To be clear, the Samantha Bee story is a distraction (as was the Roseanne story.) But given that I blog/tweet about feminism, I feel the need to comment.
I’ll start by saying, I never use the “C-word” (writing it this way feels stupid- but I actually don’t even usually say it). I think it’s vile and angry and when used by men, always has a menace/threat involved (I understand that in the UK it’s used more often and slightly differently)
I wouldn’t have used the word. But I actually know a lot of feminists who do- in an attempt to reclaim it and take back some power (see Nasty Woman t shirts) I see Samantha Bee in that vein. I don’t agree with it & cringe every time she uses it.
But- let’s be clear, Bee uses the word often. She proudly sold this shirt. She embraces profanity– her language is saltier than most male comedians on TV- partly as a way to assert power.
Sarah Silverman is another comic who follows a similar model as does Michelle Wolf. In general, I am not huge fans of this kind of humor. It’s not the way I speak, but the use is NOT misogynistic.
Pretending that the use of the word by Bee is the same as when, say, the President uses it– or for that matter- any man uses it- is asinine. There is a clear difference in power and history. (see a similar debate around the “N-word“- also awkward to write).
When a man uses the word- there is an implied threat. I always feel the anger and know how tied male anger at women is to sexual assault and violence. No one fears that Bee will assault Ivanka or that she is making a stochastic call for it.
Bee meant it as a harsh & biting insult. And it was. Even as I usually recoil at the word, I can’t say I really did here- because the rage I felt when I saw Ivanka’s tweet was indescribable. The casual cruelty (I don’t think it was unintentional) of that tweet was breathtaking.
One spits out the “C word” in anger and disgust and that is what Ivanka’s tweet raised in me. The US government is ripping children from their parents’ arms. Ivanka’s glossy (professional?) photo is 1 part “let them eat cake” and 1 part taunt.
For me, when I hold my children now, I feel a palpable ache in my heart and soul for those parents and children. Seeing Ivanka’s tweet makes me question if she has either.
As a mother, I can barely fathom the horror of it. As a human being, I am appalled at the cruelty. As an American I am ashamed. A a Jew, I am terrified. In my mind, I see children ripped from their parents at concentration camps. I know where this leads.
Ivanka’s tweet reminds me that for the average German, the early years of the Nazi regime felt normal. They were untouched by the erosion of rights & the brutality inflicted on Jews & others. They could ignore it or be secretly please.
In her tweet, Ivanka, the gilded princess of the authoritarian regime, flaunts her untouchable whiteness to the trumps’ alt-right base (her conversion to Judaism is conveniently overlooked by her fans- who can blame them- she didn’t seem to take it seriously either).
Bee’s rage at Ivanka is MY rage. Bee is angry and appalled by our treatment of immigrants and Ivanka’s tweet distills the cruelty and Orwellian doublespeak of this administration perfectly.
Now, in some ways, the right is correct. Why should our ire be targeted at the female advisor (and please- Chelsea Clinton- Ivanka is more than the 1st daughter here- she is a fucking advisor to the president) when there are so many men to hold accountable?
But that is also Ivanka & the right’s fault. You can’t pretend to speak for women and mothers and then ignore this brutality. Ivanka’s silence on this matter exposes her (again). Her concern, in as much as she ever expresses it, is for wealthy white women.
In the end, the shame of Bee’s word choice is that it allows the right to hijack the conversation and make it about offensive language, not offensive behavior. If they were half as angry about the lives of immigrants as they are about a bad word, I’d find this more convincing
Poor Ivanka? Her feelings are hurt? Bee’s language is an abomination? Separating parents from children is the abomination. Treating people trying to escape war & starvation as criminals is an abomination. I don’t have time to worry about Ivanka’s feelings.
And let’s be clear, Bee is punching up. She’s a comedian and she was using the slur to call out the brutality of the regime- of which Ivanka is CLEARLY a part.
But… but… Roseanne you say? First of all, I will state flat out that Bee was not making a joke and neither was Barr. They were engaged in political speech. Bee’s speech was challenging brutal policy and Barr’s was supporting racism.So yes- my response is TOTALLY about the substance. Private companies are within their rights to cancel shows/stop advertising on programs they find offensive. But it’s not OK for the administration to weigh in. THAT is where we get into First Amendment territory.
When the government says things should not be on the air, it’s different because the government has the ability to regulate what is on the air. (Cable is a little different, but this admin has threatened to punish businesses that cross it.)
Private citizens and businesses are free to support or condemn behavior/speech they find offensive. Shaming individuals/institutions is part of how a society enforces its values . So the rest of us can absolutely debate Bee’s choices.
But if we somehow have this conversation about the WORD that Bee chose and not the conduct she was calling out, it is a disingenuous conversation aimed at obscuring the issue not clarifying it.
In 2016, I started letting my kids (age 9 & 12) watch Bee and John Oliver despite the language because it was clear that there are some things more offensive than bad language & these comedians could present clearly what was happening. I knew then that my old concerns about decorum didn’t matter in the face of what was to come
In our immigration policies I see the road map to genocide. Debating etiquette & lamenting the coarsening of our discourse seems trivial when families are being ripped apart and our country is sliding into authoritarianism.
As I said, I never use the word. But honest to god, this manufactured controversy makes me want to start.
*This blog originally appeared as a tweet storm. It has been edited for clarity.