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The Ethical Aside

posted by Tim Carmody   Dec 07, 2021

parentheses, em dashes, commas

Stylistic tics are often shorthands for forms of thinking, or too often for ways of not thinking through a particular problem or set of circumstances. In “Aside Effects,” Lauren Michele Jackson looks at how the rhetorical aside, whether in commas or parentheses, gives the appearance of covering all bases while actually relegating the cases that matter to the status of a special footnote.

An article on loitering, say, will take care to mention that Black and Brown folks are often penalized by anti-loitering laws, but such an aside leaves out the fact that the Brown loiterer is not one example but the prototype. The ethics of the thing protest too much. It’s “women and people of color.” It’s “women and femmes.” Jules Gill-Peterson, in her essay on trans pessimism, asks after the misty “trans woman of color” whose life in print is only an enhancement for other things, a summoning that suppresses whatever lives happen behind the rumor. An aside to be cast aside. “The trans woman of color whose life is invoked is always putative,” Gill-Peterson writes. “She’s no fact. Who is she? How do you know her? I know why Chase Bank, or Sephora[,] pretends to know her. But you? What’s your excuse?”

The ethical aside is an interruption—the beat before everyone gets on with their lives. Journalists signal that they have done their due diligence in reaching out to all parties with the inclusion of “(X declined to comment for this article)” in reported investigations; the ethical aside, likewise, says that the author has indeed thought of and considered the conditions of those excluded by their primary interests. There’s someone else out there, it acknowledges, even as the story as written depends on their disavowed existence.

This isn’t a hard and fast rule, a proclamation that footnotes, parentheticals, and the like are inherently bad, and Jackson takes time to look through cases (including some splendid literary examples from Frederick Douglass and Vladmir Nabokov) where the aside has the opposite effect. But it does point to a very real problem not just in style but with habits of thinking. What if we valued the actually thoughtful more than the appearance of conscientiousness? I don’t know what that world would look like, but I bet it would be a more interesting one.

A woman with Asperger’s goes clubbing

posted by Susannah Breslin   Dec 22, 2015

aspergers-woman.jpg

A really intriguing personal essay from Broadly by Gwen Kansen, a woman diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder who reveals what it’s like when she goes out to a nightclub.

The first thing I do is get a drink—she wants to buy. Then we start dancing.

I dance exuberantly, and not always on rhythm, either. At gay clubs they thought this was hip. My friends took me to some great ones in college; I made friends with a lot of gay guys because they thought I was outrageous. I didn’t realize at the time that wearing a bright green leather pencil skirt was inappropriate for class in rural Pennsylvania, but they loved me for it.

This isn’t the place for that. Some guy with the obligatory striped button-down shirt comes up and chest-butts me. I rub up on him for a minute until I realize he’s mocking my dancing.

Defeated, I go back to our table.

“People don’t dance here,” I tell Felicity.

“I really like you,” she says. “You just are who you are, you know?”

Stealing 0sil8

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 10, 1998

Well, it’s been a bit since I urged people to steal my Web site. Here are some early results:

http://www.aberratum.com/0sil8.html
http://andrew.newdream.net
http://www.vitaflo.com/lab/0sil8/index.html
http://www.flawed.com/0sil8/index2.html

Have you seen 0sil8 anywhere else? Do you care? Email.