More thoughts on chicken…
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.