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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Politics

SPICER, CHECHNYA AND THE DANGERS OF THE 24-HOUR NEWS CYCLE

On Tuesday, April 11, Press Secretary Sean Spicer mistakenly claimed that, in response to the chemical attack in Syria, not even Adolf Hitler used chemical weapons against people during the Holocaust.

The point was to drive home the notion that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who was suggested as to have ordered the attack, was monstrous for using chemical weapons. Spicer was given the chance to recant and clarify his statements, which he did sloppily and called concentration camps “Holocaust centers.” His statement is false: gas chambers were used to kill Jews (the exact number of dead is estimated in the six millions). In the following minutes, hours and days, Spicer’s malapropism was dissected endlessly. He has since apologized.

In 1980 CNN, the first 24-hour news station, superseded previous models of “nightly news.” With the advent of a continuous news cycle came the need to not only fill the empty hours between breaking stories and crises, but also compete with other cable news outlets. The negative space between reporting led to expert analysis, panelist commentary and soft-news pieces. That model, the culture of commentary, has become so prevalent in the Internet age that continuous news access leads to focus and dissection of the same incident, over and over again. That excessiveness is to the detriment of coverage in other areas.

And while this has been going on, major media outlets do not cover news out of Russia, that more than 100 allegedly gay men have disappeared in Chechnya and according to a Russian newspaper, local authorities are behind it. At least three men have been killed, according to the paper, which released the story on the fourth of April.

And since then, at the time of research, the New York Times has written one article about the kidnappings. The Washington Post has written two. The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and Fox News have not covered it at all. But in the days since Spicer’s mistake, there has been a flurry of activity and articles. Four from the New York Times, 14 from the Washington Post (just on the first search page), four from the Wall Street Journal, one from Fox News and four from the Los Angeles Times. This does not include the hours of screentime dedicated to covering Spicer. All articles took a similar approach to describing the event, and later articles reframed the incident with various angles.

And while major news stations have focused on the salacious scandal of Spicer, smaller outlets like BuzzFeed, TheSkimm, and Teen Vogue, as well as international media like the BBC and The Independent have covered the disappearances.

The independent Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazeta covered the incidents in Chechnya (in Russia, most media is either associated with or owned by the Kremlin, the central power authority). According to the paper, at least 100 men have disappeared over the last few weeks. When some return, they are badly beaten. Three have died from their injuries. According to Novaya Gazeta, the men are arrested by local authorities who then look through their phones for condemning evidence. These “honor killings” have apparently been under the authority of Chechen provincial leader, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Through spokesman Alvi Karimov, Kadyrov denied the allegations, saying, “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic. If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them since their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.” The Chechen Republic is a conservative Muslim society, where homosexuality is taboo.

Humanitarian groups, like the Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Campaign have called for Russian authorities to recognize these attacks and for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to discuss the kidnappings while in Russia.

It’s highly possible that the reason no new articles have been written about these kidnappings is because there is no new information. However, the fact that, in an age of unprecedented access and information, there can be fourteen articles about a linguistic misstep but one article about the potential systematic killing of queer people is startling. And not just startling, but dangerous.

The 24-hour news cycle breeds an environment of rapid competition. News stations want to keep the attention of their audiences, and to do that, they narrow in on the daily foibles of the Trump administration. They host panels to discuss what Trump meant by his wiretapping claims, Spicer’s comments about the Holocaust, or Kellyanne Conway’s infamous “alternative facts.”

 

In a video discussing political satire, Vox’s Carlos Maza said of the wiretapping claims, “[Major news networks] correctly reported that Trump’s claims were false but then went on to spend segment after segment after segment hosting debates about it…They spent hours fixating on whether there might be evidence at some point down the road maybe that shows Trump wasn’t just making it up.”

The problem, Maza asserts, isn’t that the news stations are inaccurate, but they take “bullshit way too seriously.” These debates serve no purpose but to fill air time, and actually, according to studies, hurt the audience’s ability to identify falsehoods. In other words, saying the same “bullshit” enough times confuses consumers into believing it’s viable.

Maza’s solution is to cover the news the way political satirists like Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah and Seth Meyers do—recognize the bullshit for what it is, and move on to cover actual news. Because while major news outlets spend hours going over the same small blunders, real news slips through the cracks.

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Review, television

REVIEW of RIVERDALE EP.9, “La Grande Illusion”

Sins of the Father 

Grade: A

Honey never goes bad. And because it never spoils, it can be used to preserve things indefinitely. There was a myth once of a Greek king whose queen died tragically. To cope with the pain, he entombed her body in honey—thus preserving her forever. It seems like the Blossoms are trying the same—preserving Jason’s memory by suffocating Archie in sweet maple syrup. But the problem with preservation is that that thing you’re trying to keep will still be dead when you uncover it.

In fact, this entire episode centers around preservations of things gone spoilt. Betty struggles to hold together her family, Veronica is trying to reconcile her father as the parent she loves with the monstrous businessman in the shadows. The beginning of the series delved into the dysfunctional mothers of Riverdale, and now we’ve moved onto the fathers. Fred Andrews, Cliff Blossom, Hal Cooper. Speaking of the last one, Hal Cooper is totally a concussed football troll gone to seed.

In the A-plot, Archie is being roped into the Blossom family drama. The members of the Blossom Maple Farm board are descending upon Thorn Hill for the annual first tapping of the maple tree. With the scandal of Jason’s murder, and his role as the heir presumptive of the family business, the board members are trying to edge the Blossoms out of the company. The entire first half of the episode is dredged in layers of sexism as Cliff Blossom tries to coil his meaty, rosacea hands around Archie’s broad, sculpted shoulders. Cliff wants Archie to temper out Cheryl’s irrationalness and erraticism. She is, apparently, not even remotely being considered to run the company. Let’s not forget that Jason was a drug-mule and knocked up his high school girlfriend, and he—as a boy—was still considered more stable than Cheryl. Sexism.

This was the first episode that I got a slightly lower register on the Cersei scale from Cheryl. Yes, her obsession with her brother verges on pornographic, but something was illuminated for me. Jason was the golden child—in the eyes of his parents, the school, in sports. And he was always the biggest champion of Cheryl. She was always tolerated because Jason marketed them as a package deal. Without him by her side, she’s back to being the pariah.

Like Jughead analogizes in his last voiceover, Cheryl is a hurricane about to bear down on Riverdale. But as much as that works for her potential destructiveness, it also serves to elucidate her role as the center of Riverdale. Everyone this episode operates in her orbit. The Blossom family board underestimate her. Archie uses her for her parents’ connection to some top-tier music program. Polly is using her to find out if the Blossom parents had something to do with Jason’s death. Only Jason never asked anything of Cheryl—never wanted her beauty, or her crazy, or her connections. Only Jason wanted just her. And unmoored, without Jason, Cheryl is cracking in the most interior parts of her soul.

In the accompanying B-plots, Veronica tries to balance the karma scales by being especially nice to Ethel Muggs. Ethel’s father, Manfred Muggs, tried to commit suicide because he invested money with Hiram Lodge and lost everything. Subsequently, the Muggs are going to testify against Hiram in court. Something that wasn’t said, but could be possible given Hiram’s far reach from prison, is that Manfred’s “suicide” attempt might have been a little…induced by Hiram’s machinations.

Betty and Alice try to bring Polly back, unaware that Polly is at Thorn Hill as a spy. Their plan is to write a scorched-earth exposé of the Blossoms—how Cliff Blossom is the one who put Hiram in jail, their treatment of Cheryl, the circling vulture movements of the family board. It comes to a halt when Hal, a human erectile dysfunction commercial, cuts Alice off from the Riverdale Register. Alice then throws a brick through the front door of the newspaper office—go Alice—and later, Jughead suggests Alice write for the high school newspaper. Madchen Amick, who plays Alice, is a great actress so her scenes are electric, but I was mostly bored with the Cooper subplot. Sorry babe.

The episode’s cliffhanger is the addition of a new suspect. We learned from Archie’s overhearing that Clifford Blossom put Hiram Lodge in jail, thus “shattering” his family. We’ve seen Hiram’s ability to enact his will from jail, so is it possible that he made his own revenge—shattering the Blossom family with the murder of their most prized possession?

Intrigue.

Veronica learns that trying to preserve her family legacy doesn’t always work. Betty realizes that in times of strife, people either come together or fall apart. And dear, dear Cheryl. As she sobs, scrawling over Archie and Polly’s faces in a photograph with a red Sharpie, Polly knocks at the door. Cheryl hastily wipes up her tears and spreads a smile across her full, syrupy-red lips. In a hurricane, the center is often the only part that is not seized by wild winds. But that calm center belies the most dangerous part of the storm. Beware of Cheryl. And beware, Cheryl. As she preserves her rage behind layers of clear gold maple syrup, she could be entombing herself in the process.

Next week: “The Lost Weekend”

STRAY OBSERVATIONS:

  • Everyone in this episode was wearing Ralph Lauren Polo
  • “Mrs. Lodge, this Quiche Lorraine is to die for!” –Kevin Kevin, setting back gays for decades to come
  • Kevin truly just exists at Veronica’s beck-and-call.
  • “Mr. Andrews, nice haircut—looking extremely DILFy today,” Cheryl Blossom, bringing the gays back from the setback Kevin caused
  • “That was a joke, you hobo,” Cheryl is SLAYING QUOTES this episode
  • I love how Archie needs to have a serious conversation with Cliff at the tailor, but can’t be bothered to put on pants to do it. No, seriously—I love it.
  • Val and Archie break up because…when were they ever together?
  • Fred showed his dark side this episode, strong-arming Hermione into twenty percent of the profit in return for his continued support. Also, they’re done. #AndrewsBoysBreakUp
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college, Essay, Politics

ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: MY NIGHT WITH REPUBLICANS

Names have been changed, except the name of that nail polish. Originally submitted as a piece for my Columns & Editorials class.

Last night I went to my first College Republicans meeting. I’m working on a story about political engagement among college students post-election, and when researching political party groups on campus, I found out they were having a meeting that very night.

I don’t know what I thought I would be walking into, but it wasn’t what I assumed. Okay, I knew what I thought it would be—a Nazi circle-jerk, or an anti-Obama pile-on. I expected Make America Great Again hats and enough Vineyard Vines to clothe an entire village.

There was only one MAGA hat but, I assumed, they all had some in their closets. There were a lot more women than I expected, at least half but maybe more. Traitors to their gender, I thought. How can they side with someone who is so anti-women? And there were people of color. Stockholm Syndrome, I reasoned, or internalized xenophobia. The white, presumably straight, guy in a quarter-zip and Patriot’s baseball cap was soaked in so much privilege that anything he would say was bound to be offensive. But in what’s usually the case, per the principle of Occam’s Razor, the simplest answer is usually the truest. They weren’t brainwashed or spies or masochists. They were just Republicans.

The meeting began with typical housekeeping. In light of the new presidency, they hoped to up their meetings from once every three weeks to something more frequent, and then they bandied around ideas for speakers they could get for their semesterly big function. Bill O’Reilly, I learned, is a BU alum, and one girl thought he was worth reaching out to.

After, the conversation turned to discussion. The latest news: The inauguration, and who among the group had attended. The nomination for Supreme Court of Neil Gorsuch. They said it was a “Merrick Garland type of decision,” meaning a more centrist pick that both sides could agree on. The immigration ban, which a College Republicans executive board member, Rocky, said (a common response) was “executed very, very poorly.”

Marianne talked about the immigration ban, sharing that her boyfriend (a green card holder from a “non-white, non-Christian” country) was afraid that if he left America, he wouldn’t be let back in.

Getting visibly upset, she said, “No one should be afraid of that; that if he left for Engineering Without Borders to do work in Africa and came back on a connecting flight through Dubai…” She trailed off.

A lot of the conversation, the feelings of dealing with rabid liberals who operated purely on emotion and attacked without information, was uncomfortably familiar to me. The sense of defeat when having a conversation with someone on the far other side. Frustration with how polarized everything seems to be. Swap any of the names, and I could’ve easily been sitting in on a group of liberals talking about zealous Republicans.

“It’s hard being the elephant in the room, literally and figuratively,” said Robert, one of the club’s executive board members. That earned major laughs from the members, and even a surprised one from me. Who knew Republicans could have jokes? He was answering in response to Lydia, a Chicago native who was relieved to find a group of like-minded people in such a liberal city.

“So it’s nice to have, well I don’t wanna say the word “safe space” but…” said Robert, laughing again.

They were tired of being demonized, of being labeled as Nazis or homophobes or xenophobes or racists or misogynists, and the list goes on and on. To be fair, it’s a pretty long list. Tired of everything being labeled “the end of the world,” a sentiment, they pointed out, is always expressed by the opposing political side to the president. But the sense that I got from most of them was that their primary motivation for voting Trump was either loyalty to the Republican party or fiscal.

Robert told a story about his Republican parents and his upbringing in Michigan. His mother grew up in Detroit in the sixties and seventies, and was witness to the decline of the industrial community.

“When we heard “Make America Great Again,” that’s what we associated it with,” he said. Not the takeback of the country from diversity, but the bringing back of industrial jobs into areas that are starving without them.

When I asked the group if they felt a disconnect or conflict between being a millennial and being a Republican, their hands were raising before I even finished the question.

“I’m socially more liberal, but fiscally more conservative, so I identify myself as more of a moderate,” said Stacey. That sense, that as Republicans they were most caught up in fiscal matters, seemed to resonate amongst everybody. And when Stacey said the (I assumed) most-hated statement, “I voted for Hillary Clinton,” no one recoiled. No one threw anything at her. Her conflict, between Republican and millennial, was one with which they could all identify.

When people hear the name Republican, felt most of them, they assume white nationalists and xenophobes. But it’s “a wide tent,” said Max, and Republicans are much more diverse than people are willing to believe.

One of the last questions I posed to the group was “Is there something you wish you could tell the other side?”

“Ask questions,” said Rocky. Be able to have a conversation. Be open to having a conversation.

Stacey offered a story from her time interning for Governor Charlie Baker. “Many liberals are turning more moderate, to be able to work with a conservative government,” she said, “And that’s really good to see.”

“Thanks for being willing to listen,” said Louis, the communications chair, when I thanked them for their time.

At the end of the meeting, two girls gingerly approached me. “Um, can I ask you something?” one asked, a woman of color.

“Yeah!” I answered, trying to be friendly but predicting (even after all this) that it might be something rude or blunt or homophobic.

“I was staring at it all meeting; where is your nail polish from?”

I looked down at the minty blue color. “Isn’t it great? It’s called ‘Babe Blue.’ But I don’t know the brand. Sorry!”

She looked genuinely anguished, because it is such a cute color. “Oh, okay. Thanks!”

And when I got home and logged on to Twitter, I saw my liberal newsfeed through different eyes. How would the College Republicans see this? They would say probably that it’s catastrophizing everything. And they might be right.

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Politics, pop culture

KELLYANNE CONWAY IS THE VICKI GUNVALSON OF POLITICS AND MEDIA

As a journalist, you spend a lot of your time writing about the news. You spend a lot of time thinking about it, dissecting it, following it. And some people have iron heads and they can handle that constant rotation of news. Others—like me—are too pretty to have iron heads (so unflattering) and are not capable of being news robots.

A lot of what I’ve been writing about—for class, for this blog, for the Odyssey—have been centered around politics. It’s impossible to avoid, and as it became incorporated to my brand, it became more and more important for me to cover. That had negative results—after the election, I was so desperately brain-dead that I went completely off the grid and couldn’t even think about anything. Because as much as we cover it, we are consumed with it and we let it ingrain inside of us.

So maybe in a few weeks/days/hours I’ll decide to boycott politics for a while and just write about my NEW CAMEL COAT (ugh so chic) but there’s still things to be said and things to cover, and, y’all, I’m soldiering on.

Someone on my Twitter timeline posted a link to a GQ article. It was primarily in response to the Chuck Todd-Kellyanne Conway interview where Chuck Todd was desperately trying to understand why the new Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, lied about the easily provable facts of Trump’s inauguration.

“You sent the Press Secretary out there to utter falsehoods on the smallest, pettiest thing,” said an exasperated Chuck Todd.

Kellyanne, twirling those ribbons that rhythmic gymnasts in Russia use, flailed around the questions, whipped the curls of fabric in Todd’s face until they coiled around his neck.

“Our press secretary, Sean Spicer, gave alternative facts,” she said as Todd’s face turned purple from disbelief and lack of oxygen. And when he had slumped out of frame, Conway unfurled the ribbons from around his neck, wrapped them up tightly and put them back into her holsters.

Wiping the sweat of her hands off on her blue dress, the eyeshadow smudging darkly around her eyes, Kellyanne caught a glimpse of herself in the window’s reflection as she left the green screen behind. Her face was hollow, mouth tightly set. She pulled out the tiny list crumpled in her pocket and sliced a line through Chuck Todd’s name with the precision of a French Revolution executioner. Squaring her shoulders and applying more eyeshadow to her lids—obscuring them and hiding the windows to her soul—she slinked off to her next target. And so on. And so on. Forever.

Okay, so that didn’t happen—but didn’t it sound like it could’ve?

In the article, NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen proposed on the Recode Media podcast with Peter Kafka that news outlets should no longer have Kellyanne on.

And the implications of that—what they say about where we are as journalists—are staggering.

To disavow and cut off contact with the White House—willingly—seems unbelievable. And if this were a normal world—and not season three of Black Mirror—it would be unbelievable. But Rosen laid out probably the saddest and more logical argument for it.

“It’s not just lying or spin or somebody who is skilled in the political arts of putting the best case on things or not answering a question, which is a pretty basic method of doing politis. It’s that when you are done listening to Kellyanne Conway, you probably understand less. That’s the problem.”

If I’ve learned anything from Scandal (I’ve learned a bunch, thank you Shonda Rimes), it’s that the press secretary is often put in a difficult position. They have to balance the president, the truth and the press. But Abby was able to do it. Sometimes it involves a version of the truth; sometimes it involves moving on to the next question. But the press secretary always does their job.

So what made Chuck Todd, and I and a lot of people, so incredulous was the fact that this was such minutiae. Spicer was lying about the size of the crowds at the inauguration. He said this was the most attended and most watched inauguration of all time. That’s, like, so not true. And there’s photographic evidence to prove it (side by side evidence of Obama’s first inauguration and Trump’s inauguration). It’s so easily provable that it’s ridiculous.

Spicer could’ve walked in, fielded questions and addressed the attendance. He could’ve said, “President Trump (ugh, gag) has more important things to worry about than the size of attendance at his inauguration. He has a country to run.” THAT WOULD’VE BEEN BETTER. Dickish, but better. But to lie proves that it bothers Trump so much that people aren’t falling down at his feet. It kills him that nobody showed up for his inauguration but the NEXT DAY we had the largest march in modern history.

Rosen’s comment was at the end of a conversation about the typical journalistic efforts for impartiality—impartiality relies on reaching out for comment to both sides. But when one side consists of Trump, Conway and Spicer—three people who will give you radically different answers (all wrong) to the same question, actually not even answering the question in the process—it becomes infinitely more muddled. Why are we doing this? We’re not getting any more information. We’re not getting things any clearer.

And journalists are doing backbends trying to cope with having two sides where one side is just a funhouse mirror.

So the answer is simple: if having Kellyanne on just makes the truth more muddled, then you have to cut it off. We, you, journalists, have an obligation to the truth—above all else. Anyone who gets in the way of that is expendable.

Sometimes it’s not worth it. On The Real Housewives of Orange County, Vicki Gunvalson said her boyfriend, Brooks Ayers, had cancer. Turns out he didn’t, and all the other ladies wanted to know how much Vicki knew. She obviously knew a lot, because they were in a relationship and she never went to any of his doctor’s appointments or chemo treatments, etc. And she lied for him, endlessly. She, to this day, has not really admitted that he doesn’t have cancer. She has not admitted that she knew anything.

And so I have a lot of experience with blonde ladies who have a loose relationship with the truth. And this is what I’ve learned: they won’t change (even when you are mean to them in Ireland) and so at a certain point, you have to refuse to engage. Because what they want more than anything else is attention, and even negative attention feeds that addiction. So you cut them off. You don’t let them spew their bullshit. You shut it down.

But the difference between Kellyanne Conway and Vicki Gunvalson is that Vicki Gunvalson doesn’t have the ear of the guy with access to nuclear codes. Vicki is dumb, but harmless, and infinitely entertaining. But Conway has so little regard for the truth and so little respect for the American people that she having access to Trump—who is proven to be volatile and rash—is terrifying.

So maybe we’ve come to the point where we can’t engage with Kellyanne. Where having her on screen puts more danger into the world than good. And it’s scary to admit that this is where we are as journalists, but we have promises to the American people—we must not harm. (I know that’s the Hippocratic oath but stick with me). And she’s definitely causing us harm.

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Life, Rambles, Things Happening RN

I’M HOT ENOUGH TO COCKBLOCK AND YOU KNOW ME, TIFFANY

Written after seeing a bunch of “If”s—you know. I saw a “Bulbasaur if he was, like, the hottest guy at CrossFit” and “Prince Harry if he was a Science teacher in The Breakfast Club or Robin Williams in Flubber.”  

I really don’t have a lot to write about today. I know it’s hard to judge my blogs when they have veritable content versus when they don’t, because everything is relative and eventually we’re all going to swirl into a black hole or be consumed by a supernova, but I have really no content today.

I’ve been basically out of the house from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and I went to the gym before that, so that’s about eight more hours of work than I’m used to. Usually I do one twenty-minute activity before taking a twelve-hour nap, and then repeating the cycle. I don’t get very much done in my day. I had two English classes, a meeting with a professor, a quick nip downtown to request court records because I’m a journalist and enterprising as fuck, and then a coffee hang with my friend. Then I just laid in bed for an hour and a half and now I’m cooking a shepherd’s pie. Wait, actually my day has been so eventful.

Since I don’t have, like, a cohesive blog, but things have been happening to me l8ly, I figured I could just do a stream of consciousness because WHO CARES, THE BAR IS SET SO LOW.

1). I went over to Nina’s house Sunday afternoon, recuperating from a long weekend, and we got underneath her covers in her bed—it’s cold and we’re college students—Grey Gardens-style, and did homework. I wrote a piece about Taylor Swift and listened to Frank Ocean, she read some law book (idfuckingk) and passive-aggressively requested that we change it to something without words.

There’s something about being fully clothed but snuggled in bed that’s actually the most intimate. Like, I’ve slept in the same bed with people but that’s when it’s like actually for sleeping. I don’t generally lounge in bed with friends, but this was super enjoyable. I brought sweatpants and lounging socks to really overstay my welcome.

2). Nina says that I cockblock her when we hang out. At first I was like, “Get over yourself,” until I realized that that meant that I’m hot/tall/masc/cute enough to appear to be her boyfriend. I try to remind her that if I were straight, she wouldn’t be attractive enough to date me (I’m a 9), but I think I’ve insulted her so much that she’s developed some sort of emotional callus to avoid my harsh words from sinking in. I need to start varying up my behavior towards her, so that—much like the Tasmanian Devil—you can never anticipate my moods.

3). I was talking with some friends about how annoying it is when people pretend not to recognize me. It’s happened twice in the same week, where someone has been like, “I feel like I recognize you,” and I have to scream, “YOU KNOW ME, TIFFANY.” It was no one named Tiffany, but I can’t—for legal reasons (?)—say who’s been doing it to me. My logic is that, even though we go to a school of 16,000 undergrad, I’m very distinctive. I’m 6’3, redheaded, and loud as fuck, so there’s no way you can avoid seeing me. And even if you don’t recognize my face, I scream enough in public that my voice has probably haunted your dreams on numerous occasions. So let’s not play these games, TIFFANY.

4). Today in my Pre-1860 American Lit class, I called Taylor Swift “petty as fuck, but not in a bad way.” I think it was probably as well-received as you would imagine a polarizing statement such as that could be. Previous things I have said in that class: “Sex and the City is an example of an epistolary novel” and “Have you guys ever seen Reign?” I don’t know if I’m doing well in that class.

5). I’m listening to Joanne, and enjoying it probably as much as one can with a high-concept album such as this. My favorite songs are “Diamond Heart,” “Grigio Girls,” “John Wayne,” and “Sinner’s Prayer.”

6). I was screaming about avocadoes in a coffee shop today, and how guacamole doesn’t give me the firmness I require from avocadoes for enjoyment, and I looked up to see a former classmate staring at me in shock/horror/amusement. SEE, I’M DISTINCTIVE.

Okay, nothing else has ever happened in my life, or anyone else’s, so I’m going to end the article here. Do I even have the right to call this, or any writing I’ve done, an article? God, that’s so demeaning to all of journalism. Whatever, I’m already the Kim Zolciak-Biermann of journalism.

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Essay, Inspirational

WHY POP CULTURE MATTERS

A large part of why I am often hesitant to label myself a “journalist” is due to the lack of representation that anything other than “hard news” gets in journalism classes. Professors act on the assumption that we all want to be helicoptering into Iraq, or walking the streets of a broken-down city to get a story of a struggling kid with a heart of gold. They act on the assumption that those kinds of stories, hard news and gritty, are the only of substance.

And while there is literally nothing wrong with that kind of reporting—we obviously need it—I’m tired of that being the primary. I was in a journalism class where the professor was discussing the skills we’ll need if we want to succeed. But those skills were only really marketable if I’m going to be pursuing a career as a Woodward and Bernstein “on the case” reporter. He demerited the importance of “first person narrative” and how it has no place as the first mode of storytelling.

But the kind of journalism I want to do—pop culture—relies on my voice and my narrative and the ability of an audience to trust me to be funny and knowledgeable and real. And I couldn’t maintain a straight face because, three years into it, I was tired. I was tired of feeling like I was dumb for wanting to talk about pop or that my career wouldn’t have as much value as if I was to follow a more traditional career path.

Not every journalist wants to write for the New York Times. Not every reporter wants to be going undercover, tailing a lead or spending hours into the night poring over ancient tomes. And that’s okay.

I love pop culture. I love dissecting it and discussing it and thinking about it. Because pop culture, of which celebrity culture and the “Stars: They’re Just Like Us” is only a very small part, is the representation of what people are thinking. And that’s as important as knowing what’s going on. I love people—from celebrity to politics to local news—and I love studying them. I love seeing what makes them passionate or angry or happy. I’m a pop cultural anthropologist.

And here’s why pop culture matters: because we can take individual celebrity instances and stretch them into a wider scope. Nicki Minaj calling out Miley Cyrus publicly at the 2015 VMAs pointed to the complex way that the media portrays black women. The world buys into the “Angry Black Woman” model and it plays out over and over, with Nicki, or with Amandla Stenberg. And the portrayal of Caitlyn Jenner as the leader of the trans community because of her white, priviledged, and cisnormative conventional beauty is a reflection of our desire to keep the status quo. Because trans people aren’t making her their leader. Cisgender people are looking to her because she is palatable.

Pop culture brings conversations of cultural appropriation, transgender politics, and gender equality into the public dialogue. And that’s important. And it’s important how we laud women like Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Schumer for being “real” while simultaneously shaming women by putting a size 10 model—below the national average for women’s sizing—on the forefront of the Calvin Klein “Plus Size Range.” And even the fact that we use language like “plus” to alienate woman and other them is mind-blowing.

Pop culture simultaneously shows how far we’ve come and how far we have still to go. It can be both serious and silly, stimulating and mindless. And that’s why it’s amazing. Because it is what we are talking about, what we think about. And if the day-to-day journalism of pop culture is as prevalent in our lives as hard-hitting news, why is it not represented in my journalism classes?

I just want to feel like my interest is valid. I want to be in a classroom where I can stand next to someone who wants to write about Middle Eastern conflict and I can say that I would rather discuss the career trajectory of Hollywood It-Girls or the media empire of the Kardashians. Like, wouldn’t that be so cool?

And on a large scale, wouldn’t it be so cool if we could all feel accepted and lauded for our career interests?

If you have an interest and a driving passion and it’s not hurting anybody and you want to pursue it, I want you to. I want to write about pop culture and write books about myself and review TV shows and live-tweet the red carpet of the Golden Globes. And that’s dope that I want to. Like, I’m not cooking cocaine in my kitchen. I just want to be weird and funny and make people laugh and think. I want to be someone’s “having a bad day so I’m gonna read this.” I want to be someone’s security blanket. I want to uplift and take our collective minds off the bad things and just, if even for a moment, laugh and cringe and be happy.

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And that’s as important and as valuable as being a New York Times reporter. Cue the Hailee Steinfeld “Love Myself” emotional collage.

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