Staunchly, vol 45: Nicole Kidman Eats Bugs and the Patriarchy is Intergalactic

(Originally posted: 2/2/18)

Hi pals,
Hope you had a lovely week and that the vileness of the State of the Union did not seep into every aspect of your life.

Just an FYI that the speech was an hour and 20 minutes long which is almost the exact length of Night at the Roxbury. So, to be clear, instead of staring at that offensive face for 80 minutes you could have been watching Night at the Roxbury.


I know. I'm sad too. 


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The State of the Union was a predictable mess of performative jingoism, thinly-veiled racial hate, and fragile masculinity. Few things surprised me, but Trump trotting out the grieving mothers of two girls murdered by MS-13 gang members to stir up nativist hate was one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever seen. It’s worth taking some time to read this piece in the New Yorker about the neighborhood where the two families lived and the horrible tightrope act immigrants have to manage between gangs and law enforcement and reactionary white fury like the kind Trump loves to inflame.
Related: A writer in Baltimore is doing the Lord’s work and ancestry-trolling Trump’s restrictionist immigration goons (spoiler: they are hypocrites and chain migration is basically how we all got here).
This gorgeous, pulsing essay by Lili Loofbourow on the female price of male pleasure should be required reading for every single citizen. It should be posted on billboards and printed on burger wrappers and replace the Gideon Bible in motel nightstands.
On the topic of female pain, I’m starting to realize: all the writers fretting about the #MeToo backlash ARE the #MeToo backlash.
Case in point: this piece by Matt Damon-apologist Caitlin Flanagan in the Atlantic. It manages to be both condescending and useless (I don’t know about you but I like my condescension with a perfunctory soupçon of utility), diminishing the important work of Senator Gillibrand while adoringly quoting Bill Maher in the service of *sounding the alarm* on the limits of the #MeToo movement.
Flanagan talks about all this “unchecked” female rage in the ether like its chlorofluorocarbon from some vintage Elnett, something to be regulated before it suffocates us, and not what it actually is—a massive, swirling, chaotic tide of righteous feminist energy, promising to wash away everything that isn’t tied down. All the junk we didn’t need in the first place.
Speaking of junk we don’t need: shitty bars with grumpy, pretentious owners.
When one such owner banned the use of the word “literally” in his establishment— decrying linguistic “Kardashianism”—he was participating in the storied tradition of self-serious dudes shaming young women for the ways they communicate. Policing the modern (and distinctly female) tendency toward exaggerative speech doesn’t make you a noble grammarian. It makes you a dick.
Speaking of dicks, Alec Baldwin needs to reread To Kill a Mockingbird and lose his Twitter password because his scumminess is starting to show again.
Mika Brzezinski is by no means a feminist hero, but watching her kick Michael Wolff off “Morning Joe” for his own scummy, sexist inferences about Nikki Haley was very satisfying.
The Grammy’s proved you can no longer have your cake and eat it too when it comes to supporting women and not actually supporting them (well you can, but people will write think pieces about you!).
Also, there’s a new Google doc of men in media and it is *incendiary*. Ladies, please watch out for these oppressively mild-mannered monsters!
Also, the Bayeux Tapestry is a Brexit sub-tweet.
Skincare twitter was abuzz this week with warring (not really) pieces on, well, basically whether skincare is a giant con. Ughhhhhhhhhhh. Here’s what I think: trust women to make the right choices for themselves. Don’t assume women are sheep, blindly exfoliating our faces to a crust because Glossier tells us to. We know we are being marketed to. We can see through the bullshit. We still enjoy the olfactory pleasures of a vitamin C serum first thing in the morning and the electric tingle in our skin after a swipe of P-50.
(On the broader note of cons, my outlook on life has been inclined lately towards a sort of foppish nihilism: everything is a con. Capitalism is a con. Gender is a con. Organized religion is a con. Astrology is a con. Serums are maybe, probably a con, too. Choose the con that’s right for you.  Nothing matters, might as well moisturize.)
On the topic of grooming, NASA engineers in the ’70s and ’80s thought the first female astronauts would want to wear a full face of make-up in space (you know what—maybe they would have! Maybe not! Either way should have probably asked the women).
At this point, I’m resigned to the idea that the patriarchy is intergalactic. Can’t wait to read stories in 2075 about the gender pay gap amongst our alien overlords.

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This video of Nicole Kidman eating bugs is my version of transcendental meditation. I want the YouTube permalink etched onto my mausoleum. 

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A note on Melania
Melania’s rebrand as a feminist icon is tricky. I don’t have a ton of sympathy in my heart for a woman who willfully did her husband’s nativist bidding and time and again provides icy hot Slovenian cover for his most monstrous behavior—the elegant euro dust ruffle hiding the beast under the bed. But I’ve also stuck up for her in the past as a woman conditioned from birth to appease the male gaze and alchemize her physical gifts into some measly amount of power in this world (while still conceding she’s probably an idiot, so not a total defense—though I probably wouldn’t use such a glib dismissal today).

And it does feel like she’s trying to tell us something. The pussy bow (ok, maybe that was nothing?) The visit to the Holocaust Museum (feels like something). And now, the white Dior pantsuit she wore to the State of the Union—a cropped cream number by a feminist designer the symbolic color of spirituality, purity, new bloom. A shade and silhouette recently donned by Kesha and Hillary Clinton, women fighting for their light in the shadow of predatory men, wielding flags not of surrender but of battle.
So, ok: Is Melania radical? (lol no). An undercover agent for the Resistance Army? Or an opportunistic partner in her husband’s long con? A Tonya Harding* or a Bonnie Parker? Or perhaps just a steaming mad and exceptionally privileged white woman spending her small visual currency to send a message to a man who has hurt and disrespected her very greatly and very publicly?
My own money’s on the last one. Her flashes of insubordination are pretty delicious, but she’s no Kate Millett-reading revolutionary.
Ultimately I think that when discussing Melania, it’s worth remembering two things:

Her pain is real.
Her hands are not clean.
Three things, actually: She’s still better than Ivanka.

(*circa 2017 image rehabilitation)

Staunchly yours,