What’s With That: D. Tosh, Higgs boson, and Skinny Gurl

What’s with the news: By now you’ve probably heard about the controversy Daniel Tosh caused at the Laugh Factory in LA recently. If you haven’t, I’d first like to thank you for pulling your head out of the sand long enough to read my column. Really means a lot.

There are a couple different accounts of what happened. One has Tosh bringing up the issue of rape himself and then outright suggesting that audience members gang rape a heckler. The other has a different audience member responding to Tosh’s call for joke ideas by suggesting rape, followed by Tosh pontificating on a female audience member’s experience with rape based on her aversion to the idea of a rape joke.

Since then you cannot get people to shut up about this guy. Bloggers, comedians and members of the Internet mass have stepped out in retaliation against both the outrage directed toward Tosh as well as his contributions to rape culture.

The Sacramento-based California Coalition Against Sexual Assault called Tosh’s rant, “another example of misogynistic and callous attitude and behavior aimed at silencing women and survivors of sexual assault and rape – not to mention making light of sexual violence overall.”

In short, a lot of people are very, very angry.

Open just a bit wider, sir. We’re not quite sure your foot is going to fit.

What’s with us: Cheryl “The Soccer Mom” Anderson is a local comedian and founder of the stand-up group “The Real (funny) Housewives of Rio Linda”. She agreed to weigh in with her thoughts.

“Comedians are inappropriate by definition,” she said via email with the Sacramento Press. “Whether it was or wasn’t the right thing to say isn’t relevant. Comedians try different jokes and reactions to hecklers. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Comedians have the responsibility to say what they’re thinking and it’s up to the audience to decide whether or not they want to listen. If they don’t like it, they can leave quietly.”

“Comedians aren’t speaking from a position of authority. They’re pointing out absurdities, irony and sometimes just being silly,” Anderson continued. “People have to know that when they enter a comedy club they may hear outrageous things. Comedians are going to say things that are stupid, unpopular, ill-informed, and brilliant, insightful … Comedians have to fail in order to perfect the material. If society insists that certain topics are off-limits, and if they microanalyze everything someone says, then we’ll miss a lot of great material.”

“On the other hand,” she said in closing, “If people hate what he said, they should stop watching his show and not buy tickets to see him live, that is perfectly justified. They shouldn’t try to stop others who might enjoy him though. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all in comedy. What is hilarious to one person is horrible to another.”

Here are just two of my 8 million cents:  The thing about being an artist – and this is whether you are crafting a joke, releasing a novel, or displaying your interpretation of the Venus de Milo eating a hamburger – is that once your art is released to the public, the next step is public discourse. Art creates dialogue. Your burger-guzzling Venus de Milo might make a bunch of people feel fat. They may hate you for it, boycott your gallery openings, proclaim you a hack from the tops of their lungs. Tough potatoes, that’s the biz you’re in. People might find your joke both utterly devoid of creativity AND repugnantly misogynistic, and they might take to the proverbial streets to talk about it – loudly.  They should.

What’s with the news: Earlier this month, CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) put out a press release that got not only the attention of the scientific community, but the media at large.

According to CERN, “ICHEP2012 in Melbourne, the ATLAS and CMS experiments presented their latest preliminary results in the search for the long sought Higgs particle. Both experiments observe a new particle in the mass region around 125-126 GeV.”

Awesome! And also…what?

Since then the media has been all atwitter over the discovery of the so-called “God particle”. I for one don’t understand a lick of it, but I gather that it’s pretty important.

What’s with us: Luckily James Dolen, a Ph.D. student at UC-Davis studying high energy particle physics and member of the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoi — say that three times fast) experiment at CERN was kind enough to break it down for all of us.

“The atom is composed of protons, neutrons and electrons,” said Dolen, “And protons and neutrons are composed of other particles (electrons are fundamental, meaning they cannot be broken down into other particles). The proton and neutron are composed of quarks … We also believe that the quarks are fundamental. The Higgs is a separate particle that is not contained within the proton or neutron.”

“The Higgs boson is a fundamental particle just like quarks and electrons. Most importantly we think that particles such as quarks and electrons acquire mass by interacting with the Higgs particle. We have a mathematical model which for the past 30 years has done an excellent job of predicting the particle properties and their interactions, but the model can only explain particle mass if the Higgs particle exists.”

Three cheers for mass acquisition!

But why the “God particle”?

“Physicists really dislike that name!” Dolen responded. “The term originated when physicist Leon Lederman wrote a book called ‘The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question?’ The story goes that he wanted to call the book ‘The Goddamned Particle’ because the particle was so hard to detect, but his editor changed the name to ‘The God Particle.’ Within the field of physics people refer to the particle as the Higgs particle.”

In closing Dolen added, “It’s a big piece of the puzzle in explaining how the universe works. Without Higgs the universe would not have stars, planets or atoms, and the particles in the universe would be very different.”

So to recap, we can’t really prove the existence of God, but we are starting to figure out why patio furniture can be so cumbersome. Congratulations, you’ve all just earned your Ph.D. in Laymen’s Physics. (No, that’s not really a thing. Please don’t send me angry emails.)

What’s with the news: Heard of Skinny Gurl? It’s an anonymously written mainstream fashion blog that focuses on weight issues in the fashion industry. “Oh,” you’re thinking, “Another redundant rant about emaciated models launching an epidemic of body dysmorphia. So late 90s.”

Not really. Skinny Gurl lauds the now standard body frame of high-end fashion models, and takes every opportunity to ridicule full-figured models and what she sees as the “Fat Pride” trend.

Unfortunately for Skinny Gurl, her blog garnered attention from Reddit followers, which led to a DDoS attack on her site that forced her to change hosts. On July 8 she issued “Some Changes” to her site while apologizing out of one side of her mouth and defending herself from the other.

But what does it mean, not only that there is an incredibly mainstream site designed solely to keeping plus-size women out of fashion, but also that said site has so incensed the Internet community that it was attacked, and the blogger in question attempted concession?

What’s with us: Latonya Williams in the founder of Sacramento-based full-figured and plus-size modeling agency Contour Jewlz. She is also in the process of starting her own nonprofit geared toward full-figured women empowerment, and she was kind enough to share her thoughts regarding Skinny Gurl and the evolving role of plus-size women in fashion.

You must be this wide to wear clothing for profit.

Regarding the massive backlash against Skinny Gurl, Wiliams replied, "I believe that this forum received so much publicity because of the vicious way that she attacked plus-size women. The reality of the United States today is that plus size-women are the majority. In the modeling world, high fashion models are deemed plus-size if they are above a size eight. In society it is custom to be considered plus if you are size twelve and above. Here is a woman who has probably never been overweight, and so has absolutely no idea why or how others are this way. I bet if she took the time to interview several plus-size women, she would find out that they each have a story behind their size."

"I don’t think that ‘Skinny Gurl’ nor her fans understand the statement, ‘big is beautiful’ or the ‘Plus-Size Trend’ as one reader put it," said Williams.  "The entire mission behind the plus-size movement is self love. We are finally openly saying, ‘I have curves and I’m proud and I love them.’  This was not accepted by society until recently. I definitely do not think that she would have gotten the same response ten or fifteen years ago.  We have to make a stand and a place for ourselves in the media – they are not going to just open the door for us. We have to keep pushing for our rights in the fashion world. "

Though Williams did agree on a few points.  "I agree with Skinny Gurl that health should be a priority, and that society should not have the attitude that it is all right to be obese or unhealthy. I also agree that society views commenting on a plus-size woman’s weight as unacceptable, but will openly ridicule a thinner woman about her weight, by questioning her well-being."

"My company’s creed is: ‘Women of all sizes should be celebrated & have the opportunity to model’," Williams said in closing.  "I truly believe this.  All sizes are beautiful, no one size is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, although there are cases where a woman can either be too thin or too big and health becomes a major issue. It is true that most plus-size women would like to lose a little weight, whether it be five or fifty pounds. But our beauty is not defined by those pounds.  We are beautiful just the way we are, and that is the whole point of the Plus-Size Movement."

Hear that ladies?  Eat your veggies and WORK.IT.


Each week "What’s With That" will find local experts from the Sacramento area to weigh in on national and international news stories.  Stumble across an interesting item?  Wondering, "what’s WITH that?"  Email whatswiththat.sacramentopress@gmail.com with your ideas!

Conversation Express your views, debate, and be heard with those in your area closest to the issue. RSS Feed

July 19, 2012 | 10:19 AM

From what I can tell, a lot more people are upset about what Tosh O. stated about raping the heckler, but he doesn’t seem to be too bothered by it. Didn’t sound like he issued an apology or backed off of his comments. Some jokes just aren’t funny.

July 19, 2012 | 1:43 PM

Regarding Tosh, any publicity is good publicity!

July 19, 2012 | 2:32 PM

This article is great! I definitely look forward to reading the future ones!! I have actually enjoyed Tosh’s comedy in the past. Its a little awkward, yet funny. I think that he just needs to learn his boundaries…

July 19, 2012 | 3:14 PM

I totally agree, Latonya. I think that, as Cheryl Anderson said, we can’t demand censorship because we’ll miss out on great art. At the same time, people reserve the right to cause a stir when they feel things have gone to far. It’s a system of checks and balances, and ultimately leads to some interesting discussion!

Article Author
July 21, 2012 | 9:28 AM

Making fund of horrific situations, like the Holocaust, is par for the course for comedians. However, a good comedian will make fun of the oppressor not the oppressed. If Tosh wants to go down the road of joking about the oppressed, then that’s his career-damaging choice.

July 24, 2012 | 9:46 AM

“Rape culture”? My studies of multiculturalism missed that one.

July 24, 2012 | 3:24 PM

The term “rape culture” is used to discuss attitudes toward rape and sexual violence in our society, and the impact this dialogue has on the crime itself, how it’s handled in the courts, and to speculate on how it impacts the incidents of rape that are versus those that are not reported. I didn’t make it up – I swear!

Article Author
July 24, 2012 | 12:50 PM

Rape Culture is the recent phenomena of rappers plaguerising electronic dance music rhythms. Thus, “Rap E” Culture will dominate music award shows and ringtone downloads until the next disingenuous art form replaces it.

July 24, 2012 | 2:40 PM

Great column, Allison! I disagree with JimMichael (“A good comedian will make fun of the oppressor not the oppressed.”) No, a politically correct comedian will make fun of whomever he or she identifies as the oppressor, but a GOOD comedian will make fun of life. (But take heart, Jim. Tosh’s humor is usually at the expense of people who have been emotionally and/or physically injured, often seriously injured — but most often, he is making fun of the injuries of males. Personally, I don’t like him. So, I don’t watch him.)

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