Fuck Portlandia

On

Several months ago the In Other Words community agreed to discontinue our relationship with Portlandia. This was a direct response to a particular egregious filming of the show in our space which saw our store left a mess, our staff mistreated, our neighbors forced to close and lose business for a day without warning, and our repeated attempts to obtain accountability or resolution dismissed. It was also a direct response to a show which is in every way diametrically opposed to our politics and the vision of society we’re organizing to realize. A show which has had a net negative effect on our neighborhood and the city of Portland as a whole. Shortly after this decision was made, a volunteer placed the Fuck Portlandia sign in our window.

Being on Portlandia Doesn’t Make Us Money

We are paid a small flat fee per episode filmed at in Other Words. This fee does not cover the profits lost by our having to remain closed for filming. It also does not cover the additional business lost by our neighbors who at times also have to remain closed for filming. The additional exposure we have received from our time on Portlandia does not provide financial or political support of any kind: tourists and fans of the show come to our door to stand outside, take selfies, and then leave. The vast majority of them don’t come inside.

The Show is Bad

The Women and Women First segments that are filmed at In Other Words are trans-antagonistic and trans-misogynist and have only become more offensive as the show goes on. ‘LOL Fred Armisen in a wig and a dress’ is a deeply shitty joke whose sole punchline throws trans femmes under the bus by holding up their gender presentation for mockery and ridicule. In a world where trans femmes – particularly Black trans women – are being brutalized and murdered on a regular basis for simply daring to exist, dude in a dress jokes are lazy, reactionary, and actively harmful. They’re also just straight up not funny.

Also: there are no Black people on Portlandia. There are a tiny number of people of color on Portlandia. Portland is white but it’s not that damn white. It’s also a city with a deeply entrenched history of racism and white supremacy. In Other Words is in the heart of a historically Black neighborhood in Northeast Portland. We have Black Lives Matter written on our window. Black Lives Matter Portland meets regularly in our space. But as more and more Black folks and people of color have become involved at In Other Words, Portlandia has only gotten steadfastly more white. Oh and also: the last time the show filmed in our space, the production crew asked to us to remove the Black Lives Matter sign on our window. We refused.

Gentrification Isn’t a Joke

Portlandia is fueling mass displacement in Portland. Fred and Carrie are on billboards and realtors have gleefully begun using Portlandia’s popularity and insipid humor (‘put a bird on it!’) to make displacing the communities that made Portland a great place in the first place something twee and whimsical for the incoming technocrat hordes.

The current board, staff, and volunteers were not involved in the decision, made six years ago, to allow Portlandia to film at In Other Words. We stand behind our collective decision to discontinue our relationship with the show. And we fucking love the sign.

Support our stance? Donate today so we can continue to serve as a hub for Portland’s social justice community – any amount helps! And if you’re interested in volunteering, please contact us at scheduling@inotherwords.org.

88 responses to “Fuck Portlandia”

  1. Theo Evans says:

    Good for you! This show has done nothing positive for our beautiful City of Roses. It takes everything I love (and sometimes become annoyed by) about the Portland area and turns it into a joke.

    • Chloe says:

      Not true. The show inspired me to visit Portland with my sister. I saw and continue to see Portland in a positive light. I enjoy the show and visited one place portrayed in the show (the brunch restaurant). I took pictures like a visitor would but had a newfound appreciation of the city. I had considered visiting In Other Words; but it is a bookstore, not a tourist spot, and I respect that. I do not feel The character Candice accurately represents the feminist or trans community one bit.
      I view the show as satire of how cities are changing and not a reflection of what Portland is. The same “stuff” on Portlandia happens in Chicago, Phoenix, Los Angeles, etc.

  2. Mary Doyle says:

    YES! You have always been, and continue to be, wonderful, In Other Words bookstore. I remember the first time I stepped foot in your store, I was home in a way I had never felt. Hell yes, thank you, we are with you! xoxo

  3. Rhea Wolf says:

    And I fucking love In Other Words. All the way. Thank you!

  4. Xavier Woods says:

    Are you serious? Your store itself is the epitome of gentrification to the actual displaced residents of NE Portland. Fuck In Other Words AND Portlandia!

    Love Always,
    Displaced Killingsworth resident

    • This is 150% valid. Sorry doesn’t mean a thing when people are still actively being displaced but we are sorry and we are working every day to make sure we are a contribution to the neighborhood and that we are doing everything we can to build the power of the neighborhood. If you want to talk to us more – to find out what the hell we’re doing or to call us out or tell us where we’re fucking up – we are reachable by email: board@inotherwords.org.

  5. Nic Souris says:

    How did you get involved in the first place? Clearly Portlandia is designed to make fun of people in Cascadia just as BBT is designed to make fun of geeks. I thought all the episodes were filmed in Vancouver, or somewhere. I just assumed the crew was not allowed to step foot in Portland.

    • Marcin Jeske says:

      As a Portland resident, I’ve always seen it as a comedic ode to the fascinating and diverse people of the city. It explores the various philosophies of life of people I know, have seen, and sometimes even me, in an exaggerated, yet warm manner.

      When people ask what I like about Portland, in recent years I have often pointed them to the quirky vignettes of Portlandia. I think too many people feel they should be ashamed of the culture the show highlights, and therefore perceive the show is mocking them rather than celebrating their differences.

      • Samuel Claytor says:

        I am a recent CA transplant (the worse of the worst…except I’m not from LA at least), and I am surprised at the level of shock and near-anger I felt when I read that you point people who know little to nothing about Portland towards vignettes on Portlandia to “learn” about the culture in Portland.

        To me this is the very epitome of the problem of Portland’s forced identity crisis, people who know nothing about a city thinking that they love it and are entitled to move to it as a knowledgeable, welcomed new segment of the population **based on watching a show**!!

        A comedy show at that, not even a cheesy tourist infomercial or travel series.

        Whether the show is funny is, of course, a subjective judgment, however I feel that it is just flat-out blind and misguided to not see the belittling nature that the show has towards Portland culture, even if it is coated in froofy, cutesy “oh just playing” frosting….in fact, I think that’s a large part of what makes it so belittling.

  6. Vishnette says:

    Portlandia no longer has anything to do with Portland either. That is to say that its scripts have become as generic as Portland itself has.

  7. Zac Reisner says:

    Excellent, eloquent and trenchant statement and commentary on the entire situation; wholeheartedly agree and support you in this decision.

  8. Mary Tapogna says:

    The show asks or has asked local artists to DONATE art for the gift/swag bags that they give to their guest stars.
    Fucking support artists, by PAYING THEM!!! I have never been asked, but I know many who have, and who have donated, but would not do it again.

  9. C says:

    Hell yeah! Fuck Portlandia, and while we’re at it, fuck Broad City, too! Fuck that Hilary Clinton-touting shit.

  10. Michelle says:

    I personally was a HUGE fan of Portlandia but after reading this, my perspective has been completely changed and I fully support In Other Words on this decision. I wish I had realized earlier how ignorant and stupid these skits are because up until now, I didn’t know that they were wrong. This is exactly why we need to talk about this because a lot of people, including myself, need to be educated on this matter. You now have my full support and respect for what it is that In Other Words is really trying to make everyone understand. Thank you so much.

  11. Wally says:

    Organizations like In Other Words are first wave gentrifiers. You are the cause of gentrification, not a silly TV show. While I love your beliefs and clearly the TV show has treated you terribly, you represent the vanguard of gentrification and to pretend otherwise is like watching Trump supporters pretend they aren’t bigots.

    • You’re right. We absolutely do represent the first wave of gentrifiers. We were a harbinger of gentrification when we moved from SE Hawthorne to NE Killingsworth and for years our space was an overwhelmingly white (and cis and upper middle class) spot in a majority Black neighborhood. We know and we own that and it’s a major part of the reason why our politics and organizing have changed so drastically in the past two years. We understand it’s not just enough to feel bad (or just say we feel bad). We have to do everything we can to build the power of communities that have been displaced, abused, and erased in the name of racist capitalist development and endless growth. You’re right to call us out. Xaxier is too. We hope people keep calling us on our shit and pushing us to do more.

      • MissRaychella says:

        And, In Other Words, you’re still here, existing in a spot meant for Black folk. You need to shut down your business or hand over the keys to Black owners, and distribute 100% of the revenue your bookstore has made over the years directly to marginalized people in the Black community. Only then will your apology be worth anything. NE Killingsworth is not yours and was never meant to be yours.

        • We actually handed over the keys to Black owners two years ago. Our only paid staff member is also Black. Handing the revenue over the neighborhood is a good idea. We’ve been talking about becoming a worker-owned co-op rather than a volunteer run space. If we did so, and hired more folks from the neighborhood, being a co-op means that they would own a portion of the space, have a collective say in it’s future, and also a cut of the all the money the center makes. We’re gonna have a community meeting about it too and all of our meetings (including our monthly board meetings) are open to everyone in the neighborhood. We’ll put it up on the calendar when it’s scheduled: https://inotherwords.org/events/

  12. Stacie says:

    Portlandia didn’t make me visit your shop, but this post will!!

  13. Taylor says:

    While I have appreciated some of the humor (mostly first season) in Portlandia, humor at the expense of a marginalized group is never acceptable. I started strongly disliking the show after watching a skit where it was “jokingly” decided that Carrie’s character would be forced to do sexual favors. Their skits have become generic, stereotypical, harmful and very forced. It’s a real shame they are exploiting local businesses in the city they are “trying” to mock. I hope more locations start following suit and showing solidarity with signs in their windows proclaiming “Portlandia is not welcome here”.

  14. fredandtoodynotfredandcarrie says:

    The fourth sentence in your first paragraph lacks a main verb, otherwise, I wholeheartedly agree, and will be in this weekend to buy stuff.

    • Punctuation Is Key says:

      What is really going on there is that that clause should have been joined to the third sentence by a comma, rather than separating it with a period. Your comment has the opposite issue: the clause beginning with “otherwise” is an independent clause and thus needs to be separated from the previous clause not by a comma, but by a period. Alternatively, a semicolon would work.

  15. Boh says:

    I just finished the last season of Portlandia last night (as a non-OR, resident), and I can see how your place was left wrecked after shooting it! Fuck that! I was also pleasantly surprised by the BLM sign on the window, but now I can see it wasn’t a production choice. Good for you!

    I support your decision to end your relationship with Portlandia. I also respect your willingness to be called out as gentrifiers, which is not an easy thing for people to swallow! It’s wonderful to hear that you are at least aware of that and actively doing something about it. It’s so rare.

    But I wanted to say, I don’t agree that the use trans dress for comedy is a bad thing in the context it’s been used for the show. Cross-dressing and acting isn’t a crime. I didn’t feel the character was a “man in a dress” joke. I thought the character was the joke (which is what makes me mad). I don’t think a man dressing and acting like a woman in a comedy duo is the most egregious thing out there. Especially when the show has made a point to hire true trans and represent them as such, without belittling them. Are you equally upset by their Nina and Lance?

    Personally, I won’t miss the W&WF sketches. They did poke a lot of fun at feminism, and a lot of the jokes fell flat.

    Hope things work out with y’all!

    • Jamie says:

      Trans woman here who agrees. The show is not transantagonistic imo, and one has to really stretch to reach that conclusion. The only issues I ever had with the W&WF sketches is that they really promoted a negative, flat stereotype of feminism more than that they poked fun at excesses of some within the feminist community–the problem being, I think, that they had no sensible feminist character to contrast against the bookstore owners.

  16. Adam says:

    Way to go! I’m not from Portland, nor have I ever lived there, but it’s a city that I used to love and admire. Unfortunately, it’s already become the exact opposite of what it set out to be, and it’s a crying shame. There were so few cities like Portland, and now the tech money and tech bros, the gentrification, the posers, have ruined your city and are actively displacing the pioneers that made your city great. Congratulations on taking a stand against it. I hope you win the fight and preserve what made Portland great, but I fear it’s too late. I mourn the loss of what Portland was.

  17. John Smith says:

    I think if anyone needs to be punished, by a whip or tongue-lashing, would be the Bravo network.

    Fred and Carrie are just doing what they’ve been taught to do ever since they took a stage.
    Do we blame them or the network who pushed them? Why not cover Bravo in its many forms?

    I get it, isolated issue. But it never really is.

  18. Zach says:

    If you were really serious about returning things to the displaced you would hand your keys over to the Clackamas Nation of Native Americans. All you’re doing is choosing your own camp.

  19. CreditWhereItsDue says:

    As someone who is often confused by 3rd/4th/5th wave feminism, I gotta say it’s nice to see you make your points AND welcome the criticism. This is a healthy convo and I agree with your decision. Props. Keep up the good work!

    • Sondra Delorenzo says:

      Great comment! I’ve really enjoyed reading this thread. The original article was suggested by a friend who didn’t love the show (because the humor wasn’t her style) after I told her how much I did love it. I still do- in theory anyway. I’m sad for the city that it’s environs were not respected however.

  20. Tracy says:

    I’m picking up what you are laying down, In Other Words.
    And I appreciate the utility of vulgarity on the sign and in the post, generally — punches out the point as more elaboration could not. Does my generation show if I wish you found another way to say the show is not funny than: it “sucks.” For me, the term still smacks of the implication that people who have sex with men are demeaning themselves vis a vis heterosexual men. Ironically, Portlandia’s last skit based in your store seemed to recognize that we shouldn’t shame those who suck. Maybe you think I’m taking the skit content literally when the joke is on me; but as a past feminist skit comedienne myself, I believe that sometimes comedy is the best way to normalize the subversive — let them think you are laughing at yourself with them, and they may loosen up, drop some fear and defense, and learn something. I think Portlandia has leaked to the general public plenty of pro-woman, pro-trans ideas while filming on your set. Silver lining?

  21. Delores Stimuli says:

    Maybe you guys just need to actually put a bird on it?

  22. LeeSee says:

    I clearly missed that Fred is playing someone trans – I honestly just thought he was playing a woman.

    Portland is a lovely city and I’ve spent thousands of dollars there… I travelled with my partner all the way from Australia, all because of Portlandia. You may not have considered how many people are curious about Portland now thanks to the show.

    Best of Luck in Other Words.

  23. Chris says:

    Good on you for making a stand. It’s a good move when an organization feels taken advantage of for it to express its misgivings. However, from what I have seen from the show Armesin plays a woman not a trans woman, just as Brownstein plays a man when it fits the skit. Portlandia exists because of gentrification, there are many cities that experience the middle class influx that Portland does and that’s why the show gained traction. Portland became the poster child of this long before Portlandia was even an idea. Taking the blm sign down sounds like a set design decision but it’s shitty of them to destroy your shop. Why not try and renegotiate the compensation for your services? It seems like the show is doing well and those skits are a mainstay of the show, which means you have a bargaining chip.

    Either way, best wishes.

    • Amanda says:

      “a woman not a trans woman”

      Trans women *are* women.

      • Chris says:

        There is a distinction. When you have a show like Transparent, there is a male actor who is acting as a woman who used to identify as a man. This actor is therefore playing a trans woman, a man who has transitioned to a woman. In Portlandia, a male actor is acting as a woman who has always been a woman. I say this because Armisen’s character had a kid appear early on in the show and there was a reference to the son’s father (I could be wrong if there was a mutual transition). Therefore the show is in no way commenting on trans issues.
        Maybe that’s not what you meant by *are*, sure if someone wants to identify as a woman let’s call them a woman. We can still use other names to be more precise in conversations like these.

        • SoulSeeker says:

          Sorry Chris, wrong on this one. There is NO distinction and to say otherwise minimizes and erases the fact that “trans-women” are born just as much women as anyone biologically assigned as such at birth. They are women, end of.

          Fred Armisen’s portrayal, however, doesn’t really bother me. I appreciate that the character is a female and he is portraying, in acting, a female. That’s okay.

        • Jamie says:

          Chris, I’m a trans woman and fwiw think the people jumping all over you are being ridiculous. There is such a thing a subcategories. Just because all a are b does not mean all b are a. The distinction is useful, and trans women in fact *need* the distinction in order to talk about our unique experiences and to struggle against our marginalization. Don’t let these cranks shame you.

  24. anonymous says:

    This is a pretty stark change from the complete silence you had about the show’s trans/misogyny in the first several seasons. Showing up out-of-the-blue and saying ‘Fuck Portlandia’, even with all these reasonable points, doesn’t help readers understand and learn from the transformation of your point of view. Kinda just makes it seem like you were stoked to follow the alternative, indie trend that Portlandia represented when it first aired and now that it’s too mainstream you wanted to support another hip movement instead…

    Why was not being paid enough all of the sudden a large issue? Clearly you haven’t been paid well for the entirety of the show.
    Asking you to remove the BLM sign for filming is just a straight-up racist question, I think I understand and sympathize with the strong emotional response to that event.
    ‘The show is bad’… Damn, seriously??? They’ve been doing the same shit since they started and In Other Words used to be super down with it… Or at least had nothing to say for a long time. I don’t disagree, it’s pretty topical humor…. But it always has been.
    ‘Gentrification isn’t a joke’… It has been addressed that In Other Words is a bit hypocritical in making this point, so I don’t think we need to dive deeper into it.

    Anyways… Moderately interesting point, but coming out with a post containing strong language and no description of the transformation of the store’s workforce/beliefs/understanding of major issues seems pretty poorly calculated to me.

    • D says:

      But they *did* describe the changes in staff that led to this decision being made/apparent change of heart. They’re a small nonprofit that has had a complete rotation in the members of its board of directors (not uncommon in small organizations). This isn’t a business with a single, static proprietor for the entirety of the store’s relationship with the show’s producers. It’s now a wholly different group of people who decided there was no mutual benefit from working with the show and severed ties.

      In Other Words, I commend you on your stance.

  25. RFitz says:

    You people all Rock! Rarely do I find a comment thread in which all discourse is thoughtful and respectful. I also learned a lot reading this thread, Thank You.

    • Sondra DeLorenzo says:

      you should ask to join the Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League on F.B. It’s the most civilized, enlightening conversation I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of.

  26. duncan says:

    Portlandia is _dreck_.
    Congratulations managing to combine social conscience _and_ good taste.
    Dhu

  27. shep says:

    It’s been my experience that film crews always make a mess of locations and don’t care about disruption to residents so I don’t blame you for a second for getting rid of them. I like bits of the show and think that the actors are great but not always as funny as they think they are. I don’t have a problem with the crossdressing guy thing as that’s clearly not intended to be anti trans. It’s just acting. I’ve hung out in feminist bookstores since the 60s and can appreciate the humor. Everything,well,almost everything should be opened up to parody but if the show is harming your business it’s certainly time to stop and they’ve certainly done enough gags on this particular topic to keep anyone satisfied.
    Good luck to you all. You’ve done the right thing!

    • Debbie says:

      I used to work for an indie bookstore and we were approached several times by filming companies who wanted to use our location. Touting the idea that it would be “great exposure” for the business. Maybe so. But if we were going to have to close down during business hours for the shooting, we felt we needed to be compensated accordingly for the loss of business and inconvenience to our regular customers. So we always quoted the filming companies a daily space use rate that was equivalent to an average day’s sales for the month of the year when they wanted to film – not high, AVERAGE, based on 5+ years of historical data. (We also had our own lawyer draw up a contract for the filming company that said they would pay for damages they caused, or cleanup needed, including bringing in a cleaning crew if necessary.) Most of the time they would try to talk us into either doing it for free, or for a rate that was a fraction of what we had quoted them, and they never liked the idea of the damages contract. So sorry, then; no dice. So we didn’t end up in many movies or TV shows. In Other Words, you have the power to ask for (and get) what you want from any situation where an outside entity wants to utilize your space. Or you have the choice not to let them film in your space, which is what you’ve chosen, and I think is a good idea if the filming company was not respectful.

  28. NORDIC Nelli says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am Portland born and raised and saw the first episodes of Portlandia after relocating to Pittsburgh. The dream of the 90s! Haha, I lived it. Turned out, the show was simplistic, mean-spirited and downright offensive. Particularly the skits involving the bookstore. No more cheap laughs at the expense of deeply held beliefs or “alternative” lifestyles! I only hope those rumours of Carrie Brownstein relocating to LA are true. In the words of Portland’s own The Punk Group, “Sleater-Kinney Sucks!”

  29. Jon K says:

    Get over yourselves … seriously and learn to laugh at the absurdity that is human.

    In the 80’s my friends and I were beaten up, accosted, threatened for being “weird”, “gay-ish”, etc …

    Literally, one of my friends was lassoed by red-necks in a pick up truck and dragged several blocks – tearing up his leather jacket and skin because he had a mohawk.

    Several times I had jocks pin me down and threaten to cut my hair, because I was a guy with long hair in the 80’s who like Van Halen and rock bands – calling me a fag. I was beaten up, made fun of non stop during those years – but I still was able to laugh about it – and about myself.

    Portlandia is hilarious once you are able to stop taking yourself TOO SERIOUSLY.

    • You know you don’t have to live in a world where you are violently abused because of someone else’s presumptions about your identity, right? Like you don’t have to learn to laugh at it, you don’t have to deal with it at all actually.

  30. Rod says:

    Portland deserves all the gentrification it gets! People are only upset about this shit because it’s happening to white people now. It’s so ironic that on our very courthouse are the words of Dr. King that read “Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere…” Now, we understand his prophetic words. When this city allowed black people to be gentrified from NE, it created a precedent for California money to buy up Oregon property and price out the people who live here. No one cared though. It was black families losing their homes. Hell, I knew that no cause evictions and 30 day notices were wrong from jump. Landlords in this city have too much power. Just remember, when black lives matter all lives matter.

  31. Billy says:

    Portlandia is so dull I literally fall asleep every time I’ve tried to watch it… that shit is better than Ambien…

  32. Fred Armisen says:

    I hope Fred Armisen burns down your store

  33. Some Fan says:

    All valid points on a show that has run its course anyway except for one that I feel might be lost on this audience. You all DO realize that in these sketches we are to view Fred as an actual biological woman right? Not trans, not a dude in a wig, he has become a woman. The premise of these sketches is : two ridiculous owners of a feminist bookstore. The two owners are women, but the two actors are a man and woman. Thus, they created two women characters. The entire show is based around each Fred and Carrie being wildly different people, all unusual caricatures.
    Again, that one point doesn’t excuse the others. The show should have worked harder to maintain a better relationship with the city they entered. Their failure fully justifies this stores response.

  34. Rand says:

    Saying “there are no Black people on Portlandia” is a huge slap in the face to the many black actors that have appeared on the show. Some in prominent roles.

  35. There’s a lot of contention from folks about the trans-antagonism and transmisogyny of Fred Armisen’s portrayal in the Women and Women First skits. We wanted to share this post from a trans woman that talks about her feelings around the ‘dude in a dress’ trope. Here’s an excerpt:

    [I get really tired of the talk I hear once in a while about how because a guy in a dress isn’t an actual trans character it means the character/story isn’t transphobic. Never mind this usually comes from cis folks who want to tell us what is or is not transphobic–and in this case often more accurately transmisogynistic. Fact is, doesn’t matter what that character “truly” is, because that trope gets turned on us. That trope gets seen by us. That trope gets twisted up in us.]

    Read the whole post: http://popculturecatchall.tumblr.com/post/101735833088/transphobic-tropes

    • Lauren says:

      As someone who is actually trans, I don’t think Armisen’s character is in any way transphobic, especially given the context of the show where Carrie and Fred both play various roles irrespective of their gender. A man playing a cisgender woman, and vis a versa is not transphobic as transgender people are not involved in any way. It’s when you have a cis man play a transgender woman that you cross into the realm where you are implying that transgender women are in fact men. In this case, Armisen is playing a cis woman and the jokes are about the ridiculousness of some second-wave radical feminists and none of the jokes have nothing to do with the cross-gender portrayal. It’s one thing to not appreciate being made fun of yourself and want to distance yourself from the show but I’m personally a tiny but offended that you would use people like me as a cudgel in your argument.

  36. And here’s a more general article, also written by a trans woman, about how often what we think is funny throws tran women and trans femmes under the bus and how shitty cis people get when it’s called out.

    Excerpt:
    [At least, that’s what several old acquaintances and most of the internet would have you believe. Ever since I began living openly as a transgender woman, people’s treatment of me has subtly changed. Here in passive-aggressive Portland, I’ve rarely experienced outright hostility, but I’ve been subject to countless microaggressions and bristly defensiveness from cisgender people. I’ve noticed a distinct pattern when cis folks have to grapple with my expression of marginalized struggle: it so often comes down to my supposed negativity and lack of humor.

    Last year, when I discovered a series of transmisogynist jokes that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert had made on their respective television shows The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, I expressed my discomfort to some university friends. One “friend” shouted me out of the dorm lounge with a rant about how comedy is “about making fun of people” and “no one’s allowed to be funny anymore.” More recently, when a high school buddy posted a Facebook comment calling me an affectionate nickname (a feminized version of my deadname), and I very politely asked her to delete the comment, she responded by unfriending me and sending me a wall of text beginning with “One thing I’ve noticed is that you have a hard time being fun anymore.”

    Apparently, the single most paramount human right is the ability to laugh at anything whatsoever, and never, ever feel bad about it or reflect on your choices. In particular, trans women are required to be a walking joke at all times, and if we ever dare to assert that we are human beings, not punchlines, the backlash is swift and brutal.]

    Full article: https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/whos-laughing-trans-women-as-humor-objects-and-humor-agents/

  37. Tracy says:

    Further defense of the creators and writers of the Women and Women First skits:
    To me, it is clear that Toni and Candace are meant to be highly imperfect, self-absorbed feminists –That’s who the skit makes fun of, not feminists as a whole. They are not the kind of feminists who see the connections and intersections with other oppressions; thus, they would not have a BLM sign on their store (or if they did, it would be because they felt it is what hip and bona fide progressives do, not because of any intention to lend more to the cause than a little window space). They are not the kind of feminists who recognize that they have significant privilege as white, educated, middle class, moneyed, over-35, Judeo-Christian, able-bodied, and gender-conforming; therefore they would frequently reinforce the oppression of others without noticing (as the skits often demonstrate). Portlandia writers have provided the viewer with dozens of foils to these somewhat ridiculous women, in the form of transgender women, butch women, homosexual and bisexual women, women of color, feminists of all waves and provenances, who are not presented as the butt of jokes, but as people who challenge Toni and Candace when they are oppressive to others, self-obsessed, or too full of self-righteousness to understand their utter irrelevance to true progress. I recognize the danger that some viewers would not “get it” and see the skits as a universal send up of all feminism. But were these viewers likely to ever be feminists and allies? More likely, some people watching Portlandia for just a bit of hipster skewering got exposed to some thought-provoking cultural criticisms that might just get them thinking “I find Candace and Toni ridiculous and even offensive; but can’t quite say why.” With a small amount of effort to find a way to articulate the critique, they are on their way to being contemporary feminists.
    Notably, these same foils appear throughout other Portlandia sketches; again, not as the butt of the joke, but just the regular damn people they are.
    Does this forgive production trashing stores, not communicating with or valuing the local business community, not fairly compensating contributors to their success? No. Does it mean Portlandia hasn’t piqued relocation interest in some vacuous individuals? No. Does it forgive the occasional tone-deafness of skits using a cross-dressed Fred? No. It does, I think, contest the perspective that Portlandia is anti-feminist or trans-antagonistic. Any chance your board can sit down with the writers and let them know when skits have been experienced as hateful and why? I would be willing to bet that the executive producers (Armisen and Brownstein themselves) are interested allies…and just maybe — no, probably — feminists.

    • Jocelyn says:

      I really think Tracy’s comments explain the true nature of Toni and Candice. She has described what I believe to be the show’s true intent behind these characters. And I really don’t see Candice as transgender. She’s an actual woman who is being portrayed by a man. If anything, Fred Armisen reminds me of the “Kids in the Hall,” another TV skit show that was popular in the early ’90s. In that show, the all-male cast often dressed in women’s clothes not as a gag, but to portray actual women.

      However, it’s understandable why IOW would not want to be associated with Portlandia anymore, especially if the show hasn’t treated the store or their staff that well. IOW is evolving and responding to the changing environment they operate in (while admitting their own contribution to the current climate in Portland). Whereas Toni and Candice will probably remain too self-absorbed and blinded by privilege to do the same.

      • Kriss says:

        Hello Jocelyn – I understand the point you’re trying to get across but by using the term “actual women” your message is not going to get through. Transwomen are actual women, and casual language that suggests otherwise is hugely detrimental, leading to individuals questioning trans validity. I don’t believe you did this from a place of intentional hate but believe you meant ciswomen in your post. Transwomen face struggles that ciswomen can never understand, and I agree that Fred was portraying a ciswoman.

  38. jonw says:

    Let me just echo the commenters who pointed out the amazing quality of comments on this post, and I think the best was last, at least when I viewed–Tracy, what an even-handed, nuanced and thoughtful summary. I came via Wired just now (oh crap am I the first wave of gentrifiers?) and I hope anyone else coming from there can read carefully before jumping in. Good luck to In Other Words.

  39. dan regan says:

    It sounds like you have three main reasons for stopping the relationship: #1) not making money, #2) bad show #3) supporting gentrification. Fair enough.

    I just wanted to suggest that unlike the other two reasons, reason #1, the lack of money, is actually entirely in the hands of IOW personnel, isn’t it?

    If the show costs you and your neighbor businesses (and if they aren’t treating your space properly), the right response to just renegotiate and ask for more for IOW, or the neighbors, or however you want to structure it.

  40. AlienatedLabor says:

    Just wanna say that while I think you are wrong in your assessment of the show, as well as treating trans people as a monolith, I love your willingness to be involved in discussion on this page, your accountability, and the civility of all the comments here. I didn’t get that kind of attitude from people I talked about it with on facebook.

  41. Rollie says:

    I’d like to see Portlandia do a skit of all the responses to IOW’s letter. Now THAT would be funny.

  42. Melody Rivers says:

    One reason that gentrification happens is that people can’t afford to live where they are anymore. Rich and middle class neighborhoods should have affordable housing. This is defined as 30% of your gross income. (Of course I have not ever paid that, as I usually pay over half my income for rent.)

    City councils allow gentrification by permitting greedy, unethical and criminal developers to raze homes and small local businesses and rezoning properties.

    Hippies, anarchists, and broke students are not the only ones colonizing neighborhoods by gentrifying.

    BTW I can’t stand that show. Superior, smug and nauseating.

  43. Sequoia says:

    I’m a feminist, from Portland, and enjoy the show.

  44. Christine Peterson says:

    After reading these comments, I’m convinced this is all part of the show. I moved to Portland in 1978 and have watched Portland change. Portlandia is a documentary. If you think otherwise you haven’t lived here long enough.

  45. Phoenix says:

    This thread may be one of the best series of comments I’ve ever read. IOW sounds like an interesting shop. Very cool that someone is available to engage the public. I’ll have to visit when I travel to OR.

  46. Barry Sullivan says:

    1) There are no black people in Portland. Well maybe a few and the all went to Harvard, but it’s still a pretty white city. Compare Portland to any major metropolitan area outside of the PNW and you will see what I mean. No surprise that upper middle-class liberal whites move there in hordes.

    2) Portlandia is not to blame for gentrification. The expansion of Nike and Intel are much bigger causes. Gentrification has been happening in Portland for the past 20 years. Gentrification is happening in every major city on the West Coast now. All the big cities are going that way (except for places like Baltimore and Detroit…for obvious reasons) so make way for the yuppies and find a smaller city with a smaller economy to make hip.

    • Pete says:

      What do you know about Baltimore? Have you ever even been there? Plenty of areas in Baltimore are being gentrified. How dare you compare Baltimore to Detroit in such a matter-of-fact manner. They are on entirely different levels.

  47. Nat says:

    I’ve been following the work of Fred for a while now. And I have a bit to say:

    1. You say that the show is white dominated. This is true, I absolutely don’t deny it. However, making sweeping generalizations like “there are no black actors in Portlandia” is probably a huge kick in the teeth to those actors who have been on the show. While it’s clear that a lot of the leading parts in the show are played by white people, that doesn’t take away from the contribution of the black actors who are in it, and I think they should be recognized as performers while still highlighting the imbalance. Maybe “there are not many black actors in Portlandia” would be better. Also I just thought I’d point out, though he’s pretty white-passing, Fred Armisen is a person of color, being specifically a quarter Japanese and half Venezuelan (as well as a quarter German, though obviously that’s in Europe). That being said I do admit yep he’s white-passing, and so he likely gets a lot of the privileges that come along with that, but I want to acknowledge his background as I haven’t seen it mentioned here.

    2. Also as a trans person myself, while again, I understand the troubling connotations of the “man in a dress” trope and am sure that I’m sure some closed-minded viewers of the show will just see it and go “LOLFUNNY”, this is different than that. This is a sketch that addresses the problems of the “white feminist” character, that highlights their ridiculousness and hypocrisy, and allows people to make fun of the problematic figures that exist within our own community. I always just assumed Fred played Candace because both of the characters were intended to be women, and Fred and Carrie were the two main actors, and that the trans/cis status of either of the two characters was irrelevant or ambiguous.

    However I do think that having a sketch that includes a cis man in a dress playing a woman is still probably risky in a world where so much anti-trans hate crime continues to occur, especially primarily to trans women, and more specifically still trans women of color. By many people who aren’t as keyed into these issues, they can misinterpret the sketch as another excuse to laugh at the idea of “men in dresses”, and completely missing the critique of self-important, privileged and egotistical white feminist character. But, I guess that if the people watching thought “men in dresses” were funny in the first place, that that commentary probably would go over their heads.

    However, your decision to end the relationship with Portlandia is 100% your own and I’m not gonna tell you that you were wrong. I do wonder if the taking down the BLM sign was done by the crew to highlight that a “white feminist” would totally do that, or if the crew feared that if it was present in the show that they would get backlash as they wished to stay apolitical. Either way, they should have explained their reasoning before just taking it down. If it was the former, maybe you would have understood, and if it was the latter, you could have fought back. I’m sure lots of people would be in agreement with you guys that keeping it up is an act of defiance and that some rando crew people not wanting to cause controversy should just listen to what you all had to say.
    So really there’s no excuse for just going in and taking it down so abruptly, they should have explained their reasoning, it could have opened up a channel and allowed you to fight for the just thing.
    Also there’s no excuse for messing up your store. That’s just really inconsiderate.

    Overall I don’t agree with some of what you say, but I 100% get why you have the opinions you have. I suppose I just don’t want you to completely discount the work up-and-coming black actors have done on the show, and other people of color too, and I want to just remind people of Fred Armisen’s own background, as well as argue that though the sketch makes fun of white feminism, many people could probably interpret it as just making fun of feminism or showcasing a problematic kind of feminism as being “feminism” altogether, as well as also showing a “man in a dress” to people who will probably just use it as an excuse to laugh at “men in dresses” in future. I think it’s a risky sketch. I like what it has to say about the absurdity that white feminism is, but I also understand that its nicheness opens it up to huge amounts of extremely problematic misinterpretations. Though I love the show, and think the sketch is funny, I do think the show might be helped by closing that channel altogether and no longer allowing people to have the ability to misinterpret the ideas presented.
    And the dumbass crew members who called for the removal of the BLM sign? No excuse. I totally understand how shitty that was. I hope it was just the crew being attuned to the message of the sketch, but I also think that it’s equally likely that it was crew members worried about bullshit “controversy” of having a BLM sign in the window and not wanting to draw ire from people who disagree. Whichever it was, they should have been more clear.

    And trashing the store? Also no excuses.

    Overall yeah I may not be in 100% agreement with everything you said, but I do 100% support your decision to break from your association with the show. Good for you, I know that sounds passive aggressive or maybe patronizing but I genuinely mean it, good for you.

    I’ll also add that 100% I agree that the comments here, give or take a few, have been excellent.

    • Wm. X Wordsworth says:

      Congratulations are in order, to me that is, for reading your post in its entirety! Did you ever think some savage editing might improve it? Some things only need saying once; some others should have hit the cutting room floor.

  48. Paul says:

    Your post is a big portion of what makes the show so funny, making fun of people taking themselves way too seriously and absurdity. Both on display here. Lighten up.

  49. kill yourself says:

    awww is the poor store that exploits free labor not getting paid enough?

  50. Jack says:

    Don’t you guys host TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism) events, making you equally guilty of transmisogyny in an ironic twist? Also, you’re a book store famous among PSU students for not having most of the relevant books on site on any given day, and which has to periodically crowdfund to keep its doors open despite being run by unpaid volunteers, don’t act like you were drowning in business before Portlandia.

  51. terrence rhine says:

    wow xenophobia much? “mass displacement”? “displacing the communities” “incoming hordes.”? These are classic nativist code words. Structural anti-immigrant assumptions are very real.

  52. Hugh Mungus says:

    First off Kill Yourselves. Second off Feminism is cancer.

  53. Liz says:

    If the black people of Portland are so concerned about their people maybe you should begin to address the problem be filling up your chapter of the NAACP with blacks and not whites. Be thankful ‘Portlandia’ brought business into you city. I would have never come & spent thousands of dollars without it. I’m from Hollywood and our city is the most wrongly represented city in the world. Lighten up and stop talking about signs. Take responsibility on both sides white & black, male & female.

    P.S.:. Any man/Tran that wants my period pain, childbirth pain, menapause pain & major surgery pain of having a huge uterine fibroid tumor removed and being cut from bone to bone and having back pain every day of my life since it – is welcome to it. I would gladly trade with a man/Tran any day.

  54. Turan Khan says:

    I’ve lived in OR since 1986 and pdx since 2000.
    -i hate portlandia
    -i hate fred or should i say Fereydun-mythical iranian khan.
    -i hate brownstein-
    -i really hate krisel’s writing.

    if I see them out and about when filming, they’re going to get an ear full.
    Fereydun and staff belong in LA or NY not OR.
    the sooner Portlanders realize how much portlandia and its staff have damaged the reputation of our city, the sooner we can start damage control.

    F.U. Portlandia!!!!

  55. TuranKhan says:

    I’ve lived in OR since 1986 and pdx since 2000.
    -i hate portlandia
    -i hate fred or should i say Fereydun-mythical iranian khan.
    -i hate brownstein-
    -i really hate krisel’s writing.

    if I see them out and about when filming, they’re going to get an ear full.
    Fereydun and staff belong in LA or NY not OR.
    the sooner Portlanders realize how much portlandia and its staff have damaged the reputation of our city, the sooner we can start damage control.

    F.U. Portlandia!!!!

  56. Candace says:

    I am a feminist. I am proud to be a feminist. I have watched all of Portlandia. I understand where some of your criticisms are coming from.

    For example, Portlandia uses “sex” in the place of “gender” and vice versa, which is something a lot of people have issues understanding. I feel like, if they were going to attempt to tackle this as a form of humor, they should at least have a basic understanding of sex and gender.

    Also, your concerns about the crew leaving your store in shambles are totally fair. That’s unacceptable and I can understand not wanting to work with the show on the basis of that alone.

    But I feel like this post largely misses the point. I don’t see Fred’s character as a dude in a dress joke. I think if Fred were a woman they’d be doing the same skit. It’s a joke about feminists who take themselves too seriously, like in this post. I don’t see the humor to be trans-misogynistic. Your comments like “FUCK PORTLANDIA” or about how it is “JUST NOT FUNNY” don’t really help your cause. Clearly some people out there think it’s funny. Perhaps we should be trying to bridge that gap instead of shaming people for what they find funny. I’m not sure that shaming people ever results in lasting change.

    I get having strong feelings, and I’m not telling you that the show is faultless or that your feelings are wrong or mistaken. I’m trying to imagine how the average person would respond to this post. If I’m a feminist, employed by a feminist organization and I feel this way, I can only imagine how the average person might respond to this post.

    I wish your organization the best of luck.

  57. Ashley Winters says:

    Good for you! The ways that ongoing bookstore sketch made fun of feminism and transgender issues are so unfunny, beyond dated, disturbing, and ugly. There are a lot of things not to like about ‘Portlandia’ and I think it is awesome that you have made this choice. Thank you.

  58. John m says:

    You guys need to make a pilgrimage to Chalmette, Louisiana where these problems have already been figured out!

  59. Rem says:

    Why the fuck is everyone in Portland a hipster!!! How the fuck did you motherfuckers get to take over all of Portland?! You fucking hipsters are the epitome of gentrification coming in with your upper middle class money. Then dressing down acting like you guys “don’t try” wearing those shitty clothes. With your coffee shops and bookstores. You people appropriate anything from another culture just to be thought of as culturally aware. You fuckers say the same shit in places like Brooklyn pushing out all the honest to goodness people who grew up there with mafia, gangs etc. Goddamn I feel sorry for Williamsburg. From your privileged I emphasize PRIVILEGED liberal point of view speaking as if you can speak for the Middle Class, the Working Class and the Lower Class. From you views that come from unpopular underground feminism, LGBT rights, race politics etc. You people have been been gentrifying Brooklyn, Silverlake, The Mission and PORTLAND forever now! Get off your high horse and think about the people who are being pushed out no amount of you bringing in business and community activism will work if 1. Normal people get annoyed with you people. 2. A wave of hipsters keep moving. 3. When they can’t afford to buy from those businesses. 4. Those businesses are tearing down homes! FUCKING HIPSTERS GODDAMNIT!!!

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