Collective Diss-Conscience

October 1st, 2010 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Comedians and academicians alike often note our narrowing chances for collective ridicule. Identifiable characteristics were fair game when I was a lad, but nearly all major and minor groups have champions and protectors. Outrage, thy name is (insert group or subgroup)!

Finally and fortunately, for most of us, the old diss is dead. Chums, co-workers and family would jump on us for insults based on race, sexuality, religion, ethnicity and so forth.

Spandex and hairless scalps to the rescue!

Cruel, tasteless and ill-mannered insults are still possible. You just need to pick your attack.

Lycra Louts

If you really need to ridicule someone or a group, you’d do far worse than picking cyclists in spandex shorts and clingy jerseys.

Oddly though, if you check online searches and social-networking sites, tight athletic clothes are not widely hated or disdained. In fact, there are far more Lycra and spandex admiration and even fetish hits than disdain. A lot of people seem to like revealing shorts, whether on an evening’s companion or female beach volleyball player.

You wouldn’t know about the starers and droolers if you stay with bar conversation or comments on virtually any newspaper or blog site. Quick tallies show at least half of the comments peg cyclists as reckless scofflaws worthy of maiming and death by any motorist.

Invariably in these threads, the insults devolve quickly into clothing epithets. What we wouldn’t dare say publicly today about someone based on some immutable factor like race, many of us eager and vehemently and vitriolically inject about bikers.

Variations appear even in style puff pieces in the New York Times and the New York Observer. Both ran those pseudo-trend articles recently pretending that the five boroughs’ avenues are full of beauties on expensive retro bikes (coincidentally unlikely, according to Jack Shafer in Slate).

Both papers’ writers felt the compulsion to slam it to spandex (FYI, an acronym for expands). In the NYO, Gillian Reagan writes, “Meet the beautiful bicycle girls of New York, a breed that bears little resemblance to the hard-charging, Spandex-short-wearing species of 20 years ago.” Similarly, in the NYT, Ruth La Ferla leads with model Topaz (yup) Page-Green, whom she notes typifies the “increasingly visible band of chic New Yorkers whooshing along the green-painted bike…clutching BlackBerrys and clad not in spandex but in fluttery skirts, capes and kitten heels.”

So, hard or soft, slurs on cycling clothes are still OK. (I won’t even go on about my gel-pad perineal-nerve protecting cycling shorts. I wear them for another kind of recreational health. Oops, that’s TMI and not as fun as the insults.)

More Chances

What else can you slam without penalty? Well, consider:

  • Bald guys. We avoid openly ridiculing the many woman with thinning hair, but men? That’s in open season all year.
  • Short people. That’s still good. Pointing out that they aren’t as high off the ground is safe sniping, although that’s as meaningful and as much of an insight as informing a balding guy of his condition.
  • Fat folk. This one has a new, vibrant resurgence, with a veneer of science. Honking on the overweight and those with big butts is a protected sport as well. There’s that pseudo-scientific BMI thing that doesn’t really apply to individuals as some justification too. It helps if you are a frail ectomorphic type who never developed the secondary sex characteristics of your gender. You can expand this one to women with obvious breasts and hips as well as men with big muscles.
  • Southerners. Anyone outside the region gets multiple free passes here. Go with incest, missing teeth, funny food and funnier speech, hillbilly stereotypes and more.

Vanishing Havens

What are you going to do when you want to dump on somebody, anybody, but society restricts you? I noticed that starting years ago down South when I overheard locals scolding each for racist comments. Certainly slowly in this socially conservative nation, but inexorably, we change.

Truth be told, there aren’t that many groups and subgroups folk around that we can openly ridicule and humiliate. If we need a fix, we are often forced to go to a comedy club, where the people on stage still specialize in trying to shock with bigoted and sexual terms — funniest if you have been drinking.

If what the haters and insulters fear about the relentless march of what they call political correctness goes much farther, we might have to be generally polite and considerate. Lord have mercy, if that is the case, we’d have to learn to craft jokes and maybe think for ourselves rather than relying on others around us as punchlines.



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