Politics

WHAT ACTUALLY IS THE PROCESS OF IMPEACHMENT?

Before we get started: the only truly funny part about this impeachment is every reputable news outlet having to write a headline like, “The peach emoji isn’t just for butts anymore!” Like I didn’t know that I needed WaPo to write about the “sexy” peach emoji until it did. Just goes to show you.


If you’re anything like me, you’re sick of hearing about impeachment at every hour of every day, but you also can’t get enough of the d-r-a-m-a. And if you’re also like me, you haven’t bothered to research the actual process of impeachment until you decided to write about it for your blog. And if this paragraph applies to you, you need to back off. This is my thing.

As with a lot of things revolving around politics or science or culture or news, you can be an avid news-watcher and get a lot of the “latest” without really ever understanding the background or context.

So what is it?

Impeachment involves the lower house (in this case, the House of Representatives) of a bicameral government bringing forth charges against an elected official for alleged committed “high crimes or misdemeanors.” After that goes through, the impeachment then moves into the upper house (in this case, the U.S. Senate) as a trial, the result of which either finds the aforementioned government official convicted or not, and thus removed from office or not.

Before Trump, there were three instances of impeachment proceedings: Andrew Johnson in 1868, Richard Nixon in 1974 and Bill Clinton in 1998.

Presidents (as well as other government officials) can be impeached for things that are technically legal. A president does not have to break the law to trigger an impeachment process.

In fact, Alexander Hamilton, in the 65th Federalist paper, identified impeachable offenses as public misconduct, or the abuse/violation of public trust. Essentially, the creators of the impeachment process recognized that even non-criminal activities by the person occupying the highest and most powerful seat in the country could have damaging or negative ramifications.

It’s the same logic as to why if I complained about a Postmates driver stealing my food, no one would care, but when Lizzo complains, that driver gets death threats. People in power have impact that I don’t.

Impeachment does not necessarily mean ‘the removal from office.’ That’s why Trump could possibly be our third impeached president, though none have ever been removed from office. That’s because while the impeachment was approved and moved through the House, the Senate acquitted both President Bill Clinton and President Andrew Johnson via their respective trials.

This happened before?

In 1868, Andrew Johnson was impeached (primarily) for violating the Tenure of Office Act when he removed Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and replaced him with Brevet Major General Lorenzo Thomas. The larger context was the tension between Johnson and Congress over how to incorporate the Confederacy back into the Union, but I’m not your history teacher. Read a book.

Johnson was aquitted in the Senate trial, and set the precedent that Congress cannot remove a president from office because they disagree with his policy, style or administration of office.

The impeachment process began in February 1868 and concluded in May of the same year.

Despite the fact that Richard Nixon’s is the only impeachment process to not result in a Senate trial, his was also the only one to result in a president leaving office. Nixon was not actually impeached.

The process to impeach Nixon started after an investigation into the Watergate scandal (when burglars broke into the Democratic office at Watergate), and the Nixon administration’s attempt to cover up their involvement. The money paid out to the burglars was connected to a fund for Nixon’s re-election; in addition, Nixon and his aides discussed how to delay the FBI’s investigation in the Smoking Gun Tape.

However, impeachment seemed costly, publicly erosive and unpopular until the Saturday Night Massacre on Oct. 20, 1973, when Nixon fired both the attorney general and deputy A.G. for refusing to fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. After all three were fired, the desire for impeachment swelled rapidly.

In late July, 1974, the Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment (obstruction of justice, contempt of Congress and abuse of power). By early August, one of the subpoenaed phone call transcripts – the Smoking Gun Tape – had completely destroyed the rest of Nixon’s political goodwill. On the tape, Nixon was heard agreeing that the FBI should be approached to halt the investigation. On August 9, 1974, he resigned from office before the House of Representatives could officially vote on impeachment.

Nixon’s impeachment process started in late October, 1973 and ended with his resignation in August, 1974.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached on two articles (obstruction of justice and lying under oath) after Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee, sued the president for sexual harassment. During the Jones suit, Clinton was asked about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky and lied under oath.

The Jones suit came when independent counsel Ken Starr, investigating the Clintons for financial dealings with the Whitewater Land Company, learned about Ms. Jones during the investigation. During the investigation, Linda Tripp provided taped conversations between her and then-intern Monica Lewinsky where Lewinsky discussed her relationship with Clinton.

In a January 1998 sworn deposition, after Starr had received the tapes from Linda Tripp, Clinton lied under oath and denied any relationship with Lewinsky. Clinton was impeached in December of 1998 but acquitted in the following Senate trial when neither of his charges received the necessary two-thirds majority to convict.

The impeachment process began in October 1998 and concluded in February of 1999.

What’s the rub, currently?

On September 24, 2019, an impeachment inquiry started after a whistleblower flagged a conversation between U.S. President Donald Trump and the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky.

During the call, Trump also asked for ‘a favor’ from Zelensky, to investigate the debunked conspiracy that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In the call, Trump brought the conversation to include the actions of Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden who had business in Ukraine, and possibly enlist Zelensky and the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens. In the call, Trump alleged that Joe Biden had stopped prosecution of his son in Ukraine for his involvement in Ukrainian business. There is no evidence of this.

A second whistleblower came forward in early October with ‘first-hand’ knowledge of the Trump-Zelensky call. In the weeks before the call, Trump, through acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, had halted Congress-voted military aid to Ukraine. The first whistleblower also included the (proven to be true) moving of the phone transcript from the routinely used database to one that was much more high-security and typically only used for matters of grave consequence.

Essentially, House Democrats are claiming that Trump used the call, and potentially withheld financial aid to Ukraine, to pressure a foreign power to investigate his political rival.

It should be noted that the Trump administration denied that any pressure was being applied to Ukraine, and that the delayed financial aid was unrelated (that aid has since been given to Ukraine).

As the inquiry advances, more things will probably come out, so I don’t really want to get bogged down with too much detail, but the inquiry has brought Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani (who supposedly acted as an agent of the State Department, according to himself), Giuliani’s now-arrested associates and Attorney General William Barr (who was on the Ukraine call).

Literally, things keep happening.

When talking to reporters on October 3rd (he asked me what day it was, it was October 3rd), Trump said that China should also investigate the Bidens. Trump has made several statements asserting that the impeachment inquiry is a political coup, that the whistleblowers are guilty of treason, and that there was nothing wrong with the call. On the 17th of October, Mulvaney told reporters to ‘get over it,’ when he said, and later walked back, that the military funding had been withheld and then given, but only in relation to the Ukraine-Crowdstrike part of the conversation. Hours later, he said that his remarks had been misconstrued.

If I really went into every detail, I’d drive myself insane. Based on past impeachment processes, we could be at the beginning of a weeks- or months-long process. But now, at least, you know a little bit more.

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LGBTQ, Politics

How the “Love is Love” Mentality Can Erase Queer Political Struggle

Source: Wikimedia Commons


When a niche culture gets into the mainstream, there is always the risk that it will be diluted, overrun or misrepresented. In the case of LGBTQIA+ people, I feel like I’ve noticed two ways (one overt and one subtle) in which queer people are being sidelined in their own movement.

The first is through “rainbow-washing,” which basically describes companies that create rainbow-or-Pride-themed products in correlation with Pride month in order to get people to give them their business. They can do this with vague promises of “donating” certain portions to LGBTQ groups, but recognize it for what it is: companies deciding that queer culture is something they want to cash in on.

Second is the subtle, and this is something I’m only beginning to notice and vocalize myself, so I apologize if it seems clumsy. I’m going to say something controversial – I think that there are well-meaning straight people culturally erasing queer identity from Pride. Using the “love is love” surface mentality of LGBTQ Pride, straight people are removing queer people from the narrative and celebrating sanitized and wholly unpolitical general “love.”

I first noticed this with people across my timeline: people who I have known (obviously this is not the end-all of their sexual and gender identities) to be straight celebrating Pride, largely with other straight friends, and using it as an excuse to get drunk and wear rainbow.

First, let’s be honest: I have gotten drunk and worn a Golden Girls t-shirt to Pride (and looked amazing). I’m not advocating that we all stay sober on the day of the parade, and solemnly stand in libraries. But I think that there are straight people who go to Pride parades, and other queer events, thinking that pride is just that and justifying their participation in these events by saying that they are celebrating “love.” I’m not advocating for the banning of straight people from Pride events, but I think that the risk we run by making it open to everyone in the mainstream is the re-marginalization of the original message.

Heterosexual people celebrating Pride under the “love is love” banner kind of sanitizes and erases queer people from the narrative entirely. Yes, love is love and everyone is entitled to love whomever they want, but it is not just that. By straight people saying that Pride means celebrating Love, they are eliminating the fact that Pride was actually birthed from the political struggle for queer equality. It is, at its inherent core, a political act.

LGBT Pride originated after the Stonewall riots, June 28, 1969, marking the start of the modern queer rights movement as we know it. It was the result of a series of increasingly violent and aggressive police raids against the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the Village. The clientele were queer people: gay and bisexual men and women, gender non-conforming people, drag queens, male prostitutes. These were people who came to the Village for the safety of its anonymity, because they were, in their essence, criminal in the 1960s.

During these police raids, the cops would arrest anyone dressing in the clothing of the “opposite” gender, anyone seen touching the same sex, any woman who was not wearing at least three pieces of “feminine” clothing. The police raids were a part of a larger effort to remove, penalize and arrest queer people. In the early 1960s, then-mayor of New York City Robert F. Wagner Jr. launched a campaign to rid the city of all gay bars. Police officers used “entrapment” methods (soliciting sex and sexual favors from men and then arresting them) to “catch” queer men. These methods ranged from police officers grabbing men they assumed to be gay in the crotch and seeing how they reacted, to engaging men in conversation and arresting them if the conversation veered towards going somewhere else or getting a drink.

Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson were two of the first people to fight back after the police raided in the early hours of the 28th, and are credited as some of the earliest proponents of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Rivera, a transgender activist and drag queen, went on to co-found the Gay Liberation Front (the first gay organization to use “gay” in its name) and the Gay Activists Alliance. With Johnson, she co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries.

The rainbow flag was created by Gilbert Baker, an artist, gay rights activist and drag queen, as a new queer symbol. After being elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and the first openly gay man to assume public office in California, Harvey Milk asked Baker, his friend, to create a new queer symbol as an alternative to the pink triangle, which was used to identify gay men and women in Nazi concentration camps.

That same pink triangle was used by Nike on sneakers as a part of its “BeTrue” Pride campaign, a clumsy misstep that they addressed in their PR release as having a “complex past,”: “Originally used to identify LGBTQ individuals during WWII, the triangle was reclaimed in the 1970s by pro-gay activists and was later adopted by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in their memorable 1980s-era “Silence=Death” campaign.”

Baker created the rainbow flag as a political act and a unifier for all queer people: “A flag fit us as a symbol. We are a people, a tribe if you will. And flags are about proclaiming power.” Baker refused to trademark the flag, seeing it as his life’s work and his gift to the queer community.

Everything about Pride is political. It is not just about “love is love,” because anyone can love. Pride relates specifically to the economic, social and political equality that queer people strive towards and will continue to strive towards. I think that we have been lulled into the notion that because same-sex marriage is legal, and because more mainstream society is accepting us more, that the fight is over. I think that there are many straight, well-meaning people who believe that this is just a chance to celebrate, wear cute clothes and drink. That is not true.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, trans people are unemployed and homeless at rates three times more than the national, country average.

In 2017, according to National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 44 percent of anti-LGBT homicides were committed against transgender women; more than 60 percent of the victims of anti-LGBT homicides were people of color. Almost 65 percent of the victims were under the age of 35.

According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, a quarter of LGBTQ respondents had experienced some form of workplace discrimination within a five-year period. There is no federal law against employment discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual identity. In 28 states, there are no explicit prohibitions for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in state law.

I’m not saying that every single person at Pride needs to be able to rattle off a list of statistics about the treatment of LGBTQ people; I didn’t even know all of this until I spent the time researching it. But what I’m saying is that we are not yet at a place where we can afford a “love is love” chill vibe. Recognize why you are here, whose space you are occupying, and what this means. Things are dire for a lot, if not most, queer people. To dilute that, or to paste over it with a general and vague “let’s celebrate” mentality, is not just annoying or stupid to queer people, but dangerous to our lives as well.

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2018, Politics

ARE YOU CONFUSED ABOUT THE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT DETAINMENT POLICIES? I AM, SO I TRIED TO BREAK IT DOWN.

The other day, I read a New York Times piece that detailed one mother’s journey with her eight-year-old son from Guatemala to the United States, where they were detained and she was deported. Her son remains in the country, one of more than 2,000 children who have been separated from their parents as the result of a stricter border policy.

The story was gut-wrenching, and I became completely overcome when the mother described how she was given tranquilizers after landing back in Guatemala because she was so hysterical. At the time of the article’s publication, her son had no idea that his mother was not being held in a U.S. facility.

When I tried to research more about the policy that has been separating parents from children, I found myself getting more and more confused. There was Attorney General Jeff Sessions, giving a harsh speech about “zero tolerance,” but then there was Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of Homeland Security, saying that there was no such policy. There was President Donald Trump saying that the policy was the result of the Democrats, and yet there was reports that Stephen Miller, the president’s chief advisor, was responsible for drafting the policy.

It was confusing on purpose, because if people cannot get a clear answer on why something is happening, they tend to stop asking. For a few days, that was me – policy is confusing enough without the addition of fake news and blame-shifting. But the idea of that little boy, and his mother, stuck in my head and forced to research it more.

Here’s what I found, using Snopes.com, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Fox News.

In 1997, the Flores Settlement Agreement was created after 12 years of litigation that centered on what to do with children who illegally immigrate. The Flores Agreement stipulated that you cannot hold a minor for more than 20 days before releasing them to family, shelters, foster care systems or sponsors. In 2008, President George Bush signed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which requires unaccompanied minors from countries other than Mexico or Canda to be placed with U.S. relatives or the Office of Refugee Resettlement while going through removal proceedings. Neither policy required or stipulated that children be separated from their parents, as Trump claimed.

In April and May of 2018, Attorney General Sessions announced a change in immigration policy to a stance of “zero tolerance” that would prosecute any adult caught trying to enter the United States. That included people seeking asylum, rendering them criminals. Therefore, even if they make it through the court system with their claim of asylum, they would first and foremost have a criminal conviction of illegal immigration. This is a change from previous policy, which demarcated that asylum-seekers go through the proper channels. He also said that children would be separated from their parents. And because children are minors, and thus cannot be charged with a crime, they are not detained with their parents and are thus separated. In an interview with the New York Times, Stephen Miller reiterated the “zero tolerance” policy.

So, there is no federal law that requires children to be separated from their parents, nor is it the fault of the Democrats. The problem, then, seems both bureaucratic and political. The bureaucratic: there are not enough immigration officials to process claims of asylum and issues of illegal immigration. That means that most cases are not dealt with within the 20 days stipulated by the Flores Agreement (most are not even dealt with within a year). In addition to that, the “zero tolerance” policy removes asylum seekers (and restricts the terms of asylum, thus forcing more people to be prosecuted for criminal offenses, seemingly increasing the wait time. Under previous administrations, the gridlock was so bad that some people waited years for their day in court; in the meanwhile, they were released into the country’s interior. That, obviously, is not ideal, but then leads to the question: Why not hire more immigration officials?

According to an article I found on Fox News, Senator Ted Cruz (Republican – Texas) has proposed emergency legislation for just that. His bill would double the number of immigration judges to 750, “mandate that illegal immigrant families be kept together,” and expedite asylum claims within 14 days. According to the New York Times, Trump rejected the proposal on the basis that some of the immigration judges could be corrupt. Other Republicans are working on extending the length of time that minors can be detained, with the (probable) intention of mitigating pressure to separate.

In response to it all, the Trump administration has doubled down.

“Those who criticize the enforcement of our laws have offered only one countermeasure: open borders, the quick release of all illegal alien families and the decision not to enforce our laws,” said Nielsen. “This policy would be disastrous.”

“Democrats are the problem. They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13,” President Trump tweeted. “They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!”

There are roughly one thousand problems with everything going on, but here are a few I’ve boiled down: by separating parents and children, you are causing intense emotional damage and trauma to both parties. You are also putting the impetus on the American foster care system to take care and control of these minors. You are chilling asylum seekers, and overflooding the immigration system with criminal offenses. And most of all, you are treating people like animals. You are not giving them the basic human respect and decency that should be afforded to all people, regardless of what side of the border they exist on. I understand that this is complicated; I understand that this is a result of labyrinthine bureaucracy. But this is your job. If you can’t fix this, then we need to find people who can.

“Change the laws,” Trump has repeatedly cried. But this is not the law; this is the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy at work.

There are hundreds of nuances that I’m sure I’ve missed, so if you have anything to enlighten me on (in a respectful and human way) I’d welcome it. Writing this out was as much for me as it was for anyone else, because I needed to find a way to understand it all. I highly recommend checking out Snopes, which is a fact-checking website that provides links to actual policies and breaks tough jargon down into consumable bits, but I also cannot stress the importance of reading across news sites. The Times, the Wall Street Journal and Fox News are the trio that I generally try to read when attempting to understand something.

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2018, Politics, television

SAMANTHA BEE AND THE THEORY OF PUNCHING DOWN

Header: TBS via Vulture

Two things can be true at once: that’s the case when I’m eating McDonald’s (happy and sad), the case for Schrodinger’s Cat (both alive and dead), and it’s the case with Samantha Bee, comedian and host of TBS’ Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, calling Ivanka Trump, daughter of President Donald Trump, a “feckless c*nt.”

It is completely inappropriate, wildly disastrous to the point Bee was making about the treatment of migrant children, and annoyingly hypocritical of liberals to be more forgiving; it is also, at the same time, categorically different than Roseanne Barr comparing Valerie Jarrett, former senior adviser to then-President Barack Obama, to an ape. These two things can both be true.

In the outrage news cycle of coverage surrounding Samantha Bee, many conservative pundits are calling for TBS to cancel Bee’s show, citing liberal indignation and demands for cancellation of Roseanne. The ABC reboot was cancelled a few hours later. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders herself called for TBS to cancel the show.

“Her disgusting comments and show are not fit for broadcast,” she said in a statement, “and executives at Time Warner and TBS must demonstrate that such explicit profanity about female members of this administration will not be condoned on its network.”

Re the Roseanne Barr controversy, Trump only commented to say that he was owed an apology by Disney CEO Robert Iger for the “HORRIBLE statements made and said about [him] on ABC.” When asked about Trump’s statement, which focused on himself rather than Barr’s comments, Sanders said, “The president is simply calling out the media bias; no one’s defending what she said.”

Here’s the thing: I hate what Bee said. I really like her show, and I enjoy her as a comedian, so I was disappointed and upset by the words she used. I was watching CNN this morning, anchor Poppy Harlow and CNNMoney Senior Media Reporter Oliver Darcey said that Bee’s wording made the story about that, rather than the policy. I agree with that: I think that was probably part of the reason why Bee said it, but I also think that Bee is smart and cutting enough to have made her point without resorting to the c-word.

However, there are several things that separate what Bee said from what Barr said. First, Ivanka Trump works in her father’s White House administration. Several people were calling for Bee to separate the child from the father, but when the child literally works with the father, I don’t think it’s unfair to call her out. Additionally, Ivanka Trump has made the “working mother” her platform, so a policy that brutally separates asylum-seeking migrant mothers from their children would fall under Ms. Trump’s purview.

Secondly, there is the theory in comedy of “punching down” versus “punching up.” When making jokes, “punching down” refers to making fun of people who are more oppressed than you; “punching up” is making fun of people who are more, categorically, powerful than you. Roseanne Barr, a white woman, making fun of Valerie Jarrett, a black woman, using bigoted racial stereotypes is “punching down” because Barr is a racial majority in power and she is using the same logic used to condone slavery to make fun of a racial minority. Samantha Bee, a white woman with a platform, calling Ivanka Trump, another white woman with a platform, a c*nt is not punching down; it’s punching up, or at least punching sideways. Bee, unlike Barr, does not have the continued support of the President of the United States. And if we are to hold people accountable, we need to hold everyone accountable: including the president. Because while liberals can be hypocritical, if you don’t have an issue with the president bragging about grabbing women by the pussy, then why do you have a problem with Samantha Bee?

Thirdly, there is a difference between using a curse word and invoking a racist, bigoted myth used as justification for oppressing an entire race of people.

What Bee did was crass and unfortunate. What Barr did was racist and evocative of horrors that the United States allowed in the not-too-distant past. Lindy West, a contributing columnist for the New York Times, wrote this: “Chattel slavery in America ended 153 years ago. I am only 36 years old, and when my father was born, there were black Americans alive who remembered being the property of white people. Slavery is not our distant past; it is yesterday.” Racism pervades today, arguably as strong as ever. It’s not even hidden anymore; people are openly racist. It’s the reason why, as West points out, Flint, Michigan still does not have clean water; it’s why Trump took such an issue with black players in the NFL peacefully protesting for Black Lives Matter.

Bee made a horrific, rude joke, but it’s not comparable to Roseanne Barr. You can be outraged by what Bee said but still understand that it’s different to Roseanne. Two things can be true at the same time.

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2018, celebrity, LGBTQ, Politics, social media

AM I A BAD GAY PERSON FOR NOT CARING ABOUT JOY REID’S BLOG POSTS?

I’m young, and I love my computer, so I didn’t come across Joy Reid, an MSNBC host, from her show, A.M. Joy, or guest-hosting on other programs. I discovered her through Twitter, when I noticed that several writers and journalists whose opinions I respect retweeted her. I scrolled through the profile, enjoyed what she had to say, and hit the follow button.

She remained largely out of my mind except for the occasional tweet in my timeline. Her opinions were always valid, sharp when needed, and seemed to be well-researched and reported.

Then, the first story popped up – a Twitter user posted screenshots of blogs using homophobic rhetoric written between 2007 and 2009 on the Reid Report, a now-defunct blog of Joy Reid. I felt disappointed, like “Ugh, someone I liked did something bad.” But I didn’t unfollow her, because I still trusted her political opinion, and expected the story to blow over. There are plenty of journalists who I personally might be annoyed by, but whose reporting proves valuable, so I didn’t give it a second thought.

Until the next story popped up. More screenshots, more homophobia. More crassness.

When I say that this story does not matter, I do not mean, “It does not matter if someone is homophobic.” It does matter; and it matters very much to me. But in the context of everything else going on, I find that I care very little about what Joy Reid said about gay people a decade ago. She does not make policy; she is not in charge of any government programs or bodies. She is not promoting active anti-LGBTQ laws. If she were a lawmaker, or campaigning on a platform of equality, then yeah, it would be good information to know. But she is not. She is a journalist, she had an opinion, she said that opinion. A decade later, that opinion is seen as ugly and inappropriate.

I do not agree with the words she used; I do not agree with her trying to out people, or the way she spoke about Ann Coulter, or Lindsay Graham or Charlie Crist or any of it. I think it was offensive, petty, hurtful and mean-spirited. I think it was a shitty thing to do, even in the social climate in which it was written.

For the record, I also don’t believe Reid’s claim that she was hacked. I think she said those things, and she’s embarrassed now, and because the internet trolls would have a field day if she admitted that. I am not defending her; she was and is an adult who wrote those things, regardless of whatever excuses she’s using now. I think it’s stupid that she’s lying, but I also think this entire thing is stupid.

I also recognize that I, as a white, cisgender, able-bodied queer person, largely have the ability to say, “This story does not matter.” I’m sure it matters to other members of my community, and I do not diminish that, their feelings, or their reactions.

But to lampoon Reid for thoughts she had a decade ago would require us to go back and lampoon every single thing like that. In the early 2000s, most people in the mainstream media were not doing a good job talking about queer issues. Because, frankly, Will & Grace was homophobic – it was femme-shaming and white-centric. Modern Family portrays Mitch and Cam more like platonic roommates than a couple. Golden Girls had a gay cook that mysteriously disappeared after the pilot episode. I will never forget you, Coco (his name was Coco!).

The reason I care about this (and why I’ve spent 700 words saying I don’t care) is that there are queer stories that desperately need to be told. And while I think it’s nice that support has rallied around Reid – no one should be an island – I resent that this still is the story that’s rolling around in everyone’s head. In a world that already prioritizes everything above queerness, there seems to be precious little bandwidth dedicated to covering queer stories. It’s like arguing about the curtains when the house is on fire.

For instance, it’s been a year since news broke that, in Chechnya, gay and bisexual men were being targeted, persecuted and abused. There were stories of concentration camps, luring and violence via social media apps, and many victims are still missing. There has been no significant response from the Russian government, and the leader in Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, denied the allegations by simply stating that there are no gay people in Chechnya. Other than outlets that specifically traffic in queer stories, such as NewNowNext and the Advocate, and papers such as The Guardian, there has not been significant media coverage.

Stateside, there are still seven states with “No Promo Homo” laws on the books – “local or state education laws” that expressly prohibit the “promotion of homosexuality” and, in some cases, “even require that teachers actively portray LGB people in a negative or inaccurate way,” according to GLSEN.

The Human Rights Campaign reported that, in 2018, eight transgender people have already been murdered. Transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, are disproportionately affected by fatal violence. Insider recently reported on the health gaps that the LGBTQ community faces in receiving medical help.

These might seem like separate issues, and you could argue (rightfully) that reporting on Joy Reid’s past blog posts does not mean that we cannot also report on other things affecting the LGBTQ community. And you’d be right, except that that’s not always the case. Too often, we focus on click-driven news, too often we focus on things on little consequence.

What do Joy Reid’s past writings have to do with the very real risks that the queer community is facing today? In reality, very, very little. So why does this continue to be a story? Report on it, lay it all out there, and then move on.


Header source: Vimeo

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2018, feminism, Politics

FEMALE POLITICIANS AND THE CHRISSY TEIGEN CONUNDRUM

A few days ago, columnist Jonathan Chait from New York Magazine published a piece titled, “Democrats Have Great Female Presidential Candidates. They Need to Avoid the Victim Trap.” In it, he described the ways that powerful female politicians, namely Junior Democratic U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), are reported about in the media.

He describes Senator Harris’ June Senate Intelligence Committee interaction with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in which Harris continually pressed Sessions to answer questions that the latter tried to dodge with the excuse of a particular “policy.” Numerous times, Harris was interrupted by her male colleagues, leading to numerous articles reporting on that, rather than Harris’ strength of interrogation.

“The men-interrupting-women theme fell into a familiar source of social media umbrage,” wrote Chait. “And those reactions, initially registered on social media, formed the basis for much of the coverage that followed.”

Chait highlighted the coverage of Harris as an example of “victimhood” in order to make his point that female politicians lean into that victimhood as a way of appealing to the leftist base.

“On the left, victimhood is a prime source of authority, and discourse revolves around establishing one’s intersectional credentials and detailing stories of mistreatment that reinforce them,” said Chait. “Within the ecosystem of the left, demonstrating that you have suffered harassment or microaggressions is a big win.”

He described a recent GQ profile of Gillibrand, who went into more detail of the sexual harassment that she’s endured. “Much of the story followed this theme, describing not only Gillibrand’s leadership on the issue of sexual harassment, but her status as actual victim of harassment.”

He ended his article by saying, “Playing to the most popular tropes in progressive circles on social media is a seductive way for Democratic female candidates to capture attention from activists. It may not be their straightest path to the White House.”

When first reading it, the premise could have been extremely interesting and valid. The argument could’ve been directed at the media, and the ways that we often lean into stereotypical representations of women. It might’ve been a lampooning of the articles that, instead of applauding Harris and Gillibrand for their perseverance, focused on the male interruption.

However, the headline and ending paragraph seem contradictory to what some could say is the meat of Chait’s piece. It took the twist of assuming, or at least implying, that Harris and Gillibrand at least partially to blame for the coverage they received. He never acknowledges the obvious – that Gillibrand and Harris did not create the coverage that portrayed them as victims.

Chait plays into the very thing that he is critiquing. Rather than writing about them as he argues they should be written about, Chait imposes his own world view upon these women by assuming what they must be thinking and doing.

It’s a phenomenon that’s come up recently in an entirely different sphere, a situation I’m dubbing the “Chrissy Teigen Conundrum.”

“if I had my choice, not a single story would ever be written about any tweets of mine. they make people (me) seem like…the most annoying people,” Teigen tweeted, about…I guess the thing I’m doing. “the “clapback” wasn’t “epic”, it was just a fuccccccking tweet – just please stop with these stupid words.”

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It’s a common critique of Chrissy Teigen, that she is annoying or omnipresent on social media. But as she points out, rightfully, that’s not because she’s doing anything. It’s because journalists make the choice to write about everything she does, and use clickbait-y titles to draw readers. But because all we see is “Chrissy Teigen,” that’s all we associate with the deluge of coverage.

We are not annoyed by Chrissy Teigen, we are annoyed by the coverage of Chrissy Teigen, with which she has nothing to do.

Blaming Chrissy Teigen for the coverage she receives is as ludicrous as blaming Harris or Gillibrand for the victim-slanting coverage they garner.

I don’t doubt that people leaning into certain narratives is true in some cases. But I don’t think that’s what’s happening here, or what’s happening at large. Chait views victimhood as a media or political strategy. In his lens, there is no way that Gillibrand could be discussing the harassment she’s received for any other reason than to garner sympathy in a 2020 presidential run. It’s possible that Gillibrand was not ignorant to the fact that she would gain sympathy, but that was in addition to shining light on a malignant and previously hush-hush tenet of politics.

And if that’s his view, it’s bizarre that he does not point out that Trump won on a platform of victimhood, playing up the false victimization of white, middle-class Americans, particularly men. He does not mention this once, preferring to attack female politicians who, as far as we know, did not request such coverage. He does not mention Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), or how she pushed back against Treasure Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s meandering with “Reclaiming my time,” which could ostensibly be considered the antithesis of victimhood or rerouting the “man-interrupting-woman” trope. He also fails to point out that, despite instances of harassment, these female politicians rose to the uppermost echelons of American politics.

“Spinning” narratives, particularly ones of hardship or victimhood, is not new, nor is it a particularly female action for politicians to take. However, it is almost always women who are slammed for taking part in that.

“On the left, victimhood is a prime source of authority.”

There is the notion that victims disclosing harassment are doing it with nefarious or shady intentions. The truth is that, often, the intent of disclosure is very clear: to open dialogues about harassment with the aim of minimizing and eliminating those situations. There is power in opening up about being a victim, but that in itself does not constitute a power play.

Pointing out bias (in gender, sexuality, race, class or religion) is often just that, but it also serves to highlight that there are peoples (often of intersecting identities) who are disproportionately affected by biases.

Painting Gillibrand’s discussion of the sexual harassment she’s faced, or critiquing Harris for how she was covered, has a very distinct aim – to discount sexism, racism and other biases as political ploys and grabs at attention. It diverts from any conversation about how these things came about and what might be done about them.

Chait’s argument, under the guise of concern, boils down to this notion: if you have been a victim, then you are weak. If you disclose harassment or abuse, you are seen as weak. And people do not someone weak in the Presidency. Again, it’s telling that he does not bring up Trump, who constantly and consistently affirms his place as a victim – of the media, of the Democrats, of the political system. So perhaps the problem is not the victimhood platform, but the fact that they are not men.

The article ignores that people who have been harassed, assaulted or victimized are survivors; have thrived despite such obstacles; and that those people might actually make better, more empathetic and more driven presidents than, say, someone who has no experience with such hardships.

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2018, Politics

GIVE ME THE PHONE

“When your old-ass parent is like, ‘I don’t know how to send an iMessage,’ and you’re just like, ‘Give me the fucking phone and let me handle it.’ Sadly, that’s what we have to do with our government; our parents don’t know how to use a fucking democracy, so we have to.”

A few weeks ago, I read a profile of David Hogg on The Outline. Hogg is seventeen and, along with Emma González, one of the loudest voices for gun control in the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 people dead.

I found the article after a lot of conservative outlets had been circulating a rumor that Hogg and González were “crisis actors,” people paid to pretend that they have been in the shooting. In the profile, Hogg comes across as brittle, scathing, running on anger and entirely exhausted. And as I was reading the profile and watching the attached video, I found myself wondering what happens when to Hogg, or González, or anyone who survived the Parkland shooting or any other gun shooting, when the cameras go off and the lights shut down and the anger diminishes for a moment.

They’re all subsisting on anger and rage – rightfully – and I thought about how desperately sad it is that after this trauma, they’re not allowed to just sit and cry and recover. Because of the situation they’re in, the situation we put them in, these kids are not, and cannot, be kids. They have to be advocates; they have to be warriors. In stripping them of their safety and their friends and their lives, we’ve also stripped them of their right to grieve.

When David said the above line, about the phone, it made sense to me. Gun massacres are becoming increasingly common in America, and the news cycle is always the same. It happens, we react, the news churns for a while and then, inevitably, everyone moves on. These kids are fighting so hard to stop that from happening, because as soon as we move on, we are signing the death warrants for someone else. The fact that it’s a month on, and we’re still seeing action from the students is not just impressive, it’s unprecedented.

They’ve witnessed the adults in their lives, the adults in government, refuse to protect them, choose guns and money over them. And so they have to protect themselves, advocate for themselves. It’s beautiful in its own way, but it’s disgusting that we’re asking children to take up the fight for gun control. And it’s disgusting how people have vilified them for asking for life; how people have gone after Hogg and claimed it’s fair game, how someone called Emma González a “skinhead.” How people derided the school walkouts today as an “excuse” to skip school. That people cannot have the empathy or the willingness to understand is astounding but not surprising.

These kids shouldn’t have to do all this, but they are because the adults refuse to do anything. Give them the fucking phone.

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