The Fabricated Outrage Over Rashida Tlaib’s “Motherfucker” Comment

Mainstream pundits and conservative talking heads express more outrage over Democrats using foul language than Trump’s cruel policies and corruption.

Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI)

Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI)

Thursday saw the historic swearing-in of the most diverse Congress ever. Voters in November elected record numbers of women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals to represent, and this freshman class has proved that they are ready to hit the ground running and shake things up in Washington. It was a day full of hope and progress, a beacon of light in otherwise tumultuous times.

So naturally, the political discourse became a hot mess on Friday.

On Thursday night, hours after being sworn in, Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan was filmed telling a group of supporters that Democrats will “impeach the motherfucker,” with regard to Donald Trump. And of course, because political punditry in this country loves nothing more than to clutch their pearls at impoliteness (dehumanizing and sometimes fatal immigration policies, and honest to god sexual assault are apparently, still acceptable), this statement overwhelmed the discourse over the last couple days.

Instead of talking about Tlaib’s policy platform, impressive victory, or the fact that she had just become the first Palestinian-American elected to Congress, our time is now going to be spent discussing whether or not Democratic politicians should swear. Because the “civility” conversation only ever refers to the Democrats – not the President who bragged about “grabbing women by their pussies” and called certain countries “shitholes.” Although Republicans across the country spent the 2016 election screaming “fuck your feelings,” and calling every individual who promoted respect for others a “snowflake,” it is apparently up to the Democrats to maintain a level of decorum that would pass a 19th-century cotillion.

Let’s be clear here – while the Trump administration may threaten your livelihood, contribute to your dehumanization, spark a crisis at the Southern border, and might exist in the first place partially as a result of foreign collusion and interference – you should in no circumstance, ever use the word fuck or its derivative. That would be rude, and rudeness is clearly the worst thing that could ever happen in this country. You know the saying, “taking away human rights is all fun and games until someone calls you a motherfucker.”

Whenever this “civility” discourse gets brought up, it is almost always by individuals that don’t have as much on the line as those that dared express outward anger at Trump’s actions and policies. It requires a level of privilege – an awareness that this fight is largely theoretical to you – to have such a tone-deaf response to such expression. Time and time again, marginalized groups are expected to respond to discrimination and oppression with politeness and respect. They are asked to prioritize the comfort of their oppressor, to make sure that their fight for equity is kind enough as to not disturb the status quo.

With regard to the gender dynamic, women have long been policed for their anger and tone. I remember to this day the first person that told me it would be unladylike to swear. We are expected to remain polite and “civilized” even in the face of abject intolerance. However, while the rage of women seemed to bubble over during the last year, our society is still wildly uncomfortable with us expressing anger in the public sphere. In the political world, when white men show anger or rage or bluster, they are exulted as passionate and determined. However, when women deign to reveal these seem emotions, they are attacked, dismissed, or even called the worst thing one can be – unlikable.

Some days, it seems like we never left the 2016 media circus. It is imperative that those driving our national discourse learn that their bias towards pretend “fairness” reflected in their coverage is highly dangerous to our country’s well-being. Manufactured anger at profanity contributes to the politics of distraction in our media – creating an environment where our attention spans are so strung out that we can’t pay attention to the truly horrific policies promoted by individuals in power.

This distraction only works if we let it. So, fuck that.

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Opinion // Civility / Donald Trump / Rashida Tlaib