Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

Guest post by Maki

Some people have had difficulty in reading my friend Maki's comments on Amanda Palmer's blog. As I said in my previous post, the voice of some feminist women who have disabilities and do not agree with the perspectives of FWD is being left out of this discussion. Clearly some women with disabilities - paulathomas for example - are outraged that we are even having this discussion, so clear is it to her that Amanda Palmer is straightforwardly oppressing her; this is a subject on which feelings run incredibly deep and I am not minimizing anyone's pain in trying to have a debate. And I am not silencing anyone either - I have let stand in my previous posts comments that accuse me of being a betrayer of all that is good and true and beautiful.

If anyone is behaving disrespectfully, I am trying - and maybe some of the time failing - to ensure that it is not me. If I hurt anyone, I am sorry; if anyone feels betrayed by me, I regret that they perhaps had too high an opinion of me in the first place.

I am not going to put Maki's remarks behind an lj-cut because that would be silencing her speech while leaving my own in clear.

This is what Maki said on AFP's blog.

I have NOT read the comments below *yet*. Please bear this in mind, and I will get to it eventually but like some of the readers of this blog post, I, myself am disabled. For those of you who need context, I have a connective tissue disorder; I am dyslexic; suffer from (and also occassionally appreciate the fact that I have) depression. most days, I have no energy and my body is a walking device for self-torture. My train of thought suffers a lot for this too and so I apologise if this is not as thorough or as word-perfect as I would like it to be. I am also mixed race, queer and genderqueer and suffer prejudice on a fairly constant basis. So having read through this blog post AND taken the time to write out this comment, please note that this is taking quite the effort for me.

However, The reason I feel the need to exert myself beyond my usual limits is because it has really saddened me by some people's 'holier-than-thou' attitudes and lack of thinking on the subject of evelyn evelyn.

Myself, I was somewhat a little taken aback when it struck me that EvelynEvelyn is/are a fictional character(s). I hadn't realised this until after I'd bought my ticket to go see E/E / AFP/ Jason Webley. I felt mixed reactions, as I suppose one should when faced with something not only approaching the notion of ableism, but also from someone who lacks the 'privileges'.

(Before I continue, those of you whom do not have a reasonable understanding of the term 'privileges', please do at least some research for all of our benefit).

I personally have been a fan of Amanda Palmer's work for quite some time now, but I am never one to admit when people are wrong. Having spent 5 years studying art at university and having had to quit due to my disabilities, you tend to get engaged in these topics both in conversation and internally.

Yes, E/E is somewhat a topic of hot debate and I'm quite thankful that it is as it shows that people haven't given up on intelligent, *thoughtful* debate on issues that matter.

The first thing that usually incites debate is often emotional reaction. How one responds to this emotional reaction will usually dictate where the conversation will go. I've seen so-called feminists, activists, environmentalists and artists amongst many others, who cannot hold a decent discussion because they have not explored their feelings, thoughts and the subject very thoroughly. It's pretty much the case that once you have a solid foundation for WHY you feel a certain way to start a discussion. Then be prepared to understand and taker on board what others say. Unfortunately, I've seen this somewhat lacking over this whole subject from what I have been able to read.

some points about the above (before I lose the energy to continue typing):

"Representing Evelyn Evelyn as variously inspiring, freakish, weird and a “wonder” just reinforces existing stereotypes about PWDs, while ignoring the cultural context in which the project was conceived; while Evelyn Evelyn may be artistic and, at first glance, “different,” the attitudes beneath the project’s surface seem awfully mainstream."

Ok, so I am also a musician myself (did I forget to write this? yes, yes I did) and my own personal performances are also often based on fictional characters. Now, when one writes/plays a fictional character on stage, are you representing your own views? yes or no? No. there is nothing in the description of 'fictional' that implies this. Quite the opposite: you have to *adopt a role*. Playing a stereotype on-stage does not mean that you are re-inforcing them. The tone of the music alone should make it clear that these stereotypes are not necessarily to be loved or appreciated characters. Context is important. Take this from a girl who thinks Johnny Marr's compositions are often happy and jangly and Morrissey's lyrics are often depressing. But there are also parts of The Smith's songs that you can laugh at, because there is *satire*. Playing the role of a voice does not make it 'your view' but it does make you AWARE of situations and ideas. You're not suppose to always nod and agree.

moving swiftly on whilst I can:

"The stereotypes about disability here are pretty well-worn: according to this (fictional) backstory, the twins were “discovered by” and need “help” from two abled individuals, Palmer and Webley, to realize their musical potential."

I'm sorry, did the author forget that producers exist and that this is their role? would it have made a difference if they were discovered and helped by disabled people? no. In fact the vision of 'disabled people banding together' seems more suspicious than the alternative. I don't really think that this is an issue. It's not like Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley are *literally* helping real people hold a guitar. It isn't some montage from the 80's. It is merely a method of story. how else would you link AFP and Jason Webley to the existance of the twins?

A quick note: Anyone who hasn't seen the movie 'Freaks', I recommend you do as this touches on a number of similar and historical contexts.

"secondly, for sure…there is nothing actually “fun” about being neglected, exploited and abused."

- This is true. How is any one supposed to enjoy this? E/E is not about enjoying their 'history' of abuse. It's about creating a story that becomes a conduit for songs.

E/E is not a hollywood movie. It is a performance. But much like movies, how are the audience supposed to judge the film without ever having seen the film? This is one huge problem that's occurring here. It is about *performance*. There are too many people complaining about the issues when the wider context has not been revealed yet.

In the words of Maxwell Demon's Manager "I find it sad that in this day and age an Artist should have to suffer for trying to entertain people".

Word. As I have agreed with my good friend Roz: There are too many fans that feel that they own the work of the artist. It's not necessarily the majority, but the minority that feel that the artist is obliged to provide what fans want.

The E/E project is provocative, yes. It's dark, playful and, perhaps even enjoyable. It was never meant to be a stab at or exploit disabled people. and I don't think, personally, that it does. Amanda Palmer, Jason Webley & Co. Never set out to hurt anyone and I think that it is indeed saddening that people have been so offended over these issues. They have obviously put a lot of time, effort, thought and experience into creating E/E.

That is of course, not to say that if you offend someone that you shouldn't try to see why and make adjustments and apologies. of course, I also feel that in this case an apology shouldn't need to be warranted. Anything that touches on the subject of disability or similar issues is bound to get some people bend out of shape. It's important to challenge these feelings and discuss them, and so that I'm thankful that debate is going on. Just because it falls under the category of 'art' does not give one licence for excuse. Equally though, just because someone finds offence in something, it does not make it offensive.

Peace and love,

MaKi [AKA Doctor Carmilla]

To which she later added:

Short notes on Disability stereotypes:

"1. Inspirations - Indomitable disabled person, aka "Super Cripple" overcomes every challenge, "doesn't think of self as disabled" never asks for help, declines accommodation of any kind, climbs Mt. Everest in a wheelchair with cheery smile"

EE is not a 'supercrip' case. EE is not in anyway superhuman, and the only portrayal of this (in 'a campaign of shock and awe') has strong dark overtones. I don't see how how anyone can see this as a positive portrayal of the presenters.

"2. Deviant, Sinister and Evil - naturally crooked, operate outside normal rules of nature and society, must be contained controlled or destroyed"

Nope, EE is a pretty naive/sweet seeming character.

"3. Victims - vulnerable, weak, tragic object of violence and abuse"

The EE story is pretty tragic and EE seems like a gentle character, but she is clearly not vulnerable. The music is very upbeat and quirky, but there's nothing angsty about it.

"4. Exotic Freaks - generate feelings of horror, aversion, fear of difference, embarrassment"

Please see category #1 .

"5. Clowns - comic relief, laughable appearance, funny voices, the butt of jokes, dumb and dumber, court jesters, fools."

This one has some merit to it. I think EE has a much darker edge to 'being a clown/clowns'. Dark humour does really not fit the description of this category. EE project does not exist to be ridiculed by Amanda & Co. EE's existance is one where EE are in full understanding and humour of their own condition. You will also find that most *real* disabled people have fairly good senses of humour, or a 'sick' sense of humour as it's sometimes called amongst disabled people (being disabled myself).

"6. Pitiful and Sweet - pathetic, innocent, grateful for crumbs, sometimes speak gentle words of extraordinary wisdom (especially if intellectually impaired) need to be looked after, in film and fiction often finds miracle cure"

Examples of this catagory: "Jack, in tropic thunder; Derrick Zoolander, zoolander; Mungo in Blazing saddles"

"7. Twisted and Bitter- chip on shoulder, whining, acrimonious, angry and difficult, taking out inner hurt and rage on the world, okay to ignore their concerns, pointless trying communicate with them"

No evidence of this as far as I can see.

"8. Burden and Outcast - costly, non-contributing burdens on society, can’t and don’t "fit in" anywhere except amongst others of same kind - should be segregated, institutionalized, provided with the bare minimum or euthanized (better off dead anyway), preferably prevented from reproducing."

Again, no issues here.

"9. Non sexual - can never be in a relationship (unless partner is pervert or martyr)"

Definately refutable from the song "Have you seen my sister".

"10. Incapable of full participation in everyday life - nothing to do with how society is built or organized, just can’t learn, earn, play, socialize, shop, travel, go to a nightclub or use the phone (cause for unlimited astonishment if can do any of above)"

Again, no evidence.

SOME INTERESTING FILMS that have influenced my opinions on representations, for better and/or for worse:

Blazing Saddles, Freaks, Brothers of the Head, Edward Scissorhands, transamerica, Velvet goldmine

... to name a few. And musically, of course:

'Deloused inthe comatorium' - the Mars Volta
'Tommy' - The Who
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