Sarah Metcalf: Reflects on comments by Samantha Bee and Roseanne Barr

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Monday, June 11, 2018
Reflects on comments by Barr and Bee

On June 4 the Gazette published a cartoon showing Samantha Bee with a bar of soap in her mouth, labeled “double standard.”

It refers, of course, to Bee’s having called Ivanka Trump a “feckless c---” for having posted in social media a lovely photo of herself cuddling her young son, while the Trump administration is cruelly separating illegal immigrants from their young children.

Why, asks the right wing, is Bee not called out in the same way Roseanne Barr, a Trump supporter, was called out for her racist comparison of Valerie Jarrett to an ape? Answer: these two insults aren’t equivalent.

Barr’s ugly tweet aligned with the racism of the Trump administration (its birther trope, its tactics for disenfranchising voters of color, its tolerance of neo-Nazis). It aligns with the powerful attacking the powerless.

Bee, on the other hand, insulted a figure in the Trump administration — one who claims to support women and families — for her hypocrisy, her failure to defend women and families outside her privileged sphere. Bee protested the powerful attacking the powerless.

Barr’s insult was coded, sly. It was meant to be understood by racists who want to pretend not to be racist. Bee’s was blunt.

It matters whom we choose to insult. It matters how honestly we do it. Words matter too, and I’m no fan of the c-word. It’s used to degrade women and to imply their sexual manipulativeness and subservience. Women don’t generally use this word on each other.

But Ivanka, with her enormous lifelong effort to conform to Barbie-doll standards of beauty, both uses her sexuality manipulatively and is subservient to her father’s cruel policy. In using this word against Ivanka, Bee is saying “Because of how you’ve acted, you’re no sister of mine.”

Barr said, “Because of your skin color, you’re not a human being.”

Sarah Metcalf