What’s hardcore?

As an expat aid worker (or journalist) you do a lot of talking and writing about how hardcore things are in the place where you are living, working or visiting.

You do this to get people out of their bubbles. You want them to know what is going on. To see what you are seeing and experiencing. To care. To react.

You feel the need to wake people up. To say to them: ‘You have no idea how hardcore it is here. You have no idea what people are going through!’

But sometimes you lose the plot and your narcissism kicks in. You totally change the nature of the story to: ‘You have no idea how hardcore I am because I’m living, working or visiting this place where people are going through terrible things.’

It becomes a contest of who’s the most hardcore.

Because that’s what this is all about anyway, right? You being hardcore?


July 10, 2011 update: This post was sparked by the 2 links below and related discussions on blogs and Twitter but I was unsure about saying so at the time.



Then this morning I read this piece:


And right after that, I read this (including the first comments):


which refers to live-tweeting the visit of a rape victim to the doctor (something that really made me angry at the time):



And so yes, this post was dedicated to Mac, in case it wasn’t clear before. 


About Shotgun Shack

INGO worker hailing from the crossroads of America, and so far from home in so many ways. I blog about life and the depths and ironies of INGO work. View all posts by Shotgun Shack

12 responses to “What’s hardcore?

  • morealtitude

    Why else would I blog…? 😉

  • Cynan

    > Because that’s what this is all about anyway, right? You being hardcore?

    and the medals. don’t forget the medals.

  • J.

    let me get this straight:

    1) She spends time in a car with a rape survivor/victim…

    2) That incident gives *her* PTSD…

    3) She self-medicates by having her boyfriend pretend to rape her…

    4) But none of this is really about *her*… she’s telling us all this because she’s raising awareness for the plight of poor Haitian women who are at risk of being raped…

    5) But still, she’s really really brave and, as by-products, “edgy” and “hardcore”…

    6) But really, it’s not about her… I’m serious. She’s getting faked raped for the benefit of *other* people…

    7) And THAT makes her really brave. And edgy.

    8 ) But remember, none of this is about her (except the part about how it helps her get over the PTSD she acquired by talking to one rape survivor) …

    Is this what that song “Sexual Healing” is about?

  • #72 Untreated PTSD « Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like

    […] a less dangerous or stressful job, and maybe getting professional help can make the EAW appear less hardcore – which would never do. “Really, what shrink can possibly get what I’ve been […]

  • Weh Yeoh

    Sorry guys, I think you’ve really got this one wrong here.

    It’s not up to you to question whether someone is or isn’t allowed to get PTSD. Admitting to PTSD and then revealing how it was treated (albeit in an unconventional manner) isn’t narcissistic, it’s honest. For those who are claiming that she should be talking about Haiti and not herself, have you read her body of work on Haiti?

    Yes she is reporter on human rights in Haiti, but that doesn’t mean she’s not a human being who isn’t allowed to reflect on her own challenges faced. And when she does openly reflect on them (perhaps also encouraging others to admit their own weaknesses and methods to treat them), she gets howled down and told that she’s narcissistic. And this is from people who are supposed to be compassionate.

    It’s okay to have moments of weakness once in a while, and to openly talk about it. It doesn’t make you any less of a person.

    • Shotgun Shack

      Brendan and Weh Yeoh,
      My perspective on Mac is very colored by my first exposure to her, which was the ‘live-tweeting rape’ incident, something that was wholly questionable even if she had had the victim’s consent, which it appears she really didn’t. See http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2011/07/11/haitian_rape_victim_puts_journalist_mac_mcclelland_on_the_defens.html and the link I put above http://www.essence.com/2011/07/09/edwidge-danticat-speaks-on-mac-mcclelland/

      The ‘live tweeting’ incident seemed to be more about Mac showing how badass she was for being along for the ride and Mac pushing boundaries and doing ‘hard hitting’ journalism. The tone of the tweets was less than sensitive or respectful to ‘K’s’ situation. At the time I wondered if Mac was trying to be the most hard hitting as possible, and whether live-tweeting that incident was achieving anything useful for anyone other than getting people to notice Mac and how close Mac was to tragedy – tragedy that could have been shared in a very different and more respectful way or perhaps not shared at all to the twittersphere but in a medium that would have provided context and followed journalistic ethical practices for reporting on victims of trauma. The tone of Mac’s writing, less than the actual topic (rape or PTSD) that she writes about, is what bothers me, and what makes me walk away from it with the feeling that she’s trying to prove something.

      I question the motives of people who seem to ‘get off’ on being in the most hardcore place as possible and in fueling the perceptions of how hardcore they are by being there. There’s something more to most of these places that outsiders see as ‘hardcore.’ There’s something beyond the tragedy and violence. Something to be seen and gained from engaging in a real and respectful way with the real live people who live in places that are considered ‘tragic’. There is life underneath the tragedy if you stick around to find it and are sensitive to it. I don’t find that sensitivity in Mac’s writing and the set-up of her stories.

      In any case, I think anyone working or writing from difficult places needs to step back from time to time to reflect, gain some perspective and question their own motives for being there.

      • Brendan Rigby

        Hi ShotgunShack,

        I understand your perspective on the issue and agree with you that we must always be respectful, sensitive and acknowledge the whole situation; not just the tragic circumstances.

        As I read more about this ever-developing story, it is hard to take a particular position on it. There are issues within issues; ethical, mental health, consent, conduct when covering rape & trauma, etc. Like you highlight, the ‘live tweeting’ incident and the allegation that Mac did not have the other woman’s consent are very concerning. It is a very serious allegation, and if the woman asked Mac not to write about her any more, then I also think that Mac should not have mentioned her at all in the PTSD essay, even under a pseudonym. Apparently, Mac thought she had consent, as it was given to her through a third-party, which acted as translators. But, what counts as consent?

        I do not think Mac was trying to be or show how hardcore her line of work is; this story and her actions are far more complex. This is another good link, summarising the debate, opinions and issues coming out of this:


      • Hudin

        Brendan, you apparently haven’t had the pleasure of living in San Francisco and being exposed to Mac constantly. For some reason, the editors of Mother Jones absolutely love her, yet she is nothing more than a sensationalist; the left wing counterpart to any blather parrot on Fox News. She’s a sad joke with, from what I can see, little actual talent, other than promoting herself in an uncouth manner.

        The larger issue in all of this is that women like her make it a) impossible for other real female journalists to be taken seriously or b) to be taken seriously, they need to behave as she does.

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