I was really done with all of the pearl-clutching and hand-wringing over Michelle Wolf's set at the White House Correspondents Dinner. All the pundits and reporters taking umbrage on behalf of this poor DC elite nepotism case over insults not actually made. Seriously, people, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is NOT a victim.
And then Liz Mair had to jump in the act and show me that as dumb as I thought all the White House correspondents were in their concern trolling, it is absolutely possible for conservative pundits to go even dumber.
Mair started at first on Twitter, bemoaning that the problem with the jabs at Sanders play into the Republican stereotype that women's value is based entirely on their looks.
Um, no, the joke was very pointedly at the substance of Sanders' work, but you do you. The point was that she burns facts, not her looks, although that seems curiously difficult for conservatives to wrap their head around. Maybe that's not surprising, considering the guy who leads their party very clearly believes that women's value is entirely in their attractiveness, given his ownership of a pageant and parade of ever-younger models on his orange-tinted arm.
But that wasn't enough poorly thought-out logic. Mair then appeared on MSNBC with host Yasmin Vossoughian Sunday and whinged that clearly Michelle Wolf was calling Sarah Huckabee Sanders a "fat lesbian".
"Very clearly that is a comment that is about Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ looks and it’s not a compliment. It’s extremely hypocritical that we’re hearing from somebody of the left, sort of lesbian, fat lesbian jokes when supposedly we’re not even supposed to be making those.”
Like the rest of us, Democratic strategist Atima Omara was confused, and wanted to know what the hell Mair was referring to.
Mair said the "Aunt Lydia" reference, naturally,
This is where I stop the video and yell, "PICK UP A BOOK, YOU BONEHEAD!"
The Handmaid's Tale was published in 1985, and was nominated and/or won top literary awards. So it's not as if this was some obscure little book that just got published. It's literally been available for decades. I read it the year it came out and again not that long ago. My teenage daughter was assigned it in the 11th grade. And it was also produced as a film before in 1990. There have been plenty of opportunities for Mair to familiarize herself with it, rather than just opining blindly.
The character of Aunt Lydia in it is a critical one for understanding how...wait for it...a segment of women who enabled the authoritarian men to dominate and subjugate women.
Sometimes Aunt Lydia seems to be the voice of the Women's Center and the voice of the Republic of Gilead. It's her voice the narrator hears over and over explaining the rules and consequences of this new lifestyle. Her words shape the manipulation and brainwashing at the Center, lead the women in remaking themselves as Handmaids, and twist Biblical passages to provide justification for this new lifestyle.
One of the narrator's key observations about Aunt Lydia is this: "Aunt Lydia thought she was very good at feeling for other people" (8.27). This says a lot both about Aunt Lydia and the way the narrator sees her. Aunt Lydia believes one of her strengths is "feeling for other people," but from where we're standing (via the narrator's vantage point) this is hardly true. The only people Aunt Lydia seems to feel for are Commanders' Wives. She tries to manipulate the Handmaids into feeling compassion for the Wives.
Gosh, how could one find a parallel there to Sarah Huckabee Sanders?
No, what Mair is reacting to is the casting of actress Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia in the Hulu miniseries.
And projecting that of course Wolf was suggesting that Sanders is a large mannish "lesbian-looking" person (which is actually projecting a lot of weirdness on poor Ann Dowd who doesn't deserve it, but whatever). There are way too many body issues and sexual identity issues that Mair is unconsciously betraying for me to unpack in a single post. However, if Mair thought to pick up a book occasionally, she'd know that wasn't the way that author Margaret Atwood described Aunt Lydia at all.
At one point the narrator claims that Aunt Lydia frequently says "men are sex machines" (24.9). Then she amends this:
Aunt Lydia did not actually say this but it was implicit in everything she did say. It hovered over her head, like the golden mottoes over the saints, of the darker ages. Like them too, she was angular and without flesh. (24.10)
This is how Aunt Lydia was portrayed by Victoria Tennant in the 1990 movie:
Not quite the lesbian stereotype you thought, eh, Liz?
When Omara attempted to put the Aunt Lydia character in its proper literary context, Mair brushed it off that it was unreasonable to expect people to read.
“If you’re supposed to be writing a good comedy routine, you better write jokes that people can understand and don’t think that you’re calling somebody a fat lesbian,” she insisted. “So, sorry, but she kind of did a bad job.”
Or you know, you could READ A BOOK. Why conservatives are proud to revel in their cultural illiteracy, I'll never understand.