EPISODE 105: <<CENSORED>>
Published August 11, 2017.
Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.
Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.
Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow.
Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman. On this week's agenda, the Bachelorette heartbreaking finale; sad white men crying about censorship; a quick update about debt, depression, and housing; plus the trap door of racism and ask a white person.
Aminatou: Hi! [Laughs]
Ann: Hey. How's it going?
Aminatou: You know, I'm trying to have a positive attitude today because I found out when I have a bad attitude life comes back to bite me in the ass so I am being positive today. I'm like channeling the secret.
Ann: Let me hit you with two positive things about my day. One is that after literal months of saying maybe I'll try to make some sort of overnight pudding or oats in my fridge I actually did it.
Aminatou: Overnight oats?
Ann: I made overnight oats. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Love overnight oats. Delicious!
Ann: I've got to say, I'm like, you know, I can maybe handle doing this once a week and making them in advance but I feel very accomplished that I followed through on something that I had bookmarked on Pinterest a lifetime ago so I did that.
Aminatou: Yo, shout out to overnight oats. It's not that I don't like to eat breakfast; it's just that breakfast takes up too much mental energy. There's nothing I love more than when a scenario like that happens where you're just like oh, my god, the food is already ready because I like planned it.
Ann: Completely. I was like why did it take me so long? But I also know that I will not do this every week. So I'm feeling great about that.
Aminatou: I'm happy for you. You know, one of my favorite old lady things to do is to make oatmeal in the crockpot. [Laughs] I do it maybe like three times a year, but every time when I wake up and I smell it in my house I'm so happy. Well, two things. One, I'm happy that the house didn't burn down because I'm still not clear on how crockpot technology works. [Laughs] Then I'm like oh, this shit smells nice.
Ann: That's a real be your own wife win right there. I feel like overnight oats and crockpot oatmeal are be your own wife situations.
Aminatou: Seriously. You're just like you know, sometimes these robots come through. This is great.
Ann: Let me hit you with a second posi thing which is that we're not going to talk about nuclear weapons or the Cheeto at all today.
Aminatou: Awesome. Awesome. Great. Thank you, because I keep monitoring my savings account and news alerts because I'm like I just want a heads up and if we do get nuclear war I want to spend everything I have because I'm going to be really pissed.
Ann: I thought you were going to be like I'm going to buy a small home in like an area that is outside of the nuclear threat zone.
Aminatou: No! I want to ball out. I'm like I'm sorry, I finally got my credit right, I have a savings account, and you're telling me that I'm going to die soon? For what?
Ann: I mean I would say that of course you finally get your credit right then you're going to die soon, right?
Aminatou: Yeah, life is just so unfair.
Ann: Like shaking your fist as the bomb goes off.
Aminatou: Life is so unfair. Okay, let's not talk about that. What are we going to talk about today?
Ann: Well I have been dying to ask you about the Bachelorette finale.
Aminatou: [Sighs] Okay.
Ann: And one reason why I want to have an actual conversation about it is because it is a show I don't watch, much like Game of Thrones, but it is so in the ether that I know she didn't choose the cute guy that everyone wanted her to choose. I knew there was controversy. I'm up on it, but I also don't have . . . I have a lot of gaps in my knowledge.
Aminatou: You telling me that you don't want the Bachelorette at this critical juncture is like people who tell me that they didn't vote in the 2016 election.
Ann: You know what? I could lie to you and fake that I watch the Bachelorette though.
Aminatou: You know, Ann, thank you for never lying to me. Like this is what I love about you. This relationship has a solid rock basis of truth and honesty.
Aminatou: Whaboom. [Laughs]
Ann: See? I don't even need to watch it. I have the Internet.
Aminatou: Okay, good call. That was -- I want to hug you. That was really good. Thank you. [Laughs]
Ann: But I do want you to break it down for me.
Aminatou: Okay, I'm going to break down the Bachelorette to you really quickly. I'm not going to lie to you, I feel devastated, like after Hillary lost devastated, because Rachel, the black Bachelorette, I wanted so much for her. And in the end she played herself and I played myself. Here's what happened: Rachel ended up picking the worst guy out of the three options that she had left. She sent Eric home early. Eric was the last-standing black guy who on the after show, the After the Rose show, came back with an amazing revenge beard and looked so hot now. Every week I was like who is Eric? And then now I'm like what? This guy is hot.
Ann: I thought revenge beard was your fake hetero partner. Not like an actual thing on a man's face.
Aminatou: [Laughs] No, it's like revenge body but for men. Revenge beard. He looks really hot, so who knows? Then it was down to Peter who everybody loves. He's like gap-toothed, really hot. And Brian who says that he's a doctor but really he just cracks people's backs. And also he was in this reality TV show about finding a partner before called The Player.
Aminatou: And he's just greasy and slimy. He's a bad person. Also his mom kept calling him the love of her life and you know that's why they're never going to be happy or make it, because the mom is not ready to let him go. But so anyway, so usually Bachelorette finales are boring. Like they're exceptionally boring. It's like 30 minutes in you kind of don't care who wins and you're over it because they're so long. This one was three hours long.
But the problem that happened with this one is for the first time there was a breakup before you could even get to the final decision time. So Rachel and Peter broke up. Ann, it was so awesome. It's like I think about it and I still want to cry. I cried when it happened because Peter cried.
What has developed in the last couple weeks is that Peter made it really clear to Rachel that he likes her and he obviously wants to be with her but he thinks getting engaged after 1.5 dates is weird and so he's not sure whether he's going to propose to her. Which, as you know, the prize of the Bachelorette and the Bachelor is getting engaged. We'll get into, in a couple seconds, about why that's fucked up.
But he's just like I like you. You like me. We're hot together. Let's just keep dating. And Rachel was like "No, no, I want to get engaged." And he was like "But you know that's . . ." He's like "I only want to get engaged once, and I want to do it right." And she was honestly very unreasonable about it. He's like "I want an IRL engagement," and she's like "No, no, I want this fake reality TV engagement because who cares? It means the exact same thing."
And you and I and Peter and the rest of the world know that it doesn't mean the same thing, but he was like "I'm committed to you and I will be here for you," and she was just like "Nope, that's not what I want. I want the ring that the producers give you at the end of this."
And so it proved unsurmountable, and she was kind of cruel to him. He definitely cried, like serious tears. But also, Ann, it was hilarious. Like he actually uttered the words "What is wrong with me?" [Laughs]
Ann: [Laughs] Okay, any time a man is screaming what is wrong with me on television it can't be the worst show, right?
Aminatou: I know! But also I don't know how to tell you this. In 21 seasons of me watching this franchise nobody has ever questioned the fact that the process was fucked up and weird before. Peter, nothing is wrong with you. This show is fucked up. So they had this emotional, heart-wrenching breakup which then took the air out of the rest of the show because it meant that her only option was to get engaged with Brian I guess. But also that was the peak of emotion on the show so you really didn't care what happened after that.
So obviously Brian proposed to her. It was stupid. The wind was blowing something fierce. Her weave was all up in the wind. It's just like it was bad. It was so bad. It's the engagement that nobody in America wanted. It was also a good like welcome back to reality, because I watch the show obviously. I'm in on the ridiculousness that it is, and I feel like everybody is, like both the contestants, the audience. Nobody is really watching the show going like "This is true love and this is how we should pick our partners and we're happy for these people." We're all watching it because it's fucked up. Like that's how reality TV works.
But in that moment you are reminded just how disgusting heteropatriarchy is and how backwards everything at ABC is and how the producers of the Bachelor are the worst humans in the world.
Ann: And this is why -- it's not that I'm not sympathetic to people devastated by this result. I understand getting invested in even a fantastical or non-realistic reality love story. But then I'm like I've seen her Instagram shilling for Dunkin Donuts now and I'm just reminded. It's like Dunkin . . .
Aminatou: Ann, I was so hurt that Dunkin Donuts was the first sponsor that she chose after she like went through this whole process. I mean that's also the whole point, right? It's the whole point of being on the Bachelor is so you can launch your career into being the who -- being a wholebrity and then getting all these dumb endorsements and getting free stuff. Like nobody does it to actually find love.
Ann: Yeah, and I was just about to say . . .
Aminatou: Nobody does it to find love.
Ann: Yeah, you're basically auditioning for the other half of your influencer couple. I will confess that I was more heartbroken by the election result than I was by the Bachelorette.
Aminatou: I don't know how to tell you this. If you had invested even like two episodes of the Bachelor, I'm telling you, I woke up the next day and I was just like wow, is this what it feels like to lose all hope? [Laughs] And to have nothing anymore? You know, honestly, what it is -- and it's kind of my own fault -- it's like part of the reason that I was into this season, I'm usually not as invested. I still check in and I watch and I read Us Weekly every week so I know what's going on. But it's that Rachel was the first black Bachelorette. Like she seemed more self-aware than the rest of them. And then so to watch this entire downfall, that was really painful.
But also this show is so stupid. It's like who -- you're dating like 25 people for nine weeks and then the last two weeks you're supposed to pick a husband. It's like this is not how dating works. It's not even how marriage works. It's not even how 1930s marriage works. I just wish that the show would keep up with the times. I would be so down to watch a show where some lady dates like 30 guys, makes out with them the whole time, then after nine weeks she goes "Okay, I'm ready to date just one of you now," and then see where that goes.
Ann: Right, and that's the win. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Aminatou: You know what I mean? And then that's the win. That's the actual prize. And I think that for so many people who watch, that's kind of our expectation. Because let's be real, a lot of these couples don't make it to marriage and the ones that do make it to marriage don't really last. So really they're just starting to date for real now.
It's fucked up. It's like the fact that there's not more people of color on the show is fucked up. It's 2017. The fact that there's not more gay and queer people on the show is fucked up. It's 2017. The fact that there's not more people who come from regular-class backgrounds is also fucked up. The fact that everybody has to have a perfect TV family to take somebody home to is fucked up. It's like this is not the America we live in.
Ann: Yeah, and that's one thing that is baffling to me. I mean I understand the conceit surrounding the Bachelor and the Bachelorette franchises but part of me is like what is really interesting, kind of like the motivating factor of a show like this, is people rooting for whoever is in the Bachelorette position. And that's one reason why I was actually paying attention to this season peripherally, because I'm like I'm interested in the first black Bachelorette. I'm interested in Rachel more so than whatever 20 other seasons of contestants, I won't lie.
Aminatou: You would've really liked Jojo I think. [Laughs]
Ann: Oh man, I had -- this is like a whole other tangent, but I had a whole interesting conversation where I did not realize that Jojo is not white but maybe Jojo identifies as white. Anyway . . .
Aminatou: My favorite thing about Jojo was that she was the horniest Bachelorette which the show hasn't had in a long time. But also her advice to Rachel was like "Pick with your head. Don't pick with your vagina, because otherwise everybody will look the same by the last five guys." [Laughs] And I was like Jojo, you're so alive. I love you.
Ann: But what I was going to say is it seems like there's an opportunity to take that idea of we're rooting for a person to find love and actually follow them in a way that is, like you're saying, more realistic to the ways that people who are single and looking to not be single are dating or conducting their lives. It seems like you could follow someone over a longer course of time and you could track a bunch of dates and you could let them have a phone and live their life and be at least somewhat normal and not in the reality fish bowl. I don't know, that is interesting to me. Like that appeals to my voyeuristic sensibilities more so than this weird fantasy land they've created.
Aminatou: Yeah. It's just it's very -- it's very strange. And also the ratings are down considerably and so . . .
Aminatou: Yeah, like really a lot. People think that it's two things. One is that it's the black Bachelorette and nobody cares about the black Bachelorette which I think there's some truth to. It's like you can't put a black Bachelorette up against like Love and Hip-Hop on the exact same night. I'm going to tell you it has been very hard for me. Like I watch Love and Hip-Hop then I will watch my DVR of the Bachelorette. I'm not going to watch ABC in real-time. No thank you.
Ann: I mean this is why the goddess made DVR, right?
Aminatou: Totally. But also I think that people are definitely in on it, right? If I want good reality TV drama, there's Housewives. There's Love and Hip-Hop. There's other stuff that doesn't take itself as seriously and is definitely more rooted in the 2017ness of now as opposed to this show that it just has refused to keep up with the times and so the audience is punishing them for it.
Ann: Yeah. When you're holding up Real Housewives as an example of something more rooted in actual reality and the times, it's like wow.
Ann: That is a real indictment of what's going on.
Aminatou: Listen, Bravo knows what they're doing. Bravo knows what they're doing. I am somebody who watches a lot of reality TV. It's entertaining. But two, it's because I like the meta story around all of it, right? It's like I like to see how the TV show interacts with the tabloids interacts with the digital stuff. To quote French Montana, there's levels to this shit.
Aminatou: And so it's definitely mindless but it's its own form of entertainment so it's not for everybody. I'm not saying everybody should watch Real Housewives. But the Real Housewives, they know what they're doing and they're transparent. They're very transparent in what they're doing which I think everybody appreciates as opposed to on the Bachelor where they treat you like you're an idiot.
Ann: It's like when my friends who all watch Game of Thrones are like "Oh, no, it's all super violent and rapey." I'm like what do you think you signed up for? This is not the first season.
Aminatou: Ann, I don't know how to tell you this: Game of Thrones is finally good. Like the dragons finally came out to play. I told you this already yesterday but I'm going to tell you again. It's like that part where you're on the roller coaster and the roller coaster is about to go berserk and you're on it and you're having fun, like that's where we're at. It's like seven seasons have paid off. Yes, too much violence. Too much rape. The plot points make no fucking sense.
For me it's the first fantasy show I've ever watched. Like if you had told me that one day I would watch a TV show about fantasy weirdness where there's only white people and I'm 100% okay with it and then there's dragons, I would've never -- I would've laughed in your face, and then who knew? Who knew?
Ann: But here's what I don't . . . okay, so both with that and the Bachelor, especially -- the Bachelorette, sorry. Both as the season wore down and probably earlier parts of this season of Game of Thrones or before, all I hear is pain. All I hear is my friends who are dedicated viewers being like "Ugh! It's so frustrating!" or "It's so awful!" And I'm just like you know what? That's how I feel about the news and I don't feel like it's optional to unplug from that. In my entertainment if I feel like that I'm just like goodbye forever.
Ann: You have lost me because the real world is inspiring those feelings and I don't need to feel those feelings as a result of what I watch after like the president goes to bed.
Aminatou: I'm telling you that on the last episode of Game of Thrones I was yelling at the TV. I've never had that experience before at a television show where you're like . . .
Ann: Were you like "Dragon!"
Aminatou: I was like what? I was like . . . this shit is nuts!
Ann: I just want like the dragon supercut of Game of Thrones. Like that is all I will pay attention to. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Yeah, you know? But at the same time Game of Thrones has so many problems, notably two showrunners who don't know anything about pacing and writing and are idiots. But that's its own problem.
Ann: Yeah. At least . . .
Aminatou: Their next show is a fantasy TV show about what would happen if the south had won the Confederate War so get excited.
Ann: Ugh, okay.
Aminatou: Get excited. Get excited.
Ann: Okay, so that's the perfect transition because I want to talk about thin skinned white men screaming about censorship. Like that is like the perfect . . .
Aminatou: Oh. My. God.
Ann: Maybe we can talk -- because we haven't talked about this Confederate, or the show, or any of the conversation around it. But essentially HBO announced that it was going to make this show and people were like "Huh, we don't really need some what if the south had won the war Confederate fanfic because already . . ."
Aminatou: Because the police are still killing black people. We get it.
Ann: Right, and white supremacists are rallying in the streets and thriving in message boards online. You know, you can't even get them banned on Twitter. So this is very much in the present already and maybe it's painful and a little bit tone-deaf to greenlight a show like this. Queue immediately, I mean I have not seen this point-of-view from anyone who isn't white and probably not also from anyone who isn't a man, but the idea that somehow questioning the validity of creating the show is censorship.
Aminatou: Yeah. [Laughs] It makes me laugh a lot because people always hide behind words like censorship and first amendment or whatever when they just mean my feelings are hurt. And I was like listen, you're entitled to your feelings; you're not entitled to your facts. Also it's really laughable to say that people voicing their opinions about not wanting the show are censoring the show in the sense that none of those people have the actual power to greenlight the show or not.
HBO decided that they were making the show. They made a calculated decision by announcing it when they announced it. And I'm sorry, but all of these white guys that love to talk about the free market of ideas, it's like the free market is telling you how it feels about your stupid TV show.
It's really laughable to me to see people like Judd Apatow complain about the fact that it's air quote "dangerous" to not let the show air when he, in his capacity as a producer, that's literally what he does all day is people come to him and they go "Hey, will you make my movie about XYZ?" and he says yes or not. "Will you make my TV show about XYZ?" and he says yes or no. I'm like is that dangerous? Is that censorship? How is that different from Ta-Nehisi Coates writing that maybe that show's not a good idea, or people on Twitter saying that they wouldn't watch the show?
Ann: Yeah, I mean -- and also there is something about this point-of-view too. Well, so specifically Judd Apatow who you're referring to tweeted a link to another tweet that quoted Ta-Nehisi's article and said "Censorship is never a good idea. They haven't even written a word. Seems a tad early to judge their work and intentions."
Ann: And part of this is just a sense of a tad early meaning when the concept for the project is greenlit people are judging the concept for the project. That is not early. Like no one is like . . .
Aminatou: Yeah. Also that's literally what you do for your own job so like calm down.
Ann: Yes. Yeah, completely. And also this is like failure to understand the broader cultural-political context that you are creating art in. And this is the way that I feel about a lot of art that I'm like oh, god, I wouldn't buy it or I wouldn't watch it. But how did this piece of work that feels so out of step get made? And I would be like usually you are not paying attention. And that's how I feel about whoever is involved in saying that this is the right time for a show about the Confederacy continuing on in America. I'm just like have you not been reading? Don't you read?
Aminatou: But also it's really dishonest. It's like, you know, maybe there's a reason that people have reservations about the two guys who keep writing in extra rape scenes into the dragon TV show, that we have reservations about them making a TV show about black people. Maybe we've already seen your work and we're not impressed and we would not like it to apply to this other place. But also it's really disingenuous in the sense that this only ever comes up around questions of like race, you know? And the fact that these white guys don't want to be challenged on anything that is related to blackness is really telling to me.
It's like hmm, here's actual black people telling you that -- you know, like people who would consume your product telling you how they feel about it. Maybe it's worth listening to what they have to say.
Ann: Yeah. I mean and I do think it comes up in other ways as well, like I think it comes up around gender identity and stuff that is not very smart or clued-in about that. I think it comes up around gender, full-stop. This is like a direct parallel in my mind to the Google memo that also came out this week in which I feel like the charitable read of that is that a man, a male engineer at Google, is like listen, maybe unconscious bias training and trying to strive for diversity aren't good ideas. That's like the most charitable definition or way to look at that.
Aminatou: Yeah, because the power to code and to program is actually right in the urethra, and so women can't do this. It's like common knowledge that only men can see the zeroes and the ones. Everyone knows this. That memo though -- yeah, it's like let's get into all of it. But you're right that it is on the exact same spectrum because now people are saying the fact that the engineer got fired is another sign that diversity and inclusion are dangerous ideas and that they stifle public discourse and that his first amendment rights were trampled on.
And it's like actually maybe the fact that the engineer got fired is because for decades Republicans have said that unions are bad and that at-will employment is the way to go and that maybe if you work for a corporation and you do things that embarrass your corporation they can fire you for whatever the fuck they want.
Ann: Yeah, and like the difference between -- and this is sort of like the difference between someone like Judd Apatow charging censorship and like a full-time Google employee charging that their free speech rights are being trampled on when in fact either one of these people is free to stand on a street corner and scream about whatever they want and the police are not going to haul them off. This is about people with -- like employers and people with money and other types of power making choices.
Aminatou: Yeah, it's not the government that's stopping you from saying what you want to say; it's actual corporations.
Ann: Yes. This is something that I think about a lot when . . . I mean obviously this charge comes up all the time and it's always from people who are perpetuating essentially the status quo. Like people who are like, you know, no one's ready for my truth, my super sexist, racist truth. Like that's kind of how it's framed.
Ann: And it's like no, literally the ether that we are all in, like the very foundations of our society, are super sexist and racist. It's not like what you're saying is too hot for public consumption or we can't handle it as a truth. We all know and accept that as a basic truth, and part of the charge of a first amendment violation or censorship is these men setting themselves up as victims and rebels, right? Like people who are outside the system charging against it. And it's like no, you literally are the system. You are in power. You are overrepresented. You get to decide. And just because you say the problem here is that I don't get to decide doesn't make that the truth. It's not opposite day. [Laughs] Like it's really -- like I don't know, I see both of these things as so . . . ugh. I just -- I seethe.
Aminatou: No, I mean again, like I told you, it's always like my feelings are hurt and then they hide behind all of these high-minded concepts and it's like this is actual garbage. As a former Googler it makes me lol so hard that somebody thinks -- and Google is definitely a company where you have access to everybody in the company. You can talk to them. You can write all these internal memos. There's an internal meme board. Like you're pretty empowered to "challenge authority" in the sense that there's not really authority. Like your opinion is valid for whatever you say.
But the fact that anybody who works there would think that you could embarrass the company externally and not face any kind of serious consequence is dumb. Also that person believes everything that they believe but he's also beholden to an internal code of conduct, you know? Right? The fact that you signed up to work at a place where there's a code of conduct that clearly says that you're not going to create a hostile work environment for the other people that work for you, and now you've told all the women on your team that they're fucking idiots, how is that supposed to work?
Ann: The other thing that I did not know until we were talking about this the other day is that Google is probably extra-sensitive about this because they're being investigated by the Department of Labor. Maybe you can talk about that because I had no idea.
Aminatou: Yes, there's like an entire Department of Labor investigation right now about the fact that Google basically pays all of the women in the company less money than they should. And the company has been ridiculous in the way that they've been fighting it, like everything from "Oh, it's going to cost us too much money to give you all this data," -- please, they fucking print money in the basement at that place -- to like the allegations are not true.
Do you know how serious it has to be for the Department of Labor to actually investigate you? The government doesn't give a shit about the gender pay gap. And so of course they're sensitive to the fact that now somebody is saying that internally it's okay. Like there's a reason that maybe women get paid less, it's because vaginas can't computer. Do you know what I mean?
Aminatou: So it's just like everything -- nothing happens in a vacuum; everything happens in a context. And so here's what's happening in the company, and if the Department of Labor finds against them it's actually a really big deal. And there's an entire movement afoot basically charging more women in Silicon Valley to take their grievances to court as opposed to trusting the HR process because so far it's not working with them. Anita Hill wrote an amazing op-ed in the New York Times this weekend about it.
And between that and the fact that women get paid less, women get taken less seriously, you're having all of this serious harassment scandal that is happening on the venture capital side, people are sensitive. So maybe this is not the time to write your dumb memo about dumb biological ideas that you think are novel and smart. It's like read the fucking room. This is not the time.
Ann: Yeah. I mean and also it's not censorship if you didn't read the fucking room. That's the bottom line. And also these being the exact same people who charge that everyone else is a snowflake if we raise issues of discrimination or sexism or racism. Like that's the other thing that bothers me.
Aminatou: Yeah, oof.
Ann: So I've started to think about maybe we should be like why is Google censoring its female employees by not promoting them or paying them well? Why is HBO censoring women directors by not offering them series in proportion to their abilities?
Aminatou: Because censorship only applies to white guys, Ann. Where were you on first amendment day in high school when they teach you this stuff?
Ann: First of all, I didn't get first amendment day. I went to Catholic high school. Second of all . . .
Aminatou: [Laughs] Cold.
Ann: I am ready to take back the high-minded rhetoric of censorship and be like you know what? If you're going to go immediately to the most wounded patriot place any time that someone criticizes you I'm just going to steal it. I'm just crying censorship about everything now.
Aminatou: My whole thing to all of the snowflakes -- the men snowflakes -- literally my best advice to them is read the fucking room. You can't, at a company where the CEO is named Sundar Pichai, say that maybe . . . you're just like "Hey, hey, minority, do you think that ladies are crazy?" It's like my man, that is -- you need to calm down. This is not how this game works. This is not how this game works. Like these people are stupid. They're always stupid.
Side bar, this person claimed why his memo was supposedly so great is because he was a Harvard biology PhD. And then friend of the podcast Natasha Tiku uncovered on WIRED that actually it's not true. All he had was a master's degree in systems biology which is basically the study of digestion. I'm like I'm sorry, you know about stomach enzymes. You know nothing about what happens -- like the kind of gender dynamics that create good or bad environments in technology. You need to calm down.
Aminatou: They're always liars. And now he's all over these alt-right websites telling his truth. And I guarantee you, Ann, look him up. He looks exactly like you thought he would look.
Ann: I'm Googling him right now.
Aminatou: Like nothing about it is surprising.
Ann: Hang on.
Aminatou: They're always so predictable, these guys. They're always so fucking predictable.
Ann: Oh, yeah. Wah-wah.
Aminatou: Like nothing here is a surprise. It's not a surprise that he wrote his dumb memo. It's not a surprise that he thought it was going to change the world and then instead he got fired. And then now he's going to like Pepe Twitter to tell his truth.
Ann: I think that the operative word there is his truth. It's a very personal truth. It's not an objective truth.
[Music and ads]
Aminatou: Tell me something less depressing.
Ann: Well I actually want to read this email we got from a listener. We got a lot of responses to the listener question from the last episode about debt and depression and housing issues and listener Michele wrote in to say "I just want to let her and you know that New York City is actually very progressive when it comes to rent assistance and mental illness is recognized by housing court judges as a real illness. Luckily your listener isn't in court, but she could very easily qualify for a charitable assistance, especially since she has a plan to bring things current and her landlord is willing to work with her. New York City Housing Court has a hotline and it's 212-962-4795 which you can call for a quick screening." And there's a website which we will link to in show notes. So if you are going through some difficulties with mental illness and that is affecting your ability to pay rent and you live in New York City like our listener there are resources for you.
And I love so much when our listeners write us and are like here is a super-concrete, incredible thing that you did not know about that would really help some people. So shout out to Michele and thank you for emailing us.
Aminatou: Seriously, thank you. That's really good to know.
Aminatou: Okay, do you want to take another email?
Ann: I would love to. Would you like me to read it?
Aminatou: I will read it for you.
Ann: Okay. Okay.
Aminatou: Okay. "I loved your podcast the first time I heard it. It was perfect for me. I get drowsy when I drive alone. Blah, blah, blah. All these nice things. I have stopped listening. [Laughs] I can't remember which episode it was, maybe the second or the third . . ." I guess you didn't like it that much. "There were a few comments about 'white people' or something totally lame about white people culture. Whatever it was I'm not invested enough to actually go back and listen. The point here is that racism is not cute. It's not cute if you're talking about any color of human in a negative way and lump them all together in one degrading category. I know millennials have this thing where it's trendy or edgy to use white racism, like white humans have it coming to them or deserve a payback, but racism is racism. I refuse to perpetuate it in any way. [Laughs] It's immature. I hope that you don't use racism in any more posts." We don't do posts, but sure. "Furthermore I hope you don't try to justify it after reading this and also stop using it in your personal life. You girls are smart. Be positive leaders. Use what you're doing to spread love. You can have it all in a nicely-wrapped podcast."
Ann: Do you think this email is specifically designed to provoke our outrage? [Laughs]
Aminatou: I think somebody is trolling me. I think somebody who knows me deeply well is trolling me because every paragraph has hit a pet peeve. But you know what, Ann? Since you are our resident white person I'm going to ask you to explain why your people are like this. What is up with this?
Ann: As a white person . . . [Laughs] I feel like this listener really needs to understand. I mean I don't even know which episode -- this listener doesn't even know which episode they are referring to. But I would say by and large when we talk about white people as a group we are actually talking about the embedded, long-standing, cultural and political power structure in America and much of the world that says that white people as a group enjoy certain historical and current advantages that other people do not enjoy.
And so also it's really helpful I think to identify white people as a group. It's not racist to say that you have historically benefited from policies that have specifically been designed to advantage you and people who look like you, honestly.
I forget, we were talking about this ages ago and about how -- or maybe it was a comedian's joke or something about how only white people experience a relative dying and money just showing up unannounced.
Ann: Or like that experience of like "Oh, actually someone I'm related to owns a bunch of property somewhere that I now have access to." Any time there's been a surprise privilege, chances are you've had that experience as a white person and the not-surprise privilege is day in and day out when you have an assumption of being the norm. I feel like this is directly related to our conversations about censorship.
What's really funny is that this listener is talking about using white people -- talking about white people as a group is something they "refuse to perpetuate in any way." And I'm like the only way to not perpetuate some of these power structures is to talk about their existence. So it is totally fine for me to sit here and be like white people, a group of which I am a member, enjoy really serious and long-standing advantages in our society and the sooner we can talk about it the sooner we can begin to change that. And also that is what it means to be a smart, positive leader, dear listener -- dear no longer a listener. [Laughs] And I do think that it is spreading love to tell white people that they are part of a group the same way that any groups that are part of these so-called censored conversations are part of a group too. So honestly we are already having it all in nicely-wrapped podcasts and never call us girls. Thank you.
Aminatou: I'm just so offended because some of my best friends are white people and I would never, just never, never say anything racist about them.
Ann: Oh my god.
Aminatou: I'm offended at the notion, honestly.
Ann: I mean obviously it is a possibility for anyone to make assumptions about someone else based on their race but that is not the same thing as like -- this person doesn't use the term reverse racism; this person is just saying it's racism. But, you know . . .
Aminatou: Yeah, I know, but this is even worse. She called it white racism, which I think that honestly . . .
Ann: Oh my god.
Aminatou: I think that honestly all racism should be called white racism. Like no, no, you're right. That is literally the name of it. [Laughs]
Ann: Right, like a system designed to prop up whiteness as the norm. Yeah.
Aminatou: Yeah. I'm like girl, are you serious? Like great coinage, white racism. That's really what it is.
Ann: I know.
Aminatou: People will never cease to surprise me. Ann, why are white people so thin-skinned?
Ann: Well, when you've been used to getting everything your way and one little thing doesn't go your way or you're told you didn't earn it people get very cranky.
Aminatou: I just -- can you tell your other white people about this? It's not cute. It's not cute and it's not a good look.
Ann: I know. Doing my best. It's funny, you know what this reminded me of? At the beginning of the year when we took a few race questions and things got a little heated. Someone sent us an email because . . .
Aminatou: Yeah, people called me -- people called me the real racist.
Ann: Oh my god.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Yes, I remember.
Ann: I know. I was trying to introduce that as gently as possible. But yeah, when people were super shitty to you earlier this year when we took some questions about race and whether and how white people act against racism when only other white people were around. We were talking about the trap door of racism which is -- I believe Wesley Morris, right, wrote about that?
Aminatou: In an amazing TED 2 review.
Ann: God, I forgot it was a review of TED 2.
Aminatou: It was a review of TED 2. Like I can't believe I'm so touched by a movie review ever.
Ann: Ugh. But, anyway, this notion that at any point your white friends could say or do something racist or hurtful and that's like the trap door of racism. Like woops, I thought I was on stable, solid ground and I'm actually not with this person. At some point in those conversations -- I only remember this because of the email we got -- I think you, Amina, had made some comment about never being totally, 100%, bulletproof sure that the trap door wasn't going to open under you. Like that's what makes it a trap door, you don't know it's there. And we got this email from someone who was like "Ann, as Amina's white friend how did that make you feel?" [Laughs] Which to me is like the definition of the problem. The listener is like how did that make you feel?
Aminatou: Y'all are out here having side conversations. I see you. [Laughs]
Ann: I mean just the fact -- that email came to both of us, I think. And that was when I was like wow, maybe we need to talk about this for 20 minutes in every episode because this person read this whole thing about people feeling not supported and not safe in their most intimate relationships that happen to be with white people or cross-racial, people of color feeling unsafe at least in some way, and wrote to me like "You, white person, how does that make you feel?" And I was just like wow. How can it be that that was your takeaway that I might be the one feeling hurt here? What?
Aminatou: Yo. Because -- because, air quotes, white people's number one superpower according to me is taking systemic critiques and making them personal.
Ann: [Sighs] Yeah.
Aminatou: And it's just like -- it's like dawg, read the room. You can't get away with this for much longer because as the Republicans say -- what do they say? Oh, yeah. [Laughs] Demographics is destiny. It just baffles me. It completely, completely, completely baffles me. But you know what? We're one interracial friendship at a time. We're going to get there.
Ann: Yeah. And like, I don't know, if you're about to send an email asking or defending white people's feelings maybe just pause, think about some context, do a Google, think about non-white people's feelings before you hit send.
Aminatou: Imagine me in your face calling you a racist. Like maybe that's . . .
Ann: Oh my god. [Laughs]
Aminatou: If you're about to send that email, just that's what you should do. It's like close your eyes. It's like big, black Amina and I'm going to call you a racist so you should stop yourself.
Ann: I can't. I can't. I just -- I . . .
Aminatou: You know, the problem though is we don't call enough people racist. Like I feel like if we did, people would calm down. Because the way that I always see these situations play out both in podcast world and online and even in real life is that it's always the person of color who ends up getting called the real racist.
Aminatou: And I'm just like what? I'm like what kind of topsy-turvy racist bullshit is this? This is crazy. Historically it doesn't track. I'm not buying it. If you're so mad about something you should probably just take like ten minutes to think about why it makes you so upset and you should probably be more upset that racism exists at all than what my or your part in perpetrating it is.
Ann: Yeah, 100% that. And just because this email that kicked off this conversation that we read, just because this person is referring to both of us as racist against white people, it's not a cover. It's like I just like . . .
Aminatou: I can't speak for you, Ann, but some of my best friends are white so I take offense.
Ann: It would be equally fucked up if I were like I have no white friends. All my friends are . . .
Ann: I have curated a whiteless friend experience for me, or like . . . oh my god.
Aminatou: Oh my god, that would be amazing/I wouldn't trust you at all.
Ann: Exactly! You wouldn't trust that at all. I would be such a liar. I'd be like hello, my name is Ann Friedman from Iowa and I have no white friends. You would not -- I would be like a serial killer.
Aminatou: Yeah. I'm going to be like what kind of Michael Jackson weird-ass bullshit is this?
Aminatou: We'll figure it out.
Ann: The only thing I will say is if you need to work through some white feelings about race maybe you should email me and like spare -- like at least have the forethought to only email another white person your shameful ability to not Google the answer to your question. Like maybe . . .
Aminatou: Okay, this is an actual, real question that I have.
Aminatou: Because I feel like in my experience whenever a big, as Barack Obama calls them, teachable moment happens . . .
Aminatou: So, you know, like race problems happen, white people always reach out to their minority friends with all sorts of questions. And honestly that's usually how the trap door of racism is opened in most relationships is you thought you were cool and Ferguson happens and you realize that you're just somebody's personal Wikipedia. Like with my black friends we'd talk about this all the time whenever there's a thing and then we'd keep a list of all of the people who asked us thing and what they asked us and at the meetings we talk about them. But do white people talk about that with each other? Like do people come to you and they go "Hey, Ann, can you explain this thing to me?" Do you guys do that at all? Or do you do it to just your minority friends?
Ann: I cannot speak for everyone. I have a lot of conversations about . . .
Aminatou: But Ann, I want you to speak for everyone.
Ann: I know.
Aminatou: I am always asked to speak for everyone.
Ann: No, no. Okay, right, sorry. My bad. Yeah, white people -- like your first bet . . . like why make a friend who is not white if you're not going to go to them first with your questions like this, right? Like I don't know. Frankly . . .
Aminatou: Oh my god, you're right. What a great racket. I had not even thought about that.
Ann: Ugh, I don't know.
Aminatou: So like you guys don't talk about it? You don't go "Man, Barack Obama just had to have a beer summit because of racism. Let's talk about it together."
Ann: On the white people listserv there is usually some -- like someone will throw out suggestions like "Hey, here's a black friend I have who has been really good at answering this person in the past. Why don't you text them?"
Ann: And include like full contact info so that the other white people can be sure to get in touch immediately and demand some ways to understand and get involved in what's going on. So if you've gotten a lot of calls . . .
Aminatou: Thank you for clarifying that for me, because wow, I had never realized that.
Ann: If you've gotten a lot of calls it's because I have put your personal info on a few white people listservs from time to time.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Yeah, I mean, listen, we, like the black delegation, we keep a list of this shit like the people who ask you for stuff. My personal favorite is when you get emails from people who are friends-of-friends or just kind of acquaintances who are like "Hi, I'm hiring a person and I would like it to be a person of color. Can you recommend people?" And you're like I'm not even in your industry and I'm not a recruiter so good luck.
Aminatou: Like these things make no sense. Okay. You've just like -- you've cleared up a huge thing and I will make sure to bring it up at the meeting so that we're all aware of it.
Ann: Can I hit you with a set of questions that I obviously always do bring to my black friends? Which is . . .
Aminatou: Yes, tell me.
Ann: Anything that has to do with skincare, moisturizing, or exfoliation, I go immediately to the black delegation with these questions. I'm like I don't . . .
Aminatou: And you are right to. Look at how dewy and cute you're looking this summer with your new middle part. You look so good. You know why you look good? Because you've got friends of color. That's why.
Ann: 100%. This is why I'm phasing all white friends out of my social group because I only look better the more I take advice from my black friends about what to do with my skin.
Aminatou: Ann, I'm going to start monitoring how many white friends you have and when it reaches critically low levels I'm going to make sure to check in on you and see what's going on.
Ann: Like every Instagram featuring a white person gets the eyeball emoji? [Laughs]
Aminatou: Yeah, I'm going to be like what's going on here? What's going on? What's going on with you?
Ann: Oh my god, I can't wait for all the mail we're going to get from someone who doesn't understand sarcasm and can't Google after this. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Oh my god, it's like just relax. Relax. It's going to be okay. It's all going to work out.
Ann: I keep thinking about, in like Carly Rae Jepsen voice, "Race problems . . ." or "White problems . . ."
Aminatou: "Who's got them?" [Laughter] Oh my gosh. You know what? Thank you for being a white friend that I can ask white things to. Let's make this a recurring feature. Ask a friend.
Ann: Ask a white person? Yeah, totally.
Aminatou: Ask a white friend.
Ann: I'm always here.
Aminatou: I'm going to ask my friends of flavor what questions they have for you and I'm going to bring them all back for the next time we talk.
Ann: Yeah. I mean LL Bean, pumpkin spice lattes, not being able to dance except at weddings, even then not really well. Bring all those questions to me.
Aminatou: I know. Kissing your dogs, what's up with that?
Ann: Oh god.
Aminatou: How come white people don't use wash cloths? What's up with that? What's up with green bean casseroles? We have a lot of questions.
Ann: You know who uses wash cloths now, because I was schooled by my friends who aren't white? This lady. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Thank god.
Aminatou: Thank god. Oh my god. I'm so glad you've cleared this up for me. It's like between having white friends and then having white baes there are so many . . . the politics of it are so treacherous. Thank you for explaining this to me.
Ann: Ugh, looking forward to the emails that are going to come to me directly now. That's all I have to say. [Laughs]
Aminatou: That's right. If you have a race question, you should ask Ann. Don't ask me. You have Google in the palm of your hands, or like Ann Friedman's email is email@example.com.
Ann: [Laughs] Ugh, all right. Well, see you on the Internet.
Aminatou: See you on the white Internet, boo-boo. See you. See you on Al Gore's white Internet.
Ann: See you on the white people Internet.
Aminatou: You can find us many places on the Internet, on our website callyourgirlfriend.com, download it anywhere you listen to your favorite podcasts, or on Apple Podcasts where we would love it if you left us a review. You can tweet at us at @callyrgf or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find us on Facebook -- look that up yourself -- or on Instagram at callyrgf. You can even leave us a short and sweet voicemail at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. Our theme song is by Robyn. All other music you heard today was composed by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs and this podcast is produced by the beautiful Gina Delvac.