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, 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.”

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 3.32.17 PM

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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Essay, Opinion, Politics

KATHY GRIFFIN’S NOT APOLOGIZING ANYMORE, PRESIDENTIALITY AND HIGHER STANDARDS

Header source: Wikimedia Commons

When Trump’s actions are getting increasingly damaging to vulnerable minorities, it’s getting harder and harder to imagine why we should expect people like Kathy Griffin to keep apologizing.


Kathy Griffin, the comedian who faced massive backlash from a May 30th photo she posted of her holding up a mask of President Donald Trump covered in fake blood, styled to look like his decapitated head, is refusing to apologize anymore.

She was the subject of a recent article from The Cut, months after the fallout that cost her 15 live performances, her gig hosting CNN’s New Year’s Eve broadcast and an endorsement deal – not to mention the thousands of death threats.

The story, which takes place in late June, opens with a description of Trump’s Twitter rant that day: denouncing Robert Mueller’s investigation, mocking House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and calling Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “Cryin’ Chuck.” The nickname came from Schumer getting emotional when discussing the Trump immigration ban.

“Why are people still expecting me to apologize and grovel to a man that tweets like this?” Griffin “vented” to the piece’s author Bashar Ali. “I’m a comedian; he’s our fucking president.”

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Opinion, Politics

THE PRICE OF POPULARITY IN POLITICS

The members of Congress who have not disavowed Trump are actively cosigning on everything he does.


On Friday, the New York Times news podcast The Daily – posted an episode that centered on Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and his criticism of President Donald Trump, as well as Trump’s open rooting for Flake’s defeat from public office in a 2018 race.

In Trump’s Phoenix rally, he ranted against the state’s two Republican senators – John McCain and Jeff Flake – of course, refusing to mention them by name as an attempt at…coyness? Trump’s anger towards Flake stems from the Arizona senator’s new book, Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle. The book takes aim at the Republican Party with a plea to return to its bedrock politics, which are directly at odds with a Trump presidency.

Because of this, Trump has attacked Flake both in speeches and on Twitter, for being “weak” on immigration and crime, and openly encouraging his defeat at the hands of opponent, Dr. Kelli Ward. Ward is self-identified as standing with Trump and seeking to “make Arizona great again.” Trump also railed against the “one vote” that stopped the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a thinly-veiled attack at John McCain whose vote, alongside Senators Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine), prevented the Senate Republicans from passing the repeal.

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Politics

A TAKE ON THE NORTH KOREA-TRUMP SITCH THAT STARTED LIGHT BUT GOT REAL DARK, REAL FAST

Header photo credit: U.S. Department of Defense 

I can’t decide if Twitter jokes about nuclear war makes me want to laugh or cry, and really that’s the best description I can think of for Twitter – and the internet world in general.

So I’m coming off working my first freelance job, and it was very exciting but a little draining for someone who, until now, has considered wearing pants with zippers to be the greatest triumph of any given day. So I almost considered skipping this, because I knew it would have to be about the whole Trump-North Korea thing and I just wasn’t ready to put on my journalist hat. But then I realized, infusing humor and drama into politics is what I do best. So I’m going to give you a Casual Cool Hip Take on the Trump-North Korea dramz.


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Millennials, social media

I AM A MILLENNIAL AND I WILL DESTROY EVERYTHING YOU LOVE

I loom over you on a mountain of discarded participation trophies.


I was born in 1995, so the lines are a little rough but essentially I am (by and large) on the tail end of the millennial generation. But given my voracious and insatiable need for validation, my living at home with my parents, and my eternal neck pain from craning downwards to look at my phone, I’d say that I am.

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Source: Twitter // Ha…ha…

We’ve all heard that, right? Young people are being bombarded by articles. This blog was inspired by a Twitter Moment: “A Thinkpiece Generator for Attacking Millennials” that encouraged people to go to Google and type in “Millennials are killing…” and see what autofills. When I did it, I received the following results.

And because I’m so dedicated to eradicating my narcissicism, I’m going to crop out how many favorites that tweet got…

(four)

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Humor, Politics, pop culture

JARED KUSHNER’S CLOSED-SESSION MEETING WITH SENATE INTELLIGENCE

Jared Kushner, senior adviser to the president, has stated, after his closed-session meeting with Senate intelligence staffers, “I did not collude with Russia.”


Photo source: Bravo via Jezebel


Do you remember when you were a little kid, and you did something wrong (broke a fancy glass; accidentally deleted a work file off your parents’ computer; failed a math test) and you had the rest of the afternoon to figure out a good-enough lie to tell to your parents when they got home?

And when they got home, you totally blew the secret because you told the lie in its shiny, well-packaged entirety before your parents even had a chance to discover what you had accidentally done. “And that’s why I failed that test,” you said, vibrating with your lie.

Your parents gave you a long, measured look before calling you on your shit. And even as you were telling it, you knew that they wouldn’t buy it. The truth is weird and messy and doesn’t make sense. Lies, especially lies that you’ve had enough time to concoct, are too clean.

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