Jon and I were watching a comedian recently that had come highly recommended as “absolutely hilarious.” I made it through five minutes before I couldn’t take it anymore.
This “comedian,” and I am not withholding his name for his protection, but because he was so remarkably unfunny that I can’t remember what it was, annoyed the shit out of me very quickly. He started his set by talking about his other job, apart from comedy, which was selling onesies outside of abortion clinics that said things like “Come on, mommy, we can make it!” Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Hilarious, right? Because women choose to have abortions for such silly little reasons that a onesie can change their mind and all the life circumstances that led them to the clinic in the first place! I nearly busted my gut with non-laughter. He then proceeded to launch into a rant about “fucking fat bitches.” “Have you ever fucked a fat bitch who **insert various nonsensical or stereotypical hurtful bullshit**?” I don’t really have a problem with the word “bitch,” even when it is used by men, but context is everything. You can tell when someone is using it to express a deep loathing of the women. You can hear the venom in their voices. After listen to him describe over a dozen types of fat bitches, never once using any other word than “bitch” in place of woman, I was done. Jon and I looked at each other and without needing to say a word, turned the shit off.
We talked about it afterwards, me wondering why our friend had recommended it. Jon’s response surprised me. He said, “I might have found it funnier if I hadn’t been watching it with you. Sometimes I just want to take my ‘Fuck the Patriarchy’ hat off every once in awhile and enjoy something without having to think about it.” Let me stress, my husband is an excellent and supportive ally. He wears a button on his hat that says “This is What a Feminist Looks Like.” He does an incredible job of being mindful of his privilege, and doesn’t get pissed off if you check him on it when he forgets. He didn’t make this comment to be a jerk, and he didn’t say it because he thinks referring to women as bitches is high comedy. He meant that sometimes, just every once in awhile, it would be nice to be ignorant of all the injustices in the world and laugh at stupid shit. It’s the “progressive fatigue,” the “feminist fatigue,” or all the other fatigues that set in when you are no longer ignorant of how fucking unfair the world is. And I don’t fault him one bit, because sometimes I feel the exact same way. Sometimes, I really wish I could take off my feminist hat, too.
There is media that I consume, and often enjoy, that I often feel would be grounds for having my feminist card revoked. A few examples– I watch Real Time with Bill Maher, which to many makes me one of the worst people ever. I like The Big Bang Theory, even though I know its depictions are stereotypical and tiresome. I read Us Weekly. I know many find these problematic. I know consuming some of them furthers the misconceptions they foster. I enjoy some of them because they offer me something mindless to do when I am doing other things. Many would argue that I shouldn’t. Many would have incredibly valid reasons why I shouldn’t. And yet, here I am.
It’s not that I enjoy these few examples without any context. I don’t believe any of them, or any other “acceptable” media (who can forget when a certain ladyblog dared to question The Daily Show‘s dearth of female writers. Oy, the shitstorm) are above reproach. I can’t remember the last time I watched a Real Time where I didn’t say, “Oh, Bill, come on. If you are going to say something sexist, at least make it funny.” I still watch because he has incredibly interesting people on sometimes, and he does, on occasion, make some excellent points about the world around us that are being ignored. And while the writing has grown tired much of the time, there are occasions where he has referenced his feminist detractors in a way that makes me think he is willing to listen, at the very least, which is more than I can say for many, maybe even most, mass media figures.
But the reality is, I am making excuses because I enjoy these things. I would like to say I never support anything that doesn’t further a progressive point of view, but I can’t. I try my best to support shows, movies, websites, or ventures that do, but that doesn’t mean I eschew all trash media. I think (I hope, so I’m not alone in this) we all have shows we enjoy that we are often ashamed to admit to, particularly to those whose views and opinions matter to us. I struggled with whether or not to fess up to liking things that are not only hard to defend, but, let’s be honest, aren’t high art in any way. I value the opinions of the people on this site more than most of the people in my real life, and I know admitting to some of these opens me up to some harsh criticism, and it may be deserved. But I think it’s important to know that we don’t have to be perfect when it comes to feminism. It is important for me to remember that even though I have questionable taste in television, it doesn’t negate my actions in the world entirely. It also allows me to see when people who have done or said ignorant things in the past come to terms with and address those issues in a thoughtful way. Often we are quick to dismiss someone who behaves poorly because we get so tired of constantly fighting the good fight, but in doing so we may miss someone truly learning from their mistakes and making amends for them.
So fess up, everyone– what shows do you watch that you don’t admit to? This goes a little further than guilty pleasures, like my unending love of Peter Cetera. I’m talking about the shows that make your feminist or progressive friends cringe, or perhaps you are a conservative who loves Rachel Maddow. I showed you mine…