She Pop: John Mayer Embraces His Inner Tucker Max
A while back, a commenter raised the issue of why I had focused mostly - in fact, almost entirely - on female artists in She Pop. There are a few reasons for this. First, the way that female personalities are packaged and sold, and the way people react to them, is a more interesting topic for analysis than just pointing at a sexist male pop star and being like, "look! He's being a sexist!" You might actually arrive at a conclusion you hadn't planned on, for one thing, and the discussions tend to be more complex and interesting, and you don't get stuck at that "I agree, he IS a jerk" round-table consensus level of Conversation Death. For another thing, many of the male pop stars working today are boring, at least in comparison to their lady counterparts. There are just too many worthwhile, interesting female pop stars, providing too much food for thought, for the men to compete.
But today, I intend to begin rectifying my shameful omissions. By providing you with INCREDIBLE TRUE STORIES of DUDES WHO HAVE BEEN JERKS! Dudes in the realm of MUSIC, no less!
Beginning of course, with John Mayer. Perhaps you have heard about his latest episode of jerk-like behavior?
Delightful rogue that he is, he gave an interview to New York Magazine. An interview in which he basically complained non-stop about the interviewer's questions, and refused to answer them, and told the interviewer which questions to ask, and basically came off as a less self-aware version of Tucker Max. Less self-aware, because, even though Tucker Max is a gigantic jerk in the name of "humor" (the Mayer interview is full of "humor," I am told! But, you know, I'm dour and disapproving, and have to pass all jokes through my committee of 13 cats before I can recognize them as such, so perhaps it was lost on me) and is prone to calling interviewers "dumb bitches", even he probably knows enough - after multiple protests and the failure of his movie - not to threaten someone's (female!) editor with rape, whether as a joke or as anything else:
These are questions my editor wanted me to ask. I'm trying to build my journalistic career here.
You're not building a journalistic career. You're making yourself look like a moron and you're not a moron. Who's your editor?
Jada is making you sound like a moron in front of people... [blah blah blah I have an album it's gonna be awesome] your editor made you ask stupid fucking questions! You're standing in front of me acting as if these questions are fair [blah blah my awesome album].
What concept [will your next album have]?
More political things, worldly things.
Nothing rhymed with public option.
You don't always have to rhyme, though.
I'm going to forcefully sodomize your editor.
Here's the thing. There's probably an audience that has the luxury of finding this funny and not at all disturbing. I'm going to refer to this audience, for the sake of convenience, as "dudes." Maybe some very lucky women fall into this camp, also! (The interviewer, going by byline, would seem to be a lady. What her personal thoughts on the matter are, I do not know! And cannot pretend to speak for her! But I can speak from my own experience, so I will.)
But the vast majority of women have had experiences of being undermined, condescended to, or intimidated by men - harassers on the street, angry customers at a shop or restaurant, bosses or coworkers. They are aware how uncomfortable it is when someone leans in and does the "listen to me, little lady, you need to stop doing your job and start doing what I WANT you to do" routine. So, it's not "funny" so much as "intensely uncomfortable to witness." Men can and do work to intimidate women, especially when there's a difference in social power, in ways that they wouldn't try to intimidate another man. Not to say that men never have altercations! Of course they do! But there's something at work here, a combination of the fact that lashing out (the way another man might) would be Unladylike, and the fact that you're at work and literally are not able to respond in an uncensored, honest manner without endangering your job, that makes this experience uniquely enraging and uncomfortable. It's like being hit in the face while your hands are tied. You can't defend yourself. If you've ever known one of those people who works out his frustrations by yelling at waitresses (or if you've ever been a waitress) then you know the feeling.
Even if it's intended as a joke, well... it's in print, for one thing. Suffice it to say "joke" is not the message that comes across, especially when devoid of any body language or other non-verbal communication. What comes across is a guy who is in a position of public power, as a celebrity, trying to undermine someone in a position with less power. Maybe just because he could. And, as far as "jokes" go, this one is just so vastly out of touch with the potential life experiences that your audience (or, hey, the person you are "joking" with) might have had that it is really, really stupid and insensitive. And, as you may have picked up, I don't necessarily prize "sensitivity" in humor! I tend to like jokes that are a bit dark, or mean, or whatever! But this - at least in print - is so tenuously poised on that blurry, ever-shifting line between "funny" and "harassment" that it's not remotely worth making.
All this BEFORE we get to the "threatening rape" portion of the show. I know this will deeply threaten and wound everyone who feels that his or her life would not be complete without rape jokes, and/or feels that they are "cool" enough to "handle" rape jokes and everyone else should be also, but as a joke or not, threatening rape just does not work. Rape jokes, in general, especially when they're aimed at one particular woman but also just in the real live world where there are lots of sexual assault survivors around, aren't cool. Telling rape jokes with the expectation that people won't be hurt or offended by them is like asking someone to lead you blindfolded into a random room of a hospital so that you can tell some jokes about cancer. Do the people around you have cancer? Are you in a waiting room where a family member was just informed that their daughter has cancer, or that their husband has died of cancer? Are you in the Nobody Here Gives A Crap, Tell All The Cancer Jokes You Want section of the hospital? YOU JUST DON'T KNOW. Unless they are close friends and family members - and maybe not even then - you never know what the people around you have been through, or what they can take in the way of talking or thinking about it. Some rape survivors don't respond poorly to rape jokes; some survivors MAKE rape jokes; some find rape jokes deeply traumatic; you don't know who your audience is until you've already hurt someone. (Similarly, not all cancer patients are uncomfortable with cancer jokes! Some love them! My metaphor is not perfect! But I trust you get the point.) So you just don't do it. At least, not if you care about hurting people. You might do it if you are a jerk.
So! This has been an INCREDIBLE TRUE STORY of a DUDE WHO WAS A JERK! A jerk in a sexist way, no less! I aim to please.
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