I think this country does a very good job at exhibiting prudishness when it suits their political needs, but it does a terrible job of recognizing vulgarity, of recognizing depravity. Donald Trump and Co. are being prudish about a word that Samantha Bee used to confront a vulgar, depraved situation in which very young children were being taken away from their parents and left to fend for themselves.
The difference between the two situations could not be starker, but Donald Trump and his supporters are using a prudishness they do not honestly feel as a cudgel, as a means to draw a false equivalence between a bad word and bad actions. And Samantha Bee, through little fault of her own, fell into that trap.
Make no mistake: I have no problem with Bee’s use of that word. It’s a fine word in the right context, although unless you’re Aussie or British — where it’s tantamount to calling someone a dick — I don’t think that men should be using it, because of what it means here, because of the way men wield it to demean and denigrate based on gender. I don’t even think that men should have a say in how or when or what context it is used by women in America.
But the trap that Bee unwittingly fell into is one where she allowed Donald Trump to stir up the culture wars again, and just as he did with the National Anthem protests, he’s using prudishness (a dishonest objection to kneeling in protest) to distract from the vulgarity (the very real racism of police officers and the NFL). Bee recognized the error and apologized yesterday, and expanded upon that last night where she picked up an award for Full Frontalat the 11th annual Television Academy Honors.
Bee at the podium said, “Every week I strive to show the world as I see it unfiltered. Sometimes I should probably have a filter. I accept that. I take it seriously when I get it right and I do take responsibility when I get it wrong.”
IndieWire reports that Bee explained that she was trying to do right last night in her segment “on the atrocious treatment of migrant children by this administration and past administrations… Our piece attracted controversy of the worst kind.”
“We spent the day wrestling with the repercussions of one bad word, when we all should have spent the day incensed that as a nation we are wrenching children from their parents and treating people legally seeking asylum as criminals,” Bee reportedly said in her speech. “If we are OK with that then really, who are we?” She ended by thanking Turner network for having her back.
We absolutely should be focusing on the vulgarities and depravities of the Trump Administration, and where possible, I suppose we should not give them anything to be dishonestly prudish about, although I doubt that Bee could have anticipated how small and petty and spiteful Trump supporters could be here, or how quick people who have no objections to vulgar actions will clutch their pearls at the use of a word. Again, this is not the same thing as the Roseanne situation, where people were objecting to the vulgarity of Roseanne’s racism (and not prudishly to her words). Roseanne’s racism has been on full display for years, and I don’t think anyone can honestly suggest that Samantha Bee used that word in an anti-feminist way, any more than people could claim that Michelle Wolf’s insults of Sarah Huckabee Sanders were anti-feminist.
In any case, I suppose it is on us to be the better people, only in the sense that we have to be more careful about the words we use to describe the vulgarity of their actions. Their arguments are dishonest, but as has been demonstrated repeatedly over the last two years, hypocrisy is a nonsense concept for the Trump party, and when they clutch their pearls, they do so loudly. The media, anxious to draw false equivalences, will pounce every time.