Over at Right Wing Watch, Brian Brian Tashman reports on Tea Partier Selena Owens’s reaction to the Grammy awards. His post is titled “Prove You’re Not Homophobic By Complimenting Your Lesbian Store Clerk’s Haircut,” which helps draw attention to this part of Owens’s statement:
Sometimes I deliberately go through the checkout line of the lesbian clerk to drop a few words of Jesus’ love in her ear and then compliment her haircut.
There’s just so much that’s wrong with that statement. Not least of all, I find it telling that her go-to example of “coming into contact with LGBT people” is a situation where she approaches a working class person at her place of employment.1 Owens is approaching someone in a situation where she’s operating from a position of power. This poor lesbian who’s just there trying to do her job has to put up with whatever conversation Owens may start up2 because, let’s face it, she has a job to do.
Heaven forbid that Owens actually seeks out LGBT people in places where they may be on equal footing to her and be equally comfortable. Or heck, heaven forbid she step outside her own comfort zones3 to approach LGBT people on their terms.
Then there’s the whole “compliment her hairstyle,” an act that Owens seems to pat herself on the back for. As if such a superficial pleasantry somehow shows she actually cares about the woman. You know, as I think of a lesbian working as a cashier in a grocery show, here are the things that cross my mind:
- How much is she making? How many hours does she get per week? Does her schedule and her hourly wage work out to something she and any family she has can live on?
- Does she have healthcare through her employer? Can her partner (if she has one) be covered through that her employer’s plan? Her partner’s kids (if she has any)?
- What kind of harassment does she have to put up with from some of the customers who come through her line?
Granted, these are not questions I’d ask a random stranger who’s ringing up my groceries. That would be completely inappropriate. But knowing those are serious questions with potentially serious ramifications, I also wouldn’t do something as superficial as compliment her on her haircut and pat myself on the back as if I’d become the epitome of compassion.
Owens’s second example is just as awful:
Or I encourage the star-struck 17-year-old to become informed on political issues that will affect her life, then discuss those big hoop earrings she’s sporting.
Why is Owens automatically assuming that this young woman isn’t already informed on political issues that will affect her life?4 And why does she simply encourage the young woman to “become informed” on such a topic and then go on to discuss those big hoop earrings? Maybe the young woman would rather discuss the political issues that affects her life — those issues that she may well know better than Owens, as it’s her life.
This whole thing reeks of a person who obviously sees herself as superior to others seeking to engage others in situations where her perceived superiority is reinforced by the circumstances, behaving in a manner that makes it clear she feels herself superior, and acting patronizing. And she thinks this paints her in a positive light?
1And don’t even get me started on the whole “deliberately” doing so thing, as if Owens finds choosing to through a particular checkout lane some major effort or ordeal on her part.
2Let’s face it, I’ve seen what passes for “a few words of Jesus’ love” in some Christians’ minds when it comes to LGBT people. It ain’t pretty, and most decent people would wonder what definition of that word such Christians are using.
3Assuming she doesn’t think just talking to a lesbian — even in a place where Owens can probably still create problems for her by simply complaining to the store manager — as something terribly uncomfortable.
4Oh, right. Because Owens is probably assuming that anyone who is really informed on such issues will automatically agree with her. The condescending smugness of it all is vile.