#Problematic: White Media, Ruby Rose Fangirls, Neil Young’s Still Got It, Belly Button Body Shaming
With this week’s tragedy in Charleston at the Emanuel AME Church hopefully in the forefront of everyone’s minds, what really feels problematic is talking about pop culture. I struggled this week with even having the column go up, but I decided that it might be an opportunity to give insight on the massacre to people who have yet to fully understand the implications of what has happened since Wednesday. This week I also want to try and bring you some more positive stories, as we have a long, shitty road ahead of us in fixing the myriad fucked up things in not just the world, but right here at home, and sometimes, we desperately need a glimmer of hope. And on that note, I find it hopeful that instead of discussing the nonexistent idea of “transracial” some commentators have tried to apply to Rachel Dolezal, it’s possible for us to focus on the concrete realities of race in this country, not a white woman gone mad.
1. The Story Should Not Be About The Shooter
With the heavy news coverage of the mounting slayings of black lives that matter, one thing has become chillingly obvious: white media is reinforcing the very mindset that perpetuates our culture of inherently racist violence.
News channels have been quick to jump on the stories of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and so many others because they have an opportunity to villainize these victims. They stage a debate on whether the privileged men who killed them were wrong or not. They throw racist buzzwords at these young, black men and women who are incapable of defending themselves by questioning their integrity to try and uphold that of their killers — something that doesn’t happen when a white person is killed ,
It wasn’t until three hours after the brutal slaying of nine people Wednesday night that any media picked up the story. Rob Lowe, of all people, addressed the issue on Twitter mentioning that the media also gave a, “detailed suspect description WITHOUT mentioning his race. Many more have been venting their anger, and I highly recommend reading through real people’s thoughts on the matter via the hashtag.
What is made incredibly clear through this horrifying act of terrorism is that when it comes to murder, we still can’t help but see color. If you’ve been reading about the killings, you by now surely know the name of the killer. Most are not taking the time to put nine names to the nine victims. In the media’s eyes, if they can’t sensationalize them, why say anything at all?
The shooter Dylan Roof is a 21-year-old white man. Just lat night, the Washington Post ran a shameless profile of him with the headline, “For accused killer Dylann Roof, a life that had quietly drifted off track.” Writer Jerry Markon even proudly tweeted about the profile, making sure we knew it was written by him. I understand that the media shouldn’t refer to him as a killer before trial, but they don’t need to suggest that he might be innocent. They could present the headline with just his name. This man is accused of killing nine black people in cold blood — an obvious hate crime, an obvious act of domestic terrorism — and one of our nation’s biggest publications is going to discuss how his life “quietly drifted off track”?
Victims of racial violence are quickly labeled by the media as violent, a rapist, a robber. White gunmen who kill innocent people are labeled as misunderstood. The media is currently focusing on Roof’s alleged mental illness, not his white supremacist past, the photographic evidence of his racism, or his premeditated murders. To make it all the more clear how internalized our racism is at every level, once capturing Roof, a suspect in a church massacre, the police escorted him to the vehicle without handcuffs and in a bullet proof vest—a complete injustice when Freddie Gray was killed in police custody in Baltimore last month for allegedly possessing an illegal switchblade.
To make it all completely sickening, white media refuses to call this a hate crime, or suggest that it was racially motivated, because they they just might have to admit racism exists. If you have a strong stomach, this Fox News broadcast in which they try and label these killings as an “attack on faith,” will put it all in sobering clarity for you. If you’re not convinced yet that this is nauseating evidence of the inherent racism in our media, politics, laws and law enforcement, the confederate flag is flying full mast on Capitol grounds in South Carolina right now.
So spread the word. Talk to your parents, your friends, your bank teller, I don’t care. Make sure they know the facts about the shooting at AME Church in Charleston. Make sure they aren’t re-vomiting what the media is chucking at them.
As #Problematic as white media
2. Ruby Rose Is Hot And That’s Fine
“Orange Is The New Black” is back on Netflix for its third season, and that’s all kind of well and good(it’s also not that great because it’s glorifying our ravishingly fucked prison industrial complex, but alas, television.) The Internet is very pissed this week because this season unveiled a new character, Stella, played by gender fluid Australian model and singer, Ruby Rose. The internet exploded with women Tweeting and Instagramming (cringe at using those as verbs, but it’s 2015, and it’s what we do) memes about how confused they were that Ruby Rose made their vaginas tingle with an intensity usually only reserved for Matthew McConaughey, or some other chiseled, white, bongo-owning straight man.
There have been a ton of think pieces about just how stirringly attractive this woman is, and the effect its having on alleged straight women. Subsequently even more think pieces have been written about how straight women shouldn’t think that they’re edgy or bi-curious for finding a woman hot, and should therefore shut the fuck up.
Here’s the rub (and not the one you were rubbing out to Ruby Rose). I don’t think any of the relatively innocuous-seeming internet users who have posted the meme are thinking “This will make people think I’m cool!” I think it’s actually a positive thing that we’re living in a culture that’s not so gay-afraid anymore that a woman can express sexual feelings for anyone in a more commonplace way. I understand the argument that a bunch of straight women suggesting that their sexual identity might be compromised because of a TV crush undermines what it means to actually be queer. However, I think the media response is entirely reactionary and overly-obsessed in policing political correctness. The meme is in the style of all of the famous Instagram meme accounts with bad grammar and a social situation that’s supposed to be both relatable and also melodramatic. When we’ve lost all sense of sarcasm, especially on the internet, where the hell are we going to go next?
It seems much more like the publications arguing against these memes—and the edginess they assume that its posters are trying to gain—are the ones trying to be edgy themselves by purporting a deep understanding of queer identity (when all they’re really doing is reading Twitter hashtags and then writing articles based on the opposite opinion). The only reason that the media is abuzz with barely-readable pieces about Rose’s attractiveness is because clicks run the internet, because clicks are what advertising dollars are based on, and savvy media folk know that if something is already a meme, then people will definitely click on a headline about it.
The journalists who are attacking the meme and its posters are at best conveying the message that only gay women can find another woman hot. They all keep repeating the refrain that straight women should chill, and that finding another woman attractive shouldn’t shake their feeling of straightness. I think that’s actually a hack entirely misunderstanding of the kind of socially tongue-in-cheek banter that memes are made of. The people posting articles about how awful these straight women who find Ruby Rose attractive are should be the ones being held in question, because they’re trying to both seem caring and on the pulse, while capitalizing on an already clickable story, and that’s sinister as fuq.
As #Problematic as the disparity between movie characters and what their real life counter parts actually look like.
3. Neil Young Told America Off
We’re getting into the positivity part of our weekly time together now, and here is your first tidbit. Donald Trump, known hairpiece, is “running for president,” in the same way that I often tell my cat, “Soon, sweetheart, we’re going to have a house in space.” Donald Trump would probably really like to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate, just as much as I would like both for my cat to understand me, and also for space travel to become a much bigger global priority. But here I am sitting on earth, my cat writhing in the corner for food while I pretend that me telling him I love him will satiate him until I’m done writing this, and Donald Trump is sitting somewhere tacky, and gold realizing he had to pay people to be in his ad campaign.
Trump also made another huge mistake and used “Rockin In The Free World” in his campaign video. He is such a dumb-ass that he basically drew the cartoon mocking him for The New Yorker himself. How out of touch does a Republican, corporate capitalist, corrupt lobbyist employer, asinine anti-equality-tweeting, filthy rich white man have to be to use the work of one of the most important protest-of-all-of-those-things songwriters of our time WITHOUT ASKING. You couldn’t make up a better metaphor for who he would be as president than he did himself with that one moment of privileged oversight.
The best part is that Neil Young was mad as hell (like Natalie Maines mad as hell), and wrote maybe one of the best arguments to encapsulate the joke that has become America. I highly recommend reading it here.
As #Problematic as posting meaningful quotes to your Instagram to seem deep.
4. Belly Button Boobs
Last week a weird thing surfaced called the #bellybuttonchallenge, challenging people to try and reach their arm behind their back and touch their belly button from the opposite side. The somehow trending phenomenon was quickly addressed as being body shaming, because for most humanoids, it takes a very slender frame to be able to accomplish the task. The hashtag took off for the most part in China, but still made its way around the globe via the internet to make everyone feel like shit because they couldn’t touch their belly button in a weird way that is pointless.
Well a really awesome British lingerie brand, Curvy Kate, challenged the belly-backwards trend by starting their own called #BoobsOverBellyButtons. They did a great job of not just drawing attention to the fact that we shouldn’t be contorting ourselves to be skinny, but also celebrating our healthy bodies on which our belly buttons are right where they belong (under our boobs). Even better, they’re encouraging an alternative body trend—self breast exams. Mad ups to Curvy Kate and her whole effort in making sure health gets reinforced over beauty ideals and the fucked up ways people come up with to test them.
As #Problematic as Republicans understanding body autonomy.
5. And For A Positive Ending
This video is a fantastic example of the notion that perhaps the generation that will come after us might be able to fix what we have inherited, further fucked up, and not quite been able to get fixed.