Archive for the ‘celebrities’ Category

What do NPH and Beyoncé have in common?

January 16, 2013

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if people are homophobic, purposely inflammatory, or just actually dumb. Legit dumb.

Conservative website WND reported last week that Neil Patrick Harris, according to some, must be mocking Christians and pushing his gay agenda by mimicking Tim Tebow’s signature eyeblack in promotional photos for the Super Bowl:

I wonder what agenda Beyoncé was pushing when she did a similar advertisement months ago?:

If you want to create inflammatory news stories to push your own agenda, maybe try to make them a little more logically consistent? This is just plain lazy. And of course, WND made no news of Beyoncé’s ad. 

Wait… or maybe… everyone’s mad because NPH isn’t making a kissy face, aren’t they?

RHOBH: I’d often say, ‘Just hit me so we can get this over with.’

January 31, 2012

Reality TV shows are often nothing but a cesspool of one or all of the following: cat-fighting, bickering, hooking up, and has-been celebrities (or celebrities who have never made it above the C-list). The reputation that these shows have — that it’s just mindless entertainment — is something I’ve often disputed, especially when it comes to shows like 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, and the Real Housewives series. I think this is especially true in tonight’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion special (part one), during which Taylor Armstrong’s abusive relationship with her late husband Russell was discussed in pretty candid detail.

Yes, these vivid descriptions of emotional and physical abuse — coupled with the psychological trauma they cause — were sandwiched between arguments about Lisa calling Adrienne’s dog “Crackpot” instead of “Jackpot,” and debates about who sells stories to tabloids. But what Taylor shared with the world provides an honest look at domestic violence that people need to know about — it’s not as simple as Russell yelling at her or hitting her, and then her leaving. It’s a continuous cycle that is complicated; that pushes people away; that leaves people feeling empty and lost.

“I would often say, ‘Just hit me so we can get this over with,'” Taylor told host Andy Cohen, concerning Russell’s abuse. She explained that it gets to be routine, that it becomes easier not to fight the inevitable rather than make things worse. That she was at such a loss for how to stop the domestic violence, she invited cameras from BravoTV into her home in hopes that their watchful gaze would reduce Russell’s violent behavior. Adrienne commented that she thinks the cameras saved Taylor’s life — I agree.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one-third of female homicide victims were killed by their partner. In 70 to 80 percent of intimate partner homicide cases, the man had a history of abusing the woman. There are 16,800 domestic partner homicides each year — a number higher than the death rate of HIV, emphysema, or gun-related assaults that ended in death. Russell’s rage was so uncontrollable that, according to Taylor’s new memoir, he once told her that he was afraid he was going to kill her.

In the end, the cameras did put pressure on Russell to shape up, as he lamented Bravo’s painting him as a villain during the show’s first season. He blamed the show for slanderously ruining his life, career, and marriage, but more than anything I think he really blamed the show for putting a spotlight on his abusive ways and for publicizing his abusive actions — something he most certainly wanted to keep private.

Her plan was an interesting twist that showcased both her privilege and vulnerability — few women could end abuse by inviting cameras from a reality show inside their homes, yet her struggle was similar to any woman of any class who is dealing with domestic violence — she was trapped in a state of financial insecurity, destroyed self-confidence, and constant fear.

“Some days I still wake up and think, ‘Am I supposed to be doing this, am I supposed to be doing that?’ because I’m used to someone being there and telling me what I can and can’t do … I’m able to make my own decisions now and it’s hard,” Taylor told Andy. Camille chimed in, citing ex-husband Kelsey Grammar’s emotional abuse and controlling nature, and the complexity of this violence really reared its ugly head. You try to please that person, but nothing is good enough, and eventually your own self-image is tarnished by this abuser ingraining his own ideas in your head — that you’re dumb, worthless, and constantly disappointing.

And even more confusing to the ladies was Taylor’s insistence that, after sharing with them details of Russell’s abuse, they come to be friends with him. “I was very confused by it because one moment she’s telling this story that’s horrific to hear … but on the other end she wants us to like him,” Camille said. Lisa described one of the texts she saw from Russell to Taylor, in which Lisa said that “[Russell] called her an f-ing whore to start off with, he called her a piece of shit.”

It’s a tough road to walk — in trying to piece together her marriage, Taylor really couldn’t undo the months and maybe years of confiding she had done, telling her friends about Russell’s violence. She might’ve thought things would be better if Russell felt more welcome around her friends, that maybe even being around her friends more and at more social events could help reduce the violence — no one knows but Taylor. Some of the women took this as evidence of Taylor’s dishonesty, but really it speaks to her really hoping that starting from scratch would provide a different outcome — that her friends and Russell getting along would ease tension and change the abuse. But it was merely trying to put a band-aid in the wrong place, not an attempt to deceive her friends. Perhaps in convincing her friends it wasn’t that bad, she was hoping to suppress the abuse in her own mind, too.

Something Taylor said at the beginning of the episode was very telling: Russell was extremely narcissistic, often telling Taylor how much everyone loved him. This self-importance and ego perhaps drove him to react violently when questioned, to demand control over every aspect of Taylor’s life, to think that Bravo was the reason that his life was tumbling down — not able to see the wrong in his own actions or take any responsibility for them. When it comes to dating, this extreme narcissism is a definite red flag.

And so I’ve been writing about domestic violence for paragraphs and paragraphs, and I know it might not be as scintillating as the gossip about Adrienne’s chef, Bernie, dissing Lisa. But it’s important that this show, the epitome of glitz and glamour, not shy away from these real life problems that people of all classes face. What am amazing, public platform for raising awareness about domestic violence — its complexity, its heartache, its tragedy.

I don’t care if people are attracted by the drama of it all — I just hope they leave the reunion special with more education on the topic. Yes, it’s ridiculous that one of the housewives’ friends owns a pair of $25,000 sunglasses — but it’s also ridiculous that so many women are assaulted and murdered each year by their partners. And I’m glad this realty show is at least introducing this conversation into the world.

RHONY reunion: Success, alcoholism not mutually exclusive

August 3, 2011

On the second part of the Real Housewives of New York reunion special last night, there was a lot of bickering and interrupting and eye-rolling. But what really stuck out was the discussion about whether Ramona is an alcoholic, and Ramona’s subsequent declaration that she couldn’t be so successful if she had a problem with alcohol.

This is when the term “functioning alcoholic” was thrown around, with the blond side of the couch saying the term was an oxymoron and that you can’t be successful and be addicted to alcohol. Now I’m not saying Ramona is an alcoholic — I can’t simply as a viewer of an edited TV show diagnose her. But I can take issue with her comments that (1) wine isn’t alcohol and (2) if she were an alcoholic, she wouldn’t be able to manage a successful empire.

Firstly, wine is alcohol. It might be classier than beer or liquor in social circles, and it might be good for your health depending on the medical studies you read. But it still is a type of alcohol, still can cause liver disease like any other type of alcohol, and still can breed and feed an alcohol addiction.

And “functioning alcoholics” are common, as about half of all alcoholics are high-functioning. They have college degrees, good jobs, families, and to the outside world seem very successful. It’s really dangerous to adopt and publicize the notion that alcoholism and success are mutually exclusive, because it misleads an audience that might use that explanation to shrug off their own alcoholism or the alcoholism of a friend or family member.

Sarah Allen Benton, author of the book Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic, told The New York Times that this enabled her own alcoholism:

Having outside accomplishments led me and others to excuse my drinking and avoid categorizing me as an alcoholic. My success was the mask that disguised the underlying demon and fed my denial.

We have a lot of mental profiles for what we think specific people look like — we think a drug addict looks like X, a terrorist looks like Y, an alcoholic looks like Z. We probably wouldn’t look at President George W. Bush, Winston Churchill, Stephen King, or Mary Tyler Moore and think “alcoholic,” because we think addiction is obvious and conspicuous. But these people and many other prominent faces, as well as countless other successful people, have been addicted to alcohol privately while enjoying success publicly.

High-functioning alcoholics often implant themselves in scenes where there are a lot of other people drinking so they blend into the crowd, and their success sinks them into a deeper denial than a non-high-functioning alcoholic because they don’t see a problem — if the money and opportunity keep rolling in, why mess with the formula? Regardless, they still constantly think about drinking, have trouble with controlling how much they drink, and use alcohol as a reward for their successes.

Also, alcoholism can be a deadly disease, and I don’t appreciate the housewives who scoffed at the idea that successful people could be alcoholics. It wasn’t just that some of them were trying to defend Ramona because she was their friend and being attacked by several people for her penchant for pinot gregio — it was that there was an air of superiority in how they quickly labeled as absurd the idea that a successful person would fall victim to alcohol abuse. Newsflash: alcoholism isn’t just for the plebeians.

Click here for information about alcoholism, support groups, and professional treatment.

Rihanna is more than a dating violence victim

July 14, 2011

On Twitter, Love Is Respect linked to this Huffington Post piece about Rihanna being a poster woman for domestic violence — the question alongside the link was, “This editorial puts a lot of pressure on Rihanna—how do you feel about it?” Well, here goes nothin’.

I think that expecting someone who goes through trauma to become a spokesperson for that cause is too much pressure. Does Rihanna being a celebrity mean that, if she chose to do public service announcements about dating violence, a wider audience would pay attention and become aware? Of course. Does her celebrity mean that her path to dealing with trauma should be public and/or dictated by the public? Absolutely not.

The article is a response to her latest video for “Man Down.” In the video, a man sexually assaults her and she later kills him. Someone suggested that Rihanna should do a PSA for the end of the video because the video itself sends the wrong message about dealing with assault. Though I think raising awareness about dating violence in the media is important, why are we relying just on Rihanna? And why are we viewing every artistic move she makes in the context of “Rihanna the victim” instead of “Rihanna the musician”?

Her experience with dating violence might filter through to songs. Maybe it doesn’t. Regardless, our initial, default reaction shouldn’t be, “Oh, how do these lyrics relate to when Chris Brown assaulted her?” In the article, author Lois Alter Mark asks, “[W]hy are we still blaming the victim?” in regard to judging Rihanna’s violent music video. I think a better question is, “Why are we only looking at Rihanna as a victim?”

Don’t forget that sexual assault is all about power, control

May 18, 2011

Though I do appreciate Washington Post columnist Matt Miller’s focus on why men rape — rather than the usual focus of what did the victim do that invited the rape — his analysis unfortunately doesn’t mention a key motivation for men who sexually assault: power.

Miller asks if Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s womanizing reputations are “merely extreme examples of a beast that lurks within all men,” but far too often the culpability for sexual assault falls on testosterone or primal urge. He interviews his wife about this quandary, who replies:

“That drive for sex seems to overcome every rational, moral anchor that otherwise ‘good’ men have,” Jody says. Because men are so susceptible to this, it gives some women enormous power — as Cleopatra and others through the ages have shrewdly sensed. But most women are subject to abuse because of these male urges.

But sexual assault and rape aren’t just about men who are trying to quench their insatiable sexual urges. They are about power and control more than mere sexual satisfaction, and that is essential to understanding the motivation behind sexual assault.

Ben Stein’s defense of DSK: Economists don’t rape people

May 18, 2011

Ben Stein thinks that economists can’t be rapists or sexual assailants because, I mean, have you ever heard of an economist raping someone? I guess since you can’t think of one off the top of your head, it means economists aren’t rapists. This wise piece of evidence is just one of several ridiculous defenses of Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), who was recently accused of sexually assaulting and attempting to rape a hotel maid in New York City on May 15.

I’ve heard a lot of different defenses against these allegations. That he fell victim to a “honey trap,” an attempt to sabotage him both as the powerful head of the IMF and the strongest challenger to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, is the most popular conspiracy theory, as it was with Julian Assange’s sexual assault allegations in the wake of Wikileaks’ growing prominence in the media. But Ben Stein’s take the cake — either they are typical victim-blaming/ignorant claims, or they are simply non-sensical. Let’s take a look, shall we?

1. If he is such a womanizer and violent guy with women, why didn’t he ever get charged until now?

I don’t have a law degree, but I’m going to say that “he didn’t get caught before” isn’t a solid explanation for why someone is innocent of all charges. Someone should tell Ben Stein that people do, in fact, get away with crimes. Sometimes, they get away with a lot of crimes and aren’t caught until much later. Sometimes they are never caught. My mom has been driving for nearly 40 years and hasn’t gotten a speeding ticket — but that doesn’t mean she never speeds (she rarely isn’t speeding, actually …).

But what I think Ben is trying to imply is that if he had a long history of violence toward women, surely something would have come out before now. A journalist claims she wanted to come forward about being sexually assaulted but was convinced not to for political reasons. While being powerful might lead one to more public scrutiny, it also leads one to being able to hide a lot of information. Whether it be through cash, other bribes, or intimidation, people with power and money can keep things swept under the rug for a long time.

Oh, and there’s also a huge stigma around sexual assault that influences underreporting — in fact, about 60 percent of rapes and sexual assaults aren’t reported to police. The trauma of sexual assault, any threats the sexual assailant might have made if the victim reports the crime, the self-blaming, the victim-blaming, and the re-opening of trauma that would happen in a courtroom, lead people to shy away from reporting sexual assaults. So, many people get away with it.

2. In life, events tend to follow patterns. People who commit crimes tend to be criminals, for example. Can anyone tell me any economists who have been convicted of violent sex crimes?

Oh shit, Ben Stein! You’re so right! People who commit crimes tend to be employed as “criminals,” and they don’t usually hold any other jobs. People’s jobs are values-based, with economists being on the morally superior scale of the spectrum, and those other people being “criminals.” Because, again, all criminals are duly accused of crimes and never get away with it, and criminals do not assume identities as people with non-criminal jobs.

Did you know, Ben Stein, that people suspect an economist from Zimbabwe (also a noted “womanizer”) raped an 11-year-old girl? Or that CEO of American Apparel, Dov Charney, has been accused of sexual assault? Did you know that in the Catholic church there’s a lot of controversy about some priests molesting children? Did you know that people can be successful financially and professionally but still be really terrible and violent?

Also, did you know that “undetected rapists” are prevalent in society? These are people who have raped other people but haven’t been caught or convicted. In fact, nearly two-thirds of undetected rapists are serial rapists (is that the same as “womanizer”?). So there definitely could be a pattern here, if you accept that people who don’t look like criminals might actually be criminals, and that someone’s personal characteristics — whether it be gender, race, class, job, etc. — don’t automatically exclude them from criminal activity, in the same way they don’t guarantee criminal activity.

3. The prosecutors say that Mr. Strauss-Kahn “forced” the complainant to have oral and other sex with him. How? Did he have a gun? Did he have a knife? He’s a short fat old man. They were in a hotel with people passing by the room constantly, if it’s anything like the many hotels I am in. How did he intimidate her in that situation? And if he was so intimidating, why did she immediately feel un-intimidated enough to alert the authorities as to her story?

I just had to include the entire question here. Oddly enough, undetected rapists “use psychological weapons – power, control, manipulation, and threats – backed up by physical force, and almost never resort to weapons such as knives or guns,” but that’s just food for thought. And yeah Ben Stein, maybe he did have a weapon. Or maybe he threatened her. Or maybe she was so scared since he had allegedly already physically attacked her that she was terrified what would happen otherwise.

Him being a short, fat man doesn’t mean anything. So if he did sexually assault her, it’s her fault because he looks non-threatening to another old man? Of course you don’t think DSK is threatening Ben Stein, because you aren’t worried he might attack you and sexually assault you. So good for you for thinking he is not intimidating, but you’re also not a likely target of this alleged “womanizer.”

And how many people do you think pass by a $3,000 a night suite in a hotel? I doubt it’s like the Holiday Inn where rooms are cramped together. But even so, maybe people did hear and just walked past. People do this all the time. And even if it was a populated place, does that mean that rape can’t happen in populated places? People are sexually assaulted on subways and trains all the time, with plenty of people watching. And being intimidated while a guy is attacking you is different than when you’ve escaped and the guy isn’t around anymore. (And maybe you’re terrified he’ll find you again if you don’t get him arrested?)

4. Did the prosecutors really convince a judge that he was a flight risk when he was getting on a flight he had booked long beforehand?

It doesn’t make a difference when he booked the flight — it makes a difference that the alleged sexual assault occurred right before he knew he was about the board a flight, that he was heading back to a country that wouldn’t extradite him, and that he is a powerful, rich man who has the means to skip town if awarded bail.

5. Did he really have to be put in Riker’s Island? Couldn’t he have been given home detention with a guard? This is a man with a lifetime of public service, on a distinguished level, to put it mildly.

Sorry, but you don’t get to trade good deeds for bad ones. Being a distinguished guy doesn’t mean you should get special treatment when charged with sexual assault and attempted rape. Though I’ll admit that everything I know about Riker’s Island I learned from Law & Order: SVU.

6. What do we know about the complainant besides that she is a hotel maid? I love and admire hotel maids. They have incredibly hard jobs and they do them uncomplainingly. I am sure she is a fine woman. On the other hand, I have had hotel maids that were complete lunatics, stealing airline tickets from me, stealing money from me, throwing away important papers, stealing medications from me.

I see why Ben Stein is so confused — he’s never known an economist who was violent toward women so they don’t exist, and he knew a hotel maid who was a thief (aka criminal) so they all must be criminals. My little brother stole my Pokemon cards when I was 12, and I’ve been suspicious of all other little brothers I encounter ever since. Also, under this mode of thinking, can I assume all former presidential speech writers and game show hosts are ridiculous and ignorant when it comes to sexual assault?

7. Right off the bat [Diane Sawyer] leads the Monday news by saying that Mr. Strauss-Kahn is in Riker’s… “because one woman stood her ground…” That assumes she’s telling the truth and he’s guilty. No such thing has been proved and it’s unfortunate for ABC to simply assume that an accusation is the same as a conviction.

OK Ben, I’ll agree with you on this one. Charges and convictions are not the same thing, so people — especially journalists — should be careful to note that DSK is an alleged sexual assailant.

8. In what possible way is the price of the hotel room relevant except in every way: this is a case about the hatred of the have-nots for the haves, and that’s what it’s all about. A man pays $3,000 a night for a hotel room? He’s got to be guilty of something. Bring out the guillotine.

Boo hoo. I think the price of the hotel room is important because it illustrates that DSK is a wealthy man, and likely a powerful man, too. His wealth is a talking point for people who think he’s guilty because it makes him a flight risk, and his wealth points to his power, and his power might be involved in this alleged sexually assault; his wealth is a talking point for people who think he’s innocent, and that he is a target for sabotage because of his wealth and power. It’s important.

But poor people do always revolt against rich people who have been committing crimes and misdeeds. That’s why Charlie Sheen — who has an extensive history of violence against women, drug use, etc. — is on the guillotine right now. Oh wait — he’s selling out concert venues on his tour and is really popular right now. I guess just being rich doesn’t automatically make people hate you? (I really wish this were true Ben, in the case of Charlie.)

______________________________

I don’t know if Ben Stein was trying to be satirical, but I am afraid he is genuinely serious here. (And even if he isn’t, there are a lot of people who likely believe these defenses are solid.) The ideas that the only criminals who exist have a documented criminal history, that victims of crimes aren’t silenced or intimidated into silence, that a woman can’t be forced to perform oral sex, that a powerful man isn’t a flight risk — I just can’t help but staring at my computer screen and thinking, “WTF? People used to compete against your intelligence to win money and they often lost?”

Society’s stance on sexual violence makes me a bit sad

April 21, 2011

Tonight is the annual Take Back the Night (TBTN) march and rally at my alma mater, Ohio University. The march is the culmination of a week of events and activities meant to raise awareness about violence against women, and it typically is women-only, with men encouraged to support from the sidelines. Unfortunately though, I’ve had a pessimistic outlook on the fight against violence against women lately.

First, Charlie Sheen. Ugh. That people want to be “TeamSheen” and that Sheen has such a colorful, vast history of violence against women is extremely disheartening. His history involves gunshots, knives, death threats, and other forms of physical and verbal abuse. To this day he still threatens both his ex-wives publicly, and yet most people remain unfazed. I’ve heard he makes $200,000 per show — just five shows where he freely calls female audience members sluts and he’s banked $1,000,000. Is the price of seeing Sheen’s trainwreck in person worth the price of supporting an abuser?

Justin Bieber recently said Sheen was the most influential person in the world right now. This is scary for two reasons: (1) because young girls take Bieber’s word as the gospel, so if Bieber is saying Sheen is “winning” in a positive light then that’s worrisome because young girls might think Bieber is condoning that behavior and might then think it’s OK if guys treat them that way; and (2) because Bieber himself is a young teenage guy, being influenced by the douchebag that is Charlie Sheen, does he laugh off Sheen’s violence, too? Does he think it’s cool to act like Sheen?

That someone can have such a public, violent history of attacking women yet still get support from the general public is … ridiculous? Unbelievable? Depressing?

Second, at my alma mater this weekend, there were three sexual assaults reported. Of the alleged sexual assaults, one was at knifepoint in a church parking lot, one was in a fraternity house, and one was in an off-campus apartment complex. Police don’t think the sexual assaults are related, but it’s nonetheless terrible to hear of just one sexual assault, let along a string of three sexual assaults.

But I’m preparing to hear outcries that the two non-knife-related assaults are just cases of women getting too drunk and choosing to have sex, but then regretting it in the morning and calling it rape. Or that they were wearing clothing that showed a millimeter of skin so they were inviting it. Or that the women were drinking so this means it’s not really sexual assault. People don’t even need evidence that alcohol was involved — merely hearing that it was a Friday or Saturday night on a college campus is enough evidence for the court of public opinion to assume this scenario.

This goes with my third reason for disillusionment, courtesy of The New York Times. A police officer was accused of raping a woman that he was supposed to see get home safely after she had been drinking during the night, but the Times article doesn’t hesitate to illustrate for the reader why her story might not be credible:

Still, the prosecution’s case may rely heavily on the credibility of a woman who was admittedly drunk at the time she says she was sexually assaulted, and cannot recall large portions of the evening.

As Ms. Magazine points out, alcohol doesn’t make you hallucinate or create false memories. And the officer admitted to her on tape that he had sex with her that night. The line of consent here is crystal clear — the on-duty officer was perfectly sober and aware that (1) she was too drunk to consent and (2) his job was merely to make sure she got home safely, not to try to have sex with her.

I’m so sick of hearing “… but she was drinking …” as an excuse for sexual violence, because it implies that if women don’t want to be sexually assaulted, then they shouldn’t drink alcohol (blaming the victim instead of the assailant). OK, so what else should women to do avoid sexual assault? Not wear skirts? Not go outside? Not talk to anyone of the opposite sex ever again? It’s like if you weren’t attacked with a deadly weapon by a stranger in an alley, then the public doesn’t think your story holds water. About one-quarter of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a stranger — the vast majority are by non-strangers, yet we still are more skeptical when the suspect is a non-stranger. The statistics don’t lie, but we’re far too easily convinced that the victims do.

I’m not sure this ramble was very cohesive, but society’s attitude toward sexual violence frustrates me. Charlie Sheen made $2 million per episode on Two and a Half Men, $1 million per five shows on his current “tour,” and his violent nature toward women has never stopped his success. The line of consent between drunken people is blurry, but society still errs on the side of “she probably just regretted it in the morning” when it comes to women reporting sexual assaults.

But it’s not healthy to just dwell on the negatives, which is why the TBTN march and rally are so great. Women can gather together, march together, shout together, and really have a loud, collective voice that is otherwise often unheard. So if you’re at Ohio University’s main campus today (April 21), go to the Scripps amphitheater at 7:30 p.m. for a rally and then a march to raise awareness about sexual violence. We’ve got a long way to go to change the social stigma around sexual violence, but it’ll never change if we stay silent about it.

P.S. Check out this informative article about the stigma around reporting sexual assault, via The Post, Ohio University’s independently run student newspaper.

Gaga saying “retarded” contradicts equality-driven persona

April 21, 2011

Lady Gaga, why are you trying to piss me off so much lately? Specifically, why do you keep using derogatory language in song lyrics and interviews? As someone who wants to define herself as a leader in the social justice movement and a champion of equal rights, why do you use language that is intended to make people feel unequal? As someone who acts as a “mother monster” to the “little monsters” who are taunted, ridiculed, and not accepted by society, why are you othering people even more? WTF?

Let me explain. Lady Gaga said this in a recent interview, in which the interviewer asked about the accusations that Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” was a ripoff off Madonna’s “Express Yourself”:

No. Listen to me. Why the f**k? I’m a songwriter…Why would I try to put out a song and think I’m getting one over on everybody? That’s retarded. If you put the songs next to each other, side by side, the only similarities are the chord progression. It’s the same on that’s been in disco music for the last 50 years. Just because I’m the first f**king artist in 25 years to think of putting it on Top 40 radio, it doesn’t mean I’m a plagiarist. It means I’m f**king smart. Sorry.

Really Lady Gaga? REALLY? I despise the word “retarded” when used as a synonym for stupid, moronic, dumb, etc. It makes me cringe; it makes my blood boil. And I never thought I’d see the day when Gaga — maven of the people who feel left out, who feel othered, who feel like they don’t belong, who are ridiculed, who aren’t “normal” by society’s standards — would use a word that synonymizes being disabled with being a moron. That’s ableist language — language that implies that if you have a disability, you are less of a person. (Go here for a fantastic description of ableist language and why it’s problematic.)

But it’s not the first time that Gaga’s language has made her fans feel uneasy. In February, Feministing posted an open letter to Lady Gaga that outlined why words she uses in her song “Born This Way” — “chola” and “orient-made” — were racist:

Maybe you know people who refer to themselves as “Cholas”. And that’s fine for them. It’s called “reappropriating the pejorative” – the same thing as what you do with the word “bitch”. But you can’t reappropriate if you’re not part of the group that the pejorative is applied to. So you can call yourself a “bitch” or “guidette” as much as you like – but use the word “Chola”? Not so much.

The author of this blog gave Gaga the benefit of the doubt, as “chola” has different meanings depending on where you say it geographically, and many people don’t know “oriental” has racist undertones. It was instructional rather than an attack, meant as a lesson for a 24-year-old young woman who might not be aware that in some circles those words are hurtful.

I get that people can’t be politically correct 100 percent of the time, but I hold Gaga to a higher standard. As someone who has built her career as the voice for the outcasts, as someone who was called a freak, as someone who was bullied, as someone who wants to make equality a reality, I expect her to live by those words. But when she freely throws around the term “retarded,” it makes me think she is full of bullshit.

And it’s not just her — throughout social justice movements, people focus on causes that affect them and don’t pay enough attention to the other inequalities around them. There were/are sexists and homo/transphobic people in the civil rights movement; there were/are racists and homo/transphobic people in the feminist movement; there were/are racists and sexists in the gay rights movement; there are ableists in all these movements, and some of these -ists are in the disability rights movement. Sometimes they aren’t malicious, but just ignorant. It hampers unity within and among movements, which can hamper their ability to achieve their goals.

It’s frustrating to see Lady Gaga follow this path of advocating equality for some while actively perpetuating inequality for others. Is she just naive? Does she think she is above scrutiny? Does this speak to her own privilege? I don’t know; it’s probably a combination of all three. But recognizing your own privilege and learning about what privilege other people lack is an integral part of the social justice movement — especially for someone trying to be a leader in it. I’m waiting to see if she responds or apologizes. Until then, I’m questioning her “Mother Monster” persona — inclusive for some outcasts, but not for others.

Update: Lady Gaga has apologized for the remark, saying:

I consider it part of my life’s work and music to push the boundaries of love and acceptance. My apologies for not speaking thoughtfully. To anyone that was hurt, please know that it was furiously unintentional. An honest mistake, requires honesty to make. “Whether life’s disabilities, left you outcast bullied or teased, rejoice and love yourself today.”

This apology is meh to me. Maybe I’m just still annoyed about the whole thing … maybe it’s because quoting song lyrics you wrote to prove you aren’t ableist seems even worse. Almost like, “Hey, I’m not racist, I have a friend who is [insert ethnicity here]!”

Quick note: Celebrities are human, too (aka don’t mess with Britney)

April 14, 2011

This just in: Celebrities are human, too.

I’ve been seeing a lot of hate toward Britney Spears lately for her performances of singles from her new album. People say she’s lost her touch and can’t dance like she used to, and that this makes her performances lackluster and lame. Then I read about how Tiger Woods has lost his golf touch. Whether their life crises has directly affected their talent is questionable — maybe they’re just getting old? Has anyone thought of that?

Spears is nearly 30, but she’s been performing professionally practically non-stop for 15+ years. Woods is 35, but he’s been golfing professionally for nearly 15 years as well. Both also were non-professionally honing their craft from an early age, Spears since age 3 and Woods since age 2. Isn’t it feasible that they are simply running out of steam after decades of putting their bodies through constant physical stress? We accept that athletes’ careers are very short because of the physical toll it takes; so why are so many people surprised that the same would happen to Spears or Woods?

This just agitates me because we put celebrities on these pedestals, and it makes it harder for them to live up to these expectations, and it only puts higher expectations on ourselves. We wonder why they are gaining weight and looking older, so they go get plastic surgery and crash diet so that the public doesn’t judge them; then we look at those same celebrities and feel inadequate because we don’t look as nearly perfect. Celebrities might get airbrushed so they don’t have any skin pores or wrinkles, but that’s not reality — they get old, and they can’t keep the same pace as their 18-year-old selves.

Sorry, but Britney will always be Britney in my book. I don’t care if she doesn’t dance like she did in the early 2000s, and I don’t even care if she lip-syncs all her songs. She’s made her mark in the music industry and is a great performer, and I don’t expect she’ll always dance like she did as a teenager or young 20-something. Also under this category, file “assuming female celebrities are pregnant because they don’t have rock solid flat stomachs or because their clothes are at a certain angle.” Ugh.

Charlie Sheen’s bosses should’ve stepped in sooner

March 1, 2011

After reading this insightful article about how Charlie Sheen’s public, violent behavior toward women didn’t get him fired but insulting his boss did, I began to wonder about the connection between work productivity and personal problems. Should employers or co-workers get involved in an employee’s personal problems? Sometimes, yes. In the spectrum of personal problems, the problems that can lead to the harm of that co-worker or someone else at the hands of that co-worker do merit intervention.

Sheen’s behavior is a perfect example. Initially, Sheen was still showing up to work on time — but in the midst of that, both Denise Richards and Brooke Mueller accused him of physical and verbal abuse, with Mueller claiming that Sheen put a knife to her throat. That didn’t happen on-set, but it speaks to Sheen’s violent character — someone who could seriously hurt another person, even one of his co-workers (he later allegedly threatened a hired escort, too). But, the violence and negative publicity financially was a win for the network, as ratings for Two and a Half Men went up as a result.

But, eventually, Sheen stopped being a “functioning” addict/abuser. Production was halted because of his absence from work, staff members weren’t getting paid, and the rest of this season’s shows and production schedule were canceled — only after Sheen publicly embarrassed his boss by insulting him. Too bad his boss didn’t see the violent way Sheen acted behind the scenes as equally embarrassing.

Are employers supposed to be watchdogs for any and all personal problems? Of course not. But if they (1) could lead to someone being hurt and/or (2) affect work performance, then an employer shouldn’t hesitate to step in. Some people think the NFL shouldn’t have suspended Ben Roethlisberger at the beginning of last season because the sexual assault allegations against him were dropped, but I didn’t mind — as the ones who pay him lots of money to play football every season, they wanted to send him a message that they weren’t going to tolerate behavior that would negatively affect his work performance. (And in my own wishful thinking, that behavior that would harm women wouldn’t be tolerated, either.)

And there is simple human decency. No one has the right to abuse anyone else — not even if they are married and in their home — and it’s irresponsible for all his bosses to know that several women have accused him of manic, violent episodes, and to then continue to write him checks for $2 million an episode because he shows up to work; in this case, they could have taken preventative actions to help ensure both his well-being and the well-being of the people around him. Instead, they chose to milk his violent outbursts and the attached publicity for all it was worth, until the people getting hurt were the bosses themselves.

Sheen, in an interview with TMZ, said that what someone does on the weekend isn’t the business of his or her employer, and said that if he were in charge of a “star,” he would do whatever made the star happy because Hollywood is a business and the star makes the money. Of course, that’s Sheen’s point of view — that because he brings in the ratings (more so when he makes headlines for attacking women or going on drug benders), people should cater to him. Unfortunately, his employers did that for way too long.