Unsolicited Advice: It Came From The Search Terms

In a small, secret part of my mind I’ve always wanted to be an advice columnist. I mean, don’t we all? In the absence of any actual people asking me actual advice, I’m going to take the next best thing. That’s right! It’s time to respond to the search terms.


1. How to not be a douchecanoe

I find that it helps to take a mental step aside from my own perspective to try to see a situation from someone else’s point of view. Don’t assume everything’s about you. Be considerate and kind and understand that people don’t owe you more than consideration and kindness in return. Be clear about your own boundaries and gracious about the boundaries of others.

If you’re having a specifically pronoun-related attack of asshattery, try my detailed advice. For simply being more excellent all-round, spend a few days reading through Captain Awkward. Pay close attention to the comments.

2. blackface.com

Please refer to question one. Repeat frequently until you understand the reasons why it is truly terrible. Then promise to do better next time.

3. ah women unicorn bisexual

credit: http://www.etsy.com/ie/shop/astroglitter

You wouldn’t want to hurt the unicorn, would you? Would you?

But seriously: if by ‘unicorn’ you mean ‘a hot bi babe who will sex up me and my girlfriend/boyfriend’, then I’d recommend starting with a couple of understandings:

  1. The amount of ‘unicorns’ in the world is far outweighed by the amount of m/f couples who are looking for them. You gotta impress, y’know?
  2. Despite the name, they are people. Not mythical creatures. People with feelings and desires and boundaries all of their own, which are going to be every bit as important as yours are.
  3. The world doesn’t owe you a unicorn.

With these 3 facts, you’re now better informed than 99% of people out there looking for unicorns! Go forth and be lovely and have fun!

was jesus a vampire

Yes. Duh.

did vampire drink jesus blood


was marie fleming afraid of death

Oh, I hope not. As far as I know, though, she was far more afraid of a long and painful end then death itself. According to her partner, her dearest wish was to die peacefully in her own home. She got that wish, at least, and I hope that she was loved and not afraid. What more can any of us hope for?

feminists shame men by calling them homosexual

Who are these ‘feminists’? Because they’re asshats of the highest degree and homophobes to boot, and I would like to have a word with them. Several words.

i am a lesbian dating a man

I hope you are very happy! A present for you: check out Erika Moen’s DAR. I just read it this week on the recommendation of my housemate. It’s a lovely comic about a woman who is, among other things, someone who identified as a lesbian until she met her husband. It’s super cute and full of <3

what sauce is chicken wings cooked in in ireland

Potato. Just potato.

need people to talk to about being closet

Oh, honey. The closet is a scary place to be, isn’t it? I don’t know where you are or what you’re in the closet as, so I can’t offer specific advice- although do try googling your location and LGBT, if you feel brave enough. There might be an LGBTQ switchboard or community centre who you can talk to in person?

If not.. well, there’s the internet, and there are plenty of supports and advice online.

If I could only give you one piece of advice? It would be to care for yourself. Being in the closet is scary. So is coming out and being out. Both of these are things you can do from a place of harming yourself or a place of caring for yourself. Ask yourself- is being in the closet stifling who I am as a human? Is it keeping me from flourishing and feeling connected to others? But also ask yourself- Would coming out be safe for me? How can I protect myself through that process?

If you do decide to come out, think carefully about who to talk to first. That first coming out? It’s going to be the most vulnerable moment of all. If things go well, then for every moment after that you’ll have at least one person who’s on your side and who’s got your back. Do you know someone who you think is supportive of LGBTQ people? Better still, is there anyone you know who is already out? Are any of these people who you think could be trusted, both to keep your confidence as long as you need it, and to be kind to you through the process?

It’s okay if you find people online first. It’s okay to take your time. It’s okay to come out to only some people, to one or two, or to everyone. Remember: care for yourself.

do you put cumin on vegetables

I sure do! One of my favourite comfort foods is potato wedges made by chopping up some spuds (skin ‘n’ all, natch) and then roasting them with loads of cumin, garlic, salt, pepper, and paprika. Then I nom them up with BBQ sauce mixed with mayo. Yum!

lesbians in my soup

Oh dear. Are they burnt? You probably want to take them out and cool them down. Maybe a nice cold shower? Unless they’re in gazpacho, in which case a nice hot bath would be in order.

Also, how did they get there?

Credit: thewrongbathroom.wordpress.com

why dont gay men date lesbians

Why don’t gay men date lesbians. Why don’t gay men date lesbians? Why don’t gay men date lesbians?


p.s. Yes some gay men are dating lesbians I am sure because sexuality isn’t always black and white and people find love in all sorts of unexpected places and I hope that they are all very happy indeed.

But still.

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Unsolicited Advice: It Came From The Search Terms

Blackface Follow-up: Why it really is That Bad: a history of blackface.

TW, as per usual for these things, for discussion of present and past racism.

This post is responding to comments on my earlier post Hey, Ireland! Let’s talk about racism. Here. NOW. This post goes into the historical context of blackface.

First, a disclaimer. I am not an expert on this stuff by any means. I am simply a person with a reasonable background in things like social science and intersectionality, who does her best to be an ally and have a fair idea of this stuff. I haven’t- until this past few days- spent a huge amount of time reading up on the history of minstrels and representation of POC. I just had the usual level of background awareness of this stuff that you get from being a person interacting with people. When it comes to the historical specifics, though, I’m just learning. Which is important, because everything I know is stuff that you can find out if, as I advised in my last post, you just google it.

Right. Let’s get started. We’ve got a lot to get through. I’m going to be talking a lot about context, symbolism and history. I’m also going to be linking to a lot of other places. Because this is such a big, complicated issue I’d encourage you strongly to read them. I know that this is the internet and we’re stuck on tl;dr. But this is important. If you really, really can’t stand to spend 10-15 minutes reading a few posts, though, scroll down and you’ll find a tl;dr.

I’ve been hearing a lot over the past few days from people wondering what’s the harm in dressing up as a POC and painting/colouring your face to match that person’s skin tone. Especially at Halloween, when we dress up as all sorts of things. It seems bizarre that something that’s so obviously just a bit of fun could get people so upset and angry. It seems unfair that someone should be vehemently attacked when there was almost certainly no malicious intent behind what they did.

So what, precisely, is going on here? Let’s start with a quick history lesson.

A short history of blackface

I hate to say it, but this is one of those times when American history is biting everyone else in the ass. Because, as I’ve said, I’m not expert in this, I’m going to pass you over to the brilliant anedumacation:

Blackface was invented by minstrel performers in the nineteenth century, and soon became the trademark of the artform. Minstrel shows were a form of entertainment that was devoted to re-packaging blackness in a way that was sufficiently degrading enough to be palatable to white audiences. Its about taking the richness of black art, music, dancing, and humor — turning it into a degrading stereotype, and then disseminating this bastardized vision of a people as far and wide as possible. Minstrelsy wasn’t just about exploiting racism, minstrel performers were on the front lines of white supremacy, they established an image in the mind of white America of who black people were — simple fools, mindless entertainers, creatures ruled by instinct and lower brain function, not by art, not by ideas, not by ideals of honor or duty. Finally, you cannot understand the legal and political system of apartheid established by Jim Crow, without understanding minstrelsy. Because its easy, very easy, to deny full legal personhood to someone that you don’t believe to be fully human. What better way to spread the message of black inferiority than to propagandize with humor? To teach children to laugh at someone is to forever infantalize them, to forever deny the object of derision the opportunity to be seen as a complex, fully realized person — equal to themselves.

Minstrel performance was one of the main ways in which America experienced blackness, and it became the way that the rest of the world experienced Black America, because we exported blackface and minstrelsy everywhere we went.

So on the one hand, we have blackface as a means for white people to portray black people on a large scale. This is problematic enough as it is- if you want to portray a black person, then why not just get a black person to do it? The idea that only white people should be on stage, giving not just some but practically all the black roles to white people is discriminatory just by itself. Blackface went so far that, until well into the 20th Century, it was almost impossible for even POC to perform without it. The idea of a real black person on stage in their own skin was unacceptable.

And it’s not just that. Blackface wasn’t just about getting white people to play black roles. It was also about stereotyping and caricature. Black-face.com has an excellent run-down of the caricatures protrayed. More from them:

White audiences in the 19th Century wouldn’t accept real black entertainers on stage unless they performed in blackface makeup. One of the first Blacks to perform in blackface for White audiences was the man who invented tap dancing, William Henry Lane, aka Master Juba. Lane’s talent and skill were extraordinary and eventually he became famous enough that he was able to perform in his own skin.

The American minstrel show was effectively dead by WW1, yet some old-timers continued to peddle the same blackface stereotypes later in vaudeville, films and television. It’s one of the interesting twists of history that in the first half of the twentieth century, the main purveyors of the old-fashioned blackface minstrel tradition were Black performers, who’d began in show business wearing the blackface mask — either literally or figuratively — and were reluctant to give it up.

But they also had little choice in the roles they were offered. Until well into the 1950s, Black male actors were limited to stereotypical roles: Coons, for example, Stepin Fetchit, Mantan Moreland, and Willie Best; and Toms, the most famous were Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson. Likewise, the only film roles for Black women were maids and mammys, and the most famous mammy of all was Hattie McDaniel, best known for her Oscar-winning role as “Mammy” in Gone With the Wind.

And it wasn’t just about mocking and stereotyping POCs. One of the original blackface characters was called Jim Crow. It’s no coincidence that the system of laws segregating black and white people in the US was named after this character. From the Jim Crow Museum:

[Original ‘Jim Crow’ performer Thomas “Daddy”] Rice and his imitators, by their stereotypical depictions of blacks, helped to popularize the belief that blacks were lazy, stupid, inherently less human, and unworthy of integration. During the years that blacks were being victimized by lynch mobs, they were also victimized by the racist caricatures propagated through novels, sheet music, theatrical plays, and minstrel shows. Ironically, years later when blacks replaced white minstrels, the blacks also “blackened” their faces, thereby pretending to be whites pretending to be blacks. They, too, performed the Coon Shows which dehumanized blacks and helped establish the desirability of racial segregation.

Pretty disturbing, huh? Blackface is about so much more than a white person painting their skin darker. It echoes back as a tool used to enforce and maintain white supremacy, in a context where POC lived with brutal, dehumanising oppression. It served to mock the victims of institutional and physical violence and intimidation, making figures of fun out of POC at the same time as their human rights were being crushed. It’s, quite frankly, utterly horrible.


  • Blackface was/is a way in which white actors portrayed POC characters
  • Blackface was the only way that POC characters could be portrayed. Even POC actors had to blacken their faces in order to be acceptable to audiences.
  • Blackface used caricatures of POC. These caricatures became immensely popular and created seriously damaging stereotypes of POC which worked to intensify other kinds of racism.
  • Blackface was associated with the Jim Crow laws of racial segregation.
  • Blackface caricatures worked to intensify, and to justify in the minds of white Americans, racial violence and lynchings.

Blackface Follow-up: Why it really is That Bad: a history of blackface.

Hey, Ireland! Let’s talk about racism. Here. NOW.

TW for hella racism.

I’ve got a bone to pick with you, Ireland. You and me, we need to have a chat. And we need to do it now.

Listen, Ireland, I get that you think that we get a get-out-of-racism-free card. It’s true that anti-Irish racism has been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years and is still a thing in some places, and that a century and a bit ago we were starving in Famines while the other white people were off buying and selling human beings and we couldn’t even afford a decent potato. Yep. We had it pretty bad, back then.

That doesn’t mean we that our consciences were as lily-white as our delicate, sunburn-prone skins, though. For centuries, we’ve had a truly exceptional ability to hate people of a slightly different brand of Christianity to ourselves. The way that settled Irish people look on and act towards the Travelling community is horrible. And did you know we’ve historically done quite the line in anti-semitism as well? Shure didn’t we have our own pogrom down in Limerick in 1904.

So let’s not pretend, Ireland, that we either couldn’t be racist here or that racism is such a newfangled phenomenon ’round these parts that we simply don’t know how to recognise it when we see it. We’re not as innocent as we’d like to think.

So, since we have this long, varied history and culture of racism to draw on, precisely where did people get the idea that dressing up in blackface was okay?

I get it. It’s Halloween. Although you have a multitude of thousands of things to dress up as, you figure that there’s nothing quite like a white guy dragging it up and painting his face to be Whitney Houston for the night. You figure that being a fan makes up for a century or two of racist connotations and imagery. And, eh, your friends seem to agree:

Just in case you were unsure, a few guidelines for confused white people:

  • When POC tell you that a thing is racist, you take them at their word.
  • When POC tell you that a thing is racist, you do not tell them that they’re being oversensitive. It’s far, far more likely that you just don’t know what you’re talking about. Since they live with racism every day, they know more about it than you do.
  • If POC tell you a thing you did was racist, and if they are not sweet and polite about it, you don’t get to stomp off in a huff over your hurt fee-fees. You did a racist thing. People are well within their rights to be mad at you.
  • Intent is not magic. Not intending to be racist does not make a thing not racist. If I don’t mean to stand on your toe, but my foot is still on your toe, your toe is still going to hurt like hell. I don’t get to talk about how I didn’t mean to step on you without moving my foot.
  • Being gay/a woman/trans/disabled/working class and/or a member of any other marginalised group does not grant you a Get Out Of Racism Free card. This is the real world, not Monopoly. Oppression of one kind doesn’t magically make you incapable of being an asshat towards others.
  • By the way, doing a racist thing doesn’t magically turn you into a Nazi fascist KKK’er. It means you are a human person who did a thing you shouldn’t have done. If you’re not an ass about it, it doesn’t have to be the world’s biggest deal.
  • If you find out that a thing you did was racist, then the appropriate response is to apologise and stop doing that thing. Once you’ve stopped doing the thing, if you’re confused about why that thing was racist you can use this marvellous tool to find out why. You don’t get to go bothering the person who you’ve just been racist at about that racist thing you did. That’s just rude.

Wasn’t that easy?


After reading the comments, it’s become clear to me that a lot of people really don’t get why this is such a big deal. Over the next few days, I’ll be writing a couple of follow-up posts. The first is Why It Really Is That Bad: A brief history of blackface. The second will respond directly to some of the other concerns people have raised- I should get that up by tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest.

Hey, Ireland! Let’s talk about racism. Here. NOW.