beauty and ethics (part 4)

Statler and Waldorf: better than lace and faux-fur, some fully solid critics.

What’s unfair, to my mind, is that the MUA rules–on the face of things–are capable of going in favour of cold scheming, manipulation (and indeed collusion and conspiracy). Against sincerity. And, calling a spade a spade, against truth. “When is  a fact not a fact? When it’s on a MUA board.” But that’s just the face of things: there are other systems in place that should actively help in a dire situation.

This is a community. With a public forum. It’s not two people in a back alley armed with broken bottles after pub closing-time.

Other members can of course contribute to the discussion too: hopefully, not turning a duel into a gory battlefield. They can mediate, shift the current of discussion, move the snarky and the provocative off-course, and respond to the bull that’s being ragged, directly, publicly: don’t rise to it, it’s a ruse (or: this is tantamount to trolling: don’t feed the trolls). All this being public is important: it means other members, and the mods, can see that all is not as it might seem. To be honest, few of these exchanges have been so sneaky, surreptitious, and subtle that most members woudn’t have seen there was something amiss. Even if it just looked like a personal one-on-one vendetta.

At some point, there’s the option of moving the discussion off the board–as it’s going too far off-topic, in terms of moving away from the original topic of discussion. To start a new discussion thread. Possibly on another board, or the question under discussion is no longer about skincare. Or between themselves, in private. Brave duellers aside, sending another rmember a personal message, in the case of a heated board discussion, is often a good idea. Messaging is not bound by the same rules–no limits to subject-matter or language. Though a member can block certain other members (once they’ve sent a message; spammers and other marketeers, for example; or hate-mailers).

And, throughout all this, any MUAer–a direct participant in the action, or a concerned bystander–can of course message the moderators.

Now. Why am I writing all this? I was wondering that too. In between cups of coffee and bouts of, you know, real work in the real world…

Two events occurred recently, in the little MUA universe.

1. A member left, amidst drama.

2. There was an article about MUA in the New York Times.

On item 1: Did he fall? Was he pushed? Had he been goaded into MUA-suicide? I wasn’t party to the whole business and even if I had been, would be an unreliable witness as prejudiced. So my comments have to be limited: I don’t like people being hurt, and I don’t like people being mean, nasty, cruel, vicious.

On item 2: chuckle. Apart from worrying me about the commercial abuse of MY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY DAMMIT.

Here is the article:

“Someone Just Like Me Said, ‘Buy It’ ” (NYT 2011-07-28)

There was another, back in 2007… let’s see…

“In Praise of Lurking” (NYT 2007-11-25)

and some hilarious MUA posts from Café in immediate rapid response:

And this is why I adore the democratic irreverence of Café. In vino veritas for much of the above; and drunken wit and wisdom is why Rabelais rocks, too. OK, and Erasmus… not that much of a piss-head, but with an appreciation for a tipple and for this kind of animated high jinks. Were they around today, they’d be on Café. Rab would probably have sent Alcofribas or Panurge out to BeautyBash, too.

Both of these recent events led me to having a look at BeautyBash (link over on your left, if you care to have a look too. Up to you.). A site whose main purpose is, well, to bash. A sort of anti-MUA, and off-MUA further comment, for the sorts of comments that wuld not be allowed on MUA. Including para- and meta-posting: comments about comments, posts written using MUAer names, posts featuring MUAers’ identities. Some have been very offended by it, insulted, hurt. I’m not in favour of hurting people. Obviously. Like any right-thinking person. And some have commented on and complained about BB’s contents, style, expression.

But: it is a *bashing* site. That’s in the name. Caveat emptor. You can look, or not: that’s your free choice.

And the big but(t): it’s satire. It may not be Swiftean in delivery, but there’s a lot of common material. It’s a fiction. It includes characters who are fictions, plus fictional representations based on MUAers. Who are themselves fictions. Sometimes closer to avatars, in relation to the real person. Some might argue that their online identities are closer to the real “them” inside. Releasing your inner bitch, for instance. But: they’re personae. Masks. Not the real you. Any use, abuse, and attacks on MUAer-based fictions, in the fiction that is BB, are and remain fictions. Yes, a “gingerama” has appeared there. Might be the other MUAer with that name (grrr, vengeance is now mine: I wanted that name when I first joined and couldn’t have it as some sod already had it, hence double -r). BB-gingerama has been lucky, let off lightly compared to others.*

This is satire. It holds up a mirror. It may be a caricaturing mirror, and it may be cruel. But sometimes the truth will out anyway. So let’s not beat about the bush and be hypocritical: because in my case, BB did hit the nail on the head in their construction of a representation, based on MUA-gingerrama, that is BB-gingerama.

Come join me on the couch…

For I, Ginger O’Rama, am a nerd. When I’m being clumsy and klutzy and droning on about ethics, I’m not being very socially ept and am being a geek. I’m smart and well-educated and well-read, and continue to read and research, on all manner of things. That’s part of my real-world alter-ego’s day-job, too; and turns up in the online activities of some of her other personae too. I’m a know-all. A pedant. I’m an earnest pompous arse. I’m not full of myself: I’m full of knowledge and the urge to communicate it.

That–sorry, I–can come across as patronising–because it’s someone who knows more talking to someone who knows less, which is, kind of, like, you know, the definition of “talking down.” Obviously, I can’t actually “patronise” in the proper literal sense, as I’m not a man. Not to mention that whole (awfully stereotypically feminine) wanting–not to hog, guard, protect, monopolize–but to share knowledge, share and spread the wealth, open it up freely to one and all. And you can now call me a socialist and an anarchist too: but what’s one man’s pejorative and mortal insult, is another woman’s pride and joy, blush-inducing marker of appreciation and esteem.

I’m that kid you really hated in primary-/grade-school. Guess what: I never grew up. Just like the school bullies. And the grouchy losers who become full-on snarky bitches. And all of us–because this is true of bullies and bitches too–who are puerile share something that’s banned by MUA:

vulgarity/profanity, sexually explicit discussions or posts, obscenities, indecent or offensive language

See: there’s this thing, common to many cultures, called “humour.” The bon mot. Rapier ascerbic wit. Irony. The sardonic. Sarcasm. Parody, pastiche, send-ups. Slapstick comedy. And–ever so pertinent in swiftly-flowing discussion on a board–l’esprit de l’escalier.

Which is why I have no objections to BeautyBash. And will not be joining any law-suits to have it closed down any time soon.

And I think we need more like it: not exactly like it, but more sites that comment on MUA, that continue board and personal-message discussions. The internet is a big place: and, unlike Planet Earth, without any three-dimensional limitations. There’s plenty room–Lebensraum, even, for redneck survivalists, neocons, libertarians, and suchlike–for all of us. Room for all manner of discussion, meta-discussion, creative riffing, and that thing that’s enshrined in the foundations of our virtual world: freedom of expression.

I’ll end this post with more freedom of choice, in puppet-form: the full panoply of currently-available magnetic personalities. Fair’s fair. Take your pick. Pick more than one! Hey, pick as many as you have fingers and toes, or for as many digits as your virtual persona/~ae have. Get yourself a whole wardrobe of magnetic personalities. Combine and recombine to your heart’s content, to suit your every mood and whim.

That, as fashion blogs are always so keen to tell us, is style. And the dirty secret of what stylists do: simple, but an art that is elegant and very hard to explain, teach, or copy; let alone master and make one’s own without just producing plagiarism, calques, fakes; “imitation as the highest form of flattery”; or, at a slightly higher level, parody and burlesque. Like BB: (to some extent) well-intentioned, but looking a bit raw, rough around the edges, crude, uncouth.

How about aspiring to style?

All images are from the following guys, who have somehow miraculously managed to unite ethics, commerce, and wit–maybe style too, over to you the reader on that one. (I’m not an unemployed philosopher, by the way. Heh, thought you’d figured me out there… )

* Here’s how lucky BB-gingerama was (screenshot):

Completely missing the point, by the way, about knowledge and power: this is about SHARING KNOWLEDGE / THE WEALTH. About other people educating themselves and empowering themselves. Also: BB guys, and anyone else interested in educating themselves: meet Wikipedia.

Image at top: Wikipedia article on The Muppet Show

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