Sarcasm is rude, and it weakens an argument. Sarcasm is just plain rude, and it weakens your argument. Sarcasm is rude? It weakens my argument?
No. I didn’t hear that from a sixty-five year old white man. I heard it from a twenty-four year old woman. It wasn’t in reference to my argument – I was careful about minding my manners when I addressed it. I wouldn’t want anyone to take my lack of manners as a sign that anything was wrong with that statement. <sarcasm>
Sarcasm is a tool for the powerless. Sarcasm is a tool for the defenseless. When brute force won’t work – because that’s not only rude but also illegal in most states – sarcasm is often the only resource we have to resist authoritarian, prescriptive and demeaning social structures … like the one that encourages women to believe sarcasm weakens their arguments. Of course, They want you to believe it. They want you to argue about it, politely. Of course They want to tap into your inherent commiserating and nurturing female brain and feel guilt and shame about making Them uncomfortable with your rudeness – it alleviates Them from having to address the issues you raise with your sarcasm. If They deflect attention onto how much you should be ashamed of debasing yourself with something as weak as sarcasm, then you aren’t looking at Them anymore, and the memory of that shame and guilt will rear its ugly head any time you or someone you hear steps out of line again. You will become Their advocate for abiding, obeying, and shutting the fuck up.
Nope. Sarcasm is not rude. If it hurts, then maybe you’re part of the problem the sarcasm is addressing. Think about it.
Several months ago, a young lady informed me in response to the riots in Ferguson, MO, that Those People shouldn’t destroy Their Own Community because no one will take them seriously. Well, no one has ever taken them seriously. I imagine that’s why they burnt that shit down. I mean, I could be completely wrong. <sarcasm> So, I asked her what did she recommend they do instead, Her of The Blonde Hair and Blue Eyes. Her recommendation was a civilized protest. Mmmm, do they serve tea at those, or do they dump tea at those? <sarcasm> I asked her if she was aware of any historical examples of successful civilized protests and would she share them with me to help set the record straight. She immediately responded, in all her White Bread Wisdom, that the civil rights protests were civilized. I said, Ah, many of them began that way, but usually when the German Shepherds and the fire hoses were deployed, they ceased being civilized pretty fast. So, I asked her if those, in spite of the obvious challenges to politeness that trained police dogs represent, were successful ones. She claimed they were. I stand corrected. Apparently, Those People in Ferguson, MO just weren’t paying attention to how well those protests in the 50s and 60s and 70s succeeded at giving them agency and subjectivity. <sarcasm> I guess they weren’t in the right line at the desegregated schools letting them know they’re fight for equal protection under the law was finally over. <sarcasm> I suppose then, as Miss White Bread so valiantly attempted to educate me, that institutionalized racism does not take generations to form and fester in small municipal police stations across the country, and that the abuse of black Americans by police officers is something that just cropped up overnight. Thanks, Lady! <Extreme Sarcasm>
What the sarcasm does is point out the obvious miscalculations in this woman’s assessment of history. I’m not here to determine if she has any experience with oppression or whether her experiences with oppression rise to a level anywhere near the kind of oppression institutionalized racism inflicts on people of color. Only she can determine that for herself. What my sarcasm does is point to her obvious affliction of white privilege. Of course WE think the Civil Rights protests were successful back in the days before we were born. Of course WE are willing to assume that institutionalized racism is not something that we are going to have to address over and over and over again. You know why? Because WE don’t have to deal with it every day. We cleaned up the front yard so that it looks pretty for the HOA and when comp’ny comes over. We just throw all the garbage from the front yard into the back yard where it’s hidden by a six foot wooden privacy fence. It is not Our Mess, we think. Why should We have to clean it up? Ugh, but it is our mess.
It is our mess because we have tricked ourselves into thinking that using sarcasm makes you a rude person with an invalid argument.
It’s not ALL just because of that …
The discussion was about Judy Brady’s Ms. Magazine article “I Want A Wife” from 1971, where Brady outlines all the reasons why having a wife is something we should all want because of the then-prevalent misogynist view of women. The wife she describes in the article is a lot like Betty Draper from MadMen before the divorce or June Cleaver. It’s satire laced with sarcasm, but it paints a pretty realistic image of a woman whose only measure of agency was through her husband, until he got tired of her and wanted a new one. Certainly times have changed and women enjoy an unprecedented amount of agency these days. Certainly. So, if that’s true, and if it also means that we are secure in our autonomy, why is a woman telling me sarcasm is rude and weakens an argument? I’m not about to passively resist or have a tea-and-scones revolution. Those Polite Revolutions don’t work. They are not successful for the long term. They might render some immediate results, but as we can see, in the long run, people are people. People who want to retain privilege in a society know how to shove all their toys under the bed for inspection. They know how to bide their time, say the right things, Appear to be playing fair. I don’t want the Appearance of Right. I want Right.
So I didn’t argue. I wasn’t mean or vicious or rabid, as I have been accused of being on social media. (I gave up social media because it did make me a bit rapacious.) I just asked her to explain it to me, and she couldn’t really. She just felt like it was rude and didn’t help your argument to be sarcastic. I could have acquiesced and said, yes, sometimes it does not serve any purpose but to make the user feel superior. Outside of that, sarcasm is an infinitely valuable resource for people who do not have much of a voice or who do not have education or money to bolster their cause…you know, the people who need a weapon to defend themselves the most.