Kim Davis is Wrong—But Bashing Her Looks Isn't Right

Photos and memes of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis are taking over my newsfeed and my life. One of the most popular memes I’ve seen shows that much-duplicated frame from video footage of Kim at her desk, turning away a gay couple from getting a marriage license. Text placed over the image reads:  “When you're so anti-gay, no one will do your hair.”

Now, let me make clear that Kim Davis is obviously guilty of dereliction of duty. Her job is to help uphold the constitutional right to marriage by issuing marriage licenses and she’s clearly discriminating against same-sex couples. It hurts to read about people like her who go far out of their way to be bigots. I'm gay, and I understand that perfectly well.  But many of the memes making fun of Kim Davis hinge on classist and sexist humor and gay stereotypes. Instead of making me laugh, these jokes make me cringe. We shouldn’t shame Davis by making fun of her body, her romantic life, or her class.  To do so is mean-spirited and ultimately harms the movement to make a better, more equitable society. Come on, friends, we’re better than this!

I've seen people insult her clothes, which they call her “sister-wife outfits.”  She has been called “inbred.”  By linking her to Poor White Trash, we are labeling her valueless. Let me tell you: Plenty of gay people could be labeled as Poor White Trash. Many of us have had four or more life partners. Many of us aren’t fashionable. Many of us are religious. If our goal is to expand civil and human rights to as many people as possible, we are not advancing it by scapegoating someone for not living up to supposedly shared standards of self-presentation and personal polish.  

There's an implicit devil's bargain here: Popular media grants some gays acceptance—if they fit into a rather narrow box of what we think of as “acceptable.” As longtime victims of stigma, we need instead to criticize the process whereby culture shifts who it labels depraved and valueless, and how it links that label to supposed sexual misdeeds and bodily markers. Davis should be able to wear anything she chooses, and do her hair how she likes it.  We queers criticize her for these things at our peril. Davis has done enough to embarrass herself by refusing to do her job and denying loving couples their legal rights. We should call her out for that—not take cheap shots at her lifestyle. 

by Anne Balay
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 Anne Balay is the author of Steel Closets: Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Steelworkers.  She won the Lambda Emerging Writers Award in 2015, and teaches at Haverford College.

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1 Comment Has Been Posted

I think making fun of her

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