THE HATEFUL PEPE AND THE FASCIST RIGHT OF AMERICA

by Jennifer Hall Lee

A tweet to Cheri Jacobs

This presidential race was bound to be close and I thought I was prepared. I was going to power through this election. I didn't foresee that Donald Trump, and then a frog, would stop me in my tracks and make me think hard about our current situation. 

It is surprising how many people identify as nazis and anti-semites. They are called white nationalists and Trump has brought them out into the wide open. They are also called the alternative right, or alt-right. They are the far, far-right who are bound together by their disdain for everyone else. They hate immigration.

Trump, Pepe, the alt-right. They all go together in a big basket.

Like all groups the alt-right has images and symbols that help identify them on the web. One of these images is a frog.  

His name is Pepe and he is the defacto mascot for the alt-right. He isn't pretty. In fact he is paunchy, crudely drawn and he barely smiles.

It's a disturbing time in America, but I haven't yet seen a collective shudder among the electorate. Either people haven't put the pieces together or they are rationalizing the bizarre behavior on the part of Trump. It's time to put the bricks together and form the structure that is hiding in plain sight.

The alt-right. The name isn't going away anytime soon. They are super excited that Hillary gave them a big shout-out which identified them to the country. The alt-right is now on the political map. They refer to themselves as racialists and believe in the separation of the races.

Alt-righters are everywhere and they have been hidden in the deep layers of the web, until now.

Proud and emboldened they even have a logo: two letters A and R, both constructed out of three triangles

Richard Spencer, a prominent white supremacist gave a press conference two days ago before Trump gave his speech on values. 

For them, it is their time. They have arrived.

The Fascist Mascot

The alt-right trolls the web with their icon Pepe the Frog. Some of us post kitten pictures or images of Gene Wilder for a laugh. The alt-right pushes Pepe.

Pepe harasses, insinuates, leers and when depicted with Hitler and Mein Kampf, he is downright evil.

I know there are many who say, “Time Out! Many people have tweeted Pepe with no ill will.” This is true, Pepe was not born in the alt-right world, but the alt-right claimed him as one of their own. 

Pepe has been born-again. He has a message, “Pepe is one of us and we will prevail.”

This frog is a bully and his online antics have placed him in a lawsuit filed by GOP communications pro Cheri Jacobus against Donald Trump and his past campaign manager (now a CNN commentator) Corey Lewandowski. She is suing both of them for defamation.

Her Trump travails start on May 17, 2015 when Ms. Jacobus gets contacted by a man connected to Trump (the campaign was in its early stages) who asked Jacobus to join the Trump train as the Communications Director. Trump is a high profile guy and Jacobus is a professional so she takes the meeting.

The second meeting is where it gets tricky. Corey Lewandowski, according to the summons, behaves in an “erratic” way. He was talking loudly and inappropriately and was generally a "powder keg." He even brags about yelling at Megyn Kelly.

Jacobus smartly declines their offer of employment and goes back to her role as news commentator. Her brief foray into Trump's world safely behind her, or so she thought. Jacobus was at the start of another round of unprofessional behavior.

What happens to her is a roller coaster of a ride through the Trump sewer of retaliation and lies. 

While on the Don Lemon show, in January, she criticized Trump's debating skills among other things. She is, after all, a commentator. But Jacobus got under Trump's thin skin. 

Both Trump and Lewandowski engaged in a takedown of Jacobus' character on talk shows and on the web.  For weeks they claimed that she “begged” them for a job and was turned down..

Many other anonymous tweeters joined in and they brought Pepe along to help them fight their sordid battle. (Who are these hidden tweeters?) In early January one tweet showed Pepe, with blond Trump-style hair, pointing a machine gun with a message for Cheri: this triggers @CheriJacobus

She responded.

pepe_3.png

Pepe reads Mein Kampf

Then later that day another tweet appeared. It is a two-paneled image of a blond woman with her head on a chopping block and her hands tied behind her back. She has a hatchet on her neck. In the next panel Pepe is raping the headless torso.

The message to Cheri: #MakeAmericaGreatAgain

That image is cited in Jacobus' lawsuit.

I have altered this tweet with the black bar

I have altered this tweet with the black bar

Trump continued his tirade against her. In his signature juvenile style he tweeted about Jacobus: "A real dummy!"

Trump can't stop, he continues the online assault against Jacobus. 

The tweeting persecution of Jacobus contines to this day. Just recently another tweet appeared showing Pepe holding Hitler's Mein Kampf with a message to Jacobs: Do you really think you can win against Shitlords? #LOL

And two days ago, on September 11, a day of rememberance and honor, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted an image with Pepe standing to the right of Donald Trump's shoulder. It's a parody of the movie poster for The Expendables. All of the heads have been photoshopped. These are Trump loyalists, all men.

By placing Pepe in the image this becomes a direct message to the alt-right Trump followers. No shame for the hateful.

We can rationalize these events and say to ourselves "It's just Trump being Trump.  Pepe is a character used by many."

Pepe is used specifically by the alt-right.

People lie to themselves all the time when we don't want to see the truth. We can be forgiving or dismissive of cruelty as in the case of Cheri Jacobus, or we can be brave and admit to ourselves that this no ordinary election.

These alt-righters are the “basket of deplorables” that Hillary alerted us to and for good reason. She wanted us to see them.

Beware of Pepe.

 

- Read the lawsuit for yourself, it's pinned at the top of her Twitter page

 

Slut-Shaming Versus The Male Gaze

Am I a Slut-Shamer or just another feminist?


There are a few photos of a nude Melania Trump being passed around the web. I consider them to be feminist viruses that scream “click me.” They are invading our Facebook pages and our psyches.

These images are examples of the classic feminist concept called the Male Gaze, a term created by Laura Mulvaney in 1975. Mulvaney's  academic framework was brilliant and enabled us to finally analyze cinematic imagery with a feminist eye. 

What is the Male Gaze? It is the male point of view. We see the male gaze in pornography, comics, movies, and billboards. It is the lens through which we peer when seeing women and girls depicted for male consumption.

Good examples of the Male Gaze are the sexualized images of Marilyn Monroe. Ms. Monroe portrayed a woman as a mix of sexuality and girlish innocence in numerous movies. She was a pre-feminist cultural definition of the desirable female. She fought this description of herself because she wanted to have good roles with dramatic depth without success.

The women's liberation movement was too far into the future for her and she couldn't break through. Monroe stays forever embedded in the patriarchal milieu of pre-feminist movie-making. 

When I first saw the images of Melania Trump I couldn't help but to apply the Male Gaze and I critiqued them for what they are: images for men.

Then I posted them on Facebook and commented that our girls really didn't need to see these pictures of a First Lady.

And that's where the Slut Shaming cudgel came flying through the web to try and knock me out.

But, I was ready with my Wonder Woman power cuffs and deflected the assault.

Am I a Slut-Shamer or just another feminist?

The accusation of Slut-Shaming can be seen as a way to silence a woman for criticizing the patriarchal male gaze.

We are in an election where we have the chance to break the all male deadlock in the Oval Office. It is the first time we have a female nominee for president who has a good chance of being President. It is interesting these images have surfaced at this time.

The presence of these photographs challenge us at this historic point in time; Are we ready for a woman President or do we want to keep women as simply sexual beings?

The photo I posted, when I got my slut-spanking, had layers of meaning any progressive feminist would be excited to dissect and analyze. Let's give it a try.

Melania is nude and lying provocatively on a bed with tousled white sheets. She looks alluring and is staring straight at the camera – at us. We are looking down at her. Her body is vulnerable with spiky high heels that would hobble her if she tried to leave. Her jewelry consists of two heavily jeweled cuffs on both wrists and a jeweled choker around her neck. This bed is owned by someone. Her? I don't think so and here's why. She is on the bed, but she is handcuffed to a man's briefcase. Who has the key? The owner of the briefcase. The owner of the bed. The owner of her.

She is chained to him, capitalism, money, and patriarchy. If images could talk this would say, “If you have the money you can have me too."

I'm a feminist, sure I can criticize it.

Some say Trump is the bigger issue and these photos are minor compared to what he could do to our country if he becomes President. In a world where male presidents lord over us as the ultimate power image, with wives as appendages, yes he is the bigger issue.

However,  these images will trot alongside the images of an all male presidential ticket reinforcing an unequal relationship of power and gender. 

And as a feminist mother I have a job to do. I have to help my pre-teen navigate her way through this country and show her how to criticize the images of semi-nude women and yes, provocative images of girls, from television to the streets of my city. (Last night's stroll along Sunset Boulevard brought me to a towering image of a young woman in a tight bathing suit with butt cheeks exposed. )

Our daughters now stand at a moment in time where they can hold in their young minds images of a female President when deconstructing the images of the Male Gaze. 

A teen girl has to grow with a sense of her own power that is not sexual power.

But, thanks to the New York Post, if Trump wins, we have more images of the potential First Lady that will be very visible on the internet. The recent photos of Melania from the 1990s show her acting as a lesbian vixen and as a wet and waxed nude woman with no real pubic hair (an encouragement of pre-pubescent female sex). These clearly compound the problem ahead.

I didn't slut-shame Melania Trump. I criticized the image with a feminist point of view.

As a thinking person I have to allow myself to entertain the possibility that Melania could be First Lady.

A girl's discovery of these photos on the internet coupled with the fact that every single President in our history has been male is a tangled web of gender, power and sex that will have to be confronted if Trump wins.

And that's just pondering the result of girls (and boys) seeing these images here in the United States.

What will children in other countries think?

This isn't slut-shaming. This is a feminist issue. Keep talking.

 Photo of Melania Trump courtesy © Glenn Francis, www.PacificProDigital.com

THE POPE OF VERMONT: BERNIE SANDERS

by Jennifer Hall Lee

The Pope Ascending

Is it moral for women to be excluded from the priesthood?

Bernie visited the Vatican, but he didn't scream for revolution. In fact, he just shook the Pope's hand. The Catholic Church is a bastion of male dominance and as long as Francis is the Pope, it's going to stay that way. This seems perfectly fine for Bernie. 

Why did Bernie go to the Vatican if not to talk about revolution and equality? It was probably for the media coverage, which is a lost opportunity for the angry revolutionary from Vermont. There is a lot to talk about in terms of revolution and the Church, namely a growing chorus for female priests. 

The ordination of women is one of the growing movements for women's equality, however it's still on the edges of our society, unlike the movement for equal pay. Why is it important to have female priests? The Church holds large amounts of power over people's ideas about women. The Pope and Bernie like to talk about income inequality, but cannot seem to see that women cannot be separated from the economy of the world. 

The Pope plays it safe and lightly criticizes capitalism, and many who consider themselves forward thinking intellectuals have vocally praised him for this, but when it comes to the status of women in the Church Francis is doing his part to keep them secondary. At the same time people who praise his words on income equality, stay silent when it comes to his words on women. The Pope and his supporters accept women's second class status in the Church. 

When confronted by activists for women's participation as priests the Pope said that the Church had already spoken on that topic (I didn't know the Church could talk.) and that the door to women priests was "closed." Take that you women's equality activists!

Bernie's meeting with the Pope was less than he expected, as he only got to shake his hand, but according to the New York Times he was "beaming." Sanders made the obligatory statement for the media and said he admired the Pope for his work "...demanding that morality be part of our economy." 

There is no morality in the Pope's refusal to allow women serve as priests equally with men. The Pope is a patriarch and Bernie, a patriarch himself, isn't much of a revolutionary. 

Image Courtesy of The U.S. State Department on Flickr

The Politics of Penis Power

 

Senator Marco Rubio with Senator Joni Ernst in Iowa, 2016

Donald Trump and Marco Rubio are comparing penis size in their run for the presidency.  What a difference Hillary has made in the 2016 race.

A woman could win the presidency and men are determined to show us she doesn't possess the right stuff, literally, a penis.

But, before the males can vanquish the female they have to beat their male opponents. Gender is going to be an issue in the general election and these male candidates are getting us ready by referencing their male body parts. For them the presidency is a male domain and they intend to keep it that way.

It has been said that small hands indicate small penis size. That is the quaint bit of folklore that Marco Rubio brought into the race. He said that even though Donald Trump is a tall man his hands are oddly small. “And you know what they say about men with small hands?”

Now there's a smack down.

Men have dominated the history of presidential politics in America, but the presence of Hillary has shifted the power dynamics. To use sexism against her, such as accusing her of of being shrill, will be attacked for what it is, so let's get down to what it's all about – the penis.

Even Donald Trump said recently that back in 2008 Hillary got “schlonged.”

The Oval Office is the ultimate mirror of power in the United States and the reflection has always been male. For women this image has never been their own. We are told that the presidency is for us too, but that has been an illusion under which we have all been expected to live until now.

Clearly Trump and Rubio are quietly panicked at the possibility of being beaten by a woman. So they have to come right out and say it through penis imagery, “The Oval Office is reserved for men and the big one wins.”

In the last republican debate Trump pounced on the accusation that he had a small penis.  He held up his hands and said. “Look at those hands. Are they small hands? I guarantee you there’s no problem, I guarantee you.”

The penis talk underlines an assumption that come the general election Hillary will have a problem because she has no penis. Male power is entwined with a belief that women are inferior. If Hillary wins than that belief is dead. 

Being male and being president have always gone together. Hillary alters the race. Will the penis count?

Interestingly, there is a precursor to talking about penis size; men going shirtless. Martin O'Malley sported the topless look early in the presidential race in the tradition of showing voters he is a virile man. It's a male tradition of sly messages.

We can't deceive ourselves anymore with subtleties. Penis talk is bold and vulgar. All male candidates of the presidency have rested comfortably in the fact that they follow in a long line of male candidates; the Oval Office has been a man's domain. Hillary marks a great change for the country's highest position. 

For many this shift in power is unsettling. For others, like me, it's exhilarating. If she becomes president then the next generation of girls and boys will see power in a new way. 

In the past men only had to compete with half the population, yet now, and in the future, the field will be doubled. This is a positive change because only through a broader field of candidates will we have greater opportunity to elect the best person for president.

For those who want to keep the field of candidates limited and male, talking about penis size, is a last resort.

Image courtesy Gage Skidmore/ WikiCommons