Few lines from modern film stick out like Bradley Whitford’s in Jordan Peele’s Get Out. You probably know which line I’m talking about. “By the way,” Whitford earnestly quips, “I would have voted for Obama a third time if I could.”
Whitford reportedly had no idea the line was initially written as a joke and his sincere treatment of the massively freighted statement made his character come across Christ-like but way more racist, a wannabe savior whose commitment to racial equality is surpassed only by his lack of self-awareness, a truly menacing combination perfect for the film.
The DeSantis supporters are mad that Trump “let biological men compete against women” in a beauty pageant.
Art imitates life, apparently, given Whitford’s recent statements at a Florida Democratic Party gala in Miami Beach where, amid a broadside attack on kinky-boots-wearing and preternaturally unlikable Gov. Ron Desantis, Whitford polished off some crowd pleasers which included a litany of profane insults – along with some casual homophobia and covert misogyny.
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“Ron DeSantis is a f**king coward,” Whitford reportedly squealed. “He is afraid of history. He is afraid of people different than him. He is afraid of Donald Trump. That’s right. Top Gov is a bit of a bottom.”
That last line was one of the “best-received” of the night, according to NBC News reporter Matt Dixon. I’m not terribly surprised. Straight people inevitably tell on themselves in matters relating to LGBTQ+ people just like white people inevitably do with regard to race.
In both cases, there’s a cluelessness, a lack of humility about being in the majority and having no actual idea what it’s like in the minority, be it sexual or gender or race based. This cluelessness increases in magnitude the more the speaker thinks they check the right boxes, support the right candidates, and use the right lingo. Call it hubris.
This hubris is what gets them to go a little too far. It snuggles them in the comforting embrace of allyship, putting them, so they think, beyond the bounds of what can be called racist, homophobic, or whatever else. Often, transgressions go unchecked because those in the affected group think existential threats on the horizon from stated enemies are more important than some internecine battle about language use with known friends. Keep your powder dry for the real fights, you know?
Yet, Whitford even took it further. “Little Ronnie D can play dress up and do all the homoerotic ‘Top Gun’ ads he wants,” he taunted.
Whitford’s performance was basically an entirely too long way to call someone a “f***ot.”
Of course, the Florida Democratic Party is not homophobic in my mind. Likewise, in my heart of hearts, I know Whitford is probably not at all anti-gay and that he’s an ally. In fact, personally, I’ve always liked him and his performances quite a bit.
But just like the options aren’t relegated to “KKK or not” in matters of race, being anti-LGBTQ+ or trading in anti-LGBTQ+ messages and jokes isn’t a pass/fail where you have Westboro Baptist Church on one side and Harvey Fierstein on the other and no other choices.
Rather, those folks in Florida and Whitford are – mostly – guilty of being clueless straight people. In fact, I bet some straight people feel terrible reading this thinking about the times they’ve been bonding with gay men only to realize they went a little too far. That’s OK. My intention isn’t to drag you or anyone else.
I don’t know about you, but I hold my friends to a higher standard than strangers. And for me, corrective action is something reserved for people I would not just step over to get around but instead those I would help get back up. We do our friends no favors by letting them get comfortable chipping away joke by joke at our dignity. And that is what Whitford and the Florida Democratic Party did at its gala.
See, the idea that being a bottom is an insult is outright misogynistic and homophobic. What, precisely, is funny or worthy of ridicule about being a bottom? At the risk of getting a bit graphic, we need to specifically break this stuff down.
In news that will surprise nobody that knows me, I am mostly a bottom. And if you ask me, it takes a real man to be one. The terror tops express about the very act they chase after us for just tells me the degree to which the role speaks to toughness or character. I am only half joking.
The difference between tops and bottoms is, simply, penetration. And despite their whining, I have rarely heard tops mocked with the same degree of disdain and laughter as I have bottoms. Why? According to multiple research studies, it has to do with, in part, “penetration discourse.”
Whoever gets penetrated in a sex act is worthy of ridicule, disgust, condemnation because, typically, this is what women do. And in our female-hating patriarchal society, women are weaker, less respected, and less desired in professional and other serious spaces than men. The same principle fuels anti-cat and pro-dog sentiment amongst pet owners. No, really.
Homophobia is really just misogyny repackaged. It also explains why the most virulent anti-gay attacks almost always relate to a lack of perceived masculinity or obsess over the supposedly “sinful, unnatural, and sick” idea of a man letting another man penetrate him orally or anally. Note how little bigots ever seem to talk about lesbians and focus everywhere globally on men who have sex with other men.
The mechanics of anal sex, the rampant and frankly embarrassing heterosexual ignorance about how to clean out before anal sex, and other factors contribute to the idea that somehow what gay people do is unnatural. Pay no attention to the fact that “pegging” is something even evangelical Christian housewives are engaged in.
It’s understandable, then, that implying Ron DeSantis likes either another man or a woman wearing a strap-on to anally penetrate him is an insult worthy of mostly straight laughter at a political event. Guffawing because it meant their foe was womanly, being penetrated, and not at all a macho man worthy of being called a top, they stuffed their faces with shrimp cocktail and repackaged misogyny and called it a night.
Coming from a political party that supposedly has my back out of the mouth of a purported ally made this bit of misogynistic bottom shaming all the more urgent to address. I’ve noticed with this stuff that what is benign and merely annoying within the community – we’ve all made bottom jokes in some way or contexts, some are biting and incisive commentaries on oppression, others are simply puerile – becomes darker, insidious, and outright dangerous outside the community if left unaddressed.
At the end of the day, sure there are “more important things” to worry about. But I think we have the range to both confront serious existential threats to our lives or the planet and expect that our friends fighting with us on the front lines aren’t mocking us behind our backs. And sometimes we should do people the kindness of communicating how embarrassed we are for them.