Y’all this is part two of an ongoing discussion. For part one, click here.
I posted this originally in the comment section of my first post, but as you can see, it’s far too long to be a comment. It’s in response to Jamie McGonnigal’s comment.
Thanks for responding, it’s great to keep the dialogue open.
I hear you and respect the frustration and fear you feel when someone in your community does something to tell you “there’s something wrong with you.” I said this in my last post and I’ll say it again, I don’t think Bailey posted that photo to intentionally support an anti-equality platform. She is unworldly and frequently doesn’t know what’s happening around her on a large scale. Again: Ignorance is never an excuse, but it is frequently an explanation. Because I have the privilege of knowing Bailey on a personal level (a privilege that many of her digital detractors do not hold), I’m happy to give her the benefit of the doubt and progress on a platform of education. If I didn’t know Bailey as a friend would I act in the same way? I don’t know. Vitriol never seems to solve problems for me (even more so online) and I imagine that if her photo upset me I would have written a post not dissimilar to yours.
I hold divisively strong opinions on food. I am judgmental and frequently condescending in my ideals. These attitudes inform my friendships, often cutting off a relationship before it has a chance to blossom. I recognize my behavior and understand the consequences on a social level. But when I enter the workplace, these personal attitudes don’t come to the surface. They may ruin a friendship, but I’ll never hold them over a colleague during rehearsal or performance. Now, I know that likening food politics to gay rights can seem like a comparison between a hamster and a horse, but my point is this: Bailey may or may not hold beliefs that are offensive to both you and me, but when it comes to the work, she never once treated me any differently than another cast member. Though I believe Bailey doesn’t think any less of me because of my orientation, if she does, that’s her prerogative. She showed up to work every day and did her job without her personal beliefs in the way.
I can’t and don’t expect everyone I work with professionally to hold the same values and opinions as me. In this instance, I met Bailey and had the pleasure of working with her before I saw the picture. My relationship with Bailey informed my reaction to her Facebook post. The opposite holds true for most people condemning her: They saw Bailey’s Facebook post, and their reaction to that post informed their relationship (digitally and/or professionally) with her.
Here’s the catch: I have the privilege of knowing her. If I witnessed the photo post before I started rehearsal with her would I walk in with assumptions about her character? Yep, I’m not above that. But would I let my assumptions get in the way of my work? Would I treat her with less respect than my other cast mates because of something I saw her post online? That would be unprofessional. It doesn’t seem fair to judge a colleague on his or her outside-of-the-workplace beliefs. On the other hand, if I saw that picture first and assumed Bailey to be rampantly homophobic would I let it get in the way of a potential friendship? Probably, and that would be my myopic loss in this case.
You claim the privilege of not having control over how your post is interpreted and multiplied online, a privilege and responsibility we all have to own in the digital age. And it’s a privilege I give to Bailey as well. I believe she really didn’t think that picture was anything other than a shot of her soon-to-be-consumed meal. In light of current events, her picture was multiplied and interpreted quite easily as a homophobic attack. Is it her privilege to post her meal online and leave it open to interpretation? Yep, just like your post and my post. Is it also her responsibility to acknowledge the picture and its negative interpretations. Absolutely.
And she did respond. When contacted, Bailey said “I’m a proud Christian.” And again, this was taken to mean astoundingly different things by many opposing parties. You said her use of those words exacerbated the problem. I will say this: our personal interpretations of her use of those words exacerbated the problem. When religion and politics meet we have to acknowledge not only the words being used, but our own unique ways of hearing those words. God, Christian, Gay, Rights, Proud- these are all charged words. They have stark meanings to both speakers and listeners. I believe what Bailey meant and what was heard are incompatible.
I appreciate that you expressed your disappointment in Bailey via twitter after seeing her post. And she actually said more than simply “I’m a proud Christian.” She wrote: “on my behalf being a Christian doesn’t mean I hate gays! That’s crazy I love them and ask anyone I’ve worked w. I understand…). But by the time you got to your second question via twitter and your original post (“Do u know Chickfila gives millions to anti-gay groups who fight to have gays put to death? Doesn’t sound Christian to me”), she was already buried under negative (and violent and nasty) comments on every wing of her digital persona. I understand why she locked her twitter account.
I would like Bailey and many of my coworkers to be better informed of the world’s issues. But they aren’t. And, egotistically, I would like to believe that the issues that matter most to me are of equal importance to the rest of the country. But they aren’t. If Bailey were more eloquent she might have used different words to defend her actions, she might have been effusive in her response. But Bailey isn’t a scholar, and it’s unfair of me to expect her to write or speak in that manner. She, and many people who hold disparate opinions from me, effectively speak another language. I don’t expect her to speak mine, though with the privilege of education, I think I can understand hers.
When I talk to Bailey in her language, a language rife with references to God and Religion, I don’t hear hate. I hear a practiced vocabulary, words that have been taught to her by people who may have used them for hate in the past, but words that are meant genuinely and honestly as an expression of Bailey’s love and apology. We all speak as we were educated, be that by our parents, our schools or our religions, and we all use our learned vocabularies to express our innermost thoughts. Though you use the same phrases as your parents, you surely mean them in your own way. For Bailey, though she chooses words that my queer community is poised to interpret as slanderous and inflammatory, she speaks as she can, with the education she has, and uses those words to convey her support and levy her defense.
Everything I’ve written comes down to one thing: I know Bailey personally and many people commenting on her actions do not. Would I behave differently if I didn’t know her? Possibly. But after working with Bailey I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and help her self-educate because I believe her to be a good person. I understand the online reaction, and I’m happy that we’re all discussing the issues. Life in the digital is exponentially emotional, we lose control of our words the instant we hit publish or send.
I applaud your dedication to carrying on a dialogue about the situation. It is so easy to point fingers and get all riled up, often the meanings of everyone’s words are lost. The only way we grow as a community is to have conversations, to listen, to actively attempt to understand the other person’s perspective. People don’t hold bigoted beliefs because they are evil, but because they believe they have found what is good and just. (and while I passionately stand for human rights for all people everywhere regardless of sex, sexual orientation, culture, or skin color it doesn’t mean that I have the lock down on the good and just or have never done something which retrospectively has made me feel ashamed). At the heart of all human rights movements is the need for dialogue, it is hard to maintain, and difficult not to become hateful or angry (especially with the ambiguity of the internet) when someone does not see things the way you do. But in the words of Montaigne, “only a fool is certain and immovable” and it is the job of rights advocates everywhere to help them find the space to move.
Wow. That was beautifully put and I agree with everything you’ve stated here.
You are clearly a bigger person than most if you can so easily dismiss the actions and opinions of others the moment you step in the workplace. Especially in a field where you do well by baring your soul. It’s simply not the same as walking into an office, sitting in your cubicle all day and potentially never even speaking to those you work next to. As you know, working in theatre means you are (sometimes quite literally) exposed and at your most vulnerable in that space. Most I would venture to say, require more than a little professional trust there. So the question I raised in the title of my first piece “What happens when a Broadway star supports Chick-fil-A?,” was intended perhaps for a smaller audience of my theatrical comrades.I think it’s an excellent conversation to be had in this digital age and perhaps that’s where current theatrical professionals can take it.
I hate that people have been so vile towards her – and mind you, I’ve received more than a few hate messages myself over it. This is not where I had hoped the conversation would go and in many instances – most instances, the dialogue has been constructive. I have also noticed that for some reason – and being a food person, maybe you’ll have an opinion on this – the Chick-fil-A thing has engaged people in a way few topics have in recent memory. I’m not sure if it was just a tipping point or that people actually feel that strongly about chicken sandwiches. Either way, as a new media professional, I find it fascinating.
Thanks very much for your words and your inside opinion on Bailey. I think you’re probably quite accurate regarding where she is coming from. And I appreciate your desire to want to educate her. I do find at times that it is extraordinarily challenging to change someone’s mind about a thing when they have a lifetime of misinformation (disguised as “loving truth”) drummed into their ears. It can sometimes be a bit like teaching a pig to play harmonica – all it does is waste your time and annoy the pig.
And thank you for the considerate, intelligent dialogue. It seems to be frustratingly absent from most regarding equality, religion and/or Chick-fil-A.
Thanks Jamie, I appreciate your comments. It’s definitely interesting to see how our posts take on new lives after we hit “send,” isn’t it? I don’t doubt that you’ve received some of the same foul-mouthed commentary that Bailey caught. It always boggles me that in the face of assumed bigotry people respond with egregious hatred. What does that solve? I understand the impetus, specifically being a member of a minority, but we’ve got to step back from our own initial reactions sometimes to see a clearer path forward.
The Chik-fil-A event rode a massively popular wave on social media, you’re absolutely correct. Though it may be a marker of a tipping point in our collective consciousness, I’m willing to say that it is also an outcome of our need for pop-news. The KONY 2012 piece, the endless political posturing, the Chik-fil-A statement, it seems our interests in advocacy-based news is growing, though our attention span is shortening. I wonder how long any of these issues will capture our brain time in the future.
Thanks for continuing this dialogue, it’s been eye-opening for me and I respect the honesty with which you write.