Episode 82: It'a a Trap!
Published March 3, 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 we have an ode to Keanu Reeves and some hot new Calvin Klein ads, a heads-up that labia glue is fake news, Cheeto Watch including a photo of Kellyanne Conway being way too casual, and we call bullshit on "who's a real feminist?" type arguments.
Aminatou: Okay, what are we talking about today?
Ann: I mean, listen, there are lots of things to talk about but I want to start with the most fun which is our recent realization that you are sexually attracted to Keanu Reeves. [Laughs]
Aminatou: First of all it sounds so not awesome when you put it that way but sure.
Ann: I'm just like I say this as someone who's been there for several decades so I'm excited to hear about your evolution.
Aminatou: Oh my god, that is ridiculous. Yeah, this is very new to me. I tweeted the other day. I was like have I just been blind all these years or did he just get hot all of a sudden? I say this because I stumbled upon this action movie John Wick that stars . . .
Ann: John Wick 2?
Aminatou: Well no, I watched John Wick the first and then I had to rush myself to the theater to watch John Wick the second because I was like what? There's a sequel and it's on right now? And Keanu was hot. This is crazy. Yeah, I was just never a Keanu fan. It's weird. Never really noticed him. And then fucking John Wick. Great movie, by the way. Really recommend for like stoner afternoon. It's perfect.
Ann: Yeah. I feel like Keanu -- I mean as a teen . . . I feel like I had alt teen crushes but Keanu has consistently been my most mainstream headliner box office star crush from way, way back. And I don't even remember how I picked him. Maybe it was Bill and Ted. I was thinking about this. Like maybe it's something about . . .
Aminatou: It wasn't the Paula Abdul Rush, Rush video? Because that has recently come into my life.
Ann: Okay, maybe that.
Aminatou: And I was like what is happening here?
Ann: I mean I had kind of weird restrictions on what media I was allowed to consume.
Ann: MTV was not allowed and R-rated movies were not allowed but I was allowed to listen to Paula Abdul's music. So, I don't know. Yeah, maybe I snuck in the Rush, Rush video. Maybe Bill and Ted. I don't know. By the time like . . . actually, hang on, I'm going to do a year check on this. By the time he was already headlining movies and stuff I was like a super -- I was a crushed-out baby super fan.
Aminatou: Yeah, this is what I've learned from all of my lady friends is they're all big Keanu fans. I had no idea.
Ann: Oh my god, yeah. And so by 1995 Johnny Mnemonic, the Canadian-American cyberpunk action thriller film as it is called on the Internet which I don't remember ever . . . I'm sure I saw it at some point. But, yeah, I was firmly a fan by 1995. That's like the update. I'm very happy to actually discuss this. Because I don't know, I feel like most of my -- most childhood crushes are no longer relevant in a box office or Twitter convos way.
Aminatou: This is true. It's like I was obsessed with watching the Devil's Advocate, that terrible movie. You know what I'm talking about?
Ann: I do.
Aminatou: That Keanu was in. And I think the reason I really wanted to watch it is because it was R-rated and we couldn't watch it at my house but I would sneak it in all the time. And I watched it and I'm like oh, this movie's kind of hot, but I was never actually attracted to anybody in the movie. So this whole thing is throwing me for a loop.
Ann: Wait, so were you not allowed to watch any R-rated movies? Or was there . . .
Aminatou: No, this one was just particularly bad. You know, it was like R-rated and it was about the devil and sex. It was just -- my parents were really inconsistent in how they enforced movie schools or whatever, and then at boarding school we definitely were not allowed to watch this. So I think it's like when I went home I just wanted to be bad. Seen that, Speed, Matrix, all the shit. Like it never occurred to me. And then this weekend it's like I watched The Replacements and Walking in Clouds. Basically I just went down the rabbit hole. I was like what has Keanu been in?
Ann: Oh my god, you watched A Walk in the Clouds this weekend?
Aminatou: Listen, that movie is terrible.
Ann: [Laughs] I had forgotten about it completely until you just said it.
Aminatou: That movie is so bad. Like everything 1995 is just very shady vintage. I'm here. I am here for this very confusing crush I have.
Ann: I am also happy to share that, and also happy how I responded to your tweet with a thing about how my parents kept confiscating my Speed VHS tape because it's also rated R and also thinking about -- honestly, I don't know if this is because ratings have changed, but honestly trying to think about what is objectionable in the movie Speed. I mean I guess stuff blows up. It's kind of violent. But there's no sex. There's not, by modern HBO standards, much violence at all.
Aminatou: But there's like cursing and crime is occurring.
Ann: Cursing. Cursing. I forgot about that.
Aminatou: Yeah. It's always, you know, cursing is the first thing on the parents' radars. It's like cursing . . . I know this because of boarding school. It's like what's wholesome, right? And crime occurring is usually not redeemed.
Ann: You're right, cursing. It's like trying to remember the things that were banned in my household. A lot of it, we weren't allowed to watch shows that featured kids talking back which is why I didn't see The Simpsons or Roseanne until I was an adult.
Ann: That was like -- as if I learned to talk back from TV, not just from being a belligerent brat on my own.
Aminatou: That is so funny. Also, for anybody who's listening to this, don't buy Speed 2 because Keanu's not in Speed 2.
Ann: Oh yeah, isn't it like Jason Patrick or something?
Aminatou: It is 100% in fact Jason Patrick.
Ann: [Laughs] 100% not a heartthrob Jason Patrick, or maybe you're into him. I don't know.
Aminatou: No. I was not into it. But yeah, it was one of those . . . this is really funny, going through this list and just thinking about like, yeah, what I was and wasn't allowed to watch. Like 47 Ronin. Wait, no, 47 Ronin is recent. Ronin is a completely different movie.
Ann: Yeah, Ronin full-stop is like a Robert de Niro action movie from . . .
Aminatou: Yeah, that one. Definitely we couldn't watch that. Oh, what else did I watch? Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, lol. And Much Ado About Nothing.
Ann: Ooh, a classic.
Aminatou: My Own Private Idaho. I really went down the rabbit hole. And Point Break, duh.
Ann: Duh. The source of some really quality Keanu gifs, the Point Break movie.
Aminatou: Sold. But I'm going to really stand for John Wick. That movie franchise is excellent.
Ann: Ugh, yeah.
Aminatou: I just like a good action movie which is all I wanted. It's like yeah, this is perfect. You live in a great little minimalist house. You have pain and a lot of people die. Thank you.
Ann: Yeah, I don't know, for some reason I've always found action movies more relaxing than the stereotypical light -- I'm air quoting light -- rom-com because I can't turn off the gender roles anxiety when I watch a rom-com or stuff about betrayals of relationships always seems to bother me but in an action movie you're like whatever. Like I know there's a bunch of gratuitous murder but somehow it seems easier to turn off my brain to it.
Aminatou: It really is. It's like you turn off the sexism. I don't know what it is. I find it very . . . it's the ultimate escapism for me because I'm like this is so not my universe. I don't know how to deal with this.
Ann: Right. Exactly. Like I am never living in a minimalist apartment with six passports on the run from the law/hunting someone down.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Yeah. Also those people know what they're doing, you know what I mean? You're like explosion, explosion. It's all very soothing and calming.
Aminatou: Oh my gosh. Okay, now you know my deep, deep secret is that I spent all weekend watching Keanu movies.
Ann: I mean I actually think that this is something that if there were a Keanu film fest women in our age demo and probably many others would show up for it.
Aminatou: Oh, 100%. Keanu, if you're listening, curate your own movie festival.
Ann: Oh my god. Keanu, consider this an invitation to come on Call Your Girlfriend any time. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Oh my gosh, only to do John Wick promo. Hello?
Ann: I mean, listen, whatever it takes.
Aminatou: John Wick 3. My body is ready. Oh my god, speaking of my body is read also did you see those Calvin Klein ads with the cast of Moonlight?
Ann: Yes. They are so, so flames.
Aminatou: Ultimate knuckle bite. Just what is happening here?
Ann: Also who knew that Calvin Klein ads were still relevant sexually? Like I had not been into a Calvin Klein ad in that way in a very long time.
Aminatou: We went through the Bieber era of Calvin Klein ads.
Ann: As like a punchline.
Aminatou: Which you know I love Bieber but not like that. So these ads were fantastic. I was very -- it was a very pleasant Monday. [Laughs]
Ann: Very pleasant Monday. What else? I don't know. I'm like, sorry, I feel very disjointed today.
Aminatou: I know. I feel very . . . like I just keep getting the one cramp that pulsates through your body where you're just like ahh!
Ann: Full-body cramp.
Aminatou: It's very awful.
Ann: Okay, well relevant then, have you seen this menstruation news that is circulating on the Internet about a chiropractor who invented a terrible new period product?
Aminatou: I'm literally about to hang up on you. Oh my god, please tell the people.
Ann: Okay. Well, let me preface this by saying it is probably fake news exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point.
Ann: Because even though it has been written up on every single women's website it is suspect for a number of reasons. So the explanation -- the story as it goes on the Internet is this, that a chiropractor in Kansas -- a man, obviously -- has invented this thing that looks like a tube of lipstick but it's really glue that will "seal your labia shut during your period, holding all of the blood in until you go to the bathroom."
Aminatou: I don't understand. So a man who is a fake scientist -- chiropractor -- says that if you seal your labia shut . . . oh my god, also labia shut. The blood's not just going to come out of your butt hole?
Ann: Yeah. This is a man who's never felt period blood trickling between his butt cheeks like many, many women have felt. Yeah.
Aminatou: Yeah, who has never just sneezed during their period and gone ugh, that didn't go where I thought it was going.
Ann: [Laughs] Right. It's also like the language around it I hate so much. Okay, so the product is supposedly called Mensez, M-E-N-S-E-Z, which sounds suspiciously like men says.
Aminatou: Ugh. Oh, but it's supposed to be like menses right?
Ann: I think so, but whatever.
Ann: Anyway, but yeah, and it supposedly comes unsticked with urine but not with period blood. Anyway . . .
Aminatou: But also, again, who just wants to -- why would you just want to hold blood in your body? It's like people who fundamentally don't understand what diapers do, like nobody wants to hold the liquid inside of your body. The whole point is to get rid of it.
Ann: I mean this is like opening a whole can of Diva Cup worms if you go that route because that is essentially just holding the blood in your body. I mean as is a tampon, really. I mean I guess it's absorbed.
Aminatou: I know. But, yes, it's absorbed somewhere. In the Diva Cup it goes somewhere. It's just like, I don't know. Anyway, fake news.
Ann: 100%. This is totally unproven. So everyone who sent us this link we are here to factcheck.org this. I mean the guy has given interviews. People have contacted him. He has given stunning quotes like "Yes, I'm a man, and you as women should have come up with better solutions than diapers and plugs but you didn't."
Ann: So I mean to me I'm like this totally seems designed to be viral lady Internet and enrage me, I mean like that quote alone, but it cannot be real.
Aminatou: But also why are real adult women publishing this kind of shit?
Ann: So many. And, again, so many people sent us this. I mean I think it hits that spot of news of the weird, you know what I mean? Like we all want better period products, right? We are all interested in innovation in this area. So that's why it's . . . I don't know. That's all I can think of.
Aminatou: I know. Labia super glue does not seem like a solution that anybody is going to be happy with though. [Laughs]
Ann: I know. It's true. Well, also everybody in lady Internet -- you know, a chiropractor from Kansas inventing this is such a perfect villain.
Aminatou: Oh my god, that is crazy.
Ann: Yeah. It's unproven, everyone who sent us this link, FYI. The only thing that made it seem kind of real is he's been granted a patent for this product.
Ann: But listen, though. So this is the thing. I know, I was like are you kidding me? And then I did a little bit of research into the patent process and apparently patents do not have to work or even be feasible concepts in order to be granted which basically means we could be like I've invented a magical fairy to fly up into your vulva and up your vagina to collect all the period blood and then fly out again and we could get a patent for that.
Aminatou: Oh my gosh. All of a sudden I'm interested in becoming a patent troll. Discuss.
Ann: Anyway, so that's like -- that is the punchline there. So patents aren't real and neither is the product.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Fake news.
Ann: I mean who else has been annoying you this week?
Aminatou: A lot of people annoy me but one person more so than most, I would say. Our favorite Kellyanne Conway.
Ann: Our least favorite Kellyanne Conway.
Aminatou: My favorite liar because . . . you know, I think that it's really patronizing to use people's kids when you want to criticize them, but I really . . . for somebody who is always hiding behind family values and respect, the way she can lie and look you in the face is very bold. It's like very bold to me and I'm just like wow, you raise children with the same kind of attitude. This is terrifying to me.
Ann: Right. You're a role model for someone.
Aminatou: Ugh. But so anyway she was involved in my favorite gaff of the week. So so many things went wrong this week at the regular White House, not the winter White House or golf White House or however they're trying to brand all the other homes.
First of all the administration invited presidents from historically black colleges and universities -- HBCUs -- for a photo op, and they all fell for it. It was very disrespectful because the administration is saying they're signing an executive order regarding HBCUs. Surprise, surprise, they're not giving them any money; they're promising them money, which means that all of these university presidents and deans are fools and fell for this ridiculous photo op.
Ann: Well, and then there's also the framing by Betsy DeVos calling them "pioneers of school choice."
Aminatou: Oh, I was going to get there. Let's address that right now. I'm so insulted still. Like it's just very shocking. It's saying like hi, you were segregated out of attending regular universities and colleges so you had to setup your own. Look at you being pioneers. And now we're going to try to use that same garbage agenda to push for school vouchers. You know, that's kind of like saying Rosa Parks was just a technology innovator. You know, she was a transportation innovator. That's what she wanted to do.
Ann: Right, it wasn't political at all.
Aminatou: Oh my gosh, it's so insulting, but again goes back to why this whole . . . like this is the setup of this picture that we're going to discuss. So then the AFP puts out this photo where Kellyanne is sitting on . . . she is kneeling on the couch, and it's really unclear where her feet are, if she's wearing shoes or not or whatever. All you need to know is her knees are tucked into herself and this woman is like 50 years old. And then it turns out through multiple other pictures that yeah, she is in fact wearing shoes and the shoes are in the couch.
A lot of people would have you believe this is a bullshit controversy to be upset about and that we're not focusing on the right thing. I would submit to you that a lot of those people are white people. The reason that this picture made me really upset is because for one Kellyanne goes on TV pretty much every day since she was benched and keeps talking about how nobody respects the office of the presidency and that we owe her boss. She says the word respect all of the time and decency and all of these things.
So when Barack Obama was president there were a couple pictures of him putting his feet on the desk, on the resolute desk -- a.k.a. his own desk -- and conservative white America went crazy. So to me this picture just illustrates a double standard that is really shocking but also not surprising at all, right? It's like here is this woman, no home training, acting like a complete idiot during a meeting with these HBCU presidents who, one, that is disrespectful to. But also it just encapsulates everything that you know about America and responsibility politics. I cannot imagine if that was like anybody in the Obama White House did that. I could not imagine if it was any of those black people in the room. Like they would not think of doing that.
Ann: Oh my god, could you imagine if one of those presidents were sitting like that? Like what the right-wing narrative would be? If you just swapped her post.
Aminatou: I actually can't imagine it because they would never think to do that because they know how scrutinized they are. To hear all these people wave it off and be like no, this is dumb and we shouldn't argue about this and we shouldn't whatever, it's like no, we aren't arguing. We are just pointing out that things are different for different kinds of people. These are the kinds of people that our grandparents used to put plastic on couches for. Disgusting.
Ann: I mean, right, because they'll be putting their stilettos into the back of your sofa.
Aminatou: Ugh, so gross, but also just have some decorum. There's an agency photographer there. Like look at your life. Look at your choices.
Ann: God, did you also see at that meeting Betsy DeVos had a student who she was pointing to as "Here's a person who received a K to 12 public school voucher," but that person had never even attended an HBCU.
Aminatou: Yeah. No, exactly. She was just black. It was like confounding all of the issues. It's not clear to me that Betsy DeVos knows exactly what her job is supposed to be. She's just like a rich lady who really got into school vouchers for people who want to get homeschooled and loves charter schools and doesn't know what to do with that. It's like my god, you have so much money. Pick a different hobby.
Ann: Pick a hobby that doesn't negatively affect everyone who wants an education in America.
Aminatou: Oh my gosh, reading that statement that she put out about the HBCUs and school choice it's so fourth grade English. Just so offensive and terrible and ugh. That woman makes me so rage angry.
Ann: Just look up the full statement if you want to realize that some people live in an alternate reality about American history. I really -- like there is a part of me that wants mandatory true facts real history lessons to be required of anyone in public service.
Aminatou: Right. You're just like hi, how was your job different during Jim Crow? Discuss.
Ann: Right, yeah. If you can answer that essay question effectively then maybe you can get to a confirmation hearing. But that should be a requirement. [Sighs]
Aminatou: No. But it's like the whole thing is so offensive and I'm so annoyed that these HBCU presidents fell for that really cheap ploy. Like being used in a room that way, it was awful.
Ann: Right. Well, they all went because some of them have released statements saying "We went because we were told it would be a listening session where we got to say these are our needs as presidents of a very specific type of institution." And of course there was no listening. Of course they were just trotted out for the photo op. This kind of goes to questions about how are you, if you are a person who has a whole university to advocate for, if you are really speaking for any kind of vulnerable population right now and you get an invitation like this, like part of your job in normal times is to engage with the office of the president if they want your input. You know what I mean? It's like such a . . . I mean obviously we can see that this is a trap but I actually think we're still adjusting to the era when it's obvious that stuff like this is a trap.
Aminatou: Yeah, but you know, it also just pushes back against that notion of all of these people who are still cooperating with the government keep saying like "You know, you want to be at the table," or blah, blah, blah, because if you're not at the table you're on the menu which is true. But there's just no upside here. And also you keep seeing people fall for this same shit every week. A couple weeks ago it was all of those Canadian lady business leaders. I'm like what do we need Canadian lady business leaders to tell us about entrepreneurship in this country that we don't already know? Like they don't even go here. This is crazy.
Ann: [Laughs] The Canadians aside, this question though about if you're not at the table you're on the menu but if you're at the table you're part of the photo op in this situation.
Ann: Like with this administration, it's so . . .
Aminatou: You're already on the menu though. They've already decided that they're gutting everything you care about. The reason this pissed me off so much is because we're already in talks about what the budget is going to look like and by all means they are cutting away at everything that's not military spending. In what universe do you believe that you are going to be listened to when the president is saying that he's asking for 54 billion dollars more for military spending? What is the upside?
Ann: It's almost like it's in preparation for a war we're not having right now, like an extra war. Bonus war.
Aminatou: Bonus wars. None of this is normal but people keep falling for very cheap tricks.
Ann: I feel personally kind of conflicted about this. So do you think that everyone who can see this administration for what it is should completely disengage from anything, any committees or any meetings like this? All together just ignore? Shut down?
Aminatou: I mean I don't know that that's a completely fair question. I think you should definitely not be part of public meetings because it's people who are saying -- because we've seen this happen, right? It's like look at the stupid business leader council that the Uber CEO and all of these other people are on.
Ann: Right. That's what I was thinking of, honestly, more so than . . .
Aminatou: It's people who have no power who just think that they're important telling you that they think they can change things. I'm like you literally . . . one, you have no power, and two, why should I trust you? What is so special about any of those people, even an HBCU president, that says we should trust that they actually have our best interest at heart? Like if anything this is what the election has shown: everybody is shady and nobody has power. And as much as you can just don't do harm to the communities you represent and one way that you do harm to communities that you represent is by being part of very public photo op type things. That shit's not going to fly. You want to pick up the phone and, I don't know, call Omarosa and figure stuff out on your own time and see how that's going to happen, sure. But I think that we really need to have a reckoning of how effective do you really think you could be? Because this is a question that I have with a lot of friends who are still working in government who are trying to be out or are being pushed out. How much power do you think that you can have? And how much can you resist when you're asked to do really shitty things like help deport people for example?
Aminatou: Obviously these are all really hard questions but the thing is not enough people are asking themselves that. They're just like "I think I can be effective from the inside." It's like no, you couldn't even get the right person elected so I think we've learned that you cannot be effective from the inside.
Ann: Yeah. I mean and it also -- I think the what inside is part of it too, right? And you're totally right to point out that a public meeting that is designed for a photo op is really different than someone who is saying I want to add you to a committee that's making a formal recommendation for example or something like that. But, yeah, I also am similarly skeptical of the value of something like a business council advisory role which has more of the effect of saying that you legitimize this president or this administration than anything else.
Aminatou: Yeah. The president's own Jewish daughter can't get him to condemn anti-Semitism. I don't know what other people think they can do.
Ann: I know. That's why she has to keep planting those stories which now that you said that it cannot be unseen. I'm just like oh my god, all the stories.
Aminatou: Yeah. It's always like Jared and Ivanka are pushing against like an LGBT order and I'm just like no, they can't even get their man to do what's right and clearly feel a lot of tension because of their supposed liberal values. So I think that for everybody else it's really . . . it's not a time to have an ego or be selfish which is usually what people tell you when they want to be the ones that are in the rooms. It's like no, what is going on right now is very not normal and people are just drawn to powerful people no matter how evil they are.
Ann: I mean, yeah, Kissinger, eww.
Aminatou: [Laughs] That is not going where I thought it was going but great.
Ann: No, it's like the classic quote of power being an aphrodisiac being said by a man who is horrible and ugly inside and out, you know what I mean?
Ann: Like it's like that's exactly . . . I'm just affirming what you said.
Aminatou: True story. I don't know. The whole thing is really unfortunate. It's just there are a lot of things that have really disappointed me in the last 30 days of this dude being president. We have four more years of it so I know more will disappoint me. But seeing that room full of black men and women who are supposed to represent something that is excellent in the black community, it was really hurtful. It's just like I cannot believe you fell for this shit, I cannot believe you were treated this way, and I cannot believe you went along with it.
Ann: I mean I do have to believe we're still in a transition period of as much as people can say it's not normal, people who are in positions of power are learning the hard way that it's not normal or learning that they don't actually get a say when they think they will. And maybe it's one of those things too that now that this happened and some of those university presidents have written things or said things about how pointless that meeting really was and how they regret going, maybe people won't go to the next one, you know? Like there is a learning curve in -- I mean, yes, saying this is not normal is real and we and many, many, many other people have been saying it. But learning how to adjust to that, it has to take time, you know what I mean? It's like we're used to the Obamas.
Aminatou: Ugh. All I can think is it's only been a month. We have four years of this nightmare to go.
Ann: I can't. I can't think about it in those terms.
Aminatou: We're going to be so old by the time act one of this nonsense resolves itself. I just cannot -- I can't handle this.
Ann: I know. We're aging years by the month.
Aminatou: I love too that we had pledged that we would not discuss politics. [Laughs] Before we signed on.
Ann: Listen, it's relevant.
Aminatou: And somehow -- no, I know. But it just goes to how much it permeates everything that we do and everything that we think about.
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Ann: I mean if you want to raise your blood pressure even more we can talk about who is and isn't a feminist. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Oh my god, hit me. Hit me.
Ann: Well, I wasn't even going to address this book excerpt that New York Magazine published by the writer Jessa Crispin who wrote for a long time for the blog Book Slut. That's what I'm talking about. The book is called Why I'm Not a Feminist.
Aminatou: What's the tagline?
Ann: A Feminist Manifesto.
Aminatou: Okay, I just wanted to make that clear.
Ann: Yep. But anyway I haven't read the book so I can only respond to the excerpt.
Aminatou: I am reading the book so I'll fill in the holes for you.
Ann: Please. I can be brief in my critique of the essay which much like the menstrual glue guy I think that this is a lot of hot air. [Laughs] But here's my feeling, right? Just from a perspective of reading critically. Whenever I read something that is big and sweeping about the state of feminism, first question, who is this person? Is this person invested in doing movement type feminist work? Is this person a respected leader on actual issues of equality and politics? Or social progress? So that's like step one. Where is this person coming from?
As far as I can tell this person is a cultural critic professionally and not someone who is actively invested in movement politics, or else she does not feel the need to make clear that she is walking that walk. Pause button, does the book say that she is a movement-based activist?
Aminatou: No, Ann. The excerpt that you read and a lot of the interviews that she's given -- I'm thinking particularly about the one to Jezebel -- are fairly representative of what the book is. There's something particularly dated about the moment that the book outrage was born in. Oh, this is like when we cared about Ann Coulter and Maureen Dowd and Mean Girls. Remove like a couple of years, and I think maybe this illustrates my chief annoyance with it, is I'm like hi, we have real problems here so I don't really care that four years ago you were discussing whether getting a bikini wax was feminist or not. But there's honestly no evidence that this person has ever had any skin in the game when it comes to -- and we talk about this all the time -- feminism is not empowerment, it's actually a political movement, and it's like what have you been doing with your politics?
Aminatou: And that's where it all gets very murky and the book goes into these really pointed, personal attacks and straw woman arguments that I'm so shocked passed the muster test for anyone. Like one of the things that she says feminists don't talk about is economic family structure or whatever. And I'm just like what feminists are you reading? This is not something you've encountered in your tarot circles? Or one of the attacks also was -- actually, not attacks. Like critiques, let's say. It's that Gloria Steinem doesn't push for intersectionality. So here's the thing: you can accuse white feminists of pretty much every evil under the sun and something will stick. The one white feminist that you literally cannot come for because she learned her lesson very young in life is Gloria Steinem.
Ann: Also I'm like Gloria Steinem recently published a memoir where it makes clear that she does take a pretty intersectional analysis and so for someone whose world is books and not activism as we just pointed out I'm like at least you could've read the memoir.
Aminatou: No, totally. It's like Gloria Steinem is somebody who I think more than most contemporary feminists that we know is somebody who actually pushes very hard for intersectionality, is somebody who acknowledges cross-generational feminist work. That's kind of been the cornerstone of what her work has been for the last couple years.
Ann: Right. Like since the '70s, yeah.
Aminatou: Yeah. It's like reading it I was like how can I take this person seriously? And in some regards has these very sweeping like feminism is this or feminism doesn't discuss XYZ and doesn't name names which is so lazy to me. But again you're just like yeah, this is what happens when your entire feminism argument is Taylor Swift didn't vote for Hillary and bikini waxes are bad as opposed to like I am a student of feminist practices and I know the history and I know who the relevant and contemporary players are and I understand what the politics of the movement are.
So in that regard it was annoying to me that something like this gets to be published because it really just reinforces these women are nags type stereotypes. In order to be like a woman with a platform all you have to do is kind of shit on other women. And, again, that's a trap and a lot of people fall for it.
Ann: I don't know much about how books are edited but I do expect that . . . I do know something about how magazine features are edited and what I hope the standards would be, and one of those standards is if you were arguing against something argue against a thing. Like you can't argue against a made-up notion in your head and just say, like as you say, it's all Taylor Swift these days. It's like I'm sorry, because feminism is practiced by many actual women who have interests beyond just movement work doesn't mean that my feminism equals Taylor Swift. Like we can have a side conversation about a music video or about a political slogan on a t-shirt and we understand given the work that we do when we're not chatting about those things that that does not mean our feminism boils down to that.
Ann: Anyone who adopts the label. Like the other thing that I hate about it, this idea that a long essay about who is and who isn't the right kind of feminist or feminist enough and saying that essentially if you care about things that aren't the hard work of politics and social change then you are not a feminist as opposed to saying those two things can co-exist, I have such a problem with that as an actual turn-off or chilling effect to people who are like me and you who are like we have interests in many things beyond feminism that we are able to not conflate with the work of feminism. It is the most one-note kind of way to describe what does it mean to be a feminist? And book editors aside, again, I don't really know you but I'm really sad about the wonderful -- normally wonderful editors at New York Magazine who didn't think to make her cite sources. I was just like wow, honestly?
Aminatou: But that's how I felt about the interview at Jezebel too. It's like this person who interviewed her whose writing I generally really enjoy just lets her get away with so many convoluted statements and doesn't stop to pause. Like can you elaborate on this? Like fact check. Like one of her qualms in her book was she cites Rebecca Traister's All the Single Ladies book which we have talked about a lot on this podcast and we're obviously featured in.
Ann: We read it too. That's a special thing. We did. We read the book.
Aminatou: Yeah. The special thing is we read it, right? And then one of her bizarre charges is that Rebecca's book doesn't acknowledge the socioeconomic impact [Laughs] of feminism on women and especially women of color. And I was like this is crazy. If you had actually read the book you would know that she goes through great pains to talk about this, right? It's not like being single is awesome because the city will feed you and do your laundry or whatever. It's just like no, here are all of the socioeconomic aspects of capitalism that makes that possible. And in this very casual interview I was like wow, you just shat on a woman, you lied about her work, and this person who's interviewing you -- because they also probably haven't read the book -- they don't stop you to tell you what's going on. And I'm like you know what's not feminism is lying about other women's work.
Ann: So the thing that's also unfortunate to me is I think there is an interesting conversation to be had about the ways in which stuff that is not the hard work of activism, that is kind of the more fun community-building stuff that I think enables good activism but is distinct from it . . . so, you know, I would say things like wearing a futurist female t-shirt. Not a feminist act, but maybe an act of sort of a way to connect to other people who might be similarly politically-motivated or attuned to social justice. I would put it in conversations about pubic hair and all of the outdated kind of stuff that she mentions. I put it totally in the realm of community-building, frivolous fun, not the core of the work or what you have to do in order to really claim this label.
And I feel like it's good to be like huh, am I only doing the fluffy, easy stuff and not the hard work of being in the movement as a feminist? I think that's a fair question and I don't think it's wrong to say that description does apply to some people. For me personally, even, during certain weeks, maybe me too and maybe lots of people. But when you conflate those things as being in conflict with doing the work as opposed to separate from and related to, that's what makes me really angry too. It's just like wholesale being like you don't get to do anything that hits on any other level other than the most important justice work. And I think that is just not sustainable.
Aminatou: Yeah. I mean if you want to read a good book about this it actually exists, Andi Zeisler, what was her book called? Oh, We Were Feminists Once.
Ann: We Were Feminists Once.
Aminatou: We Were Feminists Once. That book is actually really good and was very challenging to me because there are a lot of things in it that I didn't necessarily agree with but I thought it was a very, very pointed and good critique about the current state of where the movement is, right? And wasn't rooted in these here's what Beyonc is or isn't doing for feminism.
Aminatou: I think that the reason that this other book that we were talking about is really annoying to me, all of this is just fodder for not taking women seriously. Like for any other serious political topic you can't get away with this kind of analysis.
Aminatou: But like surprise, because it's women this is all we're going to talk about. And that really irks me. Women like this will come around all of the time. I'm performing for somebody else's gaze/it's kind of all about me. And that's why it's so important to really -- like that point you made in the beginning, it's like the skin in the game argument of feminism, right? It's like what are you promoting here? Are you promoting politics or are you promoting yourself? And I always find with these voices all they're doing is promoting themselves and their own ideas and cultural jiu-jitsu shit that every year becomes more and more outdated.
Ann: Yeah, I love it, like an argument that's essentially like all about me, not about the movement, is framed as feminism is too narcissistic. I'm like ultimate jiu-jitsu. [Laughs]
Aminatou: It's like wow.
Ann: It's basically like I'm super narcissistic. It's a problem with feminism. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Yeah. It's just somehow for women's history and politics it's always okay to have one person just be like "I'm going to put out all these straw men arguments and just say all this political shit and then we'll see where the spaghetti lands on the wall."
Ann: But I hate the fact too that there's a distinct feeling when I read the essay -- again I'm only talking about the excerpt -- it's not for people who are doing this work. It claims to be sort of like "Hey, feminists, let me hit you with the truth." But really it's for people who are outside of this movement and critiquing it. That's who this essay is for, you know? It's like for people . . .
Aminatou: Low information deciders.
Ann: Yes, exactly. People who are not personally invested and want to watch the fight go down. And so that's the other thing is who is this for I think is an important question to ask whenever it's a high level "Is it good for feminism? Is it feminist?" It's like okay, who's having the conversation?
Aminatou: Totally. Also if you're -- like one of your big talking points is what Beyonc is or isn't doing for feminism, like I really can't help you because we are living in a different cultural moment than that right now, you know? And I think that's kind of the one thing that's been really illuminating about the last couple of months. It's so much easier to see what the bullshit is. What are you really hung up on? Is it the actual big fights we have ahead like paid family leave or reproductive justice? Or are you really talking about celebrity engagement for clickbait reasons? I love Beyonc. She is the best. You will not catch me speaking ill of her because I'm not a fool. But it is really unfair to pin this kind of movement work, like what is good or bad about it, on the heads of celebrities who don't ask for it and also are engaged in a completely different project than we are.
Ann: Team Beyonc and not having to be 100% in the spotlight doing the feminist work 24/7 to get a pass from disingenuous people like this.
Aminatou: Oh my gosh, yeah. Everything is a trap. Don't fall for it.
Ann: I mean everything's a trap except for Keanu Reeves. He is the truth. [Laughs] Except for those Calvin Klein ads.
Aminatou: Yeah, Keanu at 50 and Calvin Klein ads. That's it. But everything else is a trap. Don't fall for it. Don't fall for it.
Aminatou: I want to believe that we have thicker skin than this but at the same time it really irks me to see so-called feminists misrepresent the work that actual feminists are doing because there is a serious argument to be made about where our movement is at right now and where we're going and what we're doing and what we're participating in. I think there are really big, serious questions to ask whether the work we are doing is sustainable. But when it comes from these really disingenuous attacks it just makes me rage angry all over again.
Ann: Normally I'm like ignore to destroy this sort of thing but also that's why this conversation frankly feels a little different to me on the podcast than say for me to write something else at New York. I do feel that this is a conversation among people who are invested in things beyond a superficial conversation about Taylor Swift or Beyonc, right? Like actual work as opposed to fueling a kind of larger conversation that's more of like a public display for people who are not invested which is like, again, how I feel about the essay. My instinct is to ignore this but also like . . .
Aminatou: I don't know, man. If you come for Beyonc and Rebecca Traister in the same breath it's hard for me to ignore.
Ann: Yeah, we're going to dismiss you on this podcast. [Laughs]
Aminatou: [Laughs] It's very hard for me to ignore. It's 2017. We have really moved on from is armpit hair a feminist thing or not? Like please, some of us are doing real work.
Ann: Right. It's like some people have it. Some people don't. We're all working. Move on.
Aminatou: Yeah. And it's also like that stuff is the easy stuff. We are decades into what the modern feminist project tries to be and we are still dealing with so much just like 101 shit and people who either don't understand or willfully misrepresent what is going on, and that is really frustrating to me because it's hard to look ahead to what the next three or four or five decades look like when we're still grappling with the very existence of the work that we're doing. Feminism, we're going to get there one day eventually. [Laughs]
Ann: I know.
Aminatou: Oh my god, maybe that's my book.
Ann: Yeah, do it! Oh my god, please write a better version of this book. I would buy all the copies.
Aminatou: Please, if I ever wrote a book about feminism I'm going full Fox News, selling out, making like bajillions of dollars like the Obamas. You know Obama just got a really big book deal yesterday and it made me really happy because I'm like yes, finally, they're rich now. Everything is good. Malia and Sasha can go to the college of their choosing. But yeah, tell me one happy thing before we end.
Ann: Well, I found my wedding look for this wedding I'm officiating which I was going to do an update because so many listeners sent me links to things, some of them great, some of them wholly inappropriate. [Laughs] But I'm wearing a navy jumpsuit.
Ann: That I bought at a regular store despite having an excessively long torso which is always excited. And I'm working on the shoes now, so thank you for everyone who took a very active interest in what I am wearing to this wedding which is imminent.
Aminatou: Yes, queen!
Ann: Yes! So that's a happy thing. I feel great. I'm going to look great. Happy ending. What have you got that's good news?
Aminatou: That's it. Shout out to Tim and Renee. We won't miss you at your wedding. Perfect.
Aminatou: We'll look good and smell good.
Ann: Oh, got to get my scent game fixed. That's the next step.
Aminatou: Oh my gosh. 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 iTunes 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. This podcast is produced by Gina Delvac. Okay, boo-boo.
Ann: All right.
Aminatou: I've got to go keep bleeding into my labia that are not shut.
Ann: See you . . . well I was going to say see you on the Internet but see you in Palm Springs.
Aminatou: See you in Palm Springs!