Sit Down and Shut Up: ‘Feminist When Convenient’ Alyssa Milano

I have a lot to say about Alyssa Milano, but I’ll start off easy and petty—my two favorite things to be. In case you aren’t aware, Alyssa recently starred in Insatiable; a Netflix show about an overweight high schooler who is bullied into losing a dramatic amount of weight, catapulting her to instant popularity. I thought when Kris Jenner posted that terrible facetuned picture of her selling Flat Tummy Tea we collectively decided we’ve moved on from telling women that becoming skinny will solve all of their problems. This is such a dangerous message to send to young girls; especially because I tried this a couple of years ago and all it gave me was an obsessive relationship with food and body image, which makes Alyssa problematic and a liar! The only explanation I have for Alyssa’s justification of starring in this show is the human’s instinctual need to chase a bag, so I’m sure she got a little taste of that Netflix Money and thought “fuck them kids.” 

I don’t want to discredit Milano for all of her work in making activist Tarana Burke’s #metoo movement a household name. In 2017, Milano used her twitter platform for good— encouraging women to share their stories of sexual assault and harassment with the hashtag #metoo. This viral moment simultaneously shed light on the vastness of sexual abuse and created a community of women who continue to stand together in the face of fear. Cornerstone to the #metoo movement is the importance of believing women. It’s about making women feel confident and validated in their journey of speaking out against the violence they’ve faced. Instead of retreating from sexual harassment and assault, #metoo allows women to confront their experiences atop a foundation of supporters and believers. 

On April 1st, 2019, amidst women coming forward accusing Joe Biden of inappropriate behavior, Milano took her feelings to twitter again—except this time directly contradicting the #metoo platform she’d spent 2 years advocating for. She started off by writing, “I am proud to call Joe Biden a friend. He has been a leader and a champion on fighting violence against women for many years, and I have been fortunate to accompany him to events with survivors where he has listened to their stories, empathized with them, and comforted them.” This shit is straight from page 1 of Lena Dunham’s playbook, Believing Women Unless the Man In Question Is Your Friend. She went on a long winded explanation into Joe Biden’s work for social change, and finished it off with, “I respect Lucy Flores’ decision to share her story and agree with Biden that we all must pay attention to it. But, just as we must believe women that decide to come forward, we cannot assume all women’s experiences are the same.” It’s easy to want to hate Milano for this, but it just goes to show the extent to which women are conditioned to place their blind trust in men while doubting other women. Men will mistreat, harass, and abuse, yet we will still find it in our souls to believe that it’s unintentional, or a blatant lie. This is a direct result of a generations-long patriarchal society conditioning women to be suspicious of one another—when we don’t trust each other, we are are unable to come together in putting an end to the struggles we face. #Metoo allowed us this opportunity, and it’s irresponsible of Milano to allow her proximity to Biden cloudy the message she’s spent 2 years strengthening. It’s important that when someone becomes an advocate and an activist for a particular movement, they make themselves aware of the potential internal struggles they may face while being a public voice for a cause. Alyssa Milano set the #metoo movement back when she refused to acknowledge that she may one day need hold a man in her personal life accountable. Joe Biden was affected so little by these accusations that he’s turned them into literal jokes on his now presidential campaign. 

Recently, Milano got back on her favorite shitstorm of an app to tweet about the devastating and direct attack on women’s rights in Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, and Ohio. I’ll likely get into the details of this in another post, but essentially these bills limit a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion as early as conception—even in instances of rape and incest. Yes, it’s as terrible as it sounds. No, Alyssa Milano’s hot take on the issue didn’t offer a shred of solace. Milano suggested, first on twitter and then in the New York Times, that women unite in solidarity with those in the affected states to participate in a sex strike— circa the ancient greek play Lysistrata and Spike Lee’s Chi-raq. In a perfect world, women simply abstain from sex to get what they want! In this case, bodily autonomy and human rights. I love what our country has become! 

The issues that I have with a ‘sex strike’ are multifaceted. Firstly, this suggests that I’m having sex in the first place. Thanks for reminding me I’m not, Alyssa. It also implies that all women are having sex with cisgender men. This movement excludes any woman who doesn’t identify as being a cisgender heterosexual from protecting her rights to bodily autonomy. And even then, even if all women are having sex with men and the they are so hypnotized by our sexual prowess, then what happens? All of these blow job deprived men board a plane down south, eat some gumbo, and decide to give a fuck about my rights to my uterus? The first step in gaining men as allies in our fight for equality is by making them understand, at a fundamental level, that we are equals, and we are the only people qualified to make choices on what’s best for our bodies—especially not a  65 year old, bible hugging, crusty white man. 

What bothers me most about the sex strike, though, is that it paints the picture that sex is something that occurs purely for the enjoyment of men. My sexual autonomy exists only as a prize, my body is an object that serves as a reward for a man’s behavior. For so long, women have been shamed for our sexual desires—sex is portrayed as something that we put up with, and men must wear us down and convince us that we should put out. Only recently are we able to celebrate our sexual needs, and suggesting that we ignore them implies that the singular way women will be able to regain control of our rights and bodies is through deprivation. We can have both bodily autonomy and sexual pleasure.

Grappling with the multidimensionality of feminism can be overwhelming. It’s difficult to face uncomfortable realities of womanhood, and to be able to recognize and acknowledge the patriarchal oppression we’ve faced for our entire lives. In the face of these trials, Alyssa Milano continually chooses to double down on her problematic words and decisions, instead of authentically listening to the perceptions of women who’ve undergone lifetimes of different experiences than her. Whether it’s her fat shaming TV show, her inability to understand the harm behind sexual deprivation, or being an advocate for the #metoo movement only when it exists degrees of separation away from her personal life—Alyssa Milano wears the “Feminist When Convenient” badge loud and proud. We have so much to learn from one another if we operate in an open frame of mind—something Alyssa Milano has proven unable to do. 

Alyssa can evolve her feminism if, and only if, she sits down and shuts up. 

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