" Would your reply make you a "woman-hating homosexual?"

It is odd you did not choose to include our full exchange so I have done so:

Me:

''I slept on it and I am still fuming, below is what I posted on your blog:

“What no time to slam the Blazer Dancers on your blog? Or just saving that particular brand of sexism for the Oregonian? I am still seething at your characterization (or more aptly, character assassination) of the dancers as talentless, brainless and of ill-repute. Don't make assumptions about others based on your ill informed and biased views of women. I am busy urging my husband and my daughter's husband to seek you out and defend her honor. Better yet I should do it.”

But that wasn’t nearly enough. You owe my entire family and all the Blazer dancers and their families a big apology. How easy it is to be so enamored of your own clever turn of phrase that the hurt you cause others may evade your consciousness. In one of those odd coincidences, the day before your piece appeared, I received a call from an attorney interviewing family and friends of my daughter because she had been nominated for the Harpole award at Lewis and Clark Law school by her peers. His final question was “What can you tell me about your daughter that I did not ask?” My reply is that her intelligence is often underestimated because she is an attractive young woman. I have told my daughters that beauty and brains is a very powerful combination in a woman because they don’t see you coming. It seems you too are blind.

You:
I'm sorry my piece upset you, but I stated quite clearly that "I'm sure the Blazers Dancers are all wholesome women with unblemished reputations," which, by definition, is the opposite of "ill-repute." Nowhere did I say they were either brainless or talentless, though I did write I "wasn't impressed," which is hardly the worst review imaginable.


What I DID say was that "between the knee-high boots and the booty shorts all that was missing was a stripper pole." In other words, the costumes are sexy and provocative. I think most people would agree and, what's more, that's the point of the costume. I understand you're upset but, in this case, don't blame the messenger.


I also understand that you're protective of your daughter, but urging your husband or your daughter's husband to "seek you out and defend her honor" implies a threat of physical violence, which I will have to report to the police.

Me:
Really? You expected no one to read between the lines? Your statements were only straightforward with nothing else implied? If I only had a sense of humor I and my family would have seen the wit of your words? And what is wrong with sexy and provocative? Does that imply stripper to you? There is a direct line between that reasoning and the blame that falls on rape victims because their dress or behavior implied “they were asking for it.”


Now where did you read the words “physical violence?” It seems you too read implications into words. I hope the officer that responds to your complaint is the fiancĂ© of one of the dancers who has been on the team with my daughter for the last 3 years.

Your reply is cowardly and defensive. Your sexism is so imbedded you don’t seem to recognize it. Being gay doesn’t excuse you from the dominant male culture that still seeks to objectify women and keep them in easily controlled categories.

Don’t bother contacting me again, unless you want to take responsibility for your words and apologize for the insult.''

That was our full exchange, I was done, I let it go. You on the other hand needed a public forum to do what exactly? Get support, have your adoring fans sooth your ego, tell you the "mom" was nuts, and help you justify your actions?

Again you proceed without thought for anyone but yourself. These dancers have families and lives you know nothing about. Many people assume gay men are pedophiles, promiscous, effeminate and any number of other vile things. Some people assume gay men are sensitive. You have certainly put to rest that assumption.

If you want a fight, you've got it. But if you want to expand your limited and narrow vision you have the opportunity to overcome your prejudices and see others as whole human beings.

And by the way to Layne & KathyN. I am sick to death of women attacking other women for supposedly crossing the line from Madonna to whore. Maybe you need to do some reading on the psychology of this split that is imposed on women. Controlling women's sexuality has been the tool society has used to control women period. Unlike you I am not conflicted about my (adult) daughter's sexual attractiveness. It does not define her it only adds to her beauty, intelligence and raw power. Marc had it wrong, being young and beautiful and wearing sexy clothes does not make you a slut, it does not make you need a pole. It just makes some people jealous.

PS My daughter was too busy studying for law school finals to write Marc, but she loved my letter and passed it on to the other dancers.
My husband also wrote a letter to the Oregonian editors who had the decency to apologize for the stripper implication.

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