Oh boy. Another well meaning white woman has placed her pretty, porcelain-toned foot in her mouth again. Help, Fatha. *facepalm*
Bette Midler, who has earned much deserved praise for being a national theatre treasure and a sassy-as-can-be critic of Mango Mussolini, committed a giant misstep last night when she resurrected Yoko Ono’s 1969 trash-ass quote “Woman is the ni**er of the World.” I could write 5,674 paragraphs on how this is one of the most asinine, offensive comparisons ever made, but I’mma save my breath. Because it doesn’t make a difference. Because when Yoko Ono got flamed for it back then, she and John Lennon just doubled down and made a SONG out of the s#!t three years later. Yes, Beatle John Lennon. Yes, “Imagine” John Lennon. Let’s face it: No matter their race, most of (if not ALL) our faves are problematic AF.
Bette wandered into this minefield while attempting to make a point about the blatant disrespect and oppression women across the planet have experienced, in light of the travesty happening on the hill re: Brett Kavanaugh. Her tweet went on to say: “Raped, beaten, enslaved (‘scuse me? Um…I’m still trying to figure out what woman of European background was “enslaved”, but I’mma let you finish), married off, worked like dumb animals; denied education and inheritance (or reparations…but go ‘head….); enduring the pain and danger of childbirth (Black women 3-4 times MORESO than any other race of women, but still…keep on talking…) and life IN SILENCE for THOUSANDS of years[.] They are the most disrespected creatures on earth [sic].”
People came in hot and fast, letting Ms. Bette know she was on that bullshit. Did she stop, *slide biggity bounce* pause, *shiggity wash it twerk it* and look at God, while contemplating why she was wrong? Nah, not at first. She did what any self-righteous tweeter in 2018 does when they are called out: made the situation worse by trying to explain why they were indeed, right the first time. Her follow up tweet read: “I gather I have offended many by my last tweet. ‘Women are the…etc’ is a quote from Yoko Ono from 1972, which I never forgot. It rang true then, and it rings true today, whether you like it or not (ORLY BISH?!?!). This is not about race, this is about the status of women; THEIR HISTORY.”
Bette. Ma’am. How you gon’ say something *isn’t* about race when CLEARLY you used race as a descriptor in trying to emphasize and support your claim?!? That’s not how this works. THAT’S NOT HOW ANY OF THIS WORKS. Folks tried again to help her, some even pointing out the obvious, that BLACK WOMEN ACTUALLY STILL EXIST (therefore this wrongheaded comparison shouldn’t…), but good ol’ Bette wasn’t having it. Mama’s talkin’ loud. Mama’s doin’ fine. Mama’s gettin’ hot. Mama’s goin’ stong.
Next, she tweeted a snippet of Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow’s New Yorker article detailing the humiliation of Kavanaugh supporter and subject of lascivious limericks, Renate Dolphin, captioned: “SEE WHAT I MEAN??” No Bette. We don’t see it. You know what we see? “From a distance, you look like my friend”, but lady we just cannot comprehend WHY YOU WON’T STOP AND LISTEN TO WHAT WE ARE SAYING! Is the wind beneath your wings that hazy and dense?
After HOURS of people attempting to explain why the FIRST tweet was inappropriate, the SECOND tweet was unacceptable, and the THIRD tweet was damn near abominable, Bette offered this olive branch, in hopes of correcting her course: “The too brief investigation of allegations against Kavanaugh infuriated me. Angrily I tweeted w/o thinking my choice of words would be enraging to black women who doubly suffer, both by being women and by being black. I am an ally and stand with you; always have. And I apologize.”
Now, because I am a reasonable person, and tend to take people at their word (when they don’t have a track record of being completely obtuse), I accept Ms. Midler’s apology. I realize that she is a woman of a certain age, who may or may not be well versed in how to conduct herself on social media with the caution and care necessary in today’s reactionary times. (Bette wasn’t ready for the furor that is Black twitter, y’all. They have #Canceled her…even though 65% of them didn’t even know who she was in the first place TO cancel. LMAO) Look—we’re human. We make mistakes. And the most accurate measure of a person’s maturity and willingness to learn is their being able to admit said mistakes and earnestly apologizing for them (even if it takes a few hundred tweets explaining why you’re wrong, and a few hours for the realization to kick in…*sigh*). Bette’s past actions and commentary lead me to believe she is a genuine ally to minorities, who deserves a second chance. She earnestly didn’t know why she was wrong. Now she does. Let’s move forward…but keep this in her file for reference. *side eye*
As a hardline, general rule? White women, lissen. Listen to me. Please. Don’t you EVA *clap* NOT *clap* NEVA *clap clap clap* compare yourselves to another marginalized group in order to prove you’re oppressed. There is ENOUGH injustice to go around, and we don’t need qualifiers. Y’all are still #2 on the totem pole of world domination, and at least 53% of you in this country are fighting tooth and nail to maintain said position. Yes, women are ABSOLUTELY being maltreated in every corner of the globe. But what we’re NOT finna do is act like being considered a “ni**er” AND a woman isn’t a herculean load to carry for BLACK WOMEN. The irony of saying and thinking people treat “ni**ers” SO bad in this country, that women can be classified as “the ni**ers of the WORLD” isn’t lost on me. The problem is, ni**ers are still treated as ni**ers all over the world too, madam. Whether YOU like it or not, the oppression olympics is one contest you will never win.
Rose, the iconic character Bette portrayed in the musical “Gypsy,” laments in her final number: “Why did I do it? What did it get me?” I hope Ms. Midler is somewhere reflecting on this faux pas and pledging to do better in the future, and that white women who claim to be allies use this as a cautionary tale. Yes, you have every right to lament about your oppression, just not at the expense of other people who have it as bad as, if not WORSE than you. Measure your words carefully, and proceed with caution. Phone a minority friend before you tweet if necessary. Be thoughtful, not harmful. If you choose otherwise, we’ll all be singing another line from that song: “Thanks a lot and out with the garbage.”
This post was written by guest contributor Kellee Knighten Hough