The old epithet question

What’s wrong with this picture?

A guy commented on a Facebook thread about Carmen Callil’s boycott (as it were) of the Booker International prize over its decision to give it to Philip Roth:

So much to love about that story. Virago indeed. [plus some more that’s not relevant]

I said

“Virago indeed”?


He said

@Ophelia — no offense intended. Just reading the article, and following up with a visit to Webster’s.

Sigh. Whether intended or not – it’s sexist. Never mind “offense”; it’s both less and more than that.

But I couldn’t say that, on someone else’s FB page, so I was more diplomatic.

[His name] – sure, but sex- (or race etc) specific epithets are just that. That was the point of calling Virago, Virago…

He said

Respectfully, I’ll take my free pass on irony too, then. Now, about the merits of Ms. Callil’s comments on Roth’s oeuvre…

What’s wrong with this picture?

It’s that he doesn’t get to take “his” free pass on irony too. Why? Because he’s a guy. We don’t get to help ourselves to free passes on “irony” when it comes to epithets that don’t apply to us.

Isn’t that obvious? If it’s not it should be. I know I’ve had a few million arguments about it, so I guess it’s not, but godalmighty, I can’t for the life of me see why not.

He wasn’t being ironic in using “virago” about a woman who’d done something he didn’t like. The women who founded Virago were being ironic in using the word, but he was not, and he doesn’t get to hide behind the word “irony” when he just used a sexist insult.

This thread was on the page of a rather well-known writer of Indian origin. I don’t think this guy would call the writer a “wog” or a “darky” or any other epithet of that kind, even ironically. I don’t think he would refer to anyone as a “wog” or a “darky” on the writer’s page, even ironically. Maybe I’m wrong; that’s a conditional verb; but I do strongly believe that – it would be such a clanger. Yet for a woman…

That’s what’s wrong with this picture.

I get fokking tired of it sometimes.

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