Vanity Fair’s Megyn Kelly Profile Conveniently Ignores One Tiny Thing, Which Is Racism
When writing a profile on someone it’s important to approach them holistically – you want to paint the larger picture of who they are and how they came into themselves career-wise and as a person, while avoiding blatant bias that distracts from their story. This is a difficult task, and I admit that there are many ways in which Vanity Fair’s recent profile of Megyn Kelly succeeds. Although the headline reads “Blowhards Beware: Megyn Kelly Will Slay You Now,” the article itself doesn’t reek of sensationalism.
It’s important to point out the strength and gumption it’s taken Kelly to secure her position as a figurehead at FOX News. It’s good journalism to showcase her obvious leadership skills which began as early as childhood, and it’s definitely crucial to consider some of her political views with the same broad scope given to anyone else — whether you agree with or not. She has at times displayed an ability to partake in controversial conversations in more coherent or productive ways than her fellow FOX peers. She’s displayed thought and integrity through her commitment to making the news more digestible for viewers, an emotional maturity when she decided not to respond to Trump’s name calling, and a refreshing bit of sense this week when she called out the absurdity of the armed Oregon mob.
While it’s legitimate to applaud these winning moments,, Vanity Fair managed to laud her moments of strength, while glossing over her well-documented past of saying straight up racist, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic and sexist statements, because she is the shinier, more sociable alternative to the provocative hounds at FOX.
The Vanity Fair article goes so far as suggesting that Kelly could indeed be a beacon of feminism in her own right:
“Kelly has become a feminist icon of sorts—the sort who won’t actually call herself a feminist. Perhaps this is because Kelly works at Fox News, where “feminists” are in the same scary category as “liberals” who wage war on Christmas each year. Perhaps, as she claims, it’s because her accomplishments speak for themselves and have nothing to do with her gender.”
The whole piece performs a balance of hero worshiping of Kelly’s accomplishments while frequently circling back to Kelly’s looks and social charm:
“It helps that she’s a woman of preternatural charisma, with star power closer to that of Julia Roberts than to, say, Norah O’Donnell or Erin Burnett—two other beautiful TV newswomen who have made it big but have never exactly exploded. Now pulling down a reported annual pay package of $6-$9 million, she’s the alpha girl at the dinner party, the one telling the stories, cracking the jokes, the one who is nice to everyone but leaves people wanting more. Her ego is robust—in her mind it’s obvious why she’s a star—yet she enjoys taking the piss out of herself for a laugh.”
Emphasizing her alpha-girl status as an indicator of girl-power within the context of conservative circles is blatantly ignoring the fact that she is a white, conventionally attractive straight woman who has done nothing for the plight of women besides downplay it and perpetuate the idea that women choose to be victims. As a result, any legitimate critique of inequality is swept under the rug and dismissed as “whining.” In a past interview with GQ, Kelly said she doesn’t identify as a feminist because the word “connotes a harshness and almost a shrillness that I find unattractive.” Obviously she has a right to her opinion, but her opinion feels like intentional ignorance echoed from a chamber of privilege that consistently decries feminism while blatantly benefiting from it.
Anybody with half a beating heart is moderate and well-spoken against Donald Trump’s violent sexism. Yes, Megyn Kelly is a human being with nuance. Sadly, many times she’s been the most compassionate and well-spoken person in the room. Yes, she had to work hard to get where she is; her work ethic is apparent in the reaches of her education and CV.
But hell no, I refuse to be fed a portrait of her that shines up her complicity in the spreading of blatant fear-mongering and misinformation. She may be a good journalist within her context, but being a charismatic and articulate wolf doesn’t undo the fact that you’re a wolf. She’s cited Ann Coulter’s book to defend Donald Trump, compared the New Black Panthers to a hate group, invited the ADF to defend anti-gay business discrimination, and accused an abortion doctor of “guzzling wine and eating salads while thinking about baby murder.”
This isn’t a matter of Megyn Kelly merely not being the complex, headstrong journalist Vanity Fair paints her to be. It’s a matter of her being the exact opposite in a deceptively likable package. There is something deeply dangerous about flirting with the identity of a political personality and conflating their decontextualized work-ethic and charisma with “goodness,” while ignoring the very agendas they’re perpetuating. There are endless amounts of attractive, likable people that actively do great harm to others in their professional lives, I would never deign to speak for her off-air identity, but on the air, Kelly actively provides platforms for bigots and pundits, and I refuse to flirt with that.