S1: Hello and welcome to the August 20 20 edition of Out Where I’m Christina Carucci, a staff writer at Slate. And I would like to commend everyone on the Internet making memes about Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, as Bette Porter.
S2: And I’ve decided that this is going to be my version of imagining an audience in their underwear to get over stage fright. Just every time I see Joe Biden in the news or making a speech, I’m going to imagine him as Tina Kennard. And that’s going to make this terrible, wretched campaign cycle a lot more bearable for me.
S3: Oh, my God. I love I love that so much, especially because that Porter is the patron saint of our show. Totally. Of course, that’s that’s wonderful.
S4: I like that. Get out of the get out the vote strategy, Christina.
S5: It’s motivating to me.
S4: I’m Ramona. I’m one of Slate’s Karen feeding columnists and I’m a dad. So Augusts usually promises, yay, the kids are heading back to school. And that has been replaced by a sense of creeping dread about Zoome lessons and Google classroom. But it’s just that’s the kind of moment we’re in.
S6: Yeah. I’m Brian Lauter, editor of Outward. And today is a good day because I just got a surprise package of drag from one of my furry friends. I’m going to show it. The listeners will be able to see it. But look at this emerald. Oh, wow.
S3: And what is the gown? It’s like a full. Oh, my God, that’s gorgeous. Like falling for gown. Zip up. I cannot wait.
S2: As my dad would say every time I bought a new item of clothing in high school. Are you going to wear a tank top under that? Because it’s through it is known.
S3: I probably won’t. I probably. But no, it’s such a delight. So that that’s beautiful. Nice thing to get on a first day. Yeah. It looks perfect for the weather to nation breathable super.
S4: This month on Outward, we are going to be joined by our fellow Slate columnist, Rich Charles. We Are Rich is one of the columnists on how to do it Slate’s Sex Advice column. And we are going to pepper him with all of our sex quarantine questions. I’m very excited about that. It seems like a perfect hot topic for the hottest month of the year. And we’re also going to spend some time on another hot topic, hot in a different way, a less hot and a less scintillating way, which is whatever is happening in the current moment with Ellen DeGeneres, the, you know, arguably this country’s most well-known gay personality is embroiled in a workplace scandal. And we’ll talk about Ellen and her legacy and what that show less about the controversy on that show, but more about Ellen’s place in the American culture. But before we get to that, we will talk, as we always do at the beginning of these shows about our pride and provocations. Brian, how are you feeling this month? Are you feeling proud or are you feeling provoked?
S6: I’m feeling proud generally feeling proud about how I’ve been seeing our queer spaces like bars and clubs, trying to adapt to the moment of some re-opening here in New York with really inventive ways of of doing that safely. But I wanted to call out one space in particular that I recently visited and had just the most fantastic revivifying time. It’s called elsewhere, and it’s in sort of Ridgewood neighborhood of Queens. And before the pandemic, it was an amazing queer, mostly queer nightclub. Space had been there many times for that kind of thing. And of course, now they can’t do that anymore. But they do have a roof deck and they have turned that into a really fantastic space to socially just everything safe, but to be around queer people again. And we went my partners and I went the other Friday night, a week or so ago, and you had to get like a reservation to be sure that, you know, there was a table. You had to stay at your table unless you were masked and going up to collect your food items. I’d invented this whole, like, ordering system. So that was touchless. They did the temperature checks and the the the hand sanitizers and all of that and just the most efficient, excellent way. And then when you got there, you got to feel like you were almost at a gay club again and just being around all the queer people that were there and made me so happy, so feeling, feeling proud of our spaces who are trying to figure this out and hoping that more can do it and survive because we’re going to need them for sure.
S2: I, too, am proud this month. I am proud of some of our fellow queers and allies in the WNBA. So earlier this month, WNBA players from several teams started wearing T-shirts that said Vote more Knokke as they arrived to play their games. So Reverend Warnock is a Democrat who’s running against Georgia Senator Kelly Lefler. You might know her as the Republican who was famously investigated for insider trading when she allegedly attempted to profit off the coronavirus crisis. She just happens to own forty nine percent of the dream, which is Atlanta’s WNBA team. And the WNBA has dedicated its season to black women who’ve been killed by police. Every game is dedicated to one such woman. Meanwhile, Senator Lefler has been criticizing the movement for black lives dog whistling, calling protesters a mob saying that Black Lives Matter protesters are encouraging destruction. So WNBA players have called for Lefler to be ousted as a team owner. The WNBA leadership isn’t doing that. So players led by noted Mouse Sue Bird decided to campaign to get her out of the Senate, including the players on her team, on the team that she owns. I think it’s incredibly brave and it is putting all team owners on notice. I don’t know how much you guys know about sports. I know very little. But what I do know is that there has been a sort of accepted dynamic for a long time for forever, whereby team owners can really constrain what their players are able to do in terms of what they wear, what they say, who they talk to. And in an industry where the owners are largely white, the players are largely black, there’s always been a racialized dynamic and watching black players. Leisha Clarendon is another one who’s been taking the lead on WNBA activism this season. Another noted queer Quirino watching these people step up, have this incredible solidarity among the teams in a way that you really don’t see among men’s leagues know they’re not engaging in this sort of theater of rivalry. They’re all standing together against this really embarrassing team owner is so heartening and I can’t imagine a better way for players to be using their time and their freedom of speech at this moment.
S4: It’s really, really gutsy. And it’s it’s amazing to watch because the attempt like sort of like the political attempt there is to shame somebody who is really sort of shameless. Right. Like power is so unchangeable, but this is so shameful to look at. Like it’s very powerful to think that, like, the people who are ultimately in this woman’s employ are saying very openly that they are ashamed of her or that they that we all ought to be. It’s a really powerful statement. And I also I also find some very curious and I’m not like a sports person at all.
S2: And I also love that it’s a proactive message. It’s not just it’s not just get this woman out of the WNBA. It’s vote for her opponent. Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, it’s he is trailing her and the other conservative who’s running right now. But and, you know, who knows? There’s still a lot of fundraising and get out the vote work to do. And besides that, I just love the example that it’s setting for even other workers to be able to organize against bosses who are, you know, disrespecting their lives and livelihoods.
S4: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, I’m glad that you two are both feeling proud this moment because I am feeling sort of provoked. Last month on this show, we spoke to the journalist David France about his documentary, Welcome to Chechnya, which talks about the oppression of LGBTQ citizens inside of Russia. It was just sobering and educational experience for me. And I am provoked. Watching what’s happening in the country of Poland right now. Andre, to the president of Poland is a populist leader. He just won reelection in part by demonizing that country’s LGBTQ populace. Like this is just sort of from that same nationalist playbook. A couple of days ago, the arrest of an activist named Margos Sutta, which led to a spontaneous protest during which forty eight people were detained. It’s a really frightening situation. And I think David Prince’s film reminded me personally that we need to be aware of what’s hot. Both here and abroad, that we need to be conscious of it and we need to allow ourselves to be provoked by the politics in other countries, and I think that’s so true what you said about it being this nationalist playbook.
S6: I mean, it’s something that is pulled from again and again and could be pulled from here, you know, like it is it is just a very much present. And that discourse and I think our community, among others, is is is one of the first step to get to get deployed in this way and abuse in this way. So, yeah, absolutely frightening.
S2: It’s also yet another reminder that, you know, the arc of progress is not inevitable and it’s not really an arc at all. You know, it’s like a squiggle line and that. You know, whenever I hear people like Joe Biden, for instance, cannot talk about, you know, well, the as the more you meet gay people, the more you like them are like, you know, more and more people are just understanding like that. That’s not actually how people work. It’s not how politics work and it’s not how movements work. And if anything is going to if queer people and trans people are going to be protected. It needs a sustained and organized effort behind it. It doesn’t just happen. You know, it’s not like there is just some wave of tolerance and justice sweeping the world that will eventually be inhaled by people in every country.
S4: Well, yeah, let’s hope that there is. But there isn’t at the moment. Yeah, yeah. Let’s talk about an entirely different kind of provocation now. Very, very excited to talk to Rich Jospeh, our colleague, about sex in this particular moment of quarantine.
S6: All right. So August means that we are six months that is half of a year into the coronavirus pandemic. At the beginning of all of this, it was easy to understand why casual sex and dating and romantic lives generally needed to be locked down along with everything else. But as we’ve moved into the era of phased reopenings, quarantine bubbles and public health departments advocating the use of gloryhole guidance on how to conduct our intimate lives during covid has become a little bit confusing. So to help us sort it out, we’ve called and Rich is Riak, one of Slate’s How to Do It? Sex advice columnist and one of my favorite writers on queer issues generally. Thanks so much for joining us today, Reg..
S7: Thank you for having me on for saying that.
S6: Sure thing. So as an advice columnist, you’ve got this, I think, broad view of what life is out there, like out there for for people more so than most of us. So what’s your just general sense about how people are holding up in terms of their their sex and romantic lives right now?
S7: It seems fraught. You know, there’s not a ton of pure data. But anecdotally, I think that people at this point, if they are continuing to socially distance with the rigorousness that they were at, the start of the pandemic are basically at the end of their rope. But I think a lot of people aren’t being as strict as they were. I mean, that’s that’s what it seems like. I, I can’t say that for sure. But just anecdotally, anecdotally, it seems like people are just being less strict.
S2: Our people. Have you read messages from people who are taking incremental steps to reopening their sex lives?
S7: So it seems like people are sort of like, you know, keeping in pods or or closed circles or. But see, the problem that I think there is with this is if you’re starting this out, you know, if you’re if you’re like, OK, I’m glad I found somebody on an app that I’m going to hook up with. And that’s that’s going to be my quarantine person. I mean, how many app relationships, you know, endure for any period of time anyway? I feel like that sort of that you’re setting yourself on a pattern of behavior, but you’re going to have a new quarantine buddy every few weeks, you know, if that you know. So I don’t really trust that as a method per say. But at this point, I’m not really judging people who do do that because I understand that, you know, along with the imperative of keeping ourselves physically safe, there is the imperative to keep ourselves mentally safe and happy.
S4: I wonder, Rich, if you heard from your readers any kind of solutions to that that you found inventive or interesting, if you’ve heard from people saying like, well, this is what I’ve done and this is how I’ve got through this tough period.
S7: So generally, like the people, it’s like problem on top of a problem. Right? So, like, nobody is particularly inventive. They’re asking us to invent for them and solve our problem.
S7: Exactly. And so in sort of that arena, a lot of people have written in about like virtual sex or screen sex. And a lot of people who write in are like, I don’t like this and my partner is across the country, what should I do? And it’s like, you know, there’s a lot of stuff out there that you don’t like. You know, no one person can like everything. And a lot of us like a relatively small number of things. So I just try to remind people that, like, this is what you got, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it, but it’s basically what you’re working with. I personally don’t like phone sex or virtual sex or screen sex or any of that. Really. I don’t I’d rather watch porn. No offense to partners. I just I mean, it’s the same thing. And then in porn, it’s like two people and not just one person on a screen. I don’t find that experience, like, gratifying whatsoever. So I’m also a terrible person to ask or like, how do I talk sexy? I don’t know. I like sex is a refuge from having to talk. I talk all the time. I write I, I write all the time. I talk, I talk in my head. Sex is like the one time I get to not talk. It’s that’s what I like about it. So I can’t help you.
S2: It also feels like a very particular preference related thing. Like one person’s sexy talk is another person’s like incredible turn off. But I my most optimistic self wonders if this moment will introduce people to new things that they like, that they might not have had the impetus to try before. Like, Oh, I’ve never had to really embrace talking dirty or having sex with somebody or Google chat sex or whatever. I’m not loyal to anyone.
S3: I mean, it seems like masks, like masks are going to have to be fetishized.
S5: Oh, my God. Yes. That makes for more people. It’s already happening for me.
S3: It’s pretty high for me. I mean, I’ve noticed like I think maybe we haven’t talked about this. Like, people are like learning how to cruise again with their eyes, like, in a way that I haven’t seen in a really long time.
S6: And it’s like suddenly you don’t you don’t have anything else. So all you can do is kind of do this. And like the eye contact has gotten spicy, like they’re like and it’s great. I mean, I sort of it’s like I, you know, in the 70s again or something, but like, it’s that’s really exciting. I guess it’s for a sad reason. I got like, it’s, you know, that’s happening.
S2: This is not sexual at all. But the other day I had a very heartening experience. I was meeting a friend, actually a coworker at Slate to have breakfast in the park together. And the coworker got there early and she saw another queer person who she thought was me from afar. So she went over and started talking to them.
S5: Then I arrived and was like, oh, you found a friend? And she’s like, I don’t know this person. I just thought it was you. And then that person and I realized we live in the same neighborhood and exchanged numbers like, oh, maybe now we’ll be friends. And I went into quarantine, but not yet. In fact, check back in two months. We might be mortal enemies. I don’t know. But I was like, oh, let me my wife. I was like I met this person who might be our new friend, went to look them up on Facebook. And I was like, is that is that them? Is that them? I don’t know. Like, I don’t know what their face looks like because they were like I probably wouldn’t even recognize them if I saw them on the street somewhere.
S2: It’s like and yet we met, you know, it’s like a totally different way of trying to assess a new person. It’s so much as hidden from us. It is exciting.
S7: And, Christine, to your point about trying new things within the sort of limited data that is out there, I talked to one of my regular sources, this guy, Justin Lamela, who wrote a book called Tell Me What You Want, which was about fantasy’s. And he works with the Kinsey Institute. And so they did a study at the beginning, pretty much the beginning of lockdown. I think the study began like March 15th and lasted about a month or so, and it was over fifteen hundred people that completed it. And while the study found that a lot of the majority of people’s sex lives, the majority of people reported that their sex lives had declined or yeah, just the quality of them had declined. Those who the very small minority, about thirteen point six percent of people said it improved. What was linked to that was trying something new. You know what? And that’s often by necessity and sometimes it could be something as simple as sexting. People said die never sexy before. Now I’m sexting. So it does seem like there is a correlate of quality with trying something new and that making people happier, which I think makes sense.
S2: Yeah. I mean, isn’t that true generally to that novelty is sort of the spice of life.
S7: Totally. Totally.
S4: Well, so speaking of novelty, Rich, I wonder what you’re hearing from people who are in a period of lockdown with a partner and they’re not I mean, I’m mindful of my friends who are single and are home alone. And I really feel like that’s a particular kind of not even even leaving sex aside. It’s sort of psychologically difficult thing to endure, just being cut off from human company for a period of time. It’s not it’s not natural. It’s not healthy. But I’m doing this with my husband, like we’re sort of in it together with our kids, sort of ruining the intimacy there. But like, are you hearing from like what are you what are you hearing or what are you seeing in the letters that you’re reading about people? Are people feeling trapped or stuck or are people feeling like it’s an opportunity to kind of reinvent how the relationship functions?
S7: Well, both. We get a lot of stuff that’s like, how do I have sex in my small apartment with my child here or, you know, where I’m staying at my partner’s parents with him. And it’s a small place. What do we do? And I’m like, I don’t I don’t know, what do you do? But we did get this week, in fact, or recently, let’s say recently, we got a question that is as out there as they come. I can I can read it to you if you’d like. It’s not very long. It’s it’s pretty wild. So my wife and I like to do the Cuckold’s scene, but during covid, it’s just the two of us. So we have been playing some sub games. Right now. She is making me masturbate one to two times a day into a Ziploc bag and immediately freezing it after a week. I have to eat it all. So my question is, assuming I’m sti free tested and true, is there anything I need to worry about with my comfortable? If we don’t hear from you by comes a day, we will just continue adding to the prize as we want to be safe.
S2: Sex like coronaviruses, like he was afraid about eating his own cum because it might have coronavirus in it.
S7: I interpreted this as like he was afraid that somehow freezing it would change its constitution to such a point that it would become dangerous. I don’t know that that didn’t really scan for me. I mean, I took it I took the question seriously, as I always do. And there is you know, you can be allergic to your own cum. That’s a thing. Yeah. So, yes. And I read a really crazy horror story about like three days worth of diarrhea after a guy did this very thing on Reddit, unfortunately. And fortunately, there’s Reddit because this is something, but it is not well studied at all. But it is I mean, like I was aware of this practice having like spent time on tube sites, I knew that this was something thing that people did for a variety of reasons. And Reddit just happens to be a fountain of information on come cycles. Yeah. So so there is an example of novelty. That’s novel. That’s a guess. Oh, my God.
S2: The New York City Health Department put out sort of a guide to safer sex during quarantine, and they were encouraging people to experiment with barriers, which we took to me and use gloryhole, if that’s possible. Have you heard from people trying to engage those kinds of safer sex measures?
S7: I have not I. I wonder about I was a little bit surprised because very early on it was reported that Kofod was found in semen. So but but that may be. But but that transmission was unknown. I don’t know. I got a similar question this week about going down on a woman or whether, you know, vaginal fluid or just the canal is, you know, a means of transmission. And it seems like no, there’s just a few studies. None have found. People have not found this. Yeah. That that that there’s fluid, that there is covid in vaginal fluid. But I don’t know. I don’t understand in those situations unless you have like an outdoor gloryhole situation. I mean. Right. We we still understand. Yeah. Yeah. You breathe. And isn’t that the main way of transmission? So I don’t understand how you could say so. That’s what basically I said to the to the person who wrote in that was like, how are you ever going to how are you ever going to be able to say definitively, oh, I got through this through oral sex and not just by being a person because you had you’re very close to where which is. Exactly. Exactly. It’s not six feet away unless we’re talking about an Amazon. So, yeah, I don’t really I the health department look, I’m all for glory holes. Great. Bring back the glory hole. It seemed like somewhat convoluted advice to me, but again, do what you have to do. If that’s the if that’s your risk reduction. Great use gloryhole.
S2: Yeah I do. I wonder and this is pure speculation on my part, but I’m trying to imagine the person who feels comfortable enough or desperate enough to take a risk to have sex with somebody, but not but not so much that you would just have sex normally, that you’re going to be taking these that sort of halfway measures that are who knows how well they’ll even work.
S2: Yeah, it’s sort of mystifying to me as well that listeners, if you’re one of those people, we would love to hear of that experience. You can email us at Outward Podcast at Slate Dotcom.
S6: Oh, please. Let us know. Yeah, we will read it. So there’s a lot of talk about when normal will come back or if normal will come back. I want after after the pandemic. I wonder what your general thinking is on that ridge. What do will sort of the way that we hooked up and dated before this return one day, or is this going to change things in some ways forever? What’s your what’s your prognostication?
S7: I don’t know. Anecdotally, it seems like for a lot of people it is back to what it used to be, maybe, maybe less, maybe not as promiscuous as it as it could be or whatever, but promiscuous enough. So I think I think certain people will be necessarily more careful and more reluctant to go out there and do it. And I think some people will, you know, plow through it as they have been the entire pandemic. I mean, I am aware of people who just never socially distanced, who just never did that. And, you know, they’ve never you know, it’s turned out to to have been fine for them. So why would they? You know, I think a lot of people have that attitude, and I think a lot of people are sharing that attitude. So, I mean, I don’t know. I guess we’ll see. I think we’re in them in New York. We’re in the midst of a weird turn where it seems like we did what we had to. And in fact, it almost seems like we are living in harm reduction world. You know, it’s just it’s a different city than it was in March. You know, it’s already different. And we’re not seeing increase in cases or deaths. So we’re being given evidence that, like maybe we don’t need to go whole hog, you know, I don’t know. But, you know, I think that where there’s a will, there’s a way and there’s going to be people having sex.
S2: When you are saying that some people have not socially distanced, have just continued as normal and it’s been fine for them, I think when I hear that I am reminded of the people you spoke of who are shaming people on social media for going to parties or having sex or whatever. And I think there is a sense among a lot of people that this isn’t it’s not like the usual kind of moralizing where, like you’re injecting yourself into somebody else’s business because you can tell yourself, like, hey, there are asymptomatic people spreading it all over the place and maybe you didn’t get sick or didn’t know you were sick, but you spread it to somebody else who did get really sick and you didn’t even know it. So I think there’s a sense of people wanting certainty where there is none. And also feeling like this is very much a community safety issue and not like. To each their own kind of issue, which makes it so much different than any other conversation about sex that we could have or that the queer community has had.
S7: Yeah, I think that’s so true. And I say that not you know, I mentioned people who do that not to hold that up as a model of behavior that I’m suggesting, but merely to say that they’ve done this. They haven’t experienced any first hand, any first hand illness than any first hand, you know, viability as a result of it. And so they haven’t learned, you know, it sometimes it takes, you know, actual consequences for people to change their behavior. And I think a lot of people have been shown inadvertently that they don’t have to. What does that mean? You know, say they’re carrying around immunity. What does that mean for next year for them? Who knows? I don’t know. But I think I really do believe that people will find a way to have sex.
S5: I really do. That’s a safe bet.
S6: Yeah, well, I think yeah, I think at times as uncertain as these, that is that is a certainty we can hold on to. I think that’s a great place to leave it. Rich, thank you so much for joining us and for your amazing advice. Thank you. Thank you for having me. Listeners, you can go read Rich every week on how to do it in Slate Dotcom.
S2: All right. Our next topic for the month. Ellen DeGeneres, you might have heard of her last month. BuzzFeed published two articles from Kristy Lee Yandilla about the working conditions at Ellen Ellen DeGeneres talk show. According to several former employees, BuzzFeed reported workers have been subjected to racist comments, sexual harassment at the hands of multiple producers and general mistreatment by producers. Some former employees said that degeneracy knew what was happening and didn’t do anything to stop it. Others have said that Ellen herself was a mean boss. So June Thomas and I, June Thomas, a lesbian icon in her own right. We had a little chat about what to make of these revelations about Ellen DeGeneres. You can find that transcript on Slate Dotcom. And one of the major questions that we had was, will this episode affect how Ellen is perceived by mainstream straight America, which is home to the vast majority of her fans? I actually don’t know any queer people who are diehard fans of The Ellen talk show. So Ellen was blacklisted in Hollywood for many years after she came out. And an essential part of her reentry into the good graces of the industry was this persona she had that features heavily on the show, this inoffensive, exceedingly generous, super kind, you know, America’s best lesbian friend kind of character. So what I’m wondering is, is that image and by extension, Ellen’s ability to be embraced by Street America under threat now, has this changed America’s perception of her in any meaningful way? What do you guys think?
S4: I think it’s a challenge to untangle whether Elin herself is being held to a higher standard because she’s a woman maybe, or because she is queer and that there’s an expectation that she is the big boss, like the buck stops with her that we would have with her, that we might not have with, say, Jimmy Kimmel or David Letterman or Jimmy Fallon. Right. So I think that’s one thing. And I think the other thing is that in a in a way, you can look at, Ellen, the rumors of Ellen being an imperious boss as a kind of victory that like, yes, she should be an imperious boss because men have been able to handle power and celebrity that way for a long period of time. And in a perverse way, you can say, isn’t that kind of great, that Ellen has access to the privilege that we are more comfortable affording to celebrated men?
S2: I think of that argument in the same way that I think of arguments about Amy Klobuchar when there were reports of her berating employees, throwing things at them. And there was a little bit of a strain of argument out there that was like, well, good for her. She didn’t you know, women don’t get places in politics without having sharp elbows and without, you know, throwing a stapler. Yeah. And I think that’s the completely wrong way to look at it. I think we should one to be doing exactly the the motivation of any work that we have done for equality should be to raise the bar for everybody else instead of lower the bar for somebody like Ellen. That said, I cannot picture anybody else being held to account for the behavior of all of their employees. I can’t picture let’s say I’m trying to think of all of these men and I’m just keep coming up with, like, Charlie Rose. No, Matt Lauer, no.
S4: Well, let’s watch shows like Jimmy Fallon, like sweet, sweet Jimmy Fallon. Right. Like there’s a way in which even I am like, well, on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, like Ellen must be the mom, right. Like, everybody must be accountable to her because she’s is that by virtue of the fact that she’s a woman. Whereas if this were happening and to be clear, it’s not happening as far as I know. But if this were happening with Jimmy Fallon’s show, would he be able to say, like, well, I’m just the boss. I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t understand how these other interpersonal relationships are playing out under my under the umbrella of my personality and my persona. Like, you know, is it is our expectation different because she is a woman? I don’t know if it is necessarily, but I think that in part it might be.
S3: I think it might be that I also the think that she she cultivated this persona of the generous, kind and offensive sort of best friend, very consciously, like from from the get with her career. And I feel like what’s happening now is that that that of like if you believed that was like one hundred percent true, maybe you feel betrayed now. But if you were like savvy and knew it was kind of a performance, then you feel like I feel like kind of like not not that it’s like justified, but just like, well, that was always fake.
S6: And of course, like, of course, it’s going to come back to bite you. Right. But then on the other hand, like, I feel sad that she felt that she had to construct that persona in the first place to be accepted as a queer person. Right. So it’s like it’s like this Thickett. I can’t I’m not even sure if I’m explaining it clearly, but like there’s like I see why she had to to create that brand, even as I kind of hate the brand and feel like the brand itself is like offensive. I don’t know.
S4: I mean, I think that it’s just so clear to me that Ellen or really any of the performers we’re talking about are conducting a performance. And there’s a particular nuance to the nature of Ellen’s performance by the fact that she is a butch lesbian who came out in a very public way and was really kind of destroyed for it for a long period of time. And so we assume that her performance of geniality is somehow a correction for what she went through in that period of time. But we don’t really know that she could simply be playing nice because it earns her tens of millions of dollars a year. And that is a simple and straightforward calculation and. I think it’s very hard to understand how insulating and warping it can be to possess that kind of money and that kind of celebrity where you just don’t your sense of who you are and what your responsibility is to other people becomes very confused and very odd. And you are you indulge your own idiosyncrasies indulged and you are protected. And so. In a way, you can’t blame somebody who is as cosseted as Ellen is for an abdication of leadership because she has been to get that kind of money to to occupy that kind of celebrity is to kind of be babied.
S6: Well, it’s such a strange position because she is I mean, coming out the way that she did in 97, like she you cannot trailblazer is the right word. At the same time, if you don’t build on that into sort of a politics, then where where does that leave the community looking at it? Right. Like I feel like that’s where I’m at a loss with her generally is like I recognize that it was, you know, career suicide to do that or seemed to be to do what she did. And but then also like props for that, I guess. But then, like, what did you do after and like Christina, in your chat with Joan, you have this great line about like is I think you recording or sort of paraphrasing Barack Obama, who said that she pushed the country in the direction of justice. And you ask, like, is she still doing that or how long has it been since she was doing that? And like, I don’t I don’t I don’t think at all, as far as I know, like, she’s not someone who comes to mind when I think about queer people who are who are pushing the boundaries of of justice for all of us, except for I mean, I would point out, though, the simple act of representation on the television screens of millions of Americans daily, but do so. That’s interesting. Like the do you think is the representation that she offers like this sounds weird, but like enough of a representation. Like, is it is it like I mean, this gets into like a kind of lesbian and, you know, like kind of test which I which I am suspicious of.
S3: But like at the same time, you know, I and I should say, like, I don’t watch the show, but my sense from clips and things that I see is not that it’s like a super queer show.
S6: So like, yeah.
S4: I mean, I think it’s important to remember that we’re talking about a network morning show. Right. Like it is a to call it G rated is an understatement. Right. For the program is to, you know, entertain an audience. I would guess that it’s largely women who make their living in the home. Right, who make their lives in the home. And I would you know, and I don’t know the demographics of Ellen’s viewership. I don’t know I don’t know who is tuning in. But my guess is that it is for some segment of Ellen’s audience. She is the gay person who they know and that they have a feeling about her. They have an attachment to her. They have an understanding of her and her home life with the actress Portia de Rossi. And like that that that that’s there’s some power in that that that may actually have affected how a whole population thinks about gay and lesbian people more generally. I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s giving her too much credit or if that’s misunderstanding who her audience actually is. But that’s my guess. And I think that I don’t want to I don’t want to pretend that there’s not power in that.
S2: My question about that is, you know, less about the actual whether her show is sort of queer enough or political enough because it’s never going to be queer enough or political enough for me. My question is more, does that positive representational effect still have the same meaning, you know, 15 years since the show’s beginning? Yeah, I think it was probably a lot more powerful seven years ago than it is now when there are all manner of queer people in all manner of mainstream entertainment, you know. So while she may be the only queer person that some people know, still they’ve known her for 15 years. And I wonder if those people have progressed at all in their understanding of what it means to be like an LGBTQ ally in that span of time, or whether they can just sort of think, you know, I’m not bigoted because I watch Ellen in the same way that Oprah, being a famous and rich black woman on TV, didn’t solve people’s racism. You know, I think there’s a limit to how far that kind of representation can lift people up. Meanwhile, now Oprah, Oprah’s out here putting Brianna Taylor’s picture on the cover of her magazine. You know it. Beyonce is out here making a visual album full of artists from the African diaspora. What is Ellen doing? For what sort of similar way is Ellen using her position as an arbiter of mainstream culture to advance the communities that she’s a part of? I, I, you know, I expect so little from her that I wasn’t surprised to hear that her workplace was a total cluster fuck and that she was tolerating racism and sexual harassment because like you said, woman, I mean, she is far more I’m just going to again quote myself from my conversation with Junn because I vomited so much onto the page for that. But she seems far more invested in the rich community than she is in the LGBTQ community.
S4: Yeah, well, I think money is a very, very corrupting and strange influence. And I think it’s impossible, especially the kind of money that we’re talking about. It warps your sense of who you are. And Ellen sort of ran afoul of leftist politics already by, you know, Instagram and herself at the Super Bowl. Wasn’t the Super Bowl actually, maybe it was some some some sort of evil was like, yeah, with George W. Bush and so leading people to question her sort of liberal bona fides because she was palling around with a Republican president. And, you know, I think that there was also there were also critics who looked at that and said, yes, of course, money knows about money. Like you have to think about Ellen as a multimillionaire and not as like a lesbian intersectionality. Yeah. I mean, the intersection of whiteness and vast, vast wealth like that’s where Allen sits. And she may she may perform a service to the cultural imagination by showing up on daytime television and sharply tailored suits. And she may have done something. But Christina, as you say, perhaps those hearts and minds have been won already. Like we’re sort of talking about a kind of will and grace style representation of queerness. But like the culture has actually moved well past that at this point.
S2: I just keep thinking back to the conversation that she had with Kevin Hart when he was tapped to host the Oscars and then people resurfaced. All of these terrible homophobic jokes that he had told in the past. And Ellen devoted a whole hour of her show to shaming the people who were hurt by those jokes, calling them haters, agreeing with him when he called them trolls, basically positioning Kevin Hart as the victim of all of these queer and trans people who were saying, you know, can you apologize for these things? And I think to me, that really showed where her loyalties lie. And, you know, when we talk about the value of having somebody like her, an androgynous, I wouldn’t say butch necessarily public figure coming into your home every morning like. It matters what you what you do with that identity and what she did was use her identity as a way to absolve somebody of their homophobia. And I think that’s one of the worst ways that you could possibly use that identity, because then you’re giving permission to all the straight people watching to say, oh, OK, so like, my homophobia wasn’t really that bad. Or maybe I apologized for it once and now I can stop thinking about it. And everybody who’s trying to hold me to task is actually just trying to bring me down and ruin my brand partnership with Chase.
S4: Yeah, I mean, I, I’m no particular I have no particular feelings about Ellen either way, but I do I am mindful of what she accomplished on her sitcom, also called Ellen, in a very, very different moment in this culture. And I think it is worthy and important to continue for for audiences to continue to push their entertainers and their cultural figures toward a higher standard. And I think that’s really worthy. And I think it’s we don’t need Ellen in quite the same way now because we do have people like Frank Ocean or we have, you know, Janet Mock, like we have these pop cultural figures who who really represent and embody difference and the sort of spectrum of human existence very powerfully. And that’s wonderful. And they are. But, you know, I also am mindful of the fact that in a way, they are the descendants. They have taken the torch from Ellen’s fingers because Ellen, as a sort of dumb sitcom entertainer, did roll the dice and make a very particular personal political statement at a time when that was not palatable. And she really did suffer for that. I’m not worried about Ellen. She’s got hundreds of millions of dollars. She will be she could probably buy a country and sort of start her own religion if she wanted to. But I am mindful of what that was in a different cultural moment.
S2: Yeah. And I do think that the people who are most likely to be upset by these allegations demanding better from her are not necessarily the same people who have been enamored by the Ellen personality and the sort of like Heart-warming go fund me moments on her show and good for them.
S4: I mean, they’re that anger about her and what she represents is righteous. And I think she it is it is wonderful to see people holding power to account like that is important. And we exist in a cultural moment like so people who panic refer to this as council culture. But that’s not the moment we we exist in a moment of responsibility and like power should have to accept responsibility for the ways in which it is discharged. And that’s a wonderful thing. And that is a welcome change in our expectations for people like Ellen, like our politicians, like anybody who possesses power.
S6: And I think we can do that holding to account and keeping our minds at the same time that all of the, you know, the import of what she did. You know, we shouldn’t erase that. But at the same time, we should be able to critique not what she’s done with her sort of queer power. And then also what’s going on with the specific allegations now.
S2: All right. That feels like a good place to end it. Listeners, I would love to hear from you if you’re a fan of Ellen or if you have thoughts about what she’s done with her queer power. As Brian so eloquently put it, you can email us anytime day or night at our podcast at Slate Dotcom. All right, I guess it’s time for our gay agenda.
S6: Brian, what are you bringing to us so I am bringing to you this wonderful Web series that I hope our listeners are already familiar with, but if not, I’m going to tell them about it because that’s what we do on this segment. It’s called it’s very hard to pronounce, but I’m doing my best. The title of my agenda item is just that recording, it is with a host as a Web series hosted by Trixie, Mattel and Cartier, who were both repulsed drag race albums. And it has been on for a number of years now. A new season just started up, which is why I’m mentioning it now. But it’s been on for a number of years. And it is it is like my favorite, like I am brain dead. Need to watch something hilarious thing that exists in the world. They they sort of describing it as tough because it’s so surrealist and kind of madcap, but they simply sit in front of a green screen and have a topic for the series like Dating or Pet Peeves or Brockley, and then just sort of riff off of each other in this. They just have this incredible chemistry and they rip rip off of each other, joking and analyzing like aspects of each of those topics for like eight to ten minutes, something like that. And it is just so fucking funny. They are so smart and they’re in their own ways. And and it’s maybe the best thing that’s come out of the whole Rupal is drag race. Universe extended well, extended universe.
S2: That’s high praise coming from you.
S4: And we should note we should note that there’s like a vigorous cosine from our producer who is nodding your head and grinning happily. So but I would like to hear you say the name of the show one more time, OK?
S6: It’s oh, it’s fell to you. And and I think we’ll find it if you Google something like that. But it is on world of it’s come from a world of Wonder, which is the Rupal Production Company and on YouTube. So if you’re looking for some August, you know, binge viewing, I would say start at the beginning and just get into the green screen graphics and the hilarity because they’re excellent.
S2: All right. I’d like to recommend a New York magazine profile by Molly Fisher. It’s a profile of one time outward guest, Sarah Stillman. Yes, that’s what she’s best known for. Her appearance on our Now. She’s a longtime AIDS activist and author and teacher. The profile was published in the August 3rd issue of New York magazine, and it does a beautiful job of unpacking the Shulman coinage. Conflict is Not Abuse, which is the title of her twenty sixteen book. And it became a sort of unexpectedly and exceedingly popular as a way of understanding all manner of social and political and politicized conflict that all of us seem to be unendingly embroiled in, especially in the wake of the twenty sixteen election, but also as long as people have been having conflict with one another. So part of the impulse to claim victimhood, according to Shulman, is that in our culture, often you need to be a victim to get care and support. And it’s also hard within the current cultural discourse to talk about victims who are also perpetrators of abuse. The book does a much better job of explaining those concepts than I can. But what Fisher does is talk about how these trains of thought and lines of inquiry are the culmination of much of Shulman’s life and work as a Jewish lesbian in New York. And she’s done so much and produced so much for the queer community and with the queer community. And it strikes to me a note of optimism, even though I don’t know that Shulman would identify herself as a particularly optimistic person. But just just to read about the possibility of reconciliation and resolution of community conflicts is heartening in times like these, quote unquote. So I really hope that the profile is introducing some younger queer and trans people to Shulman’s work. I enjoy it so much, in part because I disagree with her sometimes. And she’s one of the few people who I can really thoroughly disagree with in in a way that feels energising and generative. I mean, she’s just smart as hell and so compelling as a writer and thinker. The profile is called Sarah Shulman’s Good Conflict by Molly Fisher. And we’re just read a bunch of Sarah Schulman’s work.
S8: My gay agenda is considerably more lowbrow than I would say, both of yours, actually. But thinking about Ellen DeGeneres as we were in preparation for this conversation, I was thinking about Ellen’s show, which was called Ellen. And I have mentioned before that I have spent this summer retreating into the sitcom. I watched all of designing women. Earlier this year, which was really a little talk about gay agenda like that, that is really forward in the gay agenda, really advancing the gay agenda. But earlier this year, I also spoke to the comedian Cole Escola for the working podcast. And we talked a lot about the influence of the sitcom as a form on the kind of comedy he now performs and writes. And so I’ve continued to be I’ve continued to watch sitcoms that I already know from a point of view of comfort, just sort of leaving it on while I’m trying to do my work or while I’m trying to make my kids dinner for the seventh day in the row. And I have been re watching shows, thinking about gay representation. And it’s kind of a fascinating exercise in rereading our recent past. And right now I am watching 30 Rock and it is very interesting, revisitation sort of in the way that a fashion trend from just a couple of years ago can feel extremely alien and distant 30 Rock as a document of a different time. And the culture feels very alien and distant. And the way the show talks about queerness in particular is extremely almost unrecognizable to me. And it’s it’s hard for me to imagine that a contemporary sitcom writers room would conceive of joking about queerness in the way that 30 Rock did only a handful of years ago. And so I highly recommend the sitcom revisitation project for your waning months of summer. I don’t have much left in me intellectually before the cool weather of fall. And so I’m going to finish watching 30 Rock and then I think I’m actually going to watch Ellen after this and really try and understand what that show was doing before Ellen came out as part of the storyline, and then after Ellen came out as part of the storyline. It’s a part of my history that it’s part of our cultural history that, again, in the way that fashions from a couple of years ago can feel really irrelevant. That’s sort of the space it seems to occupy for me. But I would like to brush up on that so I have plenty of time cooking to watch these sitcoms on my iPad and sort of zone out. So that’s my plan. That’s my gay agenda for the rest of the summer.
S6: Thank you for giving me permission to watch Frazier. Yeah. Oh, I always need that.
S4: And again, talk about a text that advances the gay agenda. I mean, Fraizer really doesn’t get enough credit for doing that. Exactly. Well, that is about it for this month. And in fact, this summer. Please send us your feedback and topic ideas at our podcast at Slate Dotcom or via Facebook and Twitter at Slate Outward. Our wonderful producer is Daniel Shrader. June Thomas is the senior managing producer of Slate podcasts and unqualifiedly disserving American lesbian icon. If you like outward, please subscribe and your podcast up. Tell your friends about it and review the show so that others can find it out.
S1: We’ll be back in your feeds September 16th, guys. I’ll see you this fall. See you then. Run by.