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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Rambles, Things Happening RN

SUDDENLY I SEE

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Source: Twitter// Food for thot.

Yesterday I was trapped in a black hole of E! YouTube clips. It began with those two-minute house tours of various “celebrities”—B-list at highest—where the “tour” is just them opening the door, going, “Come on in” showing approximately two rooms in what is inevitably a 30-room house and some light panning that you have to pause the video for because the shots are so tightly sequenced together.

After watching that, I stumbled—“stumbled”—onto a video of four E! anchors discussing Chrissy Teigen’s alleged proposal to act as the surrogate for Kim Kardashian West. It’s kind of weird, given how cossested and incestuous the entertainment industry is, that they were discussing the reproduction habits of two people that they’ve probably met on several occasions. But that’s not the point of me bringing them up.

One of the anchors said that she could never be a surrogate for a close friend for the fearful responsibility. “What if you get into a car accident, and you’re carrying your friend’s child?” I never thought about it, but that paralyzing fear of carrying someone else’s most precious thing must be overwhelming.

But listen, I actually have a point about this.

Today, in Zen Meditation, we had our “final.” We had to push our shoes on and pair up. Once we were in our pairs, we learned what the final was. It would stretch 50 minutes. For 25 minutes, one person would act as the Communicator—eyes closed but allowed to talk. They would be led around by the Guide—eyes open but mute. After 25 minutes, they would switch. The catch is that, for the entirety of the 50 minutes, we had to remain in physical contact.

I was the Guide first, and had the task of leading someone around campus, where there’s trolleys rolling down the road and people and cars and cyclists—the banes of my existence. And for 25 minutes, I was Chrissy Teigen carrying the Kimye baby—which, if it ever happens, I still pray is named Ocean or Galaxy, because HOW BOMB would that be?? I was responsible for someone else, and I couldn’t even say anything. I had to led my partner in silence, guide her with subtle shifting in my arms and hands.

25 minutes suddenly becomes an eternity when you’re silently dragging a blind person around the streets of Boston. We sat on benches, touched branches, walked through leaves, grazed our fingers against plants.

It was actually harder for me to be the Guide than it was to be the Communicator. But not having sight and having no one to answer is a lot like therapy—ALL ABOUT ME. Here are a few things I said while I was blinded:

1). “Isn’t it crazy that butterflies have migration patterns ingrained in their DNA?”

2). “Are you going to push me in front of a car?”

3). “Are we walking up a hill? Wait. No.”

4). (intermittent shrieking as I think something is looming in front of me but it’s just the shadows from the branches above)

5). “Where are we going? Wait, you can’t answer.”

6). “If you could answer, what would your favorite drink be?”

7). “AhH! What was that?!” (a shrub)

8). “If we’re about to get hit by a car, feel free to yank me out of the way. I won’t get scared. I mean, I will get scared, but I’d rather shit my pants than get hit by a car.”

9). “Where are we?” (we haven’t moved)

10). (On stairs) “I could totally do it.”

11). (On you not expecting there to be no more steps and you overextend your footing) “Whoa!”

12). (On underestimating how many stairs are left on the way down) “Whoops!”

13). “I could see why people would be scared if a dog came up to them.”

14). “I wish I had a cane.”

15). “We walked past a fat guy sitting on the sidewalk smoking a cigar—I hope we don’t pass him again.” (Pause). “Omg are we walking past him right now?” (No answer, obviously). (Whispers) “Are we walking past him?” (Obviously, still no answer)

16). “This hill is really big. Or maybe I just think that because I can’t see.”

17). “What was that?!” (Upon hearing a car in the vicinity)

18). (On being able to track direction based on the sun’s movement) “We’re moving north. No. South. No, wait, north.”

19). (On the same train of thought) “Wait, does the sun rise in the east or the west? Fuck.”

20). (On thinking upon it for a little longer) “East.”

*****

In other nudes, I was trying to rip an ingrown hair from my beatific face, and now I have a thumbprint-sized bruise on my cheek, thus completely defeating the point of clearing my skin. It looks like I was hit in the face by a ping-pong ball.

Also, I had this Tweet last night, which got a shockingly large amount of play. Which goes to show you, I have no idea what is funny and what isn’t. Yen will it happen again? Get it?

Bye.

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