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Tuesday, March 23, 2004

It's All Relative In West Virginia

In Strange News From the AP today comes this funny little story about a state, a t-shirt, and negative stereotypes.

Ok, so here's what happened. Abercrombie & Fitch loves to make spoof t-shirts. We love that about them, don't we? Their state t-shirts include: "New Hampshire. 40 million squirrels can't be wrong." But apparently they crossed a line with "It's All Relative in West Virginia". The Governor of that Wild and Wonderful state has sent a blistering letter saying the shirts promote "an unfounded, negative stereotype of West Virginia." He says, "I write to you today to demand that you immediately remove this item from your stores and your print and online catalogue... In addition, these shirts must be destroyed at once to avoid any possibility of resale and proof be given thereof."

Wow. Guess all that inbreeding leads to a lack of humor.... Hey! Stop throwing tomatoes at me. Actually what I have to say about the subject is this: Get over it. It's funny. Have a sense of humor. At this rate you will only exchange one negative stereotype for another.

And I know what I'm talking about. I'm blonde - and one of the world's greatest collectors of blonde jokes. I'm Irish - and one of the world's greatest collectors of drunk/lazy Irish jokes. AND I have (by marriage) *gasp* relatives in West Virginia. Because I am familiar with that Wild and Wonderful state, the t-shirt actually strikes me as funny on two levels. There is the obvious negative stereotype of inbreeding - which is amusing only because it is about as true as all blondes being stupid or Irish being drunk. (I'm neither drunk nor stupid, in case you wondered.) The deeper level to me is that in the parts of West Virginia that we visit it still matters "who your people are". Since I lived in parts of southern Mississippi with this same sort of closed society but without any relatives (we were transplants for Dad's job), I find this sort of cliquishness fascinating. It really is all relative in West Virginia, or at least it's important who your relatives are. My husband's great-grandfather was a minister in a small town in the 1930s and it still means something there. We were married in that church even though the family has been away for years. (It was the perfect church - beautiful!) As way of introduction the church coordinator would say to the others, "Do you remember Frances or his son Lyle? This is Lyle's grandson." That was all we needed and we were in like Flynn.

So chill out Governor Wise. It's all relative, anyway... ;)

2 comments:

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