This Week in Women: Blame Games And Extremism
Pipe bomb scares, troops being sent to America’s Southern border, tweets about “liberal mobs,” and more. If you feel like we’re living in times of deepening polarity, you’re not alone. More examples of viewpoints that divided came from Megyn Kelly’s uninformed “blackface” comments on her morning show on Tuesday and the Trump administration’s depressing attack on transgender people’s rights. Now more than ever, extremism and the blame games it creates are at the forefront of our national conscious, the perpetuation of vitriol that is resulting in violence and heightening the intolerances of exclusionary mindsets.
This week take a look at how extremism is shaping our natural discourse and issues. It’s time for This Week in Women!
Trump Administration Seeks to Erase Protections for Transgender People
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is seeking to legally define gender as either male or female, erasing civil right protections and putting the identity of 1.4 million transgender individuals at risk. In a memo obtained and reported on by The New York Times last Sunday, the Department of Health and Human Services is attempting to unravel Obama-era protections for transgender people beginning with Title IX — Title IX deals with preventing discrimination in educational programs that receive federal funding. Under President Obama, individuals were allowed to choose the gender they most identified with; the Department of Health and Human Services seeks to roll-back that choice to a narrowly defined biological assignment at birth, appeasing many ultra-conservative groups.
The Trump administration’s callous non-recognition of a large community puts over a million and a half individuals immediately at-risk. Removing the faces, herding people into groups, and labeling them with an identity puts them in harm’s way with lasting effects. Statistics show, including this report by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, that transgender youth are more likely to experience depression and mental health issues (including suicidality) without family and community support. In addition, “more than one in four trans people has faced a bias-driven assault, and rates are higher for trans women and trans people of color,” reports the National Center for Transgender Equality.
“This is the latest effort in a consistent, multi-pronged campaign by the Trump-Pence White House over the past two years to undermine the rights and welfare of LGBTQ people,” said the Human Rights Campaign in an official statement. “The Human Rights Campaign is calling on the American people to send a clear message to the Trump-Pence White House in November by voting for candidates that fully support LGBTQ rights and will work to pass the Equality Act.”
Megyn Kelly is Out after ‘Blackface’ Comments
Megyn Kelly is reportedly out at NBC after racially insensitive comments ignited a seemingly benign panel discussion into a major media misstep. Kelly steered the conversation, saying that she thought it was acceptable for white people to dress up as black characters on Halloween citing Luann of The Real Housewives of New York, dressing up as Diana Ross. “But what is racist?” Kelly asked. “Because you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid that was OK, as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character.”
The social media condemnation was swift and immediate with tweets, such as:
Come on Deena. There’s no way that Megyn Kelly, a shrewd, opinionated, attorney, did not know the historical significance of Black Face in this country & beyond. She was blatantly disrespectful & her apology is not accepted. I’m calling a spade a spade. #thenine
— BLACKSENSUALITY (@BLACKSENSUALITY) October 26, 2018
Yeah, I’m the same age as @megynkelly. Blackface wasn’t okay when we were kids. Blackface has NEVER been okay.
Not with anyone who’s not an asshole, anyway. https://t.co/dNoaCY3oec
— Aisha Tyler (@aishatyler) October 25, 2018
I cannot believe the ignorance on this in 2018. You are on national television. You have a responsibility to educate yourself on social issues @megynkelly. This is so damaging. https://t.co/R7UJzkDDG9 https://t.co/7qFkqGHfGJ
— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) October 23, 2018
What is clear is that insensitivity has never been ok, and white people have an even greater responsibility to know the history behind remarks that may be delivered as flippant but carry more pain and prejudice than immediately acknowledged. This is not the first time that Kelly has spoken an ill-informed, racially charged opinion (see her 2013 remarks on Jesus and Santa Claus), but just because she apologized, does not make this attitude ok. It is a reminder that there is still much awareness that needs to be conscientiously developed, and certain viewpoints are still roiling not far beneath the surface.
Leaving Extremism Behind, Karen Winther’s Explores in EXIT
On Wednesday, Women Making Movies announced the New York City premiere date, November 11th, of Karen Winther’s EXIT. Winther, who grew up in Norway, participated in a far-right extremist group. In 1996 at the age of 17-years old, she was able to leave the group.
In EXIT she parallels her experience with the journey of other former extremists, including Neo-Nazis, Jihadists, and outlier hate groups. The award-winning documentary explores the reasons why people join and leave extremism — a critical topic when America is dealing with an epidemic spread of far-right extreme groups.
EXIT is “a personal and urgent examination of the ways radicalized people legitimize hatred and how some, when confronted with the realization that everything they once firmly believed is wrong, are able to gather the courage to embark on extraordinary journeys to turn their lives around.”
Featured image via EXIT
Stay tuned to Milk for more of This Week in Women and check out our previous installments here.