What’d I say???

Joshua has a post up on local complaints (his local — Seattle) over a prominent downtown sign for a store that sells high-end doggie items. The name of the store is “High Maintenance Bitch”, and they of course have a large sign out front that prominently stresses the third word of that appellation.

Joshua writes:

“[T]he ‘most progressive liberal person in the world’ is complaining because she’s offended by the word ‘bitch.’ Not for any reason, mind you. The store sells accessories for dogs. Female dogs are bitches. There’s nothing pejorative or inappropriate about the word in this context.”

There was a story a while back about some town in Texas that had a law saying that you couldn’t have food on your signs. (It might have been “illuminated” food signs — basically they were trying to keep the street looking classy and didn’t want Burger King putting up a giant neon hamburger.) This was all well and good until Apple Computer put in their store and of course… the town told them they couldn’t display their logo outside the store because an Apple is food. The argument was complete nonsense in light of the intent of the law.

That is a case where I think Joshua’s argument would hold more merit. Apple’s logo originally (as far as I can tell) was meant to invoke learning, as in “an apple for teacher”. They’ve clearly never had anything to do with food, and the rather understated company logo seems pretty far afield from what the law was intended to block.

In this case, he is technically correct — the store sells stuff for dogs, and a “bitch” is a female dog… BUT clearly this store name is meant to deliberately invoke the meaning of the word in its offensive sense. They didn’t just coincidentally come up with the term “high maintenance bitch” — they’re making a pun off of an offensive slang use of the word, as a deliberately edgy joke; the “I just don’t understand why people are offended” argument is highly disingenuous.

It would be like… I dunno… somebody who sells the machines that pluck chickens putting up a big sign on main street that reads “Cocksuckers”. (Okay, not the greatest analogy, unless the things use vacuum to pluck the birds….) I can see how people would be bothered by this regardless of the literal meaning. Maybe a hardware store touting its low-cost hand tools for smoothing cement could advertise its “Cheap Crack Hoes” in bold letters. (Heh. This could be fun — put further suggestions in comments!)

I’m not a big fan of offensive language — not in the sense of “make it illegal”, certainly; I just mean that I (mostly) don’t use it, and don’t like it when others do. The word “sucks” in particular bugs the… um… heck out of me because it’s an extremely crass term that has somehow been mainstreamed. We’re talking about a fellatio reference… how is it any less offensive than the so-called “f-bomb”? Yet somehow it has made its way onto prime time television and the popular everyday lexicon.

I bring that word up in particular because, coincidentally, I just finished reading a novel entitled “You Suck“. What? No no it’s about vampires, see. I can’t imagine how you could have possibly thought about the word “sucks” in it’s foul language sense. Geez, get your head out of the gutter; what’s wrong with you people?

Yeah. Doesn’t sound very sincere, does it? Yet Joshua just can’t imagine why any reasonable person would be offended by a store called “High Maintenance Bitch” because, well it’s a store for dogs, see….

That being said, I will give him points for an excellent title to his post….

Update: Joshua has taken down his entire blog for personal reasons. That’s unfortunate, because he’s a good writer and frequently had worthwhile posts. For the record, his post to which I refer in this article was titled “For Fuck’s Sake”.

8 Responses to “What’d I say???”

  1. Joshua Says:

    “Yet Joshua just canâ??t imagine why any reasonable person would be offended”

    That’s kind of a disingenuous spin. I did say in that same post, “High Maintenance Bitch isn’t violating that standard. They’re flirting with it. They’re profiting from it. But, by any equitable metric, they’re not violating it.” Clearly I can imagine why a reasonable person would be offended. I can imagine why reasonable people are offended by all kinds of harmless stupid shit. I can imagine why Muslims are offended by womens’ hair. I just also think they’re a pack of assholes.

    What I’m saying is that A) the offended parties, while possibly reasonable, are still a bunch of dicks and B) there’s no objective grounds for complaint. It’s kind of like if you have a band called the Kit Shickers. I can see why someone would be offended by that. But there’s still nothing actionable in the name and people who choose to make a stink in spite of that– especially if the Kit Shickers are somehow benefiting their community, which HMB is –are basically uptight busybodies who are placing their (totally ridiculous) personal aesthetics ahead of the well being of their community.

  2. Joshua Says:

    Or “women’s hair”. Whichever.

  3. Stephen Rider Says:

    Point taken, and a fair criticism.

    There are lots of brand names (and definitely band names) and such that are risqué; I think the complaint centers around having a prominent sign displaying such — the Kit Shickers probably don’t have a big permanent can’t-miss-it retail sign on the main drag. Community standards are just that… the accepted standards of a majority of the people in a community. Some town doesn’t want cheesy looking fast food signs on main street. Fair enough. Somewhere else, people don’t want the word “bitch” prominently displayed. Residents can certainly make the argument — time will tell if the town agrees with them or not.

    You clearly know the neighborhood better than I, (which is to say, I don’t know it at all beyond your description), so if the bitch sign is actually an _improvement_ over what was there before (compared to brothels and such in the 1990s), then I’d say that “bitch” is a relatively silly thing to gripe about. That’s definitely a case of deciding where to draw the line — you’ll never find an “objective” standard for what constitutes offense — it’s like “obscenity: you know it when you see it. So does the other guy.

    (You’ve put my mind in a weird place today…. When I read the phrase “pack of assholes” this image of a retail box marked “Assholes” popped into my head….)

  4. Jeff Harrell Says:

    If you google around, you can find the original Apple logo, which was a ludicrously complex illustration of Isaac Newton sitting beneath an apple tree. So not so much apple-for-the-teacher as unlikely-source-of-inspiration.

  5. Stephen Rider Says:

    Okay, but still… “apple” as a symbol of learning or intelligence, not food. I did say: “Appleâ??s logo originally… was meant to invoke learning….”

    Here it is: the original Apple Computer logo

    Never seen that before — thanks for the tip.

  6. Joshua Says:

    Community standards are just thatâ?¦ the accepted standards of a majority of the people in a community…

    Thatâ??s definitely a case of deciding where to draw the line â?? youâ??ll never find an â??objectiveâ? standard for what constitutes offense â?? itâ??s like â??obscenity: you know it when you see it. So does the other guy.

    Okay, here again– I addressed this.

    Most people are not terribly cogent about what their community standards actually are. This is why lawyers, arguing criminal or civil indecency cases, use current behavior rather than current perceptions of behavior to establish what the community standard is.

    That’s why I mentioned both Dick’s Drive-In and the Erotic Bakery, both of which are on the same main thoroughfare as HMB, both within ten blocks of HMB. The fact is that the neighborhood in question has an existing standard of both public display of “dirty” words in “clean” context and businesses that profit from the perception of indecency or impropriety. Both the businesses I mention are landmarks in the neighborhood. Dick’s has been operating in that location since 1954. The Erotic Bakery has been operating since 1986.

    The existing practices standard is as close to “objective” as the law can get when it comes to “community standards”, and the tool is designed to address norms rather than empowering taboos. By that standard, the “offended” parties in the HMB case are simply– say it with me people –wrong about what their community’s standards are.

  7. Steve B Says:

    How about an express nail salon named, “Quick Hand Jobs?”

    I personally have a real problem with the, eh hm, edgy brand of clothing with the logo “Fcuk.” Not real subtle. Just what I want to be wearing around town.

    Kind of dovetails into your recent post about market determinism. If it really does bother enough people, the brand or the establishment doesn’t get the business, and dies out.

    However (comma), that said, I personally think that a “community” should have some say in the face it presents to the public. If the city council or business leaders want to present a more “family friendly” face — perhaps there’s a lot of senior citizens or young kids in the town — then posting provocative monikers with “Bitch” or “Fcuk” on a mainstreet window can and should be censored. IMHO.

  8. Stephen Rider Says:

    heh. A job agency for horn players called “Blow Jobs” maybe? So many “job” jokes; so little time….

    I guess I hadn’t noticed “Fcuk” — though how many thirteen-year-old girls are running around with “Juicy” emblazoned across their asses? How many mothers are buying this crap for their little darlings?

    As to the community having some say, that was basically my argument, though as Joshua pointed out, that particular community already has some provocative businesses in the same area, such as the erotic bakery.

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