Admittedly, this is not limited to the left, as obviously the Republican primary process is often a test to see who can out-right-wing the other candidates, with conservatives who once ate a salad with their hamburger called out as too liberal or what have you.
But I'm seeing some examples on the left recently that just make me sad. First, Gloria Steinem is taking a lot of shit for a dumb comment she made about young women voting for Bernie because that's where the boys are, and how they should all vote for Hillary because we need a woman president. This was a dumb comment, and it should be called out as such, and it should be recognized that Gloria Steinem is not always a perfect feminist.
What should NOT happen though, what I've seen and heard has happened at liberal bastions like Smith, is that Gloria Steinem is being lambasted as not a real progressive. For the recent comment, and because she represents to people a wave of feminism that has not been as inclusive or intersectional as it could be. Which, okay, sure, feminism could be more inclusive and intersectional, most movements could improve in that manner, but does that mean we need to crap all over one of the icons of feminism for the past few decades, whose speech at MCLA the other year was like half talking about the importance of intersectionality? I mean, sure, we can acknowledge that the woman isn't perfect, and point out our disagreement with some things she has said. But the reaction seems disproportionate.
The other big example, the one that spurred me to write this post, was the reactions to Chris Rock's monologue at the Oscars the other night. Chris Rock is brilliant, he's a brilliantly funny comedian, and also an incredibly incisive thinker, and if you aren't already in agreement with that, I encourage you to read his interview in Vulture from a year and a half ago.
Anyway, I thought it was not only a pretty funny monologue, but also a very politically conscious one. Admittedly, I likewise enjoy Ricky Gervais as host, but I realize that his comments are sometimes a bit too "mean" or "cutting" for some people. Conversely, Chris Rock wasn't unnecessarily harsh to everyone, was just as funny, but also spent some time talking about serious race issues.
And yet. I've seen a surprising amount of reactions, some from FB friends of mine, of people who feel like Chris Rock failed them, let them down, that this speech was a huge failure. A huge failure? The host of the biggest Hollywood event was a black man who addressed the lack of black nominees, the lack of great black leading roles in Hollywood, the hypocrisy of white so-called liberals who never hire black people, literally called out Hollywood as racist, and even talked about the police shooting of unarmed black men.
Chris Rock is a brilliant comedian, who when hired for a ritzy high-class comedy gig, decided to mix his brilliant humor with way more commentary on racism in Hollywood (and elsewhere) than I've ever seen at a big event like this before. Was it as targeted to address solely this issue as much a speech at a civil rights movement? No, but that's not what this was! I am flummoxed by people who feel that they need to attack Chris Rock, who just used his platform to talk about issues that don't often get talked about from that platform, for not talking about what they want the way they want it.
Now admittedly, the flip-side of this is that some so-called progressives certainly aren't progressive enough and SHOULD be attacked for that, and in this category I put anyone who fails what I'll call the "Killer Mike" test: Anyone who is interested in equality and justice only for their own subgroup, but not willing to extend that to other subgroups, is not really progressive. So I do give the side-eye to groups who fight for their own equality while at the same time trying to deny the struggles of other groups seeking equality.
But these cases where people are attacked for not being a strong enough advocate for your cause all the time... we can't do everything all the time. Someone donating to help Haitian victims of a natural disaster is not failing Ecuadorians or Kentuckians or anyone else who is suffering, unless they then jump on social media to say "I'm sick of all these people from Ecuador and Kentucky trying to claim suffering, Haiti is the only thing that matters!" Because then they're problematic and standing in the way of betterment. So in those cases -- which aren't as rare as I'd like, and you do see people trying to make their fight the only fight that matters -- I think it is fair to call people out.
But for the most part, just because someone isn't trumpeting what you want to hear right now, as much as you want, does not mean that they are not against your cause, or even that they do not support it. It just means they also support other things too. It begins to feel like the old joke about the grandmother who buys you two sweaters for Christmas, and then next year she comes to visit and you want to show you appreciate your gift, so you wear one of the sweaters, and she comes in the door, sees you wearing the sweater, and says,
"What's the matter, didn't you like the other one?"