Privilege Problems: Matt Damon Edition, Guest-starring Ellen DeGeneres

Hey remember when Matt Damon damonsplained diversity to one of the filmmakers on his show greenlight who happens to be the only black woman?  And then he “apologized” by saying that he was glad that he started a conversation about diversity.  Newsflash dude, we were already having a conversation about diversity.  It’s just that Matt Damon is apparently one of those dudes that doesn’t think things exist if he isn’t involved in them.

Whatever.  We all moved on with our lives.  There are more problematic people than Matt Damon and then…oh no…Matt Damon wasn’t done saying dumb things?  Here’s the new thing…

“I think you’re a better actor the less people know about you period. And sexuality is a huge part of that. Whether you’re straight or gay, people shouldn’t know anything about your sexuality because that’s one of the mysteries that you should be able to play.” — The Guardian

So, first of all, I’m not entirely sure that to say he was saying gay actors should stay in the closest is precisely correct.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t think what he said isn’t ridiculous, it is.  What he did actually say, essentially, is that everyone should stay “in the closet” about their sexuality.  See, equal opportunity, friends.  There’s only one problem with that.  Say it with me…

Heteronormativity.

Yeah.  See if an actor doesn’t show up with a significant other at some point, most people will assume that actor is straight. It’s literally impossible to be “in the closet” if you’re straight unless you are actively pretending to be gay which – to be clear – no one is doing.  If you want to be “mysterious” about your sexuality as a non-straight person that means actively hiding your sexuality whereas if you’re straight it just means not taking your dates to public events.  If you’re straight, you really can ride under the radar with your sexuality because we don’t have to specify straightness.  Straightness is our society’s default sexuality.  It’s not something that we talk about.

That’s what’s the most problematic about about what Matt Damon said.  He – as his previous diversity ‘splaining session should indicate to us – doesn’t really understand his privilege.

So in the wake of this new dumb statement Matt Damon did what any celebrity would do, he went on Ellen DeGeneres so that she could smooth things over for him.  She is, after all, the ‘L’ in LGBTQ, so who better to forgive him on behalf of the entire LGBTQ community.  Matt Damon stumbles through a thing where he blames the internet for loving to jump on the stupid things celebrities say and then DeGeneres…well, I’ll let the Guardian tell you…

DeGeneres, who is openly gay, told him: “I know you and I know you’re not that guy.”

Alright, everyone go home.  Ellen DeGeneres said he’s not that guy.  Clearly everything is fine.

Wait…

Here’s the ‘Guest-starring Ellen DeGeneres’ portion of the piece.  As great as it is to have celebrity ambassadors of the LGBTQ community, we have to stop perpetuating the “I have a <insert marginalized person here> friend” syndrome. When people like Ellen, or even non-celebrities, say “this thing didn’t offend me therefore it is not offensive to <insert marginalized group>” they are speaking for an entire community as though that community is one homogeneous group.  Doing that is the other side of the classic “I can’t be racist, I have a black friend.”  It’s not just for people who totally aren’t racist.  It’s also for people who totally aren’t homophobic.  Even Kim Davis has gay friends.  One person speaking definitively for an entire community allows us to live in a world where we expect one person to stand in for an entire community (and visa versa…it’s a whole vicious cycle).  It leads to generalizations about groups of people that are harmful to everyone, especially people who don’t fit the mold of what X people are “supposed” to be like.

It’s great that Ellen DeGeneres knows Matt Damon well enough to understand that he didn’t mean what he said the way it has been taken.  What would have been great is if she could then have gone on to point out that not meaning to be offensive and hurtful is not the same as not being offensive and hurtful.  Matt Damon stepped into a pretty fantastic opportunity for taking credit for a genuinely productive conversation about social norms which he is totally missing out on. In fact the attitude that Matt Damon is perpetuating – the idea that everyone can be equally mysterious about their sexuality as a means to making their acting better (a proposition that I think is pretty ridiculous for other reasons) – is that being gay will be damaging to your acting career.  As it happens, being gay has been damaging to many acting careers because “being mysterious about your sexuality” is a really great cover for people who just think being gay is yucky.  Who knew?  (Lots of people, it turns out.)

So Matt Damon, please take some basic college courses.  I would suggest Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.  You’ll learn a lot.  Maybe it will help your acting.  You can even feel free to take credit for the suggestion.

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We All Understand Satire

Do people not know how bullshit they sound when they say things like “well this <insert offensive thing> was satire and if you don’t understand that then <insert insult to your intelligence>.”  In this particular instance “you’re not mature enough to watch it.”  It, in this case, is South Park.

Full disclosure, I stopped watching South Park like three years ago.  At some point it just ceased to amuse me.  The humor felt extremely cheap to me.  I’m old enough to have started watching South Park when it was brand new and maybe I imagined it, but I think at the beginning it was just silly.  There was talking poop.  It was crass without reason.  Maybe it just wasn’t tenable over the long run.  Who knows.  As I mentioned, I haven’t watched it in three years and most days I barely notice that it exists.

…except this week.  So at one point a friend posts an article about a recent episode in which Donald Trump is raped.  I don’t know the specifics and I don’t care.  My friend said the people should really just stop watching South Park.  You don’t have to agree with that – and just to reiterate, I don’t care – but an acceptable way to respond is not to defend South Park by saying that this friend clearly doesn’t understand that South Park is satire and that’s what South Park does.  Their humor is edgy and if it offends you, clearly you don’t understand.

The problem with making an argument like that to a person that you actually know is that you probably know that they are in fact intelligent enough to understand satire when they hear or see it.  I know I’m intelligent enough to know satire when I see it.  I know this friend is intelligent enough to understand that South Park at least purports to be satire, and also understands what satire is.  When your best defense is to insult the intelligence of people who are your friends you are likely wrong.  Let’s make up a statistic for it.  If you do that then 97% of the time you are actively wrong, 2% of the time you are simply mistaken, and 1% of the time you are correct but are bad at arguing.

Be an adult, stop using these bad-faith defenses to shield your unreasonably delicate ego.  If a person doesn’t like a thing that you don’t like, that doesn’t make them an incapable of understanding it.  At the very least, don’t use their lack of understanding as though it’s a reasonable argument.  Clearly if people don’t like Broad City then…

…alright, it’s maybe not that strong.  And I don’t actually feel that way about you if you don’t like Broad City, but wouldn’t it be annoying if I did?  If you don’t like Broad City I would wonder why.  Is there something about it you find objectionable?  What is that thing?  Why didn’t I find it objectionable?  Or on the other hand maybe just okay you don’t like a thing that I like.  No one is obligated to like all the things I like.  Not even my best friend.  Not even my spouse.

Strip it down and be honest with yourself, because what I think is that when a person says “you just don’t understand satire” what’s happening is that they don’t want to say something like “I think rape can be funny and it’s okay to portray that.”  So to help people who like to insult their friends’ intelligence instead of having a good faith conversation about a difference of opinion, here are a few easy steps to avoid that:

How to Avoid Insulting Your Friends’ Intelligence as an Argument

  1.  Take a deep breath.
  2. Say – out loud – “I think it’s okay that <insert thing your friend found offensive>.”
  3. If you were comfortable saying that sentence out loud*, ask yourself why you were comfortable saying that out loud.
  4. Instead of telling your friend that they just don’t understand, tell them why you are comfortable with that thing.
  5. Consider any response your friend may have to your defense while taking another deep breath.
  6. If you continue to disagree with your friend, respect their right to their own feelings.

The reason that I’ve applied this specifically to friends is that if you can’t do this with friends you can’t do it with anyone.  Start with your friends and work your way to respecting the feelings of strangers.  We all have knee-jerk angry reactions sometimes, that’s perfectly reasonable.  Sometimes I’m having a bad day and my first reaction to an opinion I find objectionable is to say something mean/snarky.  While I usually say something funny, that doesn’t mean it was cool to say that.  For example, I’ve made a distinct effort to not make fun of Kim Davis’ hair/clothes/face/etc.  Those things aren’t relevant to any discussion about her viewpoints and how her viewpoints effect people.

There will be times when you have to say “I know that you find this thing objectionable and there are times when I might agree with you but I like this thing too much to care about how objectionable it is.”  Case in point: Game of Thrones.  I have been deeply angry about the unnecessary insertion of rape at times when even George RR Martin didn’t feel the need for rape to occur.  That said – confession time – I’m still watching Game of Thrones.  There may be a time when I finally reach my point of no return, but I haven’t yet.  There are friends of mine who have reached their point of no return and I understand and respect that.  It is entirely possible that they are better and more enlightened people for having quit GoT, which is something that I’m just living with.

The big picture is that when we make these declarative derogatory statements in lieu of making an argument, we’re missing an opportunity to have a better conversation while insulting a friend or maybe a potential friend.  Argue better and be nicer.


*Incidentally, if you weren’t comfortable saying that sentence out loud maybe you want to back it up and think about why you weren’t comfortable saying that sentence out loud.  If you aren’t comfortable saying it, maybe that is not actually your opinion and you just haven’t thought about it hard enough.

A Personal Note on Bisexual Pride Day

Hi, I’m bisexual.

I’m also married to a cisgender man.  I’m not going to detail the history of my relationships, sexual or otherwise, with you or anyone because the totality of my experience is none of your business unless I care to make it so and I don’t.

For better or for worse it is not obvious to people that I am bisexual.  It’s not because I’m in a relationship with a guy.  If I were in a relationship with a woman you’d assume that I’m a lesbian.  Because I’m married to a dude people assume that I’m straight.  I get it.  I do.

I often feel guilty that I’m married to a guy because I feel like I’m not feeling the struggle enough.  Oppression isn’t an Olympic sport, but I would never claim to have felt the sort of discrimination that is levied against my L, G, T, and Q compatriots whose identities may be more obvious.  I love my husband and I certainly shouldn’t have to feel bad about being in a committed relationship with a person who loves and supports me, and yet here I am.

Intellectually I don’t really care what anyone thinks.  I know what’s going on in my brain and I don’t owe anyone anything in terms of proving that I am attracted to men and women.  So…I don’t know where this was going.  Just hey, I’m bisexual.

Have a nice day.

English Shminglish

Daryl Metcalfe is a tool.  No wait…saying he’s a tool makes him sound vaguely useful.  No, he’s a douchebag.  And no, that isn’t anti-woman.  Douche is awful.  You don’t need it.  Your vagina is self-cleaning.  Douche is a trick created by the patriarchy to make you think you need to buy something to make your vagina better.  You don’t.  That’s what Daryl Metcalfe is, a useless product foisted upon Pennsylvanians who destroys all our natural microbes…or something.  Look, he’s awful.

I’ve been ranting about Daryl Metcalfe for – literally – years now.  I remember back in 2013 when Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) was trying to defund Planned Parenthood.  I was a Rebel for Equality when Daryl Metcalfe decided to flout business-as-usual and stop gay lawmaker and all around awesome human being, Rep. Brian Sims, from speaking during the unanimous consent portion of the day in the Pennsylvania House.  It was on that day that Rep. Daryl Metcalfe declared Rep. Sims to be in “open rebellion against God.”  Take a minute to digest that.  I remember when Daryl Metcalfe supported a measure – which ultimately passed – that stopped insurance companies in Pennsylvania’s marketplace from covering elective abortion.  Or how about the time that Daryl Metcalfe wanted to nullify any federal gun law passed after December 31, 2012?

So today when my least favorite Pennsylvania legislator blew up my news feed today I was less than shocked.  This is a man with a history of not understanding the difference between religious freedom and using your religion to oppress people.  He did, after all, say of silencing Rep. Brian Sims, “I’m a Christian. Based on the command of Jesus Christ, of Almighty God, I love my fellow man. I work to protect their liberties”…as long as they’re Christian who agree with me.  Apparently he applies the same sort of logic to immigrants.

He believes that everyone who comes to live in the United States should learn English.  Hey look, I’m not arguing that making your way into the ever shrinking American middle-class isn’t made so much easier by speaking fluent English, I’m just saying that this isn’t what we’re talking about.  What we’re talking about is Daryl Metcalfe and people who think like him using this bill as a whisper thin veil behind which they can point at immigrants and call them “other”.

“The committee, chaired by longtime anti-immigrant lawmaker Daryl Metcalfe, has invited a white nationalist to testify, along with representatives of two other anti-immigrant groups.” — Southern Poverty Law Center

Did I say veil?  Okay, maybe no veil.  Apparently it’s just a naked appeal to groups who unabashedly support a system that privileges white people on the idea that white people are somehow superior simply on the basis of something as factory-model as skin color.  I mean…really?  The idea that skin color is somehow a marker of superiority strikes me as somewhat silly, but then I’m not an insecure, tiny little insect of a human being whose only value in this world hangs on something as transparently ridiculous as the paleness of their skin.

In any case, Daryl Metcalfe is the Chair of the State Government Committee.  He’s got some amount of seniority, which should tell you all you need to know about what gerrymandering does to a state.  In the course of a committee hearing on this farce of a bill, of which Rep. Metcalfe is the second listed sponsor, a legislator with an opinion contrary to the almighty Chairman’s wanted to express herself.  Yeah, her.  It’s actually comparatively rare since, in the entire Pennsylvania legislature which comprises 253 Representatives and Senators, there are only 45 female legislators, making a mere 17.8% of the Pennsylvania legislature female.  Not only is this bold Representative one of the 17.8% women in the legislature, she is Pennsylvania’s one and only Latina Representative.  Sure, Pennsylvania is below the national average in terms of Hispanic/Latinx citizens.  We have only 6.6% to the national average of 17.4%.  One representative, however, does not comprise 6.6% of Pennsylvania’s legislature.  She, in fact, comprises 0.39%.  So Representative Leslie Acosta has a lot riding on her when she made a statement during a hearing about this bill to point out that it was completely ridiculous and that enshrining in law the idea that not speaking English should be the barrier that stands between immigrants and being able to understand literally anything to do with government.

Leslie-Acosta
Rep. Leslie Acosta (D-Awesomeville)

Look, I really do get that learning English makes life easier in the US.  I do.  Consider this, though: tax forms.  I’m a person of above average intelligence who is also a native English speaker and tax forms still make me want to put my head through a brick wall occasionally.  And that’s just one of the many kinds of forms our vibrant and massive bureaucracy has at its disposal.  I highly recommend that you check out the Think Progress piece on this incident so that you can watch Rep. Acosta stand her ground (which really is something you’d think Daryl Metcalfe would be all about) while Rep. Metcalfe attempts to shut her up with the power of his manliness up to the point that he just shuts off her microphone.

Briefly, however, a word on covering this story.  As a Pennsylvanian, I understand the motivation to poke fun at Pennsylvania.  I have lived near enough Pittsburgh to be a part of the ‘good’ part of Pennsylvania.  James Carville coined the “Pittsburgh in the west, Philadelphia in the east and Kentucky in middle” ideal that we all understand to be the reality of Pennsylvania.  Nevertheless, it is not productive to call Pennsylvania “the Mississippi of the Northeast”.  Newsflash: New Hampshire has racists too.  So does New York and Connecticut and whatever other states are up in that wasteland we call the Northeast (see, doesn’t feel nice, does it?).  Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel chose to end her brief coverage of this debacle by poking fun at the “atrocious” Pittsburgh accent, which is such an hilarious and fresh take on the situation.

If you remember one thing, however, please remember this: the second that Representative Acosta named a Supreme Court precedent for not declaring an official language Rep. Metcalfe jumped in to stop her from speaking.  When your only defense is to silence your critics, you have no defense.

Return to the Terrordome: GOP Primary Debates, Round 2

Well, the second GOP Presidential Primary Debates have come and gone and my strongest sentiment is one that I’m sure anyone else who watched the debates must share: I want that five hours of my life back.  Yeah you heard me, five hours.  I watched the junior varsity debate and the Big Ten…I mean eleven…debate.

Hey, speaking of the big debate having 11 candidates instead of 10, let’s touch on that for a moment.  Someone needs the genital fortitude – be it ovarian, testicular, or otherwise – to tell Chris Christie and Rand Paul that they’re no longer “top tier” candidates.  At the point that you’re earning less than 2% (on average) of the polling share you are not top tier.  Frankly, were it not for the sheer number of candidates I’d say that if you’re earning less that 5% you might as well pack up and go home, but if that were the case it would have been a debate between Trump, Carson, Bush, Cruz, and Rubio.  The fact that Carly Fiorina had to lobby to get on the top tier debate stage is ludicrous.  She is polling higher than Chris “I was appointed Assistant US Attorney by George W. Bush on September 10th” Christie (PS. He wasn’t) and Rand “Let’s Not Talk About My Father” Paul.  If we’re splitting up the field into two tiers then Chris Christie and Rand Paul at the very least should be bottom tier.  Hopefully the CNBC debate on October 28 will yield something slightly better in terms of candidate distribution.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  I did actually live tweet throughout the debates except during the time that I read to my son before he went to bed (we’re reading Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, it’s pretty awesome).  Happily I was home for this debate and got to sit on my comfy couch as I destroyed many totally usable brain cells watching this nonsense.  Speaking of nonsense, as much as I didn’t really want to, I did hear some of the pre-game patter which basically amounted to Wolf Blitzer talking over everyone ever couple minutes to give an update on where Donald Trump was.

And before I knew it we were off to the races…

It was weird, but yes, the candidates were standing in height order from George Pataki (Giant-American) to Lindsay Graham (He Who Would Blow Up Iran).

So, in brief, here is what I learned from each candidate at the JV Debate:

  • Lindsay Graham
    • He’s never met an illegal Canadian.
    • He’s pretty sure than Hispanics are also Americans.
    • He will destroy radical Islam with the power of pearl clutching.
    • Did I mention that he’ll destroy terrorists?  All of them (that are also Muslim) forever.
    • Benghazi.
  • Rick Santorum
    • He has seven kids.
    • Thinks that a 50 cent minimum wage raise over three years is super generous
    • Was in fact briefly a Senator before he began running for President professionally.
    • Thinks you need laws to protect constitutional amendments
  • George Pataki
    • So tall.
    • Thinks Ronald Reagan was super keen.
    • Was the only person on stage who didn’t find sciencing-while-brown to be a potential breach of national security.
    • 9/11
  • Bobby Jindal
    • He’s an American and his parents came here legally.
    • Is totally sure that Americans don’t discriminate based on skin color
    • Does not stand with Ahmed.
    • Cares more about the idea of America than actual America.

During the break between debates I had to – as I mentioned – read to my son.  So I just started watching the portion of the debate that I missed and was delighted that I missed this quote from Mike Huckabee…

“None of us are a self-professed socialist.”

No. Shit.

If I could say one thing to Marco Rubio it would be this: you are not funny.  Don’t ever make jokes.  Especially don’t make jokes about an ongoing resource crisis in one of the states you hope to lead as President.

I know this is nitpicky…but I don’t think that putting your finger on the nuclear codes is what launches nuclear weapons. What I think you meant, Jake Tapper, is to ask Carly Fiorina whether she’d want Donald Trump’s finger on the button, which I’ll admit is somewhat suggestive.

It’s a little shocking that it took an entire ten minutes for the top tier debate to devolve into full-on cat-fight mode.  And I think it speaks to Donald Trump’s experience in the entertainment industry, having seen how much we all enjoyed last debate’s slap fight between Rand Paul and Chris Christie, that he wasted no time in picking his own fight with Rand Paul.  In the words of another famous Paul…

I could watch this gif all day.

At this point, I’m beginning to wonder whether CNN watched the Fox debate and thought “I feel like it needs more Trump.”

Scott Walker suddenly comes out of his mayonnaise-induced coma to utter the logical sentence:

“Just because he says it doesn’t make it true, the facts are the facts.”

…and then proceeds to say whatever the hell he wants whenever he can jam a word in for the rest of the debacle…I mean debate.

These people are about to start making me bleed out of wherever.

I will say this, I love Donald Trump’s commitment to a lie.  Not only did he commit to saying that he did not in fact ask for casino gambling to be legalized in Florida, but called Jeb Bush a liar for calling him a liar.  In other words: I know you are but what am I.  Oh and by the way, Ben Carson doesn’t want big money in his campaign either.

You know what, I think Donald Trump would get along really well with Vladimir Putin.  I can absolutely see them going topless horseback-riding together.

So here (sort of) is where we started talking about actual issues:

Iran

Please allow me to to summarize the entirety of the discussion on the Iran deal thus…

— Gillian (@LibrallyGillian)

Using Your Religion to Oppress People (AKA. Religious Liberty)

Of course soon enough, the topic shifted and Kim Davis suddenly became the topic of discussion.  Unsurprisingly, Mike Huckabee had a lot to say, including that allowing a Muslim prisoner to grow a beard is the same as Kim Davis denying same sex couples marriage licenses.  Those are not the same things.  If the Muslim prisoner was trying to force other people to grow beards that would be the same thing and then courts would have ruled against both the Muslim prisoner and Kim Davis.  However, the prisoner in question just wanted to grow a beard on his own face and so that is in no way the same thing.

Planned Parenthood (The Defundination)

Clearly the GOP field would have been remiss if they didn’t spend what felt like an eternity spewing outright falsehoods about Planned Parenthood and jockeying for Planned-Parenthood-Hatingest-Conservative of the Year.  Carly Fiorina was maybe the worst offender in terms of blatant falsehoods about the infamous(ly bullshit) Planned Parenthood videos.  Meanwhile Jeb Bush fielded a question about saying that the government didn’t need to spend $500,000 on women’s health without ever once saying the word “woman”.  Not. Once.

Immigration

The discussion, if I may be so charitable to call it that, about immigration was one of the most xenophobic, awful things I’ve ever heard.  ‘Assimilate’ was the word of the discussion, which of course followed candidate after candidate trying to be the most American.  Did you know that Marco Rubio’s grandfather loved America?  I hope your grandfather loved America.  Another fight broke out, this time between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush over a comment that Donald made about Jeb’s wife, Columba.  Because, you know, Jeb Bush married an immigrant which makes him too lenient on immigrants.  This leads me to wonder…wouldn’t that make Donald Trump three times more lenient on immigrants because all three of his wives have been immigrants?

Ben Carson broke in intermittently to point out that he would build an impenetrable double-fence and also he has talked to farmers so he knows that his plan isn’t amnesty.  He didn’t spell that out for you, but allow me.  Ben Carson thinks it’s okay for immigrants from Latin America to work in agriculture because that is punishment enough.  He’s cool because the back-breaking labor at wouldn’t-it-be-nice-if-these-were-poverty-level wages is the sort of grueling labor that Americans won’t do and thus we need the easily exploitable labor force that immigration provides.

Taxes

Could this have gotten any more predictable at any point?  So flat tax, obviously.  I think it’s odd that Ben Carson and not former preacher, Mike Huckabee is the one that likens a flat tax to tithing but whatever.  I’m just saying, Mike, seems like a gimme.  Let’s not even talk about how pointlessly silly it is to think that a flat tax of 14.5% would cover all of our revenue needs (Rand Paul).  Also, when Donald Trump has the most reasonable sounding tax plan, we’re all in trouble.

Wait, I almost forgot where Ben Carson tries to reintroduce the youth minimum wage.  You know, because how will young people ever find jobs if employers are forced to pay them enough to live on?

And Then Carly Fiorina…

Look, I think there were legitimately times in this debate when Carly Fiorina was disrespected by both the moderators and her male counterparts.  That does not excuse apparently refusing to use the appropriate honorific when referring to Hillary Clinton.

Samuel-L-Jackson-Pulp-Fiction-1994

The Longest Debate Of All Time

It probably wasn’t the longest debate of all time, and I’ve definitely skipped some parts I tweeted about, but at this point I was about to lose my mind when Jake Tapper said they’d have another commercial break and be back and I thought for sure it would be the last commercial break BUT IT WASN’T.

Marijuana

I just can’t.  I really can’t.

Putting a Lady on the Ten Dollar Bill

Suggesting that you would put your wife or mother on the ten dollar bill is disgraceful and disrespectful to the extremely long list of women who have made substantive contributions to the history of the United States.  Unless your wife or mother is a legitimately important historical figure, suggesting that she should be on our currency is tantamount to suggesting that the contributions of people like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Frances Perkins, Wilma Mankiller, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, or Dolores Huerta – amongst others – are equal to your mom raising you or your wife “putting up with” you.  I’m sure your wives and mothers are saints, but they are not an integral part of our national history.

Oh, and by the way, Carly Fiorina’s “pick” wasn’t “the perfect pick”.  No one thinks that putting a woman on money is going to magically give us gender equality.  Her statement was the functional equivalent of the last debate when Ben Carson said he knows we’re all really the same because he’s operated on people and everyone’s insides look alike.  What it will do is show Americans young and old that we value the historical and ongoing contributions of more than just a few rich, white, slave-owning white men.

And Finally…

I barely remember the end of this horrifying nightmare-scape.  By the time I’d gotten to 11 o’clock I’d had Republicans pumped into my ears for almost five hours and my brain hurt.  My brain is still recovering.  The general gist that I got from everyone’s closing statements is that if we elect literally any Republican they will create a magical utopia.  I’m pretty sure that isn’t the case.  In fact as I think about it, I’m certain it’s total horseshit.  I’m not sure why I do this to myself.  For Pete’s sake, even Bernie Sanders didn’t make it to the end:

Indeed, I too have had it.  At least the next debate is a Democratic one.

Two Bad Memes Doesn’t Make a Right

Sexism, racism, and classism are a tricky cocktail.  Each ism on its own is toxic, but in combination they tend towards the sort of gross Frankenstein’s monster variety of discriminatory attitude.  This trifecta of terrible allows any number of intersecting reasons to belittle women, and ,obviously with racism, women of color particularly.  Michelle Obama has been, throughout her husband’s presidency, subject to sexist/racist attacks that range from the subtle to the vomit-inducing.  If you imagine that the 2016 president race might give people reason to turn their attention to new targets then you, like me, are extraordinarily wrong.

This brings us to Michelle Obama v. Melania Trump.  It is beyond me that this is actually a thing, but since it’s a thing and because the thing is coming from both the right and the left I thought we’d address it.  Two competing memes (at least) have been floating about.  I’ll show them in the order that they appear to have been created though I came across them in reverse order:

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Let’s start with how it would be disrespectful to call any woman named Michelle, “Moohelle” (does anyone else think they meant Moochelle?), let alone the First Lady of the United States.  As a person whose name has been consistently mispronounced and misspelled from a very early age for both innocent and malicious reasons, I can attest to the fact that having someone intentionally distort your name is unpleasant.  It sticks with you.  Your name, even if your name is pretty common, is yours.  It is a part of your identity.  It is unkind to distort a person’s name or to call them by a name with which they do not identify.

Next, inasfar as I can tell, the only way that either of those two pictures relates to class is that Michelle Obama is clearly on vacation in Hawaii and Melania Trump is obviously a model.  Vacationing in Hawaii is not cheap, therefore Michelle Obama must, and in fact does, belong to a higher than average economic class.  Models of Melania Trump’s caliber make pretty large sums of money and thus she also occupies a higher than average economic class.  That’s irrelevant though because this isn’t about Michelle Obama portraying indications of a class lower than the one to which she belongs, it’s about her being black.  If Michelle Obama were white it’s hard for me to imagine this picture being an issue for anyone.  She looks, as a friend said “like a mom vacationing in Hawaii.”

For the second part of the first meme, it would appear that, to the creator of this meme if no one else, a classy woman is an empirically attractive, scantily clad (probably white) woman.  This version of a classy woman is fully comfortable using her sexuality as a commodity, something that would not be considered classy if that person were not white.  Were Melania Trump black or perhaps a Latina, her picture would be layered with other preconceptions.  What does or does not have class is more than a little subjective of course, although, in the popular culture of the modern United States, Donald Trump’s excessive use of the word “class” has rendered it almost meaningless.  Being classy is, as one blogger puts it, “rooted in social class.”  Using the word class in this way is itself classist.  It places a value on behaviors and appearances associated with higher economic or social class therefore inherently devaluing behaviors and appearances associated with lower economic or social classes.  What this portion of meme indicates is not about Melania Trump so much as the meme creator theirself (likely himself).  A classy woman here is a woman, likely white, willing to present herself for sexual objectification.  The question is, would Michelle Obama be treated to the same adulation were she to behave similarly and the answer is almost certainly no.  This is not a guess.  Remember when all hell broke loose because Michelle Obama dared show the full length of her arms in an official picture?

If we were less thoughtful people, we might be tempted to conclude that only one of these two pictures is harmful as a commentary.  We are, however, clearly very thoughtful people and so we know that the second meme, while appealing to our liberal bias, is also slut-shaming Melania Trump.  In the second meme Michelle Obama is pictured at her best in terms of attire, in a stunning gown at some sort of gala event.  Hey look, we’re still judging Michelle Obama, an Ivy League educated attorney, based on how she looks.  The second Michelle Obama picture is saying “this is what a First Lady is supposed to look like.”  Given that Melania Trump is a super-model and extremely wealthy I would guess that you could find a picture of her looking gorgeous and empirically First Lady-like in a nice dress.  Check it out…

…I put approximately 20 seconds of effort into find this picture and that includes inserting it into this post.  She’s like a latter day Jackie O, that one.  Certainly the United States has never been treated to a spouse who is also a super-model, but look at France.  Melania Trump is no less First Lady-like than former French First Lady/Singer/Songwriter/Model, Carla Bruni. But instead of focusing on the fact that literally anyone can dress in a way that appears to conform to what we feel a First Lady should look like, Melania Trump is pictured, once again, looking seductive and this time possibly nude.  The message sent here is “hey look at Melania Trump parading around without her clothes on!  What shocking behavior!  How beneath the position of First Lady!”

To be honest they could have used the same picture as the first meme to similar effect.  I would point out, however, that Melania Trump is a super-model and it is her bread and butter to look super smokin’ hot, mostly so that we will feel compelled to buy things.  That’s what super models do.  They pose in pictures and those pictures are used to sell you on a standard of how women should look and usually also on a particular product.  Melania’s body is her own and she gets to show it off or not, for money or not, as she sees fit.  Does modeling as a profession come with some pretty big issues for a person who advocates gender equality?  Yeah, you bet it does.  Nevertheless, Melania Trump gets to make her own adult decisions about what to do with her body.  The bigger point is, you do not need to slut-shame Melania Trump in order to elevate Michelle Obama.  Michelle Obama doesn’t even need you to elevate her.

Instead of elevating Michelle Obama by slut-shaming Melania Trump, maybe our liberal response could be something a little more like this…
Randos

Stop perpetuating a patriarchal standard that dictates what behavior is or isn’t appropriate based on gender/race/class/etc.  It is not okay.

No One Wants Your Acceptance

So by now if you haven’t heard about Kim Davis I would like the address of the cave in which you reside so that I may join you there.  In the event that you haven’t though, let me give you the abbreviated story so we can move on.  Kim Davis is a County Clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky.  Since the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Obergerfell v. Hodges she has been denying same-sex couples marriage licenses to which they are legally entitled.  She insists that she doesn’t believe in “gay marriage” and blah blah sanctity of marriage yadda-yadda.  This has gone through several levels of our court system all the way up to the Supreme Court who told Kim Davis and her attorney in no uncertain terms to bounce because they had already ruled in this matter.

Here we are, the next day.  The Supreme Court has told her to get the hell on with her job and she’s still denying couples their marriage licenses “under the authority of [g]od.”  Normally, I might stick in a picture, but I am so tired of seeing this woman’s face that I don’t want to do that, nor do I want to burden you.  This is not so much to talk about her specifically, but something that her husband said which has a larger relation to attitudes that seem entirely too prevalent in the United States.  Finally succumbing to temptation, I clicked on one of the seventy-nine articles in my newsfeed in which I came across this quote from Kim Davis’ husband:

“They want us to accept their beliefs and their ways. But they won’t accept our beliefs and our ways.”

I have a couple things to say about his statement.  First of all, I feel confident in saying that none of the same-sex couples attempting to acquire a marriage license is in need of or even desires your acceptance.  They don’t need you to accept shit.  What they need from Kim Davis is for her to do her job.  Period.  End of story.  She doesn’t have to like it.  She just has to do it, because that’s her job.  Ideally you will get issued a marriage license and it will be as uneventful as and no more frustrating than renewing your driver’s license.

And here’s the messed up thing about her job.  She is an elected official.  What this means is that she had to actually campaign – to some extent – to receive the votes of the people in her county.  Now I can tell you from personal experience in local politics that it is entirely possible that she ran unopposed because lots of small government positions that you don’t actually understand what they do (prothonotaries, I’m talking to you) don’t actually get a lot of play in elections.  They aren’t sexy jobs.  No one really understands what it takes to be qualified for them and so no one really runs.  This is, of course, beside the point.  She did.  I hope you’re happy Kentuckians of Rowan County that actually voted for her.

The second thing is this: I don’t need to accept your beliefs and your “ways.”  You don’t need me to do that.  Because of the freedom of religion afforded you by the Bill of Rights you get to have your religious beliefs even when I don’t accept them.  And guess what?  I don’t.  I stridently do not accept an interpretation of the bible that relies on your ability to discriminate against people because you don’t like them (that is what this is about, because if it were about biblical principles you’d also be turning away those who are divorced).  The great (I guess) thing about the United States is that even if I don’t accept what I feel are your petty, cherry-picked, mean-spirited beliefs you still get to have them.  You get to have them at home.  You get to have them in your church.  You get to have them in your hand-picked community of bigots (yeah, I said it).  You get to have them to whatever extent you please so long as they do not conflict with the laws of the United States of America.  It’s like how you have the freedom of speech but you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater because then you’d be endangering people’s lives.  In a similar way, you get to have your religious beliefs until they endanger other people’s rights.

…Unless you’re a business that wants to stop women from having birth control and/or have access to abortion services, but that’s a story for another day…

My point is this: Kim Davis and her husband are not being oppressed.  What Kim Davis’ husband is asking for is not acceptance, it is for his wife to have the ability to use her government position to discriminate based on her personal religious beliefs.  What other people do that may conflict with your beliefs is not any of your business.  I have read the bible cover to cover on multiple occasions and nowhere does it say that you will be judged on other people’s behavior.  So no, no one wants your acceptance and neither are we required to give you ours.