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AMANDA PALMER WANTS TO SHOCK YOU. Just Don’t Get Upset About It, ‘Kay?

Hey, everybody: it’s story time!

So, I don’t like Amanda Palmer. The idea of her, I mean! Obviously, I don’t know the woman. Maybe if we met we would braid each other’s hair and trade favorite Lucille Clifton poems; who knows, really? But this, this not-liking-the-idea-of-Amanda-Palmer, has been a contentious issue in my life, it turns out. A lot of feminists really do like her. They like that she is a survivor of sexual assault who has gone public with this information; that she has had an abortion, and talks about that as well; that she did that whole slightly-convex-belly-awareness campaign; that she doesn’t shave her armpits; that she seems, in some manner, deeply unconcerned with what anyone else thinks of her, and deeply devoted to doing what she likes how she likes when she likes it; that this is, in some manner, “feminist” or at the very least kind of healthy, compared to the other things ladies in the public eye tend to do.

These are good points! Fine points! However: we need to clarify. When I talk about not liking (the idea of) Amanda Palmer? I’m talking about shit like this.

Yes, Amanda Palmer has found an exciting new band, “Evelyn Evelyn,” to nurture and hand-hold and bring into the spotlight. This band is composed of conjoined twins who (a) have separate names, but prefer to be called by the same name, (b) fear all publicity so much that Amanda Palmer has to personally shield and protect them from it (and give them a record contract, because that helps them to avoid publicity…??? No words, just punctuation marks, this is what I’m thinking), (c) are child-porn survivors, (d) used to be in a circus, and (e) have really detailed descriptions of their disability written by one Amanda Palmer on her professional Internet website, because this is fascinating, and also apparently their marketing gimmick.

Also? These twins are fictional. They are played by Amanda Palmer and her friend Jason Webley. Leaving aside all of the many many issues here for just one moment, I invite you to revel with me in this amazing fact: Amanda Palmer actually is in a position to locate new and unknown bands, support their work, and help them to achieve their goals. And the remarkable new unknown band she has decided to do this incredible favor for contains Amanda Palmer.

Yeah, I thought that might be fun for you, too!

But, beyond that, yes: obviously, this is fucked-up on every level you can fuck a thing up. She’s trivializing childhood sexual abuse, by using it as a way to spice up what would otherwise be a still-pretty-ridiculous concept band; she’s trivializing the way disabled people are marginalized, stared, mocked at, and defined as Other, which would appear to be the entire concept of the concept band; she’s releasing a song “by conjoined twins,” which is a cover, and which would appear to be “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”

“Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Conjoined twins. “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”

Because she’s fucking ARTISTICAL, that’s why. Stop questioning it! Give in! Give in to the outrageous artisticality of Amanda Palmer!

But that’s not what I want to focus on, for the moment. What I would like to focus on is her response. Which is, from her very artistical and outrageous Twitter: “setting aside 846 emails and removing the disabled feminists from her mental periphery, @amandapalmer sat down to plan her next record.”

So, the disabled feminists were on the periphery, Amanda Palmer? Like, on the margins, sort of? And you want to get them out of there? You want to, like, marginalize them even further? Yeah, okay. I just wanted to be clear, Amanda Palmer! That is all!

Because here is the deal: the armpits, the belly-awareness, the blog posts in defense of your right to do what you want with your body and your lyrical content, sure. I won’t say it means nothing, per se. It means something, insofar as your fans might take some inspiration from it, might assign their own meanings to it. But you? You don’t get to claim credit for that. You appear, with one fell Tweet, to have debunked the idea that this was about anything other than you.

Because, here’s the thing: if these issues actually matter to you, if other people actually matter to you, then you pay fucking attention and care about issues that don’t directly affect you. Yes, Amanda Palmer, even issues pertaining to people with disabilities! I don’t know if you thought disabled people were so very rare on this Planet Earth that there were none of them in your audience to hurt. Perhaps you thought people with disabilities (or, you know, child-porn survivors: I can’t get over the child-porn thing, how it’s just thrown in there like a fun little Cracker Jack prize to make the project more amusing, instead of being a pretty serious thing that actually happens to actual people who suffer from it immensely and every day of their lives – child pornography, for the sake of our Sweet Lord Baby Jesus) were fabulous mythical creatures, like unicorns, that you got to repurpose for your own personal entertainment. But, you know, apparently they aren’t! Apparently some of them are, or were, fans of yours! And apparently you screwed up on this one! Because this isn’t an experience, like abortion or rape or having a stomach or armpits, that  you own. This is an experience that you are dressing up in, for fun. And some people had understandable problems with that. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the history of entertainment, it’s that non-marginalized people who dress up as marginalized people for entertainment purposes tend not to make those marginalized people terribly happy, so you could have foreseen this. But you didn’t, so you got called out. And apparently you responded, not by thinking about it, not by thoughtfully defending your position or explaining yourself or making it a goal to re-tool this project so that it doesn’t hurt people this way, but by complaining about the number of e-mails you got and “removing” them from your “mental periphery.”

Which doesn’t work. It doesn’t, and I’m sorry, and I sure do hope you can get over that fact. But this “feminism” thing: it’s not for some people, it’s not for you specifically, it’s not a fun little badge you get to slap onto your actions when it suits you. It is a system of carefully worked-out thought, which has been developed for many, many years by many thousands of people, and one of the most unavoidable parts of this system, which we can’t get away from if we are thinking for even a second with any ounce of intellectual rigor or honesty, is that everybody matters. Everybody matters precisely as much as you do. Which is why you don’t get to use them as a means of gratifying yourself with attention when the attention is good, or deny them the right to be heard or respected when the attention is bad.

Feminists disagree all the time; feminists screw things up all the time. Nobody is denying your right to disagree, or to make mistakes. But if you’re going to disagree, you’d better have a good argument to back it up, and you’d better be able to handle disagreement. If you’re going to make mistakes, you’d better be ready to say that they were mistakes, and to correct them.

Some of the reasons I once had for disliking (the idea of) you were mistakes, Amanda Palmer! It’s none of my business who you date or what you wear, but once I thought it was, and that was fucked-up! I officially don’t care about how you dress, or your personal life, or even your music because it is not to my taste and I never listen to it, Amanda Palmer! I might think that this Onion headline is a dark and prescient glimpse into your future, but whatevs! I don’t pay attention, except when you execute tomfoolery along these lines, so why should I care? Sorry for acting like it was my business, Amanda Palmer.

See? I just owned up to it, just like that. Doesn’t make me a better person, or erase the fact that I once disliked (the idea of) you for bullshit tabloid reasons, but it means I’m trying. And you seem to be… not. You seem, from the evidence supplied by your Internet media presence, to be petulant about the very idea of trying. Which, as a person who tries, and would like more people to try, does make this sort of my concern.

As I said at the top of the post: you really do seem “deeply unconcerned with what anyone else thinks of you, and deeply devoted to doing what you like how you like when you like it.” And good luck with that. I mean it. But if you carry over that attitude into conversations like these… well. It’s not evidence of how cute or outrageous or artistical or “feminist” you are any more. It’s just one more way you, and this project, have failed.

[UPDATE: Amanda Palmer has posted a response that is longer than 140 characters. This is what I was hoping she would do, so: good for her! I'm not totally sure how I feel about all the response, but then, this is complicated by the fact that I just don't know how to feel about Amanda Palmer. It has a lot of that society-and-everyone-else-is-out-to-get-Amanda-Palmer thing that makes me want to sit her down and do an intervention sometimes. "I make people angry!" "People love to judge!" Yes, honey, I bet they sure do, but if you are a shock artist - and there is nothing inherently wrong with that, people do that, Bob Flanagan did it more than you - you are courting this reaction, so does it really make sense to get all wounded when you "shock" them by doing something that crosses a line? In summary, I think of Amanda Palmer as the girl who would come over to your house, take a shit on your couch, and then make a self-righteous speech when you got angry about it, along the lines of, "man, you are such a conformist! Society tells you we have to use bathrooms, and you just fall for it, man! Not me! Couches are for sitting and shitting! Why do you hate me for not doing what society tells me to do?" Regardless, there might be some substance in here - there is also, I think, some (better) substance in Jason Webley's post on the subject - so if you can read anything Amanda Palmer writes without getting a massive irritation headache, be my guest.]


  1. storywh0re wrote:

    Please, Neil, don’t write the book for this one; please, Neil, don’t write the book for this one…

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Permalink
  2. LP wrote:

    I completely agree with SW. I tend to love Amanda Palmer. I adore Neil. I am, however, going to hold out my eternally optimistic hope that she will read some of her 835 emails and think about what she’s doing and do a 180? And if she doesn’t do that soon, my voice will be added to those emails. I feel like the automatic first responce to criticism of something that you’ve poured your heart and soul into is to dismiss the criticizer because you’ve spent so much time with this project – it can’t be THAT bad, can it? And then after a bit when the sting cools, it’s easier to look at the criticisms and hopefully, fix it.

    (and yes, I know it is probably immature and juvenile to assume that just because I admire and respect someone that they will always do the right thing but in this case I would like to hold out some hope for a little bit longer?)

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Permalink
  3. belmanoir wrote:

    I couldn’t even get through that entire blog post. It makes me feel sick. (Not yours, obviously. Her fake one about Evelyn Evelyn. UGH. Just ugh.)

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Permalink
  4. hn wrote:

    it seems to have become even worse since she went solo from the Dresden Dolls, this childish in-your-face forced-punk attitude. (And I largely suspect it’s because she now makes more money with it…)

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink
  5. JMS wrote:

    So she’s removing the suppressive persons from her mental periphery? Huh.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Permalink
  6. Maevele wrote:

    she claims to be working on a blog posting concerning it, so I’mn holding onto a shred of hope

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink
  7. Irised wrote:

    And then there’s this …

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Permalink
  8. Irised wrote:

    Augh; posted that too quickly, should have said what I was linking to. Which is: a blog post about Amanda Palmer stimulating sexual assault/rape on stage. (it just links to video rather than give details)

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink
  9. Goddammit, when are all of my heroes going to stop turning out to be assholes?

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Permalink
  10. g wrote:

    THANK YOU. I could never put my finger on why or when I stopped liking Amanda Palmer, but you have given words to my intangible opinions which, until now, I thought I was alone in having. Perhaps it’s because she has made all lady issues about her own vagina, preferably as it is onstage, and reduces pretty all of feminism to the act of sex. Also, the Evelyn Evelyn thing started on MySpace a couple of years ago and I can’t believe she’s still on about it.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Permalink
  11. lucy wrote:

    I read her tweet as “I need to work on something else right now” and am hoping for a better response still.
    Jason Webley responds here.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Permalink
  12. Chris wrote:

    Well, Jason Webley, the guy she’s collaborating with on the project, made a post that basically amounted to “Well it wasn’t our INTENT to offend anyone, which absolves us of all responsibility”. So…

    I’m really upset by this because I’ve been an Amanda Palmer fan for a while, and I am also holding out hope that maybe she’ll get what’s wrong with this in time, but uh, also not trying to get too optimistic.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink
  13. isa wrote:

    Huh. Amanda Palmer has always annoyed the shit out of me. Now I have a reason!

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Permalink
  14. Chris wrote: Definitely not too optimistic.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink
  15. Vee wrote:

    I agree with everything. This is what I’ve been wanting to say and was too heartbroken to articulate. (The Dresden Dolls were enormously important to me.) I only have one point to add: please, please, please mention Jason Webley as well. I get that he’s a less public figure, but he’s in it too, he’s no less responsible, he’s as much of an initiator as she is. He doesn’t get to escape blame just because she’s more visible and has the past feminist cred that is making people upset. Like, she should have known better, but so should he. Everyone should know better than to do this.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Permalink
  16. MsEmJ wrote:

    Love her music, but her outside activities confuse the hell out of me. For example her “Who Killed Amanda Palmer” book. It might have been a statement about violence against women, but it just left me feeling creeped out and a little upset. Maybe it’s because I spent a lot of time writing letters to fashion magazines that had fashion spreads with “dead” models.

    And then there’s this Evelyn/Evelyn thing. It trivializes one of the most misunderstood conditions around. I’ve never met any conjoined twins, but I’m guessing most of them want to be seen as separate individuals not a unit of one.

    With this she gone from “artistic expression” right into Marilyn Manson territory. Basically, “look at me! I’m being shocking! Can’t you see how shocking I am?”


    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Permalink
  17. LP wrote:

    I’m confused at your response to Jason’s blog, CHRIS. I read Jason’s response as the response of a guy who just got hit in the face with the fact that he’s being a privileged able bodied guy and wants to acknowledge that he did wrong but isn’t sure yet how to proceed. That said, since posting above I’ve gone back and read AFP’s twitter feed and she was obnoxiously dismissive and rude about the whole controversy.

    ANYWAY – What part of Jason’s blog did you find him saying that he didn’t want to take responsibility? I read it the exact opposite way.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Permalink
  18. Chris wrote:

    LP, I see your point. When I first read the post, I saw that Jason wrote that the project wasn’t intended to offend anyone several times, which seemed like the standard “but I didn’t meeeeeeean it” defense, and I didn’t read the rest as carefully. After going through it again, yeah, it does seem like he’s thought about some of the criticism they’ve gotten, and that he’s open to change, but he still never really comes out and says “this was messed up and offended people and I’m sorry.” He says he “can see why some people would be offended.” Not an apology. It does seem like he is at least paying attention to what people are saying about it, though, and you’re right, he never outright denies responsibility for offending anyone. But he doesn’t take responsibility yet, either. What with the way AFP’s been handling the controversy so far and the fact that nobody’s just said “this project offended people, our bad” yet, I’m still pessimistic about the outcome.

    (Also, my bad about posting the link a second time.)

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Permalink
  19. Maggie wrote:

    I’ve gotta say, I’ve been profoundly uncomfortable with the whole Evelyn Evelyn project precsely because she’s using an experience she does not own, but. Am I the only one who read that “dismissive tweet” as saying “hey guys, I am aware of this issue, but right now I am working and will get back to it later”?

    I mean, periphery/dismiss etc is bad wording in this context, sure, and I guess it’s her own fault if people misinterpret her when she could have been more straightforward about it, but I, personally, am waiting for her response before heaping yet more hate on her. Probably this is because, since the whole “neil gaiman said bitch!” thing, I am disinclined to trust internet witch-hunts.

    Just saying.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Permalink
  20. Bethany wrote:

    I agree with all of this BUT I want to say that I am still pissed off about what she wore that one time and I think that I (and you) have a right to use that as a reason to dislike her. It’s not about the dress itself, it’s how she used it in a really terrible way to say “LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME I’M SO FREE-SPIRITED.” And I’m not saying that women don’t have the right to want to draw attention to themselves but there is just something really distasteful and dishonest to me about the way she chooses to draw attention to herself, and that dress she wore that one time is a part of that.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Permalink
  21. isa wrote:

    “With this she gone from “artistic expression” right into Marilyn Manson territory. Basically, “look at me! I’m being shocking! Can’t you see how shocking I am?””

    I agree with this 100%, which is why all the people complaining about censorship and how she’s *trying to make a statement about something* are really bothering me. It just seems like she’s trying way too hard to be edgy and shocking. I don’t see any deeper meaning here.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Permalink
  22. Evamaria wrote:

    I was kind of headdesky from the start about the whole charade – right until AFP started dismissing criticism with this incredible air of righteousness. Her dismissal hurt – and I’m now well on my way to angry.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 12:31 am | Permalink
  23. Kam wrote:

    This is a really interesting and well thought out response. I like how you focus on why her reponse to critism is really problematic. I’m curious how you see Evelyn Evelyn compared to the movie about conjoined twins “Stuck on You”.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 12:57 am | Permalink
  24. JES wrote:

    You, know, that tweet she made was pretty offensive. Then 40 minutes later she said: “for those who didn’t understand that one: i will re-translate: “time to make art. not time to argue points with people.”", and then ten minutes later, “…i’ve already spent a good portion of the day sorting this one out. now, she says, back to work. and for real, this time, jesus….” In between the first tweet and that one, she replied to someone about having working new blog about it, too. So, I’m not really sure how you got your point. Unless you are trying to say that she is Not A Real Feminist Like Us, because she decided to work for the rest of the day instead of continuing sorting out her evelynevelyn mess?

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 1:06 am | Permalink
  25. Irised wrote:

    Everyone should know better than to do this.
    Yes. THIS. Exactly. How hard is it? How hard is it, really, for it to occur to you that treating other human beings as a joke and a cheap novelty – nothing more than a “haha, look at me, I’m being freakish” entertainment – is really not a great thing to do? How is it hard to pick up that treating a whole group of people as freaks is going to hurt them? That’s what makes me angry. It’s like taking another person and making them nothing. Like they are nothing to you; just a shape to put on to entertain yourself; an empty costume. Which is really it, isn’t it … it’s a complete lack of caring. Maybe she’ll redeem herself in a flash of blinding light but right now she just doesn’t seem to care about conjoined twins or people with disabilities. They’re not part of her group; it doesn’t matter what she uses them for. And what can you do, what can you say, faced with that?
    And maybe – quite possibly – I’m being over the top about this as someone who is not, in fact, physically disabled and only has relatively mild mental problems and so doesn’t have that experience to ground my righteous outrage (I have so much of it towards the world!). But I remember how it felt when I was on a silly bloody internet forum and people were making tons of gay role-playing characters and it was HILARIOUS and SO AMAZING and HAHAH THEY’RE GAY… and it was a little silly thing where straight people with like no experience of gay people were goofing around and getting carried away but it still hurt so much to realise that I, as a queer person, was nothing but a novelty; like a trinket picked up from a tourist shop. Just being used for entertainment. And though they didn’t do it to hurt anyone, they didn’t give a damn if they did, and there was nothing I could have said that would have made them care enough to consider there might be a problem with their attitudes. And so I think of that, and then I think of this which is so many times so much so much worse, and it just … yeah.
    And god, Amanda palmer. Don’t you realise how much weaker and plainer you make your world when you push people who are different from you out of it? What if you actually employed some disabled people for their talents, Amanda Palmer, and made them as much part of your show as anyone else and didn’t make a big thing about it, just employed them as human beings? Then, Amanda Palmer, you would truly be different. As it is, you’re exactly and literally as edgy as prime time TV.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 1:14 am | Permalink
  26. susanstohelit wrote:

    This is my first time commenting here. I feel compelled to because this situation is just not okay, and your post does an excellent job of summing up WHY it is not okay.

    I’m a huge Amanda Palmer fan. I own all her albums, I follow her on Twitter and read her blogs, and I was curious about this new Evelyn Evelyn project. Finding out the truth about it and seeing Amanda’s response – which is basically “why is everyone being so mean to me?” – is extremely frustrating. I’m an able-bodied feminist, I don’t have a history of sexual abuse, and yet I still realize that it is WRONG to assume the persona of conjoined twins with a history of sexual abuse for the purpose of entertaining, not to mention using it to portray herself and Jason as magical intercessors who were able to save these victimized disabled women from their horrible circumstances because they are just SO AWESOME. Also! She writes repeatedly about how fucking frustrating the “twins” are and how fucking “difficult” it is to work with them, which is just doing a lovely job of stereotyping disabled individuals as freaks who don’t really know how to deal with normal society (as if it’s not an ableist society that might make it difficult for disabled individuals to function) If she wanted to write a song ABOUT conjoined twins or ABOUT child porn survivors (while acknowledging that it is ABOUT them, from her perspective of someone who is privileged and has not personally experienced these issues), that would be one thing. But by “dressing up” in these personas just for shits and giggles, she and Jason just reduced disabled individuals and sexual abuse survivors to the status of freakish others whose stories can be exploited (with no actual knowledge of what it is like to be a conjoined twin in an ableist society). I know she is a rape survivor. And she has written eloquent, challenging songs about it. But this is not the same. This is not even close. She is totally missing the point.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 8:49 am | Permalink
  27. Taybeh Chaser wrote:

    I enjoy the Dresden Dolls’ music, don’t know very much about AP herself, but this whole project sounds distasteful and pointless. How could she *not* have anticipated the response she would get?

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 9:41 am | Permalink
  28. MsFeasance wrote:

    Amanda Palmer’s response is up.

    Also, @Kam: Matt Damon and the other guy who played his conjoined brother never acted as though they a) actually were the people they were portraying, and b) never acted as though they, Matt Damon and The Other Guy, were saving their characters from a life of misery.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 10:24 am | Permalink
  29. Sar wrote:

    I don’t like the idea of Amanda Palmer, either. And, I do know her and I also don’t like her.

    Shock art masquerading as clever and well, “shocking” and “art.” Yawn.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 10:44 am | Permalink
  30. Sady wrote:

    About the Matt Damon movie: I never saw it because it looked pretty stupid? Also, I think I was pretty young and inexperienced when it did come out, so I probably wouldn’t have had an opinion on it even back then! I mean, I know non-disabled people play disabled people a lot (LOST, Glee, Avatar, etc.) and there are discussions going on about that, all over, as we speak. It always makes me think of this one zine title I read way back when, “Too Fat to Play the Fat Girl,” about a fat actress’s struggles to get hired playing, basically, people with her same life experience. Or, see also: straight actors “playing gay” for cred. I know people are eager for disabled actors to actually get the chance to play parts for people with disabilities. And that’s an ongoing conversation, and I tend to side with the idea that you would probably get a better performance out of Peter Dinklage, if you have a role for a little person in your movie, than you would by (and one movie actually did this – can’t remember the name) hiring Gary Oldman and having him walk around on his knees with, I believe, prostheses.

    This project, however, is really kind of over-the-line in a more obvious way than, say, LOST, because of how it exploits that “circus freaks” trope – the characters of Evelyn and Evelyn ARE PRESENTED to the audience as a one-of-a-kind freakshow, and their disability and its “weirdness” are kind of the entire point. I mean, I think disabled musicians – like Vic Chesnutt! – actually write and record songs about something other than being disabled, yeah? And probably when they have a show, they want people to be thinking “that was a good song,” not “hey, that guy can play music in a wheelchair! That is so weird!” So this is kind of gross in a lot of huge and obvious ways, over and above normal “non-disabled people playing disabled” projects.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Permalink
  31. Shena wrote:

    The movie with Gary Oldman is called “Tiptoes.”

    I have nothing to add re: Amanda Palmer – I agree with your post.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Permalink
  32. smadin wrote:

    how it exploits that “circus freaks” trope – the characters of Evelyn and Evelyn ARE PRESENTED to the audience as a one-of-a-kind freakshow, and their disability and its “weirdness” are kind of the entire point.

    Also, Palmer has a consistent fascination, both in the Dresden Dolls’ work and her solo stuff, with this sort of macabre/burlesque/sideshow aesthetic, and with dualities*. (This is probably part of what she means in her blog post when she talks about people not understanding her context.) And those interests, coupled, I suspect, with a fairly significant cushion of privilege which she hasn’t brought much of her critical apparatus to bear on, lead to her not really recognizing that not everything which connects to that aesthetic and that idea of duality and tension is an area in which she can artistically play, with no responsibility and no consequences, because (as you say in the original post) that stuff is other people’s actual lived experience, and it’s pretty questionable to just appropriate that.

    *This is obviously going on with “Evelyn Evelyn,” in which we’ve not only got the idea of conjoined twins, but one is actually played by a man (see the note at the end of Palmer’s new blog post about Webley’s comment that one “sister” has a “deep voice”). It also shows up in some Dresden Dolls songs: “Half Jack” and “Sex Changes” show almost as much sensitivity toward intersex and trans* people, respectively, as “Evelyn Evelyn” does toward conjoined twins.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink
  33. Lisa Clar wrote:

    I think all the issues in this debacle are well covered by others – something that really got me fuming was her referring to Neil Gaiman’s fans as a ‘problem’ she’s been having.

    Last nail in the coffin for me I’m afraid.

    I wasn’t a fan – I hadn’t even heard of her, but via her connection to NG, I began reading/listening/following with interest and coming to rather like what I saw, but her attitude to those of us who have come her way via NG just shows her true colours and they are rather pretentious colours it seems.

    I’m done.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Permalink
  34. Annie R wrote:

    @Maggie: Am I the only one who read that “dismissive tweet” as saying “hey guys, I am aware of this issue, but right now I am working and will get back to it later”?

    I understood that she meant that, but why didn’t she say what she meant instead of phrasing it like she was pushing away people with valid concerns. or, heaven forbid, NOT SAY ANYTHING.

    not engaging at the moment = okay.
    saying “i’m not going to engage you” = not okay.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Permalink
  35. gogo wrote:

    Until this very day, I have never heard the name of Laura Palmer, nor heard one song by the Dresden Dolls because I am old and square. I had to look A.P. up after I read the blog link “shit like this” at the top of this post. So with absolutely no background on the writer, the story of Evelyn reminded me simultaneously of the whole “J.T. Leroy” scandal of a few years back, crossed with someone who really liked that book “Water for Elephants.” (Yay! Circus stories are fun! The circus has lots of wacky characters, cause it’s a CIRCUS!)

    Re: “JT Leroy”, a creepy author created a fake name and personality for a fictional book that was pimped as a “true story.” It had plenty of luridly wrought tragedy like child prostitution, gender issues, terrible parental abuse and neglect, and it was piled on so the reader is meant to say, “Wow, that is such a fucked up life story,” and be suffused with empathy for the author who lived this sad life. Like A.P.’s project, all fictionalized, never mind that some combination of these same shitty life circumstances are actually survived by real people.

    Claiming “Leroy’s” a “true story” required the “author” to make appearances at readings and signings, etc. The real writer then hired someone to pose as this pathetic author/character she had fictionalized, exploiting/mocking transgendered people and various types of abuse survivors a second time. The whole thing eventually blew up in the real author’s face and I’m not sure if the backlash was mostly about the fake “true” story aspect of it, or if she was reviled for the exploitation angle.

    It occurs to me that this may have been a provincial SF literary scandal, so the link below has a lot of stories about it. I think it’s similar to this “Evelyn” idea, except maybe A.P. didn’t try as hard to stay in character. Oops. Bad ideas, executed badly, with bad results. Apologies deserved all around, and the worst punishment of all for shameless attention seekers: no attention at all, a complete withdrawl of all interest in whatever “entertainment” they attempt to spew. Count Courtney Love in on that punishment, too, she’s deserved it for years.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Permalink
  36. gogo wrote:

    Hawhawhaw oh man, I just read the A.P. update. I think she was on the disappointed-J.T.-Leroy’s- sad-tale-was-untrue side of things. Seems dopey to try it again.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Permalink
  37. Sea wrote:

    Thank you. Thank you for writing this.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Permalink
  38. lauredhel wrote:

    Sady, when you’re riding on the backs of the work of PWD, could you maybe mention us by name?

    Annaham. She has a name. Palmer has been studiously trying to avoid that fact, as have 99% of her fans. Palmer has been making an ongoing point of the false idea that all of her “critics” are “anonymous”.

    It would be nice for allies to not reinforce a frame that, intentionally or unintentionally, erases and dehumanises PWD. Thanks for your consideration.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Permalink
  39. Sady wrote:

    @lauredhel: Wow, it was definitely not my intention to ride on anyone’s back! And I know intention is not some all-purpose problem-solver, but also: I follow Annaham on Tumblr, and so was alerted to her post through that. And I have your blog (Hoyden About Town) on Google Reader, and thought your post on the matter was brilliant! I thought linking to the two would be sufficient, in terms of letting people know who was informing my take, but, for the record: you and Annaham both did great work on this, and I don’t for any instant wish to devalue your voices or subsume your voices into my own non-disabled take on the matter. So, everyone who has not read Lauredhel’s or Annaham’s take on the matter, do so at once! They are both really, really, really good.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 11:25 pm | Permalink
  40. bridget wrote:

    her comment about gaimen fans being part of the problem is ridiculous. i’ve known of her since before the dresden dolls when she stood in havard sq as the 8ft bride, i’ve known of her through pre dresden dolls collaborations and vaguely through 2nd and 3rd party social affiliations and i think this project is ill thought out, but her response to her fans is even less thought out

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 11:53 pm | Permalink
  41. lauredhel wrote:

    Thanks Sady. There’s a real pattern of behaviour, internet-wide (and I’ve probably done it and am fighting it myself) of burying links and erasing names. This seems to me to be done more to bloggers in marginalised groups.

    I’ve read way over a thousand comments now by AFP fans, and only one, _one_, has mentioned Annaham by name. Many have said “disabled feminists” (as some sort of amorphous mass), “that disabled feminist lady”, “the haters”, “those anonymous people”, “the headcases”, and so on. Right now the rape threat in AFP’s blog comments is still there.

    It all piles up.

    Friday, February 19, 2010 at 12:10 am | Permalink
  42. Adrianna wrote:

    Sady, you’ve perfected the art of a respectful calling out. Should I ever publicly fuck up, I hope you will be the one to tear me a new one.

    Friday, February 19, 2010 at 1:24 am | Permalink
  43. Shira wrote:

    Hi, Sady! Longtime reader, first-time commenter. :)

    I blog for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, and have just posted an entry about this, focusing more on the child porn angle. Thought you might be interested!

    Thanks for your post! :)

    Friday, February 19, 2010 at 8:11 am | Permalink
  44. Bethany wrote:

    I’ve disliked this woman ever since my last college roommate was a Living Statue at their shows and this just makes me RAGE.

    Looks like she pushed something else out of her mental periphery — the fact that using sexual abuse as entertainment is WRONG. She’ll never take responsibility for fucking up, however; she’ll just play the BUT I AM AN ARTIST, DON’T BE MEAN TO ME BECAUSE MY INTENTIONS ARE GOOD AND LOFTY card.

    Thank you, Sady, for calling her out so awesomely (and respectfully!).

    Friday, February 19, 2010 at 8:37 am | Permalink
  45. amandaw wrote:

    Thank you for this post.

    Friday, February 19, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Permalink
  46. Bloomer wrote:

    I don’t have an opinion on her band or her as an artist, or I should say: I didn’t have. I have one song by the Dresden Dolls, that will be trashed, and I’m not going to buy anything she is remotely involved in ever again.

    As for Neil Gaiman, he’s a decent comic author, but only ‘decent’ because frankly, what is there to compare him too? Women and minorities still don’t get a break in the OB fraternity of comic books. He’s a decent children’s book author, with girl main characters. That doesn’t automatically let him off the hook; Roald Dahl is a decent child book author with girl main characters, and yet: serious racism issues. Gaiman’s misogynist issues became apparent in the over-hyped American Gods, a less than stellar effort, and his defending of Harlan Ellison. “Misogyny is bad, but not when my good old friend does it.” And now: “Ableism is probably bad, but not when my woman does it. AND YOU WILL SEE THAT IF YOU PAY FOR THE RECORD, AND BETTER, THE SHOW!” Cold day in hell. I downloaded the free E-E song, and trashed it after one hearing, it was crap.

    And both of their defenders going on about how their critics are ‘too politically correct’, most of that written by able-bodied, white men, who go around flapping their privilege. Boycott over the entire line until we get a real apology.

    Friday, February 19, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Permalink
  47. Astute! wrote:

    You have hit the nail on the head with your suspicion that everything has always only been about Amanda Palmer.

    She champions ‘connection’ from her fans and by connection she has always only meant ‘worship’. She is the first to admit that music is important to her only as a means to acquire fan connection worship.

    Friday, February 19, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Permalink
  48. Joe wrote:

    I’ll attempt to be as brief as possible. As bona fides have been defined as important by some of the complainers, I’ll state that I’m a feminist (assuming you allow XY people to be feminists) and have a congenital disability. As a child I was made to feel awkward about my deformed appearance and lack of abilities; even as an adult my friends will inadvertently do it not realizing that I’m not capable of some normal things.

    It’s fairly common for people to pretend to have my disability (or more accurately, very similar disabilies) for Halloween. And you know what, that never bothered me.

    I don’t think this project is particularly interesting or well thought out, but it’s no more worth getting worked up about as a persons with disabilities issue than the Rocky Horror Picture Show (which, incidentally, contains what could easily be considered incestuous pedophilia). I do think it’s interesting (at least based on a google search) that none of the offended people have bothered bring up the song Two Headed Boy (which Amanda has repeatedly covered and is one of the Stairway to Heavens of the offbeat pop music genre), particularly given the elephant imagery.

    One of the problems with the internet is that a few very loud people can appear to speak for a larger group than they do. The post at reads like someone who has a serious axe to grind and (subconsciously or not) looks for the opportunity to get offended. Her reading of “A Campaign of Shock and Awe” is amazingly tonedeaf, like conservatives who can’t detect that Stephen Colbert is being facitious. If all of the criticism Amanda was getting was like that, I can’t quite blame her for wanting to blow them off, though it wasn’t all that well handled.

    Neither were that site’s actions, shouting that the only thing that matters is that they’re offended and then disabling comments. If the only things that were allowed were those that offended no one, we’d have no art.

    The bottom line is that I’m glad I live in a world where she can make this album, George Carlin joked about rape, the Rite of Spring caused a riot, and Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 made it into an art gallery despite being mocked.

    Friday, February 19, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Permalink
  49. Sady wrote:

    @Joe: Obviously, no-one is saying that – as a person with a disability, or, you know, as a PERSON – you can’t have a different take on the matter. You can have any take you want! You can post any blog comment you want, although you seem to be spending a lot of time complaining about someone else’s post (and the fact that you can’t post a comment on it) rather than addressing this one. Similarly, people CAN make any joke they want, paint any painting they want, write or perform or record any piece of music they want: I have friends who are musicians, and have access to recording equipment, so if I wanted, I could go in tomorrow and release an entire concept album of me reading the copy off various cereal boxes while playing one long synthesizer chord. I am thinking A minor!

    But one of the fun things about this particular culture we live in, where you can safely say or do or make any piece of art you like, provided that you’re not actually and non-consensually hurting anyone or breaking any laws to make it, is that people have feedback. Sometimes it’s not pleasant feedback. And if you are going to do this, if you’re going to put shit out there, you need to be prepared for feedback that is not pleasant.

    I don’t think Amanda Palmer needs you to defend her from various opinions on the Internet, actually. Maybe they sting, but you know: I get feedback that stings almost every single day – at least once in this thread! – and, if it’s not openly disruptive or shitty, I publish it, and I think about it, and I respond to it. Because my goal is not to hurt people’s feelings in the same old boring ways they get hurt so much of the time anywhere else. Amanda Palmer made some art (no matter what I think of it, or whether I think it deserves that name) and she is facing one of the consequences of art, which is: unfavorable reviews and opinions. Getting upset about unfavorable reviews and opinions, and framing your upset reactions as a defense of “free expression,” is one of the greater and more common ironies in this world. I’m not surprised she’s doing it, because, hey: people get petulant. But it’s a reaction that deserves a closer look.

    Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Permalink
  50. annaham wrote:

    Hey Sady,

    Please feel free to not let my earlier comment out of moderation. I was frustrated when I wrote it, but I realize now it doesn’t really contribute anything to the discussion here. My frustration got the better of me, and for that, I apologize.

    I guess I’m just pretty much over people personally attacking me for what I wrote instead of actually critiquing what I wrote. PWDs are not a monolith. We are allowed to have our own opinions, some of which — surprise — may not match up with those who are not disabled (and I think Joe’s comment, even though it does go into personal attack territory and does so without mentioning me by name, demonstrates the whole PWDs-as-not-a-monolith very well). What I posted on FWD consisted of my personal opinion on the matter. However, since my post has (and I don’t mean to take credit or anything for ALL of the posts thereafter that were not mine or Lauredhel’s) apparently provoked quite a bit of discussion, I think it’s something of a testament to the fact that people *do* have strong opinions on this issue, and many of them are willing to discuss their opinions sans the use of questionable tactics. Other issues aside, I think that is pretty great. Silver lining, perhaps?

    Anyway, thank you for writing this. I will be linking it in my upcoming post on this whole thing–I hope that’s okay.

    Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Permalink
  51. Sady wrote:

    @Annaham: Oh, lady! I would like to let your earlier comment out of moderation, actually! (For the record: if comments are slow to be unmoderated, it is because we have been attacked with linkspam, all coming from different IP addresses so blocking does nothing, and so your comment is buried under the 50 spam comments that came in TODAY ALONE. It’s an uphill battle, and I don’t know if I’m paranoid or if someone is doing this shit on purpose. But it sucks, regardless.) Anyway, I don’t think you were at all rude. And I think you’re absolutely right: people have been engaging in the “she is so bad for saying this” rather than discussing anything that anyone has actually said, a lot of the time. I hope that the original post didn’t do that (I have this weird bias toward this one celebrity, so I felt like I had to acknowledge it, but for the most part I hope it was critique rather than attack) and I hope we can avoid doing that in the comments here, insofar as possible. Joe’s was the most semi-productive of all those comments, and so I let it through. But, yeah, obviously feel free to link. And don’t apologize for expressing frustration. You’ve earned that right, in abundance, I would think.

    Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 6:28 pm | Permalink
  52. Brooke wrote:

    @Bloomer – I’m not sure what the quality of Gaiman’s comics have to do with the topic at hand. It seems like petty bashing and a personal attack, something that doesn’t add to the conversation about -isms. Shakesville, for example, prohibits these sorts of comments on posts about celebrities’ problematic behavior.

    One of the issues is that many of the people who have expressed their outrage are FANS – fans of Amanda Palmer, fans of Neil, fans who are disturbed that people they expected better from are exhibiting their privilege and not getting it. It’s something worth talking about meaningfully, and I don’t think you comment was relevant at all.

    Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Permalink
  53. Sady, you reading cereal boxes to a continuous A minor chord would actually be a very cool kind of performance art.

    Thank you for pointing out that the freedom of expression of one’s artistic nature is accompanied by the freedom of others to critique that expression. Like many other artists and performers, I would be most happy if I was only ever praised by adorers, but it’s a delightfully free country, where all can make free expression of their feelings.

    Annaham and Lauredhel wrote very cogent expressions of such. :)

    Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Permalink
  54. billie rain wrote:


    i had no idea this was going on until i read your post. thanks for warning me. as one of the “disabled feminists” i’m glad i didn’t come upon this project cold. i’ve been visiting your links and reading comments, and now i feel like i wanna beat my head against the wall. and the wall is a perfect metaphor for the folks who are ignorant about the realities of ableism and are determined to keep it that way.

    i admire everyone who is attempting to elevate the dialogue about ableism. i’m just too overwhelmed and disgusted by the whole premise of the “evelyn evelyn” project to think clearly enough to articulate a response.


    take care,
    billie rain

    Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Permalink
  55. CassieC wrote:

    Thanks for this post, Sady, and to Annaham and Lauredhel for your writing.

    I have a generic issue with the comments that say “I never liked her, and now I know why, thanks!” I don’t think that this sentiment is ever really appropriate: either you don’t like someone for a reason, or you try to understand where your feelings come from. This is exactly the line of argument racists and others use when their prejudices are confirmed by some anecdote. It is also used by mean girls everywhere and reminded me of this post: .

    The other is that just because Amanda Palmer is doing something objectionable doesn’t mean her art sucks 100% or that we should all go burn her CDs and so on. I am personally a fan not only of AFP, but a whole bunch of artists (B. Dylan and L. Cohen have been mentioned here recently) whose politics and behavior are sometimes pretty hard to stomach. I struggle with that, but in the mean time, I’m not going to hold Amanda Palmer to a higher standard because she’s a woman and possibly a feminist and I want her to know better. I’m going to keep admiring what I admire and criticizing the rest – but not more or less than with male artists.

    Monday, February 22, 2010 at 2:39 am | Permalink
  56. Jake wrote:

    Call me old-fashioned, but she lost me at the lack of capitalization.

    Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Permalink
  57. Masha wrote:

    Ugh, this and the Katy Perry thing have just rolled together into this big ball of “hell no”.
    It kind of hurts, because I love so much of her work. It’s helped me through so much shit. And then it turns out she’s… like this. I just watched the Katy perry thing a few minutes ago (though I’ve heard about it previously) and dear Amanda, I appreciate your intent — as a bi woman, Prop 8 and Katy Perry’s songs piss me right the fuck off, but I am also a sexual assault and rape survivor, and a physical abuse survivor (and the latter was by a woman) and all this does is make me angry at you and at the world in general. What were you thinking?
    It seems like everyone I admire eventually turns into an asshole. As someone above has said.
    And despite this crap, much of her art remains great. I guess it’s a question of whether you can stand it — so many great writers, artists and musicians have been assholes, or abusers of some kind or another, and everyone who knows has varying stances on it between “I’ll never read/view/listen to their work again,” and “Well, it doesn’t matter.” I guess I understand both (the last one as coming from denial).

    Friday, February 26, 2010 at 2:26 am | Permalink
  58. Jennifer wrote:

    Weird fact: there was a book I read a few years ago called “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” About conjoined twin singers (basically the Hilton twins as Britney Spears), no less. Interesting coincidence, if it is one.

    Friday, February 26, 2010 at 11:17 pm | Permalink
  59. Sarah wrote:

    Wow. Amanda Palmer mentioned this whole debacle on Australian TV last night…Oh dear.

    Monday, March 1, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Permalink
  60. naanie wrote:

    The quip about Amanda Palmer being the kind of person who would shit on your couch just to be edgy is my favorite description of Amanda Palmer and how she presents herself to the public. Seriously, I laughed, I cried, I wished I had written it myself. You completely nailed it. I adore this critique of the whole situation; you said it better than I could have.

    Saturday, April 17, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

10 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  10. [...] of “Never Been a Bad Girl” suggested Dresden Dolls (though not Evelyn Evelyn’s super-problematic crip drag) on first listen, as well as Inara George and Jolie Holland in louder moments. The emphasis on [...]