hey pretty

Ceci n'est pas une "dating blog."

Friday, April 07, 2006

Returning to Our Origins For a Moment

My newer readers my not be aware of this, but Hey Pretty was born out of a backlash against mass media representations of prominent women in politics. My first post was a response to an article in the Washington Post criticizing former Attorney General Janet Reno's refusal to conform to mainstream notions of femininity. This post was also published as a letter to the editor in the Post which ran the same weekend as the March for Women's Lives, which brought thousands of prominent women's advocates into DC for the weekend. Talk about awesome timing.

Today, thanks to a tip from T, I am yet again compelled to comment on a Washington Post article about a woman in politics. This article concerns Rep Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) who has recently made headlines due to an altercation with the police. The article deconstructs McKinney's public image, and cites the fact that she wasn't wearing her trademark braids as a reason why the police might have reacted to her in the manner that they did.

T and I are having a hard time wrapping our brains around this one. The article seems to imply that the police didn't recognize her because she didn't look the way she normally does--that she appeared outside her normal "respectable" identity as a woman in power, perhaps even, that she looked like any disenfranchised black woman in DC. But does that make their actions okay? The article doesn't say, and for that reason it is disturbing. The article brings up issues of racial and class-based tensions, but doesn't go far enough to make a statement about it. It says that her normal hairdo has become a statement of who she is, and without that hair she loses her identity. But existing outside of a carefully crafted public persona doesn't make it okay for the police to treat you as a moving target. I wish the Post would say that but it doesn't. And beyond that, isn't it frustrating that as women, our public identities are yet again defined by our appearances? T and I are still stewing over this article and the answers that it refuses to articulate. Perhaps some of you readers can help us out?

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree - the Post article is particularly lacking. Although I can see why some editor might have cut that from the article in concern for offending people.

Although I am particularly dissatisfied with McKinney's response. In almost every way, she responded poorly.

As for "does that make their actions okay" - I'm of the perspective that if they didn't recognize her, or anyone else, they responded correctly by stopping her. It isn't as if they were just letting anyone through... only those they recognize as congressional members(whether it be by pin or by face). If you change your appearance dramatically, regardless of how you look, you can't fault people for not recognizing you.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Hey Pretty said...

See, I was under the impression that she was mistreated in some way. The nature of their treatment of her hasn't been well publicized so it's hard to say either way...

5:13 PM  
Blogger ejtakeslife said...

My understanding of what happens reads as:

She bypassed the detectors, the officer didn't recognize her and asked her to stop. She didn't identify herself as a member, but became belligerent and when he responded by moving to closer to again ask her to go through the detector (and hear it's not been made clear if he ever touched her, just a lot of He Said, She Said), she struck out at him and hit him with her cell phone.

To me, the issue of race here is completely irrelevant. It's all about entitlement and respect. Capitol police officers have to gaurd a massive building that is office, museum, tourist attraction and terrorism target. They're expected to memorize 435 faces of members, and, because they are human, they may lapse in this every once in a while. That is why members are encouraged to wear pins and everyone is required to carry ID. Congresswoman McKiney thought she was above those recommendations, and lashed out at an officer trying to do his (difficult) job because her sense of entitlement was wounded.

By making a confused officer and her subsequent overreaction all about race, she's done a real disservice to people who have legitimate complaints of being treated in a racist manner. Not every tense encounter between a black person and a white person is because of racism-- in this case, it was tense because she was being a brat and he didn't know he was dealing with a member of Congress. Maybe he should have been more deferrential, but if she's going to demand special treatment as a member, she should start acting like she's worthy of it.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Hey Pretty said...

point taken. knowing this angle does certainly chip away at the feminist/race/class argument of my post. i stand corrected.

6:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

see, i think that argument is kind of bullshit. because, while they are human and all, i don't think it's actually that hard to memorize 435 faces. i went to a college of 2700, and i knew every face. i'd be at the airport, 25 miles away and recognize students from campus. i recognized every face in the lobby when i worked at 401 N. Michigan Avenue in Chicago, a fairly large building with many, many faces.
and frankly, changing the hairstyle, not what i consider a "drastic" change. it's hair. does it make her look fresher? hells yes. but you don't "stop recognizing" people at your office when they get haircuts, do you? you see the cut, and respond all, "holy shit kara, you CUT YOUR HAIR!?!?" and you're amazed. but not confused, 90% of the time. because, you know, Kara. at work. see her daily. know her face.
i think it's bullshit that they "didn't recognize her." unless it's a new guard. in which case, why isn't someone helping this newbie out?
i think this was just a way to swipe at her, to put her in her place, by pretending not to know who she was, and taking that as a convenient opportunity to take her down a peg by associating her with your everyday disenfranchised person-of-color "commoner."
and she hit him with her cell phone? how bad could that be, if she did it? it's a friggin cell phone. unless it was a "car phone" circa 1995, it weighs nearly nothing, and certainly doesn't pack much of a punch. -T

4:53 AM  
Blogger Michael J. West said...

I know this is an older post and all, but I have to take issue with the previous commenter and say that his/her "that argument is bullshit" argument, is bullshit.

People have varying degrees of memory. Some people might really be able to memorize 2700 faces, or at least 435 faces. On the other hand, in my old neighborhood there was a convenience store I went into three times a week for three and a half years. Saw the same clerk every time. And once a week, I bought the same product: a six-pack of Miller Lite.

And yet, the clerk carded me every single time I bought that beer over those three-and-a-half years. The last time I saw her, she squinted at me and said, "You don't look old enough to buy beer. Let me see your license." So it wasn't that she was carding me every time as a formality, but because after all those encounters, she still didn't recognize me.

As for this "she hit him with her cell phone? how bad could that be?" argument...come on. She probably didn't hurt him, so that condones the fact that she assaulted him? If I fire a gun at you and I miss, does my missing make it okay? You, T., are making excuses for Ms. McKinney...and not particularly good excuses.

I'm sure you're an intelligent and reasonable person, but your arguments here are fairly shallow and one-sided.

Sorry, Hey Pretty. Just had to make a point.

10:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Mr. West, as a woman of color, maybe I just see this differently than you do. I'm not saying that hitting someone with a cellphone is okay, i'm saying let's not make it into an assault. it was a cell phone. I still see a pall of racsim in the entire affair, and i will leave my comments at that. T

3:33 PM  

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