Maybe I'm getting old, maybe I'm getting even more jaded, but there are just some things out there that I just can't get upset about anymore. Yeah, Republicans are hypocrites. Yeah, the guy who's been crowing the loudest about #MeToo is a sexual predator. A virulently homophobic person is gay, gasp! Another ignorant celebrity? So what? Just change the names and relevant details and publish my old article again.
I long ago adopted a little truism I came up with, "Everything is problematic," and if I had any musical skill I would have set it to the "Everything Is Awesome" song from The Lego Movie. That's why when I learned about this article, I initially couldn't muster up the requisite amount of fucks to give to write a criticism, but then a completely unrelated thing happened that reminded me of why I came up with that truism in the first place.
So the article, published on Them, acknowledges that gay men have been calling each other "girl" and playing with gender identity and roles for centuries, but states that in our current culture and climate the practice is now problematic. It's problematic because of discomfort expressed by POCs when used by white cis gay men, and gender-nonbinary people. Yeah, and?
Everything is problematic even if it's meant to be subversive, which is literally the subtitle of the article. No matter what you do, no matter why and for what noble cause, it's going to be controversial to someone based upon subjective personal experiences and value structures. What reminded me of this was the reaction to the Met Gala on Monday, which celebrated the "subversive" pro-LGBTQ and feminist outfits of people like Lena Waithe to the Catholic-themed event. People fawned over the creativity, the bold protests, and the glamourous A-list celebrities at the event. But wouldn't all these expensive bespoke costumes created by celebrity designers and worn by beautiful people be perpetuating a system that exploits the working class and establishes barriers to escaping cycles of poverty, maintains traditional standards of beauty, and perpetuates a materialistic society?
Now, some of you are probably taking to the comments section to denounce me for marginalizing and discounting the actions of a queer black woman of color, but stop and think about it. Wealth, class, and beauty privileges are real, and there are problems with a capitalistic, materialist culture, right? Yet at the same time an act like dressing in a rainbow flag for the gala is an act of LGBTQ pride and support in the face of antigay Catholic teachings. The two can both be true and both be problematic based upon an individual's subjective value system.
Once you get outside of the world of outright bigotry and prejudice, the issues of what is and is not problematic start getting really wibbly-wobbly and subjective. I recall one article I saw where some Latinx women were calling out appropriations of "Cholo Culture," which is fine, but one of the items they listed as appropriation was large hoop earrings. Now, I know one of the stereotypes of Cholo women involves the large gold hoops, but that's honestly a stretch to say that it's unique to Cholo culture. I'm sure more than a few black and yes, even white women would take offense that it's only their thing. But you see, that's part of the problematic (heh) thing for for me -- quite often this problematic stuff seems not only subjective, but trivial.
Now, I get how a white cis gay male calling a black woman "girl" in a corrective tone can and sometimes does carry a racial connotation, but it doesn't always. I mean, we can work out those issues on a situational basis, but it's not quite the cultural and societal crisis some might make it out to be. I know some of you are going to say I'm marginalizing someone's pain and acting from a position of white privilege, and yeah, you might be right, but at the same time, I'm over here reading about another black person being assaulted by cops for "existing while black." I live in a state -- Oklahoma -- where the legislature just allowed adoption agencies to deny LGBTQ couples and single mothers to adopt children on moral grounds. Another powerful man was caught being abusive towards women and using his position to cover it up. Trump is imposing a policy that allows doctors to refuse to treat transgender and LGBTQ people. ICE is still detaining parents in front of their children, one in five children in this country are hungry, and far too many schools have no heat for the winter.
To me, a lot of this stuff that is problematic is, to borrow a phrase, "polishing the brass on the Titanic." I get that these issues are problems, hence the term "problematic," but protestations about them seem problematic in and of themselves. For someone to find the issue of gay men calling each other "girl" seriously concerning seems to ignore that many LGBTQ people are more concerned about their immediate legal rights, not to mention their safety and security. It seems to denote a certain privilege that something like that can be such a source of anxiety, when so many LGBTQ people are still assaulted, live in poverty, are denied access to services, and actively discriminated against that it warrants a very serious article. And yes, before you get to calling me out about times I have railed against the seemingly trivial, I too admit I have acted from a privileged position to rail against things that in the larger scheme of things are minor. Yes, hypocrisy is problematic. Yet go back to what I said before, problematic is often subjective.
To me, though, I think that we often call out these minor offenses and conflicts because that's all we can seemingly do. We're not repair crews, so all we have left to do is to polish the brass on the sinking ship, it seems. Fighting institutional and systemic discrimination can seem Sisyphean, and so we turn to the trivialities. We can't change the way the war is fought. so we keep making sure the rifles are clean and the boots polished. Often this noble act at control becomes toxic. We take down bubble-living celebrities, blame well-meaning but uneducated and inexperienced college kids, and turn an opportunity for education and bridge-building into the sack of Rome. Our rage at the system and the seemingly intractable state of the world gets taken out on the nearest low-hanging fruits. Even my writing of this opinion will get me compared with the worst offenses of the most repugnant bigots in this world.
In the end, calling out these problems has a value, but at the same time, they strike me as often being a problem, and certainly not the crisis that often claim to be.
AMANDA KERRI is an Oklahoma City-based comedian and regular contributor to The Advocate. Follow her on Twitter @amanda_kerri.