The “Bless This Mess” Edition

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership.

S2: The following podcast contains explicit language. Hello and welcome to the waves for Thursday October 24th. The bless this mess Ed.. I’m Christina cutter Ritchie a staff writer at Slate and host of the Slate podcast outward.

S3: I’m Marsha Catlin a professor of history at Georgetown University.

S4: And I’m Gene Thomas senior managing producer of Slate podcasts.

S5: Unfortunately Nicole will be unable to join us this week. We miss her but we have a couple great topics before we get into them. Though I have some excellent news we have a new production assistant onboard. Her name is Rachel Allen she comes to us from the Atlantic and we are so happy to have her here. She’ll also be production assistant thing for two other Slate podcasts the culture gap fest and how to with Charles du HIG. So get ready for a market improvement on all of these shows. Welcome Rachel. This week we are going to start things off with a chat about love and politics specifically what’s going on with Democratic women married to trump loving men they exist. Perhaps some of them listen to this show then we’re gonna talk about the idea that abortion should be safe legal and rare quote unquote a phrasing that presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard and former Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen endorsed last week. And our last topic is a little bit squishy here. We’re going to talk about the loneliness and homebound ness of the photos that young people and especially influencers are posting on Instagram. Jenn What is our Slate Plus segment this week on our Slate Plus segment this week.

S6: We’ll be asking was this sexist and I went on the floor and got you votes. I got votes for that bill. I convinced people to vote for it. So let’s get those things straight.

S5: If you’re not a Slate Plus member yet and you want to know if what Joe Biden did was sexist you can and should start your free two week trial by visiting Slate dot com slash the waves plus all right. Onto our first topic so the Sirius XM host Mike senior Ellie wrote a piece in medium recently about a series of conversations he’s had on his show with liberal women whose relationships have been torn asunder or at least complicated by Trump especially when their male partners love him. Marsha what is the deal here.

S3: This is fascinating stuff. So in medium Mike senior Ellie wrote about how his show and a Facebook group inspired by it has become a safe place for women who are married to Trump supporters to talk about how this difference in political opinion animates some other dynamics in the relationship. And this is actually an emerging genre of opposites attract and the impact of 2016 on romantic relationships and what I find most fascinating about all of this is that the idea that political compatibility isn’t necessary for romance is shocking to me as someone whose entire marriage is predicated on cable news watching but more than anything else I think that part of the tensions that these women express in how 2016 shifted their relationships was either for the first time they were realizing that politics mattered inside the home. And so for the women who said some said that they didn’t know their partners political orientation which I find a little hard to believe. But even for the people who felt like they could be in a relationship with someone who is maybe ideologically different the way that then played out in their relationship is that some of these women wanted to become more politically active and vocal they felt a deep sense of urgency after the election or maybe even a little bit earlier before with the emergence of movements like black lives matter that they wanted to start to articulate their views and their energies outside of the home. And it started to have an impact on the relationship. And so I think that this genre of writing has the possibility of being a cautionary tale to people about why you might want to sort out politics before you get serious with someone. But I think it also talks about the ways that depending on your identity what part of the country you’re living in your circumstances you can really be insulated from some of the political realities that other communities are deeply vulnerable from.

S5: Yeah I too was am just totally befuddled by the idea that you might not know somebodies politics before you get married although I do think for some of these people you know their partners changed when Trump came around and I don’t think that’s you know unique to people married to Democratic women I think that that’s a large part of why nobody predicted or very few people predicted that Trump would win because he really did animate something in people that might not have been inflamed before you know he was really made it OK for people to come out and say like you know what I am racist and like that should be OK or you know I know what things are too P.C. and our politicians should be able to be as coarse and as vulgar as we are. But when people talk about the importance of you know making friends and respecting people across party lines kind of like what do you think politics is like just a hobby or like a difference of taste in movies because to me it’s an extension of the things that are most important to me. Some people might call that values you know and my parents always taught me from when I was a kid you know they actually taught the sort of marriage course that Catholics need to take or often take before they get the blessing of a priest to get married. It’s called pre kina and they would always say like the thing that we teach people is like that’s the most important thing when you’re going to commit your life to somebody is to make sure that you have the same values. I wonder in cases where people do seem to have changed with the advent of Trump you know on either side whether it’s the people who really want to get involved in progressive activism or the people who say like oh I’m a huge Trump supporter now and and I can’t deal with this like politically correct left whether that was an extension of values they already had or whether it really was like a a a new awakening instigated by Trump.

S7: Yeah I suspect a lot of the time it’s the latter. I think there’s kind of a forcing mechanism of you know people realizing and this is a phrase that I almost hate myself but people realizing their privilege because they know that this person who they’re very close with who they live with who they supposedly love has cares so little for them or for people like them or for other people so lacks empathy that they’re willing to effectively you know vote and insult comedian into office that they’re so confident of their own safety that they’re willing to blow up other people’s lives just for laughs almost you know just to own the Libs there’s you know that I think it’s yet another of the so-called norms that have been blown away by Trump that I think you’re absolutely right both of you that politics are part of the shared values that seem so essential to be in a happy relationship. But I can see that you know there can be some differences there. You know I could see like a you know nothing too extreme but I can see you know politically divergent partnerships being real and that’s fine. But then along comes Trump and I don’t think you can just kind of get along with you know kids in cages at the border or Muslim bands like there’s just he takes things as he does and so in so many ways takes things to such extreme that we know that things that have been possible are no longer possible in the relationships that could just kind of avoid certain topics that can’t avoid them anymore that it makes perfect sense to me. And I’m also not exactly surprised. I mean we keep being surprised by things like we keep being surprised wow you know whatever percentage of it of white women voted for Trump I’m so horrified by it. I blocked it from my mind but you know I remember after the election a lot of conversations of while can you believe many white women voted for Trump. Well yes I can and therefore I’m not as surprises as I think I I’m supposed to be.

S5: And I think there’s art. There’s also some acceptance of difference on gender issues in a lot of like heterosexual courtship and marriages where it’s like yep obviously you know the the typical man that I might date especially in certain communities where there is a lot stricter you know roles for men and women like in a lot of conservative Christian communities or something there you know a woman might not enter a partnership assuming like well we’re going to be on the same page about gender issues. And so but then when Trump comes along and it’s not just you know a patriarchal sort of like we love women as wives and mothers sort of thing and it’s like grab them by the pussy and your husband ends up supporting that and laughing at that. It’s like it’s too he’s too coarse to ignore right.

S8: At that point I think a lot of these stories remind me of my favorite cultural reference the bachelor you know the bachelor in a lot of the scenes they talk about feeling so close to people and they don’t talk about anything. It’s really fascinating right. It’s like you know I feel so connected and they’ve talked maybe occasionally they’ll talk about a trauma but they hadn’t really talked about anything and I always wonder on the show how do you figure it out with this person.

S3: Because politics never come up. Sometimes they you from eyes race when they have kind of a multiethnic multiracial cast but not really. And so part of this I think is also about what we consider the substance of a romantic relationship. So if it’s not about talking about politics or trying to flatten these differences then what is happening within the dynamics of the home. And for some of these stories that women wrote about how their husbands pissed off because they’ve joined indivisible or now they’re protesting. I do wonder if sometimes politics becomes a mechanism for a kind of passive aggressive shifting in the power dynamic of the relationship that something else could have taken that place. So not to suggest that these women aren’t trying to express themselves politically but I wonder if there are other ways that this happens it’s like I took on a new hobby and dammit I’m going to be gone five days a week or like I’m no longer going to do these things. And so you start to see. That it’s not just the politics. It’s about the dynamics of of relationships that many of us not all grew up with. Right. And I think the idea that the patriarch owns the ideas of the household big and small is something that also comes out in a lot of these stories because if you look at a lot of the excellent books that are coming out about the history of women’s suffrage this year a lot of anxiety about women voting is like do they vote what their husbands tell them or do they vote independently. And so these stories they’re both they’re both about kind of the Trump era. But I think they’re also about just long standing assumptions about who gets to organize the household.

S5: Yeah and I know it in in reading this article that we read I felt like a lot of the women were you know disturbed by their husbands politics and maybe the way he changed after he started absorbing it like more Fox News or more. You know Trump land rhetoric but it was also more about the way he started treating them like calling her a lib tard and not respecting her views. So it wasn’t just that their views differed but it was that he turned into you know a jerk about it and it was about the internal dynamics of their relationship even more so than the politics outside of it.

S7: I was really interested in that in the kind of the emotions that came up. It felt like in many of these examples that we read about you know there was anger but it was different like the women were angry that their men didn’t get it. They just didn’t understand what they were going through they didn’t understand why they were upset and the men seemed to be mad that the women were angry like it’s there was even a lack of compatibility around what the bad emotion was about.

S9: Yeah there’s going to be a spinoff genre of this writing that is slowly emerging and that is mostly white women talking about the surprise that their sons are radicalized by racist rhetoric on the Internet.

S3: And in a few experiences I’ve had of giving speaking engagements I’ve occasionally had white mom say you know my son’s looking at this stuff online or my son said something that really surprised me because I didn’t think those were the values of my family. And so it’s this idea that this political moment you know like something’s in the water and it’s allowing people who again were not proximate to these issues to have a new kind of viewpoint on things and this idea of you know like my sons looking at in sell stuff or you know my son expressed these views about kids at a school and I don’t know where it came from. And I think that the lesson in all of this is that politics are to be discussed at the dinner table and these values have to be hyper articulated in a relationship. And I just remember in the 90s how like everyone found James Carville and Mary Matalin just like so adorable. You know he’s on the left she’s on the right. And they’ve make it looks like the parents for Pete’s sake.

S10: Craven to me like oh you guys just both like make your money from different places. And like what do you actually believe. Do you agree on anything.

S11: And there’s a 2.0 now with Margaret Hoover a descendant of Herbert Hoover and John Avalon and they go on CNN sometimes and it’s like we’re so it’s so kooky but I think it’s interesting that that seems to be the the domain of the elite like were highly educated political elites and we just have different kind of viewpoints. But one of the things that these stories do highlight is that this is a lot of the women are working class and a lot of them are financially dependent on their husbands. So the political strife that they feel in the household can’t be resolved by leaving because they can’t afford to. And that also magnifies a lot of how this stuff goes down.

S5: It also speaks to me about the you know what’s out there you know especially if you are you know in a rural working class community that is majority white let’s say and and you’re a progressive woman or a liberal woman like how many eligible men who share your political views or your gender politics or your race politics or whatever are even out there. I mean even if you just look at the numbers of how many people identify as Democrats or liberals and how many people identify as Republicans like it’s only getting more gender segregated Trump has really polarized the genders on politics and and they were already polarized to begin with. And so I mean even if you take gay people out of the equation you know out of the percentage of people who identify as Democrats for instance there’s still a lot more women on one side than the other. And so I wonder whether in some communities politics just seems like another thing you know bad politics seems like just something women have to accept from men in order to have any sort of romantic life whatsoever. There seems to be a weird little squeaking from the heating element.

S8: Sorry listeners if you can hear that you’re also it must be a lot of noise. The Conway household Kellyanne Conway and George Conway they are probably the most iconic politically aligned but deeply divergent couple and they are litigating their relationship in op ed and required pieces.

S11: And I think that it is interesting to watch the way that a political couple is not playing by the rules of any discretion over their feelings about Trump. And so it’s interesting every time George Conway is openly trolling his spouse’s boss. Yeah and then the ways that allegedly she manipulates media to try to kind of make herself look better in the context of her family life and so. That’s probably not the best model how it works.

S5: I mean I’m a conspiracy theorist and I think that this is just you know all part of the Trump administration’s plan to like make itself seem more palatable by saying like look the spouse of one of our own like disagrees with us so look we have diversity of opinion in our world. But that might be a little bit too tinfoil hat. But that’s it’s my tinfoil hat and I’ll defend it to the death. All right. That’s all the time we have for this incredibly fascinating topic. Listeners we would love to hear from you if you are in one of these politically discordant relationships. You can email us at the waves at Slate dot com with your story and we empathize with you safe legal and rare. That was the phrase that Tulsi Gabbard the congresswoman from Hawaii used at last week’s Democratic presidential debate when the candidates were asked about abortion rights. She was the only one who sort of hedged her answer rather than making an affirmative case for abortion access. Here’s a clip of that moment.

S12: This is often one of the most difficult decisions that a woman will ever have to make and it’s unfortunate to see how in this country it has for so long been used as a divisive political weapon. I agree with Hillary Clinton on one thing disagree with her on many others but when she said abortion should be safe legal and rare I think she’s correct.

S5: So safe legal and rare has pretty much fallen out of favor in the Democratic Party since it was taken out of the party platform in 2012. Hillary Clinton used the phrase in her 2008 campaign Bill Clinton used it before her. But she didn’t use it in 2016 and it really hasn’t been embraced in the past couple of years because advocates say it stigmatizes people who get abortions by suggesting that there’s something shameful or undesirable about the procedure because otherwise why should it be rare. After Gabbard said it last week in the debate Leana Wen who served as planned Parenthood’s president for about 10 months before she was asked to step down in July tweeted that she appreciated that gathered brought up quote the third rail for Democrats. Wen said that most Americans hold complex truths they can both personally oppose abortion and support others right to choose. They can both feel uncomfortable about abortion and not want women to die from back alley procedures. So I ask you to what do you think of that phrase is a politically useful. Does it speak to most Americans as Dr. Wen said or has it totally worn out its welcome in progressive politics.

S7: I am torn on this. I as a supporter of the right to choose and women’s right to bodily autonomy of course. I I don’t have any issues. I was not brought up Catholic. I don’t have any baggage around this. I think that abortion is a very safe procedure that should be available widely. Yet I also acknowledge that it’s something that is very politically contentious and I think as you wrote in Slate Christina when Dr. Wen made those comments she was reflecting her role as a physician. Her background is as a physician not a politician. Abortion is different from everything else because unlike other medical procedures that are very safe and and should be very cheap and very easy like there’s just it’s a very uncomplicated procedure. It doesn’t get treated like one because of the political end and I guess religious all of the all of the complications around abortion make it different. This is a statement of the obvious and yet it seems that a lot of people were not acknowledging that I mean abortion is different there is such heightened feelings about it that it feels while I completely agree that position and get as rare and and validating rare makes it seem you know something to be avoided at the same time. I think many many many millions of people in this country and around the world think that abortions should be avoided. So I it’s it’s a I don’t know if it’s just. I don’t think it’s just optics. However I do think that that we just have to be real about that. It is different that is a different topic with different that drives different kinds of feelings than any other medical procedure.

S13: And so you know that in that sense you shouldn’t just be saying you know there should be as many abortions as we need abortion just like there should be as many heart stents put in as heart stents need to be put in.

S7: And I haven’t zero disagreements with that. That makes perfect sense to me. That seems like a totally reasonable position. How could you argue with it and yet saying it potentially you know drives people to to vote. I don’t know if for Trump because I don’t have any faith in his abortion politics but does drive people away from from the person saying it. I got no issues with it but I know that a lot of people do.

S8: Marsha what do you think it’s so hard. You know I grew up Catholic and going to Catholic school and and went to Catholic high school and it seems like the context now in which young people are engaged about abortion seems far more kind of like. I guess politically intense and when I was a kid and on both sides. Well in the sense that you know like here in Washington D.C. they have that march for life.

S14: I couldn’t imagine when I was a young person my school like organizing a trip for people to go if people wanted to go they went.

S11: But this idea that you kind of you organize young people to be so oriented around abortion is something that I kind of missed that moment and might have in the context in which I live all of this is to say that as someone who understands the context in which people are anti choice I understand why it is alluring for people who want to nuance or study that choice debate to engage in the rhetoric of you know safe legal prayer. I completely get that impulse. And increasingly as I really think about what’s at stake around reproductive justice I bristle at that language because what it does it suggests that if you make abortion simply a medical issue you lose sight of some of the extreme tactics that are used in order to prevent access. And I think that you have to keep your eye on that prize as well because when you know when Hillary Clinton came up with that kind of the rhetoric around it I think it allows people to do another version of it that says I would never have an abortion but someone else can. Yeah that distancing language then distances people from thinking well what if I live in a state that tries to legislate abortion to the point that there’s no access or what happens when organizations use incredible intimidation and scare tactic tactics to prevent people from being providers. What happens when medical schools don’t provide that kind of training. And so I guess my critique of that language it pulls people further away from the deeper political things that also have to be protected other than access and I think Tulsi Gabbard using that language it’s it’s an appeal towards a type of moderate but it loses sight of the responsibility of how to really support access.

S15: Yeah.

S5: I just want to point out that you know there is a way of interpreting this that says you know we should make abortions rare because if abortions were rare that would mean that people had full access to affordable accessible contraception. But I I think that this language and the and the discourse around it gets at the broader question of how hard Democrats should be trying to reach the anti-abortion or generally you know centrist moderate independent voters and how far they should be willing to go to do that. So I have been asking myself like what is the population that is convincing all by this. Like who are they trying to reason why. And is Dr. Wen right that most Americans hold complex opinions about abortion. So all will research into polling about this. According to a Pew survey from late 2017 48 percent of Americans say that having an abortion is morally wrong.

S16: I’ve seen another poll that said it was 50 percent. So let’s say it’s 50 percent. About 41 percent of people identify as Republicans. So if you take the Republicans out of that let’s say 48 percent. You’ve got seven percent of the population that’s Democrat or independent and thinks abortion is morally wrong although I do recognize that some of those Republicans may support abortion rights. But as we’ve seen in the way that the parties have become even more polarized over the past decade or two than ever before you know there’s an extremely small number of Democratic elected officials and Republican elected officials that sort of switch party lines on abortion rights. I’m gonna assume that the Republicans in this polling you know that there’s a very small percentage who do support abortion rights. Meanwhile there’s a large majority of people about three quarters of the population according to Gallup polling that say they’re presidential candidate doesn’t have to share their views on abortion that it’s either not an issue they consider at all or that it’s one of many issues that matter to them and their sort of balance. It’s a balancing act. So I think it’s possible that if Democrats were to revert to this language they are you know effectively selling out the one in four women who will have an abortion in their lives and saying you know that if that your your having an abortion is like a failure of our desire to have abortions be rare just to convince this vanishingly small portion of the population who believes that abortion is morally wrong and has what I think is like an unfathomable political position of supporting a fully saying you know I’ll support a pro-choice Democrat as long as they are willing to say that abortion is undesirable and I don’t think that that’s worth it. I don’t think it’s a good look for a party that says it’s you know trying to protect the interests and the needs of a minority women who need and have abortions against you know the the Republican Party and the conservatives who are trying to make it inaccessible for all. But like the the the richest and most well-connected women. So I don’t even see the utility of using this language.

S15: But I I also don’t think we’re at risk.

S16: I don’t think that Democrats are going to do that because Democrats both elected Democrats and voting Democrats have moved left on this issue so much in recent years that like I don’t ever see it making a real comeback. Marsha you’re looking very skeptically at me right now. I’m trying to I’m that emoji where the person’s like doing the complicated math and from you.

S9: Know I this is something that I struggle with because what’s politically deviant and what’s morally right are sometimes at odds. And I think a lot about the fact that you know Elizabeth Warren made a statement at a debate where she said that I lived in an America where abortion was illegal and rich women still got abortions because they could travel. And I think that that was probably one of the best statements about what we’re really tight. Totally agree. And that is something that the political rhetoric around choice and access never really informs anyone of anything. It’s a lot of platitudes about the Supreme Court. It’s a platitudes about Roe v. Wade. But I think that what’s missing in all of this is a serious public education about how abortion access works and the various context in which women seek abortions.

S14: And I think that as I got older I appreciated the fact that people told me about their experiences of having an abortion and that is helpful. But there is a way that that conversation hasn’t risen to the point where people are saying I could imagine what would it be like for a political candidate to say I chose an abortion for these reasons and these are the complex realities of the of the world we live in. And I think that we have to really understand it because so much about the Hyde Amendment and saying that federal funds can’t go to Medicaid recipients to secure abortion is also tied into a lot of racist rhetoric about dependency about welfare queens about and about women with too many children. So it’s tied up into all of these things but I don’t think that there’s any space for any real political education on the issue from the mainstream candidates.

S9: And so maybe it is the right thing to say you know like safe legal rare or the courts have already determined this because no one’s learning anything new in order for them to have a I think a broader or clearer perspective on this issue.

S7: I agree completely and yet there is this sense that this is an existential question that access is becoming so rare in large swaths of the country that there is one or two clinics that will provide abortions and an entire huge states like this. And you know that this policy that Trump seemed to come up with overnight has no affected immensely you know access is shrinking on such a scale. And yet Democrats generally don’t seem to emphasize courts and you know the Supreme Court most of all but it’s just generally a things that the Democrats are not terribly motivated by or we would have seen we would not have had President Trump in 2016. I mean and so I also are making that strange emoji because while as I said earlier I see the appeal of like you know playing games with language. Ultimately if you say rare maybe that makes it seem it’s OK if access is really hard to find. So I don’t know which we really just need to emphasize like this is a really key right that is really shrinking Lee available and just really put that front and center talk about more not maybe worry less about optics and weird little phrases and just kind of just remind people that the Supreme Court very well could just overrule Roe v. Wade at some point very soon and really just put a rocket under people’s asses about this.

S5: I also think it’s a little bit of misdirection because the abortion rate is going down and has steadily been going down mostly because of the increased availability of reliable long acting reversible contraception like IUD you know and in part because of some of these targeted regulations against abortion providers but also like I said mostly because of the increased accessibility of contraception so like reproductive justice advocates are making a difference like doing good things.

S13: Joe Biden reversed his position on the Hyde Amendment which is the the legislation that you were talking about Marsha that prevents women on Medicaid from using their insurance for abortion like seeing things like that seeing the efficacy of long running reproductive justice campaigns to change a guy like Joe Biden’s mind about abortion and he is one of those people who said Well I think abortion is morally wrong. But you know I also think it should be legal like to see his change on just the rhetoric that he uses the positions he takes makes me at least optimistic about where the Democratic Party is going on this if not the direction our country is going on this.

S8: I’m glad that we mentioned Leno Wen’s departure from Planned Parenthood because that one got super complicated because on one hand this might have been an institutional mismatch maybe good leader not the right organization. But I think it’s interesting that she used the Tulsi Gabbard moment to like remind everyone how she kind of got screwed at. Planned Parenthood but. But I think that this question of can you make abortion just a medical issue and divorce it from politics. I think that she she’s a smart person she knows that that’s not true. But what does it mean for Planned Parenthood to.

S9: Make the case that they are a medical provider and that they do provide a lot of these other services and then politically have to be the face of the fight for abortion. It’s really exhausting for them as an organization. But this question of where do medical professionals see themselves as actors in a society I think is a really important question that this conversation should help us really think about like what does it mean you know for doctors to have a position on an opioid addiction. And Medicare for All. All of these things and I think that there’s this weird way that what if a doctor says well it’s just medicine it’s it’s you know I just I just deal with medicine I don’t deal with politics is so disingenuous that it that that whole situation with Doctor Wen just makes me very uncomfortable but also makes me wonder if Planned Parenthood felt that they had to put a doctor in that position also even though that particular doctor wasn’t the best fit for them.

S5: Yeah. All right. We have to wrap up now. Listeners let us know what you think is safe legal and rare. A productive way to frame the abortion rights issue does it resonate with you. You can email us at the waves at Slate dot com.

S15: OK. Loneliness.

S5: There have been a few recent articles about the loneliness of influencers on social media and other online platforms. The loneliness they project the loneliness they feel behind the scenes and their actual lives. Jenn tell us about it.

S7: There have been a number of really interesting pieces recently. There’s one in the Atlantic by Caitlin Tiffany called Why the new Instagram it girl spends all her time alone. There’s another one in the New Yorker called The Rise of the getting real post on Instagram between them along with another piece by Tavi Gevinson in New York. They pointed out some things about these kind of high profile huge follow account Instagram people influences as we know them these days for example whereas once upon a time in the early days of social media it was considered a bad thing to have your profile photo be an obvious selfie because that suggested that you had no friends no. There are very rarely other people in these influences photos in part because they know everything has to be so perfectly poised imposed and practically they have to take hundreds of these shots to get the right one and you can’t really do that in a public place. So for the most part they’re sitting in their apartments maybe their apartments full of 50 different interesting retro mirrors that they can take photos in and they are just is effectively you know making their their artificial lives have to be created in a solo setting which in many ways might seem lonely in their home becomes a set there. They’re sort of quick little selfies are actually very carefully posed artistically pretentious as shots and you know you’re not just anymore taking you know reaching out your arm and clicking the shutter and there’s your selfie. It’s all about retakes and then similarly getting real is another thing that has become very desirable online mostly again on Instagram. I saw this too on YouTube which is the platform that I spend most time on where there was a period where suddenly a lot of people with a lot of followers were kind of going off their usual type of content and giving a little listen I’m just going to be really honest with you know kind of presentations and talking about really serious things like you know this is really killing me. This is really bad for my mental health. It’s not good for a person to have to just keep doing things and then going home and and and editing and having no life and it’s really messing with my head and there’s a kind of an Instagram equivalent of this I’ve just kind of you know just talking about how it’s really affecting them. And many of these pieces of pointed the authenticity which of course is presented and shaped is now the most desirable kind of value in social media and for influencers I don’t spend much time on on Instagram although I have a little bit more quite recently. But as Christine I know you spend a little more time there is this something that chimes with your experience.

S5: I mean I don’t really follow a lot of influencers I mostly follow people I know. And then a couple so lesbians like me you’re Ashlyn Harris you’re Samira Wiley you’re Megan Rapinoe but I am aware of this phenomenon.

S13: I have seen this you know in I’ve read in reading articles or looking at stuff that my wife who follows a bunch of crossword influencers has shown me. I I feel like it’s you know there’s nothing new under the sun I feel like it’s kind of a natural extension of the sort of fashion shoots and runway performances where like models are never smiling and don’t ever look like they’re having fun. So as if there’s like something unbearably saccharine or or like unsophisticated about smiling and having a good time even though fun is sort of implied when you’re like having a photo shoot it’s like oh don’t you want people to think you’re having fun so they buy the thing that you’re selling.

S5: But I I was reminded reading these pieces of a rabbit hole. I went down recently when somebody in our office posted a link to one of these Christian mommy blogs. That’s like a lot of pictures of a woman and her family. Usually she is like a full time mother and you know lists of tips for shopping or crafts and a lot of pictures of her house maybe decorated differently for the seasons but still all in the same house. And it just felt so claustrophobic and I think that’s a major point of similarity between these sort of like hip millennial or Gen XII. Like makeup and cool product influencers and the like. Christian mommy blog influencers. Is this like inward looking solipsistic you might call it confined perspective that in Internet influencers inhabit.

S13: But I think the the like a Christian mommy blog side of things are you know they they still have those authenticity posts about like it’s really hard to be a mom sometimes and and create your identity when when you’re always giving of yourself to other people or like you know bless this mass kind of thing. My house is messy too but they still look like they’re smiling and loving their life. And whereas I think the more like young hip side is more about like I have social anxiety or like you know out a van and chill like there’s a lot more openness about mental health issues and an actual loneliness. But they’re both performing this sort of authenticity or imperfection which you know it’s in at the end of the day it’s all a show and an advertisement.

S5: But I think it’s a little bit of a self-sustaining cycle to where like they’re setting the trends as much as they’re responding to trends in like homebody ness and and openness about mental health issues and stuff like that.

S9: When I read about this I wanted to be judged and then I get reflective of my own social media life. And this is me. I am them when I think about the kinds of things I post on Instagram. Eye to eye one that’s a one for my students and it’s like I’m giving a lecture here like I’m making cookies in the lobby like come join me. It is you know the professor life that they’re invited into. But my private one your fence diagram where I troll people. No but you know my private one with my friends you know my social media is like middle aged academics. So it’s like tips on a sensible flat. Box like the whole thing is all about how you can be more comfortable as you stand in front of a classroom. But I find that I like a lot of the people in these articles about loneliness porn. I find that and I think that this is about gender socialization as well. I want people to know that even though they may perceive me as successful and doing well I am a disaster because I feel like this is the way that I learned as a young ambitious girl and young woman. This is how people like you if they feel like you can be accomplished and a disaster. This is the perfect personality trait. And although I got a lot of therapy to deal with this I find that Instagram allows me to share this. So one of my Instagram story genres is Oh shit I’ve got something to do and I’ve messed up along the way. So like here’s me waking up early. Oh no I left my you know I left all of my stuff in my locked office. Here’s campus police opening for me and it’s like OK on my way to like do something amazing or interesting. And so I think about the ways that social media while it’s definitely reductive and sometimes unable to show nuance and complexity. I think a lot of us use it to fill in the blanks. And so it’s the bless God. I’m like a Christian mouthy blogger like Hey everyone here’s my office it’s a disaster. But I finished my book. You know it’s like it’s like what the punchline is is reversed. And so it isn’t the accomplishment in the achievement that I want to share with my students. It’s like I can’t believe I made it through this one you know same boat. And I think that this is what is so appealing about these highly stylized expressions of of disaster and of lack your comment that you know this was how you felt you could be liked or accepted.

S5: Do you feel like that is related to the idea that like women are conceived women people of color. Perceived as like uppity or like bragging if if they’re pretending to have it all together and not admitting like yes also life is hard obviously.

S9: Yeah. No. This is like the perfect mix of like internalized probably sexism and being in environments where there’s so few women of color that in order to prevent it from being made a target it’s like it’s like successful people are just like everyone else they bleed to it. I think that between my personal essay writing where I talk about some of these challenges and then my social media where it’s all about me trying to like be less of a calamity that I’m getting my needs met probably in some unhealthy way.

S8: That’s the one.

S7: I mean I find that very convincing and very attractive almost because you know social media is about making connections with people and you make connections with people through vulnerability and from both recognizing feelings that you have felt and from just kind of learning things from people. And you compared this Marsha with your personal essays were the whole point is to get into the complicated nuance and it’s hard to convey nuance in a picture and a short caption. And so the way you know the shorthand way to do that is like here’s some vulnerability relate to me and it doesn’t seem anything wrong with that. I think that when your life is also your livelihood things get very complicated. But those people aren’t us. You know that’s a pretty small I don’t know if it’s elite but it’s a small section of social media users and things are a bit different for them.

S5: But that’s as it should be I considered whether or not I should be sad about this trend. Is it depressing that you know these people who are considered like some of the most successful social influencers are actually like forced to be anti-social because they have to have take a million different shots and pose with their products and everything so they can’t ever go out. But I think I feel a lot sadder about what happens when Instagram influencing or curation affects the real world like those pop up museums or whatever that are meant like mostly as giant photo ops instead of an actually fun or thought provoking experience. So I think the idea of people going places and doing things just for the photo op is more disturbing to me than them staying home so they can take better pictures. But for me it’s mostly a reminder that like no one is happy. There was like a viral video of Meghan Markle one of the wealthiest and most famous global influencers where she got a lot of credit for saying like I mean I love Meghan Markle. It was a very simple statement she’s basically like yes being in the spotlight is hard and everyone was like Oh my God thank you for saying that because she is so forced to pretend like everything is so easy and all the criticism and you know sexism and racism just rolls off her back. But it was sort of a reminder that like being famous and rich doesn’t ever like buy you out of any of the like normal human difficulties or emotions that normal people are going through.

S9: Mo money mo problems etc. etc. This reminds me of one of my favorite articles to share with students a few years ago Dan Choi became the face of kind of breaking from Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He came out while a student at West Point and Gabriel Arana in the American Prospect did a feature of like what happens when the poster child of a political issue has to just kind of exist in the world. Right. Like how do you live on speaking fees and like what happens when you’re in this position and I think that increasingly an article like this I feel like wouldn’t resonate with most people but I think we’re living in a time you don’t know when you’re going to become weird famous Yeah and you don’t know when you’re going to be spotlight. You don’t know when the president United States is going to pick on you on social media and there is a way that I think these cautionary tales about a deep dependence on that type of that type of attention and then the pressure to monetize it. What happens when that dries up and I think you know June’s point yes my Instagram does not get me any money. I’m not being sponsored by bookstores and you know flat shoes factors. But but at the end of the day we are sponsored by ever Lane and there’s there’s the consistency. But you know. But the idea that then there’s a pressure to make something out of a attention is incredibly difficult. But I think that these influencers also present it to everyday people that that is a possibility for you.

S5: Yeah I think it’s a good place to leave it. Listeners we’d love to know what you think of the authenticity and or loneliness of the Instagram you consume. Does it make you feel lonely. Do the authenticity posts make you love your influencers more. Please send us your thoughts at the waves.

S15: Slate all right. Time for our recommendations. June what have you got.

S4: I want to recommend some social media feeds in fact including an Instagram feed. I as I mentioned before I’m not never really been a big Instagram user in part because it’s the one that I find just really I start scrolling and then I look up 30 minutes later and I don’t know what’s happened to my God name. So I kind of have avoided it for the most part but recently because I was working on a piece for studio 360 which will come out next Thursday October 30 first about an opera singer Jamie Barton who’s a mezzo soprano got your fave. Yeah she’s singing or fail at the Met right now. So she’s really really active on social media and I was just kind of monitoring and just kind of you know just in case it was something for my piece. Right. And I just completely charmed by her social media presence Instagram especially because she does do Instagram Stories but she’s also very active on Twitter and she’s like she she is really I think quite authentic.

S7: She’s open and charming and accepting and campaigning and kind and funny and in some ways she talks about very gently like what it’s like to be an opera singer where you are practicing Are you also you’re constantly traveling you’re never at home and you know talk is kind of giving little snippets of what she’s working on and people saying well I really want to see you know people who are not necessarily opera lovers or all that familiar with classical music. She herself is from a blue collar background she grew up in rural Georgia. And you know she is very conscious that maybe people who see her for example waving a big rainbow flag at the last night of the problems follow her become aware of her and then kind of want to go maybe to their first classical concert and she really gets into it. People are saying. Because a lot of people ask like what do I need to wear and she’s like Where would you feel comfortable in. And I just find her just incredibly charming so her Instagram and her Twitter handle I guess we call it is J Barton mezzo. So j b a r t o and an easy easy. O J Barton mezzo and I think I’m just very charmed.

S13: What a great recommendation. Thank you Jan. I’m excited for that episode. Marcia what do you have.

S8: I am recommending an event that’s in Washington D.C.. So our listeners in the metro area actually I’m recommending call your girlfriend life. Have you ever been. I actually have I went and saw them a couple of years ago on the Yeah. So they are in town this weekend in D.C. as part of the Benson ball which is a comedy festival but they go on tour and it’s a podcast and it’s a podcast as well. So I guess this is a multi multi level recommendation.

S9: I think that podcasting is really hard. I think working with your friends is really hard. And I think that per hour earlier conversation about politics and friendship that what I like about call your girlfriend both live and in the podcast is that this is a friendship that is predicated on a set of values as well as the intimacy of friendship. And I think that that’s important. And I love being able to kind of sit in on a relationship that reminds me of the closest relationships that I have that again are not just about care for the other person but care for the world. So I highly recommend if you haven’t seen your girlfriend live to check it out.

S5: A friend took me to their show a couple of years ago at six and I here in D.C. and it was really fun there was like a game show element like it’s a little bit more interactive than your typical live podcast taping. So yeah I would second that recommendation. I’m recommending a memoir. It’s by Tegan and Sara Quinn the Canadian Lesbian rock and pop duo. Their new memoir is called High School. They’ve released it in tandem with their new album called Hey I’m just like you. The album is composed of tracks that they wrote and recorded in high school but now have rerecorded as adults.

S13: I know you’re just thinking it’s that phase I my heart is just like it’s swelling to three times it’s Grinch size just thinking about it and the memoir is so beautiful. It’s you know about coming to terms with their identities as twins as lesbians as high schoolers and as burgeoning musicians growing up in Calgary in the 90s. It’s incredibly honest. They take turns writing chapters so you really get a sense of how each of them sort of interpreted the same events in different ways. The relationship is as imagine like complicated and and very intimate and oh my God it took me back so hard to my high school days first of all they’re wearing like ying yang necklaces and Nirvana T-shirts and all the pictures which Sam and you know just like their engagement with like the alternative scene and not being cool but also like misinterpreting their very close friendships with girls.

S5: Oh my God it’s just so much and every queer person I know has had the same response. The album is also incredibly good. I can’t believe they wrote these songs when they were teenagers. So I highly recommend it. The memoir is called High School. The album is hey I’m just like you all right it’s time for our Slate Plus. Is it sexist. Segment. Jim take it away.

S4: The most recent Democratic debate when Elizabeth Warren was mentioning her work to set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which was her brainchild.

S10: I guess we would say he just kind of stormed in there started pointing fingers and taking credit.

S4: We’re going to hear a clip but our question is Was it sexist that Joe Biden to credit for creating the agency that Elizabeth Warren invented.

S6: I went on the floor and got you votes. I got votes for that bill. I convinced people to vote for it. So let’s get those things straight to Senator Warren to respond.

S17: I am deeply grateful to President Obama who fought so hard to make sure that agency was passed into law and I am deeply grateful to every single person who fought for it and who helped pass it into law.

S16: June I feel like you pose that question in a very biased way. I don’t think broaching objective standpoint. Joseph why don’t you just put put your cards on the table. What do you think.

S7: Yes the answer is yes. First all stipulate I am not a fan of Joe Biden. Secondly we know that during his time in the Senate as the as one of the senators for Delaware he was very much opposed to people’s personal financial interests are much more concerned with the interests of credit card companies and just generally this whole thing of I went on the floor and I got the votes I got votes for that bill well that’s kind of your job if you’re a you know the vice president or a Democratic senator is to get bills that Democrats believe in passed. But you know as people who have researched it he really wasn’t all that involved. And why did he feel the need to pipe up then and just kind of come into the middle of that. And of course Elizabeth Warren did have a nice retort to him but No Joe no sit up is my view.

S5: Wow. Marsha what do you think.

S9: I really I I could believe it and I couldn’t believe it. Debates are supposed to be tough and they are supposed to skewer people and do all of these things. And at the same time I felt like the way that he talked to her he would have done that whether they were in a meeting or a debate. And this is my distinction on whether a person has gone too far. If you are engaging in the political theater necessary to secure a job fine I guess. But his tone and his suggestion that she be grateful to him was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen in that format because ultimately I felt it indicated he has been dying to say this to her for a very long time and it wasn’t a planned zinger because you know when they’re trying to do their planned like takedowns know they’re always awkwardly delivered or they seem overly rehearsed and for a candidate who has not been very coherent or spry in his debating the ability to access that tone and that language with her felt very deep and it felt very personal and her response was 100 percent peak troll. And it was the response of someone who has been there before. And I think that what it indicated to me was how deeply resentful he felt toward her in that moment and was not able to mask it and was not able to kind of play it. And I think those types of exchanges happen in a lot of workplaces. But I found it really appalling. And I think that her ability to respond to it wasn’t just about her feelings about Joe Biden was about what it’s like to be a career professional woman for such a long time.

S5: I regret to say that I feel like you’ve convinced me a little bit Marcia but I.

S13: My initial response was that he wasn’t being sexist. But my response to it was very gendered or or interpreted my body interpreted it as sexist my mind did not. So I think that if he believed that he had a role in you know ginning up support for the CFP or wanted to make clear that he did support it because this all happened in the context of her and Bernie Sanders saying like you know Joe Biden is is is way too conservative for us. And he didn’t support any of these progression progressive reforms that you know Democrats supported and we support if that’s his right to do that and probably advisable as a candidate to do that he’s running against her. He shouldn’t be expected to just stand there and nod if he feels like he’s being attacked which again she was sort of raising this in the context of her saying that Joe Biden was not progressive enough. So no I don’t think it was sexist but he when he started yelling at her like that and saying like I got you those votes I had an extremely visceral reaction to that where I felt like it was my dad or an uncle or a male teacher or something yelling at me like I had done something wrong and I was very much reminded of men who say that Warren and Hillary Clinton and all these people remind them of their scolding when school imams. And I think for too long we have accepted that this is now male politicians act that they use their physical imposition and their aggression to make their point rather than their intellect. And I’m hoping that as we become more attuned to gender dynamics in politics we can see how alienating some of these traditionally masculine behaviors are. But I did think it was condescending when he went and said to her like you did a great job in your job. Like it it felt like he sort of recognized that he came across as a dick and he was like you know. Oh yeah you were fine. And then I love that she was just like Thank you.

S17: Deeply grateful to every single person who fought for it and who helped pass it into law. But understand how that job in your job. Thank you.

S7: There’s one thing though again not to just play my hatred of Joe Biden for one more beat but like this is a guy who in this theater of politics knows that he has certain conceptions to overcome that people see him in certain ways. I’m one of one of his problem areas is around his interaction with women. And so I think that it was exceptionally tone deaf to then do something that to a lot of people appeared as though a man was taking credit for a woman’s work because as we’ve said a lot of women will be able to relate to that. And so it felt I don’t know I really I understand that you know he’s on the debate stage he’s got it like he’s got to show it’s going to show his bona fides. But again not even putting aside the fact that reporters have looked into and said he really didn’t do much the people who you know who were lobbied had no recollection of being lobbied by Joe on this bill. You know like it just was a bad move on his part based on optics based on the political you know whatever’s going on. Not a good move not a good move.

S9: Vice President Biden here’s the thing that I fixate on as we think about this. The interruption wasn’t about the point he was making. It’s about the fact that she held a position and this is the distinction that I think is also important. It wasn’t that she said well you know you weren’t really supportive of this. And he sort of said What do you mean I wasn’t support this. I fought for your position I fought for your office too. That’s one thing. But for her to say when I was in this role and yet I got that for you he wasn’t responding to a dig towards him. He was clarifying his role in making Senator Warren hadn’t because that was her pathway to the Senate because Republicans were freaked out about her consumer advocacy positions. And so they took a risk and then she was able to get into the Senate. And so I think the fact that that was the fine point he chose to make also is where my discomfort resided.

S10: I was really hoping that I could be the devil’s advocate on this one. I mean he is the devil. I just I think that’s how.

S13: I was trying to look up like. Has he done similar things to male candidates like that made this sort of point that made him seem like this isn’t. This is my you know I’ve done more than you have. In fact I did more than you did on the thing that you did. And I couldn’t find anything. So I can’t prove that he is like that with men too. You know I’ll just say and then we can read this that Warren is widely perceived as the front runner right now. But like just because she has seen a lot of momentum in her numbers Joe Biden hasn’t you know he’s not doing well in fundraising. And so she was the target of a lot of the night’s attacks and he has the most to gain by taking her down versus any of the other people on the stage. So it’s just all context that I thought was important to bring that to the discussion. But let’s all put a number to this Jim. You went first. What do you think.

S15: Ten Wow. Marsha I mean a 10 but 10 is for me. I mean very little. You need to grade yourself on curve. I. OK. And I’m going to say five point nine. Wow.

S5: So our average is eight point six three rep attend pretty darn sexist. We should start finding some things that aren’t as sexist because they need seconds things to talk about. Everything is a little sexist. All right. Thank you so much Slate Plus members we really appreciate your membership and we would love to take on your is it sexist questions.

S2: You can send them to us at the waves at Slate dot com. That’s our show for the week. Thank you to Sara burning Ham who produced this episode. RACHEL ALLEN Our production assistant and Rosemary Belson who provided production assistance here in DC for Marcia Chaplin in June Thomas. I’m Christina Carter. Thanks for listening.