On Boobs, A Boob, A Really Bad Burqa Joke, and Liberal Cultural Imperialism (Part One)

First off, my apologies for not blogging for a while…work and other stuff, you know.  I’m currently enjoying a week of paid vacation, so I’ll just take advantage of it for playing catch-up. 

Now, I’m wondering myself why it took me this long to add my penny’s worth to all the fireworks and water works going on over former President Bubba Clinton’s recent soiree with the Liberal Blogospheric A-Team, and the ensuing Cat 3 hurricane in Left Blogomania…but since everyone else in this freakin’ nation has had a say or fifty about it, then why not moi???

To give a abridged version of the whole story:

Bubba invites several of the lib blogosphere’s heavy hitters to his office in Harlem for a informal luncheon, basically to soften them up for Hilliary’s 2008 Presidential campaign, I’d guess.

One of the invitees happens to be a quite striking young woman named Jessica Valenti, who writes the Feministing blog.  And I do mean quite striking, too….though that should have nothing to do with her competence as a writer, now should it, gang??

Anyways, part of the soiree includes the obligatory portrait, where Ex-Prez Bubba looks all Presidential and all the participants put on their best grins for the camera…so that they can say to their blogging friends that they got up close with “The Big Dog”. 

Jessica just so happens to place herself right in front of Bubba.  Wearing a very casual and dressy and quite appropriate (for a lunch meeting with the former President) form-fitting blouse. 

The results are shown here (*from Jessica’s Flickr gallery):

ClintonSoiree_OriginalPhoto.jpg

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), Jessica (as do almost all women) happens to have…..well, what we in the human race call “breasts” ….and quite decent ones, too.  And the particular blouse she wore (although not in any way revealing, since no cleavage was shown), did manage to emphasize that segment of her anatomy more than the usual. (No big deal here, either, since she wasn’t there to flash or put out, just to represent her share of the blogosphere.)

Just as unfortunately, as you can plainly see, Jessica happens to be a brunette and decent looking. Combined with the setting, the form-fitting dress, and the subject of the honor, you’d think that it wouldn’t take long for some of our wingnutty whackjobss to put 2 and 2 together and utter those two words of doom: 

Monica.  Lewinsky.

And sure enough, here comes libertarian conservative “feminist” Ann Althouse, who has a real beef with Bubba for obvious reasons (like, she hates his policies and his ways with women).  First she comes out and attacks the whole shindig as mere pandering to a failed president (unlike the current President-Select, whom she thinks is just jolly-fine because he’s a grown-up, mature conservative family man…..his alleged drinking, cussing, and fussing to the contrary). 

And then, when some visitors to the blog decide to point out Jessica and the resembulance to Monica, she comes back for a much more detailed and vicious personal attack on Jessica (or at least, her boobs), claiming her to be nothing more than a Monica wannabe, a publicity whore, and a brainless slut who’s bringing feminism down to the “raunch” level. She even attempts to bring in the Feministing logo (a series of matching “mud flaps” featuring a sihoulette of a scantily-clad woman) as proof of Jessica’s (and in Althouse’s view, most liberal feminists’) lack of seriousness.

Needless to say, the feminist and progressive A-list blogosphere went up in righteous anger and rose up in almost unison to defend Jessica (and, it’s nice to say, Jessica herself smacked Althouse down pretty good herself); and rightfully so, in my word.  I mean, it’s not as if she went in there with full cleavage and short skirt and snapped her thong…she was there on serious business. Perhaps Althouse was just jealous that someone at least prettier than her (and obviously smarter, too) got to get close to the President she hated)…or maybe it’s just that old right-wing hatred of Clinton for coopting their agenda so well. 

But that debate of all-hawk and no-spit over the importance of Jessica’s boobs was a mere cover for another, far more substansial debate that was raised later on: the lack of invites to bloggers of color.  This was especially important regarding Clinton because (1) he was considered to be America’s “first (unofficial) Black President (amazing what playing the sax on Arsenio Hall’s show and playing alongside Grambling State University’s “World Famous” marching band will do for a President’s image….it might even cover up his actual record towards Black people, like his support of racist crime bills, executions and welfare “reform”); and because of the Harlem venue.

(To be fair, one popular A-list liberal Black blogger, Steve Gilliard of THE NEWS BLOG, posted that he would have declined on personal philosophy if any invites were given to him to meet and greet Bubba…but he did admit that he wasn’t invited, either.)

While it was mostly the outsider, more radical Black blogging community (including Brownfempower, Kevin Andre Elliott, Bint Alshamsa, and especially Blackamazon, who laid a particularly lethal strike on the pretentions of White liberals here), the fun actually started when Liza Sabater of culturekitchen used her blog to bring out the lily-white nature of the lunch klatch in Black Harlem and how it represented how privileged White liberals seem to take people of color for granted and use them as recyclable refuse to raise their personal ratings.

Unfortunately, the way in which Liza expressed her rage brought out the dander of some of the liberals in response; including a particularly nasty ad hominen rebuttal by someone named TRex (nee’ David Ferguson) using the Firedoglake blog (owners Christy Smith and Jane Hamsher happened to be two of the invitees at the Clinton lunch). Apparantly, TRex used his creds as a White gay man to tell off Liza and other supposed Black know-nothings on their notions of representation in the liberal blogosphere; and even got off some personal jabs at Lisa’s writing style:

“So, Liza, dear, before you go assailing your betters and making Jane stand in for every blond white woman who ever pissed you off, maybe you should head back to eighth grade English and, you know, learn to spell and to write in a linear fashion.” 

[That was the original quote…..since then, T-Rex has gone and edited it to remove the more offensive remarks….barely.] 

Uh, huh. Very nice of him to lecture a Black woman on her “inferior” writing style.  I’ll bet he says this for all the uppity nigg….errrrrrrr….Black women writers, too.

[And visions of all the crap that Nubian has had to endure comes to mind, too.]

Of course, this has a real history to it….because Liza had earlier whacked FDL for allowing a portrait of Fightin’ Joe (for the GOP) Lieberman altered in blackface (as a part of their hatefest against him for his Republican policies…..as if Black people were too stupid otherwise to oppose him on his merits). [Note: the original pic from FDL (and originally posted at Hamsher’s Huffington Post blog, have long since been deleted from both the FDL and Huff Post servers; but Slate.com’s John Dickerson did manage to cache that image for an article critical of that effort.

Now all that would have passed and gone and had been forgotten as the usual election year inaniety. It would have, too…except that here, from out of the dugout in porn liberal feminist left field, came Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon to pour some high-octane rocket fuel to the debate ….in her attempt to defend Jessica from the evil bad fundamentalist woman-hating neocons.  In her attempt to score some humor and some smack points against Althouse and her boob obsessions, Amanda decided to import the time-honored image of a Muslim woman dressed in a burqa as the symbol of what she thought Althouse and her haters thought Jessica should have been wearing.  To that effort, she enlisted the help of a regular Pandagonite, Auguste, to do some Photoshop magic reconstruction to the original Clinton blogger soiree, the result shown here being attached to a biting rant Amanda posted to her blog:

ClintonSoiree_JValenti_in_Burqa.jpg

[Click to see the full image]

That may have silenced the Althouse crowd…but it created a literal firestorm of rage from both radical Arab and Muslim women bloggers and WOC bloggers, who saw not a lighthearted joke, but a gratituous insult and an appropriation and mocking of another culture’s (and another race’s) most precious religious symbol…not to mention the blinding of Clinton’s own role in the destruction of Muslims and Arabs (who in the Middle East mostly consist of people of color) as a means to score brownie points against other White elitist women. 

[A similar discussion had emerged earlier when the Tennessee Guerilla Women, a liberal feminist blogger collective, decided to launch a campaign for reproductive rights in the US  using the burqa as a collective symbol of women’s oppression (Operation Red Burqa)….and got strongly rebuked by Black and Brown feminists for abusing and appropriating that Muslim symbol in that way.  (This essay by none other than Bitch | Lab (who is not a WOC, but radical enough to support their struggles) exemplifies the latter position quite well. The latter came as a response to one of my earlier essays from my former blog defending TGW’s position.)] 

But back to the here and now….things quickly degenerated into a nasty Pier 6 brawl (wrasslin’ term) when some of Amanda’s defenders in the liberal (and feminist) blogosphere started biting back that the complaints of the WOCs were being “selfish” and amounted to “black nationalism” in their attempts to shame White feminists into submission to “racist tactics”. Two particularly acidic responses came from Lindsey at Majikthisse and a young man named Alon Levy, who even went as far as to break out the old “Islamofascist” card in saying that critics of Amanda were simply soft on the innate evil of Islam amongst women, if not active agents of “Islamofascism”.  There was even a nice rant posted to Alas, a Blog by a “Greenconscionse” which attempted to recruit people into the War on Muslims using radfem rhetoric (an excerpt follows):

We should do more than criticize, we should support this war, expand it into Iran and Saudi Arabia, blow up the patriarchy everywhere possible. Support the immigration of women to the US from any Moslem country without husbands or fathers, forbid the oppression of women by Muslims in this country. Call it slavery and act against it wherever we can. The boys shouted us down in 1972 and they will do it again except for the decent men – shout back. Better yet turn your back on them and reach out to your sisters in Afghanistan and if it ever gets safer to your sisters in Iraq.

[emphasis added]

Meanwhile, in the midst of all this, Amanda decided to make an effort to crawfish her way out of the controversy with an attempted explanation and apology for the burqaized Jessica image; unfortunately, some of the WOCs decided not to quite buy into it, because it didn’t (to them) address the fundamental issue of how liberal White feminists appropriated wrongly the image of a POC for their own selfish motives without even addressing their interests. This set off some of Amanda’s supporters even more, who publically implied that she should have never apologized in the first place and that the critics were just evil reverse racists who were simply attempting to call themselves off as saviors of the entire third world though the usual Mau-Mauing and guilt tripping.

And so, the matter stands up to date…with bruised feelings everywhere.

What’s my personal take on all this??  That’s for Part Deux, soon to follow.  Stay close….

BTW….Go check out Bitch | Lab; she has a whole collection of discussion threads on the entire controversy…far too many to link here…but this post and discussion will do as a start.

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