The saga of Kim Davis is finally in its third act.
After the week of sturm und drang that swallowed up cable news airtime and our social media newsfeeds, dragging everyone from Mike Huckabee to the band Survivor into its wake, marriage licenses are finally being issued to all in Rowan County. Davis is holding firm to her refusal but is not standing in the way of her deputy clerks. The legal options that would turn this story into a five-acter of Shakespearean proportions are dwindling to nothing. She’s staying out of jail and we are soon going to be rid of Kim Davis.
So it feels like a good time for the first act of a new conversation about the gay community — particularly the gay white male community — and its relationship to misogyny.
“She’s a bitch.” “Just fire that cunt.” “She was married four times? Who would fuck that ugly whore?” “You need to get a stylist, honey. That hair!” “How’d she ever get anyone to fuck her dressed like that?
This and its variants accompanied many a post about Davis in SocialMediaLand during her reign of religious freedom. Overwhelmingly, the culprits were gay white men — the demographic that has been most positively affected by the Obergefell vs Hodges decision making marriage equality legal everywhere in the U.S. — and the posts were overwhelmingly liked by other gay white men, who added their two cents (and the inevitable memes) in the comments.
It’s certainly fine to be angry with Kim Davis. She broke the law. She denied gay citizens their Constitutional rights. She failed to do her job as an elected public servant and hid behind religion to excuse her discrimination. And, it’s fair to point out her religious hypocrisy (Jesus did have a huge problem with divorce, and Ms. Davis has been divorced a few times) and the thinness of her arguments that religious freedom should trump the Constitutionally-granted rights of other citizens. These are all true things. They’re all valid reasons to be angry.
But they aren’t a license to not practice what we preach.
Our community holds equality as a value. It’s the linchpin of our movement: the idea that all people, regardless of who they love or how they express their identity, should be treated equally and fairly. And that value intersects with other equality movements — gender equality, racial equality, and the like — chasing the same goal. If there’s anything that holds together the rather tenuous parts of our LGBT umbrella, it’s our shared belief in the value and necessity of equality. And that value connects us to all the others who are Othered in this country.
And you can’t celebrate the value of equality in one breath and practice misogyny in the next.
Misogyny, in any of its forms, is not consistent with equality. And making fun of Kim Davis for her hair, for her clothes, for her perceived fuckability, for behavior that makes us call her “bitch” and “cunt” (perjoratives that imply that it’s an insult to simply be a woman) is misogyny. It’s devaluing her as a person based on how she performs our expectations of women, and no matter how you slice it, that’s misogyny. Its humor doesn’t make it right. Its righteousness doesn’t make it right.
And this isn’t respectability politics. This isn’t saying, “You have to be nice to people, you have to be respectful!” because there’s a place for disruption and a place for anger and a place for aggression.
But there is no place in a movement that esteems equality for the practice of inequality.
Ghandi said, “To believe in something and not live it is dishonest.” He’s a problematic figure, yes, but the idea is a valuable one. Post-marriage equality, we are are faced with the question of whether we leverage this monumental win to serve all corners of our community and the intersectional struggles for equality that circle ours or will we take our toys, go home and send our best wishes to everyone else? And this is mostly a question to the gay white men who make up the most priviledged and powered strata of the LGBT community. We’re the ones with the most power to leverage, so we’re the ones poised to make the most difference.
If we live our values — the ones that we stood on to see over the fence and gain the right to marry — we can’t call Kim Davis a bitch.
It dimishes us. It diminishes our movement. It diminishes what our movement has worked so hard for.
– Cody Daigle-Orians