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Writers, First Do No Harm

There was a post on The Stir today which was incredibly offensive and served no purpose except to mock an idea and upset a segment of their readership.  Facebook has finally added additional gender descriptions, and rather than report on them so that the general public knows about the change, The Stir chose to preface the news under the heading “say what?” and then proceeded to make up what they deemed six more choices that Facebook forgot.

By the way, it’s 2014.

Hyperbole is usually utilized to point out the ridiculousness of a situation, so the only thing that readers can gather from The Stir’s decision to print this is that they are against people being able to feel comfortable online.  That they believe that people being able to label themselves with a proper pronoun is ludicrous.  In other words, The Stir, Fox News, and my evangelical neighbours are amongst those last holdouts who support removing someone else’s ability to do something even though in doing so this action does not affect them.

Because whether or not someone else takes advantage of these new choices on Facebook in no way affects anyone else’s Facebook account.

This is the very definition of small-mindedness.

But it brings to the surface sort of the most important guide a writer can use before they post anything online whether that be on Twitter, Facebook, a blog post, or a comment.  Take a page from doctors and first, do no harm.


Image: Adrian Scottow via Flickr

Writers needle, sometimes drawing blood, just as doctors do.  But when we do, it should be to make society healthier in the long run.  We shouldn’t cruelly poke just because we have the tools to do so.  We should slide those needles in order to wake people up, make people think, and draw them out of their comfort zones.  And yes, sometimes we do that through humour, but we should make sure that the humour is actually funny and serves a purpose.  Because when humour doesn’t serve a purpose, it becomes a mockery.  And mocking has more in common with bullying than it does with comedy.

So, Facebook, thank you for adding more gender options.  It was a move in the right direction to be more inclusive.  Because inclusivity rocks.


1 It Is What It Is { 02.16.14 at 6:38 pm }

“Because when humour doesn’t serve a purpose, it becomes a mockery. And mocking has more in common with bullying than it does with comedy.”

YES, YES, YES! Mel, how is it that you can take something so off-putting, and not write a knee-jerk reaction piece to it, but instead a measured, thoughtful, perfect piece.

This is so profound in its simplicity. Can you imagine a world, a government, a state, a city, a neighborhood, a school, a church, a parking lot where we all considered “first, do no harm” before acting or speaking?

SO fucking profound!

2 a { 02.16.14 at 8:16 pm }

That Stir story wasn’t even remotely funny. I suppose I’m just not erudite enough to get it? And it was clearly mockery.

3 Mali { 02.16.14 at 8:17 pm }

I 100% agree. That Stir article is just pathetic. Fortunately, I never read that site. And now I never will again.

4 Brid { 02.16.14 at 10:08 pm }

I agree… well said, Mel. I try to stay away from that kind of crap, too. It’s ‘journalism’ for the sake of journalism, rather than taking good care of a story…

5 Brid { 02.16.14 at 10:09 pm }

Also, well done, Facebook, although I don’t know you very well because I’m not on you… but I’m happy you made that important move!

6 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 02.16.14 at 11:54 pm }

Yeah, not sure what point they were trying to make there. Although it would be sort of cool to identify as an 18th-century swashbuckling aristocrat for Facebook purposes, I’m not sure it’s exactly the same thing.

7 deathstar { 02.17.14 at 1:22 pm }

Have you noticed in the last few years a proliferation of sites with pseudo news and pseudo articles? You know, like the top 10 foods you should never eat or top 10 super foods or the heavyset black woman hates my skinny white ass? There are so many articles out there containing any useful or entertainment content whatsoever. How do I apply to write those?

8 chickenpig { 02.17.14 at 7:09 pm }

Amen! What the world needs now is a lot less of this snide mockery pretending to be humor. It isn’t funny, it isn’t cool, it isn’t hip… it’s just lame.

9 Lori Lavender Luz { 02.18.14 at 11:18 am }

I love the title of this post and am likely to quote it a lot as mean-spirited (and poorly done) pieces come to my attention. Hello, Mommyish.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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