Last week some folks had, in the inimitable words of Ricky Ricardo, some “splainin’ to do”. First there was Paula Deen. Then there was Kickstarter. Some people would place Kim and Kanye in this company as well.
I’ll get to Paula and Kickstarter in a moment. As for Kim and Kanye, they are at liberty to give their little angel any name that strikes their fancy. While I am more of a traditionalist when it comes to baby names, there is evidence that children can and will survive — possibly even transcend — some of the stranger monikers their misguided parents chose to saddle them with — Dweezil and Moon Unit Zappa come to mind. I don’t know what the future holds for the Apple’s, the Blue Ivy’s, or the North’s of the world, but Tallulah, Rumer, and Scout seem to be doing just fine. Also, I have to admit, I kind of like Blue Ivy.
Having given my own child an old-fashioned, but not weird, first name, I do understand the impulse to get out from under the sea of Taylors and Jordans, to separate your offspring from the multitude of Dylans and Ryans. My daughter has always been the only “Fangette” (that’s not really here name!) in the school. There is never a need to ask, which Fangette are we talking about? Fangette B.? Fangette R.? Fangette W.? We’ve never had to wade through that sort of confusion — as, I’m sure, neither have the Zappa’s, the Willises, or the Jay-Z’s.
People will get used to North West. She won’t even know what an odd choice it was until someone else tells her. Ultimately, it will just be a part of who she is, as much as her hair color, her right- or left-handedness, or her temperament. And, really, it’s none of my business anyway.
I’ve got bigger fish to fry — there are larger, more important issues that, while also none of my business, demand my attention just the same — like Paula Deen. Like Kickstarter.
Let’s begin with Kickstarter. For those of you unfamiliar with what Kickstarter is and what it does, I’ll give you the nickel tour. In a nutshell, it’s a website where people who need funding for artsy-fartsy projects go to raise money — films, web series, books, etc. Regular folks, like you and me, can review the projects on offer and help to make the dreams of many a creative individual a reality. They call it crowdfunding, which has a nice, grass roots kind of feel to it.
There is a submission and approval process — you can’t just throw up any crazy idea and fleece people for money. These things must be reviewed. They must meet Kickstarter standards.
Last week, a fellow named Ken Hoinsky was attempting to have a project funded through Kickstarter — a book about dating and/or relationships to be written from a Geek’s perspective or something like that. There already exists something very similar out there, it’s called The Geeks Guide to Dating, but I suppose that Kickstarter felt that there was room for more of the same. I imagine that there are lots of nerds in need of some good, solid dating advice. And they’re entitled to choices, too.
The trouble began when, if Mr. Hoinsky is to be believed, a handful of people took what he had to say out of context and posted it on Tumblr or Reddit, maybe both — there is some conflicting information here. These “out of context” snippets seemed to indicate that Mr. Hoinsky planned to write a “seduction” guide — many called it a “rape” guide. People began calling for Kickstarter to remove the project from its site. Kickstarter didn’t.
Kickstarter says that they didn’t because they couldn’t — that it was too late, that the project was near it’s expiration date, and that the money had already been placed in Mr. Hoinsky’s bank account. Kickstarter then issued what appeared to be a very sincere apology and donated $25,000 to RAINN, an anti-sexual violence organization.
I have read a number of responses to this controversy that contend that Kickstarter has, in the past, pulled projects closer to their deadlines than this one. There is also some evidence to suggest that there is a waiting period, following the deadline date, before the funds are made available to the project owner and that Mr. Hoinsky’s project was, indeed, a simple guide to dating and that the sexual advice he planned to dole out was meant for — and only meant for — folks (mostly men) who found themselves in consensual relationships. I honestly don’t know what is and isn’t true here. Maybe Kickstarter didn’t know either. Perhaps that’s why they didn’t pull the project. The possibility exists that Mr. Hoinsky submitted a more innocuous proposal to Kickstarter, but had something altogether different in mind for his final project. We’ll probably never know.
Sorting out this controversy will take a trained investigative reporter. It’s possible Anderson Cooper is working on it right now.
To me, the controversy really isn’t the point. The point is the apology. Kickstarter made a good one. One that most people found sincere. Also, they put their money where there mouth was. While I agree that if, indeed, they did fund a “seduction” guide, a simple donation doesn’t necessarily get them off the hook, but at least it was a step in the right direction.
If Kickstarter got their apology right, Paula Deen got all three of hers very, very wrong.
I read a great post, written by Patricia Patton, which confirmed, at least in part, what had been nagging at me all week about the Paula Deen controversy. Paula needed some better advice. Kickstarter got some — whether they have a better PR firm or whether they sought their advice from advocacy groups, I don’t know. It might have done Paula Deen some good to either hire Kickstarter’s guns or to consult a member of the community that she insulted.
You just can’t go around spouting the “N-word” nor should you admit to being enamored of the slave-themed wedding of a friend and not think that, despite your sunny disposition and down-home charm, lots of people were going to be appalled by your behavior. That your words were spoken in a court of law where it is being alleged that you allowed a culture of racism which fostered a “hostile work environment” and that, to add fuel to the already raging fire, your brother sexually assaulted (assaulted, not harassed) this same woman is downright shameful.
While I’m sure that Paula Deen has done any number of good things in her life and I’m not suggesting that the townfolk show up with tar and feathers on her front lawn, this latest controversy is not the only time she has behaved shamefully. A few years back, while continuing to use copious amounts of things like butter, sugar, and bacon, Ms. Deen, who had been diagnosed with diabetes, took money — lots of money — to endorse a certain diabetes drug. She has every right to cook and to eat any way she wants to — just like Kim and Kanye can name their child anything they want to — but to take money from a drug company, to endorse a drug designed to bring down glucose levels, while she continued to instruct others to cook this way? At best, this was problematic. At worst, it was a symbol of something as simple as greed.
What is really shameful, though, is that what seems to be lost among the many apologies issued by Ms. Deen is the fact that her brother, who worked for her company, stands accused of sexually assaulting an employee. I have to wonder where his apology is.
Photo credit: Desi Arnaz