Beauty Shop Takes On Lady Gaga, Christine O'Donnell

Host Michel Martin is joined by the Magazine Mavens to discuss the news of the week. Lady Gaga’s support of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the Elle Magazine cover with Gabby Sidibe’s arguably lightened face, and other topics are up for debate. Joining the conversation this week are Ana Marie Cox, Washington correspondent for GQ Magazine, Danielle Belton, author of the blog BlackSnob.com, and Jessica Coen, editor-in-chief of Jezebel.com.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHEL MARTIN, Host:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

It's time to make our way to the Beauty Shop, where we take a woman's perspective on recent items in the news. Joining us today in our Washington, D.C., studio are Ana Marie Cox, Washington correspondent for GQ magazine; and Danielle Belton, author of the blog blacksnob.com; and from her home office in New York, Jessica Coen, editor-in-chief of jezebel.com. Welcome ladies, thanks for coming.

ANA MARIE COX: Thanks for having me on.

DANIELLE BELTON: Hello.

JESSICA COEN: Good to be here.

MARTIN: Thanks for everybody having interesting hair since it's a beauty shop.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Just before the break...

MARIE COX: Just take Jessica's word for it.

MARTIN: Exactly. Just before the break, we were talking with a woman, Christelyn Karazin, who's heading an online protest today called - it's against out-of-wedlock births. It's specifically focused on the African-American community. It's being called No Wedding, No Womb. It involves more than 100 bloggers.

And before I move on, I just wanted to get your take on this since all of you blog, and what do you think?

MARIE COX: All of us have wombs, as far...

MARTIN: And all of us have wombs as far as I can tell. Danielle, what's your take on this?

BELTON: Well, I'm actually participating in the event from the standpoint that I want to talk about empowering women to make better reproductive choices, use the opportunities and options that they have in order to better themselves and make a better life for their children and also calling on men to be more responsible.

Oftentimes with certain men, they act like it was inevitable for them to, you know, get some, you know, woman knocked up.

MARTIN: Why did you want to participate? And do you think this is an effective way to spread this message?

BELTON: I think it's a good way to get people talking and thinking about things and kind of challenging their viewpoint. There is kind of an attitude among some in the African-American community that have just kind of accepted the fact that out-of-wedlock births are so high, and they're not necessarily thinking about how it affects children, how it affects the community and what are some of the negative consequences of that.

MARTIN: I just want to give some other figures here. We talked a lot about the African-American figure at 72 percent of black children born outside of marriage. Among Latinas, the number is 52.5 percent, and among white women, it's 28.6 percent, this according to the Centers for Disease Control and the numbers - not that pregnancy is a disease, but they get the numbers as of 2008.

MARTIN: Is this the kind of thing that - is this discussed in other communities, as well? Is this a big topic on your blog? And I am thinking about on the one hand, so much focus on black women, but then, you know, when was the big pop culture moment where this was discussed, "Murphy Brown," the television show "Murphy Brown"?

So Jessica, I wanted to ask, is this something that's discussed on the blog in your circle among other people?

COEN: I'm hoping that this is the moment for it. I think it's a fantastic strategy to flood the online space with this discussion. And when you do that, it becomes an unavoidable topic.

And if you are a human being, and you have a heart, you care about this. This is a matter of leveling the socioeconomic playing field, and this is a factor that contributes, these babies born in wedlock. This is a factor that contributes to the ongoing problem.

MARTIN: Ana Marie, what do you think?

MARIE COX: Well, I was just thinking, you know, I write for a men's magazine, and I think they're obviously missing from this discussion for the most part, men.

MARTIN: Yeah.

MARIE COX: And I think it's, I really wish that there was a way to get guys involved besides pulling - what is the Greek story of the women who were denied access until the war was over, denied access to her womb until the war was over? We can't get guys' attention unless it comes down to womb access, I guess.

MARTIN: I'm wondering, why isn't this a discussion among men?

MARIE COX: Yeah, I mean, because it's simple biology, I suppose. I mean, I think that, you know, I have to say, like, my impulse is towards the satiric, and I tend to mock things. And when I first saw this, No Wedding, No Womb, it seemed awfully clinical, to say the least.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARIE COX: And also...

MARTIN: I think they were going for the alliteration.

MARIE COX: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

MARTIN: Which sometimes bad things happen when alliteration is the goal. But...

MARIE COX: But then I started reading it, and I listened to the interview, and I have to say that there's something very refreshing about just the simplicity and the earnestness of what she's trying to do in the way that it's not a political program at all.

It is simply asking for, you know, young women, primarily it seems like, to think about it and to try and achieve a culture shift. And that's what's going to have to happen.

I mean, I think it does have to involve all communities, as well, and you only - and something like this, it's an entire society's mores that have to change. And the only comparison I can think of is how we've made smoking unacceptable.

It would be nice if, like, it was just not even thought about as, like, a cool thing to do, to have a baby out of wedlock.

MARTIN: You know, it's interesting because it does dovetail. The play you're thinking of is "Lysistrata," by the way. This also kind of connects to our next topic, which is the whole question of the status of same-gender-loving individuals because some people - you know, when I raised this question, you know, earlier with Dr. Malone-Colon about this whole question of where does this dovetail into the same-sax-marriage debate, she says, well, look, you know, that is part of the conversation.

But the vast majority of people who are still, you know, heterosexual, and that's still where the marriage conversation is. So - but it does dovetail into the whole same-gender, same-sex, same-gender-loving conversation, rights.

And so the question then for some people is, okay, does this delegitimize my family? If we put this emphasis on marriage, and we know that children are still being born every day in lots of different family structures, does that then put these kids, does it put these - shouldn't the conversation really be about how we best take care of kids? So Ana Marie...

MARIE COX: Well, I was going to say another thing that if I was going to, you know, participate in a branding strategy session about this particular topic, another reason why we might not go with No Wedding, No Womb is because it does so - at this point in our culture, wedding means man and woman, unfortunately, at the national level.

MARTIN: Well, according to one value structure.

MARIE COX: Well, it's defined, legally on a national level.

MARTIN: No, I'm just saying unfortunately because for some, this is the dividing issue with the culture. Some people say that is just the way it was intended. I just feel we need to be fair to the people who aren't present.

MARIE COX: Well, right. I was thinking, like, a way that I might brand it might be No Family, No Womb, or No Family, No Kids. Like, what I think...

MARTIN: Or no ring or no commitment.

MARIE COX: Right, exactly, because I think the message, the larger message maybe that I can really get with, you know, is the idea that children do need to be raised in a family structure, whether that is a mom and grandparents, whether that is two moms or that's two dads, you know, they do need a family.

And you need to have a plan for that family. And that, I think I feel like that's the mindset that No Wedding, No Womb is trying to look at is have a plan for that family structure.

MARTIN: But it's about more than I think you're cool, and I like your jeans, you wear nice jeans.

MARIE COX: Right, right.

MARTIN: So Danielle, anyway, the final point on this, how does that sort of strike you? I mean, how does this, how do you dovetail this with the parallel move toward same-sex marriage rights? Is the issue marriage, not marriage to whom but marriage to someone, a plan, a long-term plan that isn't just about whether I like you today? What do you think?

BELTON: I feel like what it's about is that children do need two parents. You need to have people involved in your, you know, in taking care of your life.

The problem that comes up with the whole out-of-wedlock birth issue is that children are never going to stop wanting to know who their father is or who their mother if one of their parents happens to be absent. That's the greater tragedy of it.

Children are always going to want to know who they are, where they came from, you know, why they are the way that they are. So I'm obviously, you know, for marriage in all forms, but when you're thinking about children, (unintelligible) to have that loving family, to have that support and to be prepared for the day when the kid's going to have those questions.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin, and we're having our Beauty Shop roundtable discussion with Ana Marie Cox, Washington correspondent for GQ magazine; Danielle Belton, author of the blog blacksnob.com; and from her home office in New York, Jessica Coen, editor-in-chief at jezebel.com.

Let's talk about Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Yesterday, the Senate Republicans blocked a vote on a bill that included a provision to allow Don't Ask, Don't Tell to be repealed. Now, of course, that's the ban on people who are openly gay serving in the military.

Now, the opponents have found a champion in pop star Lady Gaga. She gave a speech at a rally in Portland, Maine, on Monday calling for Don't Ask, Don't Tell to be repealed, and she delivered it in a way that only Lady Gaga could, although she was not wearing her meat outfit that she wore.

COEN: She wore some lovely oversized glasses.

MARTIN: Yeah, she did. All right, let's listen.

LADY GAGA: Equality is the prime rib of America.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

GAGA: But because I'm gay, I don't get to enjoy the greatest cut of meat my country has to offer.

MARTIN: This is of course in reference to her meat costume that she wore in the awards show, which I still can't figure out how that meat thing happened. But what do we think about her being a - Ana Marie, what do you think about her as a spokesperson for this issue? Is she effective?

MARIE COX: Obviously, if she really wanted to make a difference in America, she would go on "Dancing with the Stars." But speaking of single mothers, actually.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARIE COX: Anyway, but, I mean, I'm very much in favor of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I feel like every day that it's in place, we are a less safe country, and also we are a less just country.

I think one of the most important political moments - Lady Gaga, I thank her for her support. I'm not sure if she swayed a lot of people, I have to say, but she probably did get some attention from some people who weren't thinking about it.

I know in some - in the progressive community, sometimes focusing attention on don't ask, don't tell is controversial because of the way people feel about our invasion of Iraq and invasion of Afghanistan. So it can be an odd fit. However, inasmuch as I admire her putting her principles on the line, here, she wasn't really risking that much. And I think the more - the greater political moment and the moment of greater political bravery this year, was when Admiral Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, laid out his testimony on the Hill, an argument for the repeal of don't ask, don't tell.

There was actually a brand-new argument to be heard in the room, this argument based on the concept of honor in the military and how don't ask, don't tell forces gay and lesbian soldiers to live a lie, and to therefore less honorable. And I think that is the argument that probably is going to carry some weight people in the military.

MARTIN: And I going to just move it along, here, because we have a couple of other topics I wanted to get to before we - not Jessica. We're going to leave you out. But another name making waves in politics this week is Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party candidate who beat out long-time GOP lawmaker Mike Castle. And now, she's refusing all interviews, except, of course, with Fox News. She appeared - with the national media, anyway. She's doing - anyway. So - I don't even know what to say about this...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: ...except...

MARIE COX: What's the coverage in Jezebel been like, Jessica?

MARTIN: Yeah.

COEN: I mean, she's certainly a source of endless punch lines. And her excuse for not participating in national media, I suppose, is valid, the national media is not going to help her in Delaware. But, obviously, she cares enough to go on a friendly outlet like Fox News. And her, let's call it a performance, last night, I actually found a little frightening, because she seemed rather sensible and - for someone who is so associated with her somewhat extreme beliefs, to have her presented on a national platform as somebody who keeps those social beliefs that she has separate from politics, I don't buy that.

I don't think you can be a person who doesn't believe in masturbation and, you know, doesn't support lifestyles and still not have that influence your politics. And I find that a little misleading for her to dodge those questions over and over.

MARTIN: But Danielle, I have to ask, though: Are her views really that extreme? She's pro-life. There are many people in public life who are pro-life. The fact that she - and she has financial problems. I have to tell you that, you know, she didn't pay her student loans, or she didn't - she - you know, I mean, it's - the whole question of whether she's funding her campaign appropriately is for the regulators to sort out. But the fact that she had financial problems - don't a lot of people have financial problems these days? I mean, Danielle, is she really that extreme?

BELTON: Well, I think that...

MARTIN: Or is this a thing because she's a woman and because people don't like her politics?

BELTON: Well, I think it's a combination of several things. To a certain extent, she is kind of ecc(ph) - he's a little bit different there. There are a lot of people who are different in their particular way. I'm from Missouri. I've met many of those people. But the thing is, by avoiding the scrutiny of a journalist who's going to ask the tough questions, going to ask the very many different questions about, you know, about abortion, about her values, about things that she's believed, about things in her past - when you take that away - I mean, she basically got herself a little PR boost and got treated with kid gloves. The reality is, is that most of us, you know, can't afford, like, fancy PR to make ourselves look the best possible, the way we are all the time.

MARTIN: Ana Marie, what do you think about...

MARIE COX: Well, I think that she is - she's pretty extreme. I mean, in some ways, focusing on the - her more eccentric gaffs, like the having dabbled in witchcraft gets us away from...

MARTIN: But that was before she was a candidate.

MARIE COX: Right. And so that gets us away from her actual views, which are pretty, you know, Tea Party - she does fit in right in the Tea Party.

MARTIN: Well, name one.

MARIE COX: I think she's - well, I mean, I think she's in the same, like, mystical power of gold standard that Glenn Beck is into, as well, which I find a little bit upsetting, and is an actual real policy issue. I also think that, you know, I - people have tried to make the argument - especially on the right - that it has to do with the fact that she's a woman. I think that you can't avoid, obviously, acknowledging someone's - you know, you can't not see that she's a woman.

MARTIN: She has a womb.

MARIE COX: Yeah. She has a womb, as far as we know.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: But I'm just saying that one thing - so her thing was she was a social activist before, and I just...

MARIE COX: And also, I wanted to say that she does believe in masturbation. She just believes it's wrong. But she knows it exists.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARIE COX: She knows it's out there.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: OK. All right. I just - I don't know. I just wonder whether it's - so she had some views that - when she was an activist, she talked about because she was (unintelligible). But...

MARIE COX: She still talks about - but she still talks about her views.

MARTIN: But is she talking about outlawing masturbation - forgive me, parents. I didn't - I know you weren't prepared for that. But is she talking outlawing it as a matter of policy, or not? I mean, if so...

MARIE COX: I actually curious if - I think Jezebel's been covering this pretty heavily. I'm curious if Jessica knows more of her recent, like...

COEN: You know, she's actually really doing herself a disservice, now that I think about it, to not talk about her personal beliefs a little bit more. Because right now, all we have, or most of what we have, are these crazy "Politically Incorrect" clips from the early '90s, when she was a much younger activist. And that's where the witchcraft thing comes from. And that is where, you know, her conservative, kind of, extremism is really being associated with. And she - yes, she does believe in masturbation. She does know it exists.

MARTIN: But the only point I would make about this is, this is where I always get confused by people. They're upset that they're being caricatured, but then they don't want to explain who they really are. And then they're shocked that they're being caricatured. I mean, excuse me. The people she's talking to on Fox already dig her. So how does that help - I don't know. Anyway...

BELTON: She's preaching to the choir, baby.

MARTIN: Yeah. So, I mean, why not go out and explain who you are? I mean, isn't that what elections are for?

BELTON: No, because they'll be mean.

MARTIN: Well, I'm sorry, can't take the heat, you what they say.

BELTON: You know, it's also true that...

MARTIN: Let me just one more thing, though, before we let you go. Gabourey Sidibe, her cover for Elle magazine - now, you'd think that having a young, black woman on the cover - especially a large-size woman - of a mainstream magazine would be something that people would be celebrating, but a lot of people are hot under the collar about this. They just think that the cover is - I don't know. Danielle, why don't you explain what the issue is and how - this is being a big - there's a lot of talk about this. A lot of people are not feeling that. Tell us why.

BELTON: There's several issues with the cover. So of it is a why issue. You know, why Gabby? Why now? You know, she's only had the one film. There's so many other African-American actresses who've made strides who've never gotten to be on the cover of Elle. Then there's the whole issue about whether or not they lightened her skin in the photograph. People have been upset with how she was styled, the clothing that she wore, the way the pictures looked. So there's this whole feeling - because the fact that African-American images in the media - there's such a paucity of it, that when there is one, there is this move to be hyper-critical of it, because you really want to get at, well, what are they trying to say?

MARTIN: Thumbs up or thumbs down on the cover?

BELTON: I didn't like the cover. I was happy she got the cover, but I didn't think the image was very nice.

MARTIN: Because?

BELTON: I just - I didn't like the styling. I thought it was unflattering.

MARTIN: OK. Jessica, quick question: Thumbs up, thumbs down on the Gabby Sidibe Elle cover?

COEN: You know, I find it - you know, the response that Robbie Myers had to the criticism was that it was a matter of lighting. And...

MARTIN: Lighting? Well, OK. All right. Well, we'll have to get your thumbs up, thumbs down virtually. OK.

Jessica Coen is the editor-in-chief of Jezebel.com. She was with us from New York. Danielle Belton is author of the blog BlackSnob.com. Ana Marie Cox, Washington correspondent for GQ. They were here with me in Washington.

Ladies, thank you so much.

BELTON: Thank you for having me on.

MARIE COX: Thank you.

MARTIN: Thumbs up to all of you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COEN: And our hair.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.