A Dancing Man

I read blogs in Feedly, and sometimes the juxtaposition of what I read is interesting.

I also use TweetDeck for Twitter, and I have one column that is nearly all black people, and one column that is nearly all white people in tech. The juxtaposition of that is always very interesting — on nearly every day, one entire column is tweeting about a black person being shot by the cops. Often this is before I will have seen that latest incident reported anywhere else. Next to them, all the tech people will usually be tweeting about a new product or game.

Anyway, today in Feedly, I saw this post from the popular Oatmeal blog, drawing our attention to a project by this guy, Matt. Matt goes to different countries and does a silly dance with the people there. He did this in 2008 and it went viral, and he did it again recently and went to more dangerous or isolated countries.

Matthew Inman, who writes the Oatmeal, says of dancing Matt’s latest effort:

[Matt] danced in Afghanistan. He danced in Iraq. He even danced in North Korea on Kim Il Sung’s birthday. The result? He didn’t get kidnapped. He didn’t get shot. He didn’t find misery or suffering or terrorism or hate. He didn’t find suicide bombers or savages or cruelty. He found normal people. He found nice people. He found that the world isn’t as dangerous as we’re led to believe. And neither are the people in it.

The fact that Matt can blithely dance wherever he wants without experiencing or acknowledging hardship of any kind is supposed to make us feel happy, not frustrated.

Matt can even visit a country that is essentially a giant concentration camp, and he doesn’t see poverty or abuse or pain. He just sees dancing! Matt’s whole world is a giant dance.

Just below Matt in my Feedly was this article in which a woman describes the violence and harassment she’s experienced throughout her life for being a woman. My Feedly is mostly stuffed with such articles.

When you look at these two things back to back, it starts to seem as if Matt is dancing at this woman. His dance appears suddenly snide and arrogant.

The thing is, there is really nothing wrong with what Matt is doing. His videos are cute. I like them! They are not profound, though. It is not in the least surprising that a privileged white male American can travel wherever he wants and film a dance without coming to any harm or even being insulted by anyone. None of us are surprised by that, and I am not particularly comforted by it.

Sometimes men wonder why women get mad at them when they aren’t actually doing anything wrong or bad. It’s usually because they are like Matt, dancing without realizing that to either side of them, there are articles by women like Anne Thériault. There is nothing wrong with their ecstatic tweets about the latest Apple product except that, unbeknownst to them, those tweets are appearing right next to outraged men and women mourning the most recent legal murder of a black citizen.

The problem is that they are unaware of the context in which they are so often living their blameless lives, and depending on how stark and immediate that contrast is, sometimes their blissful ignorance of this can seem positively willful.

It isn’t willful, of course (usually), but you can hardly blame the rest of us if sometimes we lose our temper and lash out at these guys as though it is.

Matt is asking for funding for another video; you can donate to his Kickstarter here.


  1. A. I. Sajib says:

    Aaaaaand off I go searching for the meaning of juxtaposition. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Elizabeth says:

      Here is an example of how you could have used this word in our team’s backchannel recently:

      “The juxtaposition of you all complaining about your ‘slow’ internet with my experience of slow internet highlights that you do not truly know what slow internet really is.” 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A. I. Sajib says:

        I agree with that juxtaposition(?) 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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