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does a scorpion sting when fighting back?

Updated: May 10

Recently I was having what I believed to be a rather enjoyable chat with a boy, until, out of nowhere, he expressed that he didn’t want to end up on my blog. “Please don’t write about me” he said, after doing absolutely nothing worthy of writing about.

I had no intention of ever writing about him; the first reason being that I have never been the sort of writer who goes about their life with any sort of prior planning or deliberation in order to create amusing anecdotal column fodder. So far I have learned absolutely nothing about love, and I think it’s sociopathic to plan to write about something or to actively search for a story to tell. Such an approach would undoubtedly change the way you behave in any given interaction, perhaps turning you into a ‘yes man’, or simply a much less authentic version of yourself. I would prefer to live my life saying no to as much as possible and then retrospectively write about things if and when it makes sense to do so.

Secondly, the subject matter of my blog is intentionally consistent and specific - I write about hate. What I am doing here is trying to find the humour in negative things that genuinely upset me. I would be a truly insane person if I went about my own life intentionally getting hurt in order to churn out content. I would like it if hate were to remain a finite commodity and I have no desire to introduce any more of it into my life unnecessarily. Call me old fashioned, but I believe that true hate is special and rare.

Most significantly, I believe I have made my genre abundantly clear to everyone who has paid even the slightest bit of attention - I like writing jokes about people who have wronged me in the past. The aforementioned boy was someone I was interested in and who I had not (yet) felt any hatred towards, nor he had (yet) wronged me in any way. Ergo, no wronging means no jokes.

You might be thinking to yourself “But Hannah, you ARE writing about him now”, and to that I say “whoops-a-daisy”.

I stand by the fact that bringing him up in this blog was not pre-meditated, but I also stand by the fact that I live my life and then write about people if and when it makes sense to do so. Now, unfortunately, as it turns out, it makes far too much sense to do so. This being said - I still don’t believe this particular guy is interesting enough to be the subject of this blog, therefore he is not the subject of this blog. Instead, I am.

I am the subject of his blog because I think it is very interesting that oftentimes, when a woman chooses to write about her feelings in response to other people’s actions like I have been doing, people will take issue with the simple act of her doing so - without actually paying attention to what it is she has to say. We see this a lot and it is an inherently sexist response that we don’t often see men subjected to. I think it is what happens when women like me express defensive and justified anger - anger that only exists as a response and direct result of someone else’s offensive behaviour - but suddenly we are viewed as the angry ones. We are painted as the vindictive ones.

When men express their justified anger or criticism of other people's behaviour - they are rarely met with the same response. After all, Taylor Swift wrote ‘Look What You Made Me Do', a song that contained the lyric “I’ve got a list of names and yours is in red underlined, I check it once, I check it twice”. The media and public response was that she is petty, has a superiority complex, and she just cannot stop playing the victim. Santa Claus received no such criticism for compiling an incredibly similar list, and checking it just as frequently. And his list was about children.

I’m sorry but someone had to say it - Santa Claus is a judgmental prick. I think it is significant to note that none of the children he was keeping tabs on did anything to warrant his intrusive surveillance. He knows when children are sleeping and he knows when they are awake?? Get a fucking life man!!! You’re the one who belongs on a list!!

The children Santa was evaluating had no priors - they hadn’t damaged his sleigh or stolen his reindeer, they were just kids living their lives, and he broke and entered into all of their homes while they were sleeping to drink their milk and eat their cookies. Yet, somehow, he’s the one who wades in, with his sleigh and moral superiority in tow, believing that he has the right to say who is naughty or nice. His judgment isn’t personal or reactionary at all, which is what makes it so much weirder - he’s just a guy who thinks pretty highly of himself, inserting his views uninvited so that he can play god. I’ll admit I might be projecting a little - someone who really likes Christmas was a judgemental prick to me recently lol.

While I am willing to point out that Taylor Swift does have one creepy thing in common with Santa Claus - she also keeps tabs on people’s while they are asleep evidenced in loads of her songs (“now I wake up in the night and watch you breathe”, "I’ll watch your life in pictures like I used to watch you sleep”, “I wake and watch you breathing with your eyes closed”), but these are about consenting adults and you know what, good for her!!

Unlike Santa, Taylor Swift’s aforementioned double checked list was personal and a clear retaliation to other people’s initial bad behaviour, but it has been criticised significantly more than his and in fact, more so than the initial offences that inspired her list. I don’t think her list is petty or indicative of a superiority complex, but rather, just plain good sense and an exceptional display of admin skills.

Famously Swift’s work is mostly autobiographical and she has written many a song about many a douchebag she has dated and one particular rapper who stole a mic from her at the VMAs. It is apparent that she works under the same reasonable logic that I do - that if someone doesn’t do either of these shitty things, she won’t need to poetically point out why they were shitty things to do.

Like Taylor, all of the anger I have expressed in my ~art has been reactionary - if the people I joke about hadn’t done anything to me in the first place, I would feel no need to judge them. If I did make jokes about people who had committed no such initial offence - if I was acting completely unprovoked like Santa Claus, then like Santa Claus, I would indeed be the dickhead.

However, I am not. I think the Taylor Swift’s of the world are often mistaken for the Santa Claus’ and I think it’s unfair to conflate reactionary and justified anger with that of a gross little know-it-all who simply thinks that they are better than everyone. All Taylor Swift and I are doing is standing up for ourselves. I think it is unfair to say that someone is being unfair or petty or bitter when standing up for oneself - to put it simply, each and every time I have written about someone, it has been because the other person started it. Before you roll your eyes and call me immature for essentially saying “they started it”, I would like to point out that I think that “they started it” is a perfectly reasonable argument. It’s called ‘self-defence’ in a court of law. If you remove the initial offence, there is no self-defence required, and you can’t retaliate if nothing bad has happened in the first place. Snakes tend only to bite when stepped on and scorpions sting when fighting back.

Since starting this blog, I have been amused by some questions people have asked me and the comments they have made about my work. Some have made (complimentary but inaccurate) comments about how I write about ex boyfriends. I’ve never thought of this as a dating blog - I know I have occasionally included content about boys however I simply wouldn’t write about every boy I’ve ever dated - we do not have the time as I am too much of a legend!! I have also had this said to me about my stand up, despite the fact that in an hour show only 4 minutes of it was a classic Hugh Grant film which kickstarted my lifelong crush on Nicholas Hoult (about a boy). 56 minutes of passed the Bechdel test. Actually, now that I think about it - all 60 minutes did, because even when I was talking about a boy, I was aiming it at the men in the room completely ignoring the female audience members in the name of feminism!

People have also joked to me about my so-called pettiness, even praising it - but I don’t believe that anything I have written could fairly or accurately be described as “petty”. The dictionary defines something “petty” to be “something that is of little importance; something that is trivial”. So far, I have written 8 blog posts and the subjects have included:

  • an ex work colleague who tried to ruin my career and reputation

  • an ex boyfriend, who unbeknownst to me, already had a girlfriend

  • a homophobic ex teammate and coach who bullied me

  • an entire country with unethical border policies which deeply affected my life

  • a boy who asked to “pause” me (lol)

  • a fellow comic who undermined my talent and hard work and told me that everything I had achieved was simply on the basis of gender

  • an ex colleague who sexually harassed me

  • a current colleague who sexually harassed me

I’m not convinced that expressing any sort of grievance about any of the above is particularly trivial or petty, but I would be intrigued to chat with anyone who disagrees with me. The 56 non-boy minutes in the aforementioned hour show I performed was primarily about how Australian immigration wouldn’t let me see my family during a pandemic, and an (albeit lovely) audience member said that she loved my “pettiness”. I was baffled by her comment as I don’t believe anything I have ever said about unethical immigration policies could be fairly or accurately described as “petty”. Instead, I think that when people see someone who looks like me express a strong opinion or express anger about having being mistreated, words like “petty” are inevitably going to be thrown about.

Being judged for what we look like is a universal experience regardless of what your identity is - and I am not by any means claiming that this is an inherently female experience. I was both intrigued and disheartened to see some bizarre takes on the recent John Mulaney news on social media. For those who don’t know, John Mulaney got divorced, went to rehab for substance abuse and is now having a baby with a new partner. He’s an exceptionally talented comedian (and SNLs second best writer in my humble opinion - Taylor Swift wrote her guest monologue and it’s the best musical comedy I’ve ever seen, sorry Bo, and every other male comic who will be fuming while reading this, but I will die on this hill), but he’s also a dude who has clearly been through some shit.

Some of the strangest takes I’ve seen on social media have been people saying that Mulaney led the public on by presenting himself as a “clean cut guy”, that it was wrong of him to present himself as so “wholesome”. Such a response is obviously insane, as, firstly, anyone who doesn’t actually know John Mulaney doesn’t actually know John Mulaney. Fans of his work (including myself) only know the curated parts of himself he has chosen to share - and he is under no obligation to anyone to reveal any more of himself than this. If he wants to present himself to the world as a "clean cut guy”, he’s within his rights to do so, and no one gets to complain if they then went and filled in the blanks incorrectly. If you extrapolated who someone is from a small snapshot of themselves that they have shared, you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t end up with a perfect data set.

You can’t know everything about a person from what they chose to share publicly, and you certainly can’t get a holistic view of a human being from a 90 minute comedy special. If John Mulaney wants to present himself as a wholesome fella for 90 minutes he’s allowed to do that. But the thing is - he didn’t. People were shocked to learn that a guy who has regularly discussed substance abuse in his stand up, has experienced issues in his life with substance abuse. People thinking that he has chosen to present himself as “clean cut” is indicative of a severe lack of comprehension skills - if you’ve ever actually listened to what John Mulaney has to say, if you’ve paid any attention at all, you would know that the curated version of himself that he has presented has never been a “clean cut guy” by any stretch. He just happens to look like one.

As a comic, I have found this disheartening - Mulaney has been very clear about who he is (or at least who the stage version of him is) throughout his career, and people have chosen to see their expectations of someone who looks like him in his place. I think I have also been clear about who I am (or at least who the stage version of me is). I have also been deliberate with my choice of words in my writing and I work really hard to make sure I am saying exactly what I want to say, but I have observed that oftentimes audiences do not respond to what I say - they respond to what they expected me to say. People will watch me talk for 56 minutes about politics and immigration religion and my thoughts on ‘Game of Thrones’, but focus on the 4 minutes when I talk about my ex boyfriend.

People have clearly formed para social relationships with John Mulaney and I think it’s weird. Acting like anyone owes you anything more than their side of the transactional experience of performing is strange behaviour. Talking about a celebrity like you know them by perhaps using their first name, or acting like you totally would be friends if you actually had the chance to meet is undeniably odd behaviour. Just because someone has shown you a small (and most certainly heightened) element of their personality through their art, does not mean you know them in any way nor does it mean that you know them well enough to know what they do in their personal life, what they have done in the past, or what they will do next.

You might be thinking this is a little rich coming from me, given how regular I talk about Taylor Swift and quote her lyrics, but in my defence, I have none. How dare you accurately point out that my relationship with Taylor Swift might be somewhat para social in nature. I’m going to choose to ignore your valid point and sit in my uncomfortable hypocrisy because I am sure Taylor and I will laugh about it - one day, when we are friends.

Like Taylor Swift, I have chosen to write about real events and real people in my work, however in my case, this is simply because I have very little imagination. But like Taylor, I have made an effort to keep each subject’s identity hidden (unless responding to an already public article or I have been granted permission to do so). I assumed that unlike Taylor Swift, no one would actually care who I was writing about. It turns out I was wrong about this one, because loads of the small audience I am acquiring are disgusting little gossips! Welcome back you slimy little weirdos!

Some questions I have been asked about my blog include questions about the identity of people I have mentioned in previous blogs. The aforementioned boy asked me to tell him the names of other people I had dated who were mentioned in a previous blog. I don’t know why he asked - maybe it was to see if he matched my usual type, maybe it was plain nosiness, or maybe he is a fan who started to develop a para social relationship with me - maybe he thought that me sharing certain things on this platform meant I was willing to share everything and it was ok for him to ask.

Unfortunately for him, my approach can best be described via a song that I thought was written by Hilary Duff and her sister for much longer than I am proud of (my lips are sealed). I’m not going to share names because I think the focus on who I’m talking about takes away from what I have to say and I have no interest in that. Also, my intent is not to name or shame anyone, and my writing is not for the people I write about - it’s for me, and people like me who might have experienced something similar. I just like expressing my silly little feelings via silly little jokes.

Taylor Swift has grappled with people playing detective in her career on a much greater scale, and I have watched it lead to a significant shift in the type of work she creates. She had previously dabbled in fictional songs in earlier albums (e.g. Death By A Thousand Cuts on Lover) but had never done so to the extent she has done on her latest two studio albums, folklore and evermore. Most of the songs on these two records were written about fictional characters she herself has made up (e.g. those in the love triangle explored in ‘betty’, ‘august’ and ‘cardigan’), fictional characters she has been inspired by (the second Mrs. de Winter in Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier in her song ‘tolerate it’ and via countless references to Daisy Buchanan from ‘The Great Gatsby’) or were biographical in nature rather than autobiographical (about people like socialite Rebekah Harkness as well as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s infamous and tumultuous relationship).

I think her main motivation for this move was to take control of the constant media scrutiny her work receives, and I think this has resulted in shift from listeners focusing on who she is writing about to actually listening more to what she is saying, and it’s not a coincidence this is some of her most critically acclaimed work. The fictional stories and biographical ones contain subtle references and nods to her own life, and weirdos who have formed para social relationships will still be able to pick up on these personal references (seriously, feel free to hit me up if you want any of these explained).

Regardless of whether I am right about her motivation to make such a change, I think this is a really smart move. It means that the songs can stand alone and be appreciated as the art that they are, rather than continue to have her talent overlooked while her work is picked apart for meaningless tabloid fodder - I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these two albums are her most critically acclaimed. She still gets to express herself through her writing, and stretch those muscles without having her life and choices scrutinised and at the centre of her work. It is also such a power move - if anyone does pick up on the subtle personal references she includes in these new ‘fictional’ songs, she gets to say “you think this song is about you? wow, you’re so vain” or “You really think this song about a woman in 1950s middle America is a metaphor for how you were a terrible friend? you’ve got some ego, Karlie Kloss.”

With this as my inspiration, I have decided that my work going forward will also be of the fictional genre - starting immediately, with the remainder of this blog. I have chosen to write about a fictional character named Dorothea. She has been named as such in order to pay homage to one of Taylor's own fictional characters - but more importantly, the introduction of a fictional character is so that everyone knows that the following few sentences are nothing more than a work of fiction - I am definitely not talking about anyone real, and I am definitely not projecting my own experiences onto this character.

So, Dorothea was talking to a boy who had just asked her not to write a blog about him. He carried on to say that he knew her well enough to know exactly what she would do next. He knew that she was “the kind of girl who would just take one tiny thing he said and write an entire personal essay on why that one tiny thing thing he said wasn’t a very feminist thing to say”.

Dorothea smiled and said “that doesn’t sound like something I would do”.

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