So this thing happened…or is happening…I am not sure.
I have this fabulous co-contributor at FWD/Forward. Our musical tastes kind of overlap in some circles. I am not the fountain of trivial knowledge I used to be, so I don’t know all the goings on in the lives of the artists that I enjoy like I used to. I know that I have “Leeds United” and “Oasis” on the External and iPods. Good tunes.
Annaham, however, wrote a really thoughtfully critical piece about a project that Amanda Palmer has been working on with her friend Jason Webley, called Evelyn, Evelyn. Supposedly they found conjoined twins living secretly and miraculously away from the media who are musically inclined and who were victims of abuse and exploitation as children. Thankfully, the lovely able-bodied folk with assets and record labels came along to coax them out of hiding and into the spot light, and despite the claims that they very much value their privacy, a blog was posted with very detailed medical information about them, and a transcontinental musical tour was planned for the musical duo, and suddenly Palmer was going to be able to sell records again while getting around that black hole that was the ass hats at Roadrunner after they pulled the “you’re too fat to unbutton your shirt” shit.
Funny story about this funny story, though. None of it is true. Oh, wait, the part about Annaham’s piece is, because, you see, Palmer and Webley made the twins up as a marketing gimmick so they could sell albums and make music. Might have been cool if Palmer hadn’t gone all out with the details and they hadn’t been making a mockery of disability.
Might also have gone OK if in a few days after Annaham’s post went up our boards didn’t explode with angry AFP fans ‘splainin’ to us about how we MEEN PWDs were just overreacting and taking all the wind out of AFP and Webley’s sails. And now noone at FWD has ever criticized disability in pop culture at our site until now and aren’t we just pissing in AFP’s breakfast cereal or something? Nope. Never done that before.
The comments became so horrendous that they had to be turned off on that post (and those are just the ones that weren’t rape threats made it past the queue). I wonder how many of those Angry AFP Fans commenters have read previous FWD/Forward content, or any since? They must really really care about PWDs.
And that might have gone over OK, since we are bloggers and all big kids who are used to this sort of thing by now, had AFP not decided to flippantly tweet “setting aside 846 emails and removing the disabled feminists from her mental periphery, @amandapalmer sat down to plan her next record“, smacking of “I’m better than you” and “I can’t be bothered to remember your silly name, girl who dared criticize me”. Cool! Just checking the rules, Amanda Palmer.
To sum up, first, it was fun and edgy and cool to make a mockery of disability in order to sell shit. Cool. Then, when you got called on your ableist shit, in a respectful way by a thoughtful person, you couldn’t be bothered to engage respectfully. Annaham (she has a name, which even in your reactionary blog post you couldn’t be bothered to use, Amanda Palmer) was a big fan of yours, fuck, I was a big fan of yours, I really really really really really like your music. Did I mention I liked your music? I still like your music. Maybe that is why this pisses me off so much…maybe Annaham still is a fan of your music, I don’t know.
See, even when you are famous, and cool and fresh and edgy you are going to fuck up. Every one does it, what matters is how you react to that fuck up. The point is that you have to own it. As quickly as you can, you say “Oops, I fucked up, how can I make this better?”. For the more PG minded: “Oops! I messed up! Woes!”
Sometimes, you engage with the people who called you on the mistake, because it helps, if you can, because often there is some misunderstanding.
Eventually, Amanda Palmer issued a blog statement…that…was a little lacking. Kind of an apology, kind of a “well, I didn’t mean to be a jerk, but what are ya going to do, and what was that annoying girl’s name again?” kind of deal. Jason Webley did too, and he actually took the time to contact some of the contributors, and his response was a lot…better:
After thinking about this a lot, I accept that aspects of this project might be seen as insensitive. To be honest, I never really thought that this could be construed as making fun of people with disabilities.
I’ve spent the past 36 hours doing almost nothing but thinking about this. I’ve been trying to follow everything that has been posted on the topic, and communicating with various people involved. I am very grateful to everyone inside and outside of the project for their thoughtful feedback, and I want to especially thank Neil Gaiman for his patience and advice and Annaham for her very well articulated criticism.
Good on him. I had no idea who he was before this…but he came out of this mess as someone that I can respect…because he took the time to engage, without ‘splainin’. Without dismissing Annaham’s concerns. Without dismissing the work of PWD activists. *sniff sniff* I might even smell a moment of privilege checking there…and that is a way…forward?
Some additional reading:
AMANDA PALMER WANTS TO SHOCK YOU. Just Don’t Get Upset About It, ‘Kay? by Sady at Tiger Beatdown
Imbroglio a Go-Go by Annaham
On Being Fragile by Anna
If I missed anything relevant, please include it in comments.
To be clear: I have been out of Bloglandia due to technical difficulties for a stint — when I say “we” in reference to FWD/Forward, I do, of course, mean all the fab contributors who were there when this all happened. I am still playing catch up.