Friday, March 25, 2011

Hey George Lopez Where is Your Apology to Wendy Williams?

Dancing With The Stars is no stranger to controversy.  It seems every season someone crosses the line.  This time, comedian George Lopez decided that fat phobic and transphobic attacks constitued the basis of critique. 

Transcript starting at 1:24
Finally my favourite male and female dancer of the season. Up first the male (a short clip of Wendy Williams dressed in gold dancing to I'm Every Woman) Wendy Williams an amazing job considering she don't have any knee joints. If I do that show, I'm going to dance like her, like I got toilet paper under my shoe.  It wasn't really her dancing that caught my attention, check this out. (small clip from DWTS of Wendy crying. She says it's for stress relief) The last time she cried that hard was when she was on Maury and she heard Wendy Williams you are the father. 

And now my favourite female dancer this season (short clip of Kirstie Alley dancing to CeLo Green's Fuck You,  in a shiny Black dress) She did a nice job, her little hooves tapping away. Before the show she went to the market, and then she had roast beef and this her going all the way home. (an image of a pig with its head hanging out of a window squealing weeeee) 
So once again, a comedian is using comedy to hide the fact that what they are saying is extremely oppressive and bigoted.  The following is an excerpt from the Los Angelos Times.
George Lopez has apologized for referring to Kirstie Alley as a pig.

"I misjudged the joke," the host of TBS' "Lopez Tonight" tweeted Thursday. "No malice was intended and I apologize to Kirstie."

The joke was sharply criticized by several women's groups, who felt it sent a bad message when Alley has been open about her weight problems.

Alley herself seemed unfazed by the controversy, tweeting Thursday: "Don't worry about George's comments... just remember what happens to the big bad, drunk woolf...falls in a boiling pot of vodka. Piggy laughs." No word on whether she accepted Lopez's apology.
Alley absolutely deserved an apology from Lopez.  Her struggles to lose weight have been extremely public and no one should ever be shamed the way she was for the purpose of a so-called joke.  Fat hatred is far too often normalized. It is oppressive and downright hurtful.  What I found interesting is that women's groups advocating for an apology for Alley and then remained silent regarding the comments he aimed at Wendy Williams. 

Not only is calling Williams a man highly prejudicial, it is extremely transphobic.  In fact, I find it impossible to see how anyone could possibly come to any other determination, and yet I have seen no outrage about Williams treatment.  Transphobia in this instance, is being used specifically to create a WOC as an un-woman.  This is hardly new or surprising, but it does need to stop. A cis man should never exist with the right to declare that someone is not the gender that they are.  Not only does Williams identify as woman, and present as a woman, she is a cis female.  Lopez's comments do not stop at William, they uphold the idea that anyone, at anytime, can have their gender called into question, which means that gender can be seen as an artifice rather than a concrete element of someone's person.  As cis people, we often believe that transphobia only hurts the trans community however, incidents like this prove that we are all at risk for attack, because we continue to support rigid understandings of gender. The silence on the part of the women activists, is based partially in maintaining cis supremacy.  Even though cis women still exist as marginalized in a patriarchal world, the power to oppress trans women or women that are deemed gender ambiguous is seen as a positive, though this only serves to create a divide between women, thus supporting the patriarchal oppression of women.

The moment Williams decided to participate on DWTS, it was simply only a matter of time until this kind of hatred was aimed at her, because calling Williams a man has become standard operating procedure to attack her. Reducing her in this way, means that people don't have to engage directly with her thoughts, or actions; it summarily characterizes her as 'other'. It further builds upon the idea that WOC are not real women and ensures that womanhood continues to be defined by White femininity.

It is disturbing that women's groups advocated on behalf of Alley, while ignoring what he had to say about Wendy Williams.  The attack against both women happened in the same three minute spot and yet it was Alley who was deemed worthy of an apology.  It seems to me that the outraged stemmed from the fact that a man of colour dared to publicly say something hateful against a White woman.  It is believed by many, that White women are supposed to be revered and lifted on a pedestal by men of colour, not attacked at will. Part of the reason the attacks against Williams did not receive the same attention, is because it is considered natural for a MOC to denigrate and attack a WOC.  This keeps us seperated from each other and upholds the project of White supremacy, and in return, MOC are fooled into believing that oppressing women gives them some sort of power.

Divide and conquer has always been the strategy of dominant bodies and when the marginalized play into this cruel manipulation, we are directly participating in our own oppression.  Alley certainly deserved an apology but so did Wendy Williams.  Nothing in this comedic routine was even remotely amusing but a failure to hold him accountable for his actions against Williams tells me that once again some bodies are worth more than others.On a final note, I would simply like to say directly to Lopez, being a comedian does not give you a license to attack people and brush it off as simply a joke.