[TRIGGER WARNING. This post discusses child sexual abuse and child pornography.]
Amanda Palmer has a new record coming out soon, in which she and her collaborator Jason Webley appropriate the personas of conjoined twins Evelyn and Evelyn. Her blog post regarding this is here (and has been significantly edited; we’ll get to that).
Unsurprisingly, some people are not happy about this. Sady of Tiger Beatdown has an excellent post on the matter, as does Annaham of Feminists with Disabilities. Both Sady and Annaham point out the ableism going on here, and Palmer’s obliviousness on why this is a Really Bad Idea. I absolutely recommend that you go read those posts. Really. Do it now, then come back.
Hi! Welcome back.
So Sady and Annaham have excellent points regarding why Palmer dressing up in crip drag (the term used by the disabled community for able-bodied people pretending to be disabled, for purposes such as the selling of records) is ragingly inappropriate (think blackface; same thing, different Other).
Sady also touches on something that Palmer has since edited out of her post on Evelyn Evelyn. Part of the backstory of the “twins”? They were exploited in child pornography.
Yes, Palmer has opted to use child pornography as a plot coupon for indie cred. Apparently trivializing child sexual abuse is hip and edgy, in her mind. I’d tend to disagree. It would be one thing if her intent was to raise awareness of child sexual abuse and child pornography, and to provide information on how to help stop it. But that isn’t her intent. Her intent is to be shocking and deviant. (See her continued misuse of the word “rape” in interviews, and the simulated rape of a Katy Perry lookalike in her stage show. Suffice to say I’m not optimistic about her handling of this, simply based on her track record.)
Dear Amanda Palmer: These are real things that affect real people. Let’s hear from one of them.
[Seriously, TRIGGER WARNING.]
I quote here from the victim impact statement by “Amy”, the girl in the Misty Series of child porno videos.
There is a lot I don’t remember, but now I can’t forget because the disgusting images of what he did to me are still out there on the internet. For a long time I practiced putting the terrible memories away in my mind. Thinking about it is still really painful. Sometimes I just go into staring spells when I am caught thinking about what happened and not paying any attention to my surroundings.
Every day of my life I live in constant fear that someone will see my pictures and recognize me and that I will be humiliated allover again. It hurts me to know someone is looking at them—at me—when I was just a little girl being abused for the camera. I did not choose to be there, but now I am there forever in pictures that people are using to do sick things. I want it all erased. I want it all stopped. But I am powerless to stop it just like I was powerless to stop my uncle.
When they first discovered what my uncle did, I went to therapy and thought I was getting over this. I was very wrong. My full understanding of what happened to me has only gotten dearer as I have gotten older. My life and my feelings are worse now because the crime has never really stopped and will never really stop.
It is hard to describe what it feels like to know that at any moment, anywhere, someone is looking at pictures of me as a little girl being abused by my uncle and is getting some kind of sick enjoyment from it. It’s like I am being abused over and over and over again.
I find myself unable to do the simple things that other teenagers handle easily. I do not have a driver’s license. Every time I say I am going to do it, I don’t. I can’t plan well. My mind skips out on me when I think about moving forward with my life. I have been trying to get a job, but I just keep avoiding things. Forgetting is the thing I do best since I was forced as a little girl to live a double life and “forget” what was happening to me. Before I realize it, I miss interviews or other things that will help me get a job.
I am horrified by the thought that other children will probably be abused because of my pictures. Will someone show my pictures to other kids, like my uncle did to me, then tell them what to do? Will they see me and think it’s okay for them to do the same thing? Will some sick person see my picture and then get the idea to do the same thing to another little girl?
The article goes into far more detail. Read it if you have the stomach for it.
Dear Amanda Palmer: It is not okay for you to appropriate this voice just to enhance the backstory of your fictional band. It is not okay for you to disregard the actual effects of childhood sexual abuse and child pornography to use it as a marketing tool.
Palmer has posted a non-apology in which she at least half-acknowledges that her choice of words regarding disabled feminists was poor. But despite numerous comments on both of her blog posts asking her to address her trivialization and flippant use of child pornography, she has chosen not to address it, instead editing that part out of the original post. (In her followup, she actually calls herself “brave”.)
In her non-apology, she says this is art and art is controversial, and we just don’t understand, and - oh, look, I have bingo! Again, I disagree. This isn’t art, Ms. Palmer, it’s cynical, dismissive marketing. If it was art, you’d have the guts to actually examine the realities of the trauma you’re putting on like that conjoined-twins dress.
That might be worth watching.
As it is? When even your die-hard fans are telling you that you’re wrong on this one, perhaps you should listen.
I feel like I have always had to live a double life. First I had to lie about what my uncle was doing to me. Then I had to act like it didn’t, happen because it was too embarrassing. Now I always know that there is another “little me” being seen on the internet by other abusers. I don’t want to be there, but I am. I wish I could go back in time and stop my uncle from taking those pictures, but I can’t.
Even though I am scared that I will be abused or hurt again because I am making this victim impact statement, I want the court and judge to know about me and what I have suffered and what my life is like. What happened to me hasn’t gone away. It will never go away. I am a real victim of child pornography and it effects me every day and everywhere I go.
Dear Amanda Palmer: This is not your voice. And if you’re not going to address the reality of this? Don’t pretend to speak in it.
You don’t speak for us. We speak for ourselves. Not to gain indie cred or to sell albums, but to seek justice, and to heal. To effect social change. To end violence. Because this isn’t a fun, shocking bit of our backstory. It is an enormous, life-changing thing. And if you’re not willing to speak to how that shapes a person, if you’re not willing to acknowledge it as more than a mock-shocking blip on the radar? Don’t use it.
“Amy” says, The truth is, I am being exploited and used every day and every night somewhere in the world by someone. How can I ever get over this when the crime that is happening to me will never end? How can I get over this when the shameful abuse I suffered is out there forever and being enjoyed by sick people?
Never forget that this is real.