Politics, Thinkpiece

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

Header Image Source: CNN


Public figures like Caitlyn Jenner and Ivanka Trump are shying away from disclosing their political activities.

While promoting her new book, Secrets of My Life, Caitlyn Jenner sat down with Andy Cohen at Sirius XM Radio for a town hall-style meeting Wednesday, April 26. Jenner made headlines when she came out as transgender in 2015. In their discussion, Cohen steered the conversation towards politics—Jenner is famously a conservative Republican. Jenner said that she had been making trips to Washington, D.C. but that her influence in politics would be private and unseen.

It was a reiteration of the point she made the night before on CNN with Don Lemon. She said that she would not take up President Trump’s offer to go golfing after he revoked the former administration’s protection for transgender students. However, Jenner said she would go golfing with President Trump in private, because if she did it in public, her community would “go nuts” and ostracize her.

Besides the puzzling contradiction of going on public television to say that you will golf with President Trump in private, Jenner’s statement that much of her involvement in politics would be behind closed doors is troubling at best and dangerous at worst.

Jenner is markedly tone-deaf when it comes to issues of LGBTQ equality. On The Ellen Show, she did not express complete support for same-sex marriage, and that it was an issue that she used to be completely against as a self-identified “traditionalist.” Instead, she said that if “the word marriage is so important to you, then I can support that.” She claimed that the hardest part of being a woman was picking out “what to wear.”

These can be dismissed as tragically unfortunate choices of words, but the root of the issue is that Caitlyn Jenner is a person of immense privilege who wants to speak for, represent and negotiate on behalf of arguably the most disenfranchised and least privileged subsection of the U.S. population.

According to a 2016 Reuters article, “almost 60 percent of transgender Americans have avoided using public restrooms for fear of confrontation, saying they have been harassed and assaulted.” According to the Office for Victims of Crime, one in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted in their lifetime. 13 percent of African-American transgender people surveyed were sexually assaulted in the workplace, and 22 percent of transgender homeless individuals reported assault whilst staying in shelters.

And while Jenner is transgender, it cannot be denied that for 65 years she presented as a white, privileged man. And after she transitioned, she had unfettered access to the best surgeons and doctors, a private Malibu estate for recovery and no monetary restrictions. Some transgender people choose to not go through surgery, but for those that would like to the costs are usually prohibitive.

Jenner has also been largely isolated from the daily discomfort that many queer people experience every day—catcalling, harassment and discrimination. All of these things, combined with her inexperience with politics and her position as a conservative Republican who voted for Trump, make me uncomfortable that she might be the touchstone for Republicans and the representative of the LGBTQ community. That she would do it with no cameras, at private dinners and meetings behind closed doors is even more concerning.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Ivanka Trump in her interview with Gayle King for CBS News. “I don’t think that it will make me a more effective advocate to constantly articulate every issue publicly where I disagree,” she said. “And that’s okay. That means that I’ll take hits from some critics who say that I should take to the street. And then other people will in the long-term respect where I get to. But I think most of the impact I have, over time most people will not actually know about.”

This idea of silent impact does a few things. Firstly, it absolves people like Trump and Jenner from any responsibility. If you don’t know what they’ve done, you can’t blame them. Secondly, it’s impossible to hold them accountable for anything. If they never pledge any sort of action, it’s impossible to keep them in line. Lastly, it’s difficult expect them to operate within a rational, ethical framework because you have no idea what they’re doing.

And lastly, as a person with unparalleled influence and platform, you don’t get to be private. If Ivanka wanted to operate as a private citizen, she shouldn’t have moved to Washington, D.C. and taken a position in her father’s administration. When she made that deal with the devil, she gave up the right to be private. When you’re operating from the most powerful building in the world, the American public deserve to know what you’re up to. If Caitlyn Jenner wanted to remain private, she shouldn’t have dropped the tantalizing tidbits that she was taking meetings in Washington.

You can’t have it both ways. If you want public power, then you don’t get to wield it privately.

Standard
pop culture, Review, television

Review of REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW YORK FINALE: THE UNRAVELING OF LUANN

Grade: A (but not an A+ because it’s still disgusting and sad)

There are a few episodes of reality television where the “reality” and reality blur together uncomfortably and you realize that these people are, like, really fucking messed up. The episode of Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami where Scott smashes a mirror is one. And the finale of this season’s Real Housewives of New York City is another. The drama was so close, so hideous, and so tangible that it almost felt scripted. But it was real in the ugliest way.

We open up back in Miami, where the producers cattle-prodded the Housewives into going because Mohegan Sun sucked and Bethenny was bleeding too profusely to go to Mexico (I never thought I would be angry at vaginas for having their own storylines in RHONY and having those storylines impede my promise at a dramatic vacay). Bethenny, whose jawline is really cute now, has just told Luann that she has a photo of Tom and some woman making out. AT THE REGENCY. WHICH I’M ASSUMING IS A BAR.

Side “bar” (ha?): These women and the inhabitants of their social spheres inhabit only, like, three places in Manhattan: Boutique the club, The Regency Bar, and Sonja’s vagina. The last one has late checkout, so it’s particularly popular for the late-risers.

Anywayanywayanyway, Luann refuses to believe Bethenny and oscillates rapidly between swooning onto the ground like a Southern Belle, fake-vomiting, and shouting, “TOM’S MADLY IN LOVE WITH ME.” Reminder: they have been dating for four weeks and engaged for one. Luann says that she “knows” he’s the one. FOUR WEEKS.

For her part, Bethenny does truly seem remorseful, which is a little too late. The entire season, Bethenny has been a raging psychopath (not a diss, just a fact) and so mean to Jules, so I find it a little weird that this is the thing that she’s in literal tears about. After she tells Lu, the camera shows her sitting in bed, lying in bed, and drinking straight from the Skinnygirl bottle. Great sutured advertising, btw Bravo!!

The entire time (all four weeks) that Luann and Tom have been together, the women have said that Luann is in love with being in love, and in love with the hype. And when she whispers to Bethenny, haggard and old and tired, “Don’t do this to me,” it’s almost as if she’s asking Bethenny, “Don’t do this to me. Don’t ruin my storyline.” I know that’s harsh, but I think it’s also true. Luann is an honestly awful person. I don’t want her to be unhappy, but I also think that this is a natural progression of her storyline.

This episode was, for the first thirty minutes, too close and ugly and weird and not-good drama. Luann’s in a tizzy, Bethenny’s inconsolable, Ramona is getting very close to people’s faces and screaming, “I FOUND OUT THAT MARIO WAS CHEATING FROM PAGE SIX.” It’s a lot.

And then, when Luann is in the bathroom after the bomb has been dropped and she’s been talking with Tom, you see the wildness recoil and something more calculated take its place. Reality TV “reality.”

However, before we get into the whole problematic of it all, I just have one moment that is perfect. Luann, this entire time while she’s been spinning out, has been texting Tom via voice call. Meaning, she speaks into Siri and Siri types out a text message. TO REMIND US THAT THESE WOMEN ARE ELDERLY.

Luann, in her text to Tom: “How could you do this to me. Question mark.” BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO VERBALIZE PUNCTUATION. A moment of levity.

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 6.48.48 PM.png

Source: Bravo TV// “How could you do this to me. Question mark.”

After she’s freaked out, Luann does the classic horrible move of getting back together with Tom and shooting up Bethenny like a trussed-up turkey on Thanksgiving. Why is Bethenny so involved with Luann’s business? Why is she gunning for Tom? Why did she fact-check?

The last one makes me actually annoyed. Bethenny rigorously fact-checked and made sure that her information was solid before coming to Luann. LUANN SEES THAT AS SHADY. LUANN, YOUR FIANCE IS PLAYING TONSIL-HOCKEY WITH A COUGAR AT THE REGENCY. GET YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT.

Luann’s darkest moment, when you glimpse the depths of her denial and delusion, comes when she tries to believe her own lies. She says they had a fight, he went to the Regency, and met up with a girl whom he had not seen in a while. She was, according to Luann, “of course ready, willing, and able to be there for him. And, you know, Tom fell into her clutches.”

And right there, more than any other moment in the episode, is when I decided that I hate Luann. Because someone who blames other women for the cheating of her fiance, who forgives the man but slut-shames the other women, is so beyond anti-feminist that it’s disgusting. Women like Luann are so willing to believe their own narratives, that men are gullible and fall into the traps of women, that they take back cheaters time and time again because “that’s just their nature.” Tom can’t help it. UM TOM COULD HELP IT. AND HE’LL DO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. Luann will keep making excuses for him because to not make excuses would be to give up the fantasy and the narrative of “Happy wife, happy life.” And that makes me so sad, that people are willing to sacrifice so much for the facade of a good life.

Luann does a bunch of shitty other stuff, but all in the haze of acting for the storyline. She’s gone and cracked, and it shows. During Bethenny’s Mexican fiesta party, appropriation to the max, the women are discussing the $10K pinata (I CAN’T EVEN BEGIN) that Bethenny got them, when Luann marches up, taps on Bethenny’s shoulder and says, “STOP TALKING ABOUT ME AND TOM.” She obviously believes in the reality tv formula that a group of women talking must be gossiping. It’s so obviously her trying to start drama and her blind belief that these women really care that I had to laugh. I didn’t want to. I HAD to.

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 6.52.39 PM.png

Source: Bravo TV// What’s sadder: Jules’ belief her marriage will succeed or her denim lewk?

This finale was one of the darkest I’ve ever seen, from the glimpses of turbulent pain in Jules’ eyes as she says that she hopes hers and Michael’s eighth anniversary will be lucky for their marriage, knowing full well that in the time of the testimonial filming, her relationship has already headed for divorce. The blind faith of Dorinda. The magic eyes of Ramona. Sonja looked amazing, but she always does. The upcoming knowledge of what Carole will wear to the Reunion. All SUPER dark stuff, you guys.

And at the center of the tornado, in a circle of belying calm, are Bethenny and Luann. Their friendship in tatters, and Bethenny’s utter disbelief that Luann could attack her for Bethenny’s probably first, and last, attempt at benevolent, no-strings-attached do-gooding. Luann will choose her LuMan every time, and the rest of the girls are just collateral damage.

I typed this all on my new LAPTOP, so I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet, but I wanted to put up content. Also my BIRTHDAY IS TOMORROW #TWENTYFUN. Ugh I hate myself for that hashtag, but I won’t delete it. I need to learn from my shame.

Favorite Moments:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Bethenny screaming at a waiter to never serve vegetarian ceviche in her presence again.
  • Luann: “Me and Tom are doing our own therapy. People tell us to go to a therapist, I say, Why?”
  • Everyone loving Adam’s new haircut. It’s cute. It’s not that cute.
  • Sonja being confused by food and reminding us, yet again, that she and Tom were lovers and that her current boyfriend gets his rocks off to antique napkins.
Standard