My daughter and I are having a dance party in the kitchen. She pumps her little arms and wiggles her bottom, braids flying. I shimmy next to her, my socks slipping on the tile floor. My son covers his eyes as he finds the sight of our dancing to be deeply, profoundly embarrassing.
“I like this song, Mama! What is this song?”
The song was a new one from Taylor Swift and it’s catchy as hell. I like it too.
For Ev, liking the song is happily uncomplicated. Does it make her want to move her booty? Are the lyrics easy to learn the words to so she can sing along? Can she hear it on the radio in the car while we drive to Target? Yes? DONE. It’s her new favorite.
But what about me? I think Taylor Swift is talented and smart but I also think she’s pretty problematic. I wish she’d stop playing the perpetual victim. I wish she didn’t have moments of tone deaf cultural appropriation. I wish her feminism was more nuanced. I wish she’d leave Kanye West alone.
I also kind of want to get her new CD.
I suppose I could order the CD from Amazon, which is also on my list of problematic faves. My husband has requested that I not buy him anything from Amazon because he feels like they are bad for writers. I suspect he’s probably right. They’re also probably bad for the environment and bad for small businesses, and hard on their employees. But, I’ve got that Prime membership and the two-day shipping is so handy and I can’t find that one brand of notebooks I like anywhere in town, so…
I won’t order pizza from Papa John’s but my kids like Domino’s better.
I avoid Wal-Mart, but I also think Target is just a more pleasant shopping experience.
I won’t shop at Hobby Lobby, but I’ve never shopped there anyways.
I don’t listen to Chris Brown but I listen to plenty of other hip-hop artists who aren’t afraid to call a woman a bitch or a ho. I won’t watch a Woody Allen movie but I’m afraid to consider how many TV shows or movies I like that are connected to Harvey Weinstein (or Kevin Spacey, or Louis C.K., or an Affleck, or whomever is the most recent sleazebag to get unmasked).
For the last few years, I’ve felt like I’m at a constant low simmer of anger at the State of Things. I’m mad about the President. I’m mad about how frustratingly common stories of sexual harassment and violence are among women I know. I’m mad police keep killing people of color and are never held accountable. Sometimes the anger turns to a boil and I wonder if my family won’t be better off just living on an island somewhere. Sometimes the anger feels exhausting.
I try to channel the anger into action. I vote. I send a donation to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. I get into fights on Facebook with strangers and family members who say racist or offensive things (I’m not sure if this more a form of activism or insanity). I’m trying to be a good ally. I’m trying to know more and do better. I’m trying to acknowledge my privilege, and to listen to the voices of people of color and people who are disabled and people who are in the LGBTQ community. I’m trying to be more mindful of all the ways I’ve been complicit in a culture that feels increasingly toxic and broken.
But sometimes I just want to eat some chicken nuggets and listen to songs about ex-boyfriends.
So I’ve been wrestling today with some questions I just don’t know how to answer.
Can you separate the art from the artist?
Do boycotts of products and companies actually work?
Is it possible to be a consumer in a capitalist country and not end up giving money to companies or people who hate things you love or support things you hate?
I’m not a very mindful consumer. I don’t like Papa John’s because people were talking about it on Twitter and it reminded me that I think the owner is an asshole. Have I done any research to make sure that the people who own Domino’s aren’t also assholes? Nope. Did I vaguely remember that Denny’s has had a pretty racist past? Yes. Did I still take my niece there when she was craving pancakes? Well, I think you know the answer to that question.
If I’m being honest, I don’t want to think critically about where all my money goes. I don’t feel like I’ve got the bandwidth to check out the social, economic, political, and environmental impact buying this brand of toilet paper or than bag of cheese. I’ve got outrage fatigue and I don’t see that getting better anytime soon. If I think about it too much, I get annoyed with myself and the State of Things again and it makes me just want to eat some Ben & Jerry’s (they’re still cool, right? We haven’t found out that Ben has been trying to force Jerry to touch his Chunky Monkey, right?).
I’m not sure how to shake this off.