Posted April 23, 2014 by Sydnie Jones in Editorials

Bloody Elbow elects to remove withering satire in light of internet that just doesn’t get it

In a devastating blow to satirical journalism, the editors at Bloody Elbow decided to withdraw a scathing work of social commentary after an uncomprehending internet responded with outrage. The piece, cheekily entitled, ‘From the Desk of the Bloody Elbow Ombudsperson,’ laid waste to the myriad misconceptions surrounding feminism and feminist activism. In an execution that can safely be termed as “inspired,” and possibly even “clever,” the author,  instead of satirizing from the perspective of the person misinterpreting feminist rhetoric, wrote as the manifestation of said misinterpretations – embodied in a character called Dr. Patricia Yang McDowell.

The piece was thorough, managing to fit in multiple strawmen with which feminist activism and rhetoric are routinely attacked, in just over a thousand words. It was really quite a feat, in fact, to fit so many in, and so accurately. Unfortunately, most readers interpreted the piece as the lampooning of feminist rhetoric, activism and activists; even some of Bloody Elbow’s own staff failed to understand it and immediately distanced themselves:

Here is a cached version of the original post, and here is a link to an HTML download of the original post. Since Mike Riordan did such a masterful job illustrating the many ways people like to misinterpret feminist rhetoric, it’s only fair we revisit some of them here:

“From the Desk of the Bloody Elbow Ombudsperson”

People who don’t understand feminism love to mock objections to needlessly gendered terms, especially those describing occupations. They can’t be bothered with considerations such as the factual inaccuracy of calling a woman in the position of ombudsperson an ombudsman, or that the word ‘ombudsperson’ has been around since at least 1974. Including this right in the title sets the stage: we’re about to meet the kind of “feminist” that anti-feminists have paraded for years as a cautionary tale – entitled, man-hating, and ready to be offended at a moment’s notice.

I believe that my education, and richness of experience as a woman, can lend a unique perspective to many hot-button issues touched upon by the reporting here on this blog.

He hit the nail on the head! So often, feminists are presented as humorless, pretentious women who endlessly cite their personal experience as being valid, distinct, and important – a concept absurd to those who refuse to consider feminism as an idea of any merit. Riordan also makes fun of those who might suggest such a perspective would be relevant to Bloody Elbow’s content – and all in a single sentence.

Brent Brookhouse showed his true colors as a member of the Russophobic majority…Brookhouse’s tweets did not just belittle ethnic Russians, but every member of the more than thirteen ethnic groups native to Dagestan, especially the Laks, those poor Laks.

Building on the idea that feminism is considered ludicrous by those who won’t try to understand it, here Riordan illustrates a commonly-used strawman – that feminists will take on any cause, no matter how absurd, as long as someone claims offense or oppression. Or, in this case, if they can find something they believe indicates an underlying bias – which, of course, is usually interpreted as baseless, futile, and not worth taking seriously, because feminists want and like to be offended. Brava.

Unfortunately the American “justice” system requires a plaintiff’s case to meet silly standards like provable falsehood and actual damages in order to sue for defamation/libel.

Feminists! In the name of what’s right, they become unreasonable and refuse to engage in logical discussions, instead jumping straight to inane proposals with no viability and proclamations driven by emotional responses. Because, as the audience they’re mocking believes, any argument made by feminists or in the name of feminism comes from a place of nonsensical irrationality. 

We must not forget that though Romero mercilessly beats his opponents with an awe inspiring arsenal of strikes and unmatched wrestling skills, he is, in actuality, a victim.

That feminism loves a victim and loves finding people it can turn into victims is another fallacy trotted out unceasingly by those who mock the struggle for equality. With a metaphor about power structures, Riordan (as Yang-McDowell) likens his own facetious response in a prior Yoel Romero piece to a tool of oppression, which the feminist immediately pounces on, coming to Romero’s defense with a battle cry of ‘victimized!’ This ties into the above stereotype, as well.

He shows himself as an oppressive woman oppressor, oppressing women with his filthy hate penis.

The very idea of oppression in the present day in the West is one so foreign to the audience Riordan is targeting that they laugh at its mere mention, and indeed, the prevalence of the word in feminist arguments. Feminists keep saying it, even though detractors have made it clear the notion is ridiculous. And then he whips out the biggest stereotype about feminism still popular: that they hate men, and like to cite people being of the male sex/gender as the sole source of their oppression.

Although the piece is gone, Riordan courageously remains strong amidst the backlash.

That said, I did and still find it somewhat funny, and am not the slightest bit sorry for it. If for some reason you found it offensive, then that is your prerogative; I don’t and never will understand your reaction, but you have a right to your feelings…I suppose people who are worked up about what I posted today can now take solace in the fact that I won’t be writing anything else like what I posted today.

He refuses to apologize, only saying how everyone has effectively spoiled his fun by failing to understand his piece. Luckily, with our discerning eye, we know better. We know they were actually mocking the stereotypes presented, but, unsurprisingly, it sailed right over most people’s heads. It really is a travesty of journalism when a writer can’t even experiment with avant-garde satire without being branded sexist. Rest easy, Mike Riordan – we’ve got your back.


Sydnie Jones