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(Updated) The Onion Should Know Better than to Call a 9-Year-Old Girl a ‘Cunt’

(Updated below)

I typically love The Onion‘s satirical take on, well, everything. But tonight during the Acadamy Awards the person in charge of  The Onion‘s twitter feed said something so offensive, it has been deleted. I figured it wouldn’t be up for long so I took a screen shot:

the onion

The Onion is referring to Oscar Nominee Quvenzhané Wallis, nominated for her role as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild. 

I get it. Seth MacFarlane hosted the Oscars and pissed everyone and their mother off as he proved to be a bigger douche than we could have ever imagined. Each time he opened his mouth viewers were treated to a lazy joke laced with sexism, racism, homophobia or all three. Still, what on earth made The Onion think it would ever under any circumstances be funny to call a 9-year-old child such a nasty, sexual term in response? Not to mention the racial context, which is impossible to ignore given how the media already inappropriately sexualizes young girls of color, stripping away their innocence in the eyes of the general public. The Onion, whether they meant to or not, perpetuated that sexualization.

I don’t care who they were trying to mock, The Onion leapt way over the line.

UPDATE: The Onion has apologized for the tweet in a Facebook post:

Dear Readers,

On behalf of The Onion, I offer my personal apology to Quvenzhané Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the tweet that was circulated last night during the Oscars. It was crude and offensive—not to mention inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire, however biting.

No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire.

The tweet was taken down within an hour of publication. We have instituted new and tighter Twitter procedures to ensure that this kind of mistake does not occur again.

In addition, we are taking immediate steps to discipline those individuals responsible.

Miss Wallis, you are young and talented and deserve better. All of us at The Onion are deeply sorry.

Sincerely,

Steve Hannah
CEO
The Onion

Good on them for acknowledging that they were wrong. Now that that’s over with, I’d like to address some of the arguments being made in defense of The Onion’s tweet.

First off, stop mansplaining to us the purpose of The Onion‘s tweet. We get it! It was an attempt at satire given the sexist, racist, homophobic comedy on display at the Oscars. We are fully aware that The Onion doesn’t actually think Quvenzhané Wallis a “cunt” but was mocking the Awards. We’re not idiots. We’re pissed that a 9-year-old, regardless of the intention, was exploited in such a sick way for laughs.

Second of all, certain people are making this about free speech. Yes, The Onion is free to say whatever the fuck they want no matter how inappropriate and I support their right to do so. I also support the publics right to freely express their disgust with said comment. So, concern trolls, stop acting like people are demanding a law be passed banning usage of the word “cunt” in reference to children. How ironic that some people are invoking free speech to try and shut down the public expression.

Lastly, others are upset that I’ve made this about race as if making an issue about the comment being used against a black girl is equivalent to saying it’s acceptable to call a 9-year-old white girl a “cunt”. I didn’t think I had to announce this but apparently I do: No child, no matter the race, deserves to be called a “cunt”. But let’s be honest, it’s difficult to imagine the media treating a white girl actress the same way.

My friend Arturo Garcia detailed at Racialicious all the crap  Quvenzhané Wallis had to deal with last night Read this and then tell me race isn’t an issue:

First, there was an Associated Press — Associated Press! — reporter on the red carpet before the show allegedly telling Wallis, “I’m gonna call you Annie,” instead of by her given name, for which the reporter was quickly and rightfully corrected. In another bizarre outburst, model Chrissy Teigen saw fit to call her “a brat.”

Then Oscars host Seth McFarlane chose to involve her in a joke about George Clooney’s supposed preference for younger women, saying, “To give you an idea of how young she is, it’ll be about 16 years before she’s too old for Clooney.” Of course, there were more “jokes” where that came from throughout the evening.

And then came The Onion to steal the spotlight from him. Again: This is a nine-year-old girl. And these people think they have license to be “edgy” with her. Forget that it was an awards show.

It’s encouraging to note that not only were progressives and media critics up in arms over The Onion’s colossal misfire, but actors like Wendell Pierce, LeVar Burton and Marlee Matlin also publicly called the site out over it. Our own Kendra James had these thoughts late Sunday night:

When I saw The Onion’s tweet, I immediately shook my head in disgust, trying to think back to the time when they’d showered the same type of “satire” on Dakota Fanning after her breakout performance in  I Am Sam. Failing at that, I attempted to lament over the incident when her sister, Elle, was referred to as a future date for George Clooney. No?  How about the time when Anna Paquin walked the red carpet for The Piano and media reduced her to nothing but a sex object on legs? Well, what about when an E! reporter told Abigail Breslin that she was just going to call her Olive, because Abigail was too much to remember?

You’re struggling, and it’s cool, because we all know those moments don’t exist. And for young, white ingenues they never will. White children have a value, a cache in our society that Quvenzhane Wallis wouldn’t have even if her name were Sarah Jane Smith. It goes so, far beyond the fork in the road her name puts a white tongue through. Yes, she can be Annie but on any given day in White America, Oscar Nominated or not, Quvenzhane isn’t seen as having any more societal worth and importance than a Minny. Calling a nine year old that word for over 4 million followers, and being dismissive of her given name, all while hypersexualising her is just further proof of that.

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45 Comments
  1. Lynda M O #

    Yes, they did and I wonder how they will respond to the charges ?~!

    February 25, 2013
  2. chill #

    Who calls a child a cunt.. ever? And who would actually mean it? It’s absurd and unexpected, that’s why it’s funny.
    Plus the fact that there is people that will get so amazingly butthurt about it definitely adds to it.

    By overreacting, you guys somehow make it both more amusing, and more of an issue.

    February 25, 2013
    • Love #

      how is it amusing?! it is quite disgusting if you ask me. And more absurd that you would find humor in degrading a 9year. SICK!

      February 25, 2013
  3. Calling her a cunt has nothing to do with race, quit playing the race card!

    February 25, 2013
    • Jeff Clark #

      Good call, the race of the child has nothing to do with this. Would you be running the commentary if the child was white?

      February 25, 2013
    • Jane Lane #

      You read this and that’s all you took away from it? Good show, sir. I notice that you have nothing to actually rebut what was said about it, but you keep fighting that good fight and pretending like people just scream about racism to upset you.

      February 25, 2013
      • Jeff Clark #

        It wasn’t racism. It was an incredibly stupid and hurtful thing to say, period.

        February 25, 2013
  4. HANG EM!

    February 25, 2013
    • i think he means the onion..?

      February 25, 2013
  5. Paki #

    And 266 Cunts re tweeted that

    February 25, 2013
  6. So now U can plainly see who the leaders are and who the “Followers” are…The Onion should learn how to lead and not follow…

    February 25, 2013
  7. Sean in AZ #

    Eh, I thought it was funny – and what’s more important, they have a right to say it. If you don’t like their humor, then stop following them; then your delicate sensibilities will continue intact and unruffled. Grow up.

    February 25, 2013
    • slice #

      @Sean

      Shut up,troll. Next!

      February 25, 2013
  8. N #

    If you think calling little girls cunts is funny there’s something wrong with you.

    February 25, 2013
  9. Yes, the Constitution protects free speech and a free press. But freedom is not excuse for saying whatever hurtful thought pops into your head. This was beneath the Onion – and they know it themselves, or they would not have pulled the Tweet.

    February 25, 2013
    • Jeff Clark #

      True. Rania, why was the child’s race mentioned by you? Are you under the assumption that if the child was white, the comment wouldn’t have been made?

      February 25, 2013
      • slice #

        @Jeff

        You know damn well that if that child was white, and had a so-called “normal” (i.e. “white” name) she wouldn’t even have been called that in the first place. When’s the last time you actually heard a little white girl being referred to as a body part? Can’t even remember if that’s ever happened,huh? No,you can’t. And,yes, it’s not an assumption,it’s a fact that if she white, that disrespectful and nasty comment would not even have been thought of. Apparently you’re of these white people who think that racism just somehow magically disappeared since we elected a black president—no,it didn’t, and it never will as long as people keep perpetuating it.

        February 25, 2013
  10. In today’s culture, humor is that is vulgar and vicious is often passed off as ‘funny’ – and this trend needs to stop ASAP. Respecting boundaries of race, culture, gender and the like are frequently overstepped if not violated for a quick laugh (might equate to making a quick buck).

    If you make a joke about something so demeaning and dehumanizing (like what The Onion said), you are attempting to pass off what is otherwise a misogynistic statement under the guise of a ‘joke’.

    The ‘humor’ twist is only used as a wedge to express hatred of women (race, class, the like, etc.) but tries to deceive the listener into thinking ‘it’s all good b/c after all, it’s only a JOKE. It’s not serious.’ Herein lies the very problem (abusing humor to express hateful statements).

    February 25, 2013
    • NYT (Blog) “The Onion Apologizes for Tweet about Quvenzhané Wallis” http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/25/the-onion-apologizes-for-tweet-about-quvenzhane-wallis/

      Hint hint: Higher standards includes NOT using hateful words towards ANY group!

      February 25, 2013
    • slice #

      @Thinksparks

      That is SO true! Thank you for breaking it down for what it really is! Especially now that a lot of folk seem to think we’re so “post-racial” that making sexist and racist jokes is no big deal—unless you’re the butt of said jokes. Some comedians (especially white comedians like Lisa Lampanelli,Sarah Silverman,and Ralphie May) think they’re being “edgy” and “different” by making these same racist jokes—-the reality is, is that they’re just spouting out the same racist BS that has been around since this country started–there’s absolutely nothing new,edgy or unique/different about it. It’s all too easy for people to blow off these jokes as being harmless—until you’re the constant focus of such jokes (which the average white person NEVER is) and it’s the mentality behind those kind of jokes that has a direct effect on how minorities and women are treated in the workplace and in society in general–it always has,in fact—that’s a sobering reality

      February 25, 2013
  11. Jacqueline E. #

    As the mother of a beautiful 33-year old daughter, under NO circumstances is it ever appropriate for an adult to call a 9-year old child (race unimportant) a “cunt.” This was not a joke and this was not funny. It was hateful, insensitive, divisive, and in poor taste. This truly crosses the line of decency and common sense.

    February 25, 2013
  12. Javi #

    A very interesting response. Appears that “cunt” is the last unspeakable obscenity left in our mangled English dialect. Personally I think “bitch” would have been more inappropriate given the history of that word with African American women. I thought the phrasing of the tweet was well done, especially the “kind of” set up.

    Obviously, w/ the onion name attached the immediate takeaway is that the opposite is true. That is where the humor lies. But it sounds like ppl’s issue w/ the tweet was the use of a vulgar term w/ a child.

    But if that is really the issues where is the uproar when a child is referred to as “a little fucker”. Hell, Ben stiller made a horribly unfunny movie w/ that phrase “little fockers”.

    Well it’s good to know there is a still a word out there that can still offend. I am sure comedians and their fans will wear at its shock value in a couple of years.

    February 25, 2013
  13. Michael #

    Now if this were a black magazine and we so happen to call a white person or child a cracker or a Honkie this would be a whole differnt story. There is a history behind this word. We can try and act like racism does not exsist anymore, but it still does.

    February 25, 2013
    • Javi #

      Enlighten me, what’s the connection between “cunt” and racism. I maybe horribly uninformed, but I always saw “cunt” as a general vulgarity. In fact I always saw it as having an English tinge. U hear British comedians use it a lot.

      February 25, 2013
      • Max #

        First of all, “cunt” is not a “general vulgarity.” A general vulgarity is “damn,” “shit,” “piss,” “fuck.” All of those words do not hold gender implications. As for race, black people have been sexually exploited since we imported them. Our society still assigns them an objective value based on their physical strength (football or basketball or house cleaning or yard work for example) or how entertaining they are (rapping, dancing, acting as a convict or maid in a movie). So when you apply an outright offensive sexist term to someone who is already objectified, you’ve doubly insulted the person by 1) perpetuating the sexualization, which is gender objectification, and 2) perpetuating the stereotype of the race or ethnicity that the person belongs to. It’s not funny when it’s said to an adult, and it’s especially sick to call a child that. I hope that you’re not as disrespectful and demeaning as the Onion. Race and gender play complex roles in American society, and neither provides an equal playing field for those who are women or colored.

        February 25, 2013
      • Javi #

        Actually cunt is used in Britian for both men and women, i.e. “he’s a funny cunt”.

        “Fuck” should actually be considered a more offensive word as its origins imply at the very least a forceful sexual penetration. But it’s been used for longer and thus it’s offensiveness has dulled with use.

        There is no racial connation to the use of the word cunt. Following your logic any use of vulgarity in mentioning a person of color is racist. That may make for an interesting term paper, but it would be absurd to go through life from that perspective. It would be impossible to enjoy almost all popular entertainment. Maybe that is your point, but I doubt that the majority of the people criticizing the onion are embracing such an extreme stance.

        It’s funny I just got done listening to This American Life’s Harper High podcast. That is a story that should have ppl outraged. That we allow our children to live in such conditions. Yet instead we have ppl worked up over a satiric tweet.

        February 26, 2013
        • “That is a story that should have ppl outraged. That we allow our children to live in such conditions.”

          You might want to ask WHY we allow kids to live in such deplorable conditions and WHO those kids are. Students at Harper High School in Chicago are predominantly black.

          Perhaps there is a connection between how we treat our children and how we speak about them.

          Racial indifference towards kids of color—whether it’s not caring when someone calls one of them a “cunt” or ignoring the gun violence that’s killing them and their friends—is all the same. You have to address all of it if you want things to change.

          February 26, 2013
      • Javi #

        It’s no where near the same. It’s sad that you would even say that. Because it shows how easily distracted people are from focusing on the true problems in our society. It is so easy to hammer the onion for an ill advised tweet rather than try to get ppl to stop ignoring the state of our inner cities. Easy victories make for lazy efforts.

        A 9 year old up for an Oscar being referenced in a joke, is not the same thing as the blind eye we turn to kids being shot in our cities everyday. If you try to say that it is, all it does is cause people outside of those who agree with you to dismiss you as crying racism for everything that occurs in life.

        Thus, when you accurately point out that the neglect of our inner cities is a product of racism, you are ignored b/c you spent all your credibility on getting the onion to apologize for a joke.

        That may make you feel better but it does nothing to support the cause you purport to espouse.

        February 26, 2013
        • Have you even read my work? If you think all I blog about is racist jokes then you’re clueless. I’m constantly raising hell about indifference towards racial injustice. I write one blog post about a disgusting joke that should have never been made and all of a sudden I’m part of the problem?

          If you disagree with my take on this, that’s fine but your concern trolling tells me that you’d rather waste your time mansplaining to racial justice blogger than actually doing something to help the people you purportedly care so much about.

          Btw, I never said mean words and gun violence are the same, just that racial indifference has many levels that are related.

          February 26, 2013
      • Javi #

        Ha, I see you’ve grouped my w/ that idiot Tim for your twitter followers. I forgot that these blogs were meant for ppl to pay themselves on the back, not to actually examine the issue.

        I’m not a troller, I actually respected your posting so I took the time to respond. But I see now that I wasted my time, if you operate by the logic that everything is racist the world is a much simpler place. And it is much easier to dismiss anyone who defends a joke as a mansplainer than actually address their points.

        Ironically that perfectly explains the point I was trying to make earlier about allowing yourself to be easily dismissed as “playing the race card”.

        February 26, 2013
  14. Tim #

    Quit building up these strawmen about race. Quit assuming people are putting race into every god damn slight. The joke was made because its absurd to think someone actually think’s a 9 year-old a cunt. She is exact opposite of a CUNT. THE exact opposite. This is why the joke was written, and why it worked. It wasn’t taken down by the author, it was taken down by higher ups because of people like you who want a pedestal to pimp out their blogs.

    February 26, 2013
  15. Tim #

    But lets face it, only cunts don’t like the word cunt. :P

    February 26, 2013
  16. Tim #

    What I’m trying to say, by being a race baiter, you’re a cunt. Just stop it.

    February 26, 2013
  17. bdure #

    Just one issue: You took the number of retweets and favorites as evidence that a lot of people found The Onion’s name-calling acceptable. That’s not necessarily true. People sometimes retweet things as a means of responding. It’s not necessarily endorsing.

    Same with favoriting. “Favorite” is actually a bad term. It’s really bookmarking. I often “favorite” tweets as a reminder to myself to come back to it. In this case, surely a lot of people favorited the tweet to see what would happen.

    I can see where The Onion’s tweeter was trying to go. It reminded me of a documentary on the Lilith Fair in which Sarah McLachlan made a funny face and said, “Oh, the Indigo Girls are just such bitches!” She actually loves Indigo Girls and was saying that to be sarcastic.

    But they missed. Badly. In the context of the Lilith Fair documentary, it would’ve been impossible to take McLachlan’s comment seriously. On Twitter, it comes across as mean.

    And I’m not a fan of that word in any context. Other profanity doesn’t bother me, but that’s just too much.

    February 26, 2013
  18. KMack #

    Excellent article, the hyper-sexualization of Black women and girls is a pressing problem (crisis) in America- you are 100% correct to say that her race mediated the way she was treated by media. I applaud your commitment to race/ gender justice.

    February 26, 2013
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