Yes, the photo was wrong.
But can we talk about it for a minute?
Maybe think a little deeper than our initial visceral reaction?
In cased you missed it, Kathy Griffin gave a press conference this morning to address the situation. For my money, she did fantastic.
If you feel like you need to have an opinion on this issue (which is totally fine), I suggest you take a few minutes to watch it.
As I reflect on this situation, I am choosing to not join in on the hatred and outrage toward Kathy Griffin.
And here are six things I think are worth pointing out right now.
Not in defense or support of Kathy, but because I refuse to be distracted from what I think is the main issue.
#1) I Am Not A Fan of the Image
I did not like Kathy Griffin’s recent piece of artwork.
(I won’t post it here, but chances are you’ve seen it already)
I start by saying this, NOT because it’s the most important thing (it really, really isn’t), but because I know that if I’m not clear about this upfront, then you might really mis-hear me.
So I’ll say it again: I did not like the image.
Okay, now that you know that, here are the other five things I want to say.
#2) Kathy Gave the Image a Caption
Did you know (because I did not, until this morning, watching the press conference) that when she posted the image, she also added a caption to it?
Here it is:
I caption this “there was blood coming out of his eyes, blood coming out of his…wherever… OBVIOUSLY, I do not condone ANY violence by my fans or others to anyone, ever! I’m merely mocking the Mocker in Chief.
Point being, Kathy had a particular point of view for this photo. As the artist, she told us, the viewers, where the photo came from.
She was, in her own way (reminder: I did not like the photo) bringing to light the words that Donald Trump spoke about Megyn Kelly.
Though you can interpret the photo however you want (which, it’s art, so of course you can), you at least should be aware that the artist had her own intent. And of course, when it comes to art the viewer gets to ascribe meaning regardless of the artist’s intent. But that doesn’t mean that “artist’s intent” is therefore irrelevant.
With whatever opinion you make about this story, just keep in mind that this photo did not exist in a vacuum. There was a context for it.
#3) The Context is King
The context of this photo is—among other things—the awful, disturbing, and vile way that Donald Trump talks about and treats women.
In her press conference this morning, as Kathy described how Trump’s words about Kelly were the background for this photo, she said, “I’m always going to stand up for a woman who is being demeaned by Trump, even if they (referencing Kelly) don’t like me.”
And we need you to do this, Kathy.
Keep standing up for women.
We have example after example that paints a clear picture of how Donald Trump thinks about, talks about, and treats women.
And it’s gross.
And that was the background, the context, the motivation behind Kathy’s photo.
To visually express the absurdity and egregious things that Trump says about and does toward women.
You can disagree with how she went about it, that’s fine. But understand that the point was to not let us forget how Trump treats women.
#4) It Wasn’t About Violence… Kinda
The image is bloody and gruesome and, for all intents and purposes, looks like a beheading.
Have I mentioned how much I don’t like it?
It’s not really my thing.
Violence, in general.
Executions in particular.
But according to Kathy, the point here is not about violence toward Trump.
She wasn’t advocating violence toward him. She wasn’t suggesting he should be beheaded.
But of course that’s exactly what it looks like.
So it’s hard to really escape that.
However, it still bears repeating that the purpose of the photo shoot was not to incite or inspire violence against Trump, but to remind us of and illuminate the violence Trump has shown women.
And sometimes (a lot of the times?) it takes things that are big, bold, aggressive, shocking, radical, disturbing, and/or outlandish to get people’s attention.
Especially when it comes to trying to wake up the world to misogyny.
Most of the world is content to ignore violence against women.
Kathy Griffin is not.
After decades in her industry having to deal with patriarchy and old white men flexing their power over her, I don’t blame her for feeling like it would take something truly provocative to stop people in their tracks enough to listen.
#5) This Is a “Woman” Thing, Don’t Kid Yourself
Arguments like this are hard to gain traction, I know, but I’m still going to say it.
If this was, for example, Carrot Top who made this same image, I’m sure it might spark some interest, and perhaps there would be a ripple of disgust somewhere, but make no mistake, because the comedian in question is a woman, this thing has blown up.
Our society reacts differently to men and women. You know this. I know this.
Which again, isn’t to say that the photo isn’t deserving of criticism (it is), but it is to say that the very thing the photo was intended to expose (unfair treatment of women) is now being played out in its own way.
#6) Kathy is Apologetic. Let That Matter.
You know those scandals where the actor or athlete or politician in question is caught doing something really, really bad, but even in the face of so much scrutiny they still refuse to apologize for it? And we all say things like, “why can’t they just apologize? They’re making it so much worse!”
Well, in case you missed it, Kathy posted a 30 second heartfelt (in my opinion) video just hours after the image was released apologizing for the photo. And then she went on a live press conference this morning and further emphasized her regret and remorse.
But can we pretend, for a moment, that she didn’t do those things? That, four days later now, she still hasn’t apologized?
We’d be outraged even more, right!?
Of course we would. And rightly so.
Imagine then, if that were the case, what would we be saying right now about how she should have handled it?
We might say something like, “she should have taken down the photo right away.”
We might say something like, “she should have apologized immediately.”
We might say something like, “she should hold a press conference to make sure she gets maximum exposure for her apology.”
My point is, if these apologetic-events hadn’t happened, then they are the exact types of things we would be suggesting… no, demanding, that she do.
So let’s all take a deep breath and realize that for her part Kathy has and is handling this very maturely and very sincerely.
You can still be mad because you don’t like her apologies, or because you’re doubting their sincerity. Fine.
However, if you’re not satisfied by her apologies, then ask yourself, what would it look like for someone in her position to try and set things right after making a very public mistake?
And then, assuming that no one ever is going to do something as complex as a national-public apology 100% exactly right so as to make everyone happy, what if she get its 80% right? 60%? In other words, at what point can you let yourself say, “you know what, I sure as hell didn’t like that photo, nor do I like Kathy, but I can see how she is both apologetic and remorseful.”
When we, as a society, demand apologies from the public figures that let us down (and rage when they don’t give them!), can we try and do better about receiving them when they do?
Right now, I’m not hating on Kathy Griffin.
And for me, the bottom line is that regardless of how I feel about Kathy Griffin or her image, I refuse to let it distract me from the truly offensive thing, which is how Donald Trump talks about and treats women.
Far more disgusting
For more egregious
For more worthy of outrage
Than a really disturbing photoshoot.
(Which I do not like).