“Why I laughed when The Onion called Quvenzhané a cunt.”

I also cringed, winced, rolled my eyes and almost certainly audibly groaned, but still- I laughed:@TheOnion Tweet 2/24/13

I had just watched the entire Oscar telecast and its accompanying sideshow of live social media commentary, in which every aspect of female worth, sexuality, and beauty, were dissected mercilessly:

  • Is Anne’s dress darted, or are her nipples erect? Her boyish hair was ghastly but…
  • Halle and Charlize wore their closely-cropped ‘dos beautifully…
  • Dame Shirley Bassey was alternately a hag or a diva…
  • Jane Fonda looks great at 75- thanks to plastic surgery…
  • However old Jamie Foxx’s daughter is, we lust for her, jail-bait or not…

Then- unlike the onslaught of misogynistic mockery- out of nowhere, came this baseless, asinine, universally offensive barb slung circuitously at an adorable little girl who is most definitely not a “CUNT.” And so, I laughed!

As folks boarded the virtual bandwagons, gathering pitchforks and calling for blood, I confessed I was not outraged. Though I was not alone, I was clearly in a none-too-vocal minority. “You’d be outraged if it were your daughter,” they chided me. No, I wouldn’t; I insist. Given my ability to inoculate her from it and her relative youth, I doubt I’d mention this brouhaha to her at all.

Indeed, had The Onion made such an off-color remark about my daughter last night, I’d let Quvenzhané, unaware of the hoopla, celebrate ‘til her little 9-year-old self couldn’t celebrate anymore. Then this morning I would give a tongue-in-cheek shoutout to The Onion from the Good Morning America couch as we kicked off our already planned interview circuit now reenergized thanks to our new friends at The Onion.

But no, I wouldn’t be outraged. Granted, what I find meritorious and what most of my friends find entertaining often has very little overlap.  So given our historically divergent tastes, I was none-too surprised that while I chuckled/cringed at The Onion’s since deleted Tweet, they recoiled and did not laugh [or so they claimed]. What did surprise me- shock me even- was such swift and strong backlash at The Onion. Even more surprising? The Onion’s failed apology issued this morning.

Last night while publications including @TheRoot247 retweeted demands for boycotts, I waited in vain to see my sentiments reflected. After all, “we” are not a monolithic, like-thinking homogenous block- but the response of Black Twitter suggested otherwise.  I thought of former The Onion writer @Baratunde’s “How to be Black” manual; I suspected that “Be outraged that a fake news outlet called a little girl a cunt” might earn entry in a future edition.

The Root and its outraged readers were in fine company. @WendellPierce demanded: “Identify the writer. Let him defend that abhorrent verbal attack of a child.” Interesting that Pierce, and others, concluded that the author was a man. Surely no woman could have green-lighted such a remark. And if she had, certainly not a black woman. Right?

Wrong. This black woman [<–points to self] would have said “go” on the Tweet, would not have deleted the offending remark, and would not have apologized.  The apology only exponentially amplifies the error that was the deletion.

The apology issued this morning by The Onion was a mistake and sets a dangerous precedent. It may placate the masses, but the apology itself is woefully incomplete- and only raises more questions than it answers: Who are “those individuals responsible?” What “new and tighter Twitter procedures” were implemented? Why did whoever ok’d it ok it, and what “discipline” is necessary? And most of all, if THIS warranted an apology, how could [insert your favorite reprehensible past Onion content] not?

Peruse The Onion’s archives and you’ll see last night’s was not their first “cunt” reference. In May 2004 The Onion reported on a 14-year-old girl calling her foster mother a cunt. But here the little girl is using the word to an adult woman, not being called it herself. And she’s 5 years older. Plus she’s fictional… so we don’t mind? Was last night’s Tweet really so “crude, offensive, [and]… inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire”- on its own merits, or only due to the public response?

No lasting good can from come from The Onion’s apology; although perhaps some good could come from the firestorm they ignited. Congratulations to The Onion for either brilliantly or inadvertently forcing us to ask a question otherwise largely ignored: at what age is such a moniker fair game: 12? 16? 21? If those designations seem arbitrary, consider the ridiculousness of attaching an age to such an epithet at all.

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart is well remembered for stating in 1964, that while hard-core pornography was hard to define: “I know it when I see it.” Similar sentiments have reared their heads in the wake of the offending Tweet. I ask: When is too young to be called a cunt? Friends answer: I don’t know; but 9 is. Frustratingly, no one seems willing to state an age at which it IS permissible to call a woman a cunt. Or a bitch. Or a slut, whore, ho…  And if we can’t bright-line an age rule, should we not be similarly outraged at its misdirection at a 19 or 65-year-old?

In their apology, The Onion too ignored those most relevant of questions. If anything, The Onion should have explained, not apologized. Occasionally The Onion does step back and give an inside look into their thought process. In October 2001, less than a month after the tragedies of Sept. 11 Robb Siegel and Terry Hanson of The Onion spoke with Terri Gross about crossing the line.  They explained why they rejected the one-liner: “America Stronger Than Ever, Say Quadragon Officials.”

If such a forum should present itself- for “those individuals responsible” for the cunt Tweet to give insight into their decision making- so be it. But for The Onion to “apologize” sans explanation was premature and only amplified the error that deleting the Tweet already was.

Quvenzhané Wallis is talented and precocious and deserves to enjoy her success without this distraction. But she does not deserve an apology; neither do we. This is not Rush Limbaugh suggesting Sandra Fluke was a slut. This is not Dan Quayle deriding fictional Murphy Brown. The collective defense of America’s sweetheart is endearing, but is sadly overshadowed by the fact that- apparently- a female has to be aged 9 for the world to demand no one call her a cunt.

Those demanding an apology won a Pyrrhic victory. Will people stop calling each other cunts? No. Will The Onion stop using the word? Doubtful. Our memories are short, our attention spans even shorter. The Onion will survive, and go back to pushing the proverbial envelope, crossing that invisible line. Here’s hoping we’ll begin to demand of ourselves the critical accountability we demand of The Onion– at least until something else catches our attention.

What happens the next time The Onion or its ilk “go too far”? By all means: be offended. Picket the publisher. Write letters to the editor. But when you demand a retraction and an apology, when you dare- as so many did in those first hours since The Onion’s piece- to suggest that those of us who do not share your outrage or offense are somehow complicit in blaspheming an innocent little girl- it is you who has gone too far, not The Onion. Either way- I laughed.


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72 thoughts on ““Why I laughed when The Onion called Quvenzhané a cunt.”

  1. […] “Why I laughed when The Onion called Quvenzhané a cunt.” | elisabethepps.com. […]

  2. I wonder if America would have been as appalled had the Onion called Honey Boo Boo this facetious term of endearment?

  3. Oedipussy Rex says:

    I agree on both counts: the tweet was funny and they shouldn’t have apologized. Quvenzhané *wasn’t* the target of the tweet. The target was all the all the other bottom-feeding tweeters. The lack of critical thinking skills exhibited by the complaints is staggering.

    Some days I despair for the future.

  4. […] Epps explains in a piece for her personal blog why she didn’t share in the outrage when the satirical publication used profanity to slam a […]

    • Dorian says:

      Although I enjoy your well-thought out commentary, it attempts to simplify an issue that comes with many layers. Yes, we get that The Onion is satire and that it is fake news…but would they have said this about a 9 year old white actress? Given the sexualization of black women in the U.S. why was it appropriate to jokingly use a black child as the butt of a crude joke? What is The Onion’s process for having some jokes that people may find offensive approved?

      And YES this does compare favorably to Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a slut. I see that as satire and I laughed.

      You can’t have it both ways.

      • eepps says:

        1. Thank you for such thoughtful feedback. Absolutely agree with you about layers. One of the pains of being directed to cut 1700 words down to 1200 in an hour is that very danger of seeming to oversimplify. I don’t yet know how to avoid that, but I hope with time and effort to improve.

        2. I don’t know if The Onion would have “said this about a 9 year old white actress”, but given their track record- I’d guess yes. Your question is a fair one though; it is often all but impossible to separate racial undertones from any comments related to a person of color- now seems to be no different. More troubling is that if I’m reading you correctly, you seem to suggest that had they called Dakota Fanning a cunt, there would not have been such backlash. Am I misreading you? If so, please correct me. If not, what does that say about us that we reserve our ire for black girls aged 9?

        3. Oh I too laughed at Rush/Sandra. I met her on the the campaign trail in late 2012, and (confession time), I was embarrassed to shake her hand and think “I was a law student on birth control; wish he’d called ME a slut!” I’d have loved to testify before Congress and use a 4-letter word as launchpad to advance my platform. Incidentally, the relevant distinction to me here is that I DO think Rush was taking a shot at Sandra (not *just* Sandra- alone, but *also* Sandra- included; I did not interpret The Onion‘s tweet as a shot AT Miss Wallis- to the contrary). I’m not contending this distinction is monumental, but it’s all I was getting at (or would have been, had that not been one of the paragraphs that lost 100+ words in my hasty attempt at editing).

  5. Prodigal Blackman says:

    Epps, are you being forreal, for real here? If so, this attempt to try to make sense out of the nonsense that “The Onion” put out there about a 9 year old black girl viewed by a billion people worldwide earns you a ride to the Academy of Lagado from “Gulliver’s Travels.” This article is like an episode of “when black critical thinking loses its collective memory” (Remember when The Venus Hottentot was viewed by a predominantly-white laughing public and reduced to nothing more than a body part?). Because of this collective memory, I, for one, refuse to laugh with you. But, like the readers of “Gulliver’s Travels,” know that I am laughing at you.

    • I agree. I don’t understand why she has taken this stance but I Disagree with it.

    • eepps says:

      Yes, for real…
      No, not really trying to make sense- just felt like I’d burst if I didn’t share my own thoughts which I didn’t see represented in the public responses…
      re: Sarah Baartman- I do not see Miss Wallis as the butt [bad Hottentot pun toooootally intended] of any joke; I do see how well-meaning thoughtful other people can disagree with me on this point. Another distinction is that the general sentiment seems NOT to be laughing at Quvenzhane’, not at all…
      re: laughing at me- point taken (and great line, to boot- I like that a lot). Being laughed at is not nearly as comfortable as being laughed with, but this time I’m on the outside- and that’s ok too. Thank you for weighing in!

      • T. Brooks Shepard says:

        With all due respect, I reread your piece and still don’t get your point. I would be upset if someone referenced you in media that way-and you are an adult capable of defending for herself. What I do get is that American society has become so debased that directing the most bitter vulgarisms towards children is cause for hilarity. Rather than comedy, I found the comment perverse at best. Our kids have it tough enough already.

      • Prodigal Blackman says:

        I’ll give you one thing, Epps, you hold your own in the face of internet criticism! LOL GOOD FOR YOU!

        You say to me: “the general sentiment seems NOT to be laughing at Quvenzhane’, not at all…”

        But where are you, so confidently, picking up this “general sentiment” from? Are you relying on the track record of “The Onion” publication itself, and the faith that they only hire progressive writers who embody the “general sentiment” of what the publication does: scathing satire directed at public figures? Can you imagine, for a minute, that a bad person (oh, I don’t know, like someone with a latent racism?) might have been hired by this publication and literally used this tweet purposefully as a medium for making a very bad “general statement” about a young black girl that (for some unknown, latent reason) this writer took offense to? Because without knowing the actual intentions of the writer who sent the tweet, I don’t think you can confidently make the claim that the tweet isn’t laughing directly at Quvenzhane.

        Although you might have ‘interpreted’ that it doesn’t, I’m afraid I can’t rely and depend on your interpretive skills about a comment that we both are more than six degrees of separation removed from. If the source of the tweet identified him/her self, and confirmed that they were not merely playing fast and loose with a defenseless little black girl in the way in which you’re suggesting in your article, then I might be more inclined to listen. But this writer hasn’t come out from behind “The Onion” curtain (good one, huh?), preferring instead to peek out and let others hash out a conversation they have started. Perhaps that was their intention all along. We may never know.

        But what I find really disturbing in your article is the way in which you sidestep black history (during the month of February nonetheless! Sacrilege! LOL). What you’re avoiding in doing so, is not just about Saartje Baartman as the butt of a joke, it’s about a long and tremendously sad history of laughter directed at black bodies that have been literally put on parade for centuries: it’s about those slaves who were made to dance on slave ships to keep them healthy, it’s about the sailors who laughed while black women were being abused on those slave ships, it’s about minstrelsy, it’s about slave and colonial mimicry as a defense mechanism, it’s about mammy. You have to realize that when you laugh and promote your reaction in a de-historicized essay that appears to protect the right-to-laugh-without-apology of a publication that really couldn’t give a hootenanny about black history, your laughter (whether you mean for it to or not) can be seen to blend in with the tremendously sad and neglected history of laughing at black bodies that have been put on parade for amusement. And while “The Onion” might have little interest in this history, and write without the least concern for it, black people (and I include you) should not only never forget it, but not allow even the most revered tomes of satire to forget that we NOW care about it enough to demand apologies when the laughing crosses a line.

        I want to leave you with some Jonathan Swift, the king of satire. Expressing his preference for ancient history, Gulliver writes:”I was chiefly disgusted with modern History…I found how the world had been misled by prostitute writers, to ascribe the greatest exploits in war to cowards, the wisest counsel to fools, sincerity to flatterers, roman virtue to betrayers of their country.” I am NOT saying that you’re a prostitute writer–you’re a person–a very smart woman (and I mean that, sincerely)–with a valid opinion; I AM calling the tweeter a prostitute writer, though, and I AM saying that you have to be aware of the way in which your essay can be used to mislead the world, ascribing “the wisest counsel to fools” like “The Onion.”

        • Elisabeth says:

          As ever, many thanks for your thoughts. What fun it is to read your spirited nuanced writing.

          My general assessment is obviously not based on any empirical data. Subjectively, almost everyone I know IRL and almost every bit of feedback I’ve read online has been at a minimum, muted outrage. I’m sure there are people laughing at QW, but I haven’t encountered them. Either way, I wasn’t writing about them or to them. I was writing about people who demand an apology- people who presumably are not laughing at her.

          You’re disturbed that I side-stepped black history? I had 1200 words. I also side-stepped The First Amendment, free speech, public figure status, satire/parody, comedic merit… The race element is an entire other essay that I think deserves more than a passing comment rushed in to pay lip service within a word limit. I don’t mention race in my essay is because it has nothing to do with my point:

          I do not think The Onion’s cunt Tweet was funny. I did not laugh because it was funny or clever or brilliant or poignant. I laughed because it was over-the-top, ridiculous, and made me feel uncomfortable, particularly when contrasted to the barrage of misogyny I’d witnessed all evening. You’ve heard of awkward laughter? Indeed, I admitted that I “cringed, winced, rolled my eyes… groaned.” I called it a “baseless, asinine, universally offensive barb… off-color.”

          My point, which is race neutral, is that The Onion does not owe an apology to anyone they’ve ever called a cunt: not the black women, not the white men and women, not this little black girl. If you want to tell me how this 9yo black girl deserves an apology more than anyone else, I’m all ears. Like I said- I’m just dying to know what age gets yall riled up. My best guess is pre-puberty, bc I’m still waiting on the outrage about the other (real life) women they’ve called a cunt- black women included.

          I’ll spare you my refrain on Black History Month. Suffice it to say- I’m super excited about getting back to White History Year tmrw…

          Lastly, as for anyone who might find my words “misleading”, I’m guessing those are the same folks who think The Onion should apologize. Ships in the night we are, and shall remain…

          • Prodigal Blackman says:

            I have no answers for you, just comments, observations, suggestions and more questions.

            I keep going back to Swift because, as I said before, for me he’s the king of satire. Did you know that Gulliver is the first spectacled “hero” in the history of English literature? Yes, way before Superman put on glasses as a disguise, Gulliver donned them too. But for a different reason. This bit of literary trivia is important because the satire in “Gulliver’s Travels,” and the way to read satire in general, demands, not only keen vision, but also perspective. The fact that Gulliver’s vision is flawed (he’s short-sighted) marks the first textual indication that we shouldn’t wholeheartedly trust his vision and perspective on the many worlds he encounters.

            When you mention the “race element is an entire other essay,” different from the one you’ve written, that gives me an insight into this world as you’re perceiving it. Clearly it’s a different perspective than mine. When I get up and look in the mirror in the morning, I see that black man that I am. When I write about my perspective on the world, I don’t (can’t) divorce that black-man perspective from the words I translate to the page. But when I see the perspective evoked by the tweeter and the vision produced therein, it takes a willful act of avoidance to not see a “race element” (as you call it). But, perhaps, it’s not the “race element” that you might expect me to see. Remember, race is a socially-constructed discourse. And the “race element” I see that connects your writing with that of the tweeter is the socially-constructed discourse (and dangers) of “race neutrality.”

            The tweeter is “race neutral” because we know nothing about his/her phenotype. He or she has chosen race neutrality as a disguise. You have indicated in your response to me that your opinion is “race neutral.” For you, it’s a choice. This is, undoubtedly, the starkest indication that our three perspectives—the way we each see the world—diverge. Before “The First Amendment, free speech, public figure status, satire/parody, comedic merit”—before all of that, I am black; and you and the tweeter are “race neutral.” I believe that all of those things on your list are informed by the socially-constructed discourse of race, and see and write from that perspective; you and the tweeter willfully and/or deliberately ignore this and see and write accordingly.

            So here we have it, writ large (in my opinion), the much more expansive issue that our interesting conversation is bringing to a head: the clash between post-racial black critical thought and its antithesis (?). In this clash of perspectives, I am left to wonder who’s wearing Gulliver’s glasses? Note: we might all be! LOL

            Yes, I have had my share of awkward laughing moments. Sitting on my cousin’s couch years ago watching the Dave Chappelle skit about the white family called “The Niggers” was one of those particularly awkward laughing moments in my own experience. But clearly, that skit was designed to do something REAL with that word. The success or failure of it is up to the viewer, but at least I could attribute the skit as an edgy, smart way to intervene into the contemporary discussion about the word. I don’t see ANY such nuance in “The Onion’s” attempt at creating an awkward laughing moment in that tweet. It’s just fast and loose mean-ness, plain and simple. So I can’t laugh, even awkwardly.

            With regard to your question about age, I am really trying to figure out where you’re going with that. Isn’t it worth us sticking steadfast to the tried and tested gravitas that the word demands by consigning it to a list of words that are shameful if uttered aloud to any woman of any age—words that can only be uttered in “letter-hyphen” code (c-word, f-word, n-word)? Not that people aren’t going to use these words. But studies have shown that shame is much more of a psychological motivator than praise. So, I assume, the more we stick to a steadfast refusal not to use them willy-nilly, the more shame people who use them may feel when they do use them in our company, and thus, the more those people will, of their own volition, eventually stop using them.

            But say, for instance, if people want to use it (the c-word), I wonder, are there better ways of framing and contextualizing the age question that you’re trying to pose? As in, in what particular instances and contexts (if any) is the use of that word acceptable? Is a 140-character tweet a nuanced-enough genre to do it justice? Would it make a difference if that word were leveled at a fictional as opposed to real little black girl of 9 years old? These kinds of questions, I think, are part of the conversation you are interested in engaging in. And I welcome that. But I can’t see the point in bringing up the age issue associated with this particular ridiculous use of the word without realizing what I think is the most important reason why the satire fails. Its failure (in my opinion) is not simply about the age issue but more importantly because of the problem of genre and execution: the genre did not do justice to the execution of the idea. Maybe satire (particularly race satire) can’t and shouldn’t be done in 140 characters because that genre isn’t nuanced enough—isn’t responsible enough—to execute sensitive ideas about race effectively.

            Moreover, part of the function of understanding satire is discerning what works and why from what doesn’t work. Clearly, we agree that the tweet fails in this instance. So why should this linguistic failure (and the subsequent acknowledgement of this failure by the publication) be the occasion for defending the right to fail at communicating a point and avoid the consequences of that linguistic failure? If my words fail in the act of executing and communicating my point, guess what, I….

            Which brings me to the apology itself. Did you pick up on this phrasing in the actual “Onion” apology?

            “No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire.”

            They are, in this phrase, acknowledging that the tweet was only “masquerading as satire.” Interesting phrasing, no? That phrase alone opens up a can of worms. For instance, in discussions offsite, did the powers that be from “The Onion” expose the tweeter as a latent racist or misogynist in their midst? Did he or she masquerade as a satirist and intentionally mean to make the mean comment (as I indicated earlier) as a true indication of his/her feelings about Quvenzhane? Who knows. My active imagination can carry me on various flights of fancy.

            But what I’m really trying to figure out is what is it about this particular apology itself (and people’s demand for it) that so exasperates you? If you want to opt out of the lockstep collective black way of thinking, all power to you. I’m fine with that. But is the particular idea of a public apology bestowed on a little black girl so outrageously incomprehensible to you—so egregiously unfathomable—that you’re willing to sell her down the historical river of perpetual infamy (because you know this is going to live on in the internet and follow her career forever and beyond now, right?) for a mess of “The Onion” potage and their right not to apologize for spilling it?

            If so, then I suppose we really are like two ships passing in the night. I’m literally anchored on the muddy banks off the coast in a ship called the Black History, peering wistfully at a land of plenty I’d long to reach but can’t because of the years of mud laying between my ship and the shore, impeding my safe access to the land, while you’re flying high over that same land in a space ship called the Post Racial Paradise, a little jostled by some turbulence that you encounter, none of which impedes your ability to peer down and admire how green and pleasant the land seems from your perspective. Safe journey on your travels.

          • Elisabeth says:

            I never read “Gulliver’s Travels” nor- as far as I can remember, any Jonathan Swift. You’ve intrigued me; I’ll definitely make a point to do so.

            I see that it exasperates you that I didn’t mention race in this essay; given your encouragement I just might write such a piece, this one just wasn’t it. Yes, I did read (and reread…) The Onion’s “apology”, very carefully. Yes, I did note the language you mention.

            I opted out of “lockstep collective black way of thinking” in the fall of 1979, and never looked back. Thank you for the wishes of all power to me.

            Wishing you fair wind and a following sea, fellow traveler.

        • Callie says:

          I was going to shove this article and some of the comments under ”performance for the white gaze.” Sometimes I don’t even try. Prodigal Blackman, whoever you are, you made me feel a lot better. Why someone would even attempt to defend this outrage is something I cannot even begin to wrap my mind about.

          • Elisabeth says:

            Thx for weighing in, Callie. I’m quite sure that almost everyone I know agrees with your stance. Not sure I understand how my thoughts from a year ago fit in with Yancy’s hypothesis (if that’s what you’re referencing re: performance/white gaze, if not- nevermind me), but still many thanks for taking the time to read and respond. Take good care.

  6. […] Epps explains in a piece for her personal blog why she didn’t share in the outrage when the satirical publication used profanity to slam a […]

  7. You’re entitled to your opinion but I wholeheartedly disagree. And I find it hard to believe that if that was your daughter you would have laughed it off. And if I was Quvenzhane’s father I wouldn’t laugh it. There is nothing satirical about calling or referencing a 9 y/o child as a Cunt.

    • eepps says:

      I suspect that most people agree with you- wholeheartedly. I have a son, no daughter, but the more I think about it- the more I know I would not be outraged. It’s not that I’d “laugh it off”- I’d address it, that’s for sure- but I’m more interested in the questions it raises (how old is too old to get a pass on calling a female a cunt?).

      I understand why you wouldn’t laugh. There’s something virile and sexy about the Papa-Bear reactionary Wendell Pierce response: I imagine a father sitting on the front porch with a shotgun unsatisfied by any potential suitor seeking his daughter’s hand. I don’t think you should laugh; I just don’t think The Onion should delete the Tweet or apologize for it.

      Also- I am not making the argument that The Onion‘s cunt tweet satisfies the literary or comedic requirements to qualify as “satire” at all.

      Thank you for letting me know your thoughts- much appreciated. Will you take such a stand next time you see/hear “cunt” used at all? (Not being rhetorical- real question.)

  8. B. Robinson says:

    No, they wouldn’t have called a 9 year old white Oscar nominee a cunt and you’re well aware of that. We all are. All women catch hell and Black women catch more. They’re routinely referred to as bitches, hoes or depicted as shrews barely able to control themselves. But you know that too. The Onion thought it was funny because this little girl is clearly beautiful, poised and confident. They don’t really believe she’s a cunt but saying so makes them hip and edgy. I get that- good for them. I’ll keep an eye out for the next Onion piece satirizing one of the Disney starlets as a cunt or one of the actresses on Girls as a “round heeled mattress backed whore”. That would really be funny.

    The Onion’s apology meant nothing because they didn’t mean it and they don’t really care. They don’t care because women in general are fair game and Black women in particular have too few protectors and or advocates. This is where adults who know better come in to play. I have a beautiful brown confident nine year old daughter and I know she’s going to grow up in a world that works to devalue her existence every single day. That’s why I remind her that she is a Queen- every single day. That’s why I tell her that she can do anything she puts her mind to- every single day. That’s why I’ve taken great pains to instill in her the idea that she is worthy of respect from everyone she meets and in exchange for that respect she is to give the same.

    “Papa Bear” or not- that’s my job. If she was my daughter the Onion would have heard from me in person and had I been in attendance at the Academy Awards and experienced the host including my nine year old daughter in a joke about George Clooney’s sexual prowess, I’da smacked the taste out of his mouth. It would’ve been OK though, I would’ve called him a “bitch-ass” in a really funny nasally voice with a British accent. It would all be very satirical and edgy. We would all have a big laugh I’m sure.

    In my experience if you don’t demand respect you won’t get it. If you curry favor by relaxing your personal standards in order to be hip and “in on the joke”- you’ll regret it in the long run. They’ll be hip and you’ll just be denigrated and debased. There’s nothing hip or edgy about referring to a nine year old as a cunt. She can’t defend herself so the adults around her should. If we do, these conversations will never be necessary.

    • eepps says:

      Wonderful! I’m literally clapping. Thank you for this!

      Other than the first line in which you [speculate] as to what I/we know, I nodded vigorously all the way through. I’d want my Daddy, or my daughter’s Daddy, to react just like you describe. That would make me feel proud and protected.

      I maintain there is a meaningful difference between including the word “cunt” in a sentence with a person’s name, and legitimately being understood to be CALLING that person a cunt. The difference isn’t semantic: it’s one of substance versus provocation.

      Is your outrage shared similarly for any use of the word “cunt”, regardless of the gender/age of the purported target? If not, perhaps might it be you who’s relaxing a personal standard?

      • B. Robinson says:

        To Quvenzhane, her classmates, cousins, relatives etc- what do you think the meaningful difference is between “including the slur in a sentence along with her name” and “legitimately” calling her the slur? Do you really think they parse the sentence that way, “Hmmm, OK, well, she’s not really a cunt, so they must be taking a satirical jab at other media outlets by pointing out their inability to develop original angles and story lines”. Or do you think her mother has to explain to her what a cunt is and then try to explain why some adults who don’t know her would refer to her in such a fashion and think it’s funny?

        With the exception of this exchange I don’t use the word. I think it’s disgusting. I’m African American and in my experience it’s not a term that the majority of my AA coworkers or friends use. When and if it is used in my presence by anyone I express disapproval. Like I’m doing right now. The same goes for “bitch” or “ho”.

        I work in the business and believe me, a white 9 year old Oscar nominee would never be referred to as a cunt by a relatively major outfit- joke or not.
        Her age and her accomplishments would’ve been considered, her representation and their disapproval would have been considered and her Hollywood status (Will Smith/Annie/Sony) would’ve been considered. Unfortunately it’s much too easy for some people to see us and our children as “others”, not deserving of the same respect they reserve for themselves.

        We settle for too much. Too much going along to get along. I don’t think we can afford to allow other people to define/describe us negatively regardless of their intent. Young Black men are described in terms designed to dehumanize them every day and as a result they’re mistreated, maligned and murdered.

        Sorry to go there on you, I know this is all jokey jokey “they didn’t really mean anything”, but not all of us see it that way.

        • Elisabeth says:

          Seems trite of me to thank you- again, stanlike- for your insight, but at the risk of gushing and doing just that- Thank you. My fist is in the air and head nodding with each line.

          FWIW I don’t think The Onion *should* have run this joke; I don’t find it especially funny. But in this case with competing priorities, I also don’t think they should retract, nor should they apologize- certainly not unless they are willing to close up shop and retroactively apologize to myriad individuals and constituent groups over the years who lay far greater claim to deserving of an apology than young Miss Wallis. The Onion should learn from this moving forward and absolutely let feedback like your guide future decisions- but not serve as a post-hoc censor. For the editor to not support his/her staff, to delete the remark, to fail to explain it– all just are mistakes from which I can’t see a retreat.

          Ultimately, the only issue I can take with what you’ve written here is the last line beginning with “sorry.” No apologies, not even in jest. Where can I read more of you? I just want to soak it all up- can you imagine the world if more people thought and reasoned and advocated as do you?!

        • The best thing you could do if she was your daughter, dude, is to not let her in show biz. Like Honeybooboo, she is now legally a public figure. You’d probably even lose a lawsuit in her behalf, and smacking the taste out of anyone’s mouth would just make you another man sitting in a jail cell.

    • V.J. says:

      Thank you for articulating my thoughts. I especially found your statement about currying favor as a way of being hip or “in on the joke” quite perceptive. Somehow, the desire to appear hip by appearing to be above racial concerns or conversely, the attempts to present oneself as a brilliant raconteur by shrugging off The Onion’s allegedly brilliant satire (that the rubes are too unsophisticated to understand) is ludicrous.

      An appropriate or suitable age does not exist, in my opinion, to label women as bitches, hos, whores, c–ts, or various other degrading terms.

      • Elisabeth says:

        Thank you V.J. I literally leaned back and exhaled when I read your first paragraph- I wish I could’ve expressed just that sentiment. People keep coming at me like I’m suggesting I “get” this humor that they don’t- when that’s not what I’m saying at all! I’m confessing to my awkward uncomfortable laughter at something that struck me as absurd, but Lord knows I’m *not defending it as comedic gold. Thank you for giving words to a sentiment I was wrestling with but unable to articulate.

        re: “An appropriate or suitable age does not exist, in my opinion, to label women as bitches, hos, whores, c–ts, or various other degrading terms.” YES YES YES. Consistency, please!

  9. […] Epps explains in a piece for her personal blog why she didn’t share in the outrage when the satirical publication used profanity to slam a […]

  10. FirstTimer says:

    Wow. Thought I was the only one! I admit, I did think it harsh to choose to use a 9 year old to make a point but I never thought it racist. And then when one of my favorite bloggers was (and probably still is) OUTRAGED, I thought there must be something wrong with me as a black woman with a daughter (also black, of course). I just was not upset. I don’t read The Onion much and only check them out when they’re referenced in something else I’m reading and I have to admit, rarely do I ‘get’ the humor. I consider myself educated with a pretty good sense of humor and quite capable of understanding satire but The Onion is usually over my head.

    And as for Miss Quvenzhane ‘as my daughter’, I would take the opportunity to explain to her that life isn’t fair. Sometimes it down right sucks BUT that is no reason to assume you know the intent of those that sometimes behave in ways that directly or indirectly affect your life. And yes, there are times when the intent DOES NOT MATTER. The OUTCOME does. But sometimes you have to consider the source, put the ENTIRE picture in perspective and decide whether OUTRAGE is the appropriate response.

    As I said, I was taken aback by the use of A CHILD to make the satirical point and I have no idea if The Onion would have used such a word with a white child and for me, it doesn’t matter. What matters to me, and what I try to teach my child, is that this sort of foolishness is going to happen. There will be times when you have to stand up and fight back and there are times when the best course of action will be to quietly take the offending person or entity aside and say, “hey, I know what you were going for and I applaud your efforts, however, the execution was all wrong and this is why…”.

    It was wrong for The Onion to use (not target) a 9 year old. It was wrong to do it on what was arguably the most special day of her short life. They should be sorry for their execution. I, however, do not know enough about the person that wrote the tweet or the folks that papproved it to say they should be sorry for the intent.

    • eepps says:

      Thank you, thank you. I’d like to think if my son were a girl I would approach this just as you would with your daughter (in that hypothetical we’d of course rather avoid…unless it came with an Oscar nod, perhaps ;-)). Selfishly, I also can’t help but think how much better an essay mine would be if I could cut/paste from your response right up into my original piece and claim your phrasing as my own. So well said. Thank you for sharing. All thoughtful feedback is meaningful to me, but it’s extra special to hear from other women of color who found themselves on the outside of our sisters’ general consensus. Again- thank you.

  11. josh gibson says:


  12. August says:

    look, I get what there intent was, but they failed, their execution was poor. If a comedian tells a joke and a majority of the audience doesn’t find it funny, it means the comedian screwed up. I’m not saying that the joke couldn’t have been funny, but how they presented wasn’t. I would suggest leave children out of these jokes, a child shouldn’t have to thick skin about being used in an offensive joke. Don’t call 9 year old little girls that word and save yourself a lot headache. I get the intellectual argument, but this is comedy, your intent is irrelevant, it’s the effect and the impact that matters. Whatever they intended, they spoke out against misogyny by making a misogynist statement by a 9 year old little girl, FAIL.

    • Elisabeth says:

      Your “fail” assessment seems to be pretty universal. I agree the execution was poor, perhaps exceptionally so. You are right to bring up bad comedy- when a comedian makes such a joke, we don’t see them delete it from further broadcasts of their standup; it isn’t edited out of a previously published CD. And Lord knows the greats didn’t apologize- even when they swung for the fences and missed- or did they?

  13. cyberlion says:

    Only pervs and child molesters make such outlandish remarks about children and don’t you dare try to use the things “ANOTHER” or “ANY” child would say be it on the onion or anyother such rubbish publication/media organization, the behavior of children isn’t being questioned, it’s the remarks and action of an alleged adult! And so there’s no misunderstanding, I’m calling you a “LAIR” striaght to your face via this comment, “No” and I do mean “NO” parent would allow another so-called adult to verbally abuse their child/children in this manner, it’s you fake behind wanna-bee whites and 21st century uncle & aunt toms that really get me heated, and before I depart because I could bite thru nails at this moment, child everything in this country has to do with “RACE” or have you being sleep-walking thru the past 2 Presidential Elections as well – cyberlion_58

    • Elisabeth says:

      I soooooo badly want to reply: “#LAIR” [sic], but that would be snarky, so I won’t.

      • Kim says:

        What did she write that was not true?

        • Elisabeth says:

          [I absolutely don’t want to put words in his/her mouth, but I *think* what s/he was doing was calling me a liar in response to my saying I would not be outraged if it were my daughter. I *think*…]

          In other news, “Aunt Tom” is a new one for me. First time for everything!

      • Oedipussy Rex says:

        In combination with Josh Gibbons above does that make you a troll in her lair? If so that makes you worth 1,400 experience points with a type D treasure as opposed to just a type Q. Of course, they’re going to have to defeat you first, but I really don’t see that happening.

  14. onioncontributor says:

    THANK GOD. I’m so so happy to see someone respond sensibly to this whole thing. As a woman comedy writer who happens to contribute to the Onion (but had nothing to do with this), I completely agree with you. This whole thing has been driving me nuts, and every time I see another person say “they called a nine-year-old a cunt,” I become filled with non-hilarious rage.

    Hooray for all the important debates about children and Hollywood and race and feminism, but the willful misunderstandings of this joke are so wrongheaded and aggravating.

    • Elisabeth says:

      THIS: “Hooray for all the important debates about children and Hollywood and race and feminism, but the willful misunderstandings of this joke are so wrongheaded and aggravating.” — Thank you.

  15. In my class at Gtown, I had the students discuss what it means to be a 9 year old public figure, the history and role of satire and irony in journalism, protest, entertainment, literature (and how she actually was NOT the target), even the protection the Supreme Court has given the meanest, most inapproriate satire and parody in the Larry Flynt and 2Livecrew cases. But, Elizabeth, you are experiencing what the President endures from 2d Amendment nuts and Tea Partiers. Why talk when you are met with nothing but rage and dissonance? I applaud you. Indeed, try to find as many folk getting upset about the sequester, or Shelby Co. v. Holder, or banks re-entering the predatory lending game. Yep…

    • Elisabeth says:

      I almost went to Georgetown. Had sent my seat deposit to GULC all ready to go…

      I would have loved to take your class; sounds splendid.

      re: “Why talk when you are met with nothing but rage and dissonance?” Pleasantly, I haven’t been met with just those. Most who disagreed have been reasonable and thoughtful. As to why say anything, you see this is my first [public] post in a very long time- I felt like I was going to burst. There was this vast visceral response and none of it represented me. I just had to speak my piece- even in my tiny little corner of the internet. Far more good has come from it than harm. Example: this very interaction with you.

      Wait… what “sequester”? That’s like when we make the witnesses wait outside the courtroom during trial, right? 😉

      • 😉 The public figure thing really needs to soak in with folks. She is as Honeybooboo is, and thus media outlets have a lot of leeway. Indeed, i told one dude on the Root comments and above that even a suit on her behalf, likely for false light or emotional distress (because defamation isn’t the key here for satire or parody) would fail for that reason. Folks need to stop the bull and concentrate energy on concrete issues. This aint one of them. But it does pose an interesting cultural question: our humor, even Paul Mooney at his nastiness, never truly encompassed satire and parody. We dont understand it’s nuance on one level, why it bites hard on another; we think Tyler Perry in a dress talking about the pastor is a hoot. And then there’s setting and context. Seth McFarlane on the Oscars–not so funny. Seth Mcfarlane in Family Guy–hilarious.

        • Elisabeth says:

          Your public figure arguments are interesting ones. It forces us to think about what is legal/permissible vs advisable. Certainly the absence of actionability alone does not define merit, though it’s a weighty factor in such an assessment.

          I still wouldn’t argue that The Onion should have posted the cunt tweet. Of that I am not certain. I am certain, however, that the deletion and apology were both mistakes and set disappointing precedents that do not bode well for the future of that otherwise fine publication, certainly not under its current leadership- an editor who threw his own staff under the bus.

          [FWIW: I do not like Tyler Perry in a dress, AT ALL. But it doesn’t offend me. He’s just not funny to me. What IS funny to me is how many people that laugh at him are up in arms now. My people, my people…]

        • B. Robinson says:

          How about we put Honeybooboo comparisons to rest? She’s being pimped by her parents and TLC and her sole reason for being is to be ridiculed. She’s a speeding train sans brakes looking for a curve. Maybe one day someone will love her enough to stop the exploitation- maybe not. That said, she’s never referred to as a c–t and never will be. Interesting right?

          This hand wringing about whether or not Quvenzhane was the “target” from a legal perspective is ridiculous. It’s good to hear that your class now knows that “legally” she was not the target. Phew! That makes it all better. It’s reassuring to know that legally she’s a public figure and should expect to be called a c–t from here on out. Thank God she didn’t win, that might have opened her up to being described as a n—–r and a c–t. It’s hard out here for a thespian.

          Professor, homie, my man, my mellow. You’re missing many points. Very few folks entered this fray with an eye towards a suit. I certainly didn’t. Public figure or not the comment was out of line and it demanded a response. Are there more pressing issues to be “outraged” over? Absolutely. Does that fact mean that this one issue should be shrugged off? Nope, not at all. I know nothing about the company you keep but most folks I know are perfectly capable of entertaining divergent opinions on multiple issues- drone strikes to the prison industrial complex, domestic violence to pop culture. No reason why we can’t spend a couple days standing up for a nine year old. From time to time you must insert yourself into a situation and make a point for the greater good. The people who objected to the remark were making that point.

          I’m not sure where you were going with the note on the limitations of Black humor and our collective inability to grasp the “nuance” of satire or parody, but you’re wrong. That’s the risk you run when you assume you’re the smartest cat at the party. Most of the folks I know have always known that our creative output has always encompassed satire and parody. That’s how our art made sense of and provided solace from a hostile environment. Put this basic and severely abbreviated list of comics, authors, films and theater pieces on your legal pad for future perusal. Some well known, some not so much.

          Dick Gregory Paul Beatty. Pryor
          Dave Chappelle. Chester Himes.
          Ellison. Darius James
          Bamboozled Ishmael Reed
          Mooney Langston
          George Schuyler Zora
          Colored Museum Purlie Victorious
          Church Fight (Tyler Who?)
          Putney Swope (ok this one is honorary)

          Don’t pay Black folks cheap. We understand satire. Plenty of us read the Onion and laugh when they’re funny. This time they weren’t.

          And for the record, most people I’ve smacked have really deserved it.

    • N. Hawkins says:

      Professor Chambers,

      Perhaps when you finish your next class, you could make your way over to either Professor Lawrence’s or Professor Matsuda’s office and have a conversation (or two) about subordination, unconscious racism and “words that wound”? Their work in the field of Critical Race Theory is more relevant to this discussion.

  16. […] Epps explains in a piece for her personal blog why she didn’t share in the outrage when the satirical publication used profanity to slam a […]

  17. […] Epps explains in a piece for her personal blog why she didn’t share in the outrage when the satirical publication used profanity to slam a […]

  18. I must respectfully disagree with you, Elizabeth. I do not believe the word “cunt” should be applied to ANY woman, regardless of age. The fact that someone at The Onlon wrote / green-lighted / published such a horrid remark is beyond sarcasm or satire – it’s just plain WRONG.

    At 9 years old, our children (not just girls) are still developing their self-definition – in practice, this goes on throughout a big part of our lives. For this to be published and talked about so much, it’s virtually guaranteed that Quvenzhane will see it. I hope and pray she’s able to just brush it off and let it go. I, considering myself one of her wanna be “Aunties” will not.

    I was part of a local production of “The Vagina Monologues” in my home city a few years back, and one of the monologues used speaks of taking back certain words. “Cunt” was one of them – and while I understood the point of the piece, I can tell you unequivocally that the entire audience cringed every time the word was said. It’s unacceptable to refer to ANY female in that way, and The Onion should be ashamed.

    Should they have apologized? YES, absolutely. Are there other words that should raise an equal amount of outrage? YES. Why they have not up until this point speaks more to our desensitization as a people than anything else.

    Sometimes it takes a perceived wrong against someone who cannot truly defend themselves (or is perceived to not be able to defend themselves) that raises public ire and makes us speak out…I’m guessing that is what happened here, but I’m also hoping that this will not be the last time people speak out about this kind of thing…

    • Elisabeth says:

      I love that your third word is “respectfully.” Sets such an optimistic tone for what’s to follow. re: “I must respectfully disagree… I do not believe the word “cunt” should be applied to ANY woman, regardless of age. If you think we ought to toss the c-word entirely- and it’s clear that you do- then we are in 100% agreement about what I think is the most salient of the debatable positions here.

      I don’t think you and I disagree about much at all here. By apologizing, The Onion has now set a standard that if people whine loud enough, any content is deletable. I think that is a sad precedent. Yet The Onion has BEEN using cunt for many years against both men women of different ages, races. You are adamant that an apology is necessary- so let’s press into the parameters of that:

      1. Why is QW more deserving than those others of an apology? (Real question.)
      2. If she is- who else is? (And who’s excluded?)
      3. And if she’s not, where are the retroactive apologies to Joe Lieberman, Nicole Ritchie… ? (I’m still not being rhetorical.)
      4. Should they issue a blanket apology, or only for the targets age 9 and under? (I’m really interested in how you see this necessary apology working- or do only 9yo black girls deserve it?)

      You said:

      Sometimes it takes a perceived wrong against someone who cannot truly defend themselves (or is perceived to not be able to defend themselves) that raises public ire and makes us speak out…I’m guessing that is what happened here, but I’m also hoping that this will not be the last time people speak out about this kind of thing…

      ^^Brilliant. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  19. B. Robinson says:

    I’m intrigued by the idea that this apology will bring down the Onion by setting a “sad” precedent. Why sad? Why is the concern for the Onion and it’s editors and writers and not for the nine year old? Why isn’t the fate of the Onion’s future attempts at c–t based humor left up to the whims of the marketplace?

    They’re not journalists with a capital “J”, they write fake news and skits. If they publish material that is objectionable to a large group of people (presumably their audience) and they get called on it- so be it. (Even if that audience is just shuffling colored Luddites who don’t have letters behind their names or an understanding of the nuances of satire and parody). If the audience rejects the “satire” and is in fact insulted, then the marketplace has spoken.

    All that is left for the publisher/editor to do is react to or ignore the protests. What’s wrong with that scenario? The Onion always had the choice to ignore the protests at their peril. In this case they realized they’d made a mistake. Next time they may not.

    Save your concern. Unfortunately, one apology to one little black girl will not set a precedent anywhere. Rest assured, the comic genius who described Black women as nappy headed hoes is doing just fine post censure.

    • Elisabeth says:

      I can’t even reply to you substantively- I get so distracted by the web your words weave that I just want to clap!

    • Elisabeth says:

      I’m with you on the marketplace idea; I absolutely think folks should voice their concerns- how much more explicitly can I say this than in my last paragraph? I don’t understand though, some people (maybe you? maybe not?) taking issue with my not being offended and outraged.

      I hope you’re right about your predictions for The Onion; I hardly thought the nappy headed hoes was comedy genius, but if its author is doing just fine post-censure, than I suppose- once again the marketplace has spoken. Thanks for letting my save my concern; I very much want to be wrong about fearing The Onion will now think retractions/apologies are appropriate when/if a group is vocal enough about its feelings being hurt.

  20. Stewart says:

    I read the Root comments first, and then came here. I see point you are trying to make, and it’s valid. More than that, I support your right to have one and to express it respectfully.

    • Elisabeth says:

      Right back at you Stewart. I learn and grow so much when those who disagree articulate why, and do so reasonably, measured, thoughtfully. Like “B. Robinson” above? I almost forgot my own position he had me so convinced. That’s respect- and it works best when it works both ways. Thank you for chiming in!

  21. Nigel Cox-Hagan says:

    A little late to the party, but just wanted to praise you for the way you handled the onslaught of feedback you received about your Onion/C–t post. I don’t completely agree with you (I don’t think apologizing was wrong, nor believe it limits the Onions ability to satirize in the future, although I think they may have gone too far in throwing the tweet author under the bus) but I appreciate your attempt to explain to a resistant audience that the tweet was a poorly executed attempt at satire, and not a racist screed. I completely agree that the ability to satirize is a net positive for our culture. I was even more impressed by your ability to avoid responding to frankly ad hominen attacks and overly emotional responses in like manner, and keeping the conversation constructive. I would be hard pressed to do the same. Keep on doing what your doing, it’s great, whether I agree with you or not.

    • Elisabeth says:

      Thank you Nigel- your feedback is incredibly helpful to me, both in thinking about this issue and considering how to frame my thoughts about similarly divisive matters moving forward.

      One question I have for you though, re: “your attempt to explain… that the tweet was a poorly executed attempt at satire, and not a racist screed.” I definitely agree with the latter clause- that the tweet was not a “racist screed.” But as for the former, I’m not sold on the tweet necessarily being an “attempt at satire” either, “poorly executed” or otherwise. It might be- it might not. At this point, I’m just not familiar enough with the literary/comedic definitions of satire and parody to argue that this either was or wasn’t. (It’s definitely high on my list of new research interests.)

      So my question to you (because SO many people have said so, though none in as measured a manner as did you), is: what suggests to you that I did think that the tweet was satirical? Is it something I explicitly said, or is it that failing to identify it as something other than satire, the default presumption is that I thought it was? I do not mean to be accusatory, this isn’t me whining about you misattributing comments to me, it is a genuine inquiry. Any thoughts you could offer to help me parse that question (why you thought I considered the tweet satire), would be most appreciated.

      Also, I hope I am wrong about The Onion moving forward. I really, really want to be entirely incorrect in my predictions for their editorial moves moving forward. I hate how the editor distanced himself from his staff, including them all in an apology that seemed to me hasty and hollow.

      Thank you again for your thoughts. I know I’m a giant dork for admitting it, but I literally feel energized when clever thoughtful people disagree with me- and tell me why. For me, I learn so much more from those who challenge my conceptions than those who parrot my thoughts without adding new insight. So again, many thanks.

  22. Terry says:

    Simply stated, this shit ain’t funny. Disturbing, yes. Funny, no. If this statement had been made about your daughter and you would have responded in the way you have described, it would have been a sad, not an enlightened response.

    • Elisabeth says:

      Terry, I agree 100%; it was disturbing. That’s what I “cringed, winced, rolled my eyes… groaned.”
      Disturbing? Yes. That’s why I called the tweet “baseless, asinine, universally offensive.”
      As for you finding my parenting reaction, “sad“- I understand where you are coming from.
      Thanks again so much for weighing in. -EE

  23. Pamela Mack says:

    How about we call you one and laugh?

    • Elisabeth says:

      You wouldn’t be the first.

      Actually I’d never been called that in my life (certainly not memorably enough that I can recall)- until last week. Several people called me a cunt in the days since I shared my thoughts about The Onion‘s tweet. Being called a cunt by an anonymous stranger was curious to me, but not bothersome. What does it even mean? #YeShrug

      As I wrote, I’m unclear that any age/gender/race is “fair game” for that insult, but as for me- no, I don’t mind. I am passionate about many things; but ‘committed to changing the mind of strangers who decide I’m a cunt’ is not one of them.

      So, in answer to your question, if you’d like to join those who called me a cunt- I would not be offended, nor would I want an apology. By all means- speak your truth.

      Be well. Thanks again for weighing in.

  24. kiss_it4me@live.com says:

    Why be surprised when a blonde-haired negroe defends white so-called journalism? And not the fact that whether she be 9 or 99, the Black woman continues to be fodder for ridicule and jokes, even @our greatest achievement. Eepps doesn’t even know what cunt means, according to her. Just like she doesn’t know sutble backdoor racism in black and white.

    • Elisabeth says:

      Hey there.

      1. Not really blonde, just some highlights (and filtered Aviary lighting if you’re looking at the hoodie gravatar). Every once in a while I like to add a little color to the wild unruly mass of naps that is this afro of mine. Considering going a little more blonde for the summer. But then again, maybe I won’t; just as likely I’ll dye it jet black.
      2. The Onion = journalism? Really? That’s news to me. (“news”- get it? pun intended.) I never made such a contention, nor would I.
      3. I did not say that I did not know what cunt meant; I said that I didn’t know what the person above meant in calling me that: is that grown woman, a licensed attorney, really calling me a vulgar term for vulva just bc she disagrees with me about a social issue? If so- so be it; if not- I wanted to give her an opportunity to correct me.

      Thanks again for weighing in. I admit- I have a soft spot in my blonde-negroe [not negro, mind you] heart for similarly feisty souls, even ones like you who mischaracterize my argument and resort to ad hominem personal attacks. Be well.

      -#Eepps [sic], #Sutble [sic]

  25. mdiane says:

    “I opted out of “lockstep collective black way of thinking” in the fall of 1979, and never looked back. Thank you for the wishes of all power to me.”

    This statement says more about you than back people. There is no nor has there every been a lockstep collective black way of thinking. It seems your approach is it denigrate those who disagree with you or have a different world view. Thus, you make yourself seem smarter and taller than the rest of us rather than engaging in authentic discourse. The apology and public discourse argues that some of us find the attack of this defenseless 9 year old unacceptable. Further, it just might cause others to think before using this hurtful utterances.
    That you find it acceptable does not make you smarter nor does it show that you above engaging in lockstep collective thinking. In fact, your charge simply illustrates that privilege that fights for just that kind of thinking….after all, the savvy folks understand satire even when it fails the test. You believe it is such because the Onion told you so….

    Just a thought…women are called c…. When they dare to be smart and courageous…it is an attempt to reduce them to being a sexual object. But, you know that. There are so many public women that the Onion could label as such starting with Michelle Obama. Yet, they chose a nine year girl, not an anonymous girl but called this girl out of her name.
    That is not satire, no matter what the collective thinking of the Onion fans; it is a pathetic and lazy attempt at satire.

    • Elisabeth says:


      1. re: “lockstep collective black way of thinking“- hopefully you noticed, by my intentional use of quotation marks, that I was citing the poster above me in my reply; those were his words- not mine. I agree- obviously: there is no one way of black thinking. But there clearly has been a majority view when it comes to this issue. If that hasn’t been your experience, how lovely for you. But almost everyone I know thinks the tweet is some racist outrage. You’re right; my writing of this essay is an example of the very premise you and I agree about: there is not one black position on this (or most any) issue. How nice to focus on points of overlap vs only points of disagreement.

      2. Speaking of points of agreement, re: “it just might cause others to think before using this hurtful utterances“- I couldn’t agree more, what a great result that would be. I’m skeptical, but hopeful- a guarded optimism. To remind you that I agree with you on this point, permit me to quote myself:

      …perhaps some good could come from the firestorm [The Onion] ignited. Congratulations to The Onion for either brilliantly or inadvertently forcing us to ask a question otherwise largely ignored: at what age is such a moniker fair game: 12? 16? 21? If those designations seem arbitrary, consider the ridiculousness of attaching an age to such an epithet at all.

      3. Yes, I am smarter and taller than most people. But there are plenty of people who are smarter and/or taller (or both!) than me who disagree with me, and that’s ok. Newsflash: Thoughtful, educated, well-meaning people (like you! like me!) can- and should- disagree about matters of great importance. I don’t think someone is necessarily [less smart] bc they disagree with me- what a nonsensical proposition. If anyone feels “denigrated” bc I disagree with them about this tweet, then that error is theirs. I can accept a differing opinion- and do; a little disappointing to see that so many who disagree with me are unable to be as open-minded in return. (Disappointing, but not surprising.)

      4. I do not find the tweet satirical. Guess what? That’s why I never said so. The ONLY time I mention satire in my essay is in quoting (and indeed, doubting) a line in The Onion‘s purported “apology.” It’s very sad to me that so many literate people, presumably yourself included (pls correct me if I’m wrong and am misreading you; it certainly seems like you are alleging I find the tweet to be satire), have imagined words I never wrote. You rly dare to comment on what you decide I “believe” (re: satire) when- in fact- I said no such thing? Please show me where I contended the tweet was satire. I’ll wait. Meanwhile, RIP: long lost art of reading comprehension, or- rather- READING period. #DrumsFingersPatiently

      5. For whatever it’s worth (and I don’t contend that’s much- not at all), The Onion has BEEN calling women (and men! lo the irony) cunts for years: black women, foster children, teenagers, Jewish Americans, etc. I’m neither condoning nor defending, but to say they “chose a nine year old girl” as if it happened this first time in a vacuum is just factually erroneous. If you think they went too far, I can see that. Although it’s too bad black America didn’t rally last time they called one of our sisters a cunt, or when they called a white girl one…

      …But ultimately: free-thinking people are free to pick their battles. I’m not mad about y’all being mad, I’m just not mad. We cool? Thanks again for weighing in. Your feedback is much appreciated.

  26. B. Robinson says:

    Still in here swinging huh? Got to give you credit for that.
    One question, per your research who else did the Onion call a c–t?

    • Elisabeth says:

      Ack! Sorry I missed this. Only when I posted a new entry did I just see that I’d missed this, your last comment from March- mea culpa. Off the top of my head I remember Onion calling Nicole Richie (sp?) a c–t, as well as having a piece abt a teenager (fictional white girl) calling her mother the same. But of course in the 3 months that have passed Black Twitter has regressed to calling women the c word recklessly. So nice to have things back to normal. #SarcasmFont

  27. mdiane says:

    ““denigrated” bc I disagree with them about this tweet, then that error is theirs. I can accept a differing opinion- and do; a little disappointing to see that so many who disagree with me are unable to be as open-minded in return. (Disappointing, but not surprising.)”

    The denigration does not come with the difference of opinion but lumping that difference as “groupthink” or a “majority view of blacks (did someone take a poll? and was it only blacks who felt this way?). In the end, you still choose to label those who vigorously disagree with you as not being open minded. If we were closed, why enter into a discussion?

    “Although it’s too bad black America didn’t rally last time they called one of our sisters a cunt, or when they called a white girl one… ”

    when did that occur? For those who do not read The Onion and may not have known, they are now to be chastised for not coming forward…..when did that happen? Is the outrage of some blacks considered less geniune because they did not voice outrage for someone else? Perhaps many people, both black and white, women and men are outraged because the target is a child. Yet, many people, both black and white (and other hues), both women and men rallied around Sandra Fluke…. and moved as a group (there goes that groupthink and majoritythink) against Limbaugh.

    Of course, this is not the first time a woman has been called a c…. It has happened to me and it was loud and profane and no one there called it out…. If I follow your logic, I should think that no one cared and that I should not protest if it happens to someone else.
    Of course, it has happened to other women and girls. It is a word that has followed us throughout history. Unfortunately, it will continue to do so. But that does not mean we should say nothing because no one did before or did not do it for this person or that person.

    Your distinctions and arguments do not seem to be able to stand on their own merit. You believe that The Onion should not be called out even if it had labeled your own daughter. Perhaps you are being provocative for attention. I do not believe any parent, black,white, yellow, brown, red….would allow that. Ultimately, especially with your “response, I do not believe you. Further, I am the mother of sons and I do not want them to think that by my silence, the use of this word would be okay. They already know that it is not at any age but especially not against the defenseless. I suppose that becomes groupthink or majoritythink…so be it. Your tone appears conciliatory; we differ and, yet, we are on common ground. I do think you have a bone to pick with the black community. Had some from the black community said nothing, would you be mad at them. Don’t tell me that you are not. it is pretty clear that you are.

    I am not mad at you….just sad….

    • Elisabeth says:

      You make interesting points in response to arguments I did not make; you offer thoughtful criticisms of positions I do not hold. I will try to be more clear if/when I next share an essay publicly. And no, had “some from the black community said nothing” [about this tweet], I would not “be mad at them.” Just like I’m not mad at you for mis-characterizing my words and mis-attributing sentiment to me that I did not express. You’re not mad, neither am I. Thanks again for your thoughts. Take good care.

  28. […] didn’t even mind people calling a baby girl a cunt, remember? See: “Why I laughed when The Onion called Quvenzhane a Cunt“ […]

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