The Nightly Show on Gender: Yay?

Like most of the Western world, I too cried into my blankie when Stephen Colbert left late night. Like some of the Western world, I was happy to see that the show that moved into his slot, The Nightly Show, was hosted by a black man, The Daily Show's "Senior Black Correspondent" Larry Wilmore. Still no women in late night, I thought, but at least there'll be a greater chance of fairer discussions around systemic inequality. 

And there has been. Wilmore calls out the ubiquitous nature of racism in this country in almost every single show. His very first show's first three remarks were about race in America ("Tonight-ly, the Oscar nominations are out, and they're so white, a grand jury has decided not to indict them... Oprah marched on Selma this weekend. She has a dream that 'Selma' shall overcome 'The Wedding Ringer' at the box office... Yeah, we talk 'Selma,' Ferguson and Eric Garner. It's Comedy Central's worst nightmare - brother finally gets a show on late-night TV."). Not sure Comedy Central is the network who wakes up in a cold sweat thinking about black male comedians gracing their airwaves, but OK.

Wilmore even did a show devoted entirely to black women, which is remarkable because it addresses intersectionality, which is a fancy word for the ways in which gender and racial inequality intersect to deal Women of Color a particularly nasty blow. This show-- The Nightly Show but particularly the episode devoted exclusively to black women-- is a step in the right direction because it means that someone who has a not-a-white-guy perspective is leading public discourse, and he's encouraging not-white-guy perspectives. (Yes, I realize that it's a weird claim to make, that a comedy show is expected to be at the helm of important issues. But this is a discussion which has already been had, long ago. And considering the sorry state of the news, I'm not sure those of us who skip CNN for Comedy Central are any less informed.)

So I was excited on Monday, when Wilmore announced that his next show would be asking, "Why is it taking so long for America to level the playing field for women?" YES!, I thought. Why is it taking so long? Maybe Wilmore would go right into the round table discussion, like they did with the black ladies, and maybe we could get into some actual feminist issues. Maybe someone would even call themselves a feminist. Ooooooo. I was going to tweet to #Keepit100, the hashtag Wilmore uses to let his audience ask him questions directly, "You're a black guy on late night, but you're still a guy. Better?" But I couldn't get the wording right, and I figured some other, more articulate woman would say something. If Wilmore handled gender inequality the way he'd lifted up black women's voices, maybe finally, finally, there would be a meatier conversation about it.

Here's what actually happened.

1) More about racism-- this time, those assholic frat guys in Oklahoma and the old white lady who had the stupidity to film herself doing the racist chant, and then acted like a victim when she got caught. When Rolling Stone covered last night's episode today, they spent 2/3 of the article talking, in the appropriately disgusted terms of white people who definitely have black friends, about what jerks racists are.

2) A round table discussion with no white women-- not one, but there was a white dude-- which began with the question, "Who puts more hater-ade on the women? Is it women themselves, or the men?"

3) No #Keepit100 question. This is either because women didn't ask, or there weren't any questions worth answering.

Dude. Disappointing. Very disappointing.

Coming from a guy who's handled racial issues, which are always divisive and especially in the wake of the DOJ report of Ferguson, so well, I was expecting an honest look at gender discrimination. And I'm not saying that racism and sexism are exactly comparable: if a white woman steps out of line, she's shamed, bullied and possibly sexually assaulted; if a black man steps out of line, he goes to jail or gets shot. Different consequences, and a different history of discrimination in each case. But still-- I had higher hopes for Wilmore.

First, "Who throws more hater-ade." Really? One of the ways to shut down discussions about gender bias is to, essentially, blame the victim. This is everyone's favorite defense when women say we face discrimination, and it's just a way to avoid the discussion. You know the line: "Women are naturally catty and backstabbing. They're discriminating against themselves, so there is no such thing as systemic sexism anymore." This is like that argument that goes, "Black-on-black crime is still the highest of any racial demographic, so racism is no longer a problem because black people are behaving badly towards other black people." No. No, no, no. Women do not all like each other, but that doesn't mean gender discrimination isn't a Thing. Unfortunately, panelist Egypt Sherrod's answer was that women cut one another down far more often than men do-- which is just the answer everyone wants to hear, rather than, "That question is a dodge." Good, we tell ourselves. Just what we thought: sexism is self-inflicted.

The second panelist, comedian Chloe A. Hilliard, explains this phenomenon awesomely: "A lot of women don't want to support a woman outright because they still want to be respected by men. They want to play on both teams. 'See, I may have ovaries, but I can still sling a dick.'" Interestingly, this proves that sexism is still an active force in the lives of women: Why would we need to try so hard to make men like us if they didn't still hold most of the power? We have to disrespect other women in order to get men to respect us? Look up the definition of a Female Chauvinist Pig, and you'll see why this is a symptom of sexism, not proof of its absence.

The Latina panelist, Alicia Menendez, stepped in and explained that it's due in part to the way we ask women in power to be strong enough to get things done, but nice enough that "I like you." This got a round of applause: women in leadership are expected to walk an impossible line of likeability and laser-focus on results. This is basically impossible, and it represents another way in which women are kept out of positions of power. It relates to being called "bossy," which has been discussed at length by greater minds than mine. So this represented a tiny victory on the show-- so yay there.

Second, there's a white guy on the panel. If there's one voice who's heard loud and clear, whether we want it or not, especially in discussions of systemic imbalance, it's white males. You need a comedian on the panel, I get it. But you already have one in Chloe. I get it: men have to deal with harmfully restrictive gender expectations too. But that's not what this guest was there to talk about-- he was there to make sure that, as usual, a representative for Your Average Middle-Aged White Guy got to weigh in on women's issues. There were no white women who could come and talk about their experience? None? No women over 50? No covered women? But a white guy got to sit at the table, again?

Finally, No #Keepit100? That's on us. Me included. I wish now I'd taken another few minutes to formulate a better tweet. But now that I've seen the show, here's what I wish I'd said:

Larry, you're a black man with firsthand knowledge of bullshit conversations about injustice. Re: gender... Can you do better? #Keepit100 

I hope you can, man. Because that was some weak-ass tea.


This is what it sounds like to me...

... when people cite "preventing our brothers from stumbling" as a reason to dress modestly.

Suits: A Serious Stumbling Block



I've spent a lot of time and energy since the Salon article came out attempting not to appear to be "angry" (and often failing miserably, as many of you have seen). This is because the quickest way to avoid discussing someone's point is to attack their motivations by calling them "just angry." There's the "angry woman" (Feminazi), the "angry black man" (Thug, Gangster or Hood), the "angry lesbian" (Manhater, Ballbuster, Dyke... wait, these are things I've been called too), "angry Muslim" (Terrorist) and any number of other epithets used to devalue a person and their opinion. Also, if you're a woman, anger is decidedly unfeminine: women supposedly don't GET mad, unless it's a catfight over a man. In which case it's both perfectly fine and hot.

But the thing is, anger is a legitimate response to being told, directly or indirectly, that because of who you are, you do not deserve to be treated with basic human dignity. Whether that be for your gender, race, class, political beliefs, age or any other number of things, when one is told "Sorry, I'm not listening/ don't respect your opinion/ am deaf to your needs because of who you are or what you believe," it's perfectly legitimate to get angry about that. I am guilty of having done that to others, and they have gotten understandably angry with me.

Furthermore, being angry does not necessarily translate to a desire for revenge or punishment. Just because I'm angry at a culture which tells me that I am inferior because of my gender does not mean that I hate those who benefit from that system. After all, I'm part of at least one class which benefits from systemic oppression. But when my culture tells me I'm a "thing," or that others have a right to tell me what to think, believe or do, I get mad, because I am not a thing. No one is.

Furthermore, I get REALLY angry when those who are reaping the rewards of this unjust and egregiously imbalanced system have the audacity to say that there IS no system-- that I'm "just an angry feminist." Things like this and the backlash against the #yesallwomen hashtag war in the wake of the Elliot Rodgers tragedy demonstrate how comfortable those who are "winning" in terms of the culture wars are, in telling those who are "losing" that they just don't know what they're talking about.

So I think people can sling that "you're just angry" insult (if that's what it is, and not an attempt to protect their positions) at me as much as they want because they're right: I AM angry. But that doesn't mean I'm wrong, and it doesn't mean I want to hurt anyone, or take anything from them. It doesn't mean I'm incapable of compassion towards those who are interested in preserving the status quo. I can be angry, and still be kind.

Most of all, I can be angry, but I can still treat you like the human being you are. I can be forgiving of the past while simultaneously not wanting the future to look the same way. I can be an angry woman, and still have a really, really good point.


The Modesty Police, and how some of them actually insult men

How the modesty police are hurting my son.

I do love it when someone else says perfectly what I can't quite articulate. :)


Short hair

Do men ACTUALLY BELIEVE that women with short hair are "damaged?" At least one dude does. More evidence that women's hair seems to be something which some men feel comfortable taking ownership of... and also that there are many women who don't care. :)

Why Patriarchy Fears the Scissors: Short Hair Is a Political Statement


Blogging at 30,000 feet

It's rare that you get to write about a major life event as it's happening, but thanks to the marvels of modern technology (and $39.95), I'm writing this as Less and I fly out to San Francisco to start our new life together.

I came to Atlanta to go to Emory. When that was over I would have left (to go where, I'm not sure, but I think it would have been some cool city) except that I had found the love of my life in Atlanta and he owned a house there. The house was lovely, but it was located "outside the perimeter," which refers to the area outside of 285 which encircles the city. To Atlantans anything outside the perimeter is "super far away" and "not really Atlanta."

I wasn't nuts about living 40 minutes away from the stuff I like to do. Going swing dancing was an hour in each direction, and going to the Northside Tavern, my favorite spot to dance, sing and generally carry on, felt like a slog. There were no coffee shops near us, and when I need a place to work or socialize, that's where I go (in fact, it's the first thing I find when I move to a new city).

Less doesn't mind driving, and he has a motorcycle-- so of course he had a great time riding in the summer. Me, I got tired of how my friends would never visit me "way out there" and feeling like I had two options on Friday night: either drive ten minutes to the freeway, spend another fifteen on said freeway, get off, fight traffic, and arrive at my destination; or, stay home. I stayed home way too much, and when I graduated and all I had to do all day was write, I went crazy pretty quickly.

Fortunately for me, I married the most amazing person I have ever met, and when the opportunity came up for us to relocate to California he asked me if I wanted to go. I love my friends in Atlanta but constantly having to work to keep the feelings of isolation at bay was exhausting. It didn't take much consideration on my part to say yes.

And wonderful man that he is, my guy uprooted his life, moved from the city where he'd been for twelve years, took a risk with his job and underwent the stress of moving (which, when you own a five-bedroom house plus a basement full of stuff is considerable... never mind moving our six animals all the way across the country), and got on this plane with me, all because he knows I'll be happier if I have a hand in choosing where I live.

I don't know what's coming when we land on the other coast, but as we were pulling out of the driveway today I was wondering if I felt sad about leaving the house. I usually get pretty bummed when I leave someplace-- I'm a sentimental person, what can I say?-- but suddenly I realized that all of the things that I would have missed, all of the experiences I'd had there, were based on the person sitting next to me.

I will miss the lake, though. It's hard to top sitting on the porch, listening to frogs sing.