This can’t be a long one today, as I’ve got reading to finish for group tonight. But today something stuck in my craw, and it was yet again caused by a DWD.
Allow me to explain.
I have my MA in English, which means I’ve read (and continue to read) an awful lot. I crank through (on average) a hundred pages every other day. But the regrettable part of the degree I earned back in 1997 is that the overwhelming majority of recognized Western “literature” at the time was written exclusively by white men of the 17-20th centuries. Minority perspectives weren’t valued, and therefore weren’t studied.
That was beginning to change even then, thank God. The canon of recognized Western literature had finally begun to expand past George Eliot and the Bronte sisters and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein and Pearl Buck had been around long enough to be grudgingly accepted as female elder statesmen (heh!), so when some rebel professors starting throwing Alice Walker and Maya Angelou and Zora Neale Hurston into their curricula, and following them with Sandra Cisneros and Isabel Allende and Maxine Hong Kingston, there was grumbling, but very few folks dared say boo. And when a few more voices got added–non-gender-conforming voices, or voices that reported the truth of their history in other places destroyed by white colonialism (not “just” by slavery)–even the powers-that-be recognized that things were finally, glacially, beginning to change. No one was going to throw Shakespeare out with the bath water, but by God we were going to make sure there was representation of something other than what was derisively referred to (in private) as “DWDs” or “DWGs.”
Dead White Dudes. Or Dead White Guys.
I prefer DWD, personally, because it echoes the acronym for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Which, let’s be honest, if you’re looking for the poster child for the overwhelming majority of the destruction perpetrated worldwide over the last three centuries, the picture is of a Dead White Dude.
Now, to bring this post to a far more mundane pet peeve of mine…
DWDs are still around, of course. And they still have a lot to say. Unfortunately, they always seem to spew their bullshit at me in the grocery store.
I mean seriously, DWD-behind-me-in-line: How is it your job to comment (with a sneer) that the young family in line ahead of me has “enough food in their cart to feed two families”? What possible business of yours is it that they might “stretch their kids’ stomachs by feeding them too much,” and thereby make them get fat? Who died and made you king, jerk? (Even more bizarrely, the family in front of me was quite healthy, whereas Mister Judgy could’ve stood to miss a few meals.)
I wish I could say this was the only time I’d been startled sideways by wildly snarky, nasty behavior on the part of DWDs. It’s so not.
A DWD once pulled a cart out for me at the store. I thanked him, took the cart, and went about my business. The DWD apparently either didn’t hear my thanks or felt that I hadn’t thanked him properly, because he proceeded to stalk me through the store, with a huge, aggrieved frown on his face. I was confused as hell. It took me a while to suspect what was going on. When I finally figured it out, I made a big show of beaming at him and making way for him to pass me in a crowded aisle. Only then did he smile back, and the stalking stopped. Who in their right mind thinks, That person wasn’t polite *enough*, so I’m going to physically threaten them? Only a DWD.
My daughter wears cotton harem pants every day. She cannot wear jeans, or leggings, or anything else snug. It’s a tactile thing, part of her Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). To her, jeans feel like sandpaper, and leggings feel like she’s being tied with ropes. For years I had to hand-make her clothing, because there seemed to be nothing available for children with her sensitivities. It was exhausting, and expensive, and she flew through sizes so fast I simply couldn’t keep up. Then I discovered dance pants, and harem pants, and gaucho/palazzo/yoga pants. I was so grateful to hang up my sewing. And the patterns! The cloths! Oh man, they’re so cool! There is such wonderful stuff out there (courtesy Google) that I find myself getting a mite jealous of her style. And all ages and shapes and colors of women (especially teachers!) stop us with gasps of joy everywhere we go: “Those pants are amazing! Where did you find them?” And my daughter beams as she shares a list of webpages from memory.
Yet every. Single. Time. there has ever been a snide, nasty comment made about my daughter’s pants, it’s come from a DWD.
“You look like you should be in Aladdin.”
“Why doesn’t your kid wear normal stuff?”
“Can’t your kid wear jeans like everybody else?”
“What the hell is your kid wearing?”
Some of these jerks even manage to misunderstand that my daughter is my daughter, and not a boy. Because in their DWD world, all little girls are supposed to have very long hair. (News flash, jerkface: She wears her curling golden hair short because it frames her face perfectly and she prefers it that way. She’s allowed to wear her hair short, you DWD. And even if you were her father, which you’re emphatically not, you still wouldn’t have a whole lot of say in the matter. So go off somewhere and fulfill the first D of your acronym.)
I can’t begin to describe how much it pisses me off to see my daughter’s face crumple, when some DWD has yet again intruded onto her life with evil, unasked-for commentary.
A truly disturbing amount of my Facebook feed is populated by white men I used to consider intelligent friends. Then they got old, and somehow they now feel the need to inform everyone of how things shouldn’t be. These newly-minted DWDs seem to think that they’re entitled to pour their anger out over everyone, issue by issue, and then they have the nerve to get affronted when someone like me calls them out on the absolute vileness of their behavior.
Dearest DWD, would you dream of saying something shitty (like those pants comments) to a father escorting his child? Then why do you feel entitled to say it to her mother, then? What happened to basic civility? What happened to manners? What happened to “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”? Don’t you pride yourself on having been “raised better”? Well I’m here to tell you, DWD, if your mama was still alive, she’d smack you in the face for behaving so rudely. My daughter’s harem pants are clean and modest (and pretty damn jazzy, if I do say so myself), and an affront to no one. But for damn sure, buddy, your attitude is an affront to me. And judging by the look on my daughter’s face, she knows you’re being a shithead, and she’s only ten.
What goddamn business was it of that DWD’s what a young family bought as they peacefully finished up their grocery shopping? What had they done to deserve such criticism? And since when do I look like the proper repository for such an aside, anyway?
There’s your answer, dearest DWD: you shared that comment with me about someone else’s groceries because you knew it was shitty and you were too goddamn chicken to be mean to their faces, so instead you waved your handful of manure under my nose instead.
I’m growling even at the memory of it.
As an undergraduate English major I couldn’t wait for DWDs to quit dominating written discourse in my native language. And as a mother and woman, I can’t wait for DWDs to quit ruining spoken discourse, too. I worry that too many of my contemporaries are following in the footsteps of older, more-nearly-dead DWDs. And they’re getting more aggressive about it as they do.
I need to speak louder. I need to quit being nice to these jerks, trying to finesse their bad manners in person. Instead I need to call them out on it. Loudly. Because otherwise the discourse simply won’t change.