Episode 84: Ur fav is problematic
Published March 17, 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, how we spent the strike on International Women's Day plus listener mail on how to critically read feminist writers and thinkers, Cheetowatch: what's Kellyanne up to? Representative Steve King and other racist liars, plus Inspector Gadget and all of our problematic favs.
Aminatou: Hello from Austin, Texas.
Ann: Oh my god. Hello. Tell me, is it everything it always is? Is it the best?
Aminatou: Oh my god, it's like south-by-south nightmare obviously. It's like good to be back and see the friends. It is my least favorite time of the year to be here though because the weather is unpredictable, there's too many damn people, and, yeah, it's like the festival itself is crazy.
Ann: Yeah, I feel like often the biggest draw to a city is the worst time or the worst reason to go there, you know? Any city, not just Austin, but particularly Austin. I'm half-sick so apologies in advance for any phlegmy noises or weird, gross coughing that happens in the middle of this.
Aminatou: Oh no! Feel better, boo-boo.
Ann: I mean mouth breathing, it's so important. [Laughs] Maybe what we could do is a check-in on day without a woman. How did your International Women's Day go?
Aminatou: Went great. Wore red. I don't think I striked for reasons that we mentioned before but I had some really good lady time. It was excellent.
Ann: I love that.
Aminatou: And I had some really good conversation with a lot of different women doing different kinds of jobs about how they handle it so that was really illuminating.
Ann: What was the most interesting or best or most surprising thing that you heard from a woman who was participating?
Aminatou: I was really surprised at how many of my lady friends in tech participated in the strike. A lot of them were just like "Nope, sorry, don't need to be here today," just because from that corner of my world I hear a lot about "Well, you know, it doesn't really make a difference," or blah, blah, blah. I don't know, it was really heartening to see. It was like actually no, people like taking concrete actions on things.
Ann: I love that. I was flying that day and so actually a great excuse to do what I probably should do all the time which is BYO snacks and plan ahead. But when I got to my destination I had to take some kind of transportation to get to my hotel. I suppose maybe I could've put out some sort of public call to have some stranger pick me up or whatever, but anyway I got out of the airplane and there were two taxis waiting at this small airport and one was driven by, you know, a brown-skinned person who looked to be an immigrant and after chatting with him found out that he was. The other one was driven by a woman. And I had very much -- I just got in the first one, but I was like these are two great women's strike options. If you've got to get in any cab . . . [Laughs] I think that was my primary strike-breaking activity. But then, you know, only women-owned businesses after that. It was pretty great. Do you want to listen to some voicemails that listeners left for us about how they spent the day?
Aminatou: I would love that.
Ann: Let's do it.
Bridget: Hi Ann and Amina. I am calling from Madison, Wisconsin about my participation on International Women's Day. I'm a student teacher and I ended up not taking the day off even though a lot of my students did. I took the opportunity to give a lesson about using a feminist critical lens to read Lady Macbeth to one of my classes and in the other class we used the feminist critical lens to read and watch some Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, wonderful feminist work. So my name is Bridget and you can use this on the show.
Lauren: Hi Amina, Ann, and Gina. My name is Lauren. I'm calling from Brooklyn and you are welcome to use this on the show. I had an amazing women's strike/International Women's Day with about 20 or 25 women just having great conversation and we had food that was donated to us. My favorite thing that happened though was I did not abide by the social media blackout and that night I posted on Facebook -- as a joke -- I posted "If you're a dude and I have ever helped you with anything please Venmo me $20." Again, mentioned as a joke, but within two hours a variety of men in my life had Venmoed me $255. Some of it will be a donation to a progressive, intersectional organization and then part of it I'm just going to use it to buy something I like as a payment for years of unpaid emotional labor.
Hanna: Hi, this is Hanna calling from Charlottesville, Virginia. I spent International Women's Day striking from work and I took the day off from social media and I also hosted a potluck for a group of rad ladies at my house. Thanks! Thanks for the podcast! Bye!
Mary: Hi Amina and Ann. I'm Mary. I'm 21 years old and I'm from Flint, Michigan but residing in East Lansing, Michigan, a 21-year-old baby feminist who celebrated a day without a woman in a pretty unique way. I work for a senate Democrat in Michigan and I work for communications and normally all of the staff sits on the floor. On a day without a woman all the ladies, and most of our senators, wore red. The lady staffers such as myself sat in the above galleries so that all of our colleagues and Republicans could see us. We were recognized by the floor -- excuse me, on the floor -- by Democrats, which is pretty cool. Right? Bye.
Ann: So yeah, we got a letter that explained the following: "My group of friends has an active Slack group that we use as a big group chat. In our private ladies-only channel we decided to honor the strike by not providing any emotional labor in the other channels. Big surprise: when we told the men what we had done at the end of the day on Wednesday most of them hadn't noticed or had only noticed that 'things seemed quiet' or they 'just felt a little disappointed that no one commented on or emojied their post.'"
Ann: I know, right? "The experiment wound up being more informative for the ladies in the Slack group in that we found out we really relied on using emoji as emotional support for people of all genders and that we experienced real discomfort in holding back from giving men that pat on the back via emoji. It seems that part of our experience fighting our own internalized misogyny will be honing our Zen skills to learn to tolerate the discomfort we feel around the expectation of emotionally supporting men by default, especially when we're not receiving that default support in return. Also, no surprise, the men weren't showering us in emoji or written responses of emotional support in our absence." Interesting.
Aminatou: So interesting. Emotional labor via emoji, who knew?
Ann: Emoji emotional labor. [Laughs] I can't wait for the academic paper that is bound to be written about this at some point.
Aminatou: You want to answer a couple of mail bag questions?
Ann: Let's do it.
Aminatou: "After some searching I finally found a small feminist discussion group that seemed a good fit. As the group coordinator described it, the group started as a second-wave feminist lesbians group but expanded recently to include younger ladies of all orientations interested in getting politically active. All seemed well for the first few months of meetings. The group had been deemed a woman-only space which seemed okay on the surface. Some women said they felt more comfortable to speak up in a women-only meeting and I can support that sentiment. But it started to slowly surface that the older women get really sketchy when it comes to discussing the inclusion of transgender women."
Aminatou: "During one meeting when I outright asked if trans women are welcome to join the group the group coordinator muttered that the group would need to discuss it and changed the subject. Since then any mention of the topic of including trans women has been met with more delay tactics and excuses that it's a touchy subject. I ended up talking to a couple of younger people in the group about it and they seem to have gotten the same vibe. We aren't sure what to do. Do we stay with a group that seems to be doing some things right but thinks intersectionality is only for cis gender women -- LOL -- or do we leave and try to find or start another group?" This is not hard.
Ann: I think this is one of the easiest questions we've ever gotten which is to say anyone who is sharing these kinds of worried looks or has had a side conversation about not loving the way that this group is excluding trans women, easy, that is your new group. Leave. Form a new one. And I would say also letting the organizers of the original group know that you are not okay with being part of a group that excludes trans women from its feminism and saying like if you don't want to talk about it, if you think it's too touchy, cool choice on your part -- not cool at all, but whatever -- we're going to go talk about this in a context that is better-aligned with our feminist politics.
Aminatou: Totally. Well-put. This is not hard at all. Just be a little more brave all the time. It's like what does it serve you to stay in this group at all if you know it is, as the kids say, problematic. It's like now you've aligned yourself with problematic people and you're implicated. Don't implicate yourself. Always leave.
Ann: Yeah, and it sounds like this person has tried to bring it up a few times and the group that she's currently a part of actively do not want to engage the question and so to me that makes it even easier, right? Like if they were interested in engaging I think maybe there's a slightly higher burden to maybe say like "Here's why I think you're doing it wrong," or "Here's how I think you could be more inclusive." But the fact that they don't really want to even have the conversation, to me that's just a clear bye. And maybe your group is going to be smaller with the other people, but you're right, no implications in this bigger, more flawed project.
Aminatou: Right. I honestly never understand this. I'm just like if this is going to ruin your reputation why are you still there? Also it's so easy when somebody else rolls your eyes. You're like oh my god, at least there's two of us.
Ann: Oh my god, completely.
Aminatou: New group. That's how that rolls. It's like you're not even alone.
Ann: Yeah. I think it's an important lesson too for perhaps the group organizers to learn that this is so important for you even though you don't identify as trans. Like it's so important to you to be part of an inclusive space that you don't want to be part of their situation. I think that they will probably learn that lesson by your departure.
Aminatou: Yeah, you know, and it's also okay to just be like if people are not where you are it's okay to leave them behind. You don't have to be teaching all the time and explaining. It's 2017. If you really have to take time out of your day to explain to people who say that they're feminist why trans women matter then maybe you're hanging around the wrong feminists. Just like go. Run, run, run. Run, run, run, and stand up for what you believe.
Ann: And sadly in the year 2017 it's still probably necessary to get clarity on what a group means by woman-only space. I think that's the other lesson I take from this letter is how I define women-only space appears to be very different from how some other people define women-only space.
Aminatou: It's true, right? But also some of these things were red flags from the beginning, right? If somebody tells you they're like a second-wave . . . [Laughs] I guess it was like second-wave feminist lesbian group, it's like the second part of that is fine. The first part of that is problematic. And it's like if you know your history you know exactly what happened to lesbians in the second wave. So all of these labels, like people sometimes are really clear in signaling to you how rigid they're going to be from the beginning and you have to see that for what it is.
Ann: Good luck with your new group. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Yeah, that's right. Good luck with your new group. Keep us posted. Sometimes it works out really well. You're just like oh, all these people are not happy here. New group. Okay, next question. Ooh, so many feminist questions, almost like we're a feminist podcast.
Ann: I know, right? Almost like we've claimed that label. The separate podcast to discuss whether we openly could slap that label on here.
Aminatou: Oh my gosh.
Aminatou: "I really appreciated your criticism of the Jessa Crispin interview on Jezebel. When I initially read it I had misgivings. Hard to trust anyone who bashes Rebecca Traister." That's what I'm saying.
Ann: Indeed. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Ugh, what a good litmus test. "But I also thought well, I'm not that well-versed at this stuff and I trust Jezebel. I was relieved when I saw Amina's tweets about it and I'm grateful for you for discussing it on the podcast. There are a lot of other women who have said some questionable things in the line of outspoken academics/intellectual who could write with a book attention-grabbing title. I don't think I will or should agree with everything some of them say but since you two are both a lot more knowledgeable about this I was hoping you could give guidance on a few figures." Uh-oh.
Aminatou: "Note I am sorry if this feels like a setup for people to say Amina and Ann just bashed all these women. That's not my intention at all. I just want to know which women are actually doing the hard work of contributing by doing more than criticizing. There's a difference between constructive critique that engages with material movements and people in a respectful way and others who do so in a way that builds their platform at the expenses of what they criticize." Ahem, Jessa Crispin, Kellyanne, all of the Ivankas, etc. "I don't want to imply that anyone who is newly exploring the feminist literature can't tell for themselves; I just don't want to accidentally pick up something extreme. But because I'm not yet fluent in the nuance and context of this, not recognizing it for what it is. I'm a librarian/information scientist -- can you tell? If possible, could you weigh in on these?" This is my favorite list in the whole . . .
Aminatou: Katie Roiphe. Is that how you say her name? I never read it.
Ann: Roiphe? Roiphe?
Aminatou: I've only ever read it. I've never said her name out loud. "Katie Roiphe, that one. Camille Paglia, Naomi Wolf, Christina Hoff Sommers . . ." [Laughs] I'm in love with this list. "Anyone else that should be read/approached with caution and/or only after a thorough grounding in bell hooks?" Well, here's the thing, everybody should be read or approached with caution including us.
Aminatou: Including us. So that answers the second part of that question.
Ann: Yeah. I mean when I look or listen to that list of I was going to say problematic favs but they're not even favs, just problematic people who are . . . yeah.
Aminatou: I know, right? We can -- actually this list is not even . . . let's just go through the list. Christina Hoff Sommers is 100% a quack. Christina Hoff Sommers is not a feminist. I am comfortable saying that.
Ann: She's a quack conservative who is sort of of that strain of air quote "feminism" who's like making more money is good for women and so anything that helps business is good for women and so I'm a Republican. Forget everything else. That's kind of my top-line view of the position she's advocated in the past. Which is true, women like money and need it, but it is a very kind of convenient conservative feminism.
Aminatou: Yeah, but she's always talking about things like victim feminism and . . .
Ann: Sure, it's a good tell.
Aminatou: I'm just like where? Where did you learn this? Or, actually, I know, at the American Enterprise Institute where you are a fellow in residence. It's like I feel like she would seem attractive to people who are libertarians but really a lot of her stuff is always grounded in how does this affect men? Whenever somebody is like "What about the men?" or "Feminists don't hate men," I'm just like that's not even what the conversation is about. Like I see you. Also very intellectually dishonest. I am fine putting her in that box. It's like goodbye.
Ann: Yeah, like talking exclusively about women's right to make money being the primary gender-based right that women need and then not actually being pro-choice either. I don't know, there's like a bunch of contradictions as well just baked into anyone who's likely to be a fellow at a conservative think tank and even pseudo adopting the feminist label.
Aminatou: I know, and then the list gets murkier. Naomi Wolf. [Laughs]
Ann: Oh my god. Where do we even begin? Like, I don't know, I think that . . .
Aminatou: The Beauty Myth.
Ann: The Beauty Myth. That's where we begin I guess, yeah.
Aminatou: That's the beginning. We can start there. Yeah, you know, also somebody who writes for a national review a lot but also has written for Mother Jones and The Atlantic so I guess I can't make that argument.
Ann: Naomi Wolf in particular is a difficult case, right? Because it's like you could do some selective Instagram quoting or Tumblr excerpting of Naomi Wolf and be like that makes sense. That seems to resonate with my politics. But it's like the overall project that I don't think I'm really onboard with. And it's like nothing says you have to, in order to read or be informed by a writer who claims the feminist label, nothing says you have to love that person's entire body of work or put them in an I am pro Naomi Wolf or I am anti Naomi Wolf category. The world is way more complex and it's like your views on the world are probably not going to be exactly represented by any one thinker. Like that's how I kind of feel about it.
Aminatou: Wow, nuance. Nuance, Ann Friedman. I love it.
Ann: [Laughs] And to this question of the fact that it comes from a librarian and information scientist, it's funny that at the end of her letter she mentions bell hooks because it's like I don't even agree with bell hooks about everything. It's like I don't know.
Aminatou: Yeah, I don't agree with bell hooks on a lot. But, again, foundational text, right?
Aminatou: I think that that point that you made earlier about just being a critical reader all the time and questioning all of this is really important because at the end of the day it's not about individual feminists. You and I don't even agree on some things. [Laughs]
Ann: Several things, yeah.
Aminatou: Yeah. I was like do you want to go through them?
Aminatou: Yeah, you know, it's like we don't agree on some stuff. And I think if anything the thing that unifies us is I know that you have skin in the game. I know that you come from an intellectually-honest place. And that makes me okay, but it's also not going to ruin my complete faith in all of feminism if one day you say something completely nuts, you know?
Aminatou: Or it turns out you were Megan Kelly in The Training and you just take your cape off and you're crossing over to the dark side. It's not going to shake my faith because it was never about individual people. Like it's not. So I think that that's kind of the fallacy here, right, is don't put your faith in humans because those people will disappoint you.
Ann: Yeah. And I get the temptation or the desire when you are new to feminism or new to thinking about how feminism relates to your own beliefs about the world the desire to kind of have a person or a handful of people to be your council or your Supreme Court of feminism where you can have like -- like okay, if these four people all think this way on an issue then that's the way I'm going to think too. And the truth is I do think that it's more difficult to figure out where certain writers or public thinkers or activists are coming from when you haven't been following certain issues for a long time. I think it is something that kind of . . . it gets easier and more complicated the longer that you've been thinking about yourself as a feminist and feeling attuned to certain debates. However, there's something kind of cool about being new and being like okay, just read this interview with Camille Paglia. First stop, where does her money come from?
Aminatou: [Laughs] Exactly.
Ann: Like second stop, yeah, what are the most-recognized books she's ever read? What are the kind of lines that she has drawn in the sand? The Internet is, especially if you are well-versed in information science, I feel like that info before you decide that you are going to be like Camille Paglia's new biggest fan, you can do a quick Google and figure out maybe how you feel about her in a deeper way.
Aminatou: Totally. It's like, yeah, the person who asked this question is better-equipped than most people to suss out bullshit, you know? And actually get good information and become super well-versed in this. So I have full faith that a librarian/information scientist is going to make great decisions.
Ann: Totally. And even to the point she mentioned upfront in her letter, hard to trust anyone who bashes Rebecca Traister, I agree with that. But again I don't agree with Rebecca 100% of the time either. It's just like to your earlier point, Amina, I know her to be someone who generally does her reporting, who generally tries to take a nuanced view of things, but who has a series of strong beliefs that in general align with mine but not completely. And so part of this is just thinking about your own beliefs about the world too, not just what do these people say?
Aminatou: Totally. What you believe is valid. I am generally charmed by Camille Paglia because she's everybody's -- she's the problematic fav's problematic fav's problematic fav.
Aminatou: So it's always like whenever some lady is like "And then Camilla Paglia said," I'm just like yeah, this is not going to end well. This is not going to end well. But, you know, an intellectually-rigorous woman. I can hate on a lot of her opinions but I cannot hate on how she gets to them so there's that. Which one is Katie Roiphe? Which one of the Atlantic white ladies is Katie Roiphe? Because I feel like there's two that I always confuse.
Ann: Oh my god, she's the one that was like back in I want to say the '90s, pretty early on, she was like campus rape, it's not a big deal. It's just feminists who like to be victims. This is my like Ann Wikipedia version of how she first burst on the scene. It was like an early clickbait lesson now that I think about it. Oh, yeah, the book was called The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism on Campus. It's from 1993.
Aminatou: Yeah, I was eight years old. This is not relevant to me. [Laughs]
Ann: I mean I do think it's relevant because she . . .
Aminatou: Which is such an ageist thing to say but it's like I find a lot of these women found controversy when I had not found my consciousness yet so in a lot of ways it's kind of easy to dismiss which is not necessarily fair. But there's a part of me that's also like this is so part of this whole '90s women's backlash, you know? Like '90s women were supposed to be like tough bitches and so a lot of women who found their voice trashing other women thrived in that decade.
Ann: Oh, yeah, like super backlash by Susan Faludi. That's all I have to say about that era. [Laughs] Even though that was technically the '80s that she was . . . I mean some of it was early '90s.
Aminatou: Yeah, she was writing about the '80s. Yeah, that book was good.
Ann: Anyway that was the book that I was like oh, when I was a kid this is what was happening in feminism because I clued in. It's like one of the things that I read in college that was like oh, wow, while you were sleeping/in grade school. [Laughs]
Aminatou: It's also really funny when you read the Katie Roiphes or Camilla Paglia, they're kind of closer to our generation or closer to being our contemporaries I guess. But the more you read about feminist history you realize that these debates have been going on forever and ever and ever and ever, you know?
Ann: And also you realize that no one is perfectly aligned with you or perfectly aligned with modern politics that you might have. That's how I feel.
Aminatou: Yeah, this is amazing. I'm reading the tiny, underdeveloped Wikipedia entry for Morning After. It's like "Writing for the New Yorker, Katha Pollitt," another feminist, a great feminist, "gave the book a negative review .Pollitt's review was in turn criticized by Christina Hoff Sommers in Whole Stole Feminism? [Laughter] The Morning After received a positive response from Camille Paglia." You know, I'm just like let's also not forget these people are professional writers at the end of the day and everybody's trying to make a point and everybody's trying to be known and everybody wants to be an intellectual. So trust no one. Trust no one. Just do your research.
Ann: Yeah. I was just looking at this interview with Katie Roiphe too where she says "I've written about all kinds of things you might think were taboo subjects but there's something about this that's more of a taboo." This is about a newer book. But the idea of a writer who identifies as someone who writes about topics that are difficult to talk about and likes to sell books, it's like you do the math.
Aminatou: It's true because it's also like women have been trying to break into being public intellectuals for a long time. Surprise, surprise that when you take a controversial stand on things you get heard more.
Ann: Right. The answer is there's no shortcut to being a critical reader and I refuse to personally endorse any one public feminist.
Aminatou: That's right. I endorse myself. That's it. I'm not bringing anybody else with me.
Ann: But that's kind of how it should be.
Aminatou: That is how it should be but unfortunately in the era of the Internet I find that a lot of women, especially our generation, love to cling on to other people and it's like no. It's like the longer you are on the Internet too you see this. It's like your heroes will disappoint you. Don't follow them. Don't see what they're talking about. It's why controversies feel so -- the outrage cycle is so ridiculous. And it's like actually if you just went ahead and said "I enjoy certain things that certain people say, I'm going to remain skeptical in general and I will do my own research and I will find out about whatever," every woman for herself style, I find that you become less mad about a lot of things because you didn't put your faith and like every egg in one basket.
Ann: Totally. And I don't know, the flip side of that is one of the nice things about having all of the resources of the Internet at our disposal, it's like for me the times when I am most likely to question my opinion on something or my sort of gut-level reaction is when it has to do with something that is outside of my personal experience. Like if there is something I have experienced firsthand chances are I have some sort of passionate opinion on it. But if it's something that has never or maybe even will never factor into my life that's where I'm like okay, well I'm going to start reading things from a variety of women who have been affected or are more affected by this question that this writer is tackling and then use that to also inform what I think.
Because I think part of being a new feminist or whatever is not just saying I don't have the ability to form an opinion but I don't know that I have all the information I might want to have to form one. And so the nice thing is it's like when you read an incendiary essay on something like campus sexual assault and that is not an experience you've had there are a lot of things that you can go looking for that explain how do survivors feel about that? How do advocates feel about that? And I think you can pretty quickly probably, through reading some of that, come to a more informed conclusion on yourself that has nothing to do with who wrote the original article that inspired you to go searching.
Aminatou: But do you remember where you were the day the bell hooks called Beyonc a terrorist? [Laughs]
Ann: Oh my god, probably had my phone open texting you. I mean I don't know where. I remember looking at my phone. [Laughs]
Aminatou: And just how crazy shocking it was, you know? I'm just like I'm glad that I had all these modes of protecting myself because that was potentially one of the most devastating things that could've factored in for me but instead it ended up being a very funny lol. And to this day it cracks me up. Because everybody -- you know, everybody knows what they're doing. Everybody knows what they're doing and everybody knows how they're trying to stay famous.
Ann: Yeah, trying to stay relevant. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Right, yeah. It's like, you know, it's like bell hooks now is always in talks with Hermione, whoever that actress is. I always forget her name.
Ann: Don't remember.
Aminatou: The new Hollywood baby feminist Emma Watson, right? Emma Watson. Emma Watson. Maybe it's Watson. I don't know. Hermione baby.
Ann: It's Watson. You mean Beauty of Beauty and the Beast?
Aminatou: Yes, Beauty and the Beast, that one. Which apparently we need to go see? I don't know. Problematic but we'll see it. You know, but that was really interesting to me. I was like wow, you like bell hooks. Somebody who is critically important to women's history and politics and thoughts getting embroiled in this great controversy. I was like even bell hooks knows how to stay relevant. This is great. This is how the game is played.
Ann: Right. It's true. It's like people think clickbait is a new phenomenon. Not really. Just the term.
Aminatou: No. If anybody knows how to stay relevant it's like old-school feminists. My god.
Ann: [Laughs] Yeah.
Aminatou: Like they invented outrage. They invented everything. It's like don't worry, these ladies know exactly what they're doing. But also every time I think about that, Ann, I laugh. It's like Beyonc's a terrorist.
Ann: I mean there's something about the phrasing of it too. It's like if she was just like "I don't like Beyonc," or something it'd be different. But is a terrorist? I mean . . .
Aminatou: No, she like 100% called her a terrorist. Beyonc's not even the most problematic of the celebrity feminists so I thought it was hilarious that that's who she went after.
Ann: Maybe that has to do with which celebrities she's actually clued into more so than who is the most problematic celebrity feminist.
Aminatou: Yeah, she's like Hermione and Beyonc. These are the two I know. [Laughs]
Ann: Yeah, exactly.
Aminatou: But, again, it's like stay woke. Stay informed because this is all a game. Stay on top of the game.
[Music and ads]
Aminatou: Ann Friedman, noted feminist terrorist, what's next on this podcast?
Ann: [Laughs] I mean do you want to take another question?
Aminatou: Sure, hit me.
Ann: Oh, here's another info research question. Maybe too close but you can decide. You can decide if you want to answer it. I'm going to just hit you with it. Okay, here's the question: "I am part of a small group of women in southern Vermont who are organizing to pass some new reproductive justice legislation through our state government." Awesome. "We have some lawyer friends and we've done considerable research but I'm finding it hard to keep abreast of all the anti-choice bills popping up around the country. Besides the Guttmacher Institute and copious Google alerts how do you three collect and vet your reproductive rights information? I guess I'm asking if you have any special tricks or which resources and clearing houses you find most helpful."
Aminatou: I have no tricks, not even Google alerts.
Ann: I get the state-level alerts from NAROW (?) so I would say if you care about what's happening in your state legislative-wise when it comes to reproductive justice issues make sure you're on the email list for NAROW (?). And then, yeah, like Guttmacher does good national data collection, statistics about what abortion and contraception use rates look like, but then also other things that have to do with legislation. And so honestly that's kind of it. It's not magic. Be like who works on these issues in my state? Follow those organizations and get on their email list. That's how I feel about that.
Aminatou: Yeah, and who writes about this in kind of my state or my region? That's the only thing I do. I think I just follow a bunch of people on Twitter who write about this stuff.
Aminatou: As you can tell not super-informed in this area but I feel like I just learned a lot.
Ann: I mean I feel like this person already knew the answer and was like . . . if you've already got copious Google alerts setup you're winning. It's like you're doing great. I don't know that you need us.
Aminatou: Right. These are like the people in class who raise their hands to ask "What more can I do?" and the teacher is like "You're doing everything."
Aminatou: [Laughs] Like I don't know what to tell you.
Ann: Right. Yeah. Like you're already an A student.
Aminatou: There's no extra credit here. Yeah, you're already an A student. In fact you could teach this class.
Aminatou: People keep tweeting me about Kellyanne Conway on The Today Show because I actually watched it. "Amina, what do you think of Savannah Guthrie and Kellyanne Conway this morning?" I'm going to tell you exactly what I think. One, people forget Savannah Guthrie is a lawyer. [Laughter] Or she has a law degree. Wait, hold on. Let me triple-check that. I love Savannah a lot. I don't want to do fake news about Savannah. I'm pretty sure Savannah has a law degree. She just came back from paternity leave -- shout out baby Pablo. Baby Charlie. That's also fake news.
Ann: Are you looking for the actual degree?
Aminatou: That's right. She was a legal analyst. That's right.
Ann: Oh, yeah.
Aminatou: Regularly reporting on trials throughout the country. That's right. So people forget this. Savannah . . .
Ann: She also specialized in white collar criminal defense. [Laughs]
Aminatou: A.K.A. Kellyanne Conway. Yeah, the interview was really funny actually. I was watching it when I was getting ready this morning. Kellyanne was very low-energy. She so -- what a demon because she's so predictable at this point. It's like when she comes on and she does her "I don't really know what you guys are talking about. The American public just really wants health insurance and no fake news," or whatever and she does the low-energy thing it's because she knows she's going to get roasted on that interview.
Aminatou: But it was also this insane white lady jiu-jitsu watching which one of them, Savannah or Kellyanne, would have the most disingenuous smile. You know, like kill them with your smile kind of thing. And I was just like wow, they should teach this at law school, at like liar school, and everything. It was so crazy. But the whole time, yeah, it's like Savannah was like "With all due respect, Kellyanne," big smile, "you didn't really answer my question." Big smile. [Laughs] And Kellyanne was wearing the gaudiest necklace and it kept making so much noise every time she moved.
Ann: Oh my god.
Aminatou: Because it was super close to the microphone. And she just kept lying about everything. It was pretty . . . it was delightful, but I was like I forgot about you, Savannah. Welcome back from maternity leave. I like you a lot.
Ann: I feel like that strategy is in a way so classic like Mean Girls, like so classically-gendered. Obviously, yes, white girl, but the idea of I'm going to say something that I know is completely out there or completely reprehensible or total bullshit and do it while smiling.
Aminatou: Yeah, but it's like that's part of the Kellyanne Conway . . .
Ann: Oh, completely.
Aminatou: You know? It's like she either is really doggedly pursuing this weird lie like Barack Obama's spying on Donald Trump via his microwave and she'll say that without flinching or then she does this weird like acts like a very . . . I don't know, she pulls out this like lady charm that is really disingenuous and always makes me really uncomfortable because I'm just like I see where you are going with this.
This is the kind of stuff I feel like when you're a woman you're really in tune to in other women where you're just like oh, my god, you're about to pull the woman card. And I feel that Republican women do it in a way that they think is really subtle but actually is just screaming. For me it's very arresting, the whole thing, but to see somebody else fight her on that level and win was beautiful. I was just like oh, man, this is a dangerous game to play but once we're in the mud there's no going back.
Ann: There's something about it that feels -- like about Kellyanne's whole project that feels almost like performance art to me. It's so . . . like mentioning the incredible Barack Obama tapped Trump's toaster or whatever. Like beyond above-the-top stuff that she's saying. It would be such a pleasure to watch someone invite lies and deliver them this way as a piece of performance art. What's really sad is it's just the news.
Aminatou: Yeah, and the thing that's really sad is she can keep getting away with it, right? It's like at this point all of the reporters are exasperated with her. The public is exasperated with her. But she still gets the platform to say really incendiary lies. I'm just waiting for the day where somebody finally says "You are a liar." Because that's where this should be headed. It makes no sense to smile at her, and at the end everybody is always like "Thanks so much for coming on today." Like George Stephanopoulos was so visibly angry at her but still has to play this like "Well, I guess you were here and you said these things," and he has to interpret everything that she says. Just stop having her all together or start calling her a liar on the air. There's only two ways this ends.
Ann: I know, but then people like us keep talking about it and people keep sending you the links to it. They have such an incentive. Like the people who book her are not thinking about democracy or spreading important information to voters or anything like that. It's just like what do people want to watch? And people want to watch her tell outrageous lies in statement jewelry.
Aminatou: They just want to spread drama, and I've already discussed my whole theory here that the reason these shows keep booking her is so these reporters can come out looking well because they were tough on her, you know?
Aminatou: This is just garbage. But it's also it's like I watch it, Ann, and it's like watching a movie that just fucks with your mind. It's like are you serious? You're just lying. You're just lying and nobody's calling you a liar. What kind of world do we live in?
Ann: I mean I don't want to answer that question. [Laughs] Unfortunately I cannot bring myself to answer that question.
Aminatou: Yeah, it's the same thing with the crazy Iowa congressman. Like Steve you are . . .
Ann: Oh my god.
Aminatou: I was like you're like an actual white nationalist racist and nobody will call you that. They're all like incendiary comments. Inflammatory comments. I'm just like what does a white person have to do around here to get called a racist anymore? This is crazy.
Ann: Yeah. I mean the New York Times tweet about Steve King's comments essentially being like any babies that are not white are not our babies -- the broader like our, the government, Americans. It was like this deliberately not white people or other. That is literally what the comment said. And the New York Times tweet was "Iowa congressman's inflammatory statements seen as echoing principles of white nationalism." [Laughs]
Aminatou: Yeah, I was like this is not the echo. This is the actual message.
Ann: Yeah, a choice, not an echo. Phyllis Schlafly joke for you there. But for real, it's like a deliberate statement that was retweeted by David Duke. He was like "Listen, I love this white nationalist Dutch candidate for higher office and I'm going to favorably tweet about this other white supremacist in Europe and then be retweeted by David Duke, domestic white supremacist." And all along the line no one will actually say that this representative Steve King from Iowa is a white nationalist himself. [Sighs]
Aminatou: How? Like we are living in wild times. Oh, I forgot to tell you the one funny thing about Kellyanne's fake news tour this morning is, god, I forget on which network it was. They asked her if she had proof or whatever and she's like "I'm not Inspector Gadget." [Laughs] And I couldn't stop laughing. I was just like oh my god, this is . . . we are so doomed. Our democracy is so doomed.
Ann: Speaking of favs that I don't remember as problematic I was a big Inspector Gadget fan. I don't want to go back to that and find out that it was actually really terrible in some way.
Aminatou: [Laughs] My cousins were all really big Inspector Gadget fans. If I'm honest I don't really remember a lot of it. I just always was so struck by how incompetent he was and I was like this is not a good role model for children.
Ann: Well no, actually, the whole point of the show -- and I distinctly remember why I liked it -- is he has I don't know if it's like a daughter or a niece. He has a young girl who's his sidekick and she does all of the heavy lifting and solves all of the cases and then people are like "Inspector Gadget has done it again." And it really affirmed my belief that the adults around me were incompetent when I was a child and was like oh, this show, it's just reflecting the reality that this little girl is doing all the hard work and getting no credit.
Aminatou: I'm doing the Google search to find out. Inspector Gadget problematic. [Laughs] Let's see what comes up.
Ann: [Laughs] It's like go, go Gadget political litmus test.
Aminatou: Yeah. Wow, it already auto filled. Let's see.
Ann: Oh my god, no. I don't know if I'm ready for this.
Aminatou: Oh. My. God. Your fav is problematic, Inspector Gadget on Tumblr.
Ann: No doubt. Ugh.
Aminatou: Let's see what the evidence is. There's no evidence. It just says your fav is problematic, Inspector Gadget.
Ann: Okay, great.
Aminatou: Let's see. So is there no evidence?
Ann: Oh, it's his niece. So here, I just went to Wikipedia. "A dimwitted cyborg police inspector" is how he's described, and his niece Penny is the one who solves all his cases. Also the dog Bryan.
Ann: So it's like a little girl and a dog who are taking down a global evil conspiracy.
Aminatou: Okay there's no actual evidence that he is problematic except for the fact he takes credit for a little girl's work, now that I know.
Ann: Okay, that is the ultimate -- every episode ends with him taking credit for a little girl's work so I think we can declare that problematic.
Aminatou: Ann, your fav is problematic. [Laughs]
Ann: Okay, I feel like . . . wait, what is a childhood thing that you have held on to and not explored for its problematic implications?
Aminatou: My entire childhood probably?
Ann: Oh my god. I just want to be able to say . . .
Aminatou: My childhood was problematic because I grew up reading French comic books which let me tell you is the epitome of racism. Like [0:47:32]. So I think I made my peace with the fact that my childhood was problematic a long time ago.
Ann: Right. All right. Well, I mean, everything about my childhood was also problematic but it was just like, you know . . .
Aminatou: Wow. Inspector Gadget.
Ann: I'm newly thinking . . .
Aminatou: Did not even expect this today.
Ann: All right.
Aminatou: It's okay. Okay, I have to run to South by Southwest activation. I love saying those words. So I will catch you very soon, lady.
Ann: Yes, we'll see you on the Internet frequently.
Aminatou: We'll see you on the Internet. Please pray I get home in this snowstorm.
Ann: Oh my god, all the prayer hands emoji, and that's not emotional labor, that's sincere. I really hope you make it home.
Aminatou: [Laughs] The emotional labor of emoji.
Aminatou: That is going to have me shook. That is going to have me shook for the rest of the day.
Ann: I can't wait until someone sends us the paper, the academic paper about it.
Aminatou: You know, it's true though. I realize that whenever dudes in my life complain or need affirmation or whatever I'll just be sending them the thumbs up because I don't have anything else to say. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Oh my god. Wow, wow, wow. This modern world we live in. How evil.
Ann: All right, thumbs up. Talk to you later. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Thumbs up. Talk soon. Bye.
Gina: You can find us so 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, find us on Instagram or Facebook all using the handle callyrgf or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 and all other music you heard today was composed by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs. This podcast is produced by Gina Delvac. That's me.