feminism / politics / Portland

The Two-Faced Jester

After what was a remarkably difficult week, life started to look a sliver brighter yesterday. I attended the Women’s March in Portland, along with 100,000 other Oregonians (and southern Washingtonians!). The march from the waterfront through the downtown core didn’t feel so much a woman’s event as a Parade of Progress: men, women, transgender and non-gender-conforming people, abled and disabled, children and the elderly. There was a unicorn dancer and Pussy Rioters and a coven, all of us overseen by police officers collecting flowers and wearing pink knit hats. It was a glimpse at the America that so many millions of us want; the inclusive and hopeful America that lives in our hearts. The America that lives up to our country’s founding principles, even when we as a nation continually fall short; where citizens are set up to thrive, and those in authority are there to serve. There was no violence or confrontation. It was beautiful.

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View of the continuing Portland march from our parking garage on 4th and Alder, downtown. (With regrettable, and non-endorsed, Timbers photobomb.)

As I left the march with my friend Christine, I took in the astounding attendance numbers and photos from around the country and world. Half a million in DC, 750,000 in Los Angeles, 130,000 in Seattle (oh yes, Seattle, you always have to edge out in front of us!). Small but mighty numbers in red strongholds like my temporary “home” town of Tucson, Arizona. My Facebook wall was a beautiful pink deluge of photos from all over the world: my cheese friends in San Francisco, my grad school mentor visiting Hawaii, writer friends in Boulder, Colorado and Joseph, Oregon and Montpellier, Vermont. Friends who could not march expressing their appreciation for the simple fact that, whatever issues may arise (or not arise) after a march that is in no way perfect, knowing that you are not alone in feeling gaslit and afraid is soul-saving. It is life-saving.

It was an incredible day that I will remember for the rest of my life.

But it was a day. And night arrived.

Without getting into the terrifying actions of the new administration in the last, oh, has it even been 48 hours? Let’s just focus on what happened after I got back home, made this unspeakably delicious red chile chicken meal from our new Rick Bayless cookbook (get it!!), spent hours scrolling through addictive march photos from around the globe, and turned on Saturday Night Live.

I take umbrage with NBC. And no, not just because of what they did to The Office after Season 3. I am offended and troubled by their two-faced left-leaning front, wrapped up oh-so-metaphorically by Tina Fey: at first glance she looks like an incredible feminist inspiration, but brush your finger just slightly along the veneer, and you’ll have a whole mess of Problematic all over your hands.

There were egregious lapses in judgments and false equivalencies made during the campaign, when Trump was invited to host, and Jimmy Fallon ruffled his Cheeto-dusted combover on The Tonight Show. These were all conscious, top-level decisions to normalize an authoritarian dictator and make him appear like a legitimate presidential candidate. To humanize him in the face of ever racist, sexist, xenophobic, ableist, dangerous viewpoint he expressed. Inviting Alec Baldwin on to piss him off on a weekly basis does not erase the damage of false equivalency.

In this season of SNL taking place in a frightening not-normal America, nowhere has this ring kissing/ass kicking duality been more flagrant than during the Weekend Update segment, also known as the point where I usually dedicate myself to watching before flossing and falling into bed. The dynamic duo of Michael Che and Colin Jost is tone-deaf on the regular, and led the charge in perpetuating the idea that Hillary Clinton was universally “disliked,” then dropped this remarkable bit blaming her loss on marginalized populations:

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HAHAHA PUNCHING DOWN IS SO MUCH FUN!!!!!

Last night, on an opportunity to maybe, oh I don’t know. Have one of the women in the cast speak about the Women’s March? Or just not act like a bunch of frat boys complaining about a Woman’s Studies credit? NBC led into the segment with a commercial praising their own former Weekend Update desk-head Seth Meyers as the late-night host most adept at holding Trump and his surrogates accountable, back-to-back with a promo for The Celebrity Apprentice, a reality television program our Executive in Chief serves as a producer for and directly profits from, simultaneously sitting in the Oval Office, which is Absolutely Not Normal. Saturday Night Live decided to slip self-awareness a rag-full of chloroform and gave us Michael Che mansplaining feminism to the audience. Which is literally worse than avoiding the topic at all.

The turnout was estimated to be twice that of the inauguration, which, you know, size doesn’t matter…amirite, ladies?

A feminist is really just someone who believes in equal rights for women. And that’s easy to get behind. That is, until you see an actual feminist screaming into a cop’s face wearing a homemade uterus hat and I say, oh there are levels to this!

I just think it’s weird to get a special name for just being a reasonable person. Because that’s all it is. Believing in equality just means you’re not a dick. And for me, that’s enough.

They used this as a segway into an ending bit about a man eternally stuck in the friend zone, because his cruel female friend was a bitch and wouldn’t fuck him.

Let’s take a second to unpack what’s “enough” for Michael Che, shall we?

  1. Feminism is not “easy to get behind.” If it was easy to get behind, then we wouldn’t need it. But we are entering a real, unmistakably dangerous time to be a woman, particularly if you are a woman of color, trans, low income, or a combination of any of these marginalizing factors. Within hours of taking the presidential oath, Trump’s staff stripped the White House website of pages documenting women’s rights, LGBTQIA issues, civil rights, and climate change. These issues all intersect into a gigantic gleaming bulls-eye of fucking over women and minorities to maintain and enrich the wealthy and powerful. The administration has made it a priority to overturn Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act, plummeting us back into the era of back-alley abortions and raising pregnancy deaths. They have also championed legislation to overturn domestic violence protections in the vein of our new heroes in Russia.
  2. If being a “feminist” simply meant “being a reasonable person,” and “not being a dick,” then yeah. Why would we need our Special Snowflake name?
    BECAUSE BEING A DICK, DENYING FACTS AND RUNNING THE COUNTRY IN AN UNREASONABLE FASHION IS NOW ALLOWED.
    If we were reasonable people and we weren’t dicks, we would take the concerns of disabled Americans into account and design spaces that worked for and not against them, and we wouldn’t need the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    If we were reasonable people and we weren’t dicks, we would not deny people with per-existing medical conditions from having healthcare and we wouldn’t need the Affordable Care Act.
    If we were reasonable people and we weren’t dicks, we would understand the value of diplomacy and we wouldn’t be proposing to leave the United Nations.
    If we were reasonable people and we weren’t dicks, we would realize that healthy women make healthy societies and we wouldn’t be defunding Planned Parenthood.
    If we were reasonable people and we weren’t dicks, we would understand the necessity of Black Lives Matter and stop blaming people of color for police militarization.
    If we were reasonable people and we weren’t dicks, we would listen to 97% of scientists and their research and recommendations on climate change.
    If we were reasonable people and we weren’t dicks, we would make the preservation of public lands a priority and value them higher than any individual interest.
    If we were reasonable people and we weren’t dicks, we would know that without water we all perish and we wouldn’t be water-gunning water protectors protesting against DAPL.

Take a few hours to revisit Orwell, and you’ll remember that words matter. Language is paramount, because it describes and grounds a reality that one side is desperate to disown. Without the word “feminist,” these issues are floating in the netherworld. They are deniable. Without names, We are deniable.

Feminism is not without its flaws, and is frankly useless without intersectionality. The Women’s March is not perfect. But simply pledging to “not be a dick” isn’t enough for our country, even if it’s enough for Michael Che and NBC.

There are levels to this indeed. And we need to keep going deeper. We need to continue to act. Simply maintaining Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon in your cast does not mean you are helping.

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