Of Its Time

I was looking through some writing from the mid-90s last night — no particular reason for it, I was just wandering through my own archives — and after having done so, noted this on Twitter:

I will note this is just the sort of comment that sneeringly gets me labeled as performatively “woke” by the sort of terrible people who can’t abide people learning and growing and trying to be more decent to others, but a) eh, they’re terrible people, who gives a shit what they think, b) I wasn’t noting it to beat myself up.

I don’t feel particularly bad about writing what I did back in 1995, or believe it was so heinous in its construction that I should be hauled up in front of a tribunal. It wasn’t good that I was more sexist at the time, to be clear; not trying to excuse it. And also, for the mid-90s, it was… not unusual, and nothing about it would have called attention to itself, in terms of its baseline sexism. Evidence for this: two levels of editors at the Fresno Bee, where the material I was looking at was written, let it go to press on a regular basis. My editors there were men and women, and they told me to tweak things for publication on a not-infrequent basis. They wouldn’t have hesitated to let me know if what I’d written was out of line.

And what was this sexist stuff? Honestly, mostly slight attempted humor trying to point out differences between men and women, of the “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus” variety — broad cultural generalizations based on gender and sex. I was already aware of the, shall we say, incompleteness of this worldview, inasmuch as I was in a relationship with Krissy at the time. But I didn’t let that stop me, because I thought it was funny and also because in context of the time it was allowed. Which is a way of saying that in mid-90s I was a lazier writer than I am today.

I already knew this about myself, I should note. I’ve mentioned here before that much of my early writing has the vibe of someone with talent being lazy because he could be. What changed that was becoming an editor myself, and having to work with other writers to improve their writing. After that happened I looked back on what I’d written before, and was dismayed to see how much better it should have been. To look at it again now, from the perspective of someone in his 50s and living in 2020, and to see the sexism in it I missed before, is not that surprising.

It’s not to suggest that I’m 100% perfect in dealing with my sexism now; I still have places where it pops up, and I’m still lazy at times. But I do think I’m better at it, relative to where I was a quarter century ago. For one, I’m less self-impressed with myself as a writer. I believe there’s always room for improvement, which is not necessarily a thing I would have admitted to myself when I was 26. For two, I have wider life experience, and that wider life experience has made me both more resistant to accepting without examination received information about gender (and sexuality, and race, etc), and more aware of the range of how humans live and move about in this world.

And for three — and here’s where the sneering accusations of performative “wokeness” will come up again — these days I’m happy not to be the dude who needs to have everyone in little predetermined boxes just so I’ll have one less thing to think about. Demanding that from others wouldn’t make me a better writer or person (rather the opposite), and people won’t do what I want them to do anyway, just for the sake of my own convenience. So, fine. I’ll try to do the work on this stuff. I don’t think that’s trying to be “woke,” I think that’s just part of trying not to be terrible to the people that exist on the planet.

All of this, incidentally, is one reason I’m not in a rush to bring most of what I wrote in the 90s back into the public eye. I’m not hiding it — head over the the Internet Archive and you can find earlier iterations of this site that have a lot of it, and if you’re really ambitious and have money to throw around, you can get all my Fresno Bee articles out of a news archive — but I’m also fine not putting it front and center either. There’s that thing that people say when they’re trying to explain (and often, excuse) writing from a previous era: “It was of its time.”  Well, my writing from the 90s was very much of its time. It should probably stay in its time. I’m largely content to leave it there.

— JS

51 Comments on “Of Its Time”

  1. I’m in my early 30s, and the fact that some folks who grew up with 90s humour & associated stereotypes have bothered to revise their worldview based on new info has made my adult life & career far less frustrating than it would otherwise have been. So, cheers.

  2. Think about those of us who grew up in a time replete with humor that was heavily based on ethnic jokes, often expressed with an appropriate accent. Polish, Jewish, Italian, Chinese, Black, Hispanic…that was the height of humor in the 1940s-70s.

    All of it is cringeworthy today, but in its time it was viewed as reasonably avant-garde. Not to mention the cutting edge humor of Lenny Bruce that got him thrown in jail In the 1960s but could get him canceled in 2020.

    Autres temps, autres moeurs.

  3. One of my favorite SNL bits of all time is “The Sinatra Group”. A couple of years ago, I went back to watch it again and was gobsmacked to discover Phil Hartman (as Sinatra) used a six-letter slur for gay men (the reference was to Milli Vanilli). And I looked up when the episode aired: January 1991! If you’d have bet me that by 1991 we were past using that slur, I’d have taken the wager and lost.

  4. My curiosity will be to look back from 2050 (If I live that long) and see what today’s issues will have been. Hopefully we will have kept progressing.
    Dave

  5. And with luck, you, me, and everyone else will be doing better on that score in 2045.

  6. Not your main point, I know, but I was struck with sudden greed to have a book on editing from you. Since that is likely not your priority right now, let me rein myself to a smaller and equally optional request: do you have editing books you recommend?

  7. One that caught me recently was from the 2003 Spider-Man movie. When Peter Parker uses his powers to enter a pro-wrestling bout, he mocks his opponent by asking him if the opponent’s husband made his outfit. I remember watching the movie in the theater and just absorbing it as standard Spider-Man banter, but now it’s really jarring.

  8. Dana – continuous improvement is a good life philosophy also:-) I just saw a quote attributed to Muhammed Ali, “If you still think the same way when you are 50 as you did when you are 20, you’ve wasted 30 years of living.”

    When I look back on my life, the things I’ve said, the things I’ve done, I cringe – particularly in the times before my daughters were born (that first child popped me right into being an adult) – sometimes sexist, sometimes bigoted, sometimes ignorant, always out of place in the world of today. I’ve tried to work to be better throughout my life and continue to “work” on myself now.

    One of the things that makes me pity Trump and his ilk (and don’t get me wrong, that small amount of pity is VASTLY outweighed by abject loathing) is that they remain as ignorant in their old age as they were when they were younger…like a stereotypical high school football star that never left town, never achieved much, and still wants the world to be awed in their presence. One of the dumbest concepts that I see expressed in the political realm is the idea that no person should refine their political viewpoints, policy ideas, etc. as they gain more life experience – that the changing of the world around them should not be taken as an opportunity to refine their thought and to be a better person.

    One of the things that I’ve come to appreciate about John – is that he is that rare human being (in the public sphere of today) that seems to genuinely care about being a better person than he was when he was younger.

  9. IMO, there hasn’t been an improvement regarding sexism since the 1990s At. All. The sexism these days is in plain sight and isn’t just so much puerile humor. Anyone who things sex work by women is empowering doesn’t understand feminism or what patriarchy actually is. Not that men paying for sex ever cared about feminism, it’s just that lately they’re being nicely served by the notion that prostitution is good for women.

  10. Watch some Friends episodes from the 90s. They constantly made fun of Chandler being gay. They made a few transgender jokes as well. Not so funny anymore.

  11. OMG I love that meme.

    I am really disappointed with myself going back and watching casual homophobia that I didn’t even notice in old things back in the day. I’m glad I notice it now. And super-cringy about things I’ve said to friends but thankful that they put up with me on my “journey to wokeness”. And it sucks that they had to put up with me because at least my “heart was in the right place” and that’s better than the alternative. So much is not fair.

    And I worry about how I’m being awful now without realizing it. I hope in the future I’ll be able to look back and cringe rather than still being oblivious.

  12. A good evening of education and entertainment is The Vote on PBS’ American Experience about the battle of women to gain the right to vote. Leaves you wondering why women aren’t out toppling statues.

  13. Growth is the key. There’s a huge difference between following cultural norms of the time and staying frozen in those times.

  14. In the 80s, when I was a teen, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Rocky Mountain News about a sexual harassment case in which I asked if the accuser had tried to work things out with the perpetrator before taking the step of public reporting and accusation. I still blush to think about it. How naively I believed in good intentions and justice winning out over all.

  15. Hopefully we’re not all rushing so desperately to prove how much better we are than the versions of ourselves we were twenty something years ago that we forget that really cutting humor is meant to be something on the edge of appropriateness. Once again I’m reminded how much and how quickly culture can change over time.

    As poor taste as some humor may be at times, to laugh at inappropriateness isn’t always a mark at being racist, sexist or crude, its to make fun of the people who are. (Thinking of a particularly crude individual currently in the White House.)

    Much of Monty Python’s funniest humor likely wouldn’t be allowed in today’s social climate-yet damn I laugh anyway because it is so over the top. Maybe if more people laughed at things instead of being offended we’d be happier in general. Gods know there is enough to be upset about in today’s world without getting upset at which particular group used as the butt of a joke.

  16. Interestingly, it was the Republicans who eventually spearheaded the vote as southern Democrats thought it would make the blacks in their states more “uppity”, eroding white supremacy. White women at times felt they must turn their noses at their strong, black female allies as at times it eroded their support from the public if they included them. It is a reminder that people sometimes feel they have to violate their own ethics to get things done, and that there are no saints in politics, just varying degrees of gray.

  17. @A I Mychalus: I dunno. Most of the points where I’ve become a better human being lately are where I’ve learned not to laugh something off, but to pause and consider more carefully, and think about comedy being only the tip of the iceberg in terms of societal mistreatment and unequal amounts of power. There are an infinite number of other things we can laugh about without making fun of subsets of society that already get the short end of the stick. ‘You’re just too sensitive’ or ‘lighten up’ are arguments that amount to ‘please leave the status quo alone because I’m comfortable with it’, and as such are rarely/never made by people whose lives are improved by a lot less mockery. My life is one of those in one sense. It has become much better thanks to people no longer making nearly so many jokes about me and people like me. Because even where those jokes are supposed to be making fun of those who hate me, the actual bigots latch onto them. They’ll take any excuse and grasp at any straw that seems to make this kind of thing acceptable, even if that means veiling it in purported parody. I have many more opportunities than people in my category did generations ago, and I owe a lot of it to people reflecting, being more welcoming, overtly making room for exceptions to the mainstream, standing up against anti-my-group sentiment, and not giving into paradox-of-tolerance arguments. I’m glad people were upset enough to make that not okay. Having friends in a lot of categories that get joked about and trivialized shows me that the same is not yet true of other marginalized groups. I’d like it to be someday. All part of building a better world for lots of kinds of people.

  18. The casual homophobia of the 80s and 90s is particularly striking — two examples: Eddie Murphy’s “Delirious” and “Ace Ventura Pet Detective”. I’m raising a young boy, and I make a point to watch older films before letting him watch them, not to censor them, but to ensure that I can explain any context when we then watch the film together (if it stands up as a good film). Thankfully my kiddo is far, far more aware of these issues than I ever was. We started watching “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984) together and he asked to turn it off after about half an hour because of the racism and the sexism. I dug around the internet a little to see what people said about it, and it was the violence that caused people to criticize it, which surprised me as, although I was not particularly woke for my age, I remember when I saw it in theatres that I realized that the character of Short Round was pretty racist, and Willie was as anti-feminist a character as one could imagine. Someone above in this thread mentioned Monty Python — curiously, I’ve had no issues with the Python films, compared with far more recent comedies.

  19. A I Mychalus:

    “we forget that really cutting humor is meant to be something on the edge of appropriateness.”

    However, I can say with some authority that my mid-90s humor was not exactly cutting edge. It was a newspaper column, and newspaper humor has never been known for its edginess.

  20. If you want a real eye-opener, connect to Project Gutenberg and download one of the old Tom Swift books. Yee Gods! You get it all: racism, sexism, et al. Wow, they’re bad.

    Disclaimer: I’m OLD (71) and even I could easily spot that crap.

    No matter how off-key your older stuff is, it couldn’t come close to touching these old “classics”.

    Regards –

    dave

  21. I am in my mid 30’s, and I shudder to think of the stupid stuff I said in middle school and high school. I’ve grown as a person and I hope I’ve outgrown those things. I do see our culture as improving in many ways, and becoming more tolerant.
    I wonder what your thoughts are on elements of the so called “cancel culture” that seeks for ideological purity? I’ve seen instances of people who have changed their minds and become more open minded be vilified for things they wrote or said decades ago.
    I believe in repentance and change. At what point do we acknowledge that the past is a different county and that we all contain multitudes?

  22. My mom read OLD MAN’S WAR with her book club to give them something new and liked it. Mom thought it would be accessible for a group that didn’t read a lot of sci-fi. She was still unimpressed by Jane and the other female characters, found them sexist.

  23. A few years ago I read some of your old Fresno Bee columns and I cringed, and I cringed more at the fact I used to say the same things so casually,

  24. Mychalus: “Maybe if more people laughed at things instead of being offended we’d be happier in general.”

    If we’re going to use the royal “we”, i think we ALL would be happier if ALL the minorities didnt have to smile everytime someone punched down and told them to lighten up, its funny.

    Dude: “Anyone who things sex work by women is empowering doesn’t understand feminism”

    I am wondering what percent of laborers of all types would use the word “empowering” to describe their job. I’m thinking its a fairly small percent. In a world where the top 1% are pilfering the 99%, i wont fault someone for doing what they can to get by.

  25. K87, it’s not an exclusive thing where it’s either all class or all sex. Women because of their sex are both subjected to male sexual desire that’s aided by the economic power men have over them. No one is faulting a women for having to sell her body to get by. Rather, they’re faulting a regime where women are second-class citizens because of their sex, as sex work is second-class work.

  26. What @K87 and others said re: offending– humor that punches down isn’t funny. It’s lazy.

    Humor that relies on hurting someone who is already subject to discrimination isn’t humor, it’s bullying. People who laugh at it are no better than hangers on.

  27. Yeah, let’s not be too hard on ourselves or others.

    Back in the 1970’s when women were meeting in circles to “consciousness raise” they didn’t call it “to get woke.” Mostly because the word woke hadn’t been invented yet. Also because raising was a process, not a binary, not a “blink, open your eyes and it just happened” thing.

    As best I recall, as one got more liberated, one could look back to understand folks who weren’t at the same “level,” as it were, but folks couldn’t look up and instantly wake up at a new level. Oh, they could fake it, like faking zen, but there is a reason for the slogan for a faker, “She stinks of zen.”

    To quote a character in Andre Norton’s The Time Traders, “I can’t take a piece out of my head and give it to you.” In my own case, I went through a phase of hating (no, not men) the “older generation” as “the enemy.” I couldn’t magically change in a second, but over time I grew to see both a less woke and a more woke viewpoint simultaneously. Today I can almost keep a straight face as I say, “I’m proud to be a member of society.” Then I grin.

    Let’s respect time, and respect ourselves and others on our journey. (no, not folks at demonstrations holding guns who have decided in advance not to journey or listen with respect)

  28. I’ve been slowly collecting my published short stories into ebooks, and my policy has been that I don’t revise them. Sure, they’re not all up to my current craft standards, but I’m not ashamed of the fact that I’ve grown as a writer. There are two exceptions to that policy:

    1. Actual typos, like misspellings, erroneous punctuation, or missing/repeated words.

    2. Offensive crap.

    So far I’ve yet to hit anything I feel is flawed on a fundamental narrative level, but for example, I used the word “gypsy” in one story. I took that out when the story went into the collection. In another place I had a description that teetered on the edge of sounding bad; I changed it to take it away from that precipice. If somebody contacts me about something I overlooked, I’ll probably edit the book to address that — yay for being able to easily revise ebooks! There’s a difference between “look, twenty-two-year-old me wasn’t as skilled yet” (that’s fine; I stand by it) and “this might hurt somebody” (why should I stand by that?)

  29. Several years ago I watched the very light Disney comedy “The Shaggy Dog” from the 1950s and was terrified by it (to my wife’s enormous amusement). Not just the Hungarian spies, the missile secrets, and agents of an unnamed federal agency joking about making people disappear – look at the relationship of the married couple and their fear of falling below their neighbors’ expectations. It brought back the 1950s all right. In the deep background, McCarthy, though both censured and deceased by the time of the film.

  30. In grade school, in the mid-70’s, one of the variants of ‘tag’ was ‘smear the queer’. Yeah. Don’t think anyone regrets that one going away.

    As far as reading, Asimov’s robot stories have not aged well at all.

  31. Not a great fan of what the Right likes to call offense archaeology. (When you read that somebody’s problematic tweet from 8 years ago “has surfaced,” that’s a euphemism. Somebody was digging.) In my opinion, people should be given the benefit of the doubt for anything they said or wrote more than 5 years ago, if it was not noted at the time as offensive.

    Perhaps an exception is warranted if there’s good reason to believe the person has not evolved their thinking or behavior since. If, for example, they seem like they might still be grabbing ’em by the pussy.

  32. Yeah, “has surfaced” is a euphemism all right. Same with street name toppling.

    That eager keen guy in Starship Troopers could graduate without learning who his army base was named after, but we are expected to know and care about the person who named a street or bridge we have been crossing all our lives. Someone dug.

    In my local area, where the streets were named after birds and trees, all the schools were merely named after the councillors and school board members. No wonder no one knew or cared. I clued in one day when I saw a list of board members.

  33. As a Boomer, I’m just glad there were no video cams, or the Internet, or social media around when we were young. We were perfect in every way, and even our parents are, for the most part, no longer alive to say otherwise.

  34. I have always loved things that are older than myself. And I grew up in a time when there was still a lot of casual racism and sexism in society and pop culture. Times were changing: Gloria Steinem and Martin Luther King, Jr. I was at an age when I was beginning to understand the blatant stereotyping in the old pulps and movies that I love so much but, I also cringe at some of the things I said at the time. We were in a transitory period. (Unfortunately we seem to have regressed.) I also love history and believe that things need to be studied and understood within the context of their time. You can not understand or learn from the past if you insist on erasing the parts.of the past you don’t like. There seem to be people today who think people from a different time should have the same mindset we have today. Fifty years from now there will probably be people looking back at us and criticizing us for not believing the same things they will. I like to think I’ve come a long way from the girl I was fifty years ago. But I will not rewrite history to suit my current beliefs, for then I will learn nothing.

  35. Tangentially on topic, a close female friend of my wife’s (and a friend of mine) from our college years (early 80’s, old fogey here) wanted to be a Heinlein Woman when she grew up. Then she grew up, and realized that Heinlein Women, as skilled and independent as they could be, had….issues.

    When RAH started writing, his women were impressive. These days we have the real thing driving attack helicopters and running for Veep, and they are more impressive.

    (And I am almost glad I didn’t get anything over 1000 words published that long ago. It would hurt to reread the trash I did write.)

  36. There’s something, relevant here, that bothers me about The Last Colony: there are indigenous people on the planet, and everyone ignores their rights. Not only the humans (what can we expect from *them*) but also the conclave.

    OGH famously wrote a whole book addressing another plot-hole in The Last Colony, but I didn’t see any reference to the indigenous people problem, and that is surprising with regard to his expressed views on the subject of real-earth indigenous people.

  37. General response here: Glad that my slightly divergent point of view inspired some reflection on the part of readers.

    Reflecting upon my own experiences growing up in the 1970s when I experienced bullying first hand, all I can say is intent matters more than content. When I was in Middle School (named junior high in those days) a persistent bully attempted to humiliate me. He’d follow me into the boys bathroom, point at me and call me a jew boy. At the time I honestly had no idea what he was talking about. I didn’t get the dig and eventually he moved on to try a different approach to get make me feel bad about myself. Eventually I also settled things with more than words in the locker room as well, a point which finally got the bullying to stop.

    My point in all this is that putting down a person or group only works if it is taken as such. Irish love to tell Irish jokes, some quite putting down. The intent is what matters more than the content. Lets not forget that important point.

    John you mentioned 90s humor as hardly cutting. Frankly, I don’t know. I’d ceased watching the drivel that passed for TV humor by then. I was specifically referring to the very naughty and inappropriate Monty Python. Of course one can add Benny Hill to the list as well.

    Like to add more, but hopefully this will suffice.

    PS: Maybe we ought to stop using the term Karen now if you are truly woke. It went from edgy humor to derogatory in an amazingly short amount of time as far as I can see.

  38. I’ve always thought the American people would accept an appointed Secretary of State having a nerd Ph.D. but not the elected president. In a Mark Clifton sf novel the hero reflects something like, “If a man takes one step ahead of his time he is a genius, a star. If he takes two steps ahead he is a madman, a fool.”

    In other words, leaders were popular in high school. Conformists. By definition, a part of their time.

    I think it’s important for progressives not to jump down the throat of good people who make a verbal mistake. How to react without jumping to utterly exclude?

    This week I found an answer in a book, Don’t Label Me, recommended by Chris Rock. It got me so excited I made a book report and put it on my blog. No, I won’t link to myself, but I will give the link to a Newsweek article with photos interviewing the author. I get a kick out of how the author, a person of color, is progressive yet was photographed at West Point military academy standing beside the flag.

    https://www.newsweek.com/2019/03/08/irshad-manji-interview-dont-label-me-diversity-black-lives-matters-1335894.html

  39. Paraphrasing Dude: “Women are subjected to men that’s aided by the economic power men have over them.”

    anything can be sexist because men have more money. Waitressing can be sexist and exploitive because women make less money. The three women in the movie “Hidden Figures” are subject to racism and sexism because white men make more money and have more power than black women. But being a NASA engineer is not exploitive in itself. The money and power differential make the situation exploitive.

    Its not the particular job that is sexist. Its the systemic money/power advantage that potentially makes everything sexist.

    That, and the sexist notion that a man who has sex is a stud but a woman who has sex is a whore puts a whole other kind of power trip on women sex workers.

    If you’ve ever encountered a woman who stays married to an abusive husband because she cant make the kind of money he does, marriage can be exploitive. Not because of how marriage works, but because how the money/power differential can affect everything.

    Everything is exploitive because money and power arent evenly distributed.

  40. As primates, we’ve evolved to do outrageous, performative behaviors to defuse in-group tensions and entertain our mates. Picture a kid standing on their head waving their legs in the air, shouting, “Lookit me! Lookit ME!”

    A surefire cultural move is to initiate new, cool fads in speech or dress or whatever, then watch as the less-cool people (i.e. *not* you & your friends) rush to adopt them so they can be as cool as you.

    Chances are that the cool kids haven’t come up with these behaviors or clothing ideas or verbal innovations themselves, but have adopted them from an out-group. If said out-group is held in contempt by the kids’ parents, so much the better! Instant youth rebellion!

    Over time, what was once thought transgressive gradually makes its way into the mainstream and thereafter, by definition, is no longer cool. Someone my age might utter, “That makes me SALTY AF!!!!1!!” and everyone in their teens and twenties within hearing wants to stick sharp objects in their ears.

    Or someone who’s never been within cooee of Old Blighty could say, “Cake goes nice wiv tea, innit?” Or someone who’s never set foot north of the 49th parallel could say, “Wheere’s the meeple soorup, eh?” And every nearby listener curls their lip in scorn.

    None of this would make a damn bit of difference – aside from the occasional muttering of “Cripes, what a dickhead!” – *IF* we lived in a world where everyone played the game at the same difficulty level (to borrow a concept already well developed by OGH).

    Sadly, we do not. And where there is endemic inequality and reduced opportunity for income, health, housing, education and other such indicia? There is anger. For whatever reason, men do not adopt female-associated traits in order to seem cooler. But young urban black culture? That gets, er, borrowed from all the time. I understand the indignation, though I scratch my head over “squad” and “basic” being claimed as Black vernacular. Those words go back quite a ways further, I reckon.

    But yeah. There might be angst when people of color, or First Nations, or queer culture, etc. aren’t always made welcome in their physical selves, but by golly their art, music, speech, clothing styles and all the rest of it are totally up for grabs.

  41. My local (small-town Carnegie) library subscribes to a service called ProQuest that offers full-text search of a huge variety of publications, including newspapers, and specifically the Fresno Bee, so you don’t need to pay to see old JS columns. Or, more generally, articles from now-paywalled sources like the NYTimes or the WSJournal. Easy to use.

  42. “That, and the sexist notion that a man who has sex is a stud but a woman who has sex is a whore puts a whole other kind of power trip on women sex workers.”

    The basic notion is that women are there to serve men. Not just for sex but for all sorts of other work, like raising children, housework, being the “good wife” for her aspiring husband, etc. Feminism is the radical notion that women are people too, and not the handmaidens of men. It isn’t all about economic class as women are universally affected by sexism.

  43. In my earlier post, which included references to my belief that you can’t learn from history if you erase the parts you don’t like, I forgot to mention that I am fully in favor of pulling down Confederate monuments and renaming military posts named for Confederates. What nation celebrates the losing side of a civil war? Except for Trump, who called John McCain a loser for being a POW but thinks a bunch of losing generals are great. Fort Hood is right on my doorstep. I could easily learn to call.It by another name. It’s also been shaking my foundations all week. BIG exercise going on. And they set fire to North Ft. Hood, again.

  44. I remember in the eighties being on the right side of history fighting for our gay student organization to receive official recognition from our university. At the same time, I was on the wrong side of history in keeping some members of our group from changing the name of the group to include an “L” alongside the “G”. I had a lot of evolving to do over the next several decades.

  45. For all the professed self-improvement about sexism I’m reading about here, I can’t help but think of how the sexist “Karen” meme has become so popular recently. Sexism isn’t o.k. because it’s only applied to white women though. It’s still sexism.

  46. I can understand how the 80’s wanted to have unisex and solidarity. However, even in the unisex clothing stores the clothes were subtly more male, as I recall being told, although I forget the examples…. I can remember an 80’s lesbian wanting to be called gay because lesbian had a stigma equal to homosexual at the time. (The binary was h and l) She said, “Oh, don’t say that word.”

    I must say that I like how the term gay has been stubbornly maintained. Other minority groups have kept changing their names as each new name acquired stigma. To me trying to outrun stigma is like trying to outrun doomsday. If we were in a bar it would amuse me to trot out a list of names from my own lifetime.

    In Canada the name Eskimo is being retired from a CFL football team not because it means in Indian ‘eaters of raw meat’—I mean, who knew, unless you purposely dig into history—but because of old stigma. On CBC radio a (sorry, my computer dictionary does not have the proper spelling, not even when using my thesaurus for Eskimo) woman explained that Eskimo meant someone standing by a seal hole with a harpoon.