ANGER AND OTHER: Can our tribe pursue societal justice...


...without inventing the Other?: We'll admit that we don't watch the Super Bowl halftime show. We simply start watching something else, then click back 28 minutes later.

We also don't watch the ads! Beyond that, we'll admit that we're puzzled by some of the values espoused by These Kids Today. 

The Washington Post's Monica Hesse isn't exactly a kid, but for current purposes, she comes reasonably close. She's twenty years out of college—Bryn Mawr, class of 2003—and she's been a highly successful writer, as the leading authority on her career explains:

Monica Hesse is a national bestselling author from Normal, Illinois. She is the recipient of the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery for her book Girl in the Blue Coat, and the Society for Feature Journalism's Narrative Storytelling award.

She is a feature writer for The Washington Post where in 2018 she was appointed first ever gender columnist.

If Bill Clinton was the Man from Hope, Hesse is the Woman from Normal!

Monica Hesse is a good, decent person; we have zero doubt about that. She did watch the halftime show last Sunday night, and that's where our puzzlement about These Kids Today begins.

Hesse actually was the Washington Post's first gender columnist. In theory, the institution of such a position suggests that the Post was taking a possibly somewhat belated interest in the sexism and the misogyny which had often been running the world.

That said, Hesse watched the halftime show Sunday night, and it seems that she liked what she saw. Headline included, her new column for the Post starts exactly like this:

Rihanna’s pregnancy was not the star of her halftime show

Rihanna’s pregnancy reveal was at once showstopping and subtle, dazzling and mundane. The impending birth of her second child was disclosed via a spandex jumpsuit on a stage floating at nosebleed altitude in the Super Bowl stadium during a halftime show performed for millions of viewers...

She was far from the first celebrity to orchestrate a public pregnancy reveal. Online chatterers likened the moment to Beyoncé’s bump unveiling (I’m sorry this language is all so revoltingly cutesy; we really need better pregnancy colloquialisms) at the Video Music Awards 12 years ago...

Comparatively speaking, that was a pregnancy announcement. Beyoncé’s reveal was a definitive entrance to motherhood, an invitation for fans to celebrate her transformation. Rihanna’s reveal was less an announcement than an acknowledgment, almost a casual one. Viewers had to wait until the halftime show finished to receive definitive confirmation from Rihanna’s representatives that they’d even seen what they thought they’d seen.

The reveal was seamlessly folded into her performance rather than given its own showcase. It conceded that, yes, something was happening inside this woman’s body—but meanwhile, when is the last time you listened to “B---- Better Have My Money”? That song bangs. And meanwhile, do you remember that Rihanna is also a business mogul? Let her remind you, by pausing mid-set to produce a compact from her own cosmetic line and powder her nose. Her choreography was sultry and sexy; less maternal-madonna than Madonna-Madonna, down to a few well-placed crotch grabs.

We're prepared to admit it! We're not sure we understand the values, including the feminism, of These Kids Today.

"There’s a lot you could find inspiring about what Rihanna did on Sunday night," Hesse writes as she continues. By the end of the column, it's plain that Hesse saw nothing in Rihanna's performance which wasn't inspiring.

Meanwhile, riddle us this:

In her column, Hesse asks readers of the Post when they last listened to the Rihanna hit, “Bitch Better Have My Money." (We're spelling the whole title out.)

We'd never listened to the song, and so we decided to check it out.

As it turns out, "Bitch Better Have My Money" has its own Wikipedia entry. After a fair amount of throat-clearing and folderol, the video gets explained:

The video was directed by Rihanna and Megaforce...The official trailer for the music video was released on June 28, 2015, at the BET Awards. The trailer captured a cryptic storyline: a rich woman, identity unknown, gets herself ready in her lavish apartment, clothes on and purse gathered in her arms, kisses her partner goodbye, and enters a dimly-lit elevator. As this occurs, Rihanna, wearing dark makeup, pulls up to the apartment complex at night. 

She opens up her car's trunk and pulls out a large suitcase. Struggling with the suitcase, she too enters the elevator. In one scene, the elevator doors close on the two standing women. In the next, the doors open and Rihanna struts out, alone, except for her heavy suitcase. The full video, which is seven minutes long, was released on Thursday, July 2, 2015, and was rated MA for graphic violence, nudity, and adult language. In France, the music video is broadcast after 10:30 pm with a warning Not advised for kids under 12 years old (in French, déconseillé aux moins de 12 ans)...

The actual plot of the video involves Rihanna and friends intoxicating and then later sadistically torturing the woman (Rachel Roberts), and also her corrupt accountant husband (Mads Mikkelsen), who has been stealing money. A video was later posted on of deleted scenes from the video, showing the torture of the accountant in greater detail. The music video was inspired by Rihanna's real life experience with an accountant who cheated her of her money.

On November 18, 2016, it surpassed 100 million views, becoming the first age-restricted Vevo Certified video to reach that mark.

Those French! Just as Steve Martin once claimed, they have a different word for everything!

Meanwhile, so unbelievably cool! Bitch and her husband get sadistically tortured—and Rihanna gets her money! Even cooler, the video was "inspired" by Rihanna's real life experience!

Bitch Better Have My Money bangs, Hesse opines. These gender columnists today!

Just last week, we had a brief conversation with a lifelong friend about this popular music today. 

"Why does anyone care about Taylor Swift?" we skillfully asked at one point. Our friend, who had introduced the topic, said he had no idea.

When we were kids, our popular singers were busy stopping a war. Also, they described the murder of Medgar Evers—and the lonesome death of Hattie Carroll, which happened here in Baltimore, just a few miles from our current campus.

(Decades later, a coffee shop friend told us that his southern Maryland family had always known the Zanzingers. He'd known "Billy Zanzinger" his whole life, he said, to our surprise.)

That's what the songs of our big stars were like, way back in the day. Today, the big stars' songs all seem to be about their angry disputes with other money-grubbing big stars, we thoughtfully told our friend.

Why would anyone care about songs like that? We have no idea. Beyond that, why would a gender columnist seem to endorse a song in which a billionaire extracts even more money from a bitch she decides to sadistically torture?

We've long been puzzled—on occasion, appalled—by the seemingly faux pseudo-feminism our pathetic blue tribe performs. 

This takes us back to the slimy misogyny widely directed at Namoi Wolf all through the fall of 1999 as a way of taking down Candidate Gore, but also to the bizarre arracks on liberal women unleashed by Chris Matthews, with no one even saying a word—way back when Hardball was one of the most influential of the relative handful of "cable news" political shows.

(For the record, the misogynist attacks on Wolf came at her, again and again, from major figures of the mainstream press. We know of two major figures who complained about this ugly behavior—Bill Kristol and the late William Safire. We liberals all shut our traps!)

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our self-impressed, highly moral blue tribe can sometimes give voice to somewhat puzzling values. In other ways, though, our struggling blue tribe has been pushing the frontiers of decency forward. 

(We tend to do that when such conduct doesn't force us to say bad things about major misogynist billionaire stars, until they show up at Mar-a-Lago kissing the ascot of Donald J. Trump with their antisemitic friends.)

Blue values have produced large gains for gays and lesbians in the past in the thirty years. Elsewhere, though, we blues, like many other humans, may display an unfortunate tendency to insist on creating The Other as we pursue further gains.

Can our tribe pursue social justice without engaging in tribal warfare? Without sinking into the brainless types of reactions Nicholas Kristof described in Sunday's column in the New York Times?

Without insisting on the Other? Without insisting that the Other exists? Without demonizing the Other?

Can our tribe pursue greater justice without creating and denouncing the Other? Or have we reached the point where tribal anger forces us to behave that way?

We ask because that hard-wired impulse may possibly tend not to work.

Tomorrow: These Very Bad People Today!


  1. Yawn... is your waiting for Mr Trump's Big War going these days, dear Bob? Every day it appears to be nearer, nicht wahr?

  2. Heh, another self-important boomer convinced of the moral greatness of his "precious winds", as if they didn't cast the mold of the US's current political Othering.

    That and, jeez, "feminism" has been a poisoned well for a while now. Anyone who isn't calling themselves a feminist out of some laundry-list-liberal guilt trip has seen that the term is basically meaningless and is simply a tool of sick graspers at this point. We just say we support equality or whatnot.


    1. "We just say we support equality or whatnot."

      Yeah. And of course by "equality" they mean a higher proportion of melanin-rich billionaires...

    2. I'm talking specifically about feminism, Mr. Chairman.


    3. Hmm. We have the impression that "feminism" is considered a fascist ideology nowadays, by dear Bob's brain-dead tribe. It's "transphobic", you see...

    4. Tired: feminism
      Wired: womanism

    5. Two women were walking across the bridge. One says the other I've always wanted to jump off this bridge. The other one says, no one's around, do it! So the woman sits on the ledge of the bridge and tells her friend, I'm going to jump right down there on that canoe. Her friend says, that's not a canoe that's your reflection.

    6. Young women these days support feminism but dislike that word and do not apply it to themselves.

    7. Knock, Knock.
      Who's there?
      A Right-winger who isn't a bigot.
      I'm not opening the door for nobody.

  3. For someone who raved about “Promising Young Woman”, a movie where the main character enacts a gruesome revenge upon someone, it seems odd for Somerby to object to Rihanna’s (years old) video.

    Also, would Somerby prefer it if “feminist icons” didn’t make videos with nudity or violence, because it turns him off? I guess we should leave that kind of stuff to male musical artists, huh?

    1. Better trolling please.

    2. Did Bob actually rave about that stinker? It’s possible but hard to believe.

  4. "In theory, the institution of such a position suggests that the Post was taking a possibly somewhat belated interest in the sexism and the misogyny which had often been running the world."

    Somerby goes directly to complaints about sexism and misogyny, but such a position might also report on gender-related sociological and psychological issues in our society. Sexism is part of that but it is not the whole topic, nor does this apply to only women and not also men.

    1. "had often been running the world"

      Notice the way Somerby uses past tense to refer to sexism and misogyny, as if these are all gone with the wind, along with racism, and no longer a problem. Wishful thinking, but also a form of gaslighting, in which women in particular but also others are told that there's no longer anything to worry about and their concerns are piffle.

    2. We are apparently awash with racism, sexism, womanism, lookism, antisemitism, asian hate, anti-muslimism, ageism, ableism, tribalism, anti-racism, sarcasm, cancel culture, in this white supremacist hell, not to say the daily things that some celebrity or minor politician says somewhere that brings us the warm, swirling glow of righteous of outrage.

    3. You can delete tribalism -- the right wing made that one up. People are prone to bigotry and bias if we don't make an effort to be fair to others and root that stuff out. If you don't know that, you haven't been paying attention. There is nothing wrong with admitting this and working to keep it from affecting others in negative ways. It is part of being a good decent person, in my opinion, if not Somerby's. Outrage is unhelpful and I don't think liberals and progressives spend much time indulging in it. But when folks try to deny that this forms of prejudice exist, it is a bit frustrating. Your feeble attempt at ridicule is noted.

  5. "Bitch Better Have My Money bangs, Hesse opines. These gender columnists today!"

    How is it that one columnist's opinion of a song gets generalized to all gender columnists? Hesse likes the song, but is it because she is a gender columnist or because she is young, or because she has no taste? Somerby thinks it has something to do with writing about gender, but what is his evidence for that? (Hint: he has none.)

  6. "That's what the songs of our big stars were like, way back in the day."

    This is an incredibly silly remark. Somerby quotes some protest songs by Bob Dylan, who was unique, not like anyone else around during his heyday. He was borrowing from a genre of talking blues that did tell stories (like Woody Guthrie before him). Who was popular at the same time? Barry Manilow, who was nothing like Dylan. Disco and the BeeGees, who were nothing like Bob Dylan. Sonny and Cher, who were nothing like Bob Dylan (and Cher was unlike her later performing self also).

    Rihanna performs in an entirely genre. Her self-referential songs are little different than those of other major female stars (Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Taylor Swift). None of the subject matter of any of these undeniable stars has any appeal to me (in my 70s as Somerby is). But comparing them to Bob Dylan is laughable, and there is good reason to believe that Bob Dylan would have little appeal to today's youth, even when he uses the lives of mistreated black people as his subject matter.

    I found some of the moves in Rihanna's dance routines crude, but the same can be said of the moves in Dirty Dancing, and nobody puts Baby in the corner. Next Somerby will be shaking his fist out the window and shouting for the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn.

  7. "Also, they described the murder of Medgar Evers—and the lonesome death of Hattie Carroll, which happened here in Baltimore, just a few miles from our current campus."

    I don't think that Somerby gets any points for his "virtue signalling" about Bob Dylan's protest songs, when he cannot find any room in his conscience to care about George Floyd or Michael Brown or Tyre Nichols. Did he deliberately leave out the song about the Hurricane, because he was a black man who was railroaded into prison for a crime he didn't commit, perhaps because his case was more similar to those of today's high profile victims, and thus perhaps more controversial, or are there limits to his hypocrisy.

  8. "(For the record, the misogynist attacks on Wolf came at her, again and again, from major figures of the mainstream press. We know of two major figures who complained about this ugly behavior—Bill Kristol and the late William Safire. We liberals all shut our traps!)"

    Not all of the criticisms of Wolf in that time period were based on misogyny. See:

    Beyond that, Somerby has no standing to accuse others of misogyny and to complain that "we liberals" shut up about it, when he engages in his own brand of misogyny here by attacking female journalists, professors and other experts in ugly terms (he claims Maddow stuffs money in her pants). Only today he put the bitch back in Rihanna's song title.

    Somerby asks "...why would a gender columnist seem to endorse a song in which a billionaire extracts even more money from a bitch she decides to sadistically torture?" If he doesn't know the answer to that question, perhaps he doesn't know as much about misgyny and sexism as he thinks. If Rihanna had sadistically tortured anyone, would she be free to perform in a Superbowl half-time show?

    Somerby is taking the lyrics too literally (unsurprising for him) even if she was ripped off financially at some point, and he is expressing a disdain for African American culture and the way it has invaded youth culture more generally. He is an old white man who doesn't empathize with young people but more than that, he is attacking a wealthy and acclaimed black artist (who is also female, and thus one of his favorite targets here) by pretending that she is low class, embodies the deplorable aspects of being black in America, and has nothing to offer to justify her popularity. This borders on racist because it derides black pop culture and argues that even a black star such as Rihanna is a black drug addict engaged in urban violence. His rant today against Rihanna is little different than the white people of Elvis Presley's time who deplored his crude gyrations and called him low-class because he hung around with black people and translated black music into white rock and roll.

    Somerby's failure to understand the importance of black music on mainstream American culture is his problem, not Rihanna's who Somerby calls a billionaire, phrased as an epithet (except when he is talking about Trump).

    Somerby doesn't like black music but he claims Medger Evers was a great guy. This isn't how someone who accepts black people talks. Country Music is full of songs idolizing Jessie James the outlaw (who was a killer and bank robber) but Somerby thinks black music is awful for talking about black drug culture and cannot understand why anyone would listen to it. Somerby himself no doubt listened to songs like The Damage Done (Neil Young) or Eric Clapton's Cocaine, but it is apparently OK to like songs about heroin if sung by a white guy.

    1. “The Needle and the Damage Done” from the title on, is a song bemoaning the death of someone from heroin use. It is almost impossible to believe you are too stupid to have known that when you mentioned that “white guy’s” song. So the rest of what you have to say can’t be trusted much. Sorry you don’t like white people.

    2. Of course I know that. And there is nothing pleasant about Rihanna's song either. She isn't celebrating revenge against someone who stole from her. It seems obvious that the lyrics are fantasy but Somerby chooses to take them literally. You do know Clapton was an addict, right?

      I definitely don't like white people who start a comment by calling someone else stupid. You can trust me that the song is about white drug culture, which counters Somerby's implication that only black people have written such songs. Why do kids, white and black, like hip hop? Partially because adults dislike it.

    3. Also John Lennon.

    4. You just get dumber. Is it your position Rihanna is condemning her own blood lust over want to torture someone (yes I know her reasons are noble, he took money from her which might get her billionaire rating downgraded) is comparable to Neil Young condemning the fatal drug abuse of a friend? It doesn’t get much more illogical or idiotic than that.

    5. Rihanna didn’t torture anyone. It is fantasy. Trap music is about drug culture, as are many songs by white artists in the 60’s.

    6. I like white people.

  9. Naomi Wolf is now a right-winger and anti-vaxxer. Somerby's defense of her most likely has little to do with past misogyny, but everything to do with his new job (since 2015) promoting the right's agenda. They are both former lefties gone horribly wrong.

    1. Did Wolf support Trump? How much of a right winger is She now?

    2. You are right, maybe She was always nuts. Bob would never own up to it, but some of Al Gore’s problems were his own blunders.

    3. She is a bigtime conspiracy theorist who has appeared with Steve Bannon. She said she wouldn't date Trump, back in 2016. She has recently become a co-defendant in one of his lawsuits against social media.

      "Charles C. W. Cooke, writing for National Review Online in the same month, commented, "Over the last eight years, Naomi Wolf has written hysterically about coups and about vaginas and about little else besides. She has repeatedly insisted that the country is on the verge of martial law, and transmogrified every threat—both pronounced and overhyped—into a government-led plot to establish a dictatorship. She has made prediction after prediction that has simply not come to pass. Hers are not sober and sensible forecasts of runaway human nature, institutional atrophy, and constitutional decline, but psychedelic fever-dreams that are more typically suited to the InfoWars crowd."[72]

      Aaron Goldstein wrote in an October 2014 article in The American Spectator, "Her words must be taken not just with a grain of salt, but a full shaker's worth."[119] In the same month, Sarah Ditum wrote in the New Statesman, "Perhaps it's not that Wolf is a feminist who's degenerated into conspiracism, but instead that she's a conspiracy theorist who happened to fall into feminism first. The Beauty Myth is a conspiracy theory of a sort, and sometimes conspiracies are real: the self-replicating power structure of patriarchy is one of them."[120]"

      "Following the election of Joe Biden as US president, Wolf tweeted on 9 November 2020: "If I'd known Biden was open to 'lockdowns' as he now states, which is something historically unprecedented in any pandemic, and a terrifying practice, one that won't ever end because elites love it, I would never have voted for him".[146] In February 2021, Wolf appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News, where she said that government COVID-19 restrictions were turning the U.S. "into a totalitarian state before everyone's eyes," and went on to say that "I really hope we wake up quickly, because history also shows that it's a small window in which people can fight back before it is too dangerous to fight back."

      From Wikipedia

  10. It would be silly for us to expect pop music today to resemble Bob Dylan’s music, at any stage, in the 1960’s.
    But the only defense of Rihanna’s music I see here is that She is only exaggerating her thirst for torture and revenge, so we can relax. This might be argued as being consist with lyrics in Blues and other music. Is this also why we are supposed to accept Ye’s Holocaust denial and Hitler love? Liberals are silent here.
    Yes, people had righteous fits over Elvis recording gospel songs. In those sixties many saw Bob Dylan as a terrifying figure. Yet something might be gleaned from The creepy mask of Dorian Madona, who now peddles the same old crap about trailblazing liberation to justify the sad vanity of plastic surgery.
    So let’s be fair, many of you will be happy to see crusty old timers like me and Bob go, and many things will happen we will be happy, in our wake, not to see.

  11. Well, Naomi Wolf did author "the Vagina, a New Biography." I don't think TDH ever checked that one out.

    1. Several of Wolf's biggest critics are well-known feminist theorists. It is hard to argue that misogyny is behind their criticisms of her work.

    2. The vagina is important.

    3. 11:18,
      Some say the lack of one leads to mass shootings.

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