The London Free Press printed a rather passionate letter to the editor this week that criticized my recent House Proud column as being “offensive” and other strongly worded language. The column concerned asking a man to help with the household chores and it was based on my experience at home, published with the express consent and laughter of Derek, the man in question!
Some writers came to my defence online and another detractor also came out of the woodwork. My first reaction was to laugh! It was a humour column and based entirely on exaggeration, which is a hallmark of writing in an attempt to be funny. And then when I thought about it a little bit more, I think I realized what had gone wrong.
With no offence intended toward my Freeps colleagues, I think the column was set up incorrectly when it was printed. It was laid out in a very serious manner with a sober headline and a photograph that leaned toward the literal. When it was printed in the Sun, the headline was light and fun and the whole tone of the layout was very different. Plus, Sun readers have had a few dozen columns in which they could get to know my particular sense of the absurd. The Free Press has run exactly two of my House Proud columns now, this being the second one.
I still think the letter writer has a twig in an uncomfortable place and really needs to get a sense of humour. No publisher in his or her right mind would ever allow a seriously sexist article to make it to print. If the letter writer didn’t find my writing funny, well, that’s one thing. But to suggest that I’m stuck in the 50’s (long before I was born, I might add) and that I’m devaluing my fellow human beings borders on defamation.
However, his comments won’t change anything about what I write or how I write it. Humour is specific and exaggerated and not getting it is quite alright and tells me more about him than he’s trying to tell me about me. And every writer knows that the only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about at all!
3 thoughts on “Critical Mass”
sorry to hear that someone didn’t like your column about house work and asking the guy to pitch in, I still think it was very funny.
Another possible reason for the readers response, and I’ve seen this in business over the past several years, is that if you use humour or tell a joke and someone doesn’t happen to get the joke or think its funny. Then your showing a lack of respect for that individual if you continue to use humour or tell jokes. And I don’t mean the type of jokes which clearly shouldn’t be told, just the typical chuckle head jokes.
I often have to laugh, we as a society will stand up and spout how helpful and tolerant we are, right up to the moment we don’t understand something or don’t like it and suddenly your wrong or showing disrespect.
I think you’re right about that, Allan.
There are some instances of truly offensive humour but I don’t think my column is one of them. If anything, it’s light, airy and self-deprecating, too.
I still have a Father’s Day card that I bought from a pharmacy many years ago. On the cover it said, “Happy Father’s Day from your little girl”. On the inside: “Thanks for not drowning me at birth. They do that in some countries, you know.” THAT I found offensive! I contacted the Toronto Sun as a woman on the west coast did virtually at the same time and after the paper published an article on it, the card was pulled from shelves.
My point is, there’s a big difference between suggesting that some men don’t notice dust on a tabletop and the sentiment of that greeting card!
“if you’re not offending someone everyday by noon you’re not doing anything important in this world”. Keep it up Lisa!!
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