Wednesday, October 10, 2012

More Normal Conversation

Entrepreneur and I are in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner—or rather, I’m cleaning and he’s keeping me company, as he cooked the entire meal for me earlier while I lay in bed, as my back was acting up again, and I lay there and healed and drank ginger beer and and read Alison Bechdel, which is a really wonderful way to spend one’s time while your lover is slaving away over a George Forman for you, and I highly recommend it.

ANYWAY, AS I WAS SAYING. It’s rather late and we have just watched Real Time with Bill Maher, as we are wont to do, and therefore we have just learned that Ann Coulter will be a guest on the show next week, along with Ben Affleck, which is pretty much must-see-TV.

“She’s gotten crazier,” E said, around a spoonful of ice cream.

“Yeah, I agree,” I said. “I remember when she first came on the scene, and she was mainly famous because she was a conservative Republican and wore leopard-print miniskirts, and had long blond hair. Ashley’s character from the West Wing was based partly on her, remember? Because at first they thought she was just trying to get into show business, and then she turned out to know something. Ainsley, that is. NOT Ann Coulter.”

“We used to call her Brown-shirt Barbie,” E said, chuckling.

I grinned slightly. “I can understand the Barbie reference, although I have some issues with that term, but I don’t understand the brownshirt reference! Can you help?”

“They’re the original paramilitary arm of the Nazi party who  helped bring Adolf Hitler to power,” he informed me.

“Ah. That makes sense. I don’t like ‘Barbie’ as a term in general, though. It over simplifies and over generalizes the issues surrounding women in politics and how their looks affect their reputation, while at the same time dismissing the entire woman and the entire discussion of why looks are or aren’t important! Now, THAT’S an impressive sellout word.”

He is quiet, eating his ice cream, allowing me space to talk. We talk about gender a lot less than you might think, given our particular relationship, or put another way, the particulars of our relationship. He was raised by two mothers; his cousin just married her girlfriend of many years; he majored in Psychology. He does the cooking and stays home with the dog, and so far he has brushed my dog, too, more often than I have in the last two years, and often does the laundry. I go to work at a high-powered job all day and am spending my weekends helping run his business on the side. We break traditional gender roles like we breathe—which is maybe why we don’t talk about them much. We just are. And there are pitfalls, too—he has horror stories about his experiences in the psych department of his college, and his mother and I have precious little patience to hear about how difficult HIS life has been, gender-wise.

So we don’t talk about it much, not because it’s taboo but because it doesn’t seem to get us anywhere and I love our relationship, however it runs.

But I’m serious about this Barbie word and so, uncharacteristically, I’m off and running. “It’s like when they called Palin, ‘Caribou Barbie’, just because she was pretty. I mean, to give credit where credit is due, I don’t think she attempted to use her looks once in the whole campaign—it’s just about the only dirty trick she DIDN’T try to use. And even so, the media went crazy about the cost of her suits and her makeover, getting her out of those mom sweaters, and such. Like John McCain wore Mens Warehouse! But no one fussed over how much HIS image consultant spent on clothes.”

“Yes, that’s true,” E said, gently. “But I think they called her that because she had so little SUBSTANCE. I mean, ‘Barbie’ is a completely accurate assessment, there.”

I thought about it. “Yeah, I can see that.”

And I did, but I was still bothered. And I came to a conclusion of why it bothered me later, but most unusually for me I saved it until the blog, because it wasn’t worth re-hashing all that again.

And here it is: If you’re going to use the word “Barbie” about Sarah Palin, you can’t accurately use it about Ann Coulter, and vice versa. “Barbie” means too many things, and that derogative smears both ladies in a particularly obfuscating way. Calling Palin a “Barbie” apparently means, “She has little to no substance”. Whereas calling Coulter a “Barbie” apparently means, “She is overly reliant on her looks as a tool”.

And THAT’S dangerous. Really dangerous. Because if you describe Ann Coulter as a Barbie too many times, you might convince yourself—or the liberals you’re talking to—that she ALSO has “little to no substance”.

And now, suddenly, you’re no longer treating her like a theat.

I mean, this is ANN EFFING COULTER! She’s a threat!! She’s Defcon 4! Don’t forget it, ever. I don’t care what you call her, but don’t forget who she is and what she represents. I WISH she had “little to no substance”. What a wonderful world that would be.

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