A note: At the time I wrote this blog, the article I link below was still online. Outside Bozeman has issued an apology for reposting the article that is the subject of this post. You can see their apology for the post, and you can also see the article I am referring to here, with the author’s name omitted. I do not think this changes the fundamental point I am making here.
I recently came across an article that greatly distressed a friend of mine. It’s called “Bagging Bunnies,” and it bills itself as a “satire on ski culture.”
Let me paraphrase it for you. The article presents itself as a hunting guide for “bucks” (young men) who are attempting to “shoot” (have sex with) “bunnies” (women) who are at ski hills. Because I usually try my best to understand what it is my fellow humans are saying, here’s what I think this “satire” is trying to do:
Poke fun at greenhorn/gaper women who come to ski hills, mostly attempting to hook up with hot skier dudes and not really do much skiing.
Parody the beliefs of young skier dudes who think that women aren’t actually capable skiers and just sit around the lodge trying to pick up men.
Poke fun at the beliefs that nonskiers might hold about skier men/skier women.
Unfortunately, this is some shit writing. It’s not only shit because I’m not clear on what the attempt at satire was — it’s shit because even if that were to become clear, the foundation for the joke is piss-poor. The foundations upon which we build our think pieces, jokes, satire, polemics, and hell, our very sentences, are important.
To explain why, let me share one of my favorite jokes.
A man dies, and he goes to heaven. Once there, he has a pleasant conversation with God. They’re getting along, swapping stories, getting familiar with one another. The man finally feels comfortable enough to tell a joke about the Holocaust. He does, and God is not amused, sternly telling the man “that’s not funny.” The man shrugs, and then says, “I guess you had to be there.”
I think that regardless of whether or not you are religious, this joke is funny. Mainly because it makes light of a problem that has plagued humans since the beginning — if God exists, why does He allow bad things to happen to good people? This line of questioning is known as theodicy. Like many jokes, there is risk. People might be offended or hurt by this joke. However, this joke is in touch with reality and has a somewhat defensible foundation.
The question of theodicy is a good question, a difficult question that humans wrestle with. Because it’s interesting and difficult, we can have a lot of fun with it. It’s a decent foundation to build essays and jokes upon. It can be fun.
However, the article I described above does none of those things. It assumes that there is a class of women that go to resorts to affect an appearance (which might be true). However, the way this article’s writing makes an additional assumption: that people who go to resorts to keep up appearances or have sex with other people are bad, or somehow are maligning the integrity of the sport. News flash folks — skiing is an activity mostly reserved for privileged people with access to large sums of money or who are willing to sacrifice a bunch of other things to enjoy zipping down mountains on pieces of wood. Even worse, this article specifically targets women and the ways that they present their bodies. If you’re going to attack someone or attempt to ridicule them, you better make sure your joke is funny or accesses a reality or truth that’s worth a damn.
If you take away the notion that women seeking sex, or wanting to look pretty or be noticed is always a bad thing, there’s nothing to mock here. You’re left with a piece of misogynist garbage that reads like a pickup guide written by a horny teenager. Outside Bozeman: hold yourself to a higher standard of linguistic integrity. Writer who wrote this article: clarify your ideas and see if what you’re writing is actually “satire” at all or just thinly veiled hatred of women.
Finally, let me address the most common reaction when people don’t like something of this caliber: “don’t worry about it, it’s just a joke, it’s funny.” Ursula K. Le Guin has something to say to you:
“Lying is the deliberate misuse of language. But language misused through ‘mere’ ignorance or carelessness breeds half-truths, misunderstandings, and lies. In that sense, grammar and morality are related. In that sense, a writer’s moral duty is to use language thoughtfully and well.”
I wrote this because this piece of writing hurt my friend. This piece of writing was written in bad faith, out of some sort of smugness, anger, ignorance, or righteousness. It was not “satire,” which is:
the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
Stupidity and cruelty ought to be criticized. Let me give you an example.
Once there was a man who created an imaginary person. He thought he was filling this imagining, this husk, with beliefs about what other people are. Then he debased his little husk, called it names, imagining that it was a person who somehow deserved it. He did this, and he patted himself on the back, and others patted him on the head and gave him a platform. Not once did he realize that his container was empty.
Here is Outside Bozeman’s apology: