Yesterday was equally appalling and exciting on this blog and across Twitter and other various social media platforms. As a freelancer, I was busy in the morning covering the Billboard Latin Music Conference in Miami, and during a break, I checked my various feeds to see a post on this blog with a cringe-inducing title: "Eight Pleasantly Plump Female Musicians I'd Like to Get Down With."
I quickly tweeted the author, Ric Delgado, that not only was the article
sexist but also inaccurate on a few factual fronts. Then I ran out of
time and forgot about the post for a little while, figuring it would
largely be scrolled past and then lost in the annals of daily blog
Maybe an hour later, I saw a tweet from Christopher R. Weingarten, now an editor at Spin and hugely influential online via his Twitter feed, @1000TimesYes. "A piece of music writing so bad, you don't even have to read more than the URL," he wrote, before including the link.
Shit hit the fan. Delgado was rightfully mocked by much of the country's top tier of music writers. Eric Harvey (@marathonpacks) created an entire Tumblr, titled Ohnotheywrittnt, to call out the article and, hopefully, similarly clueless ones in the future.
This was all simultaneously embarrassing and enraging. For everyone else who contributes freelance to New Times, Delgado was making us look bad -- and apparently casually thinking much less of those of us with just XX chromosomes.
I know Ric Delgado, having first met him when I served as music editor of this newspaper and sister paper, Miami New Times. Back then, he was running an online music zine, RevMiami, which later folded. (As a disclaimer, I have had several pleasant chats with Delgado in real life, as recently as this past weekend at Sweat Records' Sweatstock event. We are [probably] still Facebook friends.)
So unlike others who would call for his head, I know that, at least from my experience, he is friendly in real life. Still, I cannot stand by the fact that he wasted finger strength typing out this sexist, unfunny drivel, nor can I stand for the fact that it made it to light at a publication for which I and many other women write.
Where to even begin? Well, first, there are some of the most basic planks holding up the flimsy foundation of the article, which has been removed from this site but has been almost entirely preserved in screen shots on the GirlGroup Tumblr. They are wrong or picked seemingly at random or with the laziest thoughts.
Jennifer Hudson, for instance, ranked on Delgado's list -- but as anyone who has turned on a TV in the past two years would know, Hudson is no longer in most universes considered overweight. Carnie Wilson, which another commenter rightfully described as a "low-hanging fruit," can, in 2012, hardly even be classed as an active musician. Jessica Simpson may currently be a little larger than usual because she's, well, you know, pregnant. And Sinead O'Connor? What? Why did she even come up? If Delgado couldn't bother with much more than cursory Google search to (inaccurately) pick his would-be targets, why would anyone bother with the rest of the "story"?
Whether the woman are currently one size or another, of course, is entirely beside the point. Most disturbing is the way in which it was written, or rather the way in which Delgado thinks it was written. By all accounts, it seems Delgado thought this piece to be (1) appreciative of women larger than the usual pop-culture standard, and, worse, (2) funny.
It was neither. Delgado's link-baiting listicle is guilty of a lot -- but the worst is the premise that women above, say, a size ten are desperate and that sleeping with Ric Delgado (or any other faceless blogger, as long as he is male and willing) would automatically be a prize.
This is clear form the language in the second graf of the post, which has been removed from this site: "even big girls need some love, and we're down to give it to them." The use of "even," here, of course implies that "big girls" are some other category that one would usually not deign to include in the sexually attractive or the needing of physical affection. But no matter, since Ric Delgado is willing to take up that tough job, right?
The rest of the original post is full of the kind of language that continues a misogynistic bent. Jessica Simpson, for instance, may be getting heavier, Delgado says, but she stays "dumb and sexy as ever." "Dumb" as a compliment or positive quality? Well, perhaps if you're feeling insecure about your own possible intellectual shortcomings.
Adele is derided for her "kankles" [sic] while Delgado implies that a movie date with her would be too expensive for the cost of popcorn. There's also the bit where he promises he would greet the Gossip's Beth Ditto, postconcert, with a "vanilla ice cream in hand."
All of this, of course, continues to underscore the erroneous and gross notion that all larger women are slovenly creatures who gorge constantly on unhealthy food and that they will settle for any man who continues to enable this. What Delgado doesn't get, though, is that what entertainers of any gender eat or don't eat, weigh or don't weigh, is none of Delgado's business. It simply, in the context of the original post, has nothing to do with the "music" "criticism" in which most of his blogging usually purports to engage.
This is to say nothing of the fried-chicken joke he made in reference to Aretha Franklin -- one which, he told me via Twitter, he had no problem making. That sexism would pass through his brain as acceptable, and even possibly funny to others, is sad but not surprising. That such bald-faced racism would be acceptable to someone is indeed surprising.
Not only is that joke racist, but it's also incredibly clichéd. That is a hallmark of bad writing and worse comedy. "If comedians concerned themselves with people that got offended, there'd be no Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, or Louie CK," Delgado wrote to me on Twitter. (I have corrected the punctuation.)
The thing is, Lenny Bruce, Louis CK, and the like used/use offensive language to provoke and subvert, to make people laugh, and then possibly feel a twinge of discomfort about their own laughter. These comedians were and are effective because they achieved this in a creative way. Delgado's completely failed here too, instead reaching for the lowest common denominator in language and tone.
Undeterred, Delgado's responses to other Twitter commentators were mostly flippant, refusing to acknowledge that he had offended, hurt, or just plain failed to be funny. "Honestly, I'm comfortable with it," he wrote to me when I questioned him about his mentions of fried chicken and Aretha Franklin in the same paragraph. In another response, he told a woman she "must be single" for calling him out. Perhaps this is the most troubling part of the debacle -- Delgado has so far rejected an opportunity for dialogue or enlightenment.
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"The world doesn't want high-minded intellectualism. They want fart and dick jokes," he wrote to someone. (Again, I have corrected the punctuation here.)
The internet world, viewed through the cold lens of click-bait and trolls in large numbers, perhaps gravitates toward a certain content. But to become those trolls ourselves, we continue to lower expectations and standards and beget even more trolls. That's not a progression anyone needs to hasten.