“At that time”. Photographed by Ellen Von Unwerth for Vogue Italia September 1997
having been asked “what’s the difference?”:
for me, niceness is a question of manner—and it’s a consolation. niceness is not threatening. niceness is, at its best, making the world easier for those around you. not “better” so much as less work. i do not mean it is a concept intrinsically without virtue (don’t go out of your way to make other people’s lives worse), but it is abstract and it is passive. it assumes something about your character and lets you off the hook. you don’t enact niceness; you just…are.
kindness is active; kindness comes from acts, describes those acts, you are described as a kind person when you are known for performing acts of kindness. and you can perform acts of kindness (things that make other people’s lives better) without categorizing yourself as a nice person, without softening your manner on a categorical level. you can generally come off mean or brash or cold or aggressive or whatever and still be capable of kindness. can still perform acts of kindness. everyone can. it is the human condition that we are all capable of anything: goodness is a choice, as much as anything. kindness is about making that choice.
i have a hard time with Niceness. i think it’s a prescriptive expectation, especially for girls—reminding them to be soft and unthreatening and to put themselves aside and want as little as possible; i think it does a fuck of a job on fiction, especially y.a., wherein heroines who are Nice Girls in fiction tend to be unthreatening vacuums who are rewarded for learned passivity and often juxtaposed with Not-Nice Girls who embody all the threats absent in Niceness. it’s also the vocabulary of an increasingly frustrating trend where if you don’t actively fuck up other people’s lives you deserve a reward: talking, of course, about Nice Guys™.
but that doesn’t mean that i don’t think people should work to be good to each other. it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to make our loved ones happy and not to be a dick to strangers. everyone should do that, no matter who they are, no matter how they come off. everyone is capable of that. niceness is a judgment of your character in general; kindness is about the things you’ve done.
WITH THE “DON’T BE A DICK” CAVEATthere’s a gulf between not being nice and being mean that i think people who judge niceness as a concept miss:
that in response to a previously designated moral high ground to niceness there is a growing position that it is okay to be actively mean, which is inaccurate, self-aggrandizing, and often cruel.
and that’s the reason i think kindness is important as an idea. generosity, too. all the agency-based human-decency adjectives—that’s what can reframe the argument and let you fight the toxic bits of niceness without going to “what’s the opposite of nice? MEAN. IF NICE IS BAD THEN MEAN IS GOOD.” (mean’s abstract and essentialist, too. as well as consisting of dick moves.)
the problem with niceness isn’t that it’s weak to make other people’s lives better—it’s that you have to make a choice to do that, rather than believe your ability to do that is a condition of who you are. the answer to the “niceness” problem obviously isn’t cruelty, it’s reframing goodness as an act of agency, rather than a character trait that people either possess or lack.
it’s not what you are. it’s what you do.
‘Gioielli XXL’. Photographed by Jean-François Lepage for M by Le Monde Magazine, June 2009
I wish you a speedy convalescence and hope you won’t be very ugly.
I think of you often.
thanks to mae, I can’t stop thinking about hannibal at trial, and how it would be a performative circus on the level of something like ted bundy.
and now all i want is to create an experimental in-universe kind of fuckyeah tumblr that reblogs (made up) news articles and commentary and gifs of the televised trial and posts conspiracy theories about will graham’s career and metas about the societal fascination with hannibal, and the people who think he’s innocent and just the whole circus of it that would spring up due to hannibal’s brilliant ability to perform and manipulate his image.
fourth wall, what fourth wall?
HEY BUT YOU DO HAVE A CULT SO
yes but mae
that’s only step 3
GUYS IT’S MY BIRTHDAY TOMORROW I’M HAVING AN EXISTENTIAL MELTDOWN
I’M NOT EVEN ON STEP 5 OF MY SEVENTEEN POINT PLAN YET
let blood rise inside the white walls and leave it irrevocably colored.
blood on the walls, lightning in the words; something like a sound and a fury and a lash, not a straight black line.
That feeling will pass. Let it wash over you, through you. Let me be your guide.
generally, fuck a minimalism; IF CAN HAVE EXCESS, WILL PURSUE EXCESS.
semicolon’d thoughtlessly but indicatively
FUCK A MINIMALISM; leave it flushed and begging for more.
#Take a girl #give her a scar; give her a secret #Give her men who see her scar and know her secret#and want to make them both their own #Give her fears and emotions and power and everything that women are not allowed to have without becoming infants or viragos #make her the living embodiment of a witch in the modern age: the girl with frazzled hair and night terrors in a mental institution #the one who won’t pour out her soul because she would rather scale walls than allow people to penetrate hers #And then give her power #Give her choice #Let her choose her own life over morality #Let her choose to conceal her scars #and bare them as she sees fit #Let her choose to bury her bodies #and unearth them to the world #Let her strip control over her stories from the hands of those men #Let her be a monster who is not a monster and a victim who will not be victimized #That #is Abigail Hobbs