What’s (Not So) Good for the Goose… Weighing in on the Paula Deen “Scandal”

Warning:  This post contains ADULT content that some may find offensive.  Please carefully consider reading further before you do so.

I’ve held off on blogging about this for several reasons. First, the whole thing infuriates me. Second, and perhaps more importantly – I’ve been quite under the weather and irritable because of it – which tends to color my observations and lower my tolerance points CONSIDERABLY.  That said, and because my going on 3+ day headache from hell and 2 day fever won’t let me sleep the way I would like to –  I’m about to sound off. So get ready…..

First of all, I am a proud New England-er and a proud female.  To some, that makes me cold, rude, and bitchy.  Of course, I can be all those things.  I can also be loyal, funny, loving, and generous.   What I am NOT is perfect. None of us are.  We have, ALL of us, done, said, or thought things less than kind – or even dare I say hateful – about other people.  Paula Deen did so approximately 3 decades ago, according to her testimony in a legal deposition stemming from the ongoing civil matter of her brother vs an ex employee.

English: Image of Paula Deen taken as part of ...

Image of Paula Deen taken as part of a public relations campaign for the nonprofit group Civitan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now for those of you who have not ever been legally deposed here’s a thing: If you are caught lying you can, and usually will, be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for perjury. Am I clear on this fact? CRYSTAL. ( I was deposed as a witness in a rape case many years ago and this was made very, very, VERY clear to me at the time)  It was certainly not in Ms Deen’s best interests to lie.  Especially given that said comment(s) were made WELL in the past and certainly hardly relevant to the case at hand.  Indeed, any well brought up person will tell you that it is always best to tell the truth as you will get in FAR less trouble for doing so; if there is any trouble to be had.  However this does not seem to be happening with Paula Deen.  And I wonder why…..

In my feeble mind, I truly believe it is because she is a Southern WOMAN.  Mel Gibson made hateful, spurious, racist, misogynist comments while under the influence and while castigated in the media for a relatively short period of time,  has managed to both retain his career and his business holdings.  (And, he correctly and rightly APOLOGIZED)

English: Mel Gibson at the Cannes film festival

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bill  Maher and Bill  O’Reilly have both made extremely hateful, sexist, and misogynistic comments about women – or been involved in sexual harrassment lawsuits.

Bill O'Reilly at the World Affairs Council of ...

Bill O’Reilly at the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, September 30, 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The media gives it page 3 coverage and everyone yawns. I have yet to see that THEY have apologized for their offensive remarks, by the way.   Please tell me there’s a difference between calling a woman a cunt or a twat – and calling an African American person a nigger? Because I don’t see one.  All are EXTREMELY demeaning, hateful, and downright nasty – negatively targeting a specific group of people based on either race or gender. Usage of these words creates a very visceral reaction as well. I actually had to take a really deep breath just to type them. And yet our patriarchal society seems to gloss over these social infractions when it comes to directing these terms at females.  It is also important to note that Ms Deen spoke the n- word almost three decades ago. Shouldn’t there be a statute of limitations on hate speech, once someone demonstrates they know better? Obviously Paula Deen has not used said word recently, but KUDOS to her for her honesty. It has cost her much. So why is it OK for several men (and northern men at that) to basically get a free pass to disparage women, and the Jewish people RECENTLY. And for a Woman to be vilified, pilloried and castigated for a very poor choice of word DECADES ago? And she has rightly  APOLOGIZED numerous times.  My maternal ancestor came from Salem  -arriving in  1634 and was friendly with Giles Corey

Old drawing of the death of Giles Corey (Sept....

Old drawing of the death of Giles Corey (Sept. 19, 1692) by being pressed with heavy stones after conviction as a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

so if there’s one thing this Massachusetts woman knows about – it’s a Witch Hunt. And Paula Deen is the Victim – with a capital V – of the latest one.

Also important to note:  Here in the Northeast, it is quite common to refer to one’s “bro’s” or friends, as your “niggas”. (emphasis on the spelling and pronunciation here)  I would not be caught dead saying that, but I am also a white female over the age of 50. It is apparently acceptable for those under 25 to do so, but I shudder each and every time I hear it.   I also shudder when I hear the word “Bubba”. Up here in the north it connotes an “ignorant, uneducated person who lives in the rural south” (ie a “hillbilly”)   My southern friends inform me that it is in fact just a name down there.  A legal name – on many people’s birth certificates. I still shudder though, because  I’ve been taught these words are hate speech and they make me very, very uncomfortable.  And  the word “cracker” also makes me wince, just so you folks know.

To be honest, I think everyone is focused on the wrong person here.  Ms Deen’s BROTHER Bubba (really, that’s what they call him) is the one being sued for harassment, hostile work environment etc.  And yet, not a breath about how HE talks, or talked, about women, or about people of color.  That’s really where the news is, folks –  but not where the money is.  Paula is the cash cow – or was. “Bubba” would seem to be a hanger-on, at best. The sharks – er, lawyers- are going for the green.  And sadly, one can’t pick their relatives. Nor apparently, can they tell them to shut their stupid mouths, and act like a decent human being…… If Paula made a mistake, it was in not kicking her dumbass brother to the curb awhile ago. But then again, she’s a WOMAN, and a woman should never dictate to a man, should they?  (sarcasm)

The message here is clear. If you’re a man, particularly one from north of the Mason/Dixon,  you can say just about anything disparaging or demeaning about women or other races/creeds; and hardly anyone’s feathers will be ruffled. But be a successful southern woman who misspoke thirty years ago  –  we should all immediately get the stocks ready for the public whipping and humiliation.  I think that is unfair. Ms Deen has correctly and rightly apologized – which is ALL that was required. That should be the end  of it.

American political activist, Reverend Al Sharpton.

American political activist, Reverend Al Sharpton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even Al Sharpton – no stranger to this type of controversy himself, would agree. It would be nice, great even – if we could all just refer to one another as people, as human beings deserving of dignity and respect. But anyway, seeing as how that’s not happening (sarcasm) – Can we move on now?

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28 thoughts on “What’s (Not So) Good for the Goose… Weighing in on the Paula Deen “Scandal”

  1. I hadn’t spent any time following the ‘news’ headlines on Deen, but I appreciate your comparisons about the differing treatment of men in the news and women in the news. It seems that Deen has lost a good deal of her business, but those are the risks of anyone who puts themselves in the spotlight. She must have known that her career would live and die in the media’s glare. If she wanted to be a less public individual, she chose the wrong profession. Can’t Deen take her millions and live however she wants now? Maybe I’m heartless, but it’s hard to have that much sympathy for her regardless the circumstances
    As always, LOVE your analysis of the issues.

    • Thanks. I agree it is hard to feel too sympathetic when she and others like her are crying all the way to the bank. But her travails are quite helpful for illustrative purposes. Shining a light into those dark places. And, as Barney said in a recent post. “If it bleeds it leads.” She’s been hemmoraging. So of course the media sharks and the legal sharks are circling. She might even have a viable defense with the whole Prop 8 ruling because the woman suing them is Caucasian and therefore has no dog in the legal fight regarding racial discrimination. She can’t claim personal injury if she’s not a member of the group. No matter how offensive she might find any remarks. Jackson has a much better case on the sexual harassment and hostile work environment issues.

  2. D, great post. I shared with Amaya on hers that while I do not condone what she said and did, I do feel that her treatment was unfairly swift and without the benefit of more due diligence. I would have respected the companies (who backed away from her like she has the plague) more if they said “we do not condone these comments or a harassing environment. We will suspend our relationship for the time being while we do further investigation.” If they fired her then, that would be more appropriate action. It is very hard being tried in the press and on the Internet. The real story is the harassing environment at her brother’s restaurant and she apparently contradicted herself in testimony about her knowledge of this. That is my two cents. Thanks for sharing, BTG

    • Could not agree more Big Guy! Thats the real story, indeed. But thats not where the money is. “Bubba” hasn’t got any, Paula does. I just mentioned to Oscar that I think shes always been a bit over the top with the southern schtick, but her recipes are delicious and her friendliness is hardly in doubt. Up to this point I’ve never seen any negative press about her. I wonder, had this lawsuit been brought against Mario, Emeril, Guy, or Bobby would we even still be discussing it? That thought definitely bothers me, because I think we have a greater problem with gender bias then we do with racism. At least with even a perception of racism,
      one gets called on it, quite rightly, and quite vocally. But when a man makes disparaging comments about a woman, theres a mild “Harrumph!” a hand slap administered with a nudge and a wink, and then everyone giggles behind closed doors. Anyway there’s my 2 cents, plus. Thanks again so great to hear from you! D.

      • D, I could not agree more about your comments, especially the gender ones. The last two first ladies commented in Tanzania this week at the joint forurm how the comments toward them are more about how they look, dress, wear their hair, than what they stand for. Hillary took the same kind of crap during the campaign. To your other point, Paula has an over the top persona. I know several people like that and you have to get beneath the veneer. Dolly Parton is similar in some aspects, but beneath that persona, people like Barbara Walters have said she is one of the most genuine people they have met. Thanks, BTG

        • I just visited the NoVa Shenandoah Valley and the Battlefield of New Market. I have great pictures and a post mulling around in my head about how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go in terms of negating regionalism, racism, genderism, et al. I sometimes wonder if these tasks can be accomplished at all…… But while there is life, there is hope. Happy Fourth!

  3. I can’t say I have much interest in southern women who have made buckets of money hosting cooking shows… but I did think that this “news” was not so. From what little I heard on NRP (you gave a lot more detail), this did seem like witch hunt dredging up comments or attitudes from years ago (oh, what I said 30 years ago…!?). I also agree that the men whom you reference have demonstrated a greater pattern of behavior, in the past and now, and get little more than page 3 coverage and hand slapping.

    Hey, regarding that hibilly joke, being from WV, I’m going to hold that against you… in 30 years 🙂
    Oscar

    • Hahahaha!!!! Good one! 😉 Thanks for writing Oscar! Yes the real story is definitely not her. I enjoy cooking shows, hers included because, strangely, cooking for me is a chore, not a passion. And while I am reasonably adept at throwing together a good meal I am always looking for recipes and ways to make it more fun and less work. Ms Deen is over the top in terms of southern schmaltz but her recipes are spot on delish.
      Anyway, I don’t think it helped her “cause” that she never reined in her brother. And that whole wedding theme comments debacle could have been avoided had she termed it an “antebellum” theme, and then kept her mouth shut. It just frosts me to think that we would not even be discussing this had it been said by a person with the XY chromosome, and plenty of testosterone. And of course, because there’s a considerable amount of money to be lost in the lawsuit. Blood in the water=feeding frenzy. Thanks again! Always great to hear from you!

  4. Thanks, D. Very nicely done. I am often grieved at the way I hear women discussed or described in music while I’m shopping and listening in stores and wonder when that became okay.

    I’ve been sick myself (here we’ve got sore throat & ears that has lasted for DAYS) and sure hope you are on the road to recovery soon. Summer is too short to have to deal with illness!

    • I do know when we women speak up about how we are spoken to and about we are dismissed and rudely spoken of. It’s a patriarchal society, men have the privilege and women are objectified. There are many other examples of -isms and bias in our society. I chose to contrast the responses to outright gender bias and racism. There’s a definite cultural bias in our response when we can shrug off misogyny with a boys will be boys attitude; and then figuratively crucify a woman for a racial slur she made thirty years ago, to her spouse, in the privacy of her home, in response to a traumatic event. If outrage is the proper response, then outraged we should be – at any and all prejudiced actions and all hate speech. This is not to say I approve of all Ms Deen’s actions. Her enabling her brother has certainly played a great part in her downfall. Then again, maybe she thought it wasn’t her “place” to correct him. (Sarcasm intended) thanks for writing, I’m feeling a bit better. Still the headache but no fever today.

      • I’m so glad you’re at least on the upswing, albeit slow! Headaches are no fun…I’ve always hated how you can ignore some kinds of pain but those headaches are basically un-ignorable. Hope you continue to improve rapidly. And we’re in agreement on the whole gender bias/racism. We seek to raise our son to honor women in not only his actions but his words and thoughts….of course as worthy of equal treatment but really in accordance with the Golden Rule….to treat all people as he would like to be treated. So far it’s working….Lord willing it will continue! He has heard things when we’ve been out and his head has swiveled rapidly towards mine and his eyes were communicating that “what were they THINKING!” look. We were blessed from the time that boy was a baby to be involved in a church community that was (for lack of a better term) multi-racial….so that just reinforced all that we were teaching him at home. I remember a sweet time (he was about 4) when he was talking about his friend T’s (who was African-American) “cool brown skin;” I shared that with T’s mom, who said “I like that!” Unfortunately it can definitely seem like culture as a whole reflects not only what is best about humanity but at times what is worst. Not that other countries don’t have the same types of issues but I think for Americans it can come down to how do we deal with the liberties we have.

  5. One of the things I have learned in life is that if you are part of a group it is pretty much always OK to disparage it. If you are outside of the group, it is best to be quiet.

  6. Also important to note here: If Ms Deen is to be castigated for anything it is that she did not speak up about her brother’s creation and maintenance of a misogynistic workplace – and put an end to it. And it goes without saying that pornography has no place in public or the workplace….

  7. Momma E., you know I think you’re just the bee’s knees, so please don’t take this personally. I don’t have a dog in the Paula Deen fight, mostly because I find the way she portrays southerners and southern cooking hilariously offensive. (Being Southern myself, and taking pride in my ability both to deep-fry extremely inappropriate things and to cook healthy, low-fat, low-calorie meals when dining with my health-conscious girlfriend, Paula just rubs me the wrong damn way and has from day 1.)

    That being said, I do agree that (from what I’ve read) this hoopla over her “hate speech” is a tempest in a teapot. She’s done far worse to be castigated for, and it’s ridiculous to hold anybody up for ridicule for things they did 30 years ago when they’re still doing stupid shit today. (Relevance – it’s not just for breakfast anymore!)

    However.
    ” Please tell me there’s a difference between calling a woman a cunt or a twat – and calling an African American person a nigger? Because I don’t see one.”
    ” I also shudder when I hear the word “Bubba”. Up here in the north it connotes an ignorant, uneducated person who lives in the rural south (ie a hillbilly) My southern friends inform me that it is in fact just a name down there. A legal name – on many people’s birth certificates. I still shudder though.”

    Please, Momma, tell me you see the dissonance here. It’s just as offensive to me to use “hillbilly” as an insult as genital references are to you. Many of my folks (by blood and by choice) proudly self-identify as “hillbillies,” and they are by no means typecast out of the Beverly Hillbillies. It’s also insulting to associate being southern with being rural and being uneducated. I’ll grant you that we’ve got a lot of work to do on our educational standards – it’s a rant I’ve gone off on before, and undoubtedly will again. However, it’s just as dismissive, just as insulting, and just as inaccurate to portray hillbillies as automatically uneducated, poor, and rural as it is to call women bitches when they refuse to compromise themselves.

    One of these days when I’m traveling in Yankee country, we can sit down for a cup of coffee and talk about the pros and cons of formal education and oral tradition. I’m sure it’ll be an interesting and fabulous discussion! 🙂

    • Thank you! My intent was not to personally portray anyone as uneducated or hillbilly, or to infer that I find those terms less offensive than the ones I highlighted – I should have encased the terms in quotes. Your points are valid and well taken. I should note that all these terms make me uncomfortable. Thanks for pointing that out. I will amend accordingly.

      • I’ll be up in your neck of the woods (by which I mean, above the Mason-Dixon line, as I’m usually down in Sunny F*ing Florida) in the last part of September, for Pittsburgh Pride. I know Pittsburgh’s still a long way from New England proper, but hey, I can dream. 😉

        And just in case your southern friends haven’t mentioned it yet: “Bubba” is both a legal name and a nickname. When used as a nickname, it’s generally short for “brother,” taken from the way many children mispronounce “brother” before their physical ability to enunciate develops. So it’s not uncommon to hear someone talk about “my bubba Bubba” when referring to their brother named Bubba. And yeah, I think that’s kinda hilarious.

        For what it’s worth – I’ve never actually heard or seen “Bubba” used as hate speech, per se. Maybe I don’t hang out with enough Yankees; it was actually news to me that people use it pejoratively, or to describe a category of southerners. It’s something I’m going to have to do a little research into, because now I’m curious as to what I’ve been missing all this time!

        • They did mention it. A friend was surprised that he couldn’t change his name to Bubba on Facebook. They told him it was hate speech. I’ve heard and seen people refer to each other affectionately, and even name a pet Bubba. But it does carry a negative connotation in the Northeast. Not EXACTLY hateful, but definitely condescending.

          • Well, I’ll be doggone. I can certainly see the cultural skew – only southerners use “Bubba,” and everybody knows they’re backwater hicks down there, so calling them “Bubbas” effectively communicates that the speaker is saying something insulting. That makes sense, logically.

            Bless their little hearts. 😉

            Also, a side note: Facebook’s naming policies are just downright hilarious. And they have an interesting and very inconsistent view on cultural sensitivity. Heh.

          • We can get away with saying the most outrageous things if we preface or end them with “bless his/her/their hearts”. Lol. 😉

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