Sister Sirens

Op-ed: Kim Davis Deserves Criticism But Not for Her Looks

Woman-bashing, fat-shaming, resorting to personal attacks against women regarding appearance when we don’t agree with them… what’s up with this, anyway?  Julie Compton, a lesbian who endures regular rude and insensitive treatment because of her looks, speaks out on the frenzied social media attacks regarding the looks of Kim Davis.  Davis, you might remember, is the county clerk jailed for contempt of court for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.  Compton takes the dignified approach to this situation and comments individually on several of the social media posts.

Social media is putting Kentucky clerk Kim Davis on trial for more than refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Source: Op-ed: Kim Davis Deserves Criticism But Not for Her Looks |

Photo: The Advocate

Photo: The Advocate

JULIE COMPTON is a journalist in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Follow her @julieallmighty.

6 replies »

  1. I see a surprising large amount of woman bashing on progressive websites and Facebook pages, from the very people I would assume should know better. On one site, in a post about Anne Coulture’s support of Donald Trump, progressives, mostly men, resorted to sexist insults in their criticisms. It was so startling to read words like slut, whore, bitch ….words that have no place in any discourse at all and certainly not from people who claim to be enlightened and somehow morally superior to those in the political right. It was then that I decided that it was time to turn some of our “enlightened” attention back in our own direction ( left of political center -wherever that really is these days) and call into account those who so freely attack women on right with sexist words and phrases.

    We must “remind” one another (as I’m going to give all the benefit of the doubt and assume that those who claim to be against inequalities do not harbor deep sexist attitudes – I prefer to think positive) that we can not fight one form of discrimination with another; we can not say don’t be racist by using sexist epithets. The various “isms” – racism, classism, ableism, sexism, and all the other group-based prejudices in our society work together to divide the masses and pit them against each other in a battle over relative positions along the larger social hierarchial order, all of which serves the interests of the power elite (those at the very top of the social order, and who control the greatest wealth and power in our society).

    The feminist theory of intersectionalities has made it clear that one can not fight against racism without also fighting sexism, classism and all other forms of institutionalized group-based inequalities. None of us are simply Black or White, rich or poor; instead, our actions arise from the situated intersection of our various social statuses/identities, leading to a complex mix of privileges and disadvantages.

    For instance, I am not just a white person, but rather a white, middle-aged, advanced educated, woman who was born into the lower white collar/working class and has lived the lifestyles associated with a variety of social classes, from poor to upper middle-class, and who is currently medically disabled and living on an inadequate fixed income. I do not experience each social status individually, but rather as part of an intersection of statuses, in which the relative salience and prominance of each is determined by the social situation, shifting the point of intersectionality up and down the axis of the dominant social order, across time and space. It is also the case that if you hate me as a poor person, who relies on social security (ie certain Republicans who would call me a parasite on government and the country), you are also hating me as a poor white woman – these statuses, while shifting in relavance across situations and interactions, are not separable. As long as these group statuses/identities continue to exist, especially as social hierarchies, they can never be responded to or experienced separately. Ultimately, they all work to position members of a society along the hierarchy of the dominant social order, which will always work in the interests of those at the top, in part by insuring that none of the masses can threaten or destabilize their power.

    Consequently, if someone attacks Anne Coulture because of her politics, but uses, instead, the weapons of sexism, they are actually attacking all women. You can not use the language of sexism selectively. If you call a woman a slut, you are reproducing a word, a meaning, a specific type of shaming women sexually, that affects all women, not just the one you are targeting. In much the same way, you can not use the “N” word to attack a Black person that you politically disagree with, without reproducing racism and all the hateful meanings that comes with it. In fact, I suspect few “progressives” would ever think to use a racist word or phrase to fight a political opponent, yet so many think nothing of using sexist terms. We need to do some serious self reflection on this trend.

    I hope that those who see my point and agree will join me in reminding all people, on all sides of the political spectrum, that sexist words and phrases are not acceptable in our discourse. It easy to do, without harsh words or insult, if you wish, and it is necessary if we are really serious in our belief that all people should be equal and treated as such. I have a written my own reminder comment that I can adapt for various discussion threads, and I have used it multiple times in the same thread as a reply to each comment that uses sexist words and phrase to attack a political opponent.

    Like all behavior, unless someone speaks up and calls into account the inappropriate use of sexism, body shaming, and all other ways people denigrate women, no one will consider it problematic. I think its safe to assume that in many cases, the self-identified progressives engaging in these types of comments are simply falling back on sexism as habit, without thinking about it. This pattern one speaks volumes about how far we still have to go to fight sexism and gender inequality in our specify.

    Ultimately, must make it just as shameful to use sexism in our criticisms of those we disagree with as it is to use racism to do the same thing. But it won’t happen unless we get busy, and let people know we are paying attention and that anyone who continues to mindlessly perpetuate sexism in our society is not as “progressive” as they might imagine.


    • I love this comment–a lovely essay, really–so much. Thank you for writing it. “we can not fight one form of discrimination with another; we can not say don’t be racist by using sexist epithets.” Yes. Definitely, definitely yes.


    • Rhonda, I appreciate your very insightful call to action. You are very right that we all need to remind one another of What we’re doing when we perpetuate any of the “isms.” Thank you for putting forth the time and energy to contribute here and enlarge the conversation beyond the points Julie Compton made.


  2. Thank you Susan. I want you to know how much I appreciate that you have brought this issue forward here. I’m embarrassed to admit that it was only recently, with the attacks on Coulture, that I realized how bad the problem was amongst progressives. Oh, yes,in had come to expect this kind of thing from the extreme right, but how could I have missed right here in my own neighborhood. I think that speaks to how taken for granted anti-female rhetoric has become in our society. I’m a Feminst, a Sociology and Women’s Studies professor (on LTD), and regular participant on various political and social issue web sites and blogs; and yet, it didn’t hit me until recently.

    I hope more and more people begin to talk about this problem and it’s implications. We don’t have much hope of changing the world for the better if we can’t even get rid of sexism amongst those who consider themselves progressives working towards a better, more equal future.


  3. On this growing dialogue about the degradation of women by men and other women: I missed the question that was asked of Bernie Sanders by a Ana Marie Cox in a quick interview In the Aug. 23 NYT Magazine, but I did catch these comments on it in “The Thread” in this past Sunday’s Issue, Sept. 6. I’m pasting the two comments from “The Thread” below.

    You can read the Cox interview of Sanders on this link.


    Asking Bernie’s opinion of Hillary’s hair? Really? The Times was once a place to go to for serious journalism; apparently those days are gone. How many more stadiums does Sanders have to fill before the dinosaur media outlets take him seriously? Sara Corbin, Brattleboro, Vt.

    I guess I’m in the minority here, but I thought it was a great question. Why is Hillary’s appearance scrutinized while yours isn’t? He missed an excellent opportunity to discuss the bias against women candidates. … Instead of responding the way he did, I would have loved to see him say, ‘‘I understand what you’re asking and am disappointed with the portrayal of women candidates.’’ And then go on to elaborate on how he would try to change that. From a comment on The Slot, Jezebel’s political website


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