What I Wish Rachel Maddow Would Say to David Vitter

It’s come to light that noted misogynist David Vitter, the Senator who protected his women’s rights staffer after he slashed his girlfriend with a knife and threatened to kill her and who doesn’t think abortion is a “women’s issue,” is also a raging homophobe. I know, I was shocked too – I’ll give you a minute to pick your jaw up off the floor.

This episode of “Saw That Coming From 100 Miles Away” involves Vitter’s comments on a right-wing radio show this morning about MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and her high school yearbook photo, which has been making the rounds on the internet. Vitter commented the photo “must have been a long time ago” because Maddow was then “looking like a woman.”

All the mainstream media I’ve seen on the incident shies away from using the “H-word” (HOMOPHOBIA), instead taking the cowardly route of assuming their readers will know why this is wrong and worthy of comment. This is shameful.

I’d bet the first journalist in the MSM to take this on will be Rachel Maddow herself, who has a history of taking on ridiculous criticism with humor and grace and at the same time, packing a powerful political punch. I’m a huge fan of Rachel Maddow and have devoted hours of my life wishing I could write for her show. If I did, here’s what she would say to Senator Vitter:

“It’s come to my attention that Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, made a funny on the radio by suggesting that my high school yearbook photo must have been taken a long time ago because in it, I look like a woman. I can only assume he’s referring to my short haircut and business suits, which don’t fit into his personal idea of what a woman should look like. Senator Vitter, I’m not one to make this accusation lightly but your comment on the radio was an attempt to get a cheap laugh on the fact that I am a lesbian. It was a political play to your constituents, who you evidently believe vote based on hate and bigotry. This, I think, is incredibly disrespectful to the good folks of Louisiana.

I think I’ve proved on this show that I have a sense of humor but this time I’m not laughing. For many people in this country and around the world, failing to fit into a random individual’s profile of what a man or woman should look like is no joke. For many, it is the difference between getting a job or not, the difference between getting into and remaining at their educational institution of choice or not, the difference between being able to safely use a public bathroom or not. For many, not fitting neatly into a gender category is a matter of life and death.

Senator Vitter, I’d like to tell you a story about a young woman named Sakia Gunn. Like me, Sakia Gunn had short hair and dressed in a more masculine way than, inferring from your comment, you’d think is appropriate for a woman. In 2005, fifteen year-old Sakia and her friends were waiting for a bus in Newark, New Jersey when they were approached by a group of men who made sexual advances toward them. When the women refused, stating they were lesbians, the men pulled out knives and started yelling homophobic slurs. Sakia was stabbed in the chest and she bled to death, in the arms of her best friend, in the middle of the street.

Let me tell you another story, Senator, about an eighteen year-old transgender woman named Angie Zapata. Again inferring from your comment, Angie Zapata, with her long hair and form-fitting clothes, fit the bill in terms of what you think a woman should look like. At her murder trial, Allen Ray Andrade’s lawyers claimed that since Angie looked like a woman their client just couldn’t help beating her to death with a fire extinguisher when it was revealed she was born biologically male. Angie Zapata wasn’t brutally killed because she looked like a woman; she was a woman. No, she was savagely beaten to death because of the type of hate you’re peddling, the kind that says a person’s gender expression, how they choose to dress and present themselves, and by extension, a person’s gender identity, how they choose to identify regardless of their gender at birth, are reasons to see someone as less deserving of respect, as less than human.

Senator Vitter, I’m not addressing you personally tonight because I was offended by your joke. I’m addressing you because your type of hate impacts the lives of thousands of Americans who do not, without regard to their sexual orientation or gender identity, fit into capricious standards of what it means to look “male” or “female.” It’s time to toss these standards out the window because they are meaningless, destructive and sometimes, deadly. Moreover, it’s time to legislate against the hate bred by these standards by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, known as ENDA and currently proposed in the Senate, that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which includes appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.

I received your apology this afternoon, Senator, and your explanation that you were simply joining in on a joke made by the radio hosts. I accept your apology, sir, but not your excuse: you are a United States Senator and as such you have a responsibility to stand up and correct anyone making bigoted slurs against American citizens. It’s to the American public, not me, sir, that you still owe an apology – and actions that make good on it.”

3 Comments

Filed under LGBT

3 responses to “What I Wish Rachel Maddow Would Say to David Vitter

  1. Laurens R. Hunt

    I have to say that what really irks me is that once again I see slander about abortion rights. Saying that abortion is not a woman’s issues refutes proven fact. This is not Senator David Vitter simply voicing an opinion. If only women can have abortions how is it not woman’s issue? I’m just a little confused to say the least. Secondly the entire world knows about the Gulf Coast Oil Spill along Louisiana and the neighboring southeastern states. I often question the conservative dogma and need to criminalize abortion, but I especially do during trying and tragic times such as these. Regarding the issue of being a lesbian Mr. Vitter is entitled to disagree with it or be uncomfortable with it but nothing more.
    He is an elected official of the federal legislature. Making this type of diatribe is not merely offensive and derogatory. It is also unprofessional and childish. Hence it is not acceptable behavior. Just because some legislators are bothered by a sexuality that is not considered straight anyone of a LGBTQ orientation is no less a voter and citizen of this country than those conservative pundits and officials who make these insane comments and think nothing of them. I hope that the LGBTQ Community will be out this coming November putting an end to this lunacy and madness.
    Lastly I commend Rachel Maddow for exposing this absurdity for what it is. Keep up the great work.

  2. Weirdly–and believe me, I’m not defending Vitter, who I’m sure is probably a homophobe as well–I don’t think this denigration of Maddow’s looks is actually about her being a lesbian, per se. I think there’s an underlying discomfort and disdain behind it towards gender non-conformity moreso than sexual orientation. And certainly, for them, Rachel’s sexual orientation is an expression of the gender non-conformity that they disdain. There’s a particular scorn still reserved for women who don’t look or act according to a rigid code of what is acceptably feminine.

    Witness what happened to the woman who was confronted by a security guard in the restroom of a Greenwich Village restaurant after another patron complained that a “man” had gone into the women’s room. Despite offering to show ID to prove she was a woman, she was then thrown out of the restaurant. She was in fact a lesbian, but that’s not what triggered the episode–she was targeted because of her androgynous looks, not her orientation.

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